by Swami Krishnananda
Our concept of God is not purely logical. It is also emotional. And, therefore, when we take to any point in concentration, and choose any object for this purpose, we have to see if it agrees with us emotionally. For instance, we cannot keep a snake in front of us and meditate upon it, though, for the purpose of concentration, that is also good enough as any other thing is. But, emotionally, we will not be in harmony with the thought of a cobra sitting in front of us. There will be a disharmony for reasons well known to us. But, if we choose a subject which is emotionally connected with what we like for reasons of our own, our mind will concentrate immediately. While it is true that we have to be emotionally appreciative of the object of concentration or meditation, we must also see what sort of emotion it is that we entertain when we meditate. There are emotions and emotions. Even when we are rebellious, outrageous and rude, we are in a state of emotion. But, that is not the type of emotion that we speak of when we say that emotionally we have to be related to the object of concentration. Rebellious emotions are distracting emotions. They are not wholesome feelings. They tear our personality to shreds and throw us in different directions. But, the constructive emotions knit the parts of our personality into a whole, and we become brighter and more beautiful than a tyrannical individual with a self-assertive individuality. When we frown, we are in a state of emotion. When we smile, we are again in a state of emotion. But, the two emotions are of two different types. When we are very ruthless and cruel, we are also in a state of emotion. When we are compassionate, kind and merciful, we are again in a state of emotion. There can thus be different kinds of emotion and we have to know where we stand.
This is the reason why many of the Yoga teachers, Gurus and masters tell us that it would be good and profitable to take to the chanting of the Name of God instead of unnecessarily struggling in the mind by an imposition upon itself of thoughts and feelings which it is not accustomed to or familiar with. Each individual has his own notion of God, the Almighty Creator, to whatever religious faith he may belong. It is sure and certain, and clear and obvious for him, that his own notion of God is the best of thoughts. He may not have a better thought than that. There, his emotions come together in a fraternal embrace, and his logic also works in a friendly manner. So, Japa of a Name of God, concentration on the meaning of the Mantra, or the formula containing the Name, is regarded as perhaps the best method to bring the mind to the point of concentration. When we offer prayers to God, we say something, at least mentally. We say something in our mind, and emotionally, we feel certain attitudes towards God. These are the things that we have to maintain perpetually, as far as possible, by repeated sessions of prayers, and a continuous sitting for Japa or chanting of the Divine Name, which will bring us to the point of concentration. This is a religious technique of concentration.
Yoga does not always mean meditation with closed eyes. It means many things that are contributory to it ultimately. A little bit of study also is very necessary. Perhaps it may also have to be maintained as a necessary routine always. Some amount of reference to a text on Yoga may be required to brush up the mind into higher thoughts. Otherwise, we cannot always entertain noble thoughts. It is not easy to accommodate in the mind lofty thoughts of God always, throughout the day. That is impracticable. So, we take to various methods of practice in order to accommodate the mind to this habit of lofty thinking. Discussion with good people, friends, is a help and is something like a secondary Satsanga. Also helpful is a study of great texts on Yoga, given by great masters, incarnations, prophets and divinities of the past.
The main question which engages one's attention almost everyday is of the way to tackle what may be called the 'human situation' in the world. Man's circumstances are very much related to what he does and what he is yet to do. And it is not easy for him to decide what is the best for him.
Most people come to grief due to the wrong notion that they can succeed by 'asserting' themselves. The truth is just the opposite. The false idea that self-assertion can bring success is based on the ignorance of the fact that there are also others in this world who can equally assert themselves and stand against the assertion from any particular individual or centre of action. No one has ever succeeded in life, who confronted the 'others' in the world with his ego. All egoism is met with an equally strong egoism from outside. To take always one's own standpoint, whether in an action, an argument or even in feeling, is to court 'opposition', while the law of life is 'cooperation'. Self-assertion, thus, is contrary to nature's laws and shall stand defeated in the end. All egoistic action, whether in mind, speech or body, evokes a similar action from other centres of force in the world and to live in such a condition is fitly called Samsara, an experience in which perpetually warring elements react against one another and bring about restlessness and pain. The remedy against Samsara is the art of 'appreciation' of the existence and feelings of others who also demand an equal recognition in the scheme of creation. Whenever you say or do anything, start it from the standpoint of the other who is in front of you, listens to you or is concerned with what you do. You are then more likely to succeed in life than by any other means which you may think is really effective.
But what is to be done when, for example, an enemy attacks you? Are you to assert yourself, or not? Here again, the decision that you take should depend upon the nature of the consequences that would follow from the step that you take. The unselfishness of an action is judged from the extent to which it is conductive to the realisation of a higher value in life. To know whether a value is higher or otherwise, it has to be viewed both in its quantity and quality. Quantitatively, is it beneficial to the largest number of people possible? And qualitatively, does it tend to the realisation of the highest reality capable of being conceived as accessible? Or, to put it concisely, how far is it spiritual?
