An Introduction to the Philosophy of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 14: The Great Attainment

We may, now, resume and sum up our studies on the profundities of yoga-samadhi, or samapatti, for purpose of a better comprehension. The meditation on the categories of the Samkhya, which is known as the samapatti, goes also by the name of samadhi, a gradual absorption of the meditating principle in the object of meditation. We have seen the four earlier stages which go by the name of the Savitarka, Nirvitarka, Savichara and Nirvichara attainments. The object associated with name and idea and the object as such in its own status unqualified by the idea of the percipient and by the name associated with it, both in its gross and subtle forms, is the content of these stages. When the contemplation is practised on gross forms, it is savitarka or nirvitarka when associated or not associated with conditioning factors. When the meditating consciousness so gets absorbed in the object that the idea of the object and the name of the object drop out altogether and there is a consciousness of the object alone, independently, without any kind of external associations, where one becomes the true friend of the object, not merely an observer or a judge of the object, but an organic mass of sentience in which the object is dissolved, as it were, in one's being – that is to be known as the great freedom of the self.

When you commune with the gross form of the object, you become the object itself, in essence. You occupy its own position and there is an interchange of characters. The subject enters into the object, or, you may say, the other way round, the object enters into the subject. There is an equilibrium established between the status of the subject and that of the object. This equilibrium is known as samadhi. The object does not any more stand in the position of something which you have to describe or hold an opinion about or judge, etc. There is no necessity any more to have ideas about the object. It does not any longer exist as an object at all.

This is as regards the gross form of the object. But, it has a subtle form wherein it exists not as a tangible solid object, but as a force which is called the Tanmatra, the subtle essential principle, the power, or the constitutive element which is more general and pervasive in its character than the isolated form of the gross object. This is a stage which cannot be conceived in the mind at present. We can speak about it as if we understand it, but really it cannot enter into our heads because we do not know what this essential force is behind the physical object. We can only stretch our thought and visualise that every physical object is constituted of an electromagnetic force in its core.

We cannot see this force but only conceive in a laboured