The Ascent to Moksha
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 12: Defining the Object of Meditation

We were considering the nature of reality as the central object of meditation because we came to the conclusion that any object of meditation, or concentrated attention, has to be real. No one with any adequate sense of understanding would be interested in concentrating on the unreal; hence, the definition of reality became unavoidable. The concept or the notion of truth has to be firmly fixed in consciousness in order that the object of our attention, concentration or meditation may become stabilised in our experience. We also noticed that reality, or truth, could be defined in many ways, and an assessment of true values could be arrived at by various methods of approach, such as the correspondence of idea to fact. The workability, the utilitarian value of an object, could also be a test of reality, or when the parts of an object cohere harmoniously among themselves, we could take that as a kind of test of reality.

But we found, on an acute analysis of the situation, that all these fall short of the ultimate quest of the essence or the bottom of the being of the human being. The essence in us seems to be asking for something which is not merely an object which corresponds as a fact to an idea. We do not ask for something which is merely workable in this world. There are many workable and useful things in the world, but they do not satisfy us permanently. Also, we found that even the test of coherence, or harmonious agreement of parts of a whole, could not be a satisfactory definition of reality because the true, or the ultimately real, cannot be regarded as a whole constituted of parts.

Even if this is to be taken as a sufficiently satisfactory definition, inasmuch as anything that is true or permanent or adequate should have a harmonious characteristic among its constituents, it has a snag, and the snag is that the parts, notwithstanding the fact that they are harmonious among themselves in their working and fashion, create a division among themselves. Truth is supposed to be indivisible because anything that is divisible becomes also objective. Whatever is perceptible, whatever is visible, whatever is the object of the senses, whatever is localised in space and time, has to be subjected to the laws of space, time, externality, vicissitude and perishability. So the harmonious arrangement of the parts of a whole, a beautiful coherence of values, may be all right so far as it goes, but it cannot be finally a satisfactory answer to the question, “What is truth?”

So our conclusion last time was that the test of reality has ultimately to be consciousness itself, because everything is finally referred back to the standard of consciousness. The judge is consciousness, and the characteristics that we try to apply to the objects of experience also are those applicable to the fundamental constitution of consciousness. This we came to know through a very graduated process of analysis of experience. If consciousness is ultimately the reality, and that is the standard of the test of truth, well, that alone has to be studied in all its aspects, characteristics and phases.

Satyaṁ jñanam anantam brahma (Taitt. Up. 2.1.1): The Absolute, or the Infinite, is truth, and it is consciousness. These three terms used in the Taittiriya Upanishad do not refer to three phases of reality or three aspects, three stages or three links in a chain. They are a human expression of a compact existence which is at once truth, at once consciousness, and also at once infinitude.

Now, while we have been able to have some sort of a concept of existence, and also of consciousness, which is inseparable from existence, it becomes a little difficult to have an idea of the infinite. It is not easy to entertain this notion in the mind because we are accustomed to think in terms of finite values. Even the consciousness, which judges things as far as our personality and individuality goes, is finite. We cannot think anything that is not in space or in time. This is the finitising or limiting aspect of all human experience. Whatever we think is in space and in time, and is an object. Spatiality, temporality and individuality cannot be isolated from the object of experience. This is to say that we are immersed in finitude. We think in terms of finitude, and inasmuch as our thought or understanding is the highest faculty with which we are endowed, and if that very faculty is to be finite, subjected to the laws of the finite, then it would mean that there is no chance of gaining access into the portals of the infinite.

We cannot have a perception of the infinite. It is impossible because the finite, as long as it is finite, cannot see the infinite, cannot have a consciousness of the Infinite. We can have an inference of it. We can deduce logically by a process of conscious analysis that the infinite has to be there even if it is not an object of practical empirical experience. It has to be there because unless the infinite as a possibility is made the standard of reference, the consciousness of the finite as the finite would be inadmissible.

The consciousness of the finite, the awareness that we are limited, the notion that things are passing, transient, and everything is momentary, that death supervenes everywhere in the world, that the world is samsara, that everything has a beginning and an end – all these experiences point invariably, as a concomitance, to the fact that something other than the finite has to exist. We may call it the infinite or by any other name, but it cannot be the finite because if everything is finite, we cannot call everything as finite. It would be a logical fallacy to be conscious of the finite and yet not admit the existence of the infinite.

