A dialogue between His Holiness Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswami (His words are in bold.) and an agnostic youth. His Holiness was Sringeri Mathadhipati 1912-1954.
I cannot say that I utilise it; it spends itself.
Evidently you are not one of those leisured people who complain that time does not pass.
I am very glad to hear it. In fact, knowing how precious every moment of our lives is, we must really complain that time does pass very quickly.
I do not complain about the passing of time either.
It is only those who waste time that complain of the passing of time. Those who feel that their time is well-spent, never have that complaint. Obviously you belong to that class.
I do not think I do. I only know that time has to be spent.Whether it is well-spent or ill-spent does not affect the inevitable passing of time. And, there are no absolute standards from which we can say that it has been well- spent or ill-spent.
Certainly. But if time is spent in some manner which does not in any way disturb your equilibrium or anybody else’s, it gives you some mental repose.
Such a repose is found only in sleep.
Quite so. But we cannot sleep always. We seek such mental repose even while awake. It is not possible for us to sit vacant-minded. Our mind has to be given some work. The least harmful work we can give it is to think, not of exciting things which disturb our equilibrium nor of concrete things which may have a personal relationship to ourselves and may therefore tend to excite our passions, but to think of abstract things, say about the origin of the world and such other things.
That will be giving way to mere speculation.
What if it is so? You hurt nobody by it and you give your mind some innocent work. And there are some of us who think that you will be benefitting yourself thereby. Whether we are right or not it does not matter. You cannot say that there is any harm in such speculation.
But what is the use of it?
It helps you spend time. What more use do you want? If there is some use, as we say, well and good. If there is none, you do not lose anything. Why don’t you therefore spend some of your time in studying philosophy and allied subjects, if only to pass the time?
I have read a few books, but I have found them to be mere words.
What more can you expect from a book? You must supplement it by your own thinking. Since you have read some books on the subject, you must have formed some idea about such things as the evolution of the universe and the existence of God.
Books do not give us any definite ideas. Each author adopts his own line of speculation and wants to make out that it is superior to every other. Further, in the very nature of things, it is not possible to form any definite idea about such subjects. A writer may present an idea in as definite a form as possible, still there can be no finality about it, for somebody cleverer than he can prove it to be baseless.
That is inevitable in all intellectual processes. Apart from minor differences, are the modern thinkers agreed at least on this point that, if the world had a beginning, it had a single undifferentiated cause from which it took its birth?
I think they are, though they postulate the exact nature of that cause variously. Some think that there was at the beginning a nebulous mass of atoms.
So do our tarkikas. Were thise atoms at rest or were they active in the pre-creation stage?
The scientists now tell us that the atoms are never at rest but are incessantly active and ever stored with energy.
Are the primary atoms conceived of as particles of gross matter which are kept in motion by force outside them or are they conceived otherwise?
The latest theory is that the atom is itself a gross form of the infinite energy which is inherent in it.
Whatever it be, scientists realise that it is energy or force which gives substance or existence to the atom or which rules its activities.
They will also have to grant that that energy is common to all atoms, is homogeneous and is infinite.
As energy can be transmuted, is there any reason to suppose that the primal energy in one atom is different from that in another?
Of course not.
Our hypothesis will therefore be very much simplified if we postulate the existence of a single energy or force which is infinite in capacity and takes on the form of atoms under certain conditions.
The Western scientists also are now approximating to that idea.
They will have to, if they are logical. This infinite force then may be taken to be the prime causal material of the universe?
But the univerese is not mere matter which we can trace to atoms. You and I exist. Apart from our physical bodies which are, of course, matter, there is the spark of intelligent consciousness in us which cannot come under the category of matter; and that also has to be explained if a complete explanation of the universe is attempted. How do the scientists seek to explain it?
The scientists proper concern themselves only with the material universe.
But there must have been thinkers who have considered the other aspect also.
Yes, there are such thinkers, but I do not think that they have postulated a prime cause for the intelligent principle in us. They have assumed either that such principle do not exist independent of our bodies or that they are eternal and cannot be traced to another cause.
