by Swami Krishnananda
All Yogas aim at the maintenance of this consciousness. One cannot be happy in the world, unless one conforms to the law of this universal Self in some way or the other. One has to conform to the law of the Self to the best of one's ability. This is Yoga. This is Dharma. This is Rita. Dharma does not belong to any particular religion. It is an expression of the law of the Supreme Reality Itself. Dharma is the manner or the way in which the law of the Supreme Self works in the world of space and time. Adharma is that which goes contrary to the nature of this fundamental Self.
The Self is one; It is the Root, the Reality Itself. It has no religion, no philosophy. It is what It is. It is Being Itself. Every religion is an attempt to recognise Its presence in life, in the best possible way. Our allegiance to that Self is expressed in our practice of religion. Our understanding of the nature of the Self is the central function of philosophy. Religion is practical philosophy. Philosophy is theoretical religion. The two go together.
As life springs from the Self, it has to be based on Dharma. Life in the family should be based on Dharma, and so also social life and national life. In every way we have to adhere to the eternal law. It is obvious therefore that Dharma is the basis of Artha and Kama. The four Purusharthas form an integrated whole. Dharma is common to all levels and grades of life. Artha and Kama are predominantly the conditions of the life of a householder, and Moksha is the ideal of everyone, as Dharma is the law for all. The nature of the manner in which Artha and Kama are to be aspired for is determined by Dharma. And Dharma is the law of Moksha. In order to understand Dharma, we have, therefore, to understand Moksha.
Moksha is nothing but the condition of the Absolute, the Eternal Self. It is the state of unconditioned freedom, untouched by the existence of external entities. It is not freedom conditioned by anything outside. It does not come to an end. That is why it is called Kevalata or singleness of Being, not in the sense of a single individuality, but as one existence without limitations from anything outside. To be conscious of this Universal Life and then to act on the basis of that consciousness as an individual forming a member of the family, society, country or the world, is Karma Yoga. It is to do one's duty with the consciousness of the Atman.
What is duty? Duty again, may take many forms. It expresses itself in various degrees of intensity and extensiveness. But at every step it exhibits itself as part and parcel of our advance towards the realisation of God. Duty is the fulfilment of Rita and Satya in the temporal realm. It is abiding by the law of the Self in every stage and state of life.
There is no duty, in the strictest sense of the term, which is not concerned with our march towards Self-realisation. All duties in life are accessories to this supreme duty of Self-realisation. The ideal of such realisation is not merely the ideal of the Sannyasin, or the recluse; it is the ideal of every human being. It is the goal of every individual in this world.
There is no such thing as a genuine individual happiness, individual pleasure or individual good. The individual good is a part of the universal good. Every action of ours should be directed to the universal good. This is the ideal of the Karma Yogi – to act not for personal pleasure, but for duty's sake.
Duty for the sake of duty, not for the acquisition of anything outside itself, is the rule of the good and the wise life. The moment one utters the word 'duty,' one has said everything. One need not add any adjective to it. The recognition in life of the Universal Self is the principle that ought to govern every action in our life, and it is this goal that is aimed at by the practice of the different Yogas – Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga etc.
Meditation on the Supreme Being is our highest ideal, our greatest good. One cannot completely forget this aim and yet be happy in this world. Every action in life should be converted into a form of Yoga. We do not know at which moment of life we may cast off this body, and the dominant thought of our present life determines the nature of our next life. We must be continuously practising Yoga, because that is the way in which we can conform to the law of Truth. Our mainstay should always be Truth.
Truth, Rita, is the law of life. Anything that goes contrary to it is Anrita, falsehood. Rita is the cosmic unitary law of nature, and Anrita is its opposite. Anrita should be abolished from life. Rita is the glory of God. To lead this life of Rita we have to adopt various methods of conduct and practice. Yoga is the main clue. Yoga is not difficult to practise, if only it is properly understood. It is living in tune with God; it is abiding by the principle of Truth, and avoiding the path of untruth. Personal interest should never govern one's action.
