by Swami Krishnananda
We observed that our inner world is constituted of the psyche; it is a mental world, and that is the real world of ours, of which we are citizens primarily. We are nationals of a psychic world, more properly than the way in which we belong to the physical world of social beings. Our psychic apparatus is a complicated structure, because it has connections with almost everything in the world. It is like a main switchboard. We are not so much detached from things as we appear to be. There is a subterranean relationship between our inner contents and the whole cosmos outside. The moment we begin to enter the realm of yoga practice, we also start operating upon our cosmic relationships. This is something important to remember. At present we believe that we are isolated individuals with no connection whatsoever with others. But meditation is adventure, which opens up a new vista before us and surprises us with our relationships which were not apparent in our waking work-a-day life.
Our mind is not made up of any simple substance. It is rather a process than an entity. It may be compared to electric energy, if we would like to associate it with something known to us. We cannot say that it is a substance, or a body, or something existing in one place. It is almost like a fluid. At present it pervades our entire body. That is why our thinking is connected with every part of the body. The whole body thinks, as it were, because of the pervasion of the body by the mind. This mind which is not an entity or a substance like physical objects, and appears to be a moving process, is our inner working faculty. We live a psychic life, rather than a physical life. Our joys and sorrows are psychic and not physical. Our activities, also, are psychic. Physical activities are no activities if they are divested of the psychic content. It comes to this finally, that the mind is everything.
The whole world is nothing but mind operating in mysterious ways, in its wondrous relationships of variegated types. Western psychology particularly distinguishes between three aspects of the psyche: (1) Understanding, (2) willing, and (3) feeling. But in Eastern psychology, a further diversity of this content has been noticed. It has infinite varieties of expression but in the main outline we may say that our psyche consists of many functions on account of which it takes various names. Even these aspects of nomenclature as understanding, willing, and feeling are the outcome of the different functions that the one psyche performs.
When the psyche decides, by a clarity of grasp, upon a particular situation, we call it understanding. And the affirmation which follows the decision that is taken on the basis of the understanding of the situation is the will. Then something more significant takes place. When we understand that a thing is such-and-such, and we also decide to act upon this situation in a particular manner, our whole being reacts in a given proportion. That reaction is emotion. There is a welling up of our whole personality in regard to the existent situation outside. We begin to feel, and not merely will or understand. Now, this activity of the psyche, in the form of understanding, willing and feeling, is rooted in what is usually known as the ego-principle. The ego is the faculty of self assertiveness or self-affirmation. As a matter of fact, it precedes all other functions. Before we can understand, will or feel, we have to be sure that we exist. This certainty of the fact of our existing as an individual is the activity of the ego. The word ego gets translated in various ways. When we generally speak of an egoistic person, we mean thereby a proud person, for instance. But the ego does not and need not necessarily mean 'pride'. Pride is only a gross outer expression of it. Its essentiality is something subtle, far more invisible than the outer expression as the so-called pride of the individual. The ego is a sense of individual being, our confidence that we exist as an individual independent of other individuals. The conscious confidence in us that we are isolated individuals, quite different, in every way, from others, is the ego-principle in its essentiality.
What, then, is the ego? It is a consciousness of our individual existence, isolated from other individuals. And this self-assertiveness concretises itself in various levels of our life. There are different kinds of egos. There is a metaphysical ego; there is the psychic or purely volitional ego; there is the physical ego; there is the social ego; and, finally, it becomes the political ego. All these are expressions of a single impulse from inside to affirm oneself as distinct from others, to dominate over others, to absorb others into oneself. This desire to be distinct from others is the disease of man. It is a primary evil and yoga psychology calls this principle of the ego, 'ahamkara'. This word, 'ahamkara', is very interesting in its connotation. In the Sanskrit language, 'aham' means 'I', 'kara' means, 'one who does'. One who causes everything to feel that it is, is the ego. It is that 'which is developed from' the sense of 'self-consciousness'.
The ego does not rest quiet merely by an affirmation of itself. It becomes grosser, when it operates in external life, until it reaches the most concrete of its expressions.
The ego exists originally as a principle of awareness, a simple consciousness that one is. That is why it is then called the metaphysical ego. It simply 'is', but 'is' as distinct from others. The consciousness of "I am" is the primordial empirical and it is the philosophical ego. Then, this simple principle of self-affirmation in its primary capacity of isolation begins to operate as the psyche which starts to think objects outside. It does not merely think of itself as an isolated being. It has become something worse now. In the beginning, it was content with being only aware of itself. Now it wants to be aware that 'others are'. So, there is a further consequence following from the affirmation of oneself. If "I am", others also are, as distinct from me. This distinction between oneself or one ego and others expresses itself as distinction between physical personalities. The physical ego is the bodily ego which identifies itself with the bodily encasement.
