The Ascent to Moksha
by Swami Krishnananda


Discourse 10: Satisfaction is a State of Consciousness

We have been discussing the different stages of the attitudes of consciousness with the intention of subduing its operations, and fixing it in a primary and ultimate objective. We also observed that there are various activities or operations of consciousness which move towards an end beyond themselves and point to the existence of a status transcending the fields of operation that are available to the senses of perception.

Now, in this endeavour on the part of the sadhaka, or the student of yoga, in subduing the movements of consciousness, there is a chance of his coming face to face with certain subterfuges which are difficult to detect on the surface and likely to undermine the very effort which was undertaken with such enthusiasm at the commencement.

It is not all a smooth movement from the beginning to the end. The passage of consciousness has, as we know very well, many ups and downs. But it is not merely this. We may have ups and downs of movement on a journey towards Badrinath, for example. There are hills and dales. We have to climb, and we have to come down. To have only ups and downs on the way is easy enough to understand, but suppose there are also pits, such as holes and underground passages covered over with a thin veneer of ground surface. This situation would be most undesirable because one does not expect to fall into pits on the way, while ups and downs may be expected.

The impressions of the mind, which are the active forces behind the operations of consciousness in the field of yoga, have certain mechanisms by which the activities of the mind can be wound up or released, or even given a false colour on the surface, making them appear quite different from what they really are in their essence.

The whole of our personality is the manifestation of the functions of the mind. Our human nature is nothing but mental nature. The mind is what man is. The bodily organs, the limbs and the various systems of physiological operation are external media of the internal activity of what is called the mind of man. The mind is the principle ruler of the whole human system. Whatever we think, feel, speak, and do with our bodily organs are all activities of the mind. But it does not appear that the mind is actually working in these various forms when we observe the human nature only outwardly. We are likely to make a distinction between speaking and thinking, thinking and understanding, understanding and feeling, feeling and action, and so on, as if they are isolated functions quite independent of each other, but they are all operations of a single commander within who gives orders in different ways for different purposes under different conditions and experiences.

When an activity is not to be undertaken, and a step is not to be taken at all, the forces can be withdrawn. The mind can act like a general of an army, and it is really that. When it is not the opportune moment, the forces are withdrawn and kept in reserve. So at that moment when the forces are withdrawn and kept in abeyance for a future attack or operation, it is impossible to know what is happening inside.

Now, the difficulty is that we are studying our own selves. The student is the subject as well as the object of study in this particular field of science. The mind is the operator, and the mind is also the object of study; hence, when a particular aspect of the mind is withdrawn, the study of it is practically impossible. Then, under this condition of the withdrawal of the forces of the mind and temporary the cessation of its activity, we are likely to mistakenly think that the mind is not there at all. The mind is very much there, but it is not active, like a snake coiled up and sitting in a corner. The coiled-up serpent is as much a serpent as an active, moving serpent. We have to touch it to see whether it is alive or not. The mind can coil itself like a cobra and appear to be dead if necessary, so that the external world of rule, discipline and order may not affect it.

The world is the reality for the mind, and this reality has its own laws. In psychology, generally speaking, the outer world is regarded as the reality, which is mostly in opposition to the mental operations and desires within. The mind of man cannot express all its desires because of social taboos. There are laws operating in society and in the natural phenomena of this vast creation which prevent the operation of the mind as it likes. The manifestation of psychological functions within is obstructed by the operation of the forces of nature outside. So having gained a knowledge of the existence of the laws of society and nature outside, the mind is very intelligent in conducting itself in the world. It has an intention which it wishes to fulfil and manifest in action outside in the world, but these laws obstruct its manifestation. Then it is that we withdraw these forces.

