The Satyameva Dialogues


[The Satyameva Dialogues consist of a series of recorded and transcribed conversations between Shri Manu and Acharya Nirankar. Acharya Nirankar is a practitioner and teacher of Vedanta; Shri Manu likes to regard himself as a seeker of Truth, and studies Vedanta.  

These conversations are spread over many months, reflecting many moods and thoughts. We have tried to retain, as far as editorially possible, the original bhava and flavor of the conversations. — Editors.] 

Dialogue 1: Na kinchidapi chintayet

M: Perhaps the best point to start our explorations into dharma would be with the Bhagavad Gita, arguably one of the most widely read religious texts in Bharat. The Gita, as we know, is considered an upanishad of the Vedantic tradition — the Gitopnaishad. It is generally regarded as the Word of God. 

AN: The word of God? Yes, in a manner of speaking. It is the directly revealed knowledge, vijnana. You may say “word of God” to make it easier for the ordinary person to grasp, but it’s vijnana or the supreme knowledge descending into the enlightened buddhi. Sri Krishna and Arjuna, Mahabharat and the battlefield of Kurukshetra, are interwoven contexts to give a historical background to the vijnana. 

 M: When you say ‘supreme’, Acharyaji, do you mean the highest, the perfect?

AN: I mean truth descending from the supreme source that is Sri Krishna, in response to Arjuna’s inner state, the existential conflict and angst that really marks the beginning of the dharmayuddha. This too is a context, a psychological setting.

M: But the knowledge of the Gita is not specific to its historical context, is it? It goes far beyond its historical setting, reaching out into the psyche of the ages to come. 

AN: The Gita is a mantra of the eternal Yoga that Sri Krishna imparts, through the instrumentality of the noble Arjuna, to the whole of humanity, through all space and time. In that sense, the revelations of the Gita are timeless and universal, sanatan

The knowledge of the Gita, the supreme secret, rahasyam uttamam, was not imparted to Arjuna alone. As the great Teacher himself declares— This imperishable Yoga I gave to Vivasvan, the Sun-God, Vivasvan gave it to Manu, the father of men, Manu gave it to Ikshvaku, head of the Solar line.[1] Whatever be the profounder meaning of this verse, it indicates one thing very clearly — the Gita’s knowledge does not begin with Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra nor does it end with Arjuna’s enlightenment and his going into the great battle. 

M: This is a very mystical verse…it is not easy to grasp its real significance. Going by Sri Krishna’s words, it begins before human civilization, with the Sun-God receiving it from Sri Krishna, perhaps, at the dawn of cosmic Time. So, obviously, the message of the Gita is not specific to an age or an event. 

AN: The teachings of the Gita are sanatan — eternal and universal. This is sanatan dharma, Sir. 

M: Yes, I understand. The Gita, I’m aware, is one of the foundational pillars of the sanatan dharma. 

AN: Yes, along with the knowledge of the Vedas, the Yogas, and the Upanishads, are the foundational pillars of our sanatan dharma. Whosoever shall embody this fourfold knowledge shall be known as the true keeper and votary of sanatan dharma. 

M: And this ‘knowledge’ is obviously not intellectual knowledge, gathering of information and recitation?

AN: No, this knowledge is adhyatmik, a higher or subtler spiritual knowledge.

M: But one always begins with intellectual knowledge…

AN: So, when you say ‘intellectual knowledge’, what exactly do you mean? We learn physics, for instance, intellectually, by using the intellect and the methods of the intellect. But when it comes to adhyatma jnana, knowledge of the self or spirit, we need to go beyond the intellect and its methods and activities. The intellect can serve, at best, a very limited purpose in adhyatma jnana. One has to open oneself to intuitive perception, spiritual experience, self-realization. It’s a different order of jnana altogether – vijnana, prajnana.

M: Is there some way to get past the whole intellectual machinery, Acharyaji, and open oneself directly to adhyatma jnana?

