Everything About Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 8: Thinking as the Cosmic Mind Thinks

Last time, we discussed two verses from the Upanishads which described the process of ascent through meditation for the purpose of the attainment of the Supreme Spirit in liberation. Indriyebhyaḥ parā hy arthā, arthebhyaś ca param manaḥ, manasaś ca parā buddhir buddher ātmā mahān paraḥ; mahataḥ param avyaktam, avyaktāt puruṣaḥ paraḥ, puruṣān na paraṁ kiñcit: sā kāṣṭhā, sā parā gatiḥ (Katha Up. 1.3.10-11). Above the sensations are the objects of sensations. This was the subject of our discussion.

Unless there are objects, sensation regarding the objects cannot arise. But the cognition of the presence of objects is not merely an activity of the sense organs. There has to be a mind to think this process of sensory cognition. The senses of knowledge are five in number; we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, taste with our tongue, smell with our nostrils, and touch with our fingers or the skin. Each sensation is different from the other – the eyes cannot hear, the ears cannot taste, and so on. There has to be a synthesising principle in order that one single person may be aware that perception is going on simultaneously through the various senses. We can see and hear and touch and taste all at the same time. This simultaneity of the comprehension of sensations is due to a principle of synthesis, beyond and superior to the sensations themselves. This principle of synthesis is called the mind.

Generally, the mind does the work of indeterminate perception. To give an example: When you walk along the street at sunset or dusk, you see something in front of you. This awareness that there is something in front of you is the work of the mind. The mind says, “Something is there,” but it does not say what it is that is there. Mere general, indeterminate awareness of the presence of something is due to the function of the mind, but the determinate perception with a decision as to what that object is, is the function of a higher thing, which is the buddhi, reason, or rationality. Arthebhyaś ca param manaḥ, manasaś ca parā buddhi: Above the cognitional process of the knowledge of objects through the sense organs is the mind, and above the mind is the rationality which decides the nature of the situation.

Here, we have to pause and consider what exactly the Upanishad means by saying that the mind is superior to the objects, and the reason is superior to the mind. Previously we had occasion to notice that the objects have to be there prior to the operation of the sense organs; that is, what is called the substantiality of something independent of the sensation thereof is to be accepted in order that there may be valid cognition of the object. The object should be there. If it is an illusory perception, we do not call it right knowledge. In the same way as we accepted the presence of a substance called the object independent of and prior to the activity of sensation, we have to also accept a prior mind independent of and beyond the ordinary cognitional mind.

The mind creates the knowledge of objects. Does it manufacture the objects? Or is it just okaying the reports of the sense organs? The thoughts of people, the minds of individuals, differ one from the other – I have a mind, you have a mind, everyone has a mind – and these minds of individuals are not uniform in their nature. They have a self-assertive individuality of their own. My mind can know that you have a mind. How does it happen that my mind becomes conscious that you also have a mind? Is your mind an object of my mind, so that my mental process can regard your mind as existing outside my mind?

Again, to recollect what we discussed last time, we accepted the connecting link between the perceiving individuality and the object that is cognised or perceived. We designated this connecting link as adhidaivata, the superintending principle – something which is required to relate the subject with the object. The mind or the sensations, in order that they may be aware of an object outside, should accept the operation of a medium between the subjective side and objective side; this we regarded as the adhidaiva or the superintending medium. In a similar manner, it looks that one mind cannot know another mind unless there is something which is beyond the individual mind. There has to be a mind which connects individual minds.

This superior mind which connects all minds is sometimes called the cosmic mind. The cosmic mind is a strange condition which the ordinary mind cannot understand. It is the total apprehension of all cognisable or perceivable things, and in this condition of cosmic mental operation, there is no necessity for a connecting link between itself and the objects, because objects get subsumed under the operation of the cosmic mind. That is why the cosmic mind is also omniscient. The individual mind cannot know the truth of the object – the artha, or the substantiality, the object as such; the individual mind can gather only an information regarding the outer characteristics, or what we call the secondary qualities of the object. The object as such cannot be known by the sensations, but not so is the case with the cosmic mind. There, the objects are subsumed under the cosmic mental operation. The object does not stand outside the cosmic mind. This cosmic mind is referred to in this verse of the Upanishad when it says buddher ātmā mahān paraḥ: Above the individual mental operation and the reason is a cosmic mentation, mahat-tattva. We studied something about it last time.

Your meditational technique should take you gradually from mere sensation of objects to the substantiality of the objects themselves, whereby you do not think the objects, but think with the objects parallelly. You befriend the objects, and they set themselves in tune with yourself; and vice versa, you set yourself in tune with the objects, so that the world becomes your friend. In a similar manner, the Upanishad tells us in this verse that the individual mind and the reason have to be transcended in the state of a cosmic rationality, which is the Mahat or the universal buddhi, in which the Ahamkara is included. Individual faculties are included and transcended in the cosmic mind, which can also be called the cosmic reason.

