“Life and death, Atman and Paramatman”1

The Upanishads are from the Vedas. They contain the records of eternal Truths. These Truths were discovered by various seers at different times and handed down to humanity.

Life is a problem. Even so is death. The aspiring Aryans of the hoary past wanted to solve these two problems. Soon they came to realise that their senses could be of almost no help to them in solving these two major problems. They also came to realise that it is the knowledge of the ultimate Reality that alone can solve, once and for all, the problems of life and death.

All of a sudden two divine soldiers came in. Nobody knows where they came from. These two soldiers were Inspiration and Aspiration. The first soldier, Inspiration, commanded them: “Give up the study of the body.” They immediately did. The second soldier, Aspiration, commanded them: “Take up the study of the soul.” They immediately did. Lo, the King and the Queen from the Golden Shores of the Beyond garlanded them: the seekers, the seers and the knowers of Light and Truth.

What do the Upanishads actually mean? If you ask a Western seeker, he will immediately say: “Very simple. Sit at the feet of the Master and learn.” If you ask an Eastern seeker the same question, he will quietly say: “Very difficult. Transform human darkness into divine Light.” Both the Western and Eastern seekers are perfectly right. No Master, no discovery of the transcendental Reality. No transformation of darkness, no manifestation of Divinity on earth.

Who needs the Truth? A seeker. When does he achieve the Truth? He achieves the Truth when he becomes the surrendered and the divine lover.

His first achievement is God the Creator. His second achievement is God the Preserver. His third achievement is God the Transformer. His fourth achievement is: Thou art That. His fifth achievement is: I am That. His sixth achievement is: He and I are one. His seventh achievement is: He am I.

In the Creator he sees. In the Preserver he feels. In the Transformer he becomes.

The heart of the Upanishads is the Purusha. The life of the Purusha is the message of the Upanishads. Who is the Purusha? The Purusha is the real dweller in the body of the universe. The Purusha is three-fold: the outer Atman, the inner Atman and the Paramatman.

The outer Atman is the gross physical body. The outer Atman is that which grows in the body, with the body and for the body. The outer Atman is the identification of one’s body with the gross aspect of life. Here we live, we are hurt, we hurt others, we enjoy pleasures from others, we offer pleasures to others. This Atman exists, it changes, it develops, finally it decays.

The inner Atman is the discriminating Self. The inner Atman identifies itself with the aspiring earth-consciousness. It identifies itself with air, ether and so on. The inner Atman is the thinker, doer and the direct messenger of God. The inner Atman manifests its inner realisation through outer experiences.

Paramatman reveals itself through the process of Yoga. Neither is it born, nor does it die. It is beyond all qualities. It is all-pervading, unimaginable and indescribable. It is eternity’s Reality and Reality’s Divinity.

According to me, each Upanishad is a mighty drop from the fountain of eternal Life. This drop can easily cure the teeming ills of human life. The infinite Power of this drop can free us from the endless rotation of human birth and death.

The mind, assisted by the body, creates bondage. The heart, assisted by the soul, offers liberation. The unaspiring mind thinks useless thoughts and down it sinks. It thinks too much and sinks too fast. The blind body is constantly digging its own grave. The heart wants to love and be loved. God gives the heart the life of oneness. The soul wants to reveal God. God fulfills the soul and, by doing so, He brings down the Message of Perfection in the Divinity of manifested Reality.


  1. AUM 870. This talk was given by Sri Chinmoy at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. On February 9, 1972.

My Krishna is not black

My Krishna is not black,
He is pure gold,
He Himself is woven
Into the universal Beauty,
Light and Splendour.

He looks dark
Because I have spilled the ink
Of my mind on Him.
Otherwise, my Beloved is All-Light.

He created Light and Darkness,
He is within and without the Cosmos Vast.

With this knowledge,
I will have a new acquaintance
With the world at large.

