Life is a succession of flashes. It is difficult for man, at any time in his history, to see himself as he really is. Events fall upon events with stunning rapidity, and from this vantage point, so arbitrarily designated as “America, 1960’s” we can see that these events have been tumbling from century to century with a snowballing effect and without any direction. Today we sense that the universe is truly explosive. Universe. Etymologically the word means “one turning,” or “one revolution.” Poetically it is easier to think of “universe” as meaning “one song,” or “The Song of the One,” “Song of Myself,” “Bhagavad-Gita,” or “The Song of the Lord.” The universe has been described by Pascal as a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. Each individual certainly feels this to be so, as it is the nature of each living entity to feel that the whole of life is revolving about him and that he is the measure of all things. So thinks the President in the Presidency, the laborer in his shop, the ant in his anthill. To quote Whitman, “There is no object so soft but it makes a hub for the wheel’d universe.” This is the case, and, paradoxically, it is not the case. We constantly have glimpses of a larger Self, a Knower Who is not yet known and Who hints at being the center from which all things emanate, an Intelligence that omnipresently pervades creation, yet has, as an observer, His supreme eternal abode in a superior realm.
At this moment in history we may be inclined to wish that man would only stop—stop all his activities—and just look at himself. It would be much like the ant in the anthill suddenly becoming aware of itself as an ant in an anthill. It would be like stopping the camera of life and focusing on one of the frames of that great film, of capturing briefly one of those elusive succession of flashes, or somehow managing, as William James once cited, “to kiss your own lips.” Many of us know that those lips will stay there till we reach the other side. Perhaps some me—at this stage in their evolution—feel that the whole process would be too embarrassing. It would be like a government dignitary being caught naked in a harsh light, or being suddenly surprised in the bathroom. After all, evolution is not symmetrically progressive. Some entities seem trapped in the lower cellars for millenniums while others, with one birth, zip to the top and flip over the ledge. That final flip has been called liberation by the Hindus, nirvana by the Buddhists, and salvation by the Christians. Though concepts differ as to what the “flip” is to, the end result seems pretty much the same. There’s no return. Or, to use the language of the American LSD “hippies”: “no more bring-downs.”
How to flip and flip completely is the question. It is certainly not nobler in the mind to suffer those “slings and arrrows” of contemporary misfortune. Not at this point at least. If a man does stop and take that long look—catch himself between breaths as it were and feel the immensity of the past (decillions of exhausted winters and summers) pushing him into the unknown, eternity pushing him into eternity, toward the final merge he always seems to resist (if not always, why is he still struggling on the material planet?)—then man can easily see that the sound and the fury is robbing him of the best that is in him, that he is actually selling out his happiness for one thing or another (a loaf of bread, family honor, social standing, national prestige, or something else illusory) and that in reality, like the ant on the anthill, he doesn’t know who he is, what he is, where he is, where he’s been, where he’s going, or—most pathetically—who’s in charge.
Who is in charge?
Well, we can pretty much conclude that man isn’t. He can’t even affect his own destiny as history. In this century alone he hasn’t been able to keep from killing himself in two major wars. Now he’s undoubtedly beginning a third in Vietnam and is already unable to stop it. He certainly can’t affect the rotation of the earth on its axis, the rising and falling of the tides, the fire of the sun or the balance of the solar system and its motion within the galaxy. His “progress” is a sham—automobiles and planes only accelerate his deterioration—mass murder by bombs, suicide by speed. Birth, old age, disease and death join hands as firmly now as in prehistoric times. How has man made progress? Certainly none in this age of spiritual malnutrition. The word-pictures Hart Crane, the American poet, gives in “The Tunnel” section from The Brooklyn Bridge are most graphic depictions of life in contemporary New York:
Some day by heart you’ll learn each famous sight
And watch the curtain lift in hell’s despite…
Our tongues recant like beaten weather vanes…
The phonographs of hades in the brain
Are tunnels that re-wind themselves, and love
A burnt match skating in a urinal.
Daemon, demurring and eventful yawn!
Whose hideous laughter is a bellows mirth
—Or the muffled slaughter of a day in birth—
O cruelly to inoculate the brinking dawn
With antennae toward worlds that glow and sink;—
To spoon us out more liquid than the dim
Locution of the eldest star, and pack
The conscience navelled in the plunging wind,
Umbilical to call—and straightway die!
