Discourse 11: The Definition and Tests of Reality
The yoga of meditation is a graduated process of absorbing reality into oneself. The concept of reality, therefore, defines to a large extent the methodology of meditation and the various stages through which one has to pass in this inward attempt. It is reality that we seek in all activities of our day-to-day existence. Whether or not reality is conceivable in its philosophical import, it is a necessary part of our life even in the day-to-day activities of our humdrum, crass earthly existence, and this concept of reality that we have in our ordinary day-to-day life is sufficient to give us an impression of the fact that we live in a real world.
Many a time we are baffled by the definition of reality. We have been told that it cannot be defined, but the reality which we seek in life is something that need not be defined because it is seen before our eyes. We take things for real and we engage ourselves in that material of reality which irresistibly presents itself before our consciousness. Generally, reality is defined as that which is never superseded by any other truth or factor, that which is self-sufficient, self-existent, and does not stand in need of definition, relationship, or association of any kind. But this is not the sort of reality that we have in our mind in our ordinary life. It is immaterial to us whether or not the real is self-sufficient or self-existent. Our practical definition of reality is wholly utilitarian in the sense that we regard as real that which is workable in life. If something works and succeeds in achieving the purpose of our activities, our intentions, then we may safely regard it as real.
It is sometimes thought that the practical or the workable is the real. Sometimes it is thought that reality is that which corresponds to existent facts. And often it is held that the real is that which is comprehensive and does not exclude facets of itself, which means to say, it should cohere with other aspects of our experience. A particular experience of ours should not contradict another experience of ours simultaneously or even after a few minutes. That is called coherence of the character of real. It must also correspond to existent facts. It should not contradict facts as they are accepted to be, and it must be workable, useful, and practically significant in our life.
So we have a very simple definition of reality, on which we are unconsciously contemplating. We are brooding upon facts which are taken for granted, and the objects of the senses are real insofar as they correspond to an accepted fact in the empirical world, insofar as they have a workable or utilitarian value, and also insofar as they are not seen to contradict any experience of ours in this world.
Now, this is a tentative definition that we create within ourselves for living a life of convenience and comfort, as far as it is possible. If this is the sort of reality that we are expecting, and if this is the truth on which we are supposed to contemplate, what is the unusual factor involved in the practice of meditation? Everything seems to be simple. Any object, for the matter of that, can be regarded as the real. The real is that which persists in time. We see a tree in front of us. It seems to persist in time. We saw it yesterday and see it today; we have been seeing it for years together. This is persistence in time. And if the tree persists in the passage of time, and it has been observed to be such for the past so many years, we immediately take it to be a reality. We say the tree in front of us is a reality. It is not a phantom. And objects of a similar character seen in other parts of the world also partake of a similar status of reality. It may be a human being, it may be an animal, it may be a plant or a tree, it may be a mountain, it may be a planet – whatever be the object of our perception, all these objects seem to partake of this special characteristic that we attribute to reality, namely, persistence in time. And do they work? Yes. Whether they work or not we can see by actual sensory contact with them. We can drink a cup of water and it satisfies us. This is workable reality. When we drink it, it must satisfy us. It must quench our thirst. If water that we see or touch or sense can quench our thirst, we say it is real, not unreal. If it is unreal water, it would not quench our thirst. Inasmuch as it quenches our thirst and we can feel its taste in our palate when we actually pour it into our mouth, we say it is real. It corresponds to existent facts. For example, our consciousness of the existence of water in a river in front of us can be regarded as ultimately real if it is also accepted to be such by other percipients like us. I see this river, and another also sees the river; a hundred people see the river, and all give a uniform opinion in respect of this river. Uniformity of perception is a characteristic of reality.
Now, applying all these tests, we come to the conclusion that the world is real because it has got all these features which are supposed to be definitions of reality. But in spite of there being a reality of this kind in front of us, we have not been observing that this reality is uniformly satisfying to us. We have put forth a logical test of reality as the capacity to satisfy, or its workability. Anything that satisfies a logical test of satisfaction, not merely a sensory test, can be regarded as real. Now, does the world satisfy us? If it can satisfy us perpetually without any limitation whatsoever, we can take it as ultimately real and absorb it into our consciousness; we can make it a part of our own life, we can meditate upon it, and we may become it.