The nature of the experience of space and time depends upon the manner in which the consciousness happens to be objectively modalised. Persons who are in a depressed state of mind or who are in deep sorrow are apt to feel that, a moment of time is like a year, while those who revel in happiness would feel contrary. Space and time are ultimately conditions of consciousness and are not independent of it. In the dreaming state, experiences ranging over thousands of years can be undergone in a moment's time, while at the same time, the mind in this state can also project a moment's experience into a history of several years. In the state of intense spiritual contemplation and Samadhi, space and time are transcended, and only pure consciousness reveals itself. In this consciousness, the entire universal cycle is said to appear and disappear within the millionth part of a moment.
A charitable disposition towards others is the essence of service. Charity of feeling is the greatest of charities. Giving donations of some dollars is not necessarily charity. That is only an outward expression of one's internal recognition of the value of people outside. The discovery of great spiritual value in all things in the world is the essence of the serviceful outlook of life. We do not serve people because they are inferior to us, or because they are beggars and we are rich. That is not the reason why we do service. Service is the outcome of our feeling that the great aspiration that is throbbing in our heart is also present in other hearts. Social circumstances might have converted the other people into what they are, but that is not their essential being. The charitable feeling, which is the essence of service, arises on account of a recognition of divinity in all things, rather than on account of the discovery that others are poor fellows, beggars on the road, and unwanted units in society. There is no putting on of a superior attitude in unselfish service. We do not become important men, because we do service. It would be a blunder to think so. Perhaps, one who is capable of doing the highest service regards himself as the humblest of people. He is the last and the least, and not the first. These are again subtle points which one has to be able to appreciate in one's own self, by careful examination of oneself daily.
The desires of the mind, and the urges of the personality in general, are the activities of the outward nature that compel our attention in Yoga. We can flow with this current of the outward nature or we can oppose the current. Yoga tells us to be very cautious and adopt a via media. It tells us that neither have we to flow with the current of nature entirely, nor oppose it directly. Both these extremes are unwarranted, because they will immediately make us a cynosure in the eyes of Prakriti. It is better to live unnoticed than become an object of attraction to everybody; because an object of attraction always gets into some trouble. Whereas, an unnoticed person somehow gets on happily in life. Therefore, even in the practice of Yoga, the student should live in the midst of Prakriti's activities in an unnoticed manner, and not make her suddenly conscious of his activities by shouting aloud, "I am a Yoga student!" Prakriti does not like shouts of this kind. The reactions of nature, if they are strong, may bring about a reversal of the practice. An internal desire may burn the senses. Desires, which the student tries to run away from in the name of Yoga, desires sensory as well as egoistic, violent urges, may press him forward in the reverse direction; and these reactionary urges may be stronger than the corresponding urges manifesting in a normal person in the usual course. Bottled-up energy is always stronger than the energy that is given a little bit of freedom. Let it be noted that Yoga is not bottling up of energy, but a wise utilisation of it. If water is allowed to build up in a dam without being released, the dam will burst. Dams are not built so that they may burst. They are built for optimum utilisation of the available water resources. But, if the waters are not so utilised, and are just allowed to build up inside the dam, the dam will burst, and the waters will ravage the land.
The activities of nature being external in space and time, and we being a part of nature, we are automatically involved in those activities, and we cannot easily curb our external urges. They have to be controlled only gradually. The stages of Yoga are, therefore, gradual ones in Patanjali's system.
The seeker's entering a monastery or a place of holy seclusion is really the beginning of his troubles. The austerities personally volunteered and the disciplines externally imposed by the surroundings or the atmosphere of this life try to dig up the gold and the treasure that is hidden in the mine of the seeker's inner substance. But the digging also raises a lot of dust which can even blind one's eyes, and hard stones and pricking thorns may not infrequently be found side by side with the treasure that is buried in the deeps. The spiritual urge can suddenly wane, being beclouded by the dust and dirt which may be kicked up by the forces insisting on an attachment to diversity, which may for a time eclipse even the brilliance of the sun of the Supreme Spirit planted in the heart of man as his very Self and beckoning him from outside as the illimitable Infinite. A lethargic condition, one of torpidity, callousness, hunger and sleep may be the stage immediately following upsurge of religious enthusiasm and longing for spiritual liberation, with which the seeker may enter a monastery or find a place in the vicinity of a Master. A falling back upon the principle of least resistance and least action can be the outcome of this state of mind. The spiritual urge gets pressed down at once by the cumulative effect of a dark and cloudy reaction set up by the powers of desire, otherwise normal to a human individual, which have been relegated to the limbo all the while when the spiritual urge was predominant, though for a short period. The sense and the ego are like the devil and the deep sea, between which the seeking individual is likely to get caught, and whichever of the two ways one moves, one's fate is sure to be destruction.
