Sachchidananda 'The Life Divine' Book I,Ch.9, 10, 11, 12 - Track 501

“But is this a true record? May it not be that Time and Space so disappear merely because the existence we are regarding is a fiction of the intellect, a fantastic Nihil created by speech, which we strive to erect into a conceptual reality? We regard again that Existence-in-itself and we say, No. There is something behind the phenomenon not only infinite but indefinable. Of no phenomenon, of no totality of phenomena can we say that absolutely it is. Even if we reduce all phenomena to one fundamental, universal irreducible phenomenon of movement or energy, we get only an indefinable phenomenon. The very conception of movement carries with it the potentiality of repose and betrays itself as an activity of some existence; the very idea of energy in action carries with it the idea of energy abstaining from action; and an absolute energy not in action is simply and purely absolute existence. We have only these two alternatives, either an indefinable pure existence or an indefinable energy in action and, if the latter alone is true, without any stable base or cause, then the energy is a result and phenomenon generated by the action, the movement which alone is. We have then no Existence, or we have the Nihil of the Buddhists with existence as only an attribute of an eternal phenomenon, of Action, of Karma, of Movement. This, asserts the pure reason, leaves my perceptions unsatisfied, contradicts my fundamental seeing, and therefore cannot be. For it brings us to a last abruptly ceasing stair of an ascent which leaves the whole staircase without support, suspended in the Void.”

This is a very difficult paragraph. In fact the whole chapter is one of the most difficult chapters in the history of metaphysical writing. So when we are reading this, we must know that we are at the summit of an extremely difficult terrain.

The first question to answer is whether we are subject to intellectuality or not, if so, to what extent? It is true that all of us, who are living in the modern world, have some kind of intellectuality. The modern world itself has become intellectual and since we live in this modern world, we share this intellectuality. It is true that we do not share the high level of intellectuality which exists today in the world. For example, when we study the modern curriculum of studies, one of the most important elements of curriculum is science. Infact science is in every aspect of our life, the fan that is running above our head and the air conditioner, which is blowing cool air in our room, is an application of science and technology, it is more complicated than science.

This scientific development is a result of pure intellectuality and this intellectuality began to take shape in modern world on large scale with the Renaissance. If you look at the history of the world you will find that renaissance, which started in about 1492 A.D. that is a cutoff date that is 15th of century. So for the last five hundred years intellectuality has taken a kind of a turn and it has been developing on larger and larger sections of humanity.

It is not as if there were no other periods in history of the world where intellectuality was not developed. Intellectuality was developed at a very higher level in different civilizations. Take for example in India the time of the Mahabharata. If you study Mahabharata not merely in gross terms as we normally study, but if we study Mahabharata in detail. You will find that there is so much of intellectuality that every question of existence has been put at the level of intellectuality. Even the Bhagavad Gita, the way in which Arjuna puts the question to Sri Krishna and the length at which Sri Krishna goes to explain, what he wants to explain is highly intellectual. It is true it is not only intellectual; there is also a blend of intellectuality with experience. There is a great meeting point in the Bhagavad Gita of intellectuality and spiritual experience. Even the sentence which I spoke to you the other day from the Bhagavad Gita, ‘nasato vidhyate bhavo na bhavo vidhyate satta’ – that which exists, exists and it cannot not exist and that which does not exist does not exist, it cannot really come into existence. This sentence is a result of a great height of intellectuality.

Infact in a sense you might say that while introducing this chapter, I took resort to that sentence at the very beginning by saying, first of all nothing exists and then I continued to develop the idea of existence. In other words whenever you want to approach any problem intellectually, once you start on the train of the intellectuality there is no midway station. This is the problem once you start on the train; the train itself is such that you go on and on, until you reach the highest point that is possible. There are sometimes, what we may call midway houses. You are on your train and then you get tired at a certain point of development and then you want to take rest and then you say, let us stop at midway house but this is not impossible. But the nature of intellectuality is such that once you start on it, even if you are on the midway house, something remains in you to go forward and say, ‘well, I must, even if I have to wait a little, I take a little rest’ but again I start running. 

There were periods therefore, like the Mahabharata, where intellectuality was very high on every subject. If you read the Mahabharata there is a shastra, there is a science. Vidurniti for example, Vidura was the Prime Minister and he developed the political science of his times. If you read the political science of Vidura at that time and compare it with the political science of today, you will find that the questions which were raised by Vidhura were so high and so lofty, and intricacies of thinking was so great that our modern political science seems to be a child’s play in comparison, it was that height. In fact as far as political science of today is concerned, it is of recent origin and there is not much of complication as yet. We have still not raised such important questions of political life, which we ought to. For example, what are the basic roots of the solidarity of society; this is the most fundamental question of political science. How does the society remain united? Solidarity of society is the most important question of political science and yet that question has not been sufficiently raised and not answered. Yet Shri Krishna speaks in the Bhagavad Gita itself, and says that the highest ideal we should have is solidarity of society lokasangraha. From this very word, we can imagine that in those times the question as to how society can be held together was one of the most important questions which was being raised and Sri Krishna had the answer to that question, how society can be kept in a state of unity? His answer is very important and He gives his answer both in intellectual terms, and in spiritual terms.