October (from The Study and Practice of Yoga)
1. The Interest should be Only in One Thing
The great adventure of yoga is not easy for those whose minds are distracted with various occupations. The difficulty with the human mind is that it cannot be wholly interested in anything. While on the one hand there is a pressure of the mind towards taking interest in things, there is, simultaneously, a peculiar cussedness of the mind on account of which it cannot take interest in anything for all times. It has a peculiar twofold rajas, or inability to rest in itself, working behind it, inside it and outside it—from all sides—as a disturbing factor. There is no harm in taking interest in anything; but the interest should be only in one thing, not in many things. Anything in this world can be taken as a medium for the liberation of the soul. An object of sense can cause bondage; it also can cause liberation under certain conditions. When an object becomes merely one among the many—just one individual in a group—and the interest in the object may shift to another object after a period of time, then that object becomes a source of bondage, because it is not true that any single individual object can manifest the wholeness of truth in itself.
2. Sometimes We Mix Up Needs with Luxuries
While desire is a bondage when it is caught up in diversity, it is also a means to liberation when it is concentrated. The concentrated desire is exclusively focused on a chosen ideal, and the freedom of the mind from engagement in any other object than the one that is chosen is the principle of austerity. We limit ourselves to those types of conduct, modes of behaviour and ways of living which are necessary for the fulfilment of our concentration on the single object that has been chosen for the purpose of meditation. We have to carefully sift the various necessities and the needs of our personality in respect of its engagement, or concentration, on this chosen ideal. This is the psychological background of the practice of self-control. Self-control does not mean mortification of the flesh or harassment of the body. It is the limitation of one’s engagements in life to those values and conditions which are necessary for the fulfilment of the chosen ideal and the exclusion of any other factor which is redundant. It is a very difficult thing for the mind to understand, because sometimes we mix up needs with luxuries, and vice versa, and what is merely a means to the pampering of the senses, the body and the mind may look like a necessity or a need.
3. Moderation is to be Properly Understood
While indulgence in the objects of sense is bad, overemphasis on excessive austerity beyond its limit also is bad. Moderation is to be properly understood. It is difficult to know what moderation is, because we have never been accustomed to it. We have always excesses in our behaviours in life. There is always an emphasis shifted to a particular point of view, and then that becomes an exclusive occupation of the mind. The difficulties and the problems encountered by great masters like Buddha, for example, in their austerities, are instances on hand. Enthusiasts in yoga are mostly under the impression that to take to yoga is to mortify—but it is not. The subjection of the personality to undue pain is not the intention of yoga. The intention is quite different altogether. It is a healthy growth of the personality that is intended, and the obviating of those unnecessary factors which intrude in this process of healthy growth of the personality—just as eating is necessary, but overeating is bad, and not eating at all is also bad. We have to understand what it is to eat without overeating or going to the other extreme of not eating at all.
4. The Whole Universe is Nothing but Self
It is mentioned in the Yoga Shastrasthat the essence of yoga is self-restraint, no doubt, but this is precisely the difficulty in understanding what yoga is, because we cannot know what self-restraint is unless we know what the self is which we are going to restrain. Which is the self that we are going to restrain? Whose self? Our self? On the one side, we say the goal of life is Self-realisation—the realisation, the experience, the attunement of one’s self with the Self. On the other side, we say we must restrain it, control it, subjugate it, overcome it, etc. There are degrees of self, and the significance behind the mandate on self-control is with reference to the degrees that are perceivable or experienceable in selfhood. The whole universe is nothing but Self—there is nothing else in it. Even the so-called objects are a part of the Self in some form or the other. They may be a false self or a real self—that is a different matter, but they are a self nevertheless. In the Vedanta Shastras and yoga scriptures we are told that there are at least three types of self: the external, the personal and the Absolute.
