by Prof. P. Krishna

(Talk delivered by Prof. P.Krishna, Krishnamurti Foundation India, Rajghat Fort, Varanasi at the TS convention in Adyar, Chennai on 26 Dec. 2012)


The theme of this Convention is ‘The Present Shapes the Future’ and I wish to investigate it in this talk.. We could divide the world as a whole into two parts: the material world which is studied by science and the inner world of our consciousness which is mostly beyond science at present. I like to look at these as two different aspects of nature and consider whether the present shapes the future in both of them. If we look at the material world of space, time, matter and energy, which is studied in detail by science, we certainly find that there is tremendous order throughout the universe, that definite causes produce definite effects and these are governed by very definite laws. So, whatever may be the present condition, the future development of it is dictated by those laws and the only place where there is some uncertainty is in the sub-atomic world of elementary particles where there is some uncertainty as they do not follow the laws very rigidly. The extent to which they deviate from certainty is also defined by science; but as far as our daily life is concerned and the universe as a whole is concerned the masses we encounter are so large that we can neglect the uncertainty. Most of the time we are not dealing with sub-atomic particles, except in specialized laboratory experiments, so the laws are fairly deterministic. Scientists have worked out most of these laws, physical, chemical and biological, governing both inanimate and animate matter. They are able to explain to a large extent the behaviour of the bodies of plants, animals and also human beings. So it does seem to be true that for the material world of nature the present shapes the future. If you start with different initial conditions the development would be different, but it would be governed by the same laws. Science maintains that these laws are universal, that they have not changed with time, so they are eternal and on the basis of these assumptions they are able to trace back the entire development of the universe as a whole. We read every other day about the Big Bang theory of the origin of the universe. It is not yet completely accepted in all its details but the broad framework is reasonably certain, because it explains and even predicts so may observed facts correctly that it is very unlikely that it would be wrong in any great measure. There are of course situations in which there are multiple forces operating and then it becomes difficult to predict what will happen in future but that does not mean that the laws break down or that the present does not shape the future. I have brought with me a quotation from Einstein, who is regarded as possibly the greatest scientist of the twentieth century. He says, “ Everything is determined by forces over which we have no control, it is determined for the insects as well as the stars, human beings, vegetables or cosmic dust. We all dance to a mysterious tune intoned from a distance by an invisible Pied Piper.” I agree with it so far as the material world is concerned, which is the world of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, but I think it is not entirely true of human beings. I think Einstein did not take into account the human consciousness, because if the human consciousness was also all predetermined, then there would be no such thing as morality or immorality or right or wrong. If a tiger kills an animal for food it is just governed by its instincts and there is no decision on its part, but that does not seem to be true of human beings. In the case of human beings the instincts have become tendencies, they do not completely govern us. That is why when a dog barks at us we do not feel insulted, but when your boss barks at you, you jolly well feel insulted! This brings us to the question whether there is such a thing as free will or not? Is there some freedom given to a human being or do the laws of Physics, Chemistry and Biology completely determine, not only our body but also our thoughts, our decisions and our behaviour? This is a complex question, so let us investigate it a little further because if everything is predetermine then there is no possibility of change and that does not seem to be true. The scientists themselves are saying that if the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere goes beyond a certain limit, the consequent global warming will have such proportions that the polar caps will melt, the seas will get flooded and there will be a major ecological catastrophe if we continue to live the way we are living at present., They have even predicted the date by which this will happen. Therefore they are urging that we should give up fossil fuels and stop contributing more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by using alternative sources of energy. Obviously, it means they themselves are saying that if we take the right decisions we can prevent this from happening; so it is dependent on our decisions and is not inevitable. So while biological evolution is a fact and material evolution also seems to be a fact, I am not sure that this is true also of our consciousness and psyche. We need to examine that in greater detail. The scientists are studying biological evolution. They have been able to date the origin of different species and the period for which these have existed and described these developments in time. Biological evolution is supported by the study of fossils found in rocks and that evidence cannot be refuted. Similarly material evaluation which is a by-product of our knowledge can also not be refuted. The internet and mobile phones did not exist forty or fifty years ago when we were children, but they are here today. Knowledge is being continuously added and as it grows, its use also grows and that has changed the way we live. So the future is affected by our knowledge and it keeps developing with time. So there is evolution in knowledge, there is evolution in the material world and there is biological evolution over long periods of time.