After a lull of inertia and sleep for a few years, there can arise an irresistible desire for sense-enjoyment, the very thing which looked undesirable years ago when a fit of renunciation drove the seeker to the hermitage or the monastery. The usual form of desire is actively sensory and here-in it is that one may become prone to yield to the pressure of the subhuman side of passions that insist on having their fill. These are the impetuous instincts of the animal world, the savage nature, which have no regard for the good of the individual concerned, because their objective is only physical satisfaction. This is the immoral nature, so much condemned in the science of ethics, since it has no concern with the welfare of others. The seeker may become neurotic and eccentric when the outlets for his feelings and urges are blocked by the regulated atmosphere outside. The greatest enemies of the spiritual aspirant are wealth, sex, fame and anger. A craving for silly satisfaction through even the pettiest objects of sense, of play and diversion, may rise to the surface and press for fulfilment. There is always an interplay of inertia (Tamas) and craving (Rajas) in the mind of the seeker who is still on the path of struggle and is groping in darkness. The achievement, if at all there has been any, up to this stage, is a suppression of desire simultaneously consequent upon the burning of the fire of renunciation and love for God, which showed its head in an earlier stage. It is something like an ocean sweeping over dustbins and locations of drainage and sewage, flooding them with its overwhelming rush and force and submerging them for a while, but not actually transmuting them into purer substances. The initial spiritual urge of the jubiliant enthusiast, our youthful hero on the path, is of this nature. The dust and dirt and rubbish are all there when the oceanic waves recede and when the daylight of sense activity falls upon them, reverting them to their original form of rot and stink. Spiritual seekers, beware! It is not all rose bed or milk and honey that is the path you are treading. A razor's edge, verily, it is!
The grandeur of the Absolute is grander than all other grandeur. It is the crowning edifice of truth and glory. Nothing is beyond That. It is neither form, nor content, nor extent. The soul sinks into It by an experience of all-fullness – neither essence, nor kingdom, nor wisdom, neither equal nor unequal, neither static nor moving, neither sitting nor resting, neither one nor two, neither true nor false, neither this-ness nor that-ness, nothing known to us, nothing known to any existent being. It has no name, there is no definition of It! It is That which is. It is not love, not grace, not world, not soul, not God, not freedom, not light, for all these are relative conceptions. It is not Satchidananda, which is only an ideal 'other' of what we here experience. Satchidananda is only the logical highest, a mere intellectual prop. Reality is beyond Satchidananda, also. It is Itself, the eternal sun that shines in the infinite sky of the absolute world! It transcends cosmic consciousness. It is the supra-essential essence. Eternity and Infinity embrace one another to form Its Centre of Experience. It is an Ocean that sweeps away the earth and the heaven and the netherland. Sun, moon and stars are dissolved in It. Brahma, Vishnu and Siva vanish into It. It is the Life of life, Wisdom of wisdom, Joy of joy, Power of power, Real of real, Essence of essence. Birthlessness and deathlessness float in It like ripples. It is the supreme Death of all, and yet the highest peak of real Life. The totality of all the joys of the universe is merely a distorted fragment of That Supreme. It puts an end to the vicious circle of transmigratory life.
We have started recently a small campus called the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy only to bring into our own memories and minds the divine message of Sri Gurudev. The intention is not to teach something technical, historical, academic or philosophical. The idea is very simple, very humble and very insignificant if you would like to call it. And its insignificance lies in the fact that it does not seek any kind of propaganda in the eyes of the social public, but it seeks the recognition in the great eye of God, the Almighty. And if you can succeed in rousing up even one individual to the status of God-consciousness, the Divine Life Society would have done a great service and the Yoga-Vedanta Forest Academy would have served its purpose. It is not quantity that we seek, it is quality. We may not be thousands in number, we may be very few, we may be two hundred, it does not matter. We do not require even two hundred. We require one and if that one has the inner soul-force which has the strength to declare that it can stand on its own legs and it can draw sustenance from the five elements, from the sun and the moon and the stars, Sri Gurudev would be immensely pleased. The world, that is, the creation that is before us, is itself our support and God is our support. And God is never dead, He is never away from us. And if our connection with Him be spiritual, which means to say indivisible, then the help that comes from Him is perpetual. And so it comes without asking. If this gospel can be planted in our hearts, even in the heart of a single person here, God will be immensely satisfied, and the blessings of Sri Gurudev will be abundant. I have spoken all this with an intense feeling for the grand aim for which Sri Gurudev lived and the purpose for which I believe God has created this world itself.