A Karma Yogi sees God in action. A Bhakti Yogi sees God in every form, and loves every form as God Himself. A Raja Yogi ever concentrates his mind on the concept of God or Self, either by inhibition of the mind's functions or by positive concentration of it on Reality. The Jnana Yogi realises the Eternal Presence, inside and outside, and the whole of his life's activity becomes a spontaneous expression of Divine Life. His life is inundated by a ceaseless consciousness of the Supreme Being. Meditation on this Reality, this Self, is one's supreme duty in life.
We may practise meditation in any way that is in fitness to our capacity, aptitude or temperament. It should not be confined merely to a particular part of the day. It ought to be a continuous awareness of the Divine Presence. Though in the beginning we may start by meditating for a few minutes every morning, later on meditation should extend to a few hours at least, and afterwards it should completely occupy a part of our mind throughout day and night.
The ordinary life of the individual is one of Kamachitta or the mind filled with desires, which is related to the Rupachitta or the mind associated with forms. Without forms there is no Kama. Kama is always associated with Rupa. Desire is an urge for any external entity, some phenomenon known to the senses. The first purpose of Yoga is to withdraw the Kamachitta from its natural operations in conjunction with Rupa and to centre it in the essence behind the Rupa or form, i.e., in the form unassociated with the Kamachitta.
From Kamachitta we rise to Rupachitta, the mind contemplating the subtle essence. In all this, we should have a positive aspiration, a yearning to withdraw ourselves from the world of Kamachitta. Without that aspiration or Mumukshuttwa, there is no possibility of practising any kind of Yoga. Yoga does not drop from the heavens. It has to be practised with a deliberate, intensified consciousness. It is the systematised attempt to become aware of Truth as It is.
From Kamachitta it is very difficult to go to Rupachitta. The processes that have to be undergone by the Sadhaka in transcending the sense-world and entering the world of concepts are fourfold. First, there is concentration on a chosen visible form. It is very difficult to teach Yoga to an ordinary man, because he is so much attached to the notion of the reality of visible objects. If you tell him, "Withdraw your mind from the object which you see before you," he will not be able to do that. He will say: "I see the hard reality before me; I cannot feel that it is unreal; therefore I cannot concentrate on the unreality of the object of the senses." Such persons are asked first to concentrate their minds on a form.
Together with this practice the inhibition of the bodily and mental functions should be attempted. The body is to be seated in one posture, Siddhasana, Padmasana, Svastikasana or Sukhasana. The mind usually is concentrated on different objects. It then flits from one object to another, because of distraction. In this stage of Yoga the mind is made to centre itself on one particular physical object alone.
From the notion of the reality of the physical form of the object, the aspirant is asked to go to the notion of the reality of the abstract concept behind that object. In other words, it is what the philosopher Plato referred to as the eternal idea underlying an object. In Hindu philosophy we call it the subtle body, Sukshma Sareera. From the physical form, we have to go to the subtle. First, many objects are presented to us in the world. Then we come to the consciousness of a single object. Then again we come to the subtler aspect of it. The fourth stage is where we divest even that subtler aspect of all individuality and rest the consciousness on its pure existence alone. This is the last stage of meditation, first began on form, to be practised for transcending the Kamachitta and entering the world of the Rupachitta.
It is hard to realise this Rupa-consciousness. The greatest obstacle, the immediate impediment which presents itself to the aspirant is stupor or torpidity. This stupor has to be overcome by the exercise of reason and other means such as dietetic discipline, etc. Reason should be used every moment of one's life. The Tamasic nature is overcome by Vitarka (reason).
Then we have to overcome doubt. Various forms of doubt will enter the mind. "Am I right in practising this form of meditation? Perhaps not. Am I right in choosing this Guru, or not? Has my Guru attained Self-realisation, or not? Is it necessary to practise meditation, or not? Many are happy even without practising meditation. Why should I meditate?" Then the persistent notion of the reality of the world will be there. "The world is real. Who says that it is unreal? I am feeling it as hard as I can feel a rock. Perhaps the spiritual teachings are false. They do not conform to truth."