The 'I-amness' is not merely a consciousness of 'my being'. It is also a consciousness of others' being. It is a specific affirmation of this body as the 'me' and a distinction drawn between this body and other bodies.
Then there are the various social distinctions extending to almost endless details. We cannot even count how many social distinctions there are. There is a great variety of the differences that we draw between one and the other in our social life and we need not go into the forms of these, because they are all obvious. Then there is the worst form of the ego, which intends to exercise authority, power, by way of political manoeuvres, which may begin with one's family management and end in a desire for world-government by oneself, until the farthest limit of it is reached, wherein it seeks to affirm itself to the exclusion of others. One of the important features of the ego is not merely self-affirmation and distinction of self from other selves, but a resentment of the presence of other selves.
This follows as a consequence of the structure of the ego. The self-affirmation of the ego is charged with a deep impulsion towards survival of itself at the cost of anything whatsoever in the world. If we believe in the doctrine of the survival of the fittest, the ego says, "I am the fittest, and, so, I alone should survive, and nobody else". Naturally, if every ego has this sense of the fittest in itself and if each one is the fittest, the consequence is battle and the wars that history records. These wars are nothing but the conflicts of egos, each ego wishing to assert itself as the fittest, whether it is an individual ego or a group of egos. These create a chaos of circumstance and if one goes into the inner secret of the sorrows of life, one will realise that all these are rooted in the ego principle. Understanding, willing, feeling, and the other psychological functions are the rays of the ego, which is the parent of all these manifestations.
We have heard that yoga is 'union', a common definition that is given in all textbooks. But union with what, and who is to be in union with which substance, or reality? This cannot be made clear unless we know the basis of this definition itself. In our study of the objective world, we concluded that in the farthest analysis of the universe outside, we come face to face with the reality of the perceiver getting involved in the perceived, inasmuch as nature is a whole, a complete continuum, and the bifurcation of the seer and the seen is foreign to the structure of Nature. Nature in its wholeness may not even be aware that there are such things as the seer and the seen, even as we cannot say that the right hand is the seer of the left hand or the left hand is the seer of the right hand in one's own body. These appellations would not apply to an organisation of parts which belong to a whole, in an inseparable manner.
Under the circumstance that in the end a distinction between the seer and the seen cannot be drawn, because of the fact that such a distinction does not exist, and also under the circumstance that the distinction between the seer and seen is really made in practical life, there is a contradiction between practical life and life as it really is. Our present way of living is far removed from the truth of life in its essentiality. We make a marked distinction between the seer and the seen by the operation of the psychic apparatus. The mind thinks the object; the object is outside the mind, which means that the object seen is different from the mind that sees it. We are so sure that this is the case that we work in the world with the certainty that the world is outside the mind, that the seer is completely cut off from the seen.
But this is not going to be a lasting conclusion in the event of a further analysis of the deeper structure of life. Reality is quite different from what we see with our eyes or even what we think with our minds. What we see with our eyes is not reality, and what we think and understand is also not reality. So, yoga, when it is defined as union, should naturally be understood in the sense of the union of the seer and the seen, because the seer and the seen cannot be isolated. If they are really different, there cannot be a knowledge of the seen by the seer. In this connection there is an important theme discussed in philosophical circles, known as "The theory of knowledge".
How do we know the world? How are we aware that things are? This is a vast subject which takes us into deep waters. We cannot easily explain how we are aware that the world is there at all. This awareness takes us by surprise; we suddenly become aware that there is a world. The way in which we become aware of the world is comparable to the way in which we wake up from sleep. We are fast asleep, where we are oblivious of everything. When we wake up, we have only a general awareness of our having woken up. We become aware that there is no sleep, sleep has gone, and there is a general awareness without knowledge of details of either this or that particular fact. After this, the general awareness concretises itself. We begin to feel that we are; we become conscious of our own self, after some time. But we will not be much aware of the things outside, the table and the chair etc.; even the windows and the doors we will not see properly, because we have just woken up from sleep. We do not know even the exit from the room, sometimes, because of the deepness of the sleep. There are deep-sleepers who often perch upon the window, thinking it is the door, and hit their head against it; so deep was the sleep.