The Cosmic Gods — Agni1

continued from previous issue

According to Hindu mythology, Agni has two faces, three legs, three bodies and seven arms in the form of a swastika (of which I shall speak later). He is supposed to have a tawny beard, golden teeth and a burning tongue sticking out of his mouth. Now a spiritual person, when he enters into the highest plane of consciousness, will never see Agni like that. Those descriptions are not at all true on the highest level. Each artist sees the god from his own level of consciousness, according to his own standard and each artist depicts the consciousness he sees. Interestingly enough, even the sages, the Vedic sages, who say that they have seen Agni, describe him as having two faces, a burning tongue and so forth. But they saw a particular form of Agni according to their own individual spiritual growth. The rishis (seers) saw many forms of the gods according to their own individual realisation. For example, when someone invoked the power aspect of Agni, then in the vital world he saw Agni with his tongue out and his hair a mass of flames, etc. Then another aspirant, invoking the benevolent aspect of the god meets Agni as a benign, glowing deity, full of luminous, compassionate power. A third aspirant, after committing some serious moral blunder in the physical plane and thinking that the god will be terribly displeased with him, meets Agni’s destructive and angry form. But the real Agni, the cosmic god, in his highest consciousness and in his nitya rupa, his eternal form, will appear in front of a seeker in normal human form with two arms, two legs, and and so on. He looks tall and very beautiful.

As most of you are my disciples, I would like to take advantage of your indulgence to tell you that at the age of nineteen I first saw Agni during my highest state of meditation. Long before that, at the age of thirteen, I knew about my own realisation from past lives. But one day at the age of nineteen, while I was meditating very deeply, Agni Devata, the highest god, came and stood in front of me. I was deeply moved to see him thus, for the first time. At the present time, of course, I don’t have to meditate deeply to be blessed by Agni; now I am blessed by the Supreme. At any moment, I can approach the Supreme and I can also have a free access to all the cosmic gods and goddesses. They have the same free access to me. At that time, Agni came and stood in front of me and he said to me in English, not in Bengali. (I would like to emphasise that the conversation took place in English. Very often, while I was in India, I used to have conversations with the gods in English.) Agni said to me, “Aspiration is realisation and realisation is aspiration.” This was the message he gave to me. Then he asked me if I understood him. My immediate answer was, “Yes, I have understood you.” Then he said, “Then tell me what it means.” I replied, “Human aspiration embodies realisation. Realisation is something we discover; we do not invent it. So inside aspiration, realisation is there. When our aspiration is complete, we see that there realisation looms large. Realisation is not something totally different from aspiration. It is inside the abode of our aspiration. Again it is realisation that tells us that we have to eternally aspire to reach the ever-transcending Beyond.”

This was my answer to Agni’s question. And I wish to add right now that when one realises God, one has only one obligation and that is to manifest Him. After realisation, if a soul wants to retire, if he does not want to enter into the cosmic game again, if he wants to go into Nirvana, the Void, then he is at perfect liberty to do so. God allows him to take eternal rest in the highest plane of consciousness. But if one wants to come back into the battlefield of life again and fight for the divine life on earth, then his is the life of manifestation. It is he who truly helps the suffering humanity.

But what is this manifestation, if not another form of aspiration? Not only is realisation contained in the highest aspiration, but manifestation also. The moment one is fully realised, he is again in his highest form of aspiration and whatever he does, whatever he is, whatever he becomes, constitutes his divine manifestation. This, of course, happens if he stays in the world and does not withdraw after achieving his realisation. The supreme aspiration becomes the supreme realisation which gradually becomes the supreme manifestation.

This morning while I was thinking of and meditating on today’s topic, Agni came to me. It was about 11 o’clock a.m. He was cutting jokes with me and he said, “Can you recollect the experience you had at the age of nineteen?” I replied, “Yes, I was lying on my bed and I was talking to you. You were sitting on the chair in my room and we were having our conversations” He was very pleased that I still remembered the conversation we had, when for the first time, he had come to me.

Full of divine energy, divine vigour is this Lord Agni. You will see boundless willpower within him and around him. He is very often associated with Indra, who, as I mentioned at the beginning of this talk, is the god of gods. Indra is the most powerful of the cosmic gods. But the one who performs the spiritual rites and religious duties most successfully is Agni. It is mentioned at times in the Rigveda that they are twin brothers, Agni and Indra. Some spiritual Masters say that Agni takes human aspiration to the highest in the form of power; Indra brings down light into the earth-atmosphere. Together they move; one goes up and the other comes down, simultaneously.

Now a few minutes ago, I mentioned the swastika in connection with Agni’s appearance in the vital plane. “Swastika” is an old Sanskrit word and it refers to the well known symbol. Indians know the swastika well and it is quite often associated with Agni. But most Americans know only that the swastika was adopted by the Nazis and became the hated symbol of totalitarianism and brutal oppression. I wish to tell you that the swastika is one of the most ancient symbols of inner progress and fulfilment. It is an occult symbol that has been used satisfactorily in both east and west. Some spiritual organisations, like the Theosophical Society, use the swastika as part of their organisation emblem. What does it mean? The exoteric meaning is good luck, prosperity and success. The esoteric significance of the swastika is inner progress, inner achievement, inner fulfilment. The swastika is used as a focal point for concentration, but if you do not know how to concentrate on it properly, then you will get no satisfactory results from it. The symbol is drawn in two ways. In the West it is drawn from right to left with the central figure looking like a “z” drawn backwards and with the left arm pointing upwards and the right arm pointing down.