Every judgment has a standard of reference. When something is told to be untrue or ugly, something is in our mind as a standard of the true or the beautiful. Such an analogy can be extended to every other value in the world, and principally the concept of an ultimate value before us today is that of the infinite. The infinite has to exist if we are to offer a satisfactory account of our awareness of the finite. Ultimately, the infinite is the object of meditation because that alone can be the real, and inasmuch as the real is the object of meditation, the unreal cannot become the object of attraction to any sensible person. We have to go a little deeper into this concept of the infinite as the real, and not merely the real, but the real which is inseparable from jnanam, or consciousness. We have a most satisfactory definition of reality here in this statement of the Taittiriya Upanishad: satyaṁ jñanam anantam brahma.

Now, while we accept that the reality is the infinite, that it has to be consciousness, that it is general existence, how is it possible for us to make it an object of our meditation in the practice of yoga? The word ‘infinite’ is used even in the Sutras of Patanjali, in one place at least: prayatna śaithilya ananta samāpattibhyām (Yoga Sutras 2.47). Here the word ‘ananta’ is interpreted in many ways. One interpretation is the concept of the infinite because infinitude is supposed to bring about a stability of the whole system, or the personality of the meditator. We become effortless. Prayatna śaithilya takes place. We become spontaneous, and we become natural to ourselves the moment we begin to conceive the infinite in the mind.

The reason is that the infinite has a stabilising character, a harmonising character, because it is equilibrated existence. It is not partial in any of its aspects or functions. Nevertheless, it is difficult to bring it before the mind’s eye. Nobody can think the unlimited. The real is beyond the concept of the finite mind. Hence, when we choose an object of meditation, the ishta-devata – the deity which is to preside over the mantra in japa or to become the object of our meditation in yoga – has to be real in different degrees of concept. We cannot suddenly absorb the ultimate infinitude into our consciousness. Nature’s procedure seems to be a gradual evolution. It does not jump. There are no leaps and jumps in nature. There is a very smooth flow in the causal chain of development from the lesser reality to the higher reality. It is not that there are many kinds of realities – lesser, higher, etc. There cannot be degrees of reality. But there can be degrees in the concept of reality – the awareness, the consciousness or the definition, psychologically given, of reality. And as far as we are concerned, whatever is inseparable from our consciousness is real for us. Any existence inseparable from consciousness is real. Existence is consciousness. The definition of reality is existence-consciousness. Whenever existence becomes inseparable from consciousness, it becomes reality for us.

Why do the objects of the world become a reality for us? For example, a sense object is regarded by us as real. We run after it. We want to possess it, we want to enjoy it, we hug it, and we are attached to it in many ways. Now, the reason why the object of sense is regarded by us as real is that its existence somehow or other becomes inseparable from our consciousness in our experience. The object can never become one with consciousness, it is true. Matter and consciousness are two different things. They are distinct in their character. Yet, by a mutual superimposition of the values between the object and consciousness, that so-called temporary existence of the object gets wrongly, erroneously transferred into our consciousness, and the conscious aspect within us gets transferred to the object. There is a mutual attraction, a mutual lending of values, as it were, and one becomes inseparable from the other so that the statement arises: “I love this object.” The statement “I love this object” is a consequence of an underlying feeling, “I am that object.” The mother has a feeling, “The child is I. The child is me. The child is inseparable from me.” Though the child is really different from the mother in every respect except in her own mind, biologically, vitally, psychologically, socially, in many respects, which the mother alone can understand, the child becomes inseparable from the existence of the mother; and love is nothing but a phenomenal expression of the identity of consciousness with the object.

The object cannot be identified with consciousness, and therefore, it has to take a phenomenal form, a temporal form, an empirical form. While, for obvious reasons, it is impossible to identify the object with consciousness, consciousness asserts itself in the object and vehemently tries to identify itself with the object, so that it begins to love the object if it is not possible to physically identify itself with it. The desire is to physically come in union with it, but physical union is impossible, for physical laws prevent this identification of consciousness with matter. But the vehemence of consciousness, the vehemence of desire is such that it has to be asserted. So identity takes the form of affection.

This affection, again, has a background of a definition of reality. We do not have affection for unreal things. We do not love phantoms. The object has taken the form of reality – external reality, spatial reality. Though it may be distant in space, it does not matter; it is reality for us as long as our consciousness is transferred to it, even if it be thousands of miles away.

