Love, Serve, Remember

Articles by Swami Veda Bharati

Pain and Ignorance

(from the “Nature of Personality” series “Nature of Personality” series [1976]) 

We were speaking of pain. Because people say, "I love this world. I like its pleasures. Now what is this 'withdrawal' from them?" First of all, meditation is not a withdrawal. Closing the eyes is closing nothing. Silencing the speech is silencing nothing. To close, you close the outward eyes and open the inward eyes. Even when your eyes are open, they're open to what – a very tiny patch of the sky through the prison cell. How much of reality do they see? Ask the physicist if you are seeing right when you are seeing a solid. He says, "No, there's no such thing as a solid." He says, "Everything is a field of energy." Your eyes don't see it. Your eyes don't see reality. Even what you experience with the senses, of the world of senses, is nothing. Your experience is limited and full of misleading cues. Closing the eyes to this world of limitations in order to open them to a world of unlimited consciousness is something very natural to man – to look for something greater, something expansive. Man has done it all along. The scientist does it when he studies the universe. The communist does it when he worships Lenin. And, as I said yesterday, an atheist American does it when he buys a Superman comic and identifies with that Superman in his daydream.

You stand by the sea. I happen to be a scuba diver. That's why I bring so many of my analogies from the sea. You stand by the sea. Across a little span of the sea, you see an island. You know that it is another nation. Yet, you say that the entire world is one. But it is only a theoretical knowledge. You don your scuba gear and you go down to the beach to the sea bottom, and people say, "Look at him, withdrawing, hiding." But you walk down below the water and emerge on the other side, on that island, and you know that the earth was one and that there's no such thing as an island. It's not something separate. Underneath the sea it is the same land over which a little water is flowing.

When you dive into the depth within, then you know the oneness of all being. Many, many years ago, the city of Birmingham in England had a conference in which they invited the people of various religions to discuss the theme of leisure for modern man from the point of view of religion, because man has an increasing amount of leisure time at his disposal now, but he doesn't know how to use it. So they invited Christians and Buddhists and Hindus and so on. I started my presentation with these words, which I think are appropriate. It goes like this. "You look a little tired, Sir. Are you not going for a holiday this year?" "Yes, indeed I am." “Where? When? For how long? What will you do?” — "Here! Right now! For an eternity! Deep-sea diving within!"

I tell all my students that I personally regard my entire life as a vacation. I've never done a single thing, ever in my life, that I don't enjoy doing. If I don't enjoy doing it, I don't do it. I have two rules. Have a vacation every day – 24 hours. Total life, my whole life is a vacation. I enjoy it. Secondly, I have no discipline. I teach yoga discipline to everybody, but I practice no discipline. I've never practiced any discipline in my whole life, never. If it feels like a discipline, I don't do it. I do absolutely whatever I feel inclined to do. All have done, however, is train my inclinations. There are some things I am just not inclined to do. To others, not doing those is a discipline. There are some things I am inclined to do. To others, those things are a discipline. To me, those are natural inclinations. When you were a child, brushing your teeth every day was a discipline. Today, can you manage without brushing your teeth?

So, when you start on the path of meditation, sitting for meditation every day, is a discipline. But, to me, it is like sitting down and writing a romantic love letter to my beloved. It's not discipline; it's my enjoyment. It's my pleasure. It's the only pleasure, the greatest pleasure – that pleasure from which all other pleasures arise.

What is pleasure? Did I speak about it before? What is pleasure? In the yoga philosophy, the word "pleasure" is synonymous with one word, "concentration." There's only one definition of pleasure and that is concentration. There's no other pleasure but the pleasure of concentration. Whatever you concentrate on is pleasure. Whatever you concentrate away from is pain. Because you feel a natural concentration towards something good tasting in your mouth, it's pleasure. Because your mind goes to the beautiful innocence, love and joy of a baby, holding a baby is a pleasure. What is the pleasure of sex? You hold someone in your arms. You are concentrating your mind and heart on her, on him. That is pleasure. If you held somebody in your arms, but you were not concentrating on that person, would that be pleasure? Can there be the pleasure of sex without concentration? In the highest moment of sexual pleasure, a climax is what – a few seconds of absolute, total concentration, and nothing else. Can you have concentration without pleasure? I don't know of any concentration without pleasure, no. If you can find one, let me know. All pleasure is concentration, and pleasure is heightened with more concentration. So when you sit down to eat your meal, concentrate on the taste buds and you will see how much more you will enjoy your food. And a yogi who is a married man knows more of the pleasure of sex than anyone else in the world, because he concentrates. So with meditation you can concentrate on or you can concentrate away. When you want to hear, you hear more. When you don't want to hear, you hear nothing. When you want to smell, you smell more. When you don't want to smell, you smell nothing. Your mind and your senses are under your direction, under the direction of your will. How much you want to apply of which sense, and when – that is pleasure.