O caught like pennies beneath soot and steam,
Kiss of our agony thou gatherest;
Condensed, thou takest all—shrill ganglia
Impassioned with some song we fail to keep.
(From Hare Crane’s The Brooklyn Bridge)
Such is the cry given by “the Shelley of our age” over the rooftops of the “world’s most modern city.” The “Shrill ganglia” is contemporary civilization and the “song we fail to keep” is the Song Divine, the Song of God. Yet New York is the city other cities about the globe seek to emulate. One look at the faces of the occupants of this city tell us they are not of the “golden Manahatta” Whitman celebrated. No, those are the inhabitants of “the back forks of the chasms of the brain,” the dwellers of the “interborough fissures of the mind.” These are men who’ve never stopped to look at themselves and their position. These are the lost. Lost in the anthill. Lost in the firey mazes of space. Lost in the chaos of the radio static of propaganda. Lost to the archpriests of Moloch. Buddha declared two thousand years ago that everything in the material universe is “on fire.” Yet man still persists. He wants to be God. He wants to lord it over “his” little planet. He wants to control. He wants power. That is his karma. That is his illusion. That is his golden vanity. That is his habit. That is his hangup. And he trains his children to mimic him. “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children to the third and fourth generations.” (Exodus) No wonder so many young collegiates are trying to flip out permanently on super drugs. Perhaps they see that a creation, which is essentially beautiful, is being misused. Perhaps they sense a part of the truth; that man is not proprietor and lord of the creation, but is a custodian and servitor. Perhaps this is their way of saying, “We don’t want any part of this hell you’ve made for yourselves.” So they use psychedelics as a springboard to propel themselves into different realms, into realms previously only known to mystics. But the drug “flip” is only temporary. It is temporary because it is artificial. “Oh, satori,” one young LSD user was hear to say. “Yes, I’ve had that. It wasn’t all that great.” One really begins to wonder where all these “trips” are leading. And one thinks of old Whitman: “That I walk up my stoop, I pause to consider if it really be,/ A morning-glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books./ Each moment and whatever happens thrills me with joy.” (“Song of Myself,” Sec. 24) This is cosmic consciousness. This is being awake to ourselves and to the Divine. This is realization.
Realization is not something we learn in a book or hear in a lecture. Realization is living the life for which man is intended. Realization does not imply withdrawal; realization is leading life and meeting destiny with opened eyes. Man does have an integral place in the universe, a unique and perfect place. If a leaf of grass is the “journey work of the stars,” how much more so is man? But man must begin to accustom himself to “the dazzle of the Light,” to wake up and see himself in his position—his constitutional position. This is not “void.” The creation is not void. It is filled with light, motion, and an infinite number of forms and objects. Buddha does not say it is void. “Emptiness IS form,” he says. Each moment we are being shown something by God who is eternally revealing Himself to us. If we would only let Him! We must listen to what He is telling us, to turn off to mankind and tune in to Him. We must learn our lesson well and learn to surrender to Him that He may teach and guide us. It is not necessary to close our eyes and try to think of void in our attempts to “reach” God. God is not so hard to reach. He tends to our every need without our asking Him. We can be in samadhi, or highest union with God, every moment of our lives, and while performing the most menial tasks. Our morning breakfast can be an ecstasy—without penance or meditation or drugs or laboorious study. The best method in this “Age of Kali,” an age characterized by chaos, disagreement, ignorance and quarrel, is the simple chanting of the praises and the Holy Name of God—continuously.
“Krishna” (the Name of God appearing in the Gita) “kirtan” (singing, chanting) is the simplest method for this age, introduced in America by this Society For Krishna Consciousness. This is the quickest way to flip out without coming down: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare Hare! Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare Hare!” Your associates will think you mad. That is the first sign of progress. Just let others be mad for maya, the old ephemeral lures of women and gold. One doesn’t have a choice of being mad in this madhouse society—most are already mad for the illusion, for the sham, the cheap, the tawdry, the counterfeit, and are being buffeted by the waves of lust, power, sensual pleasures, etc. But be mad instead for the Reality. First of all you will begin to notice how beautiful the creation is. Then you will progress into the eternal realms of the Creator, Krishna, Who is Bliss-Knowledge-Absolute. Allow Him and He will reveal things to you that have confounded the wise for centuries. Then you will find your eternal abode in Him, an abode in which there is no life or death to escape, but only the bliss of the Kingdom to enjoy. Is this such a mean pursuit for a man?