A Brief Outline of Sadhana
by Swami Krishnananda

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Chapter 2: Sitting for Meditation

In continuation of what I said yesterday, we may here, in the very same context, bring to our memories a famous quotation from the Bhagavadgita: uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ nātmānam avasādayet ātmaiva hy ātmano bandhur ātmaiva ripur ātmanaḥ (Gita 6.5). A very intricate verse, filled with profound meaning, is this passage from the Bhagavadgita. It is a sutra, as it were, an aphoristic saying, which briefly mentions what I explained yesterday in great detail.

I pointed out that the conflict which is characteristic of life is due to the apparent irreconcilability obtaining, as it were, among the subjective side known as the adhyatma, the objective side known as the adhibhauta, and the transcendent side known as the adhidaiva. In ordinary language, we may say that this is the conflict among the principles of God, world and soul, whose internal relationship is never clear to anyone’s mind.

To refer once again to the import of what we discussed yesterday, the meaning made out is that the very existence of the adhyatma or the subjective side, and the adhibhauta or the objective side, is determined and transcended by a superior inter­connecting divine principle known as adhidaiva. The adhidaiva is not a third principle apart from the adhyatma and the adhibhauta. It does not mean that the god is sitting far away from ourselves and from the world, because the principle of divinity we call God, the transcendent element, is hiddenly present on both the sides of expe­rience – the subjective adhyatma and the objective adhibhauta – in such a manner that in bringing about an organic connection between the two terms, the subjective and the objective, the individual and the world, it not only constitutes the very stuff of the world and the stuff of the individual, but ranges far above both these principles.

This is the reason why great thinkers like acharyas have pointed out that the Supreme Creator is not merely an operative cause of the world and the individual, but even the material cause of the world and the individual. God is not merely a carpenter who makes tables and chairs in the form of the world and the individual. The carpenter does not enter into the table or into the chair. He stands outside both these manufactured items – while God, the Creative Principle, is the very wood out of which the table or chair is made, simultaneously being the carpenter also. God is the carpenter of the furniture we may call table and chair; He is also the wood out of which the table and chair are made. So He is the operative transcendent cause as well as the material cause of the world.

We cannot easily see in this world such a Being who is both the instrumental cause and the material cause. God is in us, and also not in us. He is in us, because He is the Self of our being; He is not in us, because He is transcendent to both ourselves and the world. Matsthāni sarvabhūtāni (Gita 9.4): Everything is hidden and implanted in me. Na ca matsthāni bhūtāni (Gita 9.5): But also, nothing is in me. This is an apparently self-contradictory statement in the Bhagavadgita. “Everything is in me; yet, nothing is in me.” All the drops are in the ocean. The ocean says, “All the drops are in me”: matsthāni sarvabhūtāni. And also the ocean says, na ca matsthāni bhūtāni: “The drops are not in me, because I myself am the drops; so how can the drops be in me?” Here is a very interesting statement of the Bhagavadgita. A comparative illustration, as I mentioned, is the ocean and the drops. The ocean is not the drops, but the ocean is the drops.

Here, in our strange predicament of the practice of sadhana, we have to clearly discriminate between the proper attitude and the improper attitude. The self has to be raised by the Self. Which kind of self is to raise which kind of self? There are, for practical purposes, three kinds of selves. The thing that we consider as “I”, this “me”, is one self. Anything that we consider as our own self is the self. But there is another kind of self which is the object of attachment. When anyone is abnormally attached to any particular object, the self appearing to be inside transfers itself outside, pervades that object of affection, and anything that happens to that object looks like it is happening to one’s own self. If the child is happy, the mother is happy; if the child is unhappy, the mother is unhappy. If the child is dead, the mother is also dying. Though, really, there is no connection between the mother and the child, the transference of selfhood of the individuality of the mother to the object called the child is so intensely operative that one cannot distinguish between oneself and the property – the object of love, called the child.

Not only the child, but anything that we cling to is our self. The self, therefore, is that thing in which we are sitting, with which we cannot separate ourselves, into which we have entered, and which has become ourselves in an externalised fashion. The internalised self is what we consider as this personality. The externalised self is that which we love, for any reason whatsoever. A third self is that which is neither this personality nor the object of love, but pure consciousness.

The self has to be raised, uddhared, by the higher self, is the admonition of the Gita. Now, which self are we going to raise by which self? I mentioned three selves. The first step would be to move from the effect to the cause. The later development should be taken into consideration first, and the source of it should be considered afterwards. The later development here is attachment to objects.