Why did they not consistently assume that the world had no beginning and cannot therefore be traced to a cause?
The variedness of the world requires some explanation.
So does the variedness of our souls.
Bereft of extraneous things, there is no reason for ourassuming that one soul is different from another.
It is equally so in matter. Bereft of extraneous things, there is no reason for our assuming that one atom of matter is different from another. In fact, you traced all atoms to a primary causal force where there was no variedness.
My only point is, why don’t you consistently and for the same reasons postulate the existence of a primary causal intelligence responsible for the world of infinite souls?
We may do so.
Then, adopting the method of scientists, we may arrive at the conclusion that there is a primary causal force responsible for the universe of matter and also there is a primary causal intelligence responsible for the universe of souls. We must also grant that each of such primary causes has infinite power of expression.
Yes, no doubt so.
Our hypothesis will be much more simplified if, instead of assuming two primary causes, we assume only one and characterise it as force endowed with intelligence or as intelligence invested with force.
That is exactly what we do in our philosophy. When we conceive of the root cause as force endowed with intelligence, we call it Sakti, when we conceive of it as intelligence endowed with force, we call it Chit.
But even in this hypothesis we have the two independent conceptions of force and intelligence subsisting together, though in intimate correlation.
It is so.
We can further simplify our hypothesis if we can attribute to that root cause a single characteristic which is common to both force and intelligence and which can take on the form of force or intelligence according as we view it from the standpoint of matter or from that of the souls. In other words, we may postulate that root cause as undifferentiated intelligence-force(chit-sakti). We call that Brahman. As intelligence and force are but aspects of the same entity, we can characterise it only by saying that it IS; and we therefore sometimes give it the simple name of Sat, Being.
But all this is only speculation.
It is, if we ignore the stable authority of the Vedas, which enunciate and proclaim such a fact. Apart from this, what does it matter if it is only speculation? As I have already mentioned, it hurts nobody.
But is that any reason for wasting our brains on this matter?
It is far better than wasting our brains on any other matter. Further, there is a great positive benefit also.
What is that?
Suppose a man is too feeble to walk. Will he not be happy to know that he has someone,strong and willing, to support him? Another man may be very ill; will it not be some relief to him to know that there is a kind doctor near at hand to attend to him? Another still may be sore tried by poverty ; will not his trouble be alleviated by his knowing that there is a rich and kind relation close by who can place him above want?
Every moment of our lives we are face to face with innumerable causes of sorrow, sometimes ill-health, sometimes poverty and so on. Will it not gladden our hearts to know and to feel that there is somebody else close at hand who can relieve us of the causes of our sorrow, and give us comfort, if only we ask for it?
It is certainly a consoling thought.
There is no use in looking up to another sick man when you are sick or to another poor man when you are poor.
We must then think of one who is strong and healthy or who is rich.
But do our difficulties end with illness and poverty?
No. The difficulties to which we are subject are infinite in number.
In every one of our difficulties, it will be a relief to know that there exists a friend who is free from that difficulty.
We must therefore know as many such free persons as the number of difficulties which trouble us.
But that is not possible, as the number of difficulties is infinite.
Quite so. It will therefore be agreat relief to us if we can find one person who is free from all difficulties?
Certainly, but where are we to find him?
Death is one of the troubles of this world?
Birth is equally a trouble?
Undoubtedly; in fact it is the prime trouble which leads to all other troubles.
It will therefore be a relief to know that there is a friend who is not subject to birth or death and can, in addition, cure us of both these ills.
Logically it is so.