The mind can conduct itself in four ways. It has four ways of action. It can completely overpower us by a frontal attack with all its might and main if the opportunity for it comes. Then it is that we become sensualists, materialists, and indulgent in the objects of sense, and assert ourselves so vehemently, contrary to the feelings and beliefs of other people in the world. This is the height of selfishness which can manifest in the mind of a person when it is given a long rope. We have seen people who are always sticking to their own guns, who will not listen to others’ opinions, cannot take others’ advice, and will not have any kind of self-discipline. They want a long rope for their indulgent passions and the activities of the senses. This is what is called the fully expanded state of the ego, the mind and the senses. It becomes rampant and rioting, blowing like a tempest because the conditions favour it. The disciplining forces outside are not so active. When this is observed by the mind, it takes full opportunity of this situation and begins to fall upon the objects of sense. This is indulgence, which is usually the predominant condition of the mind.

Indulgence can mean sensory indulgence, egoistic indulgence, or active indulgence. We can be indulgent in our own activities so that we can boss and superintend over everyone in the world as if we are the master of all things. We can be indulgent in our senses, and be highly sensuous in character. Or we can be indulgent in the ego, and be very adamant, obstinate, and not amenable to disciplinary laws from outside. This can ruin the personality of a person because it is contrary to the law of the world, contrary to the law of society, and contrary to the law of the astronomical universe itself. The whole cosmos is opposed to such operations of the mind. When this situation takes place in the mind of man, it is supposed to be the worst of conditions. The condition of indulgence is the lowest phase into which the mind can descend.

Most of the people in the world are indulgent in the sense that they wish to have their own way in every field of work and walk of life. But the mind is not always in this condition, though mostly it would like to be. When circumstances are not favourable, when the laws of the reality of the world are active, it can put a stop to these indulgent activities – not because it is not interested in these indulgences, but because times are not favourable. A seed sown in dry soil finds circumstances unsuitable and so will not grow at all; there will be no action on the part of the seed when we have sown it on dry land. But suppose there is rain that will flood over it and the soil is wet; if the climatic conditions and temperature are all favourable, we will see the dried seed, which looks dead, slowly sprouting into a tendril.

The mind also is like a seed, and when it finds that the soil on which it operates is dry, unfavourable, not suitable at all, then it looks as if it is dead. There is no action at all. But  we should not mistake it to be non-active in this condition. An inactive enemy is still an enemy. Enemies are not always active. He can be doing nothing, and not even speaking a word, and he can manifest his nature when the circumstances are favourable.

So the mind is to be taken in this sense, that it is capable of manifesting itself in various hues, various contours, various colours, and it can even behave as if it is the mind of different persons. We can behave as different persons under different circumstances. We suddenly change our opinions. This is because the mind has set up a different kind of activity within for fulfilling its purpose.

Now, the mind has only one purpose, and it wants to fulfil this purpose through various means – by smiling, by cajoling, by giving a slap, by attacking, by withdrawing; by various methods it wishes to fulfil a single purpose. In political language it is called sama, dana, bheda, danda. The methods of coercion, of cajoling, of sweet expression, of division, of opposition, of attack, are all known to the mind. As a matter of fact, these methods are of the mind only. There is nothing in the world but the mind ultimately working. Whether it is your mind or my mind, ultimately it is the mind. It is the mental law that is actually manifesting social law, political law, and even spiritual law.

Thus, one of the methods employed by the mind is direct attack, frontal attack, indulgence. Another method is complete withdrawal, and a third method is intermittent action. This is a very peculiar activity of the mind. Intermittent action means that it is active sometimes and inactive sometimes. For example, you may be very angry with your own child. You can never hate your child, as you know very well. But sometimes you get so angry with it that you give it a blow. You take a cane and whip it. It does not mean that your love for the child has gone. It is an intermittent action of your attitude towards the child. Anger, which is the undercurrent of affection, is possible in family circumstances and in various other social fields also. Love and hate can function simultaneously by an intermittent release of forces of the mind. It may look as if you are angry, but internally you are full of affection, attachment. It may look that you are hating a person on account of your intense attachment to that person. The reason behind it is attachment, but outwardly you put on the air of dislike. This happens in families mostly. Members of the family have a bond of affection among themselves, making them almost inseparable. It is a blood relationship. A psychological unity is present in every family. But members of the family can temporarily fall out and fight among themselves as if there is an army inside the house. Still, their affection is not completely broken; the mother, the father, the son, the daughter, the sister, the brother have a feeling of community, of affection among themselves, although when certain personal interests are involved, they can have a falling out. This is a peculiar activity of the mind where it appears to hate while it really loves.