The first step in spiritual practice, therefore, is the understanding of the nature of attachment – what it means, actually. It is a misconceived operation of the mind in finding itself in something else other than its own self. When I am not in me, and I am in something else, that is called attachment. A clarifying discriminative faculty called viveka shakti should operate here. How could we become another thing? Logic points out that A cannot be B. A is always A. As the law of contradiction points out that A cannot be B, how could we be another thing which is the object of our love? Here, the misconception in the operation of consciousness leads to a practical abolition of the selfhood of oneself in such a manner that the self plants itself in another place, which is the object of concern, attachment and affection.

The withdrawal of consciousness from the externalised self, and bringing it back to the internalised self, is the first step in the raising of the self by the Self. The cause raises the effect into itself. How would we achieve this? It is by a logical application of sensible understanding that we cannot be other than what we are. In all affections and hatreds we become another, other than what we are. Since it is a contra­diction to believe that we can be anybody other than what we are, this discrim­inative understanding should help us in centring the consciousness in the cause, rather than in the effect that is the object of concentration.

The objective side of the self, which is the object, is to be subsumed under the subjective side, which is our real personality. This is the first step in the raising of the self by the Self. But there is a further raising of the self by the Self. The subjective side also should be raised by the transcendent Self. We withdraw our consciousness from the world into ourselves, and then also raise ourselves from our personality to the adhidaiva principle, the transcendent Creative Principle.

While there is a great difficulty in drawing back the consciousness of the world of objects from its location into one’s own internality of consciousness, more difficult it is to raise both into a transcendental element. This is a more advanced type of meditation sadhana. It is directly encountering God.

In the beginning, it is an encountering of oneself in terms of the world outside, which we do every day. We face the world morning, evening, and throughout the day. When our occupation with the world is over, we turn back to our own selves. We brood within ourselves the reminiscences of daily activities. This is a simple process going on every day, in the case of every person.

We are very busy outside in the world, throughout the day, and then busy with ourselves at night, and then we go to bed and sleep. But there is a third principle, to which reference I made yesterday, in the form of Bhagavan Sri Krishna standing between the Pandava forces and the Kaurava forces. Nobody could understand Krishna, and nobody can understand adhidaiva.

Nākritātmā kritātmānaṁ jātuvidyat janārdanaṁ; ātmanaṣtu kriyopāyo nāṅyatrendriyanigṛahat. When there was a commotion in the streets because of the news of Krishna going to the court of the Kauravas, and the noise went into the ears of Dhritarashtra, he summoned Sanjaya, his minister, and asked, “What is this noise I am hearing? What are all these people saying?” Sanjaya replied, “It is because Krishna is coming to see you.” “What shall I do? Tell me. What kind of person is Krishna? Can I see him?”

Briefly Sanjaya said, Nākritātmā kritātmānaṁ jātuvidyat janārdanaṁ: “An uncontrolled self cannot see the supremely controlled Self which is Sri Krishna.” Ātmanaṣtu kriyopāyo nāṅyatrendriyanigṛahat. Self-control means the melting down of sense-consciousness in the mental consciousness, the mental consciousness in the rational consciousness, and the rational consciousness in the spiritual consciousness. That has been achieved by Krishna; therefore, nobody who is accustomed to see things through the sense organs, through the eyes, can see him. Eyes cannot perceive him. The entire Mahabharata War was worked by this Invisible Being. The visible warriors were like flies running at the throats of each other, but actually it was done by somebody else. The holocaust was caused by a third element, which was not visible.

The whole is the action of God. Mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva nimittamātraṁ bhava (Gita 11.33): “I have done all the things myself. You be an instrument.” The total action, which is the action of God, is the principle that operates in our endeavour to raise the internal self to the Universal Self. Therefore, in this meditational exercise of the rising to the transcendental conscious­ness above internal consciousness, activity of the ordinary kind ceases completely. This is an actionless action.

Very deep concentration of mind is necessary to understand this. We may hold our breath at that time. When we are shocked by the perception of something which we cannot understand, the breath stops. We cannot breathe at that time. The terror of the perception, the magnanimity and magnificence of the whole subject, causes the cessation of breathing itself.

In the Kathopanishad we have a similar statement. Indriyebhyaḥ parā hy arthā, arthebhyaś ca param manaḥ, manasaś ca parā buddhir buddher ātmā mahān paraḥ. Mahataḥ param avyaktam, avyaktāt puruṣaḥ paraḥ, puruṣān na paraṁ kiñcit: sā kāṣṭhā, sā parā gatiḥ (Katha 1.3.10-11): The objects appear to be very important. That is the first stage of human involvement in the world. Higher than the objects are the perceptional faculties, the sense organs. The object of perception is conditioned by the structural features of the sense organs. What we call the object is not a solid substance. It is a form that has been assumed by the mind when certain concentrated parts of space and time are cast into the mould of the mind itself. The senses, therefore, are superior to the objects; superior to the senses is the mind. Beyond the mind is the reason, or the buddhi. Beyond the reason or the buddhi is the Cosmic Intellect, called Hiranyagarbha-tattva, Mahatattva. Beyond that is the supreme cause of the universe, called Mulaprakriti. Beyond that is Paramapurusha, Purushottama, Narayana, the Absolute Being. Beyond Him, there is nothing. Sā kāṣṭhā, sā parā gatiḥ: Beyond that supreme state, nothing is. It is the final goal of everything.