AN: First of all, we need to understand that adhyatma jnana is not the ordinary ‘jnana’ the buddhi gets by reading, analyzing and reciting. The domain of intellectual knowledge, the ordinary jnana, always lies outside of oneself, dependent on external sources. One can gather intellectual knowledge by reading about the sun but one can never get to the direct perception or experience of the sun by reading about it. You can go on reading and talking about honey, but you will never know it till you taste it. And once you taste it, you will no longer need to read or talk about it. 

M: I understand that!

AN: Now when you taste the honey, you know it, don’t you? You get the immediate and direct knowledge of it, right? That is akin to adhyatma jnana, spiritual knowledge. You know the honey because you have experienced it. But that too is a stage. Finally, you become the honey. When you become the honey, you know it because you are it. It’s not even taste, then. Taste is still a duality. It is knowledge by identity, by self-becoming. That is akin to vijnana or supramental knowledge. 

M: So, Acharyaji, how does one like me get to, at least, the taste of the honey? I don’t wish to read or talk about it.

AN: We all have desires… the first thing to do is to turn all our desires to the one single, all-consuming desire for Krishna. Desire Sri Krishna alone, nothing and none else. As Sri Aurobindo wrote in one of his aphorisms — Turn all things to honey; this is the law of divine living. Take ‘honey’ to be Sri Krishna, and you have the master formula. 

M: At once so simple and so difficult. We all have so many distractions and preoccupations of the mind and heart!

AN: And these ‘distractions’ and ‘preoccupations’ keep us in a perpetually disturbed state, a state of inner disequilibrium. Asamata. Desires, preferences, self-will, needs…these are the causes of asamata. All this must be turned to just one desire, one will, one preoccupation — Sri Krishna and Sri Krishna alone. That is yoga. Gather all of your being and consciousness in the inmost heart, and then offer all to Sri Krishna, keeping nothing back, however radiant or noble, or however dark or evil. Give all of your being and consciousness, down to the tiniest vibration, down to the last cell of your body. That is yoga. 

M: Samatvam yog uchhayate?[2]

AN: Yes, indeed. When all of your being and consciousness, everything in you that moves outward, is self-gathered and concentrated on Sri Krishna, you attain the condition of samata which itself is yoga. There is much more to it, of course, but this is all you need to get to the  ‘taste of the honey’. 

M: So, if I’m getting this right — this would mean that I remain inwardly absorbed, or concentrated, on Sri Krishna all the time, my whole  being, my entire consciousness?

AN: Yes, that is a condition of the Gita’s yoga. 

M: So, then, how do I remain active in the world? I have things to do — job, family, society etc. how do I remain active in samsara and immersed in Sri Krishna at the same time? 

AN: When you’re in love, doesn’t that happen effortlessly? You remain active in the world but inwardly you are immersed in the thoughts of the one you love. So you just have to learn to be in love with the divine all the time. That too is yoga of the Gita. To be always and entirely in love with Sri Krishna. 

M: Sarva dharman parityajya mamekam sharanam vraja…[3]This seems to me the perfect condition of one’s love for Sri Krishna. Give up all dharmas for Sri Krishna…like Radha.

AN: This sloka really sums up the yoga of the Gita, it is the supreme secret. If only we can give up all dharmas — all that holds us, binds us, makes us what we are — for the sake of the divine beloved, for Sri Krishna, and give ourselves entirely to him — for that is what mamekam sharanam vraja means — then we would need nothing more: all would be attained in a trice, no yoga, no tapasya!

M: This then is the master formula, Acharyaji?

AN: It is the supreme secret, the rahasya, that the Gita reveals. All this that we are, and experience, this whole manifest universe is Sri Krishna alone: sarvam vasudevah iti. Sri Krishna is the friend, the support, the guide and philosopher, the teacher and the indwelling Guru, the divine beloved, the supreme Self, the alpha and the omega, the beginning, the middle and the end… Once this is known, all is known.  But this does not come easy… the delusion of the ego is deep and persistent. Very rare are the great souls who know that Vasudeva is all that exists and there  is none other — vasudevah sarvam iti, sah mahatma sudurlabhah.[4]

M: How then is the delusion of the ego to be conquered, Acharyaji?