Is that so also in our psyche? Is the psychological state of a human being today significantly different from the psychological state of the primitive man or the man of say a thousand years ago? If you examine that you will find that a thousand years ago also people were forming groups, they had attachments, they had ambitions, they had desires, they had fear, authority, and domination and all of which is still there in human consciousness. The ego, the selfishness is still there, the jealousy is still there, the ambition is still there. After a thousand years have passed, what we desire now may be different from what we desired then, our groups may be now around big nations and not around tribes or clans, but we are still divided into groups. Each human being is still attached to his own group, working for the prosperity and betterment of that group and willing to exploit other groups for that purpose. Universal brotherhood has remained a noble idea propounded thousands of years ago but it has not become a fact. So it seems to me that psychologically we have not grown, we have not evolved; there has been very little, if at all, any psychological evolution. Certain forms of manifestation of the ego or extreme forms of selfishness may have disappeared; for example slavery is no longer there; colonialism and military occupation of other nations has more or less disappeared; kings with their authority and the notion that they are the representatives of the divine has more or less disappeared, but violence, war, rioting, crime are very much there with us. Constantly the governments and the United Nations and other organizations are at pains trying to control the manifestation of this psychological state. That means whatever is our psychological state causes certain things in society to happen, and because our psychological state does not change those things do not change in society. So there are certain areas in which there has been hardly any development with time. Let us take a few examples. If we look around ourselves we find that every human being has access to certain things, a certain amount of knowledge, certain amount of relationships, certain amount of money and so on and beyond that are things which he does not have. This is true of the Queen of England; it is true of the Director of a laboratory, it is true of you and me, it is true of the farmer. The farmer may be wanting buy a bicycle, someone may be wanting to have a son, students may be working to get a degree and the rich man may be wanting to get the latest Mercedes or make a new factory; but every one of us is standing on a line, on this side of the line are the things that he has access to and beyond that are things that he does not have access to. Every human being is making great effort to push that line and bring another object into this side of the line so that it becomes available for his pleasure or convenience. But that is what he was doing also ten years ago. He was then standing at a different line trying to push it, now he is standing at a different line and still trying to push it and ten years later he will be standing at yet another line but still trying to push it! So, psychologically, the whole of humanity seems to be in the same state: discontented with what we have and seeking something which we don’t have. The unmarried man is looking for a wife and the married man probably wanting to get rid of his! So the object of desire varies but desire is still there and the consequences of desire are therefore all there constantly! I am reminded of a dialogue between Alexander and Diogenes. Before starting out on his conquest of the world, Alexander went to Diogenes, who was known to be a very wise man in Greece, to take his blessings. He said, “I am venturing out into the world and will begin with the conquest of Iran and the Middle East’. So Diogenes asked him, “What will you do after that’? Alexander said ‘Well after that I will conquer Afghanistan’. ‘What will you do after that?’ and Alexander replied ‘I will conquer India’. Diogenes again asked, ‘And what will you do after that?’ So Alexander said ‘I will conquer China’. ‘What will you do after that?’ ‘Well, then may be I will come back home’. So Diogenes asked him, ‘What prevents you from doing that now?’ Like Alexander, we are also ambitious. Our society is promoting ambition, promoting competitiveness, so all the consequences of desire are still there. One should examine the consequences of that in some detail. When we have desire for something which we do not have and are working ambitiously to get it then either we will get it or we will not be able to get it. If we are not able to get it, that will produce frustration, a state of depression. If we are able to fulfill our desire there is temporarily a sense of achievement which feeds the ego. You feel superior to others because you got it. Then there follows a period of stagnation, of low energy, because the desire is gone and it was energizing you. This is so until a new desire is born which then energizes you. And this cycle repeats itself! Watch that in yourself and all the people around you and you will see that this is the normal human state. So all the consequences of desire and ambition have been there, from the time Alexander till today!. Therefore, in those respects society has not changed. Groupism, fighting, war, building armaments for defense, all that arises out of the psychological state of dividing ‘we people’ from ‘other people’ and this state continues. We have not understood on what basis our mind defines, who are ‘we’ and who are ‘they’. Why do certain differences turn into a division and create hatred, whereas other differences are perceived only as differences. For example we have not had a war between tall people and short people, at least not so far. We are not that stupid!. But have had war between one religious group and another religious group, between one national group and another national group and so on. Human beings have not been able to understand this psychological process which converts differences into division and therefore destroys brotherhood. Because when you hate somebody and you feel he is your rival you cannot feel brotherly towards him. We may talk of universal brotherhood but so long as the mind is not free of this identification with the me and the mine, brotherhood will never become a fact. Indeed it has never become a fact, it has remained an objective even in the Theosophical Society. Simply believing in it does not make it into a reality.