Eṣāsya paramā gatiḥ (Brihad. Up. 4.3.32): This is the goal of all life. Eṣāsya paramā sampat: This is the greatest treasure we can acquire. Eṣo’sya paramo lokaḥ: This is the greatest heaven we can think of in our mind. Eṣo’sya parama ānandaḥ: The supreme bliss is this. It is all the heavenly comfort coming at the same time, flooding towards us in the abundance of bliss of that Inclusive Self.

In the exercise called spiritual practice, right from the beginning we have to be a little cautious. First of all, there should be time for us to sit and pray and meditate. When we have no time to sit, then how would the exercise commence?

Vasishtha, a great sage, speaks to Rama in the Yoga Vasishtha: Control of the mind being very difficult, do not jump into the highest peak of it at once. Give one sixteenth of your mind to God, and the rest to the world and the business of life. The mind will not feel disturbed by this, because the lion’s share has come to it and you have given only a little bit to God. It doesn’t matter; even that is good enough.

This prescription of Vasishtha is to see that the mind is not disturbed by any kind of renunciation activity. You should not reject anything. You must go so slowly that you do not know what is actually happening. After some time, give two six­teenths to God, and the balance to the world. Like that, go on increasing the proportion you give to God more and more, and less and less to the world, until a day will come when your absorption in God-consciousness will bring you such satisfaction that you need not go to the objects of the world for secondary satisfaction.

The time for meditation is not any particular hour of the day. It is that time when you are really relaxed, when you are free from any kind of occupation, when there is no pressing call of duty in any manner whatsoever, when you need not write letters, attend to calls, or go anywhere. For an hour when you are free and no disturbance will come, that is the best time. It may be morning, midday, or evening; it may be any time. The convenience of the mind is the time, not the clock time. That is not important. When the mind feels convenient, that is the time to sit, just as you eat when you are hungry and it is necessary to eat, and not because it is time to eat. So, it is the quality of the approach that is more important than the quantitative assessment of it.

If possible, have the same place for meditation. You need not go on changing the location. It may be your house, your altar, a temple, a riverbank, or whatever it is. Once you have chosen that place, let it be perpetually adopted as the proper place.

The time cycle has a direct impact upon the particular hour which you have chosen for the meditational session, so that when you sit for meditation every day at the same time, the time cycle acts, and automatically the mind cooperates by the habit of being able to sit at the same time every day. In the same way, even the place has an influence. The place where you sit gets charged by the meditational effort, and if it is done every day, the spot on which you sit, together with the time during which you sit, join together and cooperate in bringing about concentration of the mind.

The third thing is the method – place, time, and method. Whatever method you are adopting in meditation, it should be continued every day. You should not dabble in different kinds of techniques – one day concentrating on the breath, another day on the trikuti, the third day on the heart, the fourth day on the Ishtadevata, and the fifth day on some Upanishadic passage. This should not be done. Whatever is condu­cive to help concentration of mind, that method is final.

The object of meditation should be finally chosen. It is the most dear thing for you. The Ishtadevata is the dearest thing that you can think in the mind. If the object of meditation is not dear to your heart, concentration is not possible. Medi­tation is not a legal practice, like a judiciary operating in a court by compulsion and pressure. It is a movement of the heart toward the heart of the cosmos.

Which is the dearest object in the world? You may say, “I have many dear things in the world.” No. No object in the world can be regarded as the dearest. They may be relatively dear, for some purposes, at some time, for some reason, but not always, for all reasons. The most dear object is that beyond which you cannot think in the world.

Secondly, as such an object is not available in the world, and every object is perishable, you would not like to love a perishable object. You infuse divinity into the concept of your deity, and feel its presence with great intensity of concentration. Since there is the immanence of God in everything, any point in space can be the object of meditation. If you touch a part of the wall of your building, you have touched the whole universe. People keep symbols for meditation in front of them – portraits, diagrams, mandalas, yantras, tantras, mantras, idols – as symbolic representation of a concentrated point of divinity in any particular spot. The world concentrates itself at every point of space. It converges even into an atom, and the whole energy of the universe can be seen present concentratedly even inside an atom, as people have learnt today, to the disaster of mankind.