But otherwise, everything else about pleasure, besides this element of concentration, is painful. Take any pleasure of the world and tell me if it has no pain associated with it. Your life comes in packages of pain and pleasure. People are dissatisfied with their personal package. They always want to exchange it with their neighbor's package: “Give me yours. You take mine. Your package seems to have more pleasure in it than mine. My package seems to have more pain in it than yours.”

Once upon a time, God got tired of all these constant complaints of "You've given me the heaviest burden. You have put more pain into my package than my neighbor's. Unfair." So God said one day, "Okay, all of you, bring your packages and dump them in this one storehouse." So everybody brought their packages and dumped them. "Now, you go around, each one of you, and find the lightest one. Carry that one away." So they went around and each one was "heavy, heavier, heavier – and this seems the lightest.” And each one ended up with his original package. At least it was familiar. Rockefeller's package has no less pain than yours.

The pleasures of the world are painful in three ways. It seems like after a philosophy of joy, we're getting a little pessimistic tonight, but we must face this part of our reality also. The pleasant things of the world and the pleasant experiences of the world contain three types of pain. There are three ways in which they are painful. In order to obtain that pleasure, one has to go through pain. Can you think of any pleasure that you have enjoyed for which you have not had to go through some pain, some painful effort, something you wanted to run away from, something you would rather not do if you could? You have to put gasoline in your car. You have to pay a penny, or 25-cents, for a bus. For every pleasure, there is some painful effort that is required. It is a prerequisite of any pleasure in the world.

Why? Because this world is based, is built, is created on the principle of duality. It comes from unity, from infinity, and it returns to unity and infinity, but in the middle, it is duality. It is always two things. There's a pain; there's a pleasure. There is satisfaction; there is frustration – a little satisfaction; a little frustration. Every desire you have, the excitement of the fulfillment of the desire, is only an expectation. The moment the object of desire is attained, your interest in it goes away. The moment the desired object is attained, your interest in it disappears, goes. You're very excited to marry a woman, very excited to marry a man. You marry. Fine, you discover a little something about each other. After six months, you say, "My God, why did I ever marry you?" The moment the desire is fulfilled, it's nothing. “That shirt I saw in the window, I'd just like to have it.” The moment you have it and you put it on, it's an old shirt, and you want the next one.

The Bhagavad Gita, the Song of the Lord, says in one place, "Desire is never satisfied by satisfying desire.” Like fuel in fire, desire demands more and more and more. No matter how much fuel you feed to the fire, the fire is never, never satisfied. It will consume the whole world. Extinguish the fire of desire. Nip it in the bud. This goes, for example, with your sexual fantasy. You experience one thing. You fantasize about the next step. You go out with one boyfriend, you go out with one girlfriend, and you hold hands. Your desire is to kiss. When you have kissed, your desire is to go further. When you've gone all the way, you have a desire to try another person, and the whole round starts again. And if you taste it with 500 persons in your life, at the age of 80 you will still want 501. Those who have tried it will tell you that, too. There's no end to desire.

There is only control and finally pacification of the urge. Not suppression of the urge, but pacification of the urge. That pacification comes through meditation, because the mind calms down. It knows the highest concentration in which there are not two, but only one. So who shall desire whom? See? So, remember, there's no end to desire.

And all frustrations arise from expectation. This is the second stage. While you are making an effort to gain a pleasure, the effort is painful. You expect the pleasure. When the pleasure comes, you say, "Oh, was this what I was going through so much trouble for? I expected something better than this.” So, while you're enjoying the pleasure, you have a two-fold pain again. "The pleasure is not as intense," you say, “not as complete as it could be. I wish just this little thing had more added to it.” “The house I have bought, it's okay, but I wish it had marble columns." When you have a house with marble columns, you wish something else from it. So, this is one kind of pain while you are enjoying the pleasure. While you have that pleasure, there is some frustration in it, and there is also the knowledge that this pleasure is not permanent, that it will end. There's a threat. There is a fear. There is this insecurity. All the while you want more of that pleasure; you want the intensity of that pleasure, and you say, "It could be better than what I have.” And then you say, "What I have is constantly threatened. Every minute it is threatened. It's not going to last. Something else is going to happen.” And it does happen. Can you think of any pleasure you have enjoyed in your life for which, one, you did not have to make a painful effort? And, secondly, can you think of any pleasure which was as intense, as full, as complete as you could think of, and a pleasure that lasted forever, that never ended, and while that pleasure was lasting, you did not have this insecurity and this threat? — "It's going to end. How shall I grab onto it? How shall I keep it? How shall I prolong it?”