Thus the mind will turn away from Sadhana again and again. Various types of doubt will begin to crop up. These doubts have to be rent asunder by discrimination, study, holy company, self-analysis and deep meditation. Many other obstacles will follow. There may be Dvesha or hatred for the objects of the world. The worldly man hates God. The spiritual man may start hating the world. One should be very careful here. There should be no hatred of any kind. This element of hatred or aversion should be conquered generating the pure emotions of love and compassion and right knowledge.
Then there will be Vikshepa, distraction or the flitting of the mind from one object to another, attended with worry. Concentrate the mind on one idea, it will run to another idea or form. This is unsteadiness, a great impediment in Sadhana. This Vikshepa should be overcome by persistent endeavour. Yet another obstacle to be overcome is Kama or desire-desire for pleasurable objects or conditions of life. This has to be overcome by strict self-discipline, by disassociation with distracting objects (it is essential in the beginning), by practice of dispassion and one-pointedness of mind.
As a famous verse of a minor Upanishad puts it: Andhavat pasya rupaani sabdam badhiravat srunu – "Like a blind man, look at objects; like a deaf man, hear sounds." This means to say that sense-experience should not be allowed to penetrate within. The mind gets fattened on account of its being fed by sense-objects. The senses have to be restrained first by the process of Pratyahara, abstraction. Then the mind becomes transparent, filled with purity or Sattva. Thus one has to go from the realm of Kamachitta to that of Rupachitta, and then to the world of Arupachitta, the purified mind, which we call Hiranyagarbha. After this stage of realisation comes the last stage of what the Buddhists call Lokottarachitta or the transcendental mind, which is freed from all desires, absolutely.
The process of graduated abstraction begins with meditation on a concrete object. Take the form of an Ishta-Devata – Rama, Krishna, Siva or Devi or any form which is the best suited to one's mind. In the initial stages an aspirant should take the aid of a Murti or an image, or at least a picture. Take, for example, the form of Siva. How to meditate on Siva? You have first to keep an image of Siva before you. It does not mean that Siva is like the image. You have to concentrate the mind on the form not because Siva is like that form, but because the form is necessary to take you to the real Siva. You transfer all the qualities of Siva to that form.
Open your eyes; look at the picture. When you look at the picture, you should have no other idea in the mind. Only one idea of the form should be there; none else. Go on looking at the picture. This is the first stage. Then shut your eyes and think of the picture in the mind. When you cannot think of the picture properly, open your eyes and look again at the picture. Continue the practice as long as you cannot dispense with the concrete picture. Then concentrate the mind on the abstract form of the Deity. This is the second stage.
Then the third stage is that in which one tries to visualise this abstract form in every object of this universe. The Supreme Siva is not confined to one personality alone. All the objects of this world are manifestations of Siva. The infinite forms of the Lord have to be visualised in this third form of meditation, not as separate entities but as one consciousness revealed through many objects. By this time the Tamoguna of the mind is completely overcome. In this third stage the mind will be lifted up by its own impetus of meditation.
The mind, ordinarily, lives on diverse foods. It never likes to be fed with only one thing continuously. It wants variety. One would have noted that if one goes on doing Japa for a long time, sleep is induced. But when one sees a cinema show, one does not fall asleep. Why? Because there is a variety of objects in it. There is sense-communication and diversity. But in Japa and meditation there is no pleasure, because there is no variety, nothing to attract the mind. Sleep is the trick played by the mind to cease from the act of concentration. It does not want to concentrate itself on any one object alone. It wants to jump from one thing to another. Variety sustains the mind in this world.
All forms of the world are manifestations of the one Absolute. The mind should be made to understand that the Substance out of which all things are made is One. Then the mind will not be distracted or restless. It runs from one object to another, because it thinks that there is some value in that object which is different from the object of meditation. The mind should be educated and made to understand that it need not flit from one object to another for obtaining happiness. If Truth is one, It is in every form at every time. The mind should be aware of this substance present in multiple forms and thus will not be distracted by their diversity.