This is a Logos, to put it in the biblical style of description. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and word was God” is from St. John. This ‘word’ is not the spoken word, but the potentiality of the sound process itself – the sphota, as it is called in Sanskrit language; therefore, we say that the Veda mantras are eternal in their nature. They are not merely words written in a book.

In this condition of the mahat-tattva, objects do not merely stand parallel to its operation, but are also not independent of its operation. When the cosmic mind thinks, it thinks the objects also at the same time, whereas in the individual mind, it is different. When I think, I do not think the objects also at the same time; the objects stand outside the mind. But in the case of the cosmic mind, it is quite different. When the assertion of the cosmic mind takes place, the world of creation is included in it.

This is a difficult meditation, at least for a novitiate, because unless you are trained to think in an impersonal manner, you will not be able to make out any meaning of what is being said when the mahat-tattva or the cosmic mind is described. Nobody has seen the cosmic mind, and an unseen thing cannot be known, cannot be described, cannot be understood. It makes no sense at all; but from the necessity of there being a connecting universal link between minds, from this hypothesis, by this inference, we have to conclude there is a Thought which is superior to individual thoughts. This Thought, which thinks nothing but Itself, is, you may say, God Thought or God’s Thought.

We may compare the universal mind with what we call God’s mind. We say ‘my mind’, as if I am different from the mind which is possessed by me. “My mind is elsewhere.” People talk like that. It is a meaningless statement, really speaking, because we are the mind, and therefore, we cannot say ‘my mind’ as if we are there, somewhere sitting, and the mind is elsewhere. In the case of the cosmic mind, the position is that it is totally impersonal. Human beings, as they are prone to think in general terms, cannot imagine this condition. No human being can be totally impersonal in outlook, though it is not an impossibility if proper effort is exercised. We are not accustomed to think in general terms. We glibly use the words ‘I’, ‘my’, ‘mine’  without actually comprehending their implication. The mind is our own self, so we are not possessing the mind, as if we are the owner of it. Therefore, statements like ‘my mind’ have no real meaning.

How do we ascend from this condition of individualistic meditation to the cosmic meditation? When we think of this process, we are actually in the heart of yogic meditation. What we are studying just now is not merely a cosmological process of thinking the evolutes in the cosmos, but we are also thinking the process of ascent in the reverse order of the cosmological descent. The objects debilitate you when they stand outside you. They condition your thinking, demand an excess of attention from your sense organs, and – as we have noticed earlier – any attention excessively bestowed on any object outside is, simultaneously, a depletion of the energy of the system. The Atman becomes the anatman, the Self becomes the not-self. Nothing can be worse for a person than for this to take place. You would like to be yourself. Would you like to be somebody else? “I am what I am, and I cannot be somebody else.” But you are somebody else in your process of cognition of an object outside.

You cannot know that there is a tree is in front of you unless your consciousness, which is operating through your individuality, manifests itself externally in terms of the object outside – namely the tree – and envelops it, and takes its shape so that the consciousness of the shape of the object concerned is communicated to the deciding faculty, the reason inside, and you begin to feel that the tree is here. You cognise the tree. The Atman, the consciousness, whatever you are, goes out of yourself in the cognition of objects, and that is why this vritti, this psychic operation, this mental modification in terms of an object, is a devastating process taking place in everyone every day; therefore, every person feels weakness in body and mind.

First, have sufficient strength. Where is the strength? Your strength has gone to something which is not you, which is the thing that you are seeing with your eyes, or hearing with your ears, etc. Is it necessary for you to be contemplating on anything that is external to you? You have forgotten that the very consciousness of the object outside is due to an operation of the superintending principle called adhidaivata. Minus that, the objects totally get cut off from your existence. You will not even know they are there. So, through the operation of the medium, namely the adhidaivata, your mind, your consciousness moves outwardly in space and time towards the object, which ought not really to be regarded as outside you. If you are persistent in going on thinking that the world and objects or persons outside are really outside, you are cut off not only from the real substance of the object, but also from the cosmic mind; you are cut off from God Himself.

So, all our perceptions and cognitions and our awareness of things in the world are unspiritual, anatman, in their nature. They are totally cut off from the manner in which the cosmic mind will think, God will think. Actually, yoga is the operation of the consciousness in terms of God-consciousness. If you can think as God thinks, you are in a state of yoga. There is no need of reading too many books and all these paraphernalia of descriptions. Can you imagine what God thinks? You cannot know how to operate your mind in this fashion: “I have never seen God. So, how will I think as God thinks?” But you have got a peculiar faculty inside you which says that God must exist. The infinite is speaking through the finitude of your personality. The consciousness of your limitation, which is finitude, is an implication at the same time of the presence of an infinite that is beyond the finite; therefore, you can know what the infinite could be. It is non-externalised awareness of being. This is God-consciousness.

