Total Thinking
by Swami Krishnananda

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(Spoken to the students in the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy on October 17, 1996)

A togetherness of all thoughts in one thought is the principle of yoga. Now, this one thought is not another thought, different from all the thoughts which have to merge into this one thought. The one thought, so-called, becomes not a total of all the thoughts; rather, it is an amalgam of many thoughts, which move in different directions.

Bees manufacture honey by moving from one flower to another. They collect a hundred varieties of pollen and manufacture what we call honey. But honey is not an admixture of all the pollen of different flowers. It is a blend, an amalgam, a quintessence, the very base, undivided in its nature, not divisible into the varieties of pollen. We cannot dissect honey and find the different kinds of pollen. Another example is, when many different types of water are put together they make one water, and this one water is not an admixture because when many waters become one, the manyness merges into a single water.

Similarly, the one thought which includes all other thoughts is, in a way, the mother of all thoughts – and much more than a mother. It not only includes all thoughts, but transcends all thoughts. We have to understand the meaning of simultaneous inclusiveness and transcendence.

A third example is, many thoughts might have occurred to us in our dream experience. These many thoughts were just ramifications of the one thought which constitutes waking experience. When we wake up, we will find that all the thoughts that appeared to be operating in dream are included in the waking consciousness, and yet the waking mind transcends the total of all the thoughts that appeared in dream. The transcendence is because of the qualitative enhancement of the thought in waking, and not merely remaining as a kind of mathematical total.

We have to be very careful in understanding how our mind operates. “I have many thoughts,” we may say. Let there be many thoughts, like the branches of a tree. Endless twigs and countless leaves project from the trunk, but this endlessness of variety of manifestation is sustained by the sap that pervades the trunk and the root of the tree. There is a vitality which keeps thoughts alive. Even if the thoughts are many, they have to be alive. There cannot be dead thoughts. The living character of thoughts is due to the presence of a sap, a psychological protoplasm, which gives them energy and comprehensiveness.
The thought that operates in yoga is, to emphasise again, a comprehensive thought. It is not a total of many thoughts, but all thoughts becoming transcended, and not merely totalled. This conclusion, if it enters your mind properly, will free you from the usual difficulties that everybody feels in meditation, namely, “How will I meditate on one thing when many other thoughts are distracting me and pulling me in different directions?” The different directions and the different thoughts that you complain are intruders in your attempt at meditation should not be regarded as intruders, in the same way as the different thoughts in dream cannot be regarded as intruders in the waking mind; they are the waking mind. So, the complaint that the mind is moving here and there during an attempt at meditation is an immature conclusion arrived at by incompetent seekers who have not properly grasped the technique of yoga.

When we gain something, there is always a fear that we are losing something else. There is a fear lurking in the mind of every person that when we meditate, all the things which the mind is thinking in its different movements seem to be disconnected from the thought that is meditating. But this is not so. The objects which were contemplated by the diversified thoughts, and which stand inseparable from those thoughts, are not outside the thought which is supposed to be meditating on the ideal.

You have to listen to me very carefully. If this is clear to you, you will have no fear of other thoughts. You will have no fear of the so-called objects which appear to be distracting your mind. They cannot distract you, because the objects are the counterparts of the thinking process, though it is diversified in its nature, and so the thinking process together with its counterparts as objects become blended together in this total thought, which is the thought in yoga. The word ‘total’ is not appropriate; as I mentioned, it is something more than the total.

Even listening to this description of the process of mental operation in yoga should make you happy. You must feel, by listening to this, that everything is all right, because that which makes you feel that something is not all right is again a diversified thought, projected in a direction which appears to be totally isolated from the direction in which you want your yoga thought to cultivate.

There is a fear in the mind that when we are engaged in something, something else is excluded. When we do one thing, we seem to be excluding something else. This idea must be shed. In this thought which is true yoga, we are not excluding some operation of the mind and clinging to some different type of operation. Then, we create a duality between the world and God, ourselves and society, mind and objects, and all sorts of chaos arises in the mind. This is the great conclusion of the Bhagavadgita gospel of yoga, whose meaning is often missed due to our inability to comprehend the total picture that the seven hundred verses of the Gita gives us. Whoever studies the Bhagavadgita many a time reads one or two verses and compares the meaning of those verses with the meaning of the other verses.

When a good physician treats a particular part of the body, he is also conscious of the presence of the other parts of the body. If there is a cold, he cannot treat only the nose because a cold affects the total body and treating only the nose is not the right step for a good physician to take. Every illness is a total illness; the whole body is sick, even if you have only one ache in a particular part. Just as happiness is a total experience, pain is also a total experience.

