by Swami Krishnananda
All processes of sadhana or spiritual practice culminate in meditation. Principally, meditation is the only worthwhile sadhana. It not only sums up every other aspect of our spiritual effort, but stands head and shoulders above any other conceivable method, either religious or spiritual.
What we are searching for in the end, if we carefully analyse the situation, is our own selves. We have not lost God or the world; we have lost our own selves. The meaning of this circumstance has to be understood clearly. The great sorrow which is within us and around us at all times, causing anxiety from all directions, is attributable to the loss of self - our becoming something other than what we really are.
What does all this mean, actually? Whenever we think something, that something draws the attention of the mind, and the movement of the mind is enlivened by the consciousness that is the nature of our own selves. We can compare the movement of the mind to the stretching of an electric wire; consciousness can be compared to the electricity that passes through it.
There is a magazine of electrical force within us. We have a tremendous generating power of strength in our own selves. Incalculable kilowatts of energy are hidden inside us, but just as too many consuming connections from the power house lessen the capacity of this producing power plant, so also the inner reservoir of energy that we have gets diminished gradually, day by day, by consuming too much of this energy in the direction of mental operations connected with the various objects of sense.
The moment we think an object, part of the energy moves towards that object. The object, so-called, is something like the consumer point. It may be a gadget – an electromagnetic gadget, an electric bulb, or any kind of mechanism which draws energy and consumes energy. The more are the connections given in this way from the original source of power production, the lesser is the quantum of energy available in the producing centre.
Our activity through the senses is an unending process. There is no single minute when we are not thinking something. To think something is to go out of oneself for that moment. The thing is not ourselves, and therefore the thought of the thing is a transference of ourselves to that which is not ourselves. Here is the sorrow.
Why is it necessary for the mind to think that which is not one's own self? The reason is the inherent tendency of the mind to move externally in space and time. It cannot think itself; it thinks what is other than itself. The vehemence with which the mind moves outward is due to the structure of our psychophysical personality itself. Our whole life is outwardly motivated. The whole body, with all its energy content, is eager to rush outside itself, in order that it may come in contact with another body. The senses equally are intensely eager to rush outside, out of themselves, and be another thing different from themselves; so is the case with the mind. The whole personality, the psychophysical complex, is rushing outwardly from moment to moment, so that we are perpetually other than our own selves. We have no single moment to be our own selves.
All joy and satisfaction arises from the deepest self within us, and sorrow arises from the departure of our own selves to a location which is not ourselves. It is the non-self pulling us in one particular direction that takes away all the quantum of our energy, and makes us weak. The greater is the intensity of this vehement movement of our own personality towards outer conditions, the weaker we become – physically, psychologically, and in every manner conceivable.
What is meditation, then? It is a technique and an art of drawing back this excess of energy that is moving outside and getting depleted in the direction of objects, and turning it back towards one's own self. If all electrical connections are cut off everywhere, the dynamo that produces electricity will run with tremendous speed; otherwise, if the consumer points are too many in number, the dynamo will start moving slower and slower, and very, very reluctantly.
The objects of sense are the consumer points, and oneself is the producing centre. You can imagine what actually should happen to us if there is continuous consuming of ourselves in the direction of what is not ourselves. What is the meaning of this 'not ourselves'? Anything that you cannot consider as yourself is the not-self.
When you look at an object, do you consider it as yourself? Actually, if you go deep into the matter, you will realise that there are three kinds of self, and we mix up one with the other continuously, due to haste in our way of thinking. One of the selves is the physical self: "I am here; I have come; I go." Statements like this indicate that you are referring to your bodily personality as the self. "I am so many inches tall, so much wide. This is my weight." These descriptions pertain to the physical self.
Mostly, we are that self only. The bodily self is the all-self for us. The magnetic externalising force of the physical components of our individuality automatically depletes our energy, and even if we do not do anything, we become old, automatically. Even if we do not put forth any effort to harm ourselves, the internal metabolic process itself will see to it that we deteriorate gradually, due to the spatio-temporal pull taking place, without our knowing it, upon the personality.
This world is a world of death. Everything has to die, because everything is contaminated by the suffering caused by the pull exerted by the outer circumstances of space and time, so that we are servants of space-time pulling. We are pulled every minute outside to distant stars, and we cannot revert our energy into our own selves. This is the physical self that one can speak of.
There is another self called the secondary self. They call it gaunatman. Objects that are attractive, that we like very much, take away part of our own selves, and become another kind of self themselves. The love that we evince in regard to an object is actually a love that we evince in regard to our own selves, transported, for the time being, to that location which is spatially distant, away from our true Self. All attachments, loves, and hatreds taken together divert the attention of consciousness in the direction of that which we consider as very important. That which we like is very important; that we dislike also is very important. Either way, the two act as the obverse and the reverse of the same coin, and we are none the better if we hate. It is only another name for a kind of love.
Now, in all these processes we transfer ourselves to the location of that which we like and dislike. So, as long as we like something and dislike something, we are not in ourselves; we are elsewhere. That kind of self, which is in the form of the object of like and dislike, is known as the gaunatman, or the secondary self. The true Self is mukhyatman. It is deeper than the body, deeper than the sense organs, deeper than the mind, the intellect, and the causal body. It never wakes up, generally. It is like a sleeping lion, and it has no occasion to wake up, due to the fact that it is under sedation, as it were, caused by the bombarding activity of the externalising sensory impulses, so that from birth to death a person thinks of what is not oneself, and has no time to think what is one's own self.
When we feel happy at the time of our so-called obtaining of a desired object, we may be under the impression that the object emanates joy, that satisfaction oozes out from the object of our affection. It is not so. We have found ourselves, somehow, in that object that is physically and spatially distant, and so we are hugging and clinging to that object. Actually, we are clinging to our own spatially alienated self.