Now, this sensible object in the world, which takes the form of reality for practical purposes in the object of hatred and affection for a different reason, is the lowest form of reality. The sense world is reality for the senses, but it is the lowest concept of reality that we can have, inasmuch as there are two defects in this form of reality. One defect is that it is outside. It is external to consciousness. And the other defect is that it is far from our ideal definition of infinitude. It is only in one place. Our objects of affection land us only in one place; it cannot be in many places. Hence, finitude and externality limit the existence of this tentative reality of sense experience.

When we studied the Vaishvanara Vidya in the Chhandogya Upanishad, we also studied what defects were pointed out by Ashvapati Kaikeya in the meditations practised by the six learned men who went to him for initiation into the nature of the Atman. Different meditations, different upasanas, different vidyas were the professions of these learned brahmanishtas, but the master, Ashvapati, said, “Every one of your meditations is all right so far as it goes. You are getting on well due to that meditation, but there are two serious defects in your concept of reality. One is that it is outside your consciousness, and therefore, you can never possess it. Whatever be your aspiration for it, it shall elude your grasp. You shall lose it one day, and you shall be in misery. That is one defect. The other is that it is localised. You have kept your meditation in one place.” One said he was meditating on the sun, another said he was meditating on heaven, space, a third said he was meditating on the earth, and so on. These defects which Ashvapati Kaikeya pointed out in the Vaishvanara Vidya of the Chhandogya Upanishad apply to every form of the attempt of consciousness to fix itself on a purely sensible or sensory reality.

The next higher degree of reality than the sensory is the purely intelligible, intellectual, rational or the conceivable. This is a little wider. The rational infinite is a psychologically projected infinite. It does not objectively exist, but that is a very useful medium for the purpose of concentration in yoga. It is not that the sensory object is absolutely useless. In certain types of concentration, a sensory object is taken as an aid or a prop. We shall come to it later on when we come to the actual practice or process of meditation.

The higher concept of reality, therefore, is the conceivable, the notional or the rational. What is this rational infinite? It is the infinite that we can think of in our mind. Think of a boundless existence. Go on thinking as far as possible into the limits of space. What would be your idea of boundlessness or limitlessness? The stretch of imagination reaches an end. Beyond that, the whole thing is inconceivable. When you were a small child, you used to play some psychological tricks, and put questions. Suppose you go up ten miles, what will you see there? You will see some dust floating in the air. Suppose you go two thousand miles, what will you see? Suppose you go ten thousand miles, a hundred thousand miles, ten million miles, or go still further. Then the mind becomes giddy. You do not know what to say. You used to fall asleep because the mind fails to think. If you are asked what you will see a hundred million miles above, or even above that, how far will you go beyond space? There is no end for it.

The reason behind this prescription of the rational infinite in meditation is to prevent the mind from conceiving any finite object other than the chosen ideal of meditation. It is not absolutely necessary to have a notional infinite for the purpose of meditation. But most of the difficulties in meditation are due to the fact that the mind refuses to accept that the object chosen by us is the only existent being in the world. It knows that there are other things also. Why should not the mind go to other objects? Why should we concentrate only on one? Why do we penalise the mind by giving it a prescription to concentrate on one particular object – a candle or a dot on the wall or a particular idol or a painted picture? Why should we concentrate on that? The mind puts a question to us: “Why do you torture me like this? Why should I not go to some other object which is more beautiful, which is more appreciable, and which shall give me more satisfaction?”

Now, the mind has here to be educated in order that it may learn that there is a very noble and sublime purpose in concentration on a particular chosen object. The psychological reason behind this prescription of concentration on one object is to disconnect the mind from the relationship with other finite things in the world. The relationship of the mind to other objects is something like the relationship of threads in a cloth. There is interconnectedness of the psychological system. It is like a woven web, and the finite objects hang on the fringe of our mind in such a way, like bunches of grapes in a garden, as it were, that the mind cannot dissociate itself from these finite objects hanging on it. The mind has to concentrate on one particular object. The reason is that when the mind focuses its attention on one particular object, all the energy of the mind – which otherwise flows in different directions into various other finite objects to which it is connected – gets withdrawn. The threads get broken, and only one thread remains.