For a moment, place yourself in the position of the Creator of the universe Himself. This may look very humorous to you, but it is a very serious matter and not so humorous as it appears. You are seated in the very location of the supreme Creator, and He is beholding the whole universe. With some effort, you can think like this; it is not impossible. What would God think? Would He be thinking of little things of the world, as we are accustomed to? He would have a total comprehension of the entire body of creation, inseparable from the consciousness that knows it. The ‘I am’ consciousness of God-Being would include the whole universe also within it. The universe does not stand outside God-consciousness, whereas in our case everything is standing outside us, demanding attention from us, making us subservient to the consciousness of them; and in a way, we may say, everyone who is bestowing excessive attention on an object outside is a slave of the object, and not an independent person. No one in the world can be said to be really free, if this process of subjection of oneself to the condition of the existence of an object continues.

There is no freedom as long as objects are outside you and compel you to be aware of them. This status of individual predicament has to be gradually overcome by the art of sublimation of the sensations which pull you towards the objects outside, melting them down into the mental and the rational faculties, then melting that also in the great mind, the cosmic mind. Can you think as the cosmic mind thinks? You can. You have got the power of inference. You have the deductive faculty. From the condition prevailing now, you can deduce certain consequences which are certainly cosmic in their nature. In another verse of the same Upanishad we are told yacched vāṅ manasī prājñah (Katha Up. 1.3.13): An intelligent person should collect the senses with the mind; let the mind think independently, and let not the senses be given a long rope and be allowed to report erroneous information to the mind. Let all the senses be centralised in the mind. Yacched vāṅ manasī prājñas tad yacchej jñāna-ātmani: Let the mind be centred in the intellect with this power of ratiocination. Jñānam ātmani mahati niyacchet: The pure reason that you are may be centralised in yoga in the Mahat, the cosmic mind. Tad yacchec chānta-ātmani: Beyond the cosmic mind is the pure, uncontaminated, undifferentiated Being as such.

What happens to you when you are engaged in this kind of meditation? If you are sincerely engaged in this kind of contemplation and not merely experimenting with it, and if you are sure that you have everything within you and you don’t require any help from outside – inasmuch as you are a citizen of the cosmos, and therefore, the law of the cosmos will take care of you – if this conviction has gone deep into your heart, you will find the world moving towards you, rather than you moving towards the objects. The reverse process will take place; it is as if the ocean moves towards the rivers, and the rivers are not going to the ocean. We move towards the objects of sense, but in this yoga meditation, the objects will start moving towards yourself. Wonderful is this experience indeed! Instead of your running after them, they will run after you. Instead of your falling at the feet of the world, the world will fall at your feet.

How does this happen? It is because you have abolished the distinction that was obtaining wrongly earlier between yourself and the objects outside. Sarvaṁ tam parādād yo’ nyatrātmano sarvaṁ veda (Brihad. Up. 2.4.6) is a sentence from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: Objects will not come to you if you want them. You should not be under the impression that just because you want them, they will come to you. The more you think an object as standing there outside you, the more it will like to flee away from you. The object flees away from you. There is bereavement always, loss of property. You will gain nothing in the end. All possession will end in bereavement because the objects also have a selfhood of their own. This is a kingdom of ends, as they generally say. All things are ends in themselves, and nothing can be regarded as a means to somebody else. You want to wrongly convert the objects as a means to your satisfaction, but the objects reject this proposition from your side. They resent it; therefore, they flee from you. Anyone who is after the objects of sense under the impression that he can possess them is under a wrong notion. The more you try to possess a thing, the more will it try to run away from you, so that you will be not only bereft of your energy in the process of sense cognition, you will also have the tragedy of the agony following the bereavement of yourself from the objects. Either way, you are a loser.

Yet, the mind of man is so foolish that it thinks that the whole world is his property. The king says, “I rule the whole world.” How does he rule? He is a puny individual, like anybody else. His egoism is so vast, and it thinks that it is as wide as the universe itself. Nothing of the kind is possible. Ignorance reigns supreme in this world, and that breeds the compulsion, the impulsion to be cognisant of objects – love them and hate them, try to possess them – all which is a futile attempt in the end. So, try to withdraw your mental processes from the awareness of things outside. Let them be there. We are not objecting to the presence of things outside, but they are not outside, they are just unrelatedly commensurate with your existence.