We have seen that objects of the world are similar in their method of working and reaction, though they differ in their structure and pattern. We have many objects in the world. We have the earth element, the water element, the fire element, the air element, and ether; and even among the elements of the earth there are varieties, as we daily see. Now these are varieties no doubt, on account of separation in space and time and structural pattern, but they have a uniformity of character insofar as they evoke a uniform reaction from the percipient.
The objects are presented in their character, whatever be the object. The presented character of the object is to locate the object in space and in time. All objects are in space and in time. This is a uniformity of feature in all objects. Every object bears a relationship to every other object, and when we sensorially come in contact with the object it evokes a reaction from us and produces a sensation in us. Whenever a sensation is produced, we regard the agent of that sensation as real. If a sensation is not produced, we do not regard it as real. Take the case of a mirage. Water seen in a mirage has one characteristic of reality, namely, that it is visible to the eyes. It is in space and in time, and it has all the features of water, so far as it is visible to the eyes. But does it correspond to fact?
This is a test which disproves the waterness in the so-called water of the mirage. It is not correspondent to fact as such in the sense that all percipients do not certify it to be water. It is only from a particular angle of vision in a given circumstance of the sun’s rays falling on sandy desert or ground that the water in what we call a mirage is made visible. From other angles of perception, the water may not be visible. So when we ask many other people to also look at the same spot, and we query them if they see water, they will say they do not see any water, because the water will be visible only from one angle of perception.
Also, does it cohere? Has it got coherence when it is perceived by other people, and also when it is perceived at the same spot by the same person when the sun sets or changes its position? That mirage water will not be visible to the person who saw it earlier.
These tests, when we apply them, tell us that mirage water is not real water. Hallucinations are not reality. The thoughts that arise in our minds need not correspond to facts because they do not satisfy us physically, sensorially and empirically. These are the usual tests that we apply to discover the nature of reality because what we seek is reality. Who can ask for unreal things? Neither an intelligent or educated person, nor an uneducated or unlettered person would ask for what is unreal. What we seek is real, whatever be our status in society. Whether we are human or even subhuman, it makes no difference. All seek for that which is real. Even a cow or an elephant or any animal will not ask for what is unreal. Objects should be real from their own point of view. So the whole world is to be of reality. We seek reality, we wish to be in a world of reality, and we want real satisfaction, not an apparent or a tentative phantasmagoria in the form of satisfaction.
Now, this is quite good so far as it goes; the world seems to be perfectly okay, and we can be satisfied with the world presented before our senses. But is this reality going to quench our thirst perennially, at all times? We have to apply certain subtle standards of judgment in order to verify the certitude of our experience. The calculations of a bricklayer, a mason, are mathematical, but the calculations of a very highly qualified engineer, which may be purely theoretical abstractions in his mind, can determine and decide the method of the structure of a building much better than the mason’s calculations, though both are using arithmetic or mathematics. The subtlety of perception in mathematics of a very highly qualified engineer is far superior in its effectiveness to the crude calculations made by a mere bricklayer. Likewise, on this analogy we may say that our test of reality and the methods that we employ in assessing the reality of any sensible object cannot be equal to a more subtle method which could be applied as a test of reality by deeper insight and subtler calculative understanding. The very same object which is seen on different occasions as an object of perception can be assessed and scrutinised by various degrees of investigative process.
One and the same object will appear to us as different when different tests are applied. We apply one kind of test and come to a single conclusion about a given object of the world, but different tests may be applied to reveal different types of character in its structure. The test that we apply is inadequate. If the tests that we have been applying up to this time as to the nature of the reality of the world have been adequate, then we ought to be in a world of real satisfaction.