If various wire connections are given from an electric metre, the energy that flows gets diluted a little bit, and the voltage falls. But if there is only one connection, the voltage is stronger on account of the concentration of the power and there being no other distraction for the flow of power. The mind is a centre, or reservoir of energy. It has tremendous strength within it. It is a source of unthinkable power, but it looks very weak. We feel that we are imbeciles, very weak-willed, unable to remember anything, due to the fact that all our energies are spent, or wasted rather, in an inner psychological contact that we have subconsciously established with the various finite objects in the world, which unwittingly become the objects of our concentration. It is not that we are consciously thinking of finite objects always, but we have established a subconscious relationship with them. We have a bottom deeper than the conscious level, as we know already. It is said that we have an even deeper level than the subconscious, the unconscious; and many other things are said about our internal personality. We seem to be connected with creation as a whole in many ways, in many levels of our personality, and in all these levels we deplete our energy, we become finite individuals, we are samsarins, we have become jivas, while we are really as mighty as Ishvara himself in our essentiality. We have become weak. We are not really weak, just as the powerhouse is not bereft of energy. But the energy is depleted. It is spent out in various channels of connection.

Hence, the purpose of concentration of the mind on a particular chosen ideal, object or ishta-devata is to disconnect the mind on every level of its activities, not merely on the conscious level, from its relationship with the finite objects of the world, and make the energy flow directly along one channel.

Then what happens? The mind itself will cease to be. The mind, the chitta, the buddhi or whatever we call it, the antahkarana, has a peculiar feature, which is that it cannot exist unless there is a multifarious form of food supplied to it. Just as there is no cloth without threads, and there must be many threads in order to make a fabric, so the fabric of samsara, empirical experience, is constituted of the threads of psychological experience connected with the various finite objects of the world.

We want to break this fabric of samsara, and in order to do that we have to withdraw all the threads of connection. The attempt at concentration on one object is primarily and specifically for the purpose of breaking the very activity of the mind in terms of finitude. The mind bursts like a bubble. When the bubble bursts, we will not see it any more. It has gone back into the bottom of the sea. So when the mind bubble bursts on account of this focus of concentration due to the energy that has been conserved in it by disconnection of its various ramifications from finite objects, what happens is that there is the return of the consciousness to itself. The reflection goes back to the original, as it were. The external goes to the internal. Mind merges in consciousness. The object becomes the subject. Pure awareness becomes the nature of our experience.

Thus, concentration on even a conceivable, visible, external object, as prescribed in certain forms of meditation in the Yoga Shastras, is also helpful in the manner described. The rational infinite, or the conceivable notional infinite that I was referring to, is only another aid for concentration, and is not absolutely essential for every sadhaka or seeker. We can expand our consciousness to any limit that is possible. Instead of identifying our consciousness with a single object, we spread it over in a larger area so that we feel happier that we are larger in extent and deeper in the comprehension of values.

But even this notional infinite is only a projection of our thought. That said, it does not really exist. It is a contrivance projected by the mind for the purpose of fixing its attention on a non-duel something. The purpose of dhyana is ananyata. Ananyata is not having ananya, or another, as an object of consciousness. For ordinary persons, this concept of ananyata is impossible. No one can understand what this ananyata, or ekagrata, could be because we are never in a state of ekagrata at any time. We are always distracted. We think many things in our mind at all times, and even if it looks for awhile that we are thinking of one thing, there is a subconscious distraction tending towards expression in the conscious mind, which disturbs our conscious concentration.

The subconscious distractions latent at the lower level of our mind begin to disturb the conscious activity of concentration, and therefore, even when we sit for japa or meditation, our mind will oscillate because of the unfulfilled desires still left. All the desires of the mind cannot be fulfilled. We have not merely the desires of the present life, but also the impressions or potencies of unfulfilled desires of previous lives. They are all inside, and they all begin to germinate when the rain of suitable circumstances falls over them. Like seeds germinating in a field when rain falls, these impressions, or samskaras, slowly begin to show their heads especially when we sit for conscious concentration. Otherwise, everything looks all right. We look wonderful, and it appears for a while that the mind is concentrated.