So, has there been any psychological evolution at all? Are we psychologically, inwardly, in our consciousness, significantly different from the man of one thousand year ago? It. does not appear to be so. In that sense, psychologically the future is now. Because if we are psychologically the same as the man of a thousand years ago, then another ten thousand years can go by and if we survive, we will continue to be the same. For the same reasons for which we have not changed in one thousand years we will not be able to change in the next thousand. So there is no such thing as psychological evolution with time. This means time does not help to change the psychological state of a human being. In that sense the future is now and we cannot depend on time for change.. Transformation of consciousness requires a mutation which is not a time process.. What does that mean? It means there is causation in consciousness which does not change gradually with time. All these negative emotions, like selfishness, competitiveness, rivalry, enmity, hatred, anger, jealousy, sorrow etc result from certain illusions in our mind and unless those illusions are ended they will not go away.. This is what the Buddha pointed out more than two thousand years ago. He gave three psychological laws like the scientists have the three laws of Newton. The first law is that ‘sorrow exists’ This is a statement of an observed fact. If we look at human consciousness we observe that there is a lot of psychological suffering which human beings go through. The second law says, it has cause: ignorance as illusion is the cause of sorrow. The third law was the result of his own experiments and learning. He said the cause can be eliminated. It is because the cause lies in illusion that it can be eliminated. If was an organic cause, it can not be eliminated. You can not get rid of bodily pain which is a biological reaction built into the body; but emotional, psychological suffering, is born out of illusion and can therefore be ended. Illusion has no existence in nature; therefore it is not governed by the laws of nature. It is something constructed by human thought and imagination. Only the human consciousness is capable of that; the animal is not capable of it. That is why you do not find animals creating war, you do not find a tiger decimating another species and destroying them.

Illusion can be ended by discerning what is true and what is false. That is why Theosophy says ‘Truth is the highest religion’: ‘Truth’ as a perception, not the idea of the truth or the knowledge of the truth which is easy to get. You can read Buddha’s book and books written on the Buddha and become a Professor of Buddhist philosophy, but that will not transform your consciousness. The Professor of Buddhist philosophy has the same consciousness as you and me. He has sorrow, he has fear, he has anxiety and he has ambition; his psychological state is not different from that of others.. What was different about Jesus or the Buddha was that they actually underwent a transformation of consciousness. For that what is necessary is not just agreement with an idea or an opinion but an actual perception, like when we perceive the danger of fire or the danger of a truck coming towards you. Then you do not need any argument to move away from it! Mr. C.W. Leadbeater wrote an article saying no engineer ever makes a model or a plan which assumes that water will flow up the hill because he is so clear that the model would not work, it will break down. But when we listen to religious discourses we find people making all kinds of noble statements when their life shows they live just the contrary. That means it is not clear to them; they are just indulging in ideation, in conceptualization at the level of thought. It will not become an actuality until they perceive the truth of it for themselves. The religious quest is for coming upon that realization, which means sensing the danger directly and not through argument or agreement. Truth at the level of ideation is just mental property; property can be accumulated but it does not transform consciousness. Realization of the truth means it becomes real for you and is no longer an idea. That is actually the essence of the religious quest which is the quest for wisdom, as distinct from the quest for knowledge. There is very little wisdom in a mind that lives with all kinds of illusions, for it is living in an imaginary world of its own creation and is not really in contact with the real world of Nature. . Let us examine the nature of these illusions in order to see the truth of this. One finds that in our country, there is this immense problem of female foeticide; people are killing the female child either before it is born or soon after it is born. Before it is born it is not considered to be a crime, after it is born it is consider to be murder, but I am not talking about the legality of it. What are the illusions behind that un-natural act? Why is this happening? Why, in our society, the females are disappearing, producing an imbalance which will eventually have disastrous consequences? Men will not find women to marry and that will lead to all kinds of violence, which has already started to happen. What are the illusions behind all this? If you examine it, you will find that we have all kinds of false notions in our mind which prevail in our society just because we have accepted them without questioning. We accept that we belong to a caste: whether Brahmin, Vaishya, Kshatriya or Shudra. We accept that because everybody around us believes in it. An Indian thinks his children must marry only within his caste; he believes that it is his