5. We Create a World of Our Own
Attachment, or affection, is a peculiar double attitude of consciousness. It is simultaneously working like a double-edged sword when it is attached to any particular object. It has a feeling that the things which it loves, or to which it is attached, are not really a part of its being—because if a thing is a part of our own being, the question of desiring it will not arise. There is no need to love something which is a part of our being, so we have a subtle feeling that it is not a part of us. The members of the family do not belong to us, really speaking. We know it very well. Therefore, we create an artificial identification of their being with our being by means of a psychological movement or a function known as affection, love or attachment. We create a world of our own which may be called a fool’s paradise. This is the paradise in which the head of the family lives. “Oh, how beautiful it is. I have got a large family.” He does not know what it actually means. Also, it is very dangerous to know what it is because if we know what it really is, we will be horrified immediately, to the shock of our nerves.
6. The Self is a Principle of Identity
The Self, or the Atmanas we call it, is a principle of identity, indivisibility and non-externality or objectivity. It is that state of consciousness or awareness which is incapable of becoming other than what it is, and incapable of being lost under any circumstance. It cannot be loved and it cannot be hated, because it is what we are. This is what is called the Self. There is no such thing as loving the Self or hating the Self. No one loves one’s Self or hates one’s Self, because love and hatred are psychological functions, and every psychological function is a movement of the mind in space and time. Such a thing is impossible in respect of the Self, which is Self-identity. Thus the definition of the Self as Self-identity will not apply to this false self which is the circumstantial self, the family self, the nation self, the world self, etc., as we are accustomed to. Also, there is another self which is known as the mithyatman—the false self which is the body. The body is not the Self. Everyone knows it very well, for various reasons, because the character of Self-identity—indestructibility, indivisibility, etc.—does not apply to the body.
7. The Least of Attachments should be Tackled First
Inasmuch as our external relationships—which constitute the outward form of the relative self—have become part and parcel of our experience, they are inseparable from our consciousness. It requires a careful peeling out of these layers of self by very intelligent means. The lowest attachment, or the least of attachments, should be tackled first. The intense attachments should not be tackled in the beginning. We have many types of attachment—there may be fifty, sixty, a hundred—but all of them are not of the same intensity. There are certain vital spots in us which cannot be touched. They are very vehement, and it is better not to touch them in the beginning. But there are some milder aspects which can be tackled first, and the gradation of these attachments should be understood properly. How many attachments are there, and how many affections? What are the loves that are harassing the mind and causing agony? Make a list of them privately in your own diary, if you like. They say Swami Rama Tirtha used to do that. He would make a list of all the desires and find out how many of them had been fulfilled.
8. This is the Philosophy of Moderation
By a very dispassionate and unattached attitude, one can diminish one’s relationships with things which are really not essential for one’s comfortable existence. Let us assume that a comfortable existence is a necessity; even that comfortable life can be led without these luxuries. How many wristwatches have you got? How many coats? How many rooms are you occupying? How much land have you? How many acres?—and so on. These are various silly things which come in the way of our yoga practice because the extent of trouble that they can create will come to our notice only when we actually touch them, or interfere with them, or try to avoid them. As long as we are friendly with things, they also look friendly, but when we try to avoid them, we will see their reactions are of a different type altogether. It is very necessary to use tact even in avoiding the unnecessary things; otherwise, there can be a resentment on the part of those things. This is the philosophy of moderation—the via media and the golden mean of philosophy and yoga—where the self that is redundant, external and related has to be made subservient to the ultimate goal which is the Absolute Self.
9. Everything has Some Importance
The social self is easier to control than the personal self, known as the bodily self. We cannot easily control our body, because that has a greater intimacy with our pure state or consciousness than the intimacy that is exhibited by external relations like family members, etc. We may for a few days forget the existence of the members of the family, but we cannot forget for a few days that we have a body; that is a greater difficulty. So, the withdrawal of consciousness from attachment has to be done by degrees, as I mentioned, and the problems have to be gradually thinned out by the coming back of consciousness from its external relationships, stage by stage, taking every step with fixity so that it may not be retraced, and missing not a single link in this chain of steps taken. We should not take jumps in this practice of self-restraint, because every little item is an important item and one single link that we missed may create trouble one day. There may be small desires which do not look very big or troublesome, but they can become troublesome if they are completely ignored because there is nothing in this world which can be regarded as wholly unimportant. Everything has some importance or the other; and if the time comes, it can help us, or it can trouble us.