Yesterday we tried to understand the nature of satisfaction as the underlying principle behind psychological processes. That which satisfies is what has meaning for us. The unsatisfying is meaningless, whatever be the nature of that thing. Now we have been applying the test of reality upon the objects of the world as satisfying in character, and found these objects to be wanting, which is why we are restless in our life. If the world were to be really satisfying, we ought to have been perfected human beings: Everything would be perfect, wonderful and magnificent in this world, we would have complete mastery over everything in the world and be endowed with all knowledge and all power.
Unfortunately for us, this does not seem to be the truth. We have neither comprehensive knowledge, nor power over things beyond us. Therefore, we are not satisfied. We have a craving to possess things, to enjoy things to a larger degree of satisfaction, and to gain suzerainty over the objects of the world. If possible, we would like to be suzerains over the whole of the world, if not just to a larger extent. But this has not been possible. No one person ever has been able to have supreme mastery over the entire universe. This is pricking our conscience, telling an undesirable story from within us, and we go on brooding day in and day out as to what is wrong with us, or perhaps what is wrong with the world.
A deep investigation reveals the truth that there is no real satisfaction brought about by the objects of sense, though they seem to be satisfying the logical test of reality as far as we could apply it. But is there any kind of test that we could apply to the objects of the world by which we can discover what is really wanting in the world, other than the usual test? Why is it that real objects do not bring real satisfaction? This is something very peculiar because the cause and effect are supposed to be equally meaningful and connected with each other on a par of reality. That which is a cause, and that which is an effect produced by that particular cause have to be on par as far as the degree of reality manifested by them is concerned. So if the cause is the real, the effect is also to be real. If the cause is wholly real, the effect also is to be wholly real.
But we find that the object of the world which is certified to be real by our tests does not give us an equal amount of satisfaction. That is why we jump from one object to another object and seek varying types of satisfaction. Anything is as equally real as anything else. There is no difference between one real and another real. That which is real is perfect in itself. We cannot make distinctions among real objects. If we make distinctions of superior, inferior, etc., then no object can be called real in this world. The test of reality is completeness, self-sufficiency. Now, if any object of the world is to be taken as real for the purpose of bringing us satisfaction, then we should not be put to the necessity of shifting our centre of interest from that particular object to some other object of interest.
The unfortunate phenomenon that we see in the world, to the effect that we cannot pin our faith on any particular object wholly and shift our centres of interest day in and day out, shows that no particular object seems to be self-sufficient and able to promise us real satisfaction. There is perhaps an inherent defect in every object. But why is it that they also, at the same time, appear to satisfy the test of reality? We apply wrong tests of reality. That is why they bring wrong results. The method of investigation itself has been erroneous, and hence erroneous conclusions have been arrived at. So the world of objects appeared for the time being to be real, and when we actually brought them into home, into our own conscious field, they revealed their unsatisfactory character.
The test of reality is impossible of quick definition because it has something to do with the nature of our own consciousness. The location of consciousness is the location of the object of consciousness. Now, this will give us an idea as to our concept of reality. The mind, or for the matter of that, the consciousness which is the operating force within us, moves towards a reality and pins its faith upon it, fixes itself upon it, contemplates upon it, wishes to possess it, enjoy it, make it its own. By all these processes, the consciousness seems to imagine that the particular centre on which it has pinned its faith is real. So far as the consciousness is thinking of a particular centre, we can regard it as real to that extent alone, and not beyond. But the consciousness gets disillusioned after a few moments, and immediately it jumps from that particular spot to some other spot with the hope that perhaps it is more real and, therefore, more satisfying.
As I mentioned, though objects differ in their structural pattern, in their capacity to satisfy consciousness, they are uniform and there is no difference in them. They have the same value, and also the same defect. The ultimate intention of consciousness is to bring about a peculiar kind of satisfaction in itself. Though objects differ, the satisfaction does not differ. Whatever be the type of dinner you take, the satisfaction is the same. We do not have different types of satisfaction after a satisfying dinner, though the foods may vary in their preparation or in their colour, etc. The objects of the world are variegated in their structure but the reaction they set up from the consciousness in us is uniform.