So, this pain during the pleasure, and then there is the result of that pleasure, the end of that pleasure, which is in itself painful, and sometimes, bringing painful results. You enjoy your pie and you take another piece and put a load of ice cream on it, and in the night you ask your wife, "Do we have anything for stomach pain, Darling? Can you bring me a pill? I think I've got to take some yoga lessons."

The pleasure of meditation is of a different kind, "Well," you say, "that is too painful. My legs ache, and as soon as I sit down to meditate, my body begins to itch." The itches you never thought were there, they come up because you become more conscious of yourself, you see. You withdraw and you start to pay attention to the body. The first thing you do is come to the surfaces of the body, so naturally you discover the little, tiny irritations. Slowly, as you go inwards, those irritations disappear. Then the mind begins to itch. There are all kinds of mental itches, see? You cannot avoid them.

All desire is an itch. It's very pleasant to scratch an itch, isn't it? How pleasant, really? The desire, a desire, a craving is an itch of the mind. The more you scratch it, the more intense it gets. You end up peeling off your skin. Take any craving, any irresistible urge. Whether it is for sex, or it is for alcohol, or it is for drugs, or it is for property, or it is for money, or it is for a kingdom, whatever. Do you have enough money? Do I? Nobody here has enough money – not even the richest man in the world has enough money. No one has enough. Do you know who has enough? One who has renounced desire has enough.

You will say, "What do you want to make of us, a jellyfish?" A jellyfish has no depth of consciousness. Here we come to the very root of our existence. In meditation, you have the highest concentration, which is pleasure. You can train yourself to make that concentration last as long as you wish, slowly, gradually. How long does Christ remain in Christ consciousness? How long does a Buddha remain enlightened? Tell me. Forever! A Buddha's pleasure, a Christ's pleasure, even when wearing a crown of thorns is unlimited. Jesus suffered, but Christ never suffered. The Son of Man suffered. The Son of God never suffered.

We have, in Sanskrit language, two words, for pleasure and pain: sukha and dukha. Sukha means “good to the spaces.” Spaces? Empty spaces, like the empty space of a nostril, or the empty space of the ear. The Empty space of the eye. The empty space of the mouth. And whatever feels good to these empty spaces is pleasure. Whatever does not feel good to these empty spaces is called pain. But there is another word. When we refer to the divine pleasure, we use the word ananda. The names of great swamis often end with the word ananda – joy, bliss, perfect bliss. Sukha and dukha are antonyms, but for the word ananda there is no antonym. Pain is the opposite of pleasure. Pleasure is the opposite of pain. But for ananda there is no opposite, because it is “the Perfect taken from the Perfect merging in the Perfect.” It is Infinity, taken from Infinity, going back to Infinity. It is not reduced. It is not increased. Seek that pleasure which has no antonym, which has no opposite principle.

Ordinary life is always in packages of pleasure and pain – always. You derive a pleasure; immediately at the same time you derive a pain. There's always a little regret at the end of a pleasure also. You see, there are two kinds of pleasure in the world: the pleasures of excitation and the pleasures of tranquility. The pleasures of excitation are those in which there is a great output of energy and then a great letdown. There's a great rising of a wave and there's a great trough down, a big up and a big down, a great gathering of forces and then a great scattering of forces. You feel very energetic and then you feel very tired. You feel very exhilarated and then you feel very depressed. The higher the mountain of pleasure, the deeper the valley of pain. The higher the mountain of expectation, the deeper the valley of frustration. Take any pleasure – the pleasure of sports, the pleasure of wearing something new, the pleasure of winning something, the pleasure of gaining something – there is a great output of energy and then a feeling of great loss and a letdown. And sometimes even the highest pleasure becomes a pain.

