An Introduction to the Philosophy of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 7: The Metaphysics of Meditation

As all the works that we do in life aim at the fulfilment of a purpose, yoga tends towards meditation. There is likely to be a prevalent notion among students and seekers of Truth that meditation is a kind of activity like many other activities in life. Instead of going for shopping, you go to the meditation hall. Instead of doing one work, you do another. It becomes a question of choice of activity, rather than a change in the quality of activity. When you tell the mind that it has to do meditation, it is not likely that it will always be in a state of rejoicing exhilaration. If you carefully probe into your sub-conscience, you will discover this strange attitude from within.

You will find yourself, to some extent at least, in a state of tension. It will look that some duty is being imposed upon you. The mind is afraid of the word discipline because of a peculiar meaning that is attached to it. And that meaning is the frightening factor in discipline. Meditation is a discipline in some respect, of course. We do not like discipline or systematization of anything, because it appears that, thereby, we are going to restrain the mind from its usual proclivities. The restraining of a desire is a pain to the mind. It is not a joy; and if yoga, spiritual practice or meditation is going to be any attempt to restrain the usual longings of the mind, certainly, the mind is not going to be happy. There will be an undercurrent of anxiety and resentment, in spite of the fact that the logical intellect accepts the necessity for meditation and spiritual life.

Man is not made up merely of logic. The mind can set aside all logic in a second if it comes to its attention that the logic goes counter to its deepest desires. Logic goes to the dogs, and rational investigations will cut no ice, before the pressure of instinctive longings, the desires of the heart, the normal ways in which the mind works. This difficulty can also be regarded as an obstacle to any tangible success in the practice of yoga. There are various kinds of battle going on within us. There is a war that is always being waged inside our own minds. It is true that we are like a house divided against its own self.

We live in two worlds at the same time, the one pulling us in one direction, the other in another direction. Who can deny that we have desires and that these desires are not always desires concerning God? We have simple tentacles which connect us with the different avocations of life and the sentiments which become part and parcel of our existence. There are certain things which we can never forget, in spite of our efforts. Who can forget that one is an Indian national, a British, an American, and so on? We cannot get out of the idea that we are born of some parents, that so-and-so is one’s father, mother, brother, sister, etc.

There are prejudices which are sanctioned politically, socially and ethically as things quite normal and necessary. These normalcies are taken by us as inseparables from our own lives, and these so-called inseparables are our real foes. Our enemies are not persons, nor are they things. They are certain ways of thinking. There are peculiar ruts of thought along which the mind moves, like a train running on rails. It cannot change its direction except on the rails, like a river that flows on its own bed which is laid out strongly. Certain aptitudes of the mind are considered by us as normal and the only right things that we can think of. These are the sentiments, our pet prejudices.

But to think in any segmented manner, isolating one aspect of life from another, rejecting one way of thinking from another way of thinking, would be the tendency of the mind to divide itself into a few sections with no proper organic relation among the parts. Meditation is not an activity like the other works we perform in the world. The first thing that we have to remember is that work tires us, fatigues us, exhausts us and we wish to take rest after work. There is a depletion of energy in every kind of work. Some part of the total quantum of energy in the system gets diverted for the performance of the world. Energy is lost in work. lf it is true that energy is lost in meditation also, we are likely to say, “Yes, we feel exhausted; we cannot go on meditating for hours together. It is a tedious job.”

Meditation becomes a job rather than anything that is spontaneously acceptable to the mind; it becomes a discipline and imposition when it is something somebody asks us to do, rather than what we have accepted of our own accord. A tiring work is that which someone wants us to do. A work that we take upon our own selves, deliberately, cannot tire us so much, because, then, the mind gets identified with the work. The dissociation of work from the organic structure of the psyche is the cause of fatigue. Now, one may wonder, “What is meditation? Is it a work?”