When that object comes nearer and nearer, spatially, we feel happier and happier, because that alienated self of ours is actually coming nearer and nearer to the true Self within us. When we are actually in possession of that object, the mental activity which moved out in the direction of that object ceases and reverts to its original source. When the mind reverts to its original source, it tastes the bliss of the Atman inside.
So, the joy of sensory satisfaction is a negative activity taking place by the nearness of the object of affection and the apparent feeling of possession of the same, all which is totally artificial, make-believe, and an illusion. This has to be understood carefully by every spiritual seeker. Without understanding the psychological turmoil that one is unwittingly passing through, any amount of activity as an external symbolic performance of sadhana may not help us. Wealth acquired in the dream world is not a real wealth, and misconceived practice is not real practice. An erroneous sadhana cannot lead to any kind of palpable achievement.
To the extent that we know ourselves, to that extent our effort becomes successful. If we have a total misconception of our own selves, then the fruit or result that follows from our activity will be a paltry illusion, which will escape our grasp.
There is not merely a source of power within ourselves, but there is something more. The entire sea of energy is pulsating within us. Every particular object in the world is inundated by a universal principle, of which it is a part. All things can be conceived in two ways: as universals, and as particulars. That we are able to conceive the presence of many particularities, and we can imagine millions of stars in the sky, and an endless variety of things in the world, shows that there is a universal apprehensive capacity in us pervading all these particularities, whatever be their number, and it superintends over all our psychological computation of the particulars. Unless there is a universal background, we cannot have a knowledge of the particular.
The other day I mentioned that when you know that one thing is different from another thing, you at that time are neither the one thing, nor the other thing. If you are one of the two things, you cannot know that one thing is different from another thing. You are a third knowing individual.
In a similar manner, it is not only one thing that is different from another thing; everything is different from everything else in this world. But to know that all things are different from one another among themselves, there must be a capacity in us which transcends these particulars, and which is pervasive in its nature, inundating every particular, and still standing above it. This capacity within us is transcendent in the sense that it is above all the particulars; it is immanent also at the same time, because it is present in all the particulars.
There are two ways mentioned in the Yoga Shastras by which we lose ourselves and become poor in our daily life. One is a psychological contact of ourselves with things that are not ourselves, really; another is an emotional contact of one's own self with things outside. Contacts can be emotional or non-emotional. Impersonal contact is, for instance, that I am looking at this big spread-out pandal; I have no emotional connection with this, but yet, I am aware of it. Mere awareness of an object in perception is also an operation of the psyche; it is one of the vrittis, as they are called in Yoga psychology. Every vritti is a psychosis, or a modification of the mind. Though it may look harmless, really it is not harmless, because it is a self-modifying activity that is taking place.
In every perception, even if it is a harmless perception, the modification of the mind makes it other than what it actually is, integrally. But there are harmful modifications, painful vrittis as they are called, which are emotionally charged.
Objects which are emotionally connected with one's own self disturb the mind more intensely than objects which are just objects of general perception. Looking at a tree in the vast forest, with which we are not concerned, is also a vritti, no doubt. The mind has moved out in the direction of the formation of the tree. But, if it is a plant that we have grown in our own back yard of our house, it becomes an object of our emotion. It is "my plant", whereas a tree in the forest is anybody's. This is the difference between general perception of an object, and emotional perception.
Before we enter into the art of meditation, we must distinguish between the two activities going on in our mind – the general psychological perception, and the emotionally charged perception. In the same way, as in medical treatment we take care of acute diseases first and the chronic ones a little later on, we have to take care of the emotional aspect of our personality first and foremost, and other things afterwards. There is no use thinking of God suddenly, in a large universal fashion, when the mind emotionally pulls us down, with great force, to a target which it considers as immensely valuable.
The reason why the minds of people operate in this manner is to be understood first. The mind cannot be trained, except by understanding. Any amount of will power exerted upon the mind will not make the mind yield. The mind is turbulent, but it can be educated. The only way of harnessing a person or a thing is by educating it into the true nature of its relation to other things. We cannot command even a dull servant, because what is required is not a command, but an educative process which makes that servant feel the obligation that he has in respect of the performance which has become his duty.
All trouble arises on account of lack of understanding, and miscalculated understanding, and knowing oneself in a wrong position, as one is not really oneself. Many people are under the impression that we have rights, and we have no duties. These days there are departments of activity, involved in which, people have developed a cankerous attitude of asserting their rights while thinking that they need not have any duties: "If I get my salary somehow, why should I work?" They strike work until they are assured that their salary is given. It is forgotten that duty includes the rights of a person.
A duty is not an obedience to any particular individual in the world. It is an obedience to a principle of life. The principle is mutual cooperation. Life is a cooperative process, and if each one asserts oneself as totally isolated from others, the cooperative feature of social existence would crumble down and there would be nobody to exert towards any achievement. There would be neither rights nor duties; there would be chaos in society.
To assert one's rights minus responsibilities is the height of selfishness and egoism, and miscalculation. It is like cutting the ground under one's own feet, or cutting the branch of a tree on which one is sitting. What we lack is education, understanding, and a proper assessment of our own selves in respect of our location in society.
Do we have any obligation to human society, or are we just scot-free, and let anything happen anywhere? This attitude is born of total ignorance, because while we are spirits, Atmans, we are also units of society. We are entangled in various ways, and not in one way only. A social implication is inseparable from social existence. Can you imagine yourself being somewhere without any relationship to humanity outside? Our existence depends oftentimes on the activities of other people. Our needs are supplied by the efforts of people outside us, and we ourselves do not produce all the goods that we require. But in return for the facilities given to us by the effort of other people, we owe an obligation to them. If you say, "I have no obligation; I have only a right to acquire," you are misplaced completely.