Therefore, we have to apply a superior test of reality, as an astronomer or a scientist would use. Is there a star in the sky or not? If we ask any man in the street, he will look up and say there is no star in the sky because he cannot see it. This is also a test of reality. If it is visible, it is real. If it is not visible, it is not real. And what is the test of visibility? When we open our eyes, it should be presented before the eyes. This is the test of visibility. This is one test, no doubt, and it is quite satisfying. Is there a tree in front of me? I open my eyes and look. I do not see any tree; therefore, I say there is no tree. If I do not see any tree, there is no tree. That is my logical test of reality of whether there is a tree in front of me. But suppose an astronomer is put a question: Is there a star? He will look through a huge telescope and say, “Yes there is a star.” Though the naked eye could not see the star, the telescope could see it because it is a more powerful apparatus of perception to discover whether or not the star is there. This is an analogy to discover the nature of reality.
We have been applying utilitarian tests of various kinds – the test of correspondence, and the test of coherence – to find out if an object is real or not, and we have been satisfied with the application of these tests. The objects of the world are perfectly real because they correspond to facts. We have seen; we are satisfied. Now, because they do not bring a permanent satisfaction, and also because we are put to the necessity of shifting our interests every moment of time, we have been placed in a situation of doubt as to whether they are really satisfying and whether we are justified in regarding them as real at all. So we apply the telescopic method of observation rather than the crass natural perception of naked eyes. We cannot simply look in front of us and then expect a reality to be present. A subtler test needs to be applied. That test has to come from the nature of satisfaction itself because the judge behind all processes of observation is our consciousness. Our consciousness is the ultimate judge, and it is the consciousness that is seeking satisfaction from the objects of the world. All our activities are directed towards satisfaction. So let us apply the test of consciousness rather than the test of the senses.
Up to this time we have been applying only sensory tests. If the eardrums vibrate, we can conclude that some sound is produced. If the retina of the eyes creates a picture, we come to the conclusion that an object is in front of us. If we have a sensation of touch, we conclude that there is an object near us, and so on. These are sensory tests. But the question of satisfaction is paramount. The senses are not going to be satisfied if consciousness is withdrawn from them. There is no such thing as unconscious perception, unconscious audibility, unconscious sensation of any kind. Sensation is an act of consciousness. It is an activity of consciousness, so we have to go back to the roots of perception and sensibility. The reality of perception is not sensibility, but consciousness. While sensibility has been taken by us as the test of reality up to this time, it has failed us because we see in dream also we have a kind of sensory perception. We can have water in dream, and a dream thirst can be quenched by dream water. We can be rich in dream. We can be rulers in a dream world, and we can be satisfied as far as the dream world goes. While that is one type of test, it is contradicted in waking. Therefore, we have another test of reality that is non-contradiction. An experience should not be contradicted by another kind of experience. If there is such a contradiction, the experience cannot be regarded as real. So the waking world has been regarded by us as real up to this time on account of its non-contradictory character. Every day we see it. For the last so many years we have been seeing the same object in front of us, so we come to the conclusion that it is real. But we have not been satisfied with this test alone. We have applied the test of satisfaction. A real thing should bring about real satisfaction. The world has not been bringing that satisfaction; therefore, we now go back to another test of conscious existence rather than sensory activity.
What is the nature of consciousness? That should be the nature of reality because we cannot go behind consciousness. We can go on abstracting our activities from the senses up to the point we reach consciousness, but beyond that we cannot reach. So for all conceivable purposes we should regard consciousness as reality. Though the world is reality, the sensory perception of the world is reality, and the mental operations in respect of the objects of perception are also realities, we find that behind all these activities consciousness is immanent. So we should go to the original source of inspiration both to the mind and the senses, which certified up to this time the objects of the world as reality. When consciousness certifies a thing to be real, perhaps it is absolutely real because consciousness seems to be absolutely real. We say it is absolutely real because we have never been able to conceive the existence of anything other than consciousness. Also, there is no presupposition of consciousness by any other reality. That which presupposes consciousness also has to be consciousness. Even if we think we are dead, there is a consciousness behind it. Even if we imagine that nothing exists, there is a consciousness which imagines that nothing exists. So whatever be the denial or the suspicion or the doubt that we entertain in our minds, there is a consciousness behind all these doubts, suspicions, and denials.