10. We should not Feel Restless or Troubled in Our Practice
Everything has to be taken into consideration so far as we are related to it, and a proper attitude of detachment has to be practised by various means, external as well as internal. This is the principle of austerity which, to re-emphasise, does not mean either too much indulgence or going to the other extreme of completely cutting off all indulgence. It is the allowing in of as much relationship with things, both in quantity and quality, as would be necessary under the conditions of one’s own personality in that particular stage of evolution, with the purpose of helping oneself in the onward growth to a healthier condition of spiritual aspiration. Again, it may be pointed out that every stage in self-restraint or practice of yoga is a positive step, so that there should not be pain felt in the practice. When we feel undue pain, suffocation or agony—well, that would be an indication that we have made a slight mistake in the judgment of values. We should not feel restless or troubled in our practice. That would be the consequence of a little excess to which we might have gone, not knowing what actually has been done.
11. The Universality of Truth is Denied by the Senses
It is the pressure of the senses towards objects that prevents the mind from taking to exclusive spiritual meditations. The objects of sense are so real to the senses that they cannot easily be ignored or forgotten. Even the very thought of an object will draw the mind towards it, and every particularised thought in the direction of an object is a further affirmation of the falsity that Reality is only in some place, in some object, in some thing, in some person, etc., and it is not universal in its nature. The universality of Truth is denied by the senses, at every moment of time, in their activities towards sense gratification. The very purpose of the senses is to bring about this refusal of the ultimate universality of Godhead, to affirm the diversity of objects and to push the mind—forcefully—towards these external things. If this undesirable activity on the part of the senses can be ended to the extent possible, this force with which the mind moves towards objects can be harnessed for a better purpose, for a more positive aim than the indulgence of the senses in objects.
12. Veda Mantras as Meditations
A daily recitation—with the understanding of the meaning—of such hymns as the Purusha Sukta from the Veda, for instance, is a great svadhyaya, as Vachaspati Mishra, the commentator on the Yoga Sutras, mentions. Also, the Satarudriya—which we chant daily in the temple without perhaps knowing its meaning—is a great meditation if it is properly understood and recited with a proper devout attitude of mind. Vachaspati Mishra specifically refers to two great hymns of the Veda—the Purusha Sukta and the Satarudriya—which he says are highly purifying, not only from the point of view of their being conducive to meditation or concentration of mind, but also in other purifying processes which will take place in the body and the whole system due to the chanting of these mantras. These Veda mantras are immense potencies, like atom bombs, and to handle them and to energise the system with their forces is a spiritual practice by itself. This is one suggestion. There are various other methods of svadhyaya. It depends upon the state of one’s mind—how far it is concentrated, how far it is distracted, what these desires are that have remained frustrated inside, what the desires are that have been overcome, and so on. The quality of the mind will determine the type of svadhyaya that one has to practise.
13. The Mind Needs Variety
The mind needs variety, no doubt, and it cannot exist without variety. It always wants change. Monotonous food will not be appreciated by the mind, and so the scriptures, especially the larger ones like the Epics, the Puranas, the Agamas, the Tantras, etc., provide a large area of movement for the mind wherein it leisurely roams about to its deep satisfaction, finds variety in plenty, reads stories of great saints and sages, and feels very much thrilled by the anecdotes of Incarnations, etc. But at the same time, with all its variety, we will find that it is a variety with a unity behind it. There is a unity of pattern, structure and aim in the presentation of variety in such scriptures as the Srimad Bhagavata, for instance. There are 18,000 verses giving all kinds of detail—everything about the cosmic creation and the processes of the manifestation of different things in their gross form, subtle form, causal form, etc. Every type of story is found there. It is very interesting to read it. The mind rejoices with delight when going through such a large variety of detail with beautiful comparisons, etc.
