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The Open Vision1
‘Do you feel as sure of God,’ someone once asked me, ‘as you do of the lamp in front of you?’ ‘I am sure, quite sure of God,’ I replied, ‘but as for the lamp, I am not nearly so sure whether it really exists or not !’ This exchange, which is recorded in my Vichar-pothi, took place thirty years ago, in 1928. On a number of occasions I have had what appears to me to be a direct Vision of God. I owe it partly perhaps to the attitudes I inherited in my family, and partly to my reverence for certain holy books. But my faith rests not so much on these things as on the fact of experience. Other living creatures in all their variety, and the human beings I see around me, are so many forms in which He wills to appear.
What is this direct, Open Vision?-one may ask.
One thing about it is that it should appeal to reason-that is the foundation. If something is unreasonable the question of vision does not arise. First, the thing must be acceptable to reason; secondly, after that, comes the experience. Reason tests it-this is knowledge; the experience follows-that is vision through knowledge. We may take, for example, the personal experience of compassion. Reason must first recognize that the world is full of compassion, that compassion is essential to the world plan. If my mother had not had compassion on me, I could not have received what I needed for my growth. The intellect must understand the need for compassion and recognize that it is present in the creation. Only then comes the experience of compassion. To feel in oneself the compassion that a mother has for her child, that is direct knowledge of compassion.

The Vision Direct of Compassion
The compassion I feel is not for individuals but for society. I am so hard-hearted that if someone falls ill I don’t feel it in the least; but if I felt no compassion for the whole community, my life would come to an end. It is my basic principle that if you want equal compassion for all, you must not allow individuals to make special claims-otherwise there will be envy and hatred, which are found not only among kings but also among those who keep company with the great. I, therefore believe that as compassion expands to embrace the whole creation, love will no longer leap like waves in shallow water, but become ever deeper. Waters that run deep are still. As the sky pervades all, it turns into a void.

Companions from the Past
The direct experience of the virtue of compassion is a comparatively small matter. There are other, more compre- hensive forms of open vision in which we may have fellowship with many who have lived before us.
The voices of men of former days fill the air around us, but they are heard only by those who have the power to receive their words. When can we hear the distant sounds on the radio?-only when we possess a radio set. Without it one can hear nothing, even though, as science has proved, the air around us is full of sound. In the same way we may hear the voices of those who have gone before us, provided we have the right radio set.
I often speak of my still-continuing talks with Bapu. When he was alive I had to walk five miles to meet him; it took me two hours, and I had to make an effort. Now, I simply close my eyes and am with him that very second. I can ask him questions and get his answers with no trouble at all. Then, he was confined within a body; now, he is free. He is everywhere, there is nothing to bind him. I am still bound, but so long as I am in the body I shall continue to get inspiration from him.
In the same way I have often described how on my pilgrimage I felt that the Lord Rama was going before me, so also the five Pandavas, the Lord Buddha, the Lord Mahavir, Shankar, Ramanuja, Kabir, Namadev....they all lead, and I follow. They are with me, I am not alone. I never feel lonely; I feel them to be with me all the time.
I remember also one incident when I was camping at Bettiah in Bihar. I dreamed that someone of very gracious appearance was sitting talking to me about Vinayanjali. He asked me about the meaning of two of the hymns and requested me to explain some points to him, which I did. He listened with great attention and from time to time nodded his head in agreement. After a while it came to me that the man who was visiting me was no other than Saint Tulsidas himself-and I woke up. I began thinking about this dream, and realized that the day was that of Tulsidas’ death-a day which I was in the habit of commemorating every year by reading his Ramayana or his Vinayapatrika. But this time I had forgotten, so Tulsidas himself came and talked to me in my dream. Since that day those hymns of his have had a new meaning for me.
On another occasion Manoharji (Manohar Diwan) had asked me a question and in reply I had commented on one of the verses of Jnaneshwari. When I was asleep that night Saint Jnanadeva came and talked with me. ‘Vinya,’ he said, ‘you have understood me rightly. One phrase which I used is based on a line in the Upanishad. But I used the word buddhi (intellect) where the Upanishad used manas (mind). I did not make this change lightly. In the Upanishad manas includes buddhi; in Jnaneshwari buddhi includes manas. You will understand why I used this word buddhi if you think about what manas means in the Upanishad.’ That was all, but I went on thinking about it for half an hour.

Face to Face with God
On April 18, 1951, in Pochampalli in Telangana, the Harijans asked for land and were given one hundred acres. That night I could not sleep for more than three or four hours-what was this that had happened? I believe in God; I also believe in arithmetic. I began calculating; if one were to ask for land for all the landless of India, it would take fifty million acres to satisfy their needs. Could so much land be had for the asking? Then I had a direct talk with God, just as I might talk face to face with another human being. ‘If you hesitate,’ He said, ‘if you fear this task, you must give up your faith in non-violence and stop claiming to be non-violent. Have faith; ask, and ask again.’ He said one thing more: ‘He who put hunger into the child’s stomach also put milk into the mother’s breasts. He does not leave His work half done.’ This set all my doubts at rest; the very next day I began asking for land.