In India, the central figure is usually drawn exactly opposite, looking like a “z” pointing the right way and with the right arm pointing up, the left arm pointing down.

It does not matter which swastika you use. It is of no importance. But if you do not concentrate on it properly, it will be like looking at an ordinary picture. You have to focus your total attention on the spot where the vertical and horizontal bars cross in the centre. Then you have to feel that this is the source, the seed, the origin of your divine fulfilment. The arms will appear to you to be the outgrowths of that source. Try to keep in mind this most illumining mantra from the Rigveda:

Agne naya supatha, raye asman; visvani, deva, vayunani vidvan; yuyodhy asmaj juhuranam eno: bhuyistham te nama uktim vidhema.

“O Agni, O Fire God, lead us along the right path so that we can enjoy the fruits of our divine actions. You know, O God, all our deeds. O God, take away from us all our unaspiring and binding sins and destroy them. To You we offer our teeming, soulful salutations and prayers, to You we offer.”

Heart’s aspiration is the right path. God’s Compassion is the genuine guidance. The fruits of our divine actions are peace, light and bliss. Sin is the smile of self-limiting bondage. In our prayers and salutations abides God the illumining Saviour.

Here at this point, I wish to tell you a funny story. About four years ago it happened that one day while I was working at the Indian Consulate, my esteemed brother and friend Kamamoorthi was there. He is with us right here today. We were both working in the Passport and Visa Section. Our receptionist, Mr. Kripal Singh, called me on the phone and said, “Mr. Ghose, can you come here for a second?” So I went. An American gentleman had come to the Consulate with a swastika. He had heard that it had originated in India and wanted to know its significance. Kripal Singh said to him, “Oh, this is a crazy design that some stupid artist has painted. Don’t pay any attention to it!” Although the man was not a spiritual seeker, he was not satisfied with the receptionist’s answer. “Is there any religious or spiritual person in your Consulate who might know something more?” he asked Kripal Singh. “Yes,” answered the receptionist, “we have a crazy fellow, Ghose, who can probably tell you more.” I was the crazy fellow and so I came in. The man was very sincere. He said, “Could you please tell me what the swastika means?” I took him into our Consulate Library and I gave him a long explanation. He was so deeply moved that he said, “Only a man like you could have satisfied my inner quest. Your receptionist said that you were a crazy fellow, but only a crazy fellow like you can answer a question like mine.” Well, I told him that when we deal with ignorant people, we are forced to be far, far away from truth.

Now I wish to come back to Agni and Agni’s origin. Indian mythology says that he was born in heaven and also on earth. When he was born in heaven, the message was brought down to earth by the cosmic messenger, Matarishwan, who was none other than Agni himself in disguise. When he was born on earth, the legend goes, two sticks were rubbed together and the god, Agni, came into existence magically. When we are born of human parents, we do not devour them, but in the case of Agni, according to the myth, it was otherwise. As soon as he was born, he devoured his aged parents.

Indian mythology is based on a deep under current of spiritual truth, but this truth is embroidered and veiled when it is converted into charming stories and chronicles which are meant to amuse a very simple human consciousness. The Puranas are the ancient Indian epics that tell all about the gods and goddesses and they are the expression of certain deeper truths, yet made accessible to the ordinary human consciousness.

The real spiritual truth in the legend of Agni devouring his parents is that when he came into existence, he devoured the cosmic ignorance all around him. The earth is full of obscurity, ignorance, imperfection, limitation, bondage and so forth. Agni devoured all these undivine things around him. His parents were symbolic representatives of the earth consciousness. If you think that he devoured his own real parents, it would be a real injustice to Agni, the cosmic god.