14. God is the Supreme Doer
The goal of life in every stage of its manifestation is the vision of God, the experience of God, the realisation of God—that God is the Supreme Doer and the Supreme Existence. This is the principle that is driven into the mind again and again by the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana or such similar texts. If a continued or sustained study of such scriptures is practised, it is purifying. It is a tapas by itself, and it is a study of the nature of one’s own Self, ultimately. The word ‘sva’ is used here to designate this process of study—svadhyaya. Also, we are told in one sutra of Patanjali, tada drastuḥ svarupe avasthanam (I.3), that the seer finds himself in his own nature when the vrittis or the various psychoses of the mind are inhibited. The purpose of every sadhana is only this much: to bring the mind back to its original source. The variety of detail that is provided to the mind in the scriptures has an intention not to pamper or cajole the mind, but to treat the mind of its illness of distraction and attachment to external objects. The aim is highly spiritual.
15. Perhaps there is No Response from God
The idea that God is extra-cosmic and outside us, incapable of approach, and that we are likely not to receive any response from Him in spite of our efforts at prayer, etc.—all these ideas are due to certain encrustations in the mind, the tamasic qualities which cover the mind and make it again subtly tend towards objects of sense. The desire for objects of sense, subtly present in a very latent form in the subconscious level, becomes responsible for the doubt in the mind that perhaps there is no response from God. This is because our love is not for God—it is for objects of sense, and for status in society and enjoyments of various types in the world. And when, through austerity, or tapas, we have put the senses down with the force of our thumb, there is a temporary cessation of their activity. But the subconscious desire for things does not cease, just as a person who is thrown out of his ministry may not cease from desiring to be a minister once again; he will stand for election another time, if possible. The subtle subconscious desire is there. He will be restless, without any peace in the mind, because the position has been uprooted.
16. The Subtle Desires May Not Look Like Desires at All
The various types of suspicion that arise in our mind, and the diffidence we often feel in our daily practice, are due to the presence of subtle desires. The subtle desires may not look like desires at all. They will not have the character of desires, as they are only tendencies. They are tracks or roads kept open for the vehicle to move. The vehicle is not moving, but it can move if it wants; we have kept everything clear. Likewise, though the vehicle of the senses is not moving on the road towards the objects outside, there is always a chance of it moving in that direction, in spite of the fact that it has been controlled. Austerity, tapas, does not merely mean control of the senses in the sense of putting an end to their activity. There should be an end to even their tendency towards objects; otherwise, they will create a twofold difficulty. Firstly, they will find the least opportunity provided as an occasion for manifesting their force once again; secondly, they will shake us from the core of all the faith that we have in God and the power of spiritual practice.
17. There Should not be a Doubt whether it will Yield Fruit
Nehabhikramanaso’sti pratyavayo na vidyate (Gita2.40), says the Bhagavadgita. Even a little good that we do in this direction has its own effect. Even if we credit one paisa (one-hundredth of an Indian rupee) to our account in the bank, it is a credit, though it is very little. It is only one paisa that we have put there, but still it is there. We cannot say it is not there. Likewise, even a little bit of sincere effort that is put forth in the direction of sense control and devotion to God is a great credit indeed accumulated by the soul. There should not be a doubt whether it will yield fruit. We should not expect fruit in the way we would dream in our mind, because the nature of the response that is generated by the practice depends upon the extent of obstacles that are already present and not eliminated. The peculiar impressions created inside by frustrated feelings will also act as an obstacle. The frustrated feelings are the subtle longings of the mind, deeper than the level of conscious activity, which create a sense of disquiet and displeasure in the mind.
18. When the Heart is not There, There cannot be Joy
We are always in a mood of unhappiness. We cannot know what has happened to us. We are not satisfied—neither with people, nor with our sadhana, nor with anything in this world. This disquiet, peacelessness and displeasure which can manifest as a sustained mood in spiritual seekers is due to the presence of the impressions left by frustrated desires. We have not withdrawn our senses from objects wantonly or deliberately, but we have withdrawn them due a pressure from scriptures, Guru, atmosphere, monastery, or other conditions. Sometimes factors which are extraneous become responsible for the practice that we have undergone or are undergoing; and because the heart is absent there, naturally the feeling of happiness is also not there. When the heart is not there, there cannot be joy. That is why it is suggested that the sadhana of self-control, or control of the senses, should be coupled with a deep philosophical knowledge and spiritual aspiration, which is what is indicated by the term ‘svadhyaya’, and the other term ‘Ishvara pranidhana’, which is adoration of God as the ultimate goal of life.