On this basis of shifting values by application of various tests, we conclude that there cannot be a reality superior to consciousness, and any test that is applied by consciousness directly should be a satisfactory test. Can we apply the test of consciousness upon the objects of the world and then see whether they are real or not? That which is real should persist together with consciousness. If it is not with consciousness it cannot be called real because the status of consciousness has been accepted to be real. We see that the sensation of objects does not persist together with consciousness. There are moments of cessation of sensibility. It is not that we always sense the same object.
We have at least three states of consciousness – waking, dream and deep sleep. There are other occasions such as swoon, and a very strange phenomenon called death, during which time consciousness does not operate in the usual manner. The senses are completely paralysed under certain conditions. They do not perceive anything at all, and yet consciousness cannot be said to be destroyed because he who says that consciousness is destroyed is there behind consciousness. He is not dead. So no one can say there is a death of consciousness, though there is a death of the activity of the senses. There is a complete cessation of the activity of the senses in sleep, and partially in dream, yet consciousness persists. So the analysis of the three states – waking, dream and deep sleep – which brings out the reality of consciousness, also brings out, at the same time, the non-correlativity of sensory perception with consciousness. That which is real should take reality with it always, and anything that does not persist with reality is not reality. So sensations cannot be called realities as they do not persist with consciousness in all the three periods of experience – waking, dream and deep sleep. That which is persistent is consciousness alone. The last residuum of our being is to be seen only in deep sleep. Even in dream we have some sort of activity, but in sleep there is absolutely no activity, and yet we do exist there.
Now, what is the sort of existence that we enjoy in the state of deep sleep? It is not physical existence. It is not a sensory existence. It is not a mental existence. It is no kind of existence at all, yet we cannot deny that it did exist. We had an indeterminate featureless transparency of consciousness, as it were. Nothing else could be posited in deep sleep. In what form did we exist in deep sleep? What sort of experience did we have? And what makes us believe that we existed in deep sleep? All sorts of questions arise in our mind which, when properly analysed, bring us to the conclusion that we existed as indeterminate, featureless, structureless, indefinable essences of consciousness.
If this is perhaps our deepest reality, that alone should be the basis or standard of judging every other object in the world. The reality of an object, or the reality of anything, for the matter of that, can be accepted only when to it we apply the test of consciousness. What is the test of consciousness? What is the test of reality? The test is that it is incapable of division into the seer and the seen. This is one of the characteristics of consciousness. Consciousness cannot be divided into the seer and the seen because consciousness cannot become an object of itself. Every object has a defining character, but consciousness has no such defining character. If consciousness is to be the object, then who is to observe this consciousness? Who is to be the subject of this consciousness? Consciousness cannot be the object of consciousness. It is a self-contradiction, a tautological statement. Hence, we have to conclude pure subjectivity seems to be the essential nature of consciousness, and pure subjectivity should not make us conclude at the same time that it is limited to the body because that which is limited is, again, separated into the subject and the object.
By a simple analysis of the structure of consciousness we conclude that it has also to be unlimited. As it is pure subjectivity, it has automatically to be unlimited because if it is limited it is not pure subjectivity because it has an object in front of it. Anything that has an object set as a counterpart of itself cannot be regarded as pure subjectivity, and if the object is there in front of it, it has to establish a relationship with it which is conscious in nature. Unconscious relationships cannot be regarded as relationships at all. So conscious relationship is part of consciousness itself, which would imply that consciousness is present in the object also, while we have already concluded that objects cannot be the nature of consciousness.