Now in spiritual sadhana, which is one of the very dangerous conditions in which one can find oneself, we do not know whether we love the objects of sense or hate them. The mind can put us in such condition that we will not be able to know what is actually happening. We may be under the impression that we dislike the objects of sense, while there is an undercurrent of affection for them. The subtle activity of the mind is for affection, but the open activity, the obverse activity, is of hate. We can outwardly hate but inwardly love. This is possible. This is a subtle activity because it is not openly expressible.

In outward society, as in family and other fields of work, it is visible and we can detect what is actually happening, and can even rectify this mistake; but in spiritual sadhana this is most difficult. Here the members of the family who are fighting among themselves are parts of the mind. They are not many individuals here. Different aspects of the mind begin to work in different ways for a subtle purpose which is hidden from us.

Most sadhakas find themselves in this predicament. For days together they will not speak. For days together it will look as though they are very calm, sattvic and meditative. But after a few months they may have a sudden burst of anger or passion or ego, or some such undue and unwarranted affection of the mind which is quite opposed to the calm manifestation of it earlier on.

This happens because of an erroneous conduct put on in regard to self-control, or the restraint of the senses. Suppression of the senses, suppression of the activity of the mind without properly understanding the operations of the mind, or a non-intelligent or non-rational approach to the whole circumstance may be regarded as the sole responsible factor behind this kind of activity of the mind. We cannot educate a child by merely giving it corporal punishment, by whipping it or supressing its activities. Education is not suppression of instinct; it is the flowering of the instinct, the manifestation of perfection – what is already within, as is correctly said. The perfection that is within the mind has to manifest itself stage by stage, and it is a rise from lower categories of fields of perfection to higher fields of perfection. The art of education, or the science of education, or the psychology of education, whatever we may call it, is to be applied in the field of spiritual practice.

Any kind of vigour or emotional putting down of forces is to be regarded as unwholesome because the mind is intelligent. It is not a dead force, an inert energy; it is intelligence operating, and intelligence can be tackled only by intelligence. We cannot tackle it by brute force. If any kind of irrational force is applied upon the mind, it will give an outburst, to the detriment of not only the physical health but also the psychological health of the seeker.

So, as I said, the mind can be wholly indulgent, it can give a frontal attack, it can be intermittently active as in the condition of the expression of love and hate simultaneously, or it can remain in a very thinned-out condition like a thread almost about to break. It will look as if it is snapping, but it will not snap. It is a very fine, fibrous link of mental operation maintained to give the impression that it is dying of starvation.

It is not dead, and it is not going to die so easily. A chronic illness, a disease that is hidden inside the physiological system of our body, can be there in a threadlike condition. It may look that we are very healthy, but that chronic root of the disease is present in a very attenuated form like an atom, like a fine silken fibre which is imperceptible. Even doctors cannot say whether we are ill or not, so imperceptibly present is the root of the disease. Homeopaths will tell us much more than allopaths about this condition of illness. It is very difficult to diagnose a disease when it is deep-rooted but yet attenuated on account of the suppression of its activities. When the suppressive forces are lifted, the thread will become stout, and like a dry hill looking almost barren and white in summer suddenly becoming green with foliage in the rainy season, we will find the inner forces manifesting themselves, to our own surprise and wonder.

As is the disease, so is every mental factor. Desire for sensory attachment and indulgence will remain in the mind in an attenuated form. It will not die. So what can the mind do? It can remain in a subtle condition like a very fine root hidden within, so that we will not know that something is wrong. Or it can undertake intermittent activity of attack and withdrawal. Or thirdly, it can give a full attack. Fourthly, it can indulge itself. And after the indulgence, it can go to sleep.