19. The Soul that We Are is the Species that We Are
The purpose of sense control, study of scripture and adoration of God is all single—namely, the affirmation of the supremacy and the ultimate value of Godhead. This requires persistent effort, no doubt, and as has been pointed out earlier, it is a strenuous effort on the part of the mind to prevent the incoming of impressions of desire from objects outside on the one hand, and to create impressions of a positive character in the form of love of God on the other hand. Vijatiya vritti nirodha and sajatiya vritti pravah—these two processes constitute sadhana. Vijatiya vritti nirodha means putting an end to all incoming impressions from external objects and allowing only those impressions which are conducive to contemplation on the Reality of God. Vijati means that which does not belong to our category, genus, or species. What is our species? It is not mankind, human nature, etc. Our species is a spiritual spark, a divine location in our centre. The soul that we are is the species that we are. Sajatiya vritti pravah is the movement like the flow of a river or the continuous pouring of oil, without break, in a thread of such ideas which are of the character of the soul—which is universality.
20. Honey does not Start Flowing in the Beginning Itself
The practice mentioned is for the purpose of directing the mind slowly towards its final achievement, and for the attenuation of all the obstacles. The difficulties that present themselves with great intensity, ostensibly as if they are insurmountable, will be there in that form for a long time, making it appear that perhaps they are impossible to approach and difficult to overcome. It is the experience of all students of yoga, and saints and sages of the past, that honey does not start flowing in the beginning itself. One cannot see the light of day at the very commencement of the practice. It will be like a dark sky thickly covered with black clouds, and the only thing that one will be able to see or visualise in front of oneself are problems, difficulties, pains, and everything that is the opposite of what one is asking or aspiring for. It is not till very late in the day that a feeling comes within oneself that, after all, things are not so bad as they appear. These difficulties and pains that are consequent upon one’s strenuous effort are due to the thick layer of samskaras and karmas which have been accumulated in oneself since many births. The very personality of the individual is nothing but a bundle of karmas.
21. Long Practice is the Only Solution
Long practice is the only solution. These difficulties, problems, pains, samskaras and desires cannot be faced with any armour or apparatus that we have with us. There is no alternative except continued practice. This is a kind of satyagraha that we are doing with these desires, we may say. We cannot face them in battle directly because they too are equally powerful. But, we can be persistent to such an extent that there is no chance for them to show their heads again. The feeling that one is moving towards one’s goal begins to rise within oneself after years and years of practice—not after months. Of course there are masters, great heroes on the path, who must have done this practice in previous births, such as Jnaneshwara Maharaj, Janaka, and such great heroes of the spirit who showed signs of mastery and achievement early in life. For others it is a torture, but it is a necessary ordeal that one has to pass through for the sake of scrubbing out all the encrustations in the form of anything that goes to make up this personality of ours in all its five vestures. Annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya—all these five koshas are various densities of the manifestation of desire.
22. It Looks as if We have no Friends in this World
It is a great symbolic march of the soul towards its goal, represented in such epics as the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, etc., where a time presents itself when it looks as if we have no friends in this world. So was the case with Yudhisthira and others. They were thrown into the forest, into the wilderness. They were princes, born of great kings, but who bothers about this heritage and inheritance? They were driven to the wilderness with no help and no succour of any sort whatsoever, as if they were the most unwanted people in the whole world. This is the Mahabharata of the spirit that we are discussing—the war of consciousness with the entire structure of creation. Here, the same problems will arise as have been depicted by the epics. There is an enthusiasm of spirit in the beginning, as was the case with the childish Pandava brothers in their jubilant youth when it looked as if everything was beautiful, the world was friendly, and they had parents, brothers, relatives and protectors. It was all very nice, no doubt. We have parents, friends and brothers, and all things that are needed for safety and security, but suddenly we will find that the earth will give way under our feet and we will be the target of the very same persons and forces whom we looked upon as our friends. The very same cousin-brothers drove the Pandavas out. The Pandavas were helpless—in a predicament which was understandable only to God. Man cannot understand.