Agni is loved by all and sundry, irrespective of age. Sometimes you will notice that an elderly gentleman is admired, adored by his colleagues and the new generation finds it difficult to appreciate the genius in the elderly gentleman. The old and the new do not go together. But in the case of Agni, it was not like that. The second verse in the Rigveda tells us that Agni is adored and worshipped by the ancient sages and at the same time, by the newly born seekers. He can please a little child and, at the same time, he can please an octogenarian. A little child has desires, but he has no words in which to express them. He has no conscious aspiration, yet his desires are his unconscious and groping aspiration. An old man, an octogenarian, knows that desire is something that will not fulfil him. It is aspiration that can fulfil him. He consciously uses aspiration in his life. Both the little child and the old man want to have something which they do not have right now, the child unconsciously and the old man consciously. The beginning starts unconsciously to achieve something more fulfilling and more satisfying. The real end, the ultimate end comes through conscious aspiration. No matter what we want to have or want to become, we must do it through aspiration. So the beginning and the ending have the same song in two different forms. The child, owing to his ignorance, does not use the means of fulfilment in a divine way whereas the adult applies aspiration in the proper way in order to reach the highest Truth.

The dynamic form of Agni is, at times, associated with Rudra, the Terrible, the Thunder aspect of the Supreme. We see Rudra in the cosmic god Agni in the aspect of dynamic law. Rudra and Agni are friends; they go together. It is my plan to speak on Rudra some other time and if the Supreme gives me inspiration, I shall speak each Sunday on a particular cosmic god.

In conclusion, I would like to say that Agni is a household god in the sense that Agni is cherished most in the family either to fulfil desire or to fulfil aspiration. He is called Griha Pati or Griha Swami, Lord of the House. He is Lord of the House and also guest of the House. He is the Supreme Guest. The sages felt the necessity of cherishing and adoring Agni all the time because they felt that there was no end to their aspiration and that Agni was the only answer to their aspiration. At the same time, they came to realise that the flame of aspiration could be kindled by Agni alone. We need Agni to kindle the flames of aspiration and at the same time for our highest realisation.

Agni is never old. He is ever young and he is being reborn every day. When we kindle the flame of aspiration early in the morning, Agni takes birth. He is a newborn babe. Then again he is the most ancient god because he is the first priest mentioned in the Rigveda.

O Flame! Master Strength! O Leader! You gather around you all the peoples of the world and bind them together. You burn bright in the high seat of Revelation. You bring us all the Riches.2

He is human aspiration and divine realisation all at once. If you would like to repeat the name “Agni” silently a few times early in the morning, then you are bound to feel the climbing flame of aspiration within you. Please repeat “Agni” most soulfully, most devotedly. Then you will feel the bumper crop of divine realisation within you. Now I make a soulful request to you to chant “Agni” seven times along with me.


  1. AUM 872. This talk was given by Sri Chinmoy at the New York Sri Chinmoy Centre, on August 2, 1970.

  2. From the Rigveda, Mandala 10, Sukta 191. Translated by Nolini Kanta Gupta

Meditations

1.

Seek not power, seek satisfaction. Power is the essence of potential ambition. Satisfaction is the essence of inner liberation.

2.

Let us not underestimate the power of hope. No matter how fleeting the life of hope is, it offers to us the most convincing and fulfilling power.

3.

True, a sincere seeker wants to realise God. But he should be much more concerned to know what God wants him to be.

4.

First, use what you have. God is waiting to give you infinitely more. Then, do what you can. God is waiting to help you infinitely more.

Introduction

These stories are not my stories. They have been told and retold by countless people and God alone knows who the first authors were. Each person tells these stories with some colouring, in a slightly different way. Most of the stories involve the great Mogul Emperor Akbar and his minister and court jester, Birbal; and the King Krishna Chandra and his minister and court jester, Gopal Bhañr.

I do hope that my spiritual comments will inspire the sincere seekers of the eternal Truth to lead a better, higher and more inspiring life.

As much and as little as possible

The minister had a daughter who was very smart, just like her father. One day his little daughter went with him to the palace and the King, just to have some fun, asked her, “Do you know how to talk?”

She was only a little child, but she said, “Yes, I know how to talk much and I know how to talk little.”

The King said, “What is this? How to talk much and how to talk little? How do you do that?”

The little girl answered, “When I speak to my superiors, I speak little and when I speak to my inferiors I speak much.”

“Why do you do that?” asked the King.

The minister’s daughter replied, “From my superiors I learn. So when I speak to my superiors I speak as little as possible and listen as much as I can. But when I speak to my little brother, I speak as much as possible, because he does not know anything. He has to learn from me.”

This was the child’s wisdom.