As a good physician will take care to see that every aspect of the patient's physical and physiological functioning is taken care of when the medicine is given, the yoga student is careful to see that the body, or the psychological total of yoga thought, is taken as one whole, and when we give a medicine to enhance the vitality of our yoga thought, we do not ignore the other limbs of this psychological body; we take it as a complete whole.

Yoga is not a set of dos and don'ts. “Do this, but don't do that” is not yoga. This is not yoga. The “don't do that” is also a part of a higher “do that”. This is what I mean by transcendence. The do's and don'ts of ordinary life in society are a segmentation of a higher need where the positive longing and the negative abhorrence become blended together into a single whole.

In the same way as no part of the body is redundant and we cannot consider one part of the body as superior and blessed and another part other inferior, no thought can be considered as worthless because totally worthless thoughts cannot arise in the mind. A thought looks worthless because we compare and contrast it with some other thought which, in our mind, is the proper thought. So, there is a big bungling, a mixing up religious tradition, social needs and personal pressures all together, and we do not keep ourselves in a state of composedness and totality.

Yoga is balance. Samatvam yoga ucyate (Gita 2.48). An alignment of the different parts of life, consciously attempted and executed, is yoga. We neither cling to something nor abandon anything in yoga. Yoga is a thought which goes beyond that thought which considers something as proper and something else as improper. Here, we transcend ordinary social ethics and norms. Yoga is not religion, and it is not ethics; it is pure science. The ideas of goodness and badness, necessary and unnecessary, do's and don'ts, do not enter here. People who have been brought up in certain religious traditions and cling to certain doctrines of polytheism, monotheism, monism, religiousness, etc., cannot be regarded as true scientists.

There is no prejudice in a scientific mind. It is impersonal operation, without taking either this side or that side, so that even the idea of necessary and unnecessary gets transcended in another, higher thought. Both the necessary and the unnecessary become friends, as it were, and the right and the left shake hands with each other, as when we go for a walk, both legs walk with each other simultaneously, parallely. They do not clash with each other in spite of the fact that one leg is different from the other leg. When we are walking with two legs, the movement is a total movement. It is not a haphazard activity of one leg in contrast with another leg.

Similar is the working of the alimentary canal. When we eat food, what is operating inside? It is not the tongue, the teeth, the oesophagus, the stomach, the intestines, the heart or the lungs. It is all things simultaneously. We eat food without knowing what is actually happening. The whole energy, which appears to be segregated when studied independently, acts in unison. The heart, the lungs and the alimentary canal all act as one person, one force, one action. So, the eating is one action. That is why it is considered as a holy act. We do not eat like animals. It is not some grub that we are swallowing; it is a yajna that we are performing. It is an agnihotra to the prana. We call it prana agnihotra.

In the Chandogya Upanishad there is a vidya called the Vaishvanara Vidya, in which context it is told that a morsel of food that goes inside satisfies all the divinities who operate through the different organs. The eyes blossom, the cheeks swell, and joy emanates from the whole personality because the prana rises into a healthy activity at that time. When the prana inside is happy, the universal prana, of which this individual prana is a manifestation, becomes happy. Cosmic prana becomes happy when this prana agnihotra that is the yajna of eating is conducted.

Eating is not a physical act; it is a sacred act. It is a worship of the divinity inside that we are performing simultaneously. It is not the stomach that digests the food; it is the Vaishvanara-agni. Aham vaisvanaro bhutva praninam deham asritah, pranapana-samayuktah pacamy annam catur-vidham (Gita 15.14). The great Lord is speaking: “I, as the Vaishvanara fire operating through the stomach, digest the food.” The stomach cannot digest the food; otherwise, even a corpse can swallow food. “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will,” as the poet says.

Religion finds its consummation in the practice of yoga. Yoga is the father and mother of all religions. It is the apex towards which end all religions move, all activities find consummation, and life becomes fulfilled. The fulfilment of life is not a discipline. We are afraid of the word ‘discipline’, and think it means sitting, concentrating, and so on. We feel this is a kind of exercise unnecessarily imposed upon us in the midst of other duties that we have to perform. It is not like that. Every moment we are in a state of yoga, if we want to achieve success. Social life, psychological life, and even political and economic life is life, after all; and any aspect of life which is connected with our existence is a total life, which constitutes our higher personality.

We have a physical personality, a psychological personality, a social personality, a political personality, an economic personality, and a family personality. They are not different personalities; they are manifestations of one personality, which goes beyond our imagined individualised personality as Mr. so-and-so, etc. In a similar manner, when the Bhagavadgita says samatvam yoga ucyate (Gita 2.48): alignment – samatva or equilibrium – is yoga, it also adds yogah karmasu kausalam (Gita 2.50): expertness in performance is yoga.