Every activity is a process of becoming. It is a tendency of the subject to move towards an object. Here, by object, we need not necessarily mean any concrete, solid substance. Anything that is conceivable in space-and-time is an object; and if our thought moves towards any such thing outside, in the direction of the object, it requires a flow of energy from the whole system. Perception, cognition, or any decided act of consciousness requires an amount of energy to flow from the subject to the object. The sage Patanjali mentions psychological functions, or vrittis, spoken of as klishta vrittis and aklishta vrittis, etc., meaning thereby the psychosis of the mind operating in the processes of perception, cognition and feeling, all which he regards as obstacles in yoga.

The perception of an object is considered an obstacle in yoga. Now, if we perceive a tree, what is the difficulty about it? “I am enjoying the perception of a tree, or the rise of the sun or the moon, or a beautiful flower. How do you call it an obstacle?” We can know why this is an obstacle only when we go deep into the structure of the mind itself, in its relation to reality as a whole. What we call meditation in the spiritual sense, strictly, is not a work that is performed by the mind in respect of an object outside. It is not a tendency to becoming, but rather it is a tendency to being. These are significant terms, whose meaning should be clear to us. What is becoming? What is being? And what is the difference between the two?

Becoming is an active process of transformation of conditions or events in the direction of a goal that is yet to be reached externally in space and time. Everything changes into something else, transforms itself from one condition to another. And this tendency of things, to transformation into a different state, is indicative of restlessness characterising the condition in which they already are. There is this restlessness because it is dissatisfying to be in that condition for a protracted period.

It is dissatisfying because it does not indicate what one requires. What is required is outside oneself, and, so, there is a spatial movement, a temporal activity, outside oneself, in the direction of some conceivable goal. Thus, becoming is an objective movement of consciousness. Meditation is not any movement towards an object outside it, though in certain types of meditation, it may appear that we are meditating on some object. Even here, the movement is only an appearance and is not really an activity in the sense of an alienation towards objects. We shall come to this point again a little later.

Being is different from becoming. The difference should be ostensible. While becoming has a tendency to transformation in the direction of something outside itself, being is a tendency to its own self; it is a self-withdrawal into the core of one’s own being and not an isolation of oneself into something other than what oneself is. “What is an object, and what is a subject?” is a question, again, before us. What do we mean by an object? Anything that we cannot regard as identical with ourselves, anything which is, from our point of view, totally disconnected from what we regard ourselves to be—that is an object, a “This-is-not-me.”

And anything with which we are vitally connected in an inseparable manner, in whose context we affirm a self-identity—that is a subject. When we speak of subjects and objects, we naturally refer to consciousness which plays an important role in all experience. It is the consciousness of some particular circumstance that brings about the distinction between subjectivity and objectivity. The consciousness of a thing dissociates itself from that thing and assumes the presence of some spatial distance or, at least, a spatial difference logically conceived between itself and the object. But when no such spatial distinction can be conceived between the object and consciousness, then, there is no object; it is only subject. Consciousness alone can be the subject; everything else is object.

Anything that is separable from consciousness is an object of consciousness. Now, this separability may be merely notional; it may not be factual. Whether it is an imaginary concept of difference or a factual distinction that is there, as long as the mind or consciousness cannot accept its unity with that particular context or thing, it remains as an object. In meditation, the consciousness is enabled not by exertion of any force from outside, but by an education introduced into it from within to effloresce into a wider comprehension of facts wherein its notion of objects gets changed and transformed.

It is not that things actually change in meditation, but our idea of objects changes. To give a common example, we have the phenomenon of the difference that we make between dream objects and waking experience. The objects in dream are totally disconnected from the perceiving subject. We are the dreamers and we do not know that we are such, while we are actually dreaming. The question of dream does not arise when we are actually in that condition. It is as good an experience as anything else. The things that we see in dream are disconnected from us and, therefore, we have pleasures and pains in dream, also.

There are all kinds of things in dream as we have in waking life. There are hills and dales, persons and things, experiences that are pleasurable and miserable. All these objects of the dream world causing pleasures or pains are disconnected from that particular degree of consciousness which experiences them; and that is the reason why there is pleasure or pain. Pleasures and pains are caused by reactions set up between the subjective consciousness and its relation to the object concerned. When we wake up from dream, what happens? The objects which we saw in dream, which were the causes of our pleasures and pains, have vanished altogether. Since they have vanished, the pleasures and pains connected with the objects also have gone. Where have these objects gone? Where have they vanished into?

