|THE GOD BEYOND THE HEAD
Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. Here in Prashanti, it is quite common to see many people sitting in the veranda reading books, while waiting for Swami to come out for Darshan. These days, many of the books that devotees are reading deal with Science and God. By and large, these books appear to examine whether or not God exists, through the “scientific route,” if we might call it that. Some of the books are by theologians, while others are by scientists. Where the latter are concerned, the question seems to be: “Looking at the physical Universe as it has evolved and as it is today, is there any evidence to suggest that it was created by a God beyond the Universe?”
The question as well as the approach of exploration is nothing new. From very ancient times, people have repeatedly been asking: “Wherefrom did the Universe come, and was there a Supreme Creator who actually willed it and brought it into existence?” Given the intrinsic doubting nature of humans, we suppose this question would remain for ever, at least as long the human race exists.
Now why did we bring all this up? For a good reason; we wish to discuss today the question: “How does one think of God, what does one believe about God and how exactly must one relate to God?” Actually, we have nothing original to say on the subject because all that needs to be said has already said by Swami; what we intend to do is just to pull together the various pieces and offer them as one integrated piece.
We would like to start by reminding ourselves that the human being is actually a composite of three entities: The gross body, the subtle Mind and the even subtler Heart. Of these, the Heart is the seat of feeling; the Mind is the vehicle for generating thoughts while the body is the engine of action. Generally speaking, action is preceded by thoughts, which are in turn triggered by feelings – in other words, the hierarchy is, Heart first, Mind next, the senses and the body last. Here is an example that illustrates the point.
You are walking along the road and you see an old hungry lady begging for food. That sight fills your Heart with sadness and compassion. That feeling makes your Mind think: “I have with me here in a bag that I am carrying, some bread. Why not I give this lady a part of that loaf?” That is the thought that arises in your Mind. The thought then triggers action. You go near the old woman, stop, smile, take out some bread, give it to her and say, “Mother, please accept this food as a gift from God. Hope you would like it,” or something like that.
You may say, “All this is fine but how does it relate to the title of this Sunday Special?” Ah, that exactly is what we are coming to! Let us go back to the example just given and ask: “What if the Heart did not ooze with compassion, at the sight of the old and hungry lady?” You might have just walked away without paying any attention.
The difference between actions shaped entirely by the “Head” and those triggered by the “Heart” were beautifully brought out by Jesus a long time ago, through his famous parable of the Good Samaritan. We have referred to this story any number of times in the past but it is necessary to recall it briefly one more time, in order to place it in the present context. In that story, there is a man who has been waylaid by robbers, ripped of all his possessions, beaten black and blue, and left helpless by the side of a desert track. Two people pass by, one after the other, a Levite and a priest. Both take a look at the man and pass on. Why? Was it not obvious to them that the poor man needed urgent help? Perhaps in a vague way it was. Even as they were possibly wondering what they ought to do, the Head, we are sure, must have intervened and said, “Listen, you want to help that man? But what’s there in it for you? Move on.”
If we analyse carefully we would find that most of the time when people switch off when assistance or help is desperately needed is because of the question: “What’s there in it for me?” Given human nature, this question is inevitable; it would always arise. If that be the case, does it mean that one would always come to the conclusion, “No, there is nothing in it for me,” and walk away as the priest and the Levite did? How then does one explain the behaviour of the Good Samaritan, whose example Jesus holds out for us? What was there in it for him? That really is the point of our discussion today.
You see, the question that we referred to does indeed arise often. And every time the question is asked [the question, by the way, is always asked by the “Head”], there sure is an answer. However, there are two sources for the answer – the Head, and the Heart. In the case of the Levite and the priest, it was the Head that answered. It simply said, “Move on buddy, there is nothing in it for you.” In the case of the Good Samaritan, the answer came from the Heart, which said, “Look at that poor fellow. He desperately needs your help. Go and do something for him, whatever you can.”
This then tells us, that two voices can and do speak from within, each with its own perspective. One voice is that of the “Head” and the other is from the “Heart”. The question now arises: “What is the difference, and how do we distinguish between the two?” The answer has been given by Swami. He says the voice of the Head is really the voice of the lower self or the ego. And the voice from the Heart? That is the Voice of the True Higher Self, the Indweller, the Voice of God. As for the difference, the Head will generally offer many options and argue: “Listen, this option means these advantages for you. That option means those advantages and disadvantages for you. Choose this one, because this means least trouble for you and indeed a lot of gain.” In other words, the language of the Head is the language of business, of profit and loss, of advantages and disadvantages, in short, the language of selfishness. As for the Heart, it never offers multiple choices. God the Resident of the Heart, is One. He is Truth, and Truth as Swami often reminds us, is always one, not two. In practical terms, the Heart will always give only one option, that option being what God would like us to do.