An Experience in Nirvikalpa Samadhi
While I was at Chandil during my bhoodan pilgrimage, I went down with malignant malaria. I was in high fever, and became so weak that no one expected me to live. I was quite prepared either to live or die, and I cannot say that I would have been at all sorry if the Lord had taken me away. One day-December 17, 1952-I felt as if the time for my departure had come. I was in high fever, but I asked those present to raise me into a sitting position. No sooner had they done so that I became directly absorbed in contem- plation. I may have remained in that state of total absorption for perhaps twenty-five minutes or half an hour. Although I had practised meditation a great deal, I had never before known such bliss, such open vision, as I did then. It was illimitable boundless bliss, peace beyond all comprehension. I felt that I stood in the very presence of God and saw Him face to face. You may call it imagination, illusion, what you please. Shankaracharya called the whole world an illusion, so as this experience of mine was not outside the world, you may call it an illusion too. After half an hour I became conscious once more of my surroundings, and left that new world of mine. It was an experience of what the shastras call nirvikalpa samadhi, an experience in which the knower, the known and the knowing become one.
My body broke into perspiration, my fever left me, and I was ready to live. He who sustains the world, He it is who sustains me. If He had called me away I would have been ready; I was equally ready to be cured. I felt that many of my physical and mental ills would disappear and I should become stronger mentally. I was weaker than before and had less physical energy. Mentally however I found myself so full of energy that I felt, in the words of a Vedic hymn, that I could swing the whole world to and fro as I willed.

Becoming the Lord’s mount
During my travels in Monghyr district (Bihar) I camped at a village named Ulao, where the meeting was held in the temple of Shiva. Usually the Shiva temple itself is underground, and the meeting hall is above it. At Ulao however, in contrast, the meeting hall was below and the temple above it. My seat in the hall was just under the Shivalinga. As I sat there it was as though the Lord Shiva Himself was using me as His vehicle; I had become His mount, His bull Nandi. Then it dawned on me that the phrase Adhirudha samadhi-yoga might have another meaning. Up till then I had taken it to mean a samadhi, a transcen- dental experience, mounted on yoga; now I saw it was meaning a samadhi which is a mount, or a vehicle, for yoga, the ultimate union. Before that I used to rebuke our workers in rather harsh and arrogant terms. After that event I changed my style as can be seen by a careful study of my talks from the point of view of their inward spirit.

In the Arms of God
On August 22, 1957, just two days before I left Kerala for Karnataka, I was sleeping under a mosquito-net. Suddenly I felt a sharp sting; I thought it was a scorpion, and got up and shook out the bedding. A centipede fell out. The sting gave me such intense pain that I could not sit still, I had to keep walking to and fro. Something like five hours must have passed, all the while in this intolerable pain. Then at last I lay down again, and my tears overflowed. Vallabhaswami (who was one of those with me) thought that my tears were due to the pain. ‘I am not in pain,’ I said. ‘All of you go to sleep.’
What had happened was this: All this time I had been inwardly repeating to myself a Sanskrit prayer: ‘O God, give me devotion, cleanse my mind of faults, may it be without sin. O thou who dwellest in the hearts of all, this is the desire of my heart, I have no other. O God, I am speaking the truth.’
But in fact, while I repeated these words, I had another desire-I longed that the pain of the sting should subside ! I was saying satyam vadami (I am speaking the truth) but really it was jhutham vadami (telling a lie). What a display of egoism ! At last I cried aloud in my mind: ‘How long are you going to torment me?’ And suddenly, all the pain was gone, completely gone, and I felt myself held as in a close embrace. That was when my tears overflowed, and within two minutes I was asleep. I experienced God then in His quality of mercy.

An Open Vision
As I travelled through Maharashtra I came to Pandharpur. Those who were in charge of the temple of Vithoba invited me for darshan of the image. My companions were people of all castes and religions and we all had the darshan together. I shall never to the end of my life forget what I saw that day, it is so deeply imprinted on my heart. It is hard to find words for what I experienced then as I stood at the feet of Vithoba, the tears flowing freely from my eyes. I looked at the image, and saw no stone sculpture there, but the very God Himself. Beside me there stood those I had revered, some from boyhood, saints like Ramanuja, Nammalvar, Jnanadev, Chaitanya, Kabir, Tulsidas and many more. I bowed before the image, looking at its feet, and saw all those dear to me, all those who had nurtured me, mother, father, guru, and drank my fill of joy.
For my part, I think of God as an ocean of consciousness, in which the waves rise and fall, the billows mount up and are broken, and merge once more into the whole. New waves arise, new waves fall back to be absorbed again. Each individual soul, one wave in the ocean of God, emerges from it to play on the surface for one, two, three lifetimes and then is absorbed, and so set free. Among individual souls there is no high or low; all are different manifestations of His will.