Ordinarily we are not content with mere freedom from troubles,for we want our desires to be satisfied, and our desires are equally infinite in number. We would therefore like to have some friend who can fulfil all our wants. Our desires are not only infinite in number, but are also unlimited in extent. No rich relation, howsoever wealthy he may be, can undertake to fulfil all our desires; even if he had the will, his wealth would be exhausted in course of time. It will therefore be well if our hypothetical friend had inexhaustible wealth. One of your friends may be very rich, but he may not have ready cash with him when you want it; in that case he cannot give you instant relief. Our supposed friend must therefore be not only rich but he must be so at all times. Further, if your rich friend has to await the arrival of his cashier or has mislaid the keys of his safe, he cannot be immediately helpful to you. If you have such a friend at Madurai, you cannot have him at Mysore unless you take him there with you. It will certainly be more convenient if your friend could be at any place you needed him. Proceeding on the same line of reasoning, we may say that it would be a great relief to you to feel that there is a friend ever ready to help you, who can be verywhere with you; who can do anything for you, who knows everything, who is himself free from trouble of any kind whatsoever and who has the desire and the ability to satisfy all your wants and to free you from all your troubles.
But such a friend is a purely hypothetical one?
So what? To feel, rightly or wrongly, that such a friend exists does give us relief. From the nature of the numberless characteristics which we require in such a friend, we must postulate of him omnipresence, omnipotence and omniscience. With our limited intellect it is difficult for us to conceive of such a friend and impossible to visualise him in actual life. If therefore somebody, who is deeply interested in us and in whom we place full reliance, informs us of the existence of such a friend we shall feel very greatly relieved. In case we happen to doubt the veracity of the statement of our informant, we will not be able to prove it wrong because with our limited intellect we have no means of doing so. But in case we have complete faith in our informant, we become secure in the resultant feeling of the ever-true presence of that all-powerful friend. He who has or who acquires such intense faith can have no fear of despair, believing as he does that that friend being all-knowing and all-powerful will relieve him of all sorrows when the time comes. Even when he does not get any relief, he would console himself with the thought that perhaps in the all-wise dispensation of that friend, this sorrow is itself the best for him under the circumstances. Therefore, apart from the abstract question whether the existence of such a friend whom we call God, can be prioved or demonstrated, there can be no denying the fact that the belief in such a friend is of great practical benefit.
How can we believe in a person of whose existence there is no proof?
Do we believe only in those things whose existence is proved? If we limit our belief to such things it will be impossible to do anything in this world. We have to have faith in the words of everyone that come into contact with us. If a stranger standing by the road directs you, at your request, to a house you are searching for, you do not embark on an enquiry as to his honesty or as to the correctness of his knowledge; but, placing immediate and implicit reliance on him, you go as directed by him. If then you reach the wrong house, it will be time enough to find fault with him. If, however, before following his directions you want him to prove to you that he is right, the only thing he can do is to take you by the hand and lead you to the house; even then you must be prepared to go with him. It will not do if you refuse to move a single step and yet expect him to prove the correctness of his statement. Similarly, when you have absolutely no reason to doubt the good faith of our ancient seers who proclaim God, you must be prepared to place implicit faith in their words. If you follow their dictates and find at the end they were wrong, then you may blame them, but not till then.
The seers were as much human beings as ourselves. How did they happen to know of God when we do not.
They did so because they had implicit faith in the words of their teachers and earnestly followed their instructions for the realisation of God.
If that is the answer, a further question will arise as to how those teachers know? And this question will have to be repeated ad infinitum.
Certainly so, if we do not grant the existence of some primal person who knows the truth without the need to learn from another.
Who is he?
Our old friend again, the omniscient God himself. The vedas are his breath and the fountainhead of all knowledge. Have faith in God, his words and his servants. You will feel before long an immense relief. The thought of his ever-loving presence with you will be a great solace to you. Once you begin to feel such a presence, a joy unknown to you ever before will begin to be felt. And you will then realise that time is not something to be merely spent in some pursuit or other, but has to be intensively lived in the pursuit and enjoyment of the bliss of peace. There will no more be any room for pessimistic thoughts nor will life seem a blank with no purpose to serve.
Published in the Oct/Nov 1997 issue of Tattvaloka magazine from “Dialogues with the Guru”, recorded by Sri R. Krishnaswami Aiyar, published by Shankara Vidya Kendra, Paschim Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi 110057.