By this peculiar, indefinable, subtle test of the nature of consciousness, we come to the conclusion that consciousness is reality, it is subjectivity, it is non-objectivity, and therefore, it has to be unlimited. So the real is unlimited. It is consciousness. It does exist. It is existence, consciousness, and unlimitedness – satyaṁ jñanam anantam brahma (Taitt. Up. 2.1.1). This is what the Taittiriya Upanishad gives to us as the definition of reality. This is what we have now concluded by an analytical process of reason and logic applied simultaneously: satyaṁ jñanam anantam brahma. The best definition of reality is given in the Brahmanada Valli of the Taittiriya Upanishad. It is reality, it is consciousness, it is unlimitedness.
This is the sort of reality that we have to seek in meditation, upon which we have to concentrate our mind in order that we may have real satisfaction. Only the real can bring real satisfaction. The unreal cannot bring that real satisfaction. What we seek is perfect, unlimited, real satisfaction, so we go to the real for it. Where is the reality? Satyaṁ jñanam anantam – this is the object of our meditation. Who is to meditate on this object? This is partly the difficulty in the yoga of meditation. It is impossible to suddenly bring to our consciousness this infinitude of reality because no one has ever seen it. Though logically we have concluded by the process of inference that it ought to exist and there cannot be any other reality, it has not become an object of our daily experience; therefore, it has always remained apart from the field of activity in day-to-day life.
We have to go to this reality as the ultimate ideal before us by a gradual process of overstepping limits by methods of self-restraint. Limits are set to consciousness, to experience and to satisfaction on account of an involvement of consciousness. We have studied previously what these involvements are, and we must remember it. Various types of involvements are there, on account of which there is an apparent limitation of consciousness; hence, it is unable to concentrate itself on what an unlimited being could be. Meditation is concentration of consciousness, fixing consciousness on that which is real. The ultimately real cannot be the objects of the world; that is what we came to know by an acute analysis of the situation of experience. And yet, in spite of this conclusion, we cannot concentrate on this reality because we have not been accustomed to it; we have not been taught it from our childhood. This is only, again, the unsatisfying objects of the world.
Hence, in the practice of meditation we have to start to move from realities that are lower to realities that are higher, from realities that are localised to realities that are more expanded, from realities that are external to realities that are internal, and so on. You would be benefitted by reading Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj’s books Concentration and Meditation, Mind Its Mysteries and Control, and Conquest of Mind. They will help you very much.
The process of concentration of mind is preceded by abstraction of the senses, pratyahara, self-control. Unless there is self-control, there is no concentration of mind. A glutton, a sensualist, a person who is indulgent, cannot practise the yoga of concentration or meditation. This is very important to remember. A pure heart alone can concentrate. A pure intention is to be there behind these efforts. We must be a good person from the bottom of our heart, and our intention should always be good. Only then can reality reveal itself from within because nothing can be so good as the real. As a matter of fact, some philosophers call reality as the goodness or the supreme good. The supreme good is God, and so goodness is a reflection of godliness. The more we are good in our being, in our action, our thought, sentiment and intention, the nearer we can be to godliness or to reality.
So let us be very cautious in treading the path of meditation that we are well prepared and well equipped, and not in any kind of misapprehension about ourselves. We must be ethically and morally disciplined in order that we may be good meditators or concentrators. Our intention should be the realisation of Truth, and nothing else. Not any kind of ulterior motive should be there behind it.
With this preparatory process of self-restraint, we can take to concentration on reality, meditation on God or Ishvara, to which end we take the least obstructive element as our aid. In processes of initiation into meditation we are given various methods, suited to our temperaments of course, also based upon the stage of evolution in which our mind is, one method being taking the concept of that which we like the most and is most attractive and satisfying to us. This is what is called the ishta. In Sanskrit, ishta means dear, loveable, satisfying, that which we like the best. Sometimes Gurus put this question, “What is your ishta?” so that they may initiate you into the proper mantra. The ishta is that which you like the most. But the ishta should be a pious ishta. It should be connected with the goal of your realisation. You may think that your ishta is a bank account because that is where the mind is, but this cannot be regarded as an ishta, though it is that which you like the best. You may like your own baby, and so on. These things cannot be called an ishta though your heart is there. The ishta is to be pious, holy and unselfish. In spiritual parlance, the ishta, or the chosen object of concentration, is not merely that object which you are attached to emotionally, but it also must be an unselfish type of attachment. Thinking of a bank account is a selfish attachment. It is not unselfish, so you cannot regard it as your ishta. The object of concentration should be tending you gradually towards more and more unselfish experiences. What is an unselfish experience? It is that which is more and more expansive and pervasive in character.