In the fourth stage, the multiplicity of the substance in objects gives rise to a single universal form of the Divine Being. Then all forms vanish altogether, and there is an experience of the oneness of the meditator's consciousness with the object of meditation itself. This stage is that of self-absorption or Samadhi.
Meditation on the Supreme Self has therefore to be practised in every possible way, externally as well as internally. Our whole life should be one of meditation. We should live according to Dharma, which is the law of the Self. This can be possible only if we maintain a continuous consciousness of the Self, the Eternal.
The highest Dharma is the recognition of our intimate relation to the Absolute Self, and every other form of Dharma is a partial manifestation of this ultimate Dharma. The lower Dharma is a movement towards the affirmation of this Supreme Dharma. Our activities in life should be processes of our evolution towards the Infinite. Our life amidst the things of this world should be converted, transformed and transfigured into divine life.
Our life should be centred in the Self, and not in objects. Life ought to reflect God-Being. Our duty in life is to adhere to this law, this Dharma of the Divine Being, the Self. The universe is essentially a unitary whole. It is One Being, a single individual experience. Therefore, our attitude to the universe should be the same as the attitude which we have towards ourselves. This is the meaning of the saying "Love your neighbour as yourself." The universe is an expression of ourself, but only we should understand what we actually mean by 'Self'.
We have noticed that there are various forms of the expression of the Self. All these expressions should be considered as appearances of the one Self alone. Our ultimate happiness is in the Knowledge of the true Self, not in its empirical expressions as the family, community or nation, though their relative bearing in our life is acknowledged. Yo vai bhuma tat sukham – "the Infinite alone is bliss." The pleasure that we derive from the objects of this world is only a drop of that Supreme Bliss. But for the existence of That, we would not have experienced any joy in life. We live, because the Supreme Self Is. We understand, because the Self is Intelligence. We enjoy, because the Self is Bliss. Satchidananda is the nature of the Self. It is this one Self that goes by different names – God, Brahman, the Absolute.
"To love all as one loves oneself" is the succinct statement of Dharma. Universal love is a mark of saintliness. It cannot come to all. Universal love is the consequence of Self-realisation. Only saints and sages can have it. It is to see the Self in every being and to work in this world as an instrument in the hands of the Supreme Being. The fruits of actions will not then cling to the individual, because then it is not the individual that acts, it is God that acts in this world. The actor, the action, the goal of action – all these are but a combined process in the one Reality. The agent is not separate from the result of the action, nor is the process of the action of the agent different. There is but one universal process, of which we are just bits, parts or aspects.
In the spiritual path a Guru's help is necessary. Mere study of books and ratiocination cannot help us much, because these are mere intellectual processes. The Guru's initiation opens the portals of realisation. Satsanga is absolutely necessary in the attainment of spiritual knowledge and the practice of meditation. One must be well-equipped for the reception of this knowledge. There should be correct understanding, perfect detachment and a yearning for Moksha, or Mumukshuttwa. Genuine aspiration is the pre-condition of success in leading a spiritual life.
Spiritual life is not some queer form of life distinct from the ordinary way of life. It is the life, the only true life. One should give the transforming touch of spirituality to every form of life that one lives in this world. Life is essentially spiritual, whether we recognise it or not. When one recognises it, one becomes a saint. When we do not do that, we live as ordinary mortals and go through the rounds of birth and death. Desires can be completely uprooted only by a sincere love for God, an aspiration for Self-realisation, which we ought to have every moment of our life. This is the background of the fourfold means prescribed by the ancient seers – Sadhana-Chatushtaya.
The four means to Self-realisation are correct understanding and discrimination; dispassion or Vairagya; the sixfold virtue – tranquillity of mind, control of the senses, etc. – and intense yearning for the Ideal. Unless we have an intense desire for Self-realisation, we will not progress much in the spiritual path; and this yearning comes from Viveka and Vairagya, accelerated by Gurukripa. Gurukripa and Ishvarakripa (God's grace) are necessary for leading the spiritual life. The goal of life is the realisation of God or the Self. This Self or God is not some otherworldly entity, something beyond us, but It is here and now; It is identical with us. We are That. To recognise and realise That is the purpose of life.