The objects in dream, which caused us pleasures and pains, were notionally distinguishable from the experiencing consciousness, but factually not. This is known by us when we wake up from dream. The tiger that pounced upon us in dream was not really outside us. It was a particular modification of our own mind which concocted a spatial and temporal difference between itself and the content called the tiger, or whatever it is, and the pleasures and pains were due to the space and time difference between the experiencing consciousness and the object. If the dream-space or dream-time were not to be there, we could have no pleasures and pains there. The cessation of pleasures and pains in waking, after the dream, is entirely due to the cessation of the space and time which operated in dream. When the dream-space-time has gone, the dream-objects also have gone. Earlier, we have noted that space-time and objects go together. We also observed the hint from the discoveries of modern physics wherein science has come to the conclusion that objects in the world are indistinguishable from what we call space and time. They are rather configurations of space-time themselves. There are no objects. There is only space-time.

By the dream analogy, we come to the awareness that objects may appear to be outside us and cause us pleasures and pains even though they are really not so. We may have a large fortune in dream and we may feel very happy. We may earn a million dollars in dream by lottery. We may fall from a tree in a dream and break our legs and feel pain. But what are these experiences? They are nothing but the effects of space and time in which we are involved. Our dream-consciousness has got involved in the notion of the difference between itself and the space-time in which it is perceiving the objects.

When we wake up, what happens? The space, time and objects of dream get absorbed into our own minds. A so-called objective world of dream gets assimilated into the mind which is now awake, which contains within itself all the factors that went to constitute the dream experiencer as well as the dream objects. This analogy will give us an idea of what is going to take place in meditation. If we are consciously to wake up from dream, i.e., if we are aware of the very process of getting up from dream into the world of waking experience, if we are going to be aware of the involvement as well as the disentanglement, that would be the series of processes through which we have to pass in yoga meditation.

Instead of getting suddenly stirred up into waking by some phenomenon of which we have no knowledge, as it happens usually, if we are to be aware of every step and every stage of the working of the psyche by which it wakes up from dream, that would be a sort of analogy which can explain the process of meditation. And the comparison is this much: when we wake up, the objects of dream get absorbed into our minds and that is why they do not cause us pleasure and pain and they do not bother us afterwards. Because, they do not exist at all. They are ‘we’. The objects of dream, and the space and time of dream have become what we are. The object has become the subject. Hence, there is no pleasure, no pain in connection with the things that we saw in dream. Now, this so-called ‘we’, which has absorbed into itself the whole of the dream phenomena, should be regarded as inclusive of both the subject and the object of dream; we had reduced ourselves into the dream-experiencer and separated a part of ourselves into the objects in the dream-space-time. And when we wake up, they get withdrawn. This process of withdrawal is like the process of yoga. In yoga, the process is a conscious and deliberate one. It is not an unconscious occurrence or a sudden kick that we receive from somewhere. We are enabling the mind to educate itself into the true situation of things. The world outside us is connected with us in the same way as the objects of dream are connected with the dream-experiencer. The buildings that we see outside, in which we are seated, are all connected with us, even as the dream-room or the dream-buildings are connected with the dream-experience. These analogies can explain themselves.

The connection in dream was inseparable because the things were not really outside. This reference will also explain why meditation should not be considered as an activity or a business that we perform. It is not a job that we are hunting after, so that we may get tired of it. Meditation should become a source of satisfaction and relief from tension rather than a source of exhaustion and fatigue. The more we become ourselves, the more are we free from tension. A tension is an alienation of oneself into something other than oneself. There is an unnatural distinction drawn within the function of our own psyche, a pressure exerted upon it by conditions over which it has no control and which it somehow regards as outside itself.

