Question: Swamiji, is it not that there is commonly held idea that after having an experience like samadhi, one then gains theoretical knowledge about that experience, and that Vedanta is that kind of a thing? How would you dismiss this idea?
Swamiji: That special experience does not give you anything. You do not require a special experience like samadhi to have an experience of yourself. It is enough to analyse your experience in waking, dream and deep sleep. These experiences themselves are enough to form an experiential basis for the knowledge given by Sruti. That is why we do the analysis of these three states of experience, also of the experiences, and also of the experiences of pleasure and pain, and of the panchakosas (five levels of error).
Question: So, is it that Vedanta is something that gives you knowledge about samadhi and then you go out and get that experience?
Swamiji: It is the reverse. The moment you begin to think about an experience like samadhi, you are committing a mistake about yourself. When you think, “I am akarta” – “I am the doer” – the time-factor comes in. Then I, atma is seen as time-bound. A time-bound ‘I’ is not going to figure out the ‘I’ is timeless. So experience becomes a problem. The problem itself is due to ignorance.
Experience cannot dispel ignorance. It is the karta, the doer who undergoes that experience. The mind just gets into a disposition; a shanti-vritti ( a thought modification in the form of quietude) takes place. From that vritti, degrees of experience are possible and they only give one thing – desire for further experiences. I experience a wonderful thing, and therefore, I strive for a repeat experience – that is all that happens.
If you have a profound experience, you will try to provide all the conditions necessary which produced the experience before, so you can have a similar experience. So, it becomes experiential, and that is endless. It does not involve knowledge at all. It is no way different from any other experience.
The fellow who goes about surfing also wants to have an experience. It gives him a kick. And if you ask him, “What do you get out of it?” he can only tell you to try it. If you have not had the experience of surfing, you are not going to understand what it is all about, what the thrill is. But there is a thrill in it. That is why some surfers just live on the beach and watch for a wave. All their good luck and bad luck depends only on waves! Today there is a high tide and good winds, so they are lucky! They get a thrill out of it; it is an experience. And another more conventional fellow gets a kick out of a big party, and things like that. He throws a big party and everybody comes, and he feels very great about it. So this is another experience. It is all the same. Thus, people are experience-hunters. Both conventional and non-conventional fellows, the big boy and the beach boy go in for experience.
And the spiritual person also goes in for experience. One fellow depends upon waves, another fellow upon a certain situation like money, parties, people etc., and the spiritual fellow depends upon some pranayama, some meditation, some practices; he depends upon these things to create the conditions for his experience. Each one is dependent. There is no difference at all. I do not see any difference, except that the person after “non-spiritual” experience has to depend too much on external things. Waves do not come all the time. But here since all you need is yourself, there is less external dependence. Nonetheless, there is still dependency – upon conditions of yourself. Suppose a fellow wants to do pranayama and has a blocked nose? He has had it!! (Swamiji laughs).
Om Tat Sat