To sum up this part of the discussion, we note the following important points:
The Head is not everything.
The Head always offers many options and argues which is most advantageous and so forth.
The options of the Head are inevitably tinged with selfishness, sometimes in the extreme.
The options of the Head might seem very rational from a worldly point of view but one must not be fooled.
They all arise from the Ego, must be carefully avoided.
As for the Heart, it never speaks with a “forked tongue”.
It gives only one option, always, because Truth is one and not two.
The course of action indicated by the Heart is always free from selfishness because its source is God.
In fact, “the selfishness test” is the best way of checking out whether the voice we hear from within is from the Head or from the Heart.
Getting back to the point we started with, we would at this point like to say that to us at least, it seems meaningless to discover God through the route of Science. Such explorations might be intellectually very challenging and even stimulating but at the end of the day, we wonder about their utility. What we mean is the following: OK, through Science we “prove” there is a God. What next? Do we raise yet another question, start yet another inquiry and write more books?
In our view, all this is a complete waste of time. Gandhi told the western world way back in 1931, “He is no God who merely satisfies the intellect. God to be God must rule the Heart and transform the senses. He is LOVE.” That is what we find in the case of the Good Samaritan. God ruled his Heart and his actions bear testimony to that. This leads us to the important point that it does not make sense to “discover” the existence of God via Science. Such an exercise depends on the “Head” and, as Gandhi has pointed out, this is a futile way of trying to find out whether God exists or not.
We must not try to “understand” God as some are trying to do but EXPERIENCE God. How does one do that? Swami has given the answer. He says Bliss is Union with God. This implies that experiencing Bliss is the best way to experience God. The question now arises: “What is this Bliss? How is it different from pleasure, that one gets say from gambling?” The answer is simple and once again is available from Swami. When we talk of joy, happiness etc., we invariably mean pleasure that we get out worldly experiences, experiences that gratify the senses in some manner or the other. These “joyful” experiences [like the “good feeling” one supposedly gets by drinking alcohol say] belong to the dual world and therefore have an opposite. As Swami reminds us so often, pleasure is an interval between two pains. Further, let us say a person enjoys a cone of ice-cream. One year later when he recalls that event, it remains a mere recollection. There is no particular joy in the recollection. On the other hand, let us consider an Interview that Swami has given us. During the Interview of course we are all in a state of Bliss; it cannot be any other way. Ten years later when we recall, we still feel a lot of exhilaration. That is an important quality of Bliss. Also, it has no opposite, since Bliss belongs to the non-dual realm of God.
So, experiencing Bliss is what experiencing God is all about. There are many ways of experiencing such Bliss. Listening to stories of the Lord is one; listening to songs in praise of the Lord is another; singing Bhajans with feeling is yet another; and so on the list goes. We submit, as Swami has often told us, serving others with Selfless Love is the simplest and most practical way of experiencing Bliss. That is exactly how one can understand the behaviour of the Good Samaritan. The Head asked the question: “What is there in it for me?” And the Heart answered, “There is Bliss; don’t miss the chance; experience Bliss through service and be with God at least for some time.”
To wrap it all up, we submit that trying to reason out the existence of God may be intellectually stimulating and satisfying but at the end of the day, it merely amounts to what Swami refers to as Bookish Knowledge. On the other hand, spontaneously responding to distress and reaching out to help results in Bliss, and constitutes, in Swami’s language, Practical Knowledge. If we are interested in joy, pleasure or “kicks” to use a popular slang, the Head is the best agent. But if we want Bliss, then the Heart is the unfailing guide.
In a sense thus, life is constantly offering us a choice between pleasure and Bliss. If we want pleasure, the Head would show the way, but if we prefer Bliss, then we must look beyond the Head, for that is where God is.
Have you noticed that Spirituality is not something hairy-fairy but very practical? That is why Swami refers to Spirituality as Practical Knowledge. Swami does not want us to withdraw from or to run away from the world into seclusion. He wants us to be very much in it, but conduct our lives using the Heart as a compass rather than the Head.
There is a lot that needs to be said on this subject but we shall deal with that later. For the moment, we take your leave. Till we get together again.
Jai Sai Ram.