In India, people have a bad habit, like smoking here. They have a habit of chewing a particular leaf called a betel leaf. There are little, small, street-side vendors selling these things, very poor people. They don't make much on selling these green leaves. It's not a narcotic; it's very digestive. It’s like some people here who enjoy chewing rubber, because of the need to get rid of oral energy. People don't have others to talk to, so they chew rubber, sugar-coated rubber. When I first came to the West, I asked, "What’s this?" So here they use oral energy this way, and in India, they use oral energy by chewing this particular leaf. So, one particular man – I'm telling a true story – he entered for a lottery. He was a very small, street-side, pawn vendor, the leaf vendor. He never really thought he would win. How often do people win lotteries? Are they called lotteries here? Sweepstakes? But it so happened that he really won, and he won 700,000 rupees. The telegram arrived. He opened the telegram and he was so shocked that he died. He died on the spot. What do you call it? Is it a loss? Is it a gain? What is it? See.

So, the terms "pleasure” and “pain,” "loss” and “gain,” they're all very relative terms. What we are saying is that in meditation you find something in which there is equanimity; there's something level about your emotion. There’s not too strong an output of emotion, such as an anger you can't control or a desire you can't withhold so that you suffer as a result. Every day, people come to me for counseling, and there are people who come and I really have no answer to their problems. "I don't like the job I am in. My boss doesn't like me. I've served there for 10 years. They couldn't do without me, but they don't treat me well, and I'm very upset.” My son doesn't come home.” “My husband, I don't like him. He has some very bad habits, and he doesn't treat me well. What should I do? What shall I do?” What shall I tell them to do? What advice can you give them? When you marry, you know that you are imperfect and you also know the other person is imperfect. Well, two imperfect people marrying, can they make a perfect marriage? How can you do that? But you can seek perfection. As Christ said, "Be perfect, as your Father Who is in heaven is perfect” [Matthew 5:48]. You can seek that, but how can you remain imperfect and yet expect a perfect relationship? You have to accept that imperfection. While being imperfect and expecting something perfect, you have to be frustrated at the end. The same thing also happens in organizations and in churches. You are sitting here and are listening, and you say, "Yeah, this sounds sensible" and so on, and so forth and all the rest. And you take a mantra initiation. You join the organization and you find all the weaknesses of any human organization, and you say, "This is a great letdown. I thought I was entering a perfect community." A community made of imperfect human beings has all the imperfections you will find in any country, any society, anywhere. No church is perfect, no society is perfect. You expect perfection where there's no perfection. You end up frustrated. So calm down and lower your expectations a little and then be content. Again there is the pleasure of excitation and the pleasure of tranquility.

Surfing on the crest of a wave is a pleasure of excitation, but if you go 15 feet deep into the sea, there are no waves. Just 15 feet below the surface, there are no waves. It's absolutely calm, and there's a feeling of freedom, silence. You can go down. You can go up. You can go in any direction. It's a different world. That is a pleasure of tranquility. Going to a party is a pleasure of excitation. Enjoying solitude is a pleasure of tranquility. A lot of people suffer loneliness when they could be enjoying solitude. Did you hear this last sentence? I think I've said this before. A lot of people suffer loneliness when they could be enjoying solitude. Think about it. That is pleasure of tranquility.

Meditation is the pleasure of tranquility, the pleasure of calming down. Peace is a pleasure of tranquility. If you get nothing else out of your meditation, just the relative stillness and peace you can enjoy for 20 minutes a day in itself is worth it. Then, try to keep that going a little into your life. Mix it the way you mix milk and water. Mix it, and then you will not know them as being separate.

The pains you suffer in your life are the result of ignorance. Craving is all pain, and that craving arises out of ignorance. There is a word in the yoga philosophy for ignorance called avidya, non-wisdom. Non-wisdom is ignorance. And avidya, ignorance, is defined in four ways. I will recite from Pantajali’s Yoga-sutras, the particular text which is the main text of Raja Yoga, the fifth sutra in the second chapter: Anityāśhuchi-duhkhānātmasu nitya-śhuchi-sukhātma-khyātir avidyā. Ignorance is

1) to mistake the permanent for the impermanent and the impermanent for the permanent,
2) to mistake the pure for the impure and the impure for the pure,
3) to mistake pain for pleasure and pleasure for pain, and
4) to mistake the Self for the non-Self and non-Self for Self.

This is the four-fold definition of ignorance, and the first three arise out of the last one. To mistake the Self for the non-Self and the non-Self for the Self is the greatest ignorance.

(Board work: the drawing of a point around which there are numerous concentric squares. Cf. Usharbudh Arya’s (Swami Veda’s) book Superconscious MeditationSuperconscious Meditation, pp. 21-22.)

