This sort of knowledge has no relation with the knowing spoken of in the sutra as a definition of brahman, the ultimate reality. That knowing is the eternal consciousness, beyond birth and destruction. “Awareness” is the right word for it – or better than that is “alertness,” just the pure perceptivity – because awareness too appears to be related to something. No, there is just a lighted lamp with no object to be illuminated, only the lamp burning clearly – nothing around to be illuminated. Nothing is being illuminated, there is only the light. I am saying this as an example so that you may conceive what is meant by knowing.
The consciousness which fills and pervades
the whole universe –
like clay in things made of clay,
like gold in things made of gold,
and like yarn in things made of yarn
– is called the infinite.
This consciousness is not confined by the boundaries of a person. We are all sitting here – our differences are due to our bodies, not due to the consciousness.
If we light thousands of earthen lamps in this room the differences will be of the clay pots, or of the oil, or in the wick, but the light will be one and the same. We can light thousands of lamps here and every lamp can be different in structure, in form, in shape, the oil or the wick; all these may be different, but can you differentiate the light, which light belongs to which lamp? The light will be one, all-pervading – but the lamps can differ. Our differences are the same as these lamps. The matter of the body, the shape, the fuel in the body, the wick, all these may differ but the consciousness – the light within us – is one.
The inner journey, by and by, leads us to oneness, and the outer journey leads us to diversity. So the sage says: “That which permeates like gold in golden things and like clay in clay things, is one.”
Now even scientists agree to it. They did not agree fifty years ago because then science believed that one thing cannot be converted into another, and those who believed that such a conversion was possible were thought to be ignorant. In the West these people were called alchemists, and in the East they were called the seekers of the paras stone, the “philosopher’s stone” which turns base metal into gold. They were engaged in seeking a stone which can turn base metal into gold by touch. Alchemists were also engaged in seeking for the secret of turning base metals into precious metals.
But for the last two hundred years science has believed that this is all madness, that it is just not possible. How can iron be changed into gold? – there seems to be no way. Those people who made these claims were thought to be either fools or cheats who were trying to deceive people. If they could turn iron into gold there must be some trickery involved. Iron cannot be turned into gold, so there must be some deception and cheating. Things came to a point where, even when authentic evidence became available, still those people were not trusted.
A great German thinker and scientist was engaged for years in trying to prove that alchemy was a farce. Hasenhoff was his name. He was sitting at his door one morning when a man came to him and said, “I have heard that you have no faith in alchemy, but I can turn iron into gold right now.”