AN: The ego, the sense of separative identity, is not a real thing, it is mithya — a thing that does not really exist but appears to exist. Pure delusion. And the only way out of delusion is the seeing of truth. That is the whole function of the Gita — to bring us to the truth, not through reasoning or philosophy but through direct inner experience and realization. This is the beauty and power of the Gita’s yoga.

M: So there is nothing to be conquered, really? Only the seeing of the truth? For the moment one perceives the truth, all falsehood and ignorance disappear. 

AN: Precisely. And the more you reflect or meditate on the Gita, the more you begin to see, intuit, understand. You grow into Krishna’s consciousness, he himself leads you, guides you, supports you. Each step you take towards him, he takes two towards you. 

M: Are there any conditions to be fulfilled for all this, Acharyaji? Like suddhi that the yogis talk about. 

AN: Suddhi? Yes, suddhi — but then suddhi is to be understood in the right way. 

M: Is it not self purification? 

AN: The only condition, really, is sraddha

M: Faith?

AN: Sraddha is a fundamental spiritual quality in Hindu Dharma: without sraddha, no realization is possible; with sraddha, no realization is impossible. Sraddha is not merely psychological faith but intuitive faith,  faith born of inner knowing. 

M: The word itself, in common usage, means faith or trust. 

AN: Not common usage here. You will have to reflect on the word itself. The inner meaning of the word is in the word itself. Sraddha consists of two root sounds — srat and dha. Srat, as used in some of the Rigvedic hymns, means truth and dha is the same root sound in words like dharma, dharan etc. and means to hold. So sraddha is that which holds, or bears, in itself the truth, and brings that truth to realization. As Krishna says in the Gita, sraddha mayo yam purusho yo yachchhraddhah sa eva sah.[5]

M: Whatever one’s faith is, that is what one becomes?

AN: Yes, indeed; self-becoming of that which you hold to be your highest aspiration, your deepest faith, your sraddha. 

M: I understand. So sraddha is the first condition?

AN: An essential condition: there is no numerical order here. 

M: How does one develop this sraddha, Acharyaji? 

AN: But sraddha in whom, or what? Don’t we need to establish that first? 

M: Yes, of course. 

AN: So, sraddha first in yourself — atma-sraddha: the living and burning faith that you are meant for the divine, that you will realize the divine in this very lifetime. You have to have that atma-sraddha, without that, you will not move very far, you will be assailed by self-doubt and anxiety all the way. 

M: But isn’t that a given, Acharyaji? Without the faith that I am meant for the path, why will I ever take to the path?

AN: You will be surprised, Sir, to see how few have that faith in their own spiritual destiny. It is an old conditioning, we are made to believe that we are sinful, impure, petty and the Divine is far away, inaccessible to most, too high, too vast.

M: That’s an Abrahamic idea…

AN: Many Hindus believe that firmly. Even many pundits. Mortals are not worthy of the Divine. That’s it. Unless you go to a guru, or become an ascetic, or do penance, or offer ceremonial sacrifices to some god or goddess. All these are childish notions. 

M: Vedanta tells us that we are divine, that we are that Brahman, tat twam asi.

AN: What good use is the Vedanta or its revelations if we do not believe in our own spiritual potential? Look into yourself, Sir; dive deep into your own consciousness, be a fervent explorer, do not rest till you have touched your own divinity, even a brief spark of it, in your depths. Then Vedanta makes sense. Or else, it is all noise of the intellectual mind. 

M: So, sraddha in one’s own spiritual potential comes from a mental notion or belief, or do we wait till we have touched that inner spark? 

AN: It comes from the heart, Sir. The inmost heart. You intuit it, you just know it. You cannot rationalize or explain it, you just know it. That is intuition. You have to have that intuitive knowledge of your deepest destiny, your adhyatmik uddeshya[6]

M: And if it’s not there?

AN: What is not there? The destiny, the uddeshya, or its intuition? The destiny is there: it is what we are all destined for. It is the very purpose of existence: to find, realize, become the divine. The intuitive knowledge of it may not be there, in the conscious buddhi. It is there, in the psychic, but it may not be there in the conscious buddhi. 

M: How to bring it then to the conscious buddhi? How to draw it out of the psychic?