The world is a universal organism; it is a living thing. There is no dead matter in this world; therefore, consciousness cannot possess anything unless it converts the possessed thing into dead matter. Otherwise, if the object is not a material thing, it is to be regarded as a consciousness. The whole thing becomes a tautology. Consciousness cannot possess consciousness. If you convert what you try to possess into a material object, you are doing a great disservice to that object, insulting it, converting it into a medium while it is an end in itself. Regard everything as an end in itself, and you are present in everything.

Is it possible for your mind to bring about a transfiguration of the process of thinking, and feel as the cosmic mind thinks? Within three days, you will see the transformation taking place in your life. It is not a question of several months or years. Your heart has to be there. Where your heart is, there you also are. You are not sitting physically in some place. You are in that place where your heart is, your feelings are, and your consciousness is. Three days of intense concentration will bring about such an inward and outward transformation in your life that you would like not to have anything else. You will find all things come to you, and you do not have to go to them, because objectivity – which is a wrongly attributed characteristic of things in themselves – gets abolished in this meditation, and externality melts down into universality. The whole of yoga is only this much – the melting down of the externality concept into the concept of universality of Being. Bondage is the consciousness of externality; freedom is the consciousness of universality. Here it is before you, the whole treasure on a golden plate. Take it for what it is.

The Upanishad, in this pithy statement, has given you the entire gamut of the ascent of the soul to its perfection. After mentioning that the highest condition is Mahat – buddher ātmā mahān paraḥbuddheratma mahan parah – it also adds a caution – mahataḥ param avyaktam: Do not be under the impression that things are so easy. What happens? When you are trying your best to plant yourself in this awareness of the total awareness of Mahat, an obliteration of consciousness may take place for a short time. You will be in darkness. Mystics call this condition ‘cloud of the unknowing’. A cloud, as it were, hangs in front of your awareness in meditation, and you begin to see nothing, as if you are in a state of deep sleep. Why does this happen? When you are intently, consciously, engaged in meditation on the cosmic mind, why is this cloud coming and making you feel negativity and darkness? It happens because of the last kick that the sense organs give to your attempt at meditation. The senses were your friends, and they were your real friends – you were hugging them, caressing them, always pleased with them, and loving them as if they were everything. A thing that is loved so much is now discarded as an element which is not compatible with your nature; it is redundant. You have made friendship with something, and it has now become redundant.

This redundant thing has a double characteristic of being under your possession, and also being not under your possession. The sensory aspect of the object that is possessed is one aspect of it; and the independence of the object is another aspect. So the admixture of these factors of independence and subservience clash, and you have a peculiar sensation of being in a no-man’s land. This no-man’s land, this cloud as it were, this condition of darkness that may for the time being prevail, is the avyakta prakriti or difficulty mentioned in this verse, mahataḥ param avyaktam.

The individuality of ours, our loves and hatreds, are projections of the ignorance which is the offspring of this unconscious condition. Avidya is the mother of raga and dvesha – which means to say, the progenitor of the individuality itself. Our very existence, therefore, is a manufactured product of this ignorance, which bifurcates the Truth from the manifested individuality of all things in the world. The entire creation, therefore, as it is observed through the sense organs, may be said to be a topsy-turvy perception.

So, the reverse process that you are engaged in during meditation becomes a serious encounter to the old habit of seeing things outwardly. The old habit of knowing everything outwardly, and wanting everything externally, is now getting an order to quit by the circumstance of cosmic mind. The order to quit is a serious order indeed; no one likes it. So, it gives a kick. That kick is somewhere midway between externalised consciousness of the object and the universalised consciousness of the mahat-tattva. It is a condition of darkness – neither it is universal awareness, nor external awareness; in between, there is a difficult situation, where, they say, you have no help except Guru’s grace. Your individuality is wiped out there, but the consciousness has not arisen. In the middle you are, in an unconscious condition, as it were. You have to be pulled up from this state by the grace of the Guru, or by the fructifying effects of your good deeds of previous life; or sometimes, they say it is God’s grace.

You must know that God also loves you. It is not only that you love God. Do you know that God loves you? Perhaps he loves you more than you love him, and therefore, the force exerted by the grace of God upon every individual is much greater than the force exerted by the sadhana of an individual. So, that also is a mystery beyond philosophical disquisition. No argument can understand what this mystery is – how God’s grace operates. They say That comes in, as an amanava purusha, in the language of the Upanishad; a superior, superhuman interference takes place, and you are pulled up from this condition of darkness and awakened to the state of the cosmic mind. So the word avyakta is explained.

When you are awakened from this darkness, you are lit up into the midday sun of the Absolute Being – purusha it is called. After That, there is nothing beyond. Puruṣān na paraṁ kiñcit: sā kāṣṭhā, sā parā gatiḥ. That is your goal; there is nothing beyond it. You are supremely blessed. God is with you.