Just as when sunlight is focussed through a lens it becomes very hot and is capable of burning objects, so this concentrated consciousness becomes very strong, and compels the universal forces to converge at one point. Thus, any god is good; any idol is good; any symbol, any portrait before your mind is good enough. Whatever you intensely concentrate and feel in your heart will materialise itself. The power of thought is such that it gets materialised into form by the intensity of the effect.

The dearest object is that which the consciousness loves most. As it is not available in this world, you have to infuse a heavenly interference into the objects of your mental conception, and meditate on that. There must be an assurance on the part of the mind that what you want will come to you, because what you want is nothing but the materialised form of the mind itself. The things that you want are inside you.

Hence, the verse uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ of the Bhagavadgita means a vast treasure of information to us. I think the whole teaching is there in these two verses. You raise the lower by the higher, and raise the higher by the highest. Raise the effect by the cause; raise the cause by the highest cause. Raise the outside by the inside; raise the inside by the universal. Meditation in the beginning is external, conceived as an object located somewhere in space and time of the world. Later it becomes internal, a point in the personality of one’s own self. It can be the heart centre, or any kind of chakra, as people call it, or the centre of the eyebrows. From the external concept you come to the internal concept; then you go to the universal concept, inclusive of both.

He is called Purushottama because He is transcendent both to the kshara and the akshara. The imperishable soul in the person and the perishable feature which is the world outside are both transcended and subsumed by Purushot­tama. Everywhere, in all the scriptures, you have the same thing told again and again in different styles of language.

The world on one side and yourself on the other side – this is the epic of all the religions of the world. Conflict between yourself and the world outside is the war; this is the battle. This is the business of life. The conflict between oneself and the outer world is the transaction that is going on in markets, whether it is economical, financial, political, social, or whatever. Everything is a conflict between oneself and that which is not oneself. It is resolved only by an element which is above both the outer and the inner.

A hard job is this, as right from childhood you have been brought up in a false atmosphere of possessiveness, and intense likes and dislikes; and the old habit still continues. However much you may try to understand the Gita, and try to meditate, the old habits will not leave. The idea of possession, property and relation will not leave a person. “My relations, my relatives, my money, my land, my property.” Who can forget it? You are going to get all your relatives, and you can always be with them. You can have all the property of the world, provided you fulfil one condition. You can be with all your forefathers, all those who lived centuries back, and also those who are going to be in this world in the future; they will all present themselves before you. In the Chhandogya Upanishad it is men­tioned if the self is controlled, if you think something, it happens. What kind of mind can materialise the past and the future in the present?

After the Mahabharata war was over, everyone went to the riverbank to do shraddha. All the women were weeping because they lost their husbands. Kunti and Gandhari prayed to Vyasa, who was sitting there. “Why are you crying?” he asked.

“We want to see those people who have died. Husbands and relations who have perished in the war, we want to see them,” they replied. Vyasa went waist-deep into the river, offered water three times, and called everybody. It was a surprise to these ladies that all the dead soldiers rose up from the waters. Bhishma, Drona, Karna and Duryodhana all came, and they chatted throughout the night. Can anybody believe that? It is the power of summon­ing of Vyasa’s mind.

The self-controlled mind’s wish is indestructible. When God thinks, it should take place. And God thinks through us, also; through the Self within us, it should take place. There should be no hesitation when you sit for meditation: “I have chosen the right path, I have chosen the right method of meditation, and I have also the correct perspective of it. The purpose of meditation is also clear to me. There is nothing wrong in the technique that I am adopting; therefore, I should achieve success.” Then, you will be successful.

All prosperity will follow you if the mind gets tuned up to the Cosmic Mind. Any music, any talk anywhere can be heard through the receiver set of your radio, provided the wavelength is tuned to the waves moving on the space, which are transcendent. Similar is the way that you can concentrate your mind on the Cosmic Mind. The Cosmic Mind raises the lower mind; just as the lower mind raises the world into itself, the lower mind is raised by the Cosmic Mind.

A simple thing is told a hundred times in the scriptures, whether it is the Upanishads, Vedas, Bhagavadgita, Mahabharata, Ramayana, or whatever it is. A simple thing is told one thousand times, in various ways. It is just a withdrawal from the outer to the inner, and a withdrawal from the inner to the universal. The whole of sadhana is only this much. You need not read many scriptures for that. It is a simple thing, but it is a most difficult thing. Therefore, we have to tell stories to make it clear how this can be achieved. See how that man did it, how he achieved it, how he became successful. You also do this.

That is the reason why the Puranas are written. It is to convey this simple thing that I am telling in these sentences: draw the outer into the inner, and the inner to the transcendent. That is all. The whole of spiritual practice is here. But adamant is the ego. It will not permit it. It will say, “No, this is not possible. I am not meant for it.” For this purpose, a daily hammering of the mind into this concentrated purpose should be done. A daily session of meditation is necessary.