The highest form of selfishness is limitation of consciousness to the body. When you think that you are the body and all reality is only the body, that there is nothing real beyond this body and the satisfaction of this body is the only thing that you want, you may be said to be in the crudest form of selfishness. But selfishness can be expanded into rarefied forms. Rarefication means thinning out, yet it is there. When you love your family, you regard reality to be a little more expansive than your own personal body, but yet you are selfish. You love only your family, and not other families. So selfishness is not gone, though it is slightly expanded from limitation to a mere personal body. And when you are a patriot of a nation or a country as a whole, you may be regarded as more unselfish because you have expanded your love from merely your family to the whole country. You love all families, but yet you are selfish because you love only your country and have no regard for other countries.
Likewise, we can rarefy the selfishness, thin out the activity of the ego, yet it can remain there. In spite of its remaining, it is thinned out; it becomes more pervasive. Quantitatively it has become more and more expanded, but qualitatively it has remained the same. This is the defect in mere patriotism, nationalism, internationalism, or some such thing. They are quite good as far as they go but you have only an expanded form of experience and are likely to mistake it for true unselfishness, which it is not. It is a very subtle form of selfishness, but it looks like unselfishness inasmuch as it has taken an expanded form. A large personality is also a personality. Even if you are to expand your body to ten miles long and ten miles wide, you are the same person. You are not going to be different. You may be a giant touching the skies, but you are not going to be a different person in quality though the quantity of the body has increased. Here we are more concerned with the quality of perception rather than a mere expansion of quantity, but from quantity we have to move to quality in a graduated process of ascent.
The immediate reality presented to the senses and to the mind is quantity of perception. Quality is never seen. We are satisfied with quantities first, and then we go to qualities. So we are asked to choose an ishta, or an object of meditation, which is quantitative in nature, yet characterised by the quality of unselfishness as far as it is possible under the circumstances we are placed. Do the best that is possible to introduce the unselfish element into the object of your meditation. It does not mean that you are ultimately successful in it, but to the extent permissible by the present state of your education, understanding and capacity, that would be all right.
Now, one secret of meditation is undivided concentration, concentration on a given object. It may be a quantity, a localised object, but the condition laid down is that the concentration should be undivided. Undividedness of concentration means not thinking of factors other than the object that is chosen for concentration. When you think of a fountain pen, you think only of the fountain pen. You do not think of anything else outside it. This is called concentration. But what is the purpose of this concentration? This is a very interesting psychological question. Why do you concentrate on any particular object? What is the experience that you expect out of it, and why do such experiences follow from the concentration? It is a question of psychology because it is concerned with our conscious relationship with other objects in the world.
When we think of a particular object, the focus of attention is restricted. The whole energy of the mind is fastened upon the chosen object and it is, as it were, that we pull the threads of the fabric of the mind in a given direction and drive it onwards upon that chosen object by force. We suck the energy of the mind from all directions, as it were, and pour it upon that chosen object. The vitality of the whole mental structure is drawn in, conserved, and jetted upon a given object. What is the purpose behind this process? The purpose is very interesting. The mind is connected with various objects in the world, consciously and also unconsciously. We are mostly aware of conscious connections; the unconscious connections are not known to us.
We are seated here in this hall, many human beings, with apparently no connection among ourselves except that we are friends, or perhaps we may have some personal relationships. But apart from that, there is an unconscious connection which the mind establishes with persons and things in the world. This is something very subtle, deep, and not known in ordinary conscious processes. But this is a very important factor, and if we ignore it our whole effort will be topsy-turvy.