In sleep, we look like dead persons. It appears that there is no life, no characterisation, no specification, no identity of personality; nothing of the kind is there. But we know what is there. Everything is fully there. We lose the very identity of personality in sleep. We do not know who we are, whether we are a male or a female, whether we are tall or short, or what our profession is. Nothing is known in sleep. It is as if we are nothing. But when the mind sprouts up, we regain the consciousness of our previous personality, and once again we are equally active as we were earlier. The mind can sleep to give the impression of death, and it can be attenuated to give the impression of the dying condition. It can be fully operative when circumstances are wholly favourable, or it can be intermittently active.

The sadhaka’s fate is really pitiable, because nothing can be more difficult than the study of one’s own self. While there are means and instruments of studying objects and persons outside in the world, there are no means and instruments for studying one’s own self. We cannot use any kind of machine or mechanism in the observation of one’s own self, one’s own nature, one’s own mind.

Self-reflection is more difficult than reflection upon objects. Objects are easy of observation because they have a character or an attribute. They have got three dimensions. Every object has a weight, it has got length and breadth, sometimes it has certain colours, and it has relationships with other objects. With these assessments of values, we can study the nature of an object. But what is the characterisation of the mind? It has no dimensions. It has no length, breadth or height. It has no weight, and no colour. It does not even have a particular location.

Hence, the study of the mind cannot be done with the help of any kind of instrument, especially as its locations change. Now, this is a very important point to remember here. Has the mind a location or not? Does it exist in some place? Because if it is not in any place it is difficult to say anything about it, nor is it possible to make a study of it.

While the mind has no dimensions such as length, breadth, etc., while we cannot say that the mind has any weight or any colour, at least we can sometimes observe its location. The only way of studying and detecting the operation of the mind is from its location – not from its colour, not from its weight, length, breadth, etc., because they do not exist. This is the speciality of the mind factor as different from objective factors of the world.

What is the location of the mind? The location of the mind is the place where it works and acts. This is a very important factor which you have to take advantage of in the study of mental faculties and their operations. What do you do, and what is your present mental state? This can be judged by a knowledge of the particular locality in which your mind is operating. Where is your mind at present? You can know where your mind is located at the present moment by knowing what the mind is thinking. What the mind is thinking, there the mind is present. That is the location of the mind. It may be an object, it may be a person, it may be a situation. Whatever be the object of the mind, that is the location of the mind.

Now, we have to study the nature of this particular location in order that we may know the purpose for which the mind has gone to that location and fixed itself there for the time being. When you think a particular thing, the question is to be asked: Why do you think that particular thing? What is the intention behind it? Instead of thinking ‘A’, why do you not think ‘B’? Why is it that the mind is contemplating ‘B’ at this time instead of thinking ‘A’ or umpteen other factors in the world? There is a motive behind the fixation of the mind on this particular object or locality. The question has to be pushed forward. You have to go on interrogating yourself, as advocates do in court. The interrogation should not cease. Questions should come one after another, so that you are caught up at one point by your own self. What does the mind think? ‘A’. That is the location of the mind.

You will not think anything unless there is some purpose to be fulfilled through that thing. There is an interest in that thing. ‘A’ is the object of the interest of the mind. The mind expects a particular kind of satisfaction from ‘A’, so it is satisfaction that the mind seeks from ‘A’. That is why the object ‘A’ has become the location of the activity of the mind; but what the satisfaction is that the mind seeks from ‘A’ is a further question.

Now here we will be in a difficult position again. It will not be easy to answer this question. What sort of satisfaction do we really seek? It is difficult to answer this question because we have no definition of satisfaction. We do not know what satisfaction actually is if we are asked to define it. We can feel what satisfaction is, but we cannot explain it in language. If you try to give a logical explanation of what satisfaction is, you can at best say it is a release of all tensions of the system and a resting in perfect peace in yourself, as if everything needed has been obtained and nothing more is to be acquired. Satisfaction is that state of the whole personality, physical and psychological, wherein the release of tension is perfect and complete.  It is a state of awareness of consciousness – the word ‘awareness’ has to be underlined – which can be regarded as satisfaction. It is awareness, because satisfaction is attended with consciousness. If you are unconscious, you cannot be said to be satisfied. So satisfaction is a state of consciousness; it cannot be denied. Satisfaction is a consciousness, but a consciousness of what? It is a consciousness of having freed yourself from every kind of physical and psychological tension, on account of which you do not feel a need for any other factor to introduce itself into your personality. You are fully relieved of all burden and tension and worrying relationships. You are at rest with your own self. You are at peace with your own self.