AN: It is like love. It is there in everyone, but dormant, veiled by the ego. When you meet the right person, the right object, that veiled or dormant love erupts, comes to the surface, whether you like it or not, whether you can handle it or not. 

M: I am a bit lost here. If it is there, you progress in the sadhana, all the other things become possible. If it is not there, you can’t do much, you remain lost your mental mazes. But there is nothing you can do to get it. It comes on its own. Have I got all that right?

AN: Yes, more or less. It comes by the Lord’s Grace. The divine Grace. None can begin the spiritual journey without that. The fact that you are here, talking to me, wanting to understand the Gita, wanting to live that spiritual or yogic life, is because the divine Grace has already touched you, awakened you. So all these questions about having or not having that faith in your destiny is irrelevant. It’s already there, and it has brought you here. The question is, how completely are you going to accept that faith, that inner knowing? 

M: Yes, I can see that. I can now see two essential conditions: the divine Grace and atma-sraddha.

AN: Divine Grace cannot be spoken of as a condition. You cannot attain divine Grace, you cannot do anything to get the divine Grace. It comes to you. Don’t ask me how or why. I don’t know. I don’t think anyone, except the Divine, knows. But yes, atma-sraddha is a fundamental condition. But along with atma-sraddha, one needs sraddha in the object and purpose of one’s sadhana — the Divine itself. For the object of all our sadhana is the Divine, and without an active and fervent sraddha in the Divine, how does one do any sadhana at all for the Divine?

M: Is there anything we can do to develop such sraddha in the Divine? We’ve all heard and read that the Divine exists, but how many of us have had the experience? 

AN: Therefore, the scriptures; therefore, the Bhagavad Gita. When you read the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, you learn to think and feel differently, a deeper or a higher reasoning grows in you. Your perspective widens, you begin to see and feel and understand more. This is how sraddha begins to develop. Mind you, you still do not have the experience, the anubhava, but at least you now have a certain inner knowing which becomes your sraddha. Remember that the true sraddha is your inner knowing. Faith is a word we give to this inner knowing but all true faith is foreknowledge. Or eternal remembrance. 

M: Is this swadhyaya of the scriptures?

AN: Yes: for swadhyaya means two things — studying by oneself and studying oneself. It is by studying the scriptures that one learns of the nature of reality, and it is by studying and understanding oneself that one experiences the reality. 

M: For the self is portion of the one reality? 

AN: The self is the reality, the part is the whole. As our Vedantins declare, a drop of the ocean is the ocean. How do you break up the reality, which is infinite and indivisible, into parts? Purnamada purnamidam, purnat purnam udachyate… Purna may be translated as whole, complete or perfect and stands for the Divine, for the Divine alone is whole and perfect. Thus, that (purnam adah) which we experience as cosmos, the outer universe, is the whole, the Divine; and this (purnam idam), the inner worlds, the self, the entire subjective experience, is also the whole, the Divine; from that whole, this whole arises, or, from that one Divine, this manifest universe, and all existences, arise (udachayte). [7]

M: There is a mathematical expression of this as well — infinity plus X equals infinity, and infinity minus X equals infinity. 

AN: Indeed; our sages were amongst the first to intuit this relationship between that, the outer, and this, the inner. 

M: This is wonderful! I can see how this understanding can develop into deep sraddha. If all this, and all that, is the one Divine, and if I am indivisibly one with that Divine, then the fulfillment of my sadhana is inevitable, nothing or none can prevent an eventual fulfillment of my aspiration. For behind every aspiration and effort of mine is Sri Krishna himself. And is this not what he himself tells Arjuna? 

AN: That indeed is the leitmotif of the Bhagavad Gita — that all is Sri Krishna, inside and outside, far and near, in all the terms of our existence on earth, in all the movements of our being, in all our works, in the gunas of nature, in that which transcends nature, in all name and form… once you truly understand this of Sri Krishna, the Divine, once you comprehend his omnipresence, his totality, then all doubt, anxiety, fear, desire, pettiness, everything falls off and you become his devotee in heart, mind and body, an integral sadhak of his universal Yoga. This is the true basis of sraddha, sraddha that is not just faith but an inner knowing, an inner certainty, the knowing of the soul. It is with such sraddha that one can go higher and deeper in the yoga of the Gita. 