responsibility to get his daughters married within the caste and latest by the age of 25. In his caste he may have to pay a large amount of dowry in order to get a husband for his daughter. Because he accepts all these notions he feels that the birth of a daughter is a great burden on him whereas the birth of a son is an asset as he will look after the whole family in future. The son will belong to his own family, whereas the girl will go away to another family after marriage. All these appear to him to be facts though they are just constructs of the human mind without any reality in Nature. Therefore, they are all illusions. Somebody introduced casteism in India, perhaps five thousand years ago. It is mentioned even in the Gita, It may not have been in the form it has today but what is now in society is the reality; what it was before five thousands years ago, we do not know and it is no use speculating about that. The fact is this is how it is functioning now and it is creating a lot of discrimination, injustice and cruelty. So, can we not free ourselves from it? Caste is just something that is attributed to the child when it is born, it has no existence in Nature. When it is born, it is just a human child: it is neither Brahmin nor Sudra nor Christian nor Hindu, all these are imposed upon the child by society and our mind accepts all this. Therefore an Indian feels bound by all this. It is because of this he is killing his own daughters. If only we realize that we do not have to accept all this, we can break through this as it is false. But the average man is not aware that all these illusions in his mind are actually the cause behind the killing of his own child. The natural instinct which even an animal has is to protect the child, to love the child, not to endanger the child. In fact he is works very hard to collect the dowry for his child because he thinks that is good for her. This is the nature of illusion: that the man who is in illusion is not aware that he is in illusion. If he only breaks all these assumptions, may be some of the people in his caste will not be friends with him, will not come and have meal with him and so on, which is a temporary difficulty he will have; but he has other friends too outside his community, so he will not be friendless. But he feels bound by all these, pressurized by this, scared of going contrary to the views of his caste people and out of that comes all this evil. If only he could say to himself that he will educate his daughter, like he educates his son, let her go out and work for herself, marry someone if she feels like doing so or remain unmarried; it is her life and she will decide what to make of it and he, as her friend, will help her to do what she wants to do, the whole problem would disappear and all this injustice and violence would end! So all this fear and injustice and sorrow arises just out of illusions in the mind. .

That is an example of what the Buddha taught: that we are the authors of our own sorrow. We think that the sorrow comes to us from outside. We have not learnt to look at ourselves and ask ourselves why this sorrow has come, from what illusion in our mind? Illusion means I am taking something to be true when it is not true, not a fact in nature. Or I am giving tremendous importance to something which is not really important. Let us take an example of that. In our society we think it is tremendously important that a Hindu should not be converted into a Christian. Now, what difference will it make if tomorrow I go to a Christian church, pay some fee, do some rituals and become a Christian? Instead of a stupid Hindu you will have a stupid Christian in the world! Does it make a tremendous difference? Do we grow in wisdom by changing our affiliation from one religion to another? Actually, it has no significance; but our mind thinks it has a great significance. That is an illusion. It just does not matter, what you believe, what you pray to, whether you do Namaz or you go to a temple and pray in front of statue. What matters is how you behave, whether you are violent, whether you are greedy, whether you are selfish. All these are the illusions in the mind from which sorrow comes, division comes, the war and the rioting come. Because all this arises from illusion, the Buddha said it can be ended. Illusion can be ended by discerning what is true and what is false, which is the quest for truth/ wisdom, the real religious quest. But the man in illusion is not aware that he is in illusion. That man is you and me. We may be able to see the illusion of somebody else but that does not mean that we do not have illusion. Just as that man who is giving dowry for his daughter and endangering his child, is not aware that he is in illusion, you and I are also not aware of the illusions we have. Unless we examine our own feelings, watch from where they arise and if it is a negative feeling arising out of an illusion, end that illusion, one does not grow in wisdom. That is the real Theosophical quest. Otherwise, we are not free. You may believe in universal brotherhood, you may believe in this or you may believe in that, what difference does it make? I will give you a question to think about: if a man is selfish, violent, greedy and hateful, what difference does it make whether he is a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist or an atheist? And if a man is wise, kind and generous, non-violent, large hearted, compassionate, what difference does it make whether he is a Hindu, a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist or an atheist? So why do we give such a tremendous importance to the affiliation of a human being?