23. You are Patient Enough for 107
There is an old story of a devotee of Lord Siva. It seems he used to carry a pot of water from a distant river for abhisheka in the temple, and he was told by his Guru, “Do abhisheka in this manner 108 times, and you will have darshan of Lord Siva.” It was a strenuous thing, because he had to carry water for a long distance. This disciple followed the instruction of the Guru, and was indefatigably working, sweating and toiling, carrying this holy water from a distant river and doing abhisheka to the murti, the linga of Lord Siva in the temple. He did it 107 times and got fed up. He said, “107 times I have done it; nothing is coming, and is one more pot going to bring anything?” He threw the pot on the head of Siva and went away. Then it seems, a voice came, “Foolish man! You had not the patience for one more pot? You were patient enough for 107. You could not wait for one more? And that would have worked the miracle!” Likewise may be the fate of many people like us. We may be working very hard. We may be spending half of our life in sincere effort towards achieving something, but at the last moment we lose hope and give up the effort altogether. The advice of Patanjali is that this should not be.
24. What Actually Exists is not Known
As far as the origin of bondage is concerned, the common background of all schools of thought and philosophy is the same—namely, ignorance of the true nature of things. ‘Avidya’, ‘ajnana’, ‘nescience’,etc. are the terms used to designate this condition. What actually exists is not known; this is called avidya. We cannot, by any amount of effort of the mind, understand what is actually there in front of us; and whatever we are seeing with our eyes or think in our mind is not the true state of affairs. This is called avidya. We may logically argue, deduce, induce, but all this is like the definitions given by the blind men who touched different parts of the elephant. Every school of thought is like one blind man touching one part of truth and giving a partial definition of it, but never the whole definition of it. On account of a partial grasp of truth, there is a partial attitude to life; and everything follows from that, one after the other. This principle of bondage is the subject of the vital discussions in Buddhist psychology known as Paticcasamuppada, or dependent origination. Every successive link in the chain of bondage is dependent in one way or the other on the previous link.
25. The Individuality of Ours is Insubstantial
The inability to perceive the true state of affairs, the absence of an understanding of the correct relationship among things, creates a false sense of values. This sense of values is not merely an abstract imagination, but is a solid metaphysical entity that crops up. Avidya is not merely absence of knowledge—just as, as the expounders of this sutra tell us very humorously, the word ‘amitra’in Sanskrit grammatically means ‘no friend’ or ‘non-friend’, though actually it means an enemy. A non-friend is not a non-existent person; he is a very existent enemy. Likewise, even as amitra does not mean the absence of a friend but the presence of an enemy, avidya does not merely mean the absence of knowledge but the presence of a terrific foe in front of us, which has a positivity of its own. It exists in a peculiar way which eludes the grasp of understanding. So a negative type of positivity is created, we may say, called the individuality, which asserts itself as a reality even though it is based on a non-substantiality. The individuality of ours is insubstantial, like vapour. It has no concrete element within it. It can be peeled off like an onion, and we will find nothing inside it.
26. That Which is Real has become Unreal
Piles and piles of notions of this false individuality, asmita, get grouped together, and there is an impregnable fortress created in the form of what we are as individuals. It looks as though now the cart is before the horse—that which is real has become unreal, and that which is unreal has become real. The thing that has really evolved as an effect becomes the cause, as it were; and that which is the cause looks as if it is the effect. The cosmic substance out of which the individuals have evolved has become the object of perception of the individuals, and the latter have usurped the position of the cause of cognition, experience, etc., notwithstanding the fact that they are evolutes. They have come further than the original substance, which is cosmic. This is a very beautiful process described in the Aitareya Upanishad: how the cause can become the effect and the effect can become the cause by a topsy-turvy positioning. Everything is in a state of confusion on account of this situation that has arisen, and there is a total misconstruing of all the features that rule this world. Conclusively, we may say that everything that we think is a wrong thought. There is nothing like correct thinking as far as the reality of the individual is concerned.