The mind cannot be easily concentrated unless the desires are checked by various processes of self-control, or atma-vinigraha. The yamas and niyamas in Raja Yoga,  the sadhana chatushtaya prescribed in the Vedanta Shastra, and such other restrictions on the sensuous activity of the being of man are necessary for purifying our nature first, as a preliminary to the act of actual meditation or concentration. Else, the attempted concentration will be futile. It will bring no result. It would be like hitting a hard rock with a pin or a needle. Only the pin will break, and nothing will happen to the rock. Whatever be our attempt at concentration, it will bring no result because of the various factors of limitation in which we seem to be steeped to the root of our being.

We have already seen the necessity for moral perfection and the need to deal with our desires in a rational manner. We have to intelligently deal with our desires. We should not strike them down with a whip. That will not work. Most of our problems in spiritual life are the problems of desires. The desires of the senses and the desire of the ego – the three eshanas, as the Upanishad puts it – are the love of objects of sense and the love for parading one’s importance through the expression of the ego. While these are the bane of human nature generally speaking, they are still worse for a spiritual seeker. If there is even the slightest manifestation of the ego, the affirmation of self-importance or an inclination towards the objects of sensory enjoyment, no concentration and no meditation is possible. It is necessary to test ourselves almost every day as to whether we are subject to sensuous likings or we are subjected to egoistic expressions. Unless this test is applied every day, we are likely to be misled. We have to be more prepared for the ultimate reach of meditation than merely be enthusiastic about it.

The concept of reality also should be very clear. Most of us have no clear idea as to what object we are to meditate upon. While in certain occult methods of yoga the objects prescribed are the ones to which I have made reference already, in pure devotion, the love of God, the concept of reality is a little different. It is not merely a philosophical concept of reality that we have in bhakti marga, or the path of divine love.

The philosophical concept of reality is likely to sometimes become abstract. Though it is not supposed to be abstract, and it is full of everything that is meaningful and significant, yet when we argue logically and arrive at the concept of reality rationally, we are likely to make it a kind of abstraction. To fill this gap, we are introduced into the concept of God as an all-filling completeness of perfection.

The concept of God is the same as the concept of reality. The word ‘reality’ is likely to be abstract, as I mentioned, on account of the jargon of the philosophical schools into which we are initiated in our colleges. But God is not merely a jargon. He is not a philosophical concept. The concept of reality is as far from God as He really is as the city of Benares on a map is far from the real Benares. If we take an atlas and see the city of Benares, is it the real Benares? How much difference is there between the real city and the city on the map? That is the difference between our concept of God and the real God. And yet the map helps us, we know very well. A map of the Ganges River cannot quench our thirst, nor can we take a bath in it, but we can see the Ganges there.

Likewise, when we are thinking God, it is like a map. There is nothing in it, so we are not happy. We want to drink the actual Ganga water, not simply see a map of it, but we are only given a map. The Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita and the Yoga Shastras are only maps. But maps are very useful, as we know. From the study of a map we can try to find out the way to the thing that really is.

God as He really is, is a fullness of perfection – ananta kalyana gunapurna, as they say. All that is wonderful, all that is magnificent, all that is beautiful, all that our soul longs for is in God. The realisation of God is the realisation of all that is regarded as valuable in the world. There are some philosophers who think that God is the creator of the world in such a way that God’s perfection cannot be unless the world also is. Their reality is God plus world. It is not so. There is no such thing as ‘plus’ before God. He is Himself complete. The concept of God is wholeness.

I introduced this idea of God to remove the idea of abstraction in the concept of reality. We should not think that God is a bare, featureless transparency of emptiness or hollowness, a vacuum-like space. God is nothing of the kind. God is wondrous perfection of all aesthetic values, moral values, metaphysical values, and spiritual values. All that is most magnificent and beautiful, which will transport our soul, is God. By merely looking at it, by seeing it, by having a vision of it, the whole consciousness will get transported into an ecstasy. And it is the perfection of all moral values. It is called the ultimate good. It is the highest good, the highest virtue, the greatest repository of what can be called righteousness or dharma, and the highest philosophical perfection, spiritual perfection and metaphysical perfection. What greater things can there be than these values? Such is God.

We have to make this God the object of our meditation. It is difficult to make Him an object of meditation because the mind takes the help of the senses, and the senses sing the same tune of objects: “Let us go in this direction.” The beauty of the objects of the world sometimes seems to excel our idea of the beauty of God, and this is very pitiable indeed. Then the mind again runs to the objects of sense. However much we may superimpose perfection on the concept of God in our mind, it has remained only a concept. But the objects are not concepts. They are visible before the eyes. We are in a sensory world. We are in the indriya jagat, and therefore, we regard the objects of the senses as more real than anything that can be conceived in the mind, though it may be the conception of God Himself. So God does not attract us as much as an object of sense.

