In recent years we have been talking about ecology, but in the past we were taught that birds, trees and the whole vegetable kingdom contain the same consciousness. Trees witness everything, and there is great spirituality in their existence. The most sincere yogis still retire into forests to live amongst trees, plants, birds and animals. In essence, there is complete unity in creation. Names and forms differ but the essence of everything - including humanity, and the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms - is the same.
The Bhagavad Gita explains that the supreme essence pervades every speck of creation. Just as the thread passes through all the beads of the mala, one consciousness penetrates everything. When you live in the world of senses and mind, then you perceive duality and multiplicity, but when you withdraw from the sensory world, you see unity and one essence.
This is the concept of the Upanishads, which declare that when you have transcended matter you see yourself in all. When you see everything within you, it is called advaita or non-dual experience. You live in a world of duality; saints live in a world of non-duality. You see multiplicity; they see unity. This unity should be realized not only in your own kith and kin and countrymen but also in all the kingdoms of creation.
Just as science realizes energy behind the essence of matter, and a scientist realizes the unity behind all matter, in the same way, yogis realize the unity behind all creation. For this purpose it is necessary to retire from the hustle and bustle of life which is not necessary for your existence. You have created it in your ignorance. It has been your greatest folly and you will have to pay the penalty for it.
Behind every home there has to be a little forest, behind every house there has to be a little pond, birds must sing and tall trees grow. If you keep the motor cars far away, you can realize unity almost automatically!
Many years ago, I went to Kedarnath in the Himalayas. There was a solitary temple built by Shankaracharya. There was nothing but snow everywhere. It was very cold, subzero temperature, and it was so quiet. I think there were subzero vibrations, and my mind was freezing! Something happened to my mind, and I lost myself. I did not do anything. It was an atmosphere where a sound vibration had never been. A few hundred people go there during the summer with all their devotedness to offer their worship to Lord Shiva.
I also visited Mount Kailash when it was still in Tibet. It was a very different terrain, but I managed to reach Mount Kailash. At the foot of Mount Kailash is a big lake, Manasarovar. There is no temple, no vehicles or sign of living habitation. There is no priest, no chanting, no prayers, no carols, just total silence. I think since eternity it has been silent there.
I was the only soul present on that day. Myself, my pony and one Tibetan guide was all the life there. After I took my bath, I wanted to know what to do, but when I wanted to decide what to do, my mind jammed, it stopped. A picture arose in my vision of Shiva seated at the top of the mountain in padmasana. The tigers were there, the crescent moon was on the left side of his head and cobras were hissing around his neck and arms. The whole body was beautifully smeared with ashes from the burial ground. The eyes were closed, even the third eye was closed.
I thought that I saw him for hours together, but in fact it must have been like lightning. The experience came to me, because I could enter unity and the essence of creation. The unity of creation that I am talking about is not an intellectual concept, it is a happening. It happens when you keep in certain congenial circumstances.
Saint Bernard, a great mystic of the twelfth century, recharged himself with energy while walking in a forest of oak trees. For many people he must have been a crazy heretic. When he lived with nature, which is silent all the time, the quality of his consciousness was transformed. When the quality of the mind changes, experiences also change. Therefore, you should first change the circumstances, surroundings and environment around you. You may even have to change the quality of wife and husband. You may have to change the quality of the bathroom, toilet and bedroom. It is not a joke; it is a reality because these settings affect your mind.
The mind is under the constant influence of what is with you, in you and around you. Therefore, you should learn how to reset your surroundings in order to realize the one unity and essence.
When I lived in Rishikesh with Swami Sivananda behind the ashram, there was a great forest with only wild animals. Sometimes, somewhere one could find a cowherd boy or a grass cutter playing the flute or singing a wild song in the wilderness. One could hear many types of birds chirping in their different ways. Sometimes, when the gale of wind passed through the breast of trees, there was a whistling sound, and the whole of nature began to sing. It became a practice of antar mouna.
We used to leave the ashram and enter the forest. The deeper we went, the more alone we were. Once on my way back I lost my way. I tried every way but I became more and more lost. At the time, the ashram was very small, without electricity or little lamps, so I could not see where the ashram was. It began to drizzle and rain. Every now and then I listened to those ferocious sounds of wild animals _ tigers and panthers.
I climbed up a tree to see all around, but there was nothing. I remember it very well. I understood how man lives in this world, and how a man feels secure when he is at home with his wife and children. In spite of the ferocious sounds _ which I could recognize as a tiger, a leopard, or an antelope _ there was a great miracle. After about an hour, I lost contact with everything. It seemed that the whole setting around me jammed my brain. The mind slowed down completely, and ultimately the vibrations were seized. I could not understand those sounds at all. There was total ananda, bliss. I forgot the ashram, the animals singing around me until the dawn of day. Then I found that I was about two hundred yards from the ashram. This is a very important reminiscence of my life.
I have toured the Himalayas many times, the places where the Yamuna and Ganga originate, Badrinath, Kedarnath and Amarnath in Kashmir. I visited many places during my life as a mendicant. I can assure you it is a very powerful sadhana. When you live with nature and realize unity with it, then nature helps you to reject the conditions of the mind. It is a simple experience of everyday life. When you are unhappy, have a quarrel in the family or a lot of troubles, and you go into a beautiful garden, what do you feel? You feel better because the setting has changed the quality of the mind. The moment the quality of the mind changes, the experience also changes.
It is said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to reach heaven. Therefore, one must live a very simple life. Poverty is paradise!
Chamarande, France, August 1981