27. The Mind Really Nothing, but does Everything
In one place Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj has mentioned in a humorous way that the mind is something which is really nothing, but does everything. This is the world—it is really not there, but it is terrible. That terrific character of it, which is not there, is due to something else that has taken place. There is a transposition of values, on account of which the reality of ‘unreal’ becomes possible. The character of the real is injected into the apparent formation of the unreal, and then the unreal looks like a reality. We transfer ourselves to the objects in our perceptions, and then it is the reality of the background of our being which is the cause for our belief in the reality of objects. All this is unknown because the causative background of our own individuality cannot be known by us since we cannot climb on our own shoulders, or look at our own back, or see our own eyes, etc. Because of the fact that the causes of our individual existence cannot be known by the faculties with which the individuality has been endowed, we are caught up in a confusion—a mess, which is a total disorder.
28. The Fear of Death is Nothing but the Fear of Loss of Pleasure
The confirmed belief in the substantiality of our phenomenal experiences subtly creates a feeling of fear in us simultaneously, which is contrary to the apparent belief in the reality of things. Why are we afraid of things? The fear is due to the subtle feeling of the possibility of one’s being wrenched out of one’s contact with the objects of sense. The fear of death is nothing but the fear of loss of pleasure. “I may lose all my centres of pleasure if the forces of death come and catch hold of my throat.” The love of life which is so inherent in every individual, accompanied by the fear of death, is another form of the love of pleasure; otherwise, why should one fear death so much? It is because the so-called phenomenal relationships created by asmita have formed the impression that there are centres of joy here, and they are the only realities—there is nothing beyond. Can anyone imagine, even with the farthest stretch of thought, that there is any delight possible, or even conceivable, beyond the pleasures of sense? There is nothing conceivable. We only imagine intellectually, academically—but practically, there is none. Everything is included within sense pleasures. They are everything.
29. This is the Essence of Bondage
It is difficult to know why we feel happiness, why there is pleasure at all in sense contact, unless we know the anatomy of perception itself. Why is it that we are seeing objects? What is it that compels us or drives us towards objects? Where is the need for us to come in contact with things? If the history and the anatomical background of this situation are properly grasped, we may also be able to know to some extent why it is that we wrongly mistake pain for pleasure, and how is it that we can get fooled by the senses in creating a notion of falsehood—how a negative reaction, which is merely a little bit of freedom from tension of nerves, can look like a positive bliss. It is the inability to grasp these things that has created an impression that bodily experiences and phenomenal processes are independent by themselves—a reality taken by themselves. This is the essence of bondage; and how difficult it is to get out of it is clear on the very surface. Most of the endeavours in spiritual practice become failures on account of the causes being left untouched and the effects being taken into consideration with great ardour and force of concentration. This is partly due to circumstantial reasons.
30. Ignorance is the Cause of Suffering
If we go into the psychology of human nature, we will find that the whole of mankind is stupid and it has no understanding of what right conduct is, in the light of facts as they are. Nevertheless, this is the drama that has been going on since centuries merely because of the very nature of mankind’s constitution—he cannot jump over his own skin. But then, suffering also cannot be avoided. We cannot be a wiseacre and at the same time be a happy person. This wiseacre condition is very dangerous, but this is exactly what everyone is, and therefore it is that things are what they are. This avidya, or ignorance, is a strange something which is, as we were trying to understand previously in our considerations, a twist of consciousness, a kink in our mind, a kind of whim and fancy that has arisen in the very attitude of the individual towards things in general—which has been taken as the perpetual mode of rightful thinking. This ignorance is the root cause of all mental suffering, which of course is the cause of every other suffering.
31. Recovering One’s Spiritual Health
The yoga practice is terrific in the sense that when we deal with the so-called subject of knowledge which is the mind, we find that we are killing ourselves, as it were. It is like a suicide committed by the so-called empirical subject. And the worst thing that one can conceive of is suicide—death of one’s own self. Here, the return of the reflected reality in the form of the individual to its original source—an absorption of the objective character of knowledge into its universal subjectivity—is the so-called death of its empirical existence. Well, it is true. When we become healthy, sickness is destroyed. It is a suicide of illness. There is a destruction of disease when we are to recover health. But it is worthwhile; we cannot say it is suicide. Can we say that the disease is committing suicide? Well, it is so, in one sense. But yet it is a recovery of the original status of the organism—that is called health. Thus is the necessity by the practice of yoga to recover one’s spiritual health, which is universality of nature and pure subjectivity of existence.