This expertness is to be properly defined. A person becomes expert in action when he considers every aspect – the pros and cons, the consequences, the means and the end of an action – which becomes possible by the consciousness of equality, harmony and alignment that has to be at the background of action. Action is a manifestation of the harmony that we maintain in our mind. If the mind is in a state of harmony, all actions, even if they are a hundred in number, become one action, and therefore they will not produce a nemesis. The equality, harmony and alignment that is known in yoga as samatva removes the sting of reaction which is called karmaphala. Such a karma, such an action, does not bind. Na karma lipyate nare (Isa 2). This action cannot bind because it is not your action. It is an emanation of a total alignment of consciousness in which you are engaged – not only during the meditation session, but all of your life.

Again the fear comes: “All my life? How can I? You mean to say that I am to go on meditating throughout the day?” Nobody is asking you to meditate throughout the day, but be what you are. To be what you are cannot be regarded as a kind of imposition or duty. But, what is it that you are? I mentioned that you are many kinds of individualities. Physically you exist as an isolated person, but you are also a social unit, an economic unit, and a political unit; you are everything.

This is a great psychoanalytic comprehensiveness that you introduce into yourself, so to say, and make yourself a whole being. When you are a jumble of many thoughts directed towards many objects, you are not whole. I gave the example of honey. A whole that you are, or ought to be, is not a coming together of many segregated parts. It is a handshake among all the apparently diversified thoughts moving in a so-called objective direction.

You may feel at this moment as if you are rising to the cosmos. The world has entered you, as it were. Slowly, you are entering into the world, because every aspect has been included in this thought, which is not only the base for all other thoughts, but that which is higher than all other thoughts. As all the thoughts means the thoughts of everything in the world, a transcendence of these thoughts in a wider thought is virtually entering into the heart of the world; then, the world enters into your heart. You become, so to say, a world individual. You are not merely a citizen of the world, but you are a mighty, magnified, widened individuality in which the world gets subsumed, and you think like the world. Such a person is called a super-individual. This is what you are aiming at in yoga.

The system of Patanjali is a detailed analysis of the various stages through which you have to pass in achieving this great collectivity, amalgam, and transcendence in the process of thinking. Every moment you are to be cautious. There is not a single moment when you will be woolgathering and missing the point. Every moment you are conscious of a security that is required, and cannot ignore that aspect. Every moment you must know the background and the consequence of your behaviour and your involvement, so that, in a way, you may say that you are perpetually in a state of yoga – not in the sense of closing the eyes and breathing, and so on, but in a wider sense of being conscious of this widened impersonality permeating through your so-called individual personality. This brings joy, confidence, and a conviction that things are in a perfect state of contextual appropriateness and are in their own place. Then you will not make complaints, curse, get annoyed or get angry; rather, you will want nothing. All your wants will be fulfilled by the law operating behind this great universality of thinking which you are attempting.

You need not ask for yourself; you are asking for that which is not yourself. But what is it that is not yourself, if you are really convinced of this analysis of your wider personality, which is as wide as the world itself? The world does not require anything from outside. The world does not say “I want something”, because whatever that something is, is in the world itself. So, you need not ask. You be that which you are asking.

This is spontaneously possible by the careful adjustment of your thoughts, which appear to be connected to diversified objects. You need not be afraid of objects. They are neither your friends nor your enemies; they are just what they are. You make them friends and enemies by not properly adjusting yourself with them. Neither should you cling to them, nor should you reject them. Either way is a mistake in treating them. Keep them in their proper place, and keep yourself in your proper place; then the propriety of each one thing being in its own proper context will set itself right automatically in a higher alignment, and it becomes a total experience.

Now we come to some practical guidance. When you wake up in the morning, do not be in a hurry. Do not get up from your bed and run – unless, of course, you have a need for immediate ablution. Otherwise, sit quietly on your bed for a few minutes and bring before your mind this picture of the aim of your life, the fulfilment of your existence and the methodology that you must adopt in living that particular day. If you made a mistake yesterday, set it right today by readjusting your thoughts, and transfer one thought to another thought, just as officials in the government are transferred to maintain harmony in the administration.

Then decide what you are supposed to do that day. You have a daily routine. You are all placed in some particular position. “Today, this is what I have to do. What I have to do today transcends what I have done yesterday. It is not a repetition of what I have done yesterday. Though what I have done yesterday is included in what I am doing today, it is not just a repetition but an overcoming of the qualitative nature of yesterday's action in today's action.”

So, every day, action increases in its vitality and quality. It is not that you are just doing the same thing every day, in the same manner. Though it may be the same work that you are doing, the quality and the worthwhileness of that action becomes enhanced daily by contemplating on the ideal which necessitates the performance of this action. Hence, every day is an occasion for progress.

Keep a diary. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj insisted on what is called a spiritual diary. You have many difficulties. Make a list of all these. Each person has a set of difficulties, not necessarily identical to those of others. You have varieties of difficulties, inside and outside; make a list of them, and in the light of this yoga practice, focus on that which is annoying you, and then find the method that you have to adopt.

