Knowledge and Experience

Very few people can understand the difference between knowledge and experience. They read about God and discuss him, but they have no experience. You may be able to talk about many different things without ever having had any personal contact with them. That is knowledge. Experience requires personal involvement and to experience something which is not present at the moment is a great achievement. This is a faculty which is not developed in most people. If you are able to develop your mind to this extent, you will have what I call a creative mind.

Often when I go out, I listen to some music When I come back to my room in the ashram, I can hear those same tunes as if they were being sung. I can hear the sounds so well that sometimes I feel the person who is next to me must also be hearing them, because they are so loud. That is an inner experience.

There is an interesting story which relates to this kind of experience. Once, in India, a swami had to be operated on for appendicitis. He refused anaesthetic, and in India people believe that swamis can manage, so they did not press him. The operation was performed and everything went well. Afterwards, when asked how he had managed it, he replied, 'I was just thinking that my disciples were massaging my feet and I was experiencing that.'

What a beautiful idea. He was able to counteract one living experience by creating another living experience. This has important implications for our lives. Perhaps by mastering this art, we can also counteract one living experience by developing another.

There is another true story which relates to this. One sadhu was a devotee of Lord Shiva. He meditated on him for many years, but without success. One day he read in one of Swami Sivananda's books that if you cannot concentrate on Lord Shiva, you should try to visualize his life, deeds, way of living, and feel that you are with him all the time. So he began to feel that he was sitting beside Lord Shiva, and Parvati was there on the other side.

He continued to imagine like this for many days and all went well. Then, one day in his meditation, Lord Shiva was smoking ganja, and even though that was not the sadhu's habit, he had no option but to have it. Lord Shiva is said to smoke ganja mixed with cannabis indica, a violet flower which is deadly poisonous. Once you take it, you don't come back to your normal senses for years and years. That night, the sadhu had smoked this mixture, and after meditation he was out of his mind. Although he had not actually smoked anything, he had developed the experience to the point that it became a reality.

After that, the sadhu gave a lot of trouble to everyone until some wise person suggested to him, 'Now, why don't you stop meditating on Shiva, and meditate on Krishna. Whenever he goes to steal butter and curd, you also go.' So the sadhu changed his meditation and after a few weeks he saw himself with Krishna. Whenever Krishna could not reach the bowl of curd, he climbed up on the sadhu's shoulders, took a little curd for himself and put some into the sadhu's mouth. In his meditation the sadhu was taking so much butter and curd that the effect of the cannabis indica was completely counteracted, because butter and curd are cooling.

These stories show how an experience can be brought to the forefront of the mind. By mastering the quality of our experiences, we can create a constructive, creative intelligence. That is the purpose of the practices of yoga. They should not be considered as mere tools of hypnotic suggestion. Once you become a master of these experiences, then you can counteract the mental influences. Mind is powerful, no doubt. It can create disease in the body, agony in the mind, or blocks in the energy. But just by creating one experience, you can eliminate all these in one stroke.