Can everybody see? The point here in the center is the Self. The Self is the pure Life-force, the pure Consciousness Principle, ever-pure, ever-wise, ever-free, that pain never touches, the One that never craves for anything because it is in tune with the Perfect – and the Perfect can crave nothing. Now around this point, let us say, is the subconscious mind. Around that square I draw another square for the conscious mind. Here, another square, is my brain. Here, another square around it, let us say, is my senses of cognition (eyes, ears and so on and so forth). And beyond that, let us say, are my active senses (hands, feet etc.) You see, we are going from inwards to outwards. Here, [before the cognitive senses] is my breath. Breath comes before the cognitive senses. Here is a square incorporating all my active senses and the frame of my body, my skeleton, bones, stomach, liver, lungs, whatever. Here, around it, is another sheath, let us say, of the clothes I wear or the furniture I carry, or whatever possessions I have. Let us say, here is my family and house. All these squares are made of matter – one, two, three, four, five squares – gradually, progressively more outward and grosser – my home, my house, my family. Here, let us say, is my city. Here, let us say, is my country. Here is a continent on which that country is located, whether it is China – my country – or India – my country – or America – my country – or France – my country. Here is my planet. Here is my solar system. Here is my galaxy of which this solar system is a part. Here is my entire physical universe – all the billions, trillions, zillions of light years. Now, here in these squares, which one did you say is "I," and how much did you say is not "I"?

You see, yesterday we said, "Here is some food on my plate." I said, "That food, that cake, looks delicious." It was that cake I was going to eat. So, let’s say, I take that cake and I put it in my mouth. Now, what happens to the cake? If walk about in the world, I don't say “I and the cake are going to ride in a train." I simply say, "I am going to ride in the train." And with the dress that I took off from that store dummy and put on this dummy, I don't say, "I and my dress are going to ride the car." I say, "I am going to ride the car. Now I look beautiful." There is some confusion between "I" and "non-I" isn’t there? You say, I desire. I want." But who wants? You and the shirt? You and the cake? What happened to the cake you ate three days ago? It's now part of your taste buds. Did you know that? So, the cake tastes the cake. I don't taste the cake; the cake tastes the cake. Matter tastes matter. Spirit tastes nothing. Everything of this body that you have is the cakes you have eaten. Like attracts like, so the body attracts food. But where is the pure Self?

All right, let’s go further. You live with your family. You and your mother are having a quarrel. You say to your mother, "Look, I am I, and you are you. You do things your way, and I’ll do things my way, okay? Let's get that straight." As everywhere, you have a love-hate relationship. The next day you are walking on the street and someone says a bad word about your mother and you say, "You're hurting me. I'm hurt." Now, how can you be hurt about that mother with whom you were quarreling yesterday? Let’s say a husband and wife are fighting with each other, but the next day, somebody says something bad about your husband or wife. You say, "I'm hurt." Why do you say, "I am hurt”? You live in a country, and you put your president on trial or whatever you want to do with him. But then you travel in France, and somebody says something bad about your country and its presidents. You are hurt. You say, "I am hurt."

Now you have to straighten out your "I" and your "non-I." So up to which square did you say "I"? Right now, at this moment, you couldn't care less about one third of the world's population that is starving, but if Martians invade the Earth, you would say, "We, Earthmen, will stand against them." So, you shift your ground. You don't know how far your "I" extends and where the "non-I" begins, or where the "non-I" ends and your "I" begins. Sort that out in these squares. Find out. Where is this "I”? You utter a bad word from your mouth, and next day you say, "That couldn't be me. That's not like me. I don't do those things. Something came over me.” What is it that you really are like? The yogi says that all of these identities you have assumed – the identity of a nation, the identity of a family, the identity of a planet, the identity of a husband, wife, son, daughter, everything, the identity of a dress in the way of clothing, the identity of a culture — all of these that you have assumed, none of these is true "I". They are mere assumptions.

You, the pure Self, were never born and will never die. You have no name. You have no form. You have no configuration. You are a being of light living in a body made of matter to whom you lend a little of your self. Somebody borrows money from you and then shows off that money and says, "I'm a rich man." So the body and the mind borrow life and consciousness from you and then show off themselves, saying "I am living. I am conscious. I am aware." Know that Self. That knowledge is pleasure. That knowledge is joy – a pleasure of tranquility and a joy that has no antonym.

So, when you close your eyes to one of these squares and look inwards to the next one, you eventually come to the breath. As you make your breath tranquil, you come to something finer: the conscious mind, which is grosser than the subconscious mind. Then, slowly, the subconscious reveals itself. And then you come closer to your own Self, away from the subconscious and closer and closer to that Superconscious from which that central point of your true being derives its own Light.

Om. Shanti. Shanti. Shanti Om.
God bless you.

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