When you advance further in this great art of super-activity known as yoga, you require guidance almost every day. In the earliest of stages, you can get on with yourself. Later, when it becomes a total involvement and your main activity, you will not be able to adjust yourself with the world forces as easily as you may imagine in an immature condition.

Throughout your life you have cut yourself off from the world of forces, and now you are trying to turn the tables round and move in the direction of a coming together with those forces which you rejected earlier by the affirmation of your individual egoism. When you begin doing that, a new kind of reaction starts. It is an opposition of a different type altogether – namely, a conflict between the kind of relationship that you maintained earlier with the world and the kind of relationship that you want to maintain now. They clash with each other because your present mood of relationship with world forces is totally different from the mood of relationship that you maintained earlier in your wrong imagination of isolation from the world. There is a concussion, a shaking up, and you feel tremors which are not only in the muscles and the body. The prana also rejects this kind of action, because you have imposed upon the prana, your life principle, a habit of repelling everything from yourself and asserting your isolation from all things. The prana, which is like a bad child that has been wrongly educated, sticks with the habit into which you have introduced it; and now you suddenly change the habit and think in a different way. It becomes naughty and will not listen. Therefore, yoga is not a sudden jerk that you give to the prana or the thought. It is a very gradual, friendly, affectionate, loving process of coming to grip with the new relationship with the world that you are attempting.

The obstacles in yoga that scriptures speak of are only the consequences of this sudden inconvenience created by the clash between the earlier relationship that you had with the world forces and the present relationship that you want to establish with the world. Suddenly, a bad person wants to become a good person. Yesterday he was a worthless, very bad fellow; today he wants to become a very good person. Well, it is a good intention, but the mind cannot suddenly accommodate itself to this bombshell thrown on it – that he is suddenly becoming a very good person, totally different from what he was yesterday. Though it is a good attempt, it gives a shock to the makeup of the mind because the mind does not want to be suddenly pushed into any activity. It does not want to be taken unawares.

So, get up in the morning, sit on your bed, and go on thinking like this. Gradually, raise your mind to the higher and higher, wider and wider levels of what you may call cosmic thinking. You are satisfied: “Today I shall maintain this thought until evening.” Then, go on with your work – breakfast, lunch, office work, whatever it is, and make it a habit to sit again in the evening when your professional pressure is lifted to a required extent.

When you return home from your office sometimes you will be tired, and you also have some family requirements. Chat with your family members and have supper. Again after supper, be with your family, and have a happy thought. Offer a collective prayer. It need not be a ritual of satsanga, just a collective good thought, lovingly speaking among one another. Accommodate yourself so that your mind is not disturbed just because you are in the family.

Then, do not go to sleep immediately. It is possible that the other members may sleep first, but wait, and let them go to sleep. Sit quiet. There is no hurry. If you are a very busy person, doing a lot of concentrated work in an office or industry, you may find it difficult to sit long, because much of the time has gone in being with family members in the evening, after the tiring duty that you have performed. It does not matter. You can sit just half an hour.

Actually, the value of meditation does not depend upon the length of time that you devote or the hours that you sit, but rather upon the quality of thought that you entertain at that moment. One spark of fire is fire, though it is not a huge conflagration. A spark of fire is qualitatively the same as the whole fire, though it looks small quantitatively. So is the quality that you have to maintain in your thinking. Even if you are tired, give five minutes of intense adjustment of your personality with your trained intelligence.

A trained intelligence is necessary for yoga. For this purpose, constant reference to a guide is necessary. There will be ups and downs – and sometimes retrogressions. It will look as if you are going down rather than up. At that time, do not become flabbergasted. Go to your guide: “I feel that I am going down, or am retrograding.” What is happening to you will be known to a person who has experience. And the so-called coming down or retrogression may not really be that. It may be a necessary process in the onward march.

Suppose you go to Badrinath. You are marching onward, but there are ups and downs. There are hills which you have to cross. Sometimes from a higher level of ground you go down, because it is a mountain area. When you feel that you are going down, it does not mean that you are not making progress. You are on an onward march, and on that onward march the downward process is also necessary. Then comes another hill that you have to climb. There are ups and downs, but they do not affect the onward march of the process. You are travelling in the same direction to Badrinath in spite of the hills – the ups and downs, etc. But you cannot understand what is actually happening, and you get frightened. That is why I say that you must have someone who has experience in this matter. Always be friendly and have concourse with that person – if possible, personally, or if not, at least by correspondence. It is necessary to have some guide. One cannot be one's own Guru, one's own teacher, or one's own professor. It is not possible, though in the most advanced stage perhaps the Almighty Himself will be your Guru, and wonderful experiences will enter into you. God will bless you.