The withdrawal that we speak of in yoga practice is not a painful activity. It is not to be considered an activity at all. It is the regaining of the health of consciousness from the diseased state in which it is in its individualised state. If we can consider dream as an unfortunate nightmare and not a healthy state of the mind, then this objective world-experience can also not be regarded as a spiritually healthy state. That is why the sage Patanjali regards all perceptions as unnecessary activities of the mind in respect of things with which it should not concern itself. They are vrittis, obstacles to be overcome. In the subjugation of the vritti, or vrittis-nirodha, in yoga, every notion of objects gets transformed into a higher subjectivity. Here we have to underline the word higher subjectivity. It is not the empirical subjectivity we know.

The consciousness of waking is a subjectivity which is higher in dimension than the subjectivity of dream. That is why we are more free in waking than in dream. Otherwise, we would be sorry that we have woken up from sleep. We do not so feel, but are rather relieved that the nightmare has gone, the bugbear is no more, because the waking consciousness is a larger dimension of comprehension than the one in which we were as dream experiencers. So, to withdraw ourselves from objective consciousness into the subjectivity we are speaking of here does not mean an introversion in the sense of the Freudian or the Jungian psychology and psychoanalysis. We hear of extroverts and introverts, a distinction drawn by Jung in his analytical psychology. We are not talking of this kind of introversion.

Many times, people consider yogis as introverts. It is a bad name like the one we give to the dog in order to hang it. The yogis are not introverts in the psychological sense. We may call them introverts in the same sense as we have become introverts now after waking up from dream. It is a metaphysical inwardisation of being. We introvert in this particular sense as the objects of the dream-world go into our subjectivity in waking. But, then, we do not say that we are in a morbid state when we are awake. The psychological introversion is a partial expression of the mind towards itself, bifurcating itself from extrovert activities. Jung advocates a blend of the extrovert and the introvert. Any kind of overemphasis on one side is supposed to bring a psycho-pathological condition. Yoga is far removed from it.

We have great psycho-analytic teachers like Patanjali, but their teaching is quite different. While it is true that meditation in its higher reaches is an attempt at self-withdrawal, it is not a withdrawal into this cocoon of our individual personality. yoga is a healthy remedy that is prescribed for the illness in which the mind finds itself by alienating itself into the false notion of an outsideness of objects, which is not really there. The pratyahara spoken of in the yoga system, the withdrawal of the senses from the objects, does not mean a cutting oneself off from the realities of things. If this wrong idea persists in the mind, one has to be unhappy in meditation. The mind will say, “When will this meditation be over? I shall get up and go for a walk.” This, because we feel that going for a walk will be an entry into the reality of things from which we have withdrawn ourselves unnaturally in meditation.

The mind has a notion that, after all, the reality is outside. “I have forcefully severed myself from reality in the meditation hall, so I want to get up from this place as early as possible.” This is a sorry state of affairs. Meditation is not a withdrawal from reality, even as waking from dream is not a waking from reality into some unreality. One knows very well that waking is a greater reality than dream, and the subjectivity into which the objective consciousness withdraws itself in meditation is not the individual subject of a Mr. or a Mrs., a Tom, Dick, or Harry. Here what is considered is a larger subject which includes our present idea of a subject in ourselves and the objects outside, in the same way as the dream-subject and the dream-objects get both subsumed in the waking subject. Even when we listen to it and hear that this is going to be the true achievement in meditation, the mind will jump into it as if it is going to enter into a river of nectar. “Oh! It is this! I am going to become a larger being in meditation than what I am today, just now! I will be more vitally connected with all things than I know now!” If the mind is convinced by an educational process, in the yoga sense of the term, it will not open its mouth afterwards.

You will forget your breakfast and lunch and dinner, you will be weeping, “When will I enter into this state?” rather than feel, “When will this meditation cease?” People have a wrong notion about meditation, about yoga, and about God Himself, an erroneous idea about themselves and their relationship with things. Before we enter into any serious attempt at meditation we have to clear our minds of all the cobwebs and the dirt and the rubbish of sentiments and prejudices which have been thrust into us by the social conditions into which we are born and remake ourselves for the purpose of the practice.