This is perhaps the ultimate intention of the mind. It wants to be at peace with itself. Leave me to myself. Do not interfere with me. This is the request of the mind. It wishes to be completely in peace with itself, undisturbed, uninterrupted, released from all associations which cause tension.

The absence of peace in the mind is on account of certain tensions in which the mind is involved. That is why satisfaction is identical with release of tension. Now, what is tension? It is a kind of undesirable relationship which we establish with others. If it is a desirable relationship, we do not call it tension. An undesirable relationship is established where we do not want a thing and yet we are in that thing. That is the tension. We are getting what we do not want, and we do not get what we want. What can be a worse tension than this? We are always placed in circumstances which are unhappy, and happy circumstances are always farther removed from us.

There are various causes of happiness, though this is not the subject of our discussion today. Whatever be the cause of our happiness, these causes are far removed from the possibility of fulfilment, and the causes of unhappiness are brought to our proximity. Then the mind is alert in a very peculiar manner. This very subtle, unusual alertness of the mind under conditions of unhappiness, which cannot be averted for obvious reasons, is a psychological tension which almost every person in the world has sometimes. The world is made in such a way that we cannot always be in favourable circumstances, nor can we accept unfavourable circumstances just because they are there. So there is a tussle within the mind caused by two factors – the factor of the present and the factor of the future. The present is undesirable, and the factor of the future is a hope that perhaps these undesirable circumstances can be overcome. We are trying to avert undesirable circumstances. This attempt of the mind, side by side with the existent condition of unfavourable factors, causes tension by this peculiar admixture of activity, and that keeps it unhappy. So it wants to release itself from these tensions. That is why it is fixing itself on some location of objects. But why does it go to an object to release itself from these tensions? Who told it that thinking of an object is the remedy for release of these tensions?

It has got a peculiar psychology of its own. The mind has a logic of its own. It is a wonderful scientist, we can say. Its feeling is that if it can exceed the limits of its operation at present or increase its powers by accumulation of forces from outside, it can perhaps combat these unfavourable circumstances at present. Suppose you are very unhappy and grieved, and are crying. What do you do? You go to so many friends. You go on telling your woes to every person, whomever you meet: “I am in this state. This is my wretched condition.” And your tension is relieved to some extent. Suppose somebody is dead in the family. You go on telling everybody that so-and-so is dead, so that your sorrow is shared by others. They say sorrow becomes less when it is shared; happiness increases when it is shared. If you are happy, you go on telling your happiness. It increases. And if you are sorry, you go on telling your sorrow to others. It decreases.

So the mind plays this psychology within itself when it is grieved on account of unfavourable circumstances. It wishes to gain the sympathy of outside factors in the world, the sympathy of the objects and the personalities of the world with which it tries to relate itself for the sake of releasing itself from the inward tensions caused by circumstances beyond its control.

These are very tough stages through which a sadhaka has to pass. They are tough stages because this is an ordeal, as it were, into which he is led. He may be under the mistaken notion that this is a very advantageous procedure. That is why we apply this means of action when we are grieved or sore at heart. But is this a remedy? Can we expect sympathy from external factors? Can external factors release our tensions? This question can be answered only if we know the ultimate cause of the tension. Why are we in unfavourable circumstances? Who placed us in unfavourable circumstances? While the tension is due to unfavourable conditions, the question is “Who has put you into those conditions? Have you put yourself?” You will not put yourself deliberately. Nobody likes to be in unfavourable circumstances. But how did you happen to come there? Now, this is a further query that you have to put to your own self. How has it happened that you are in unfavourable circumstances? Why are you in pain in human society and in the world of nature? Who has punished you with this infliction? If not you, somebody else must have done it. Now, you cannot say that you have created those circumstances, because nobody wishes to deliberately create painful circumstances for one’s own self. So somebody else must have done it. Who are those others?