When the mind is concentrated consciously on a particular object it can keep an undercurrent of conscious connection with other objects also, simultaneously. That is the reason why most sadhakas find it difficult to concentrate the mind even if they sit for hours together, because they only concentrate consciously while the unconscious mind is not withdrawn. What is the unconscious mind? It is the subtle interests that the mind has with other objects.
The subtle interests are, again, not visible on the surface. They are buried deep in the layers of our unconscious and they have been there, deposited from aeons. We had many births. This is not the only birth that we have taken. We have passed through various stages of evolution. Every stage of evolution is a birth of experience, and in every such occasion of experience we have been accumulating impressions of perception. These impressions have been loaded into the subconscious and unconscious levels, so that today we are heavy with this laden material. This laden material that is in the unconscious level keeps contacting these relative objects, even if they be in other realms, even if they be very far distant in space and in time.
Now, the meditative process is such that its intention is to break this connection of the mind with the objects of the world. It has to break the connections not merely consciously, but also subconsciously and unconsciously. It has to stand absolutely independent, focusing itself entirely on the chosen object.
Just as we move from quantity to quality, from localised objects to more expanded forms of objects, from the external to the internal, we have to gradually move from the conscious level to the subconscious and unconscious levels. This is a simultaneous process that has to take place in which japa, or chanting of a formula or a divine name, is a great help. We should not suddenly enter into meditation because the mind is not prepared. It is necessary to take to study of deep scriptures of a philosophical nature in the earlier stages so that the circumference of the field of the activity of the mind becomes smaller and smaller, and later on it can get pinned to a particular point alone.
Svadhyaya, or study of sacred scriptures, moksha shastras, yoga shastras, scriptures on liberation of the soul and deep metaphysical topics of a very inspiring nature should be a part of the meditative process of the sadhaka. Svadhyaya, japa and dhyana may be taken as three stages of ascent. In the beginning when you take to study, do not study all kinds of books. The subject should be chosen. You must have a good routine of study, a syllabus or curriculum for svadhyaya.
What is the sort of thing which you want to read? The subject should be chosen first. Then pick out a book connected with the subject, and these books also should be few in number; otherwise, your mind will be distracted. Read only such texts which are concentrated in their nature, and by a study of such texts the mind not only gets purified but also gets concentrated due to the interest that it takes in the subject. And also, at the same time, the limit of the operational field of the mind gets reduced gradually.
Study of sacred texts, or svadhyaya, may pave a way to a more difficult process which is japa, or the silent chanting of a formula or a mantra. Now, a formula and a mantra are two different things. They are not one and the same. A formula is merely a symbol that you have chosen for yourself to think a particular thought. “God is light.” This is a formula. “God is omnipresent,” may be another formula. But a mantra is quite different. This is a very potent juxtaposition of sound brought about by a very scientific process known to tantra shastra and such other methods, by which the recitation of a particular mantra produces an energy or a potency within ourselves such that we are enabled to concentrate our mind by the addition of the force applied to us by the mantra. Sadhana shakti becomes augmented by the addition of mantra shakti. The power of the mantra adds to the power of your sadhana or concentration. Your own effort is there on one side, but that effort is augmented or accelerated, increased in its potency, by the addition of the mantra shakti. A third factor, the Guru shakti, is also there. The Guru who has initiated you into the mantra supplies a part of the energy from his own will. So there is the shakti of the Guru who initiates you, the shakti of the mantra, and the shakti of your own effort.
More than that, there is the shakti of the devata of the mantra. There is a divine principle superintending over every mantra. It is a divya shakti, a celestial force hidden behind every mantra. That also comes into operation when the mantra is chanted. So mantra japa can be regarded as a complete sadhana by itself. God-realisation can be achieved even by japa alone, provided a proper mantra is chosen and the proper technique of concentrating on its meaning is adopted. That is why in the Bhagavadgita we are told yajñānāṃ japayajñosmi (Gita 10.25): Of all the sacrifices, japa is regarded as the supreme sacrifice.
Thus, svadhyaya and japa may be regarded as stages to dhyana, an abstract contemplation on reality, a subject which has to be taken in greater detail another time.