I read an interesting parable which I would like to share with you. It reveals how this kind of classification of human beings into different religions, different castes, produces absurd conclusions. Jesus Christ had never seen a football match so he asked Saint Peter; “ Can you take me to see a football match?”. St. Peter said ‘Yes sir, I will arrange it’. And he took him to see a football match in Ireland, where the team of the Catholics was playing a match against the Protestants. Jesus started watching the game and felt very interested as he had never seen a game of soccer or football before. After a little while the Catholics made the first goal and he felt very excited and said, ‘Hurrah!’, threw his cap in the air and clapped to show his delight. Then the game began again and again he watched it with great interest and this time it is the Protestants who made a goal. Again he was very excited, said “Hurrah!’, clapped and threw his hat up in the air. Seeing this, a man sitting behind him is puzzled by his behavior. He touched on his shoulder and said ‘Just a minute sir, which side are you on?’ Jesus said, ‘I am not on any side, I am just enjoying the game!’ So the man says ‘Ah! An atheist!’. We continue with these divisions, with ambitions and desires as an inevitable part of life because we have not examined seriously the consequences of it and do not know whether things can be done without ambition and desire, just for the love of it. So the mind continues with these illusions and therefore all the divisions and other consequences continue in society and there is no fundamental change in society. In that sense, the future is now. The only way can actually change both in our personal life and therefore in our society is if we erase these illusions from our mind; but the difficulty is that we are not aware of our illusions. Those illusions which we know to be illusions do not create disorder: fairy tales, for example. We know that they are not true and when you know they are only imaginary, you can indulge in them for fun. Similarly we can have fine poetry and metaphors and all such imaginary things, so long as you do not mistake them for reality. If you mistake them for reality it becomes an illusion and creates disorder in consciousness. So, as Theosophists it is important for us to come upon a learning mind which discerns what is true from what is false. That means whenever I experience a negative emotion, whether it is sorrow or fear or jealousy/ anger/ hatred, I ask myself ‘Krishna where did that come from, where am I approaching life wrongly? What illusion in my mind has given rise to this negative emotion?’. It is not so important to get rid of the external cause as it is to end the inner causation in our psyche. We have been trained to always deal with the external cause and therefore the inner causation continues. The inner learning is far more important as it frees us for ever. The sorrow is not looked upon as a great misfortune but as an opportunity to learn about myself. We have not been trained to learn about ourselves. We have been trained to learn about the external world whereas this learning is about ending the illusion within oneself. One is taking the responsibility for ending the negative emotions that arise in our consciousness. Since I am the author of my own sorrow, and therefore I alone can undo it. It is arising from my own thinking, my own assumptions and if I discover the consequences of it the illusion breaks and therefore there is the possibility of a real change. This change will not happen with time, it does not happen gradually. Either you have perceived the truth or you have not perceived the truth. One does not come upon 20% of the truth and then 50% and gradually to 100%, like going spirally up a hill. Truth enters the mind like a sudden revelation, a deep perception, which creates a mutation in consciousness; when that happens you are set free. The problem ends, so there is no need of trying to control it. We need to control the problem only so long as it is still arising, which means the cause has not been eliminated. So, wars in the world exist because their cause has not been eliminated. Look at the situation in the Middle East between the Arabs and the Jews. The Arabs tell their children that Jews are our enemy and the Jews tell their children that the Arabs are their enemy. So the old people die and the children are infected with this enmity right from birth. So how will that division due to the hatred between this two communities end? It has not ended in the last 65 years; the situation remains exactly the same. Every time the conflict flares up, the United Nation goes there to create some dialogue, make some compromise, but each time the compromise breaks down. Surely there is a deeper causation behind it and so long as we do not get rid of that causation the effect will continue to arise. What is the illusion causing this state of things? The fact is that there is no great difference between the Arab and the Jew. They think so because their religion, their beliefs, their attachments, their food habits and so on are different. But these are very superficial things; deep down they have so much in common. They have the same instincts, the same problems of desire, jealousy, ambition, fear, and sorrow because they are both human beings. They feel very different only because they give tremendous importance to these superficial differences and that is an illusion. The Buddha taught that the truth is that the other man is yourself. If it does not appear so, it is because the mind is caught in all these illusions which divide us and so long as those illusions persist there is no change in the psychological state, there is no psychological evolution, therefore the future is now. There is real change only when we perceive for ourselves what is true and what is false. That is why the quest for truth is the highest religion and the learning mind is the real religious mind.