Now, each one has the same circumstance, and each one will transfer the cause of his unhappiness to others. This is another peculiar defect of the mind that it cannot rest contented without transferring its pain upon others. It seeks to find the cause of its suffering in external factors. This is an erroneous judgment of the mind. The cause of unhappiness is not always outside. Just as we say we are sick on account of hot weather or because the wind is blowing or because it is raining, and so on, we attribute our illness to these factors, but it is not wholly so. We are not sick because the sun is hot or the wind is blowing or because it is raining. These may become contributory causes, but the real cause is something else.

The real cause is our susceptibility to illness; and when we are susceptible to any particular factor of experience, there can be so many contributory factors adding faggots to the fire. Even a sneeze is not a simple phenomenon. It is a very complicated phenomenon. The whole system creates a sneeze. It is not merely the nose that does it. Every cell of the body is active and gives a caution that something is wrong in the system. The operation of the physiological limbs in the body have gone out of control in the preliminary stage, and the world outside is what it is. It is not going to change itself. The sun will always be hot, it will always rain during the monsoon season, and the wind will be blowing in winter. As we cannot stop it because nature functions like this, it means we must always be ill. Nature cannot change itself. Nature has its own laws, and these laws are not supposed to create illness for people. They are just themselves, what they are, impersonal in their attitude towards things.

The adjustment of the human personality in respect of the forces outside is not properly conducted. There is an error of judgment of the mind when it has a particular attitude towards the forces of nature outside or towards persons in society, etc. The whole question, therefore, boils down to the adjustment of the mind and the personality with outer conditions. As is the case with illness in the example I gave, so is the case with every form of experience in the world. Happiness and sorrow, pleasure and pain of every kind are due to a maladjustment of the personality with existent factors.

Now, factors in the world are existent, and they exist for all times. They do not change. The forces of nature are likely to be there as long as nature is there. Its laws have an impact upon our system, especially the psychological system, and to the extent that the mind is in a position to adjust itself with the operating forces outside, it can succeed in its operation. So the whole question of success is one of adjustment of oneself. It may be with a person, it may be with a large society, it may be with a governmental system, it may be with an international system, it may be with the whole nature or creation; it makes no difference. It is a question of adjustment.

What do we mean by adjustment? It is the tuning of our nature with the nature that is outside so that the laws operating outside in nature are in conformity with the laws that are operating in our own personality. We should not have a law of our own if we are to be happy in society. The law of society should also control us, inasmuch as we are a unit of society. Suppose society has one law and we have our own law. Then how can we expect happiness in society? We have become a foreign element in the very society that we are living.

Extending this principle to the whole of the world and nature in its completeness, we are supposed to observe the laws that are operating in nature, and not create laws for our own selves through the affirmation of the ego. It is the ego that creates laws for its own self, not listening to the laws that are existing already. It wants novelty every moment. It seeks change in accordance with its own prejudices and desires. That is why the harder the ego, the greater is our pain. An egoistic person cannot be happy in this world. Those who assert themselves constantly are always miserable. Why do we assert ourselves so much in the teeth of laws that are operating outside? That is sheer egoism, which has no rationality, no understanding. It works against itself, against its own good, thinking that it is working for its good.

Thus, the mind has to be newly educated along lines of an approach which is quite novel, and in this educational process of the mind to achieve permanent release from tension of every kind and to make the mind rest in peace with itself eternally, a very subtle and ingenious method of teaching has to be introduced to the mind. This is the art of yoga. All this that we have been discussing up to this time is a kind of introduction to the ultimate operations in yoga, which are known as meditations, or dhyana. We cannot meditate so easily when the mind is caught up in the network of tensions of various kinds, not even being aware that it is already in tension.

The field of yoga is the field of meditation, the art of concentration on reality. Now, what is reality on which the mind is to concentrate, and how are we to adjust ourselves with the laws that are operating outside? These are subjects which we shall discuss another time.