M: So, can I then say that atma-sraddha and sraddha in Sri Krishna are the fundamental conditions to practice the Gita’s sadhana? 

AN: Yes, it’s simple. If the object of the sadhana is to realize the Divine, unite with the Divine in one’s being and consciousness, then the Divine, to say the least, has to be a real thing for us, not an ideal or a notion. Sri Krishna is real and can be realized — is that not the whole basis of the sadhana?

M: Yes, agreed. But I have a problem here: as long as I have not realized Sri Krishna within myself, how can he be real to me? Will Sri Krishna, or the Divine, not be a mere notion or an ideal for me till then? Seems a bit of Catch-22 situation to me!

AN: I understand the difficulty. To do sadhana for the Divine, I must know the Divine to be real, but till I make a certain progress in the sadhana, I will not know the Divine to be real. 

M: Exactly, Acharyaji.

AN: So what is the way out of this conundrum? 

M: You tell me. 

AN: I tell you? (Acharyaji laughs)

M: I mean, how does it work? Is it completely on faith then, till you get the knowledge? And getting the knowledge may take years!

AN: See, the knowledge is inside you already. There is no knowledge to be got from the outside. You just have to get to that inner knowledge, that supremely secret spiritual knowledge, paramam guhyam adhyatma jnana, hidden in the folds of your inmost being, your psychic center. 

M: But how, Acharyaji? How to get to that knowledge which is so completely hidden, guhyam?

AN: By diving deep into one’s one consciousness.

M: Again, Acharyaji, how? What does this diving deep exactly mean?

AN: Still your ever-active and reactive surface mind, cease utterly from all thought. Let your mind and heart fall silent. The deeper the silence, the deeper the dive…na kinchidapi chintayet![8] Having fixed the mind in Sri Krishna, one should not think of anything at all.

M: How does one fix the mind in Sri Krishna when one has not yet realized Sri Krishna? 

AN: Fix the mind in the thought of Sri Krishna; let Sri Krishna be your one and only thought. Fix the mind in the aspiration and desire for Sri Krishna, let Sri Krishna be your sole desire and preoccupation. Can you do that?

M: Yes, absolutely. 

AN: Do that then. Fixing your mind in a silent and unbroken aspiration for Sri Krishna, fixing your mind in that one thought of Sri Krishna, think of nothing else, nothing at all. This is the import of the sloka — atmasansthanam manah kritva na kinchidapi chintayet: the atma, the Self, is Krishna. Know that, and be free of all delusion this very instant, Sir!

[To be continued] 

1 इमम् विवस्वते योगम् प्रोक्तवान् अहम् अव्ययम् । विवस्वान् मनवे प्राह मनुः इक्ष्वाकवे अब्रवीत् ॥ 4.1, The Gita

2 समत्वं योग उच्यते।।2.48, The Gita

3सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज | अहं त्वां सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुच: || 6.6, The Gita

4 बहूनां जन्मनामन्ते ज्ञानवान्मां प्रपद्यते । वासुदेवः सर्वमिति स महात्मा सुदुर्लभः ॥ 7.19, The Gita

5 सत्त्वानुरूपा सर्वस्य श्रद्धा भवति भारत | श्रद्धामयोऽयं पुरुषो यो यच्छ्रद्ध: स एव स: || 17.3, The Gita

6 Spiritual or higher purpose

7 ॐ पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात्पूर्णमुदच्यते । पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ॥ ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥
Om, That is complete, This is complete, From completeness arises completeness. If completeness is taken away from completeness, only completeness remains. — Isha Upanishad.

8 शनैः शनैरुपरमेद् बुद्ध्या धृतिगृहीतया । आत्मसंस्थं मनः कृत्वा न किंचिदपि चिन्तयेत् ॥
Sri Aurobindo’s rendering: One should slowly cease from mental action by a buddhi held in the grasp of fixity, and having fixed the mind in the higher Self one should not think of anything at all. 6.25, The Gita

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