Spiritual comments

It is the same when I speak to my disciples. If some of the disciples ask me a question, in one or two sentences, I answer it for a long time and give them much wisdom. But I have some disciples who say they have a question, but when they begin to speak it goes on for five minutes and my answer is much shorter than their question. When some of my disciples come to me for an interview, they only want me to hear their voice. They go on, go on, go on, for half an hour, forty-five minutes, talking, talking, talking, telling me all about their experiences and their realisations. It is I who have to listen to them. Then, when they have said everything, I have no time or inclination to give them any advice.

These disciples are making a serious mistake. When you come to a spiritual Master like me, who is far superior to you in inner and outer wisdom, you don’t even have to say anything.

I know everything immediately. But you get satisfaction in your physical mind when you actually ask me something, so I do not mind at all. You believe that I can throw more light on it, real light on it and that is why you ask me. But put the question in a few words, then listen, listen, listen to me. I have realised God. I am one with the Source of all Knowledge. Since I am your superior in this matter, you tell me very little and I will give you the flood of knowledge.

When you are with a superior, do not act like a fool. Just say, “I am thirsty,” and the Master will immediately bring you milk, honey, nectar and everything. But if you go on talking, talking and talking at random, when you feel that the time has come for you to receive something, the Master says, “You have wasted all your time. Now it is time for somebody else to come and be divinely fed.”

You do not know whether you need milk or something else. The Master knows what you need far better than you do and he will give it all to you if you will only be quiet and receive. The best thing is to say only that you are thirsty. Then if it is milk that you need, milk will come. If it is something else, you will get that thing. When you are with a superior, say the minimum and receive the maximum. You will be the real winner. Fulfilment will be yours.

Four first-class fools

Once the King asked the minister to bring him four of the world’s worst possible fools. It is easy to get fools on earth, so the following morning the minister began looking for the fools.

The first fool he saw was a Brahmin. He was running very fast with a plate and on the plate was betel nut, rice and a few other things. When the minister asked the Brahmin, “Why are you running?” the Brahmin answered, “My wife has just given birth to a son and I am bringing her the ceremonial foods. Unfortunately, the boy is not my child, but its father will also be there. So I am going to bless the new father and mother and the new baby. That is why I am running.”

“Oh!” thought the minister. “I have got my first fool,” and he told the Brahmin to come to the court with him.

“No, no, no. I can’t come to the court,” said the Brahmin, “I have to see my wife.”

But the minister said, “I am the King’s minister. It is the King’s order for me to take you,” and he showed the Brahmin his identification. So the foolish Brahmin had to go to the King’s palace.

On the way, they saw a second fool. This man was sitting on a horse and on his shoulders was a very heavy load. When the minister asked him, “Why are you doing that?” the man replied, “My horse is a mare and she is pregnant. I don’t want to hurt this poor animal by making her carry such a heavy burden, so I have kept the load on my own shoulders.”

The minister said, “If you are sitting on the horse, the weight will be the same whether it is on your shoulders, or on the back of the horse.” But the man insisted that he was taking half the burden on his own shoulders.

“Here is another fool,” the minister said to himself and he commanded him to come along to the King.

“Your Majesty,” said the minister when they came before the King, “here are your fools.”

“I asked you to bring me four fools, didn’t I?” said the King. “Where are the other two?”

“I have got one here and one there,” said the minister and he narrated their foolish actions to the King. Then he said, “The third fool is you, your Majesty. Who but a fool is interested in seeing fools? Since you are so eager to see the world’s worst possible fools, I wish to tell you that you are one of them. You get pleasure in knowing that there are horrible fools in your kingdom, whereas a wise King would like to know if there are wise men in his kingdom. Since fools give you pleasure, you also belong to their group, for birds of a feather flock together. And I am the fourth fool. I listen to your foolish commands and waste my precious life in carrying them out. Only a fool would obey the commands of a fool, so that makes me the fourth fool.”

Spiritual comments

Except for God Himself, we are all fools. There is no human being who can sincerely say that he has not, even once in his lifetime, acted foolishly. When we look for foolishness or stupidity in others, our own stupidity comes forward. But if we look for divinity in others, our divinity comes forward. Let us be supremely careful — and divinely wise.

Music section

Aum purnamadah

AUM

Purnamadah purnamidam purnat purnamudachyate purnasya purnamadaya purnameva vashishyate

Infinity is that. Infinity is this. From infinity infinity has come forth. Having taken away infinity from infinity, Verily infinity remains.

Asato ma

AUM

Asato ma sad gamaya tamaso ma jyotir gamaya mrityor ma amritam gamaya

Lead me from the unreal to the real. Lead me from darkness unto light.

Lead me from death to immortality.