We have to rise above the mere concept of God and make Him a vital necessity of our practical day-to-day life, and only then can God become a source of attraction. Not merely that. The more we concentrate on the concept of God, the more we feel a sense of release from this harassment of the senses in terms of objects. All antariyas, or obstacles, become less in quantity as well as quality when we concentrate our mind on God.

The bhakti schools prescribe a method for this. God is conceived in various ways. We have to pour our emotion on Him because, after all, what worries us very much is the principle of love or affection. That is the worst thing, because when it takes possession of us we lose our senses, and our understanding also fails. So it is very necessary to train the emotions, the affections, the passions in such a way that they are weaned from the objects of sense and poured on the nature of God. These are the bhavas of bhakti.

The various attitudes of devotion to God are the various methods of diverting the emotional powers in our mind to God. In the Vaishnava theology especially, God is conceived in five forms. Para, or the supreme transcendent form of God, very difficult to conceive, is one form of meditation. The transcendent Narayana in Vaikuntha, or Parama-Siva in Kailasha, or the Virat transcending the visible universe is para, the supreme concept of God. And if this transcendent supreme concept is impossible for any reason, we can conceive of God as vyuha, or a group of manifestations. The Vaishnava terminology is Vasudeva, Sankarshana, Pradyumna, Aniruddha, but philosophically it means the same as what the Vedanta calls Brahman, Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha, Virat. It is difficult to conceive God as He really is, so we think in the process of His manifestation as this cosmos, or the universe. He is the vital, He is the physical, He is the causal, He is the transcendental. This is the vyuha-rachana, or the group concept of God in His manifestation. The third concept is vibhava, or incarnation of God. Even this is difficult. We cannot conceive of Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha, Virat because they are all too big, so we conceive Him as an incarnation, as a visible, physical manifestation but embodying the entire infinitude of force. It is the whole energy of the sunlight, as it were, focused through a lens. Sunlight does not burn anything, but when it is focussed through a lens it can burn paper, cloth, etc. Likewise, an avatara is a focused form of cosmic energy visible in physical form because when we cannot conceive invisible things we have to come down to visible forms. This visible form is not the form of a sensory object, not the object of sense enjoyment, but God Himself incarnated visibly with all His perfections, as in the various incarnations worshipped in religions. This is easier to conceive.

We can go into ecstasy more easily when we read the Tenth Skandha of the Srimad Bhagavata than, for example, when we read the Chhandogya Upanishad or the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad because here the description of God as an avatara is tangible. We can see it before our eyes, as it were, and we can emotionally love it as our ideal supreme. The concept of the avatara is a lesser concept, easier to entertain in the mind, and yet it is one of the prescribed forms of meditation – para, vyuha, vibhava.

The fourth is archa avatara. Archa is the object of our daily worship. It may be in a temple or in our own house. The idol of worship is itself our object of affection. It is God Himself because the idol ceases to be an idol to the devotee. It is a symbol of the supreme satyam jnanam ananatm. How can an idol be God? The answer is, “How can a flag be the government?” The flag we hoist on the 15th of August represents the government of India. How can the government be a piece of cloth? If that could be possible, this also is possible. How can a piece of paper be money or wealth? It is just paper. Likewise, by a systematic agreement of the concepts and an analysis of the phases of emotion and the centralisation of attitude on the symbol, the whole force of the cosmos can be brought down into the level of the idol.

We hear of the lives of saints like Purandaradasa, Tukaram and others who could move the idol of Vittala in Pandharpur by their songs, by their devotion, by their prayer, and by the chant of the divine name in a rapture of ecstasy, by which they lost their personal consciousness. There is no such thing as an idol or an inanimate object. Everything is vibrant with force. Nothing is dead in this cosmos. Everything is living, vital, moving, consciousness ultimately, and therefore, it can manifest itself in any form, even in a particular spot. So archa, or the object of worship, an idol, is also taken as a very useful and, perhaps, a necessary object of meditation.

The fifth, the concept of antaryamin, is a little difficult. Antaryamin is not transcendent or para, but immanent or here, under our very nose. God is not in Vaikuntha or Kailasa; He is just within this Bhajan Hall. Not merely that, He is nearer to me than my own neck or my nose. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to say God is nearer to us than our jugular vein; so near is God because He is immanent. Immanency implies immediacy of presence. He is not a remote existence. He is not any more paroksha, but is aparoksha. Immanence means the existence of God in everything that the senses can see, the mind can conceive or we can experience in our daily life. This is a difficult concept because the immanence of God implies the existence of God in a harmonious and general manner in everything, without ups and downs. Whether it is ice or flowing water, it is all water. Likewise, whether it is a material object like the earth or a flowing substance like water or any of the five elements with various densities of expression, for the immanence of God it makes no difference. He is present equally in all degrees of manifestation, in the five elements. This is the concept of antaryamin. Thus, God can be conceived in any of these forms – para, vyuha, vibhava, archa, antaryamin.

God loves man more than man loves God. This is another interesting and absorbing feature in the concept of bhakti. God loves us more than we love God. He needs us more than we need Him. One saint said that when we take one step towards God, He takes a hundred steps towards us. He is happy more than we are happy. When we love Him, we feel that He is pleased. His pleasure is much more than our pleasure of conceiving Him, meditating upon Him, because He is not an abstract existence but a fullness of being and consciousness, and not merely abstract universality, knowing everything within us and without us, and capable of fulfilling all our desires at one stroke.

In the commentary on this particular passage in the Taittiriya Upanishad, satyaṁ jñanam anantam brahma, Sankaracharya mentions: saha brahmaņa vipaścitā sarvān kāmān so’snute. Saha: the word ‘saha’ is interpreted by Sankara as instantaneous, simultaneous, not in succession. In God, we do not enjoy things in succession, one after the other, like courses in a meal. At one stroke everything is enjoyed, whatever is there anywhere. That is the meaning of instantaneity of enjoyment in God-consciousness. When God begins to supply our needs, it is instantaneous. Everything comes instantaneously, at one stroke, in a non-temporal experience. It is not merely non-temporal, but also non-spatial. It is not somewhere far off. It is here itself.

When all the desires get fulfilled, then the desires themselves cease to be. We can put an end to our earthly desires by educating the mind into the belief that God is the fulfilment of all desires. “My wretched mind, why do you want this tinsel? Why do you want broken glass pieces? Why do you want a dustbin when you have that all-filling, life-giving completion of your very life, which is God?” What we can get here is only in the form of a reflection, but there we get it in reality. Here we lick only reflected kheer; there, real kheer will come. Suppose kheer is inside a mirror. What is the good of it? We are not happy about it. This is what is given to us in the world. It is only reflected, and therefore, we are not happy. The nectar of Brahman’s ambrosia of immortality is reflected in the objects of the senses. It is reflected, and therefore, we cannot enjoy it though we see it and run after it. We run after it because we see it, though we cannot get it because it is only reflected in a mirror. The original is somewhere else. So we should tell our mind, ”You will get the original kheer, the ambrosia, the amrita in the original. Why run after the reflection?”

It is useless to have a desire, but even if we have a desire, it will be fulfilled. In the Chhandogya Upanishad, in the Eighth Chapter, I think, we are told that every desire gets fulfilled by mere thought when this experience comes to us that Brahman is everything, God is everywhere. The only existent is the Supreme Being. The mere thought of an object will bring that object. Any thought that arises in the mind shall be fulfilled because the basis of this thought is reality.

Therefore, God-consciousness is the one thing that we are to strive for, and God is not a remote reality of a tomorrow or of a distant place. He is a question of immediacy, just now, non-temporal and non-spatial. When we think of God, we must lose body-consciousness. That is real devotion. When we think of God, the mind has to run to Him like an arrow running to a target. That is real devotion. When this devotion is there, when this ardour of feeling is there, when this mumukshutva or longing is there, why should not meditation come? This meditation should be continuous, for a protracted period. And we must like it, we must love it, we must have an affection for it, and we must think nothing but that. We must long for it, we must weep for it, we must cry for it. That is ardour. When we want nothing but that, it shall come. “Ask, and it shall be given. Knock, and it shall be opened,” as the Christ said. “Seek, and you shall find it.”

Thus, the object of our meditation in yoga practice is to be an ishta in the literal sense of the term. It should be an object of affection, and so it is necessary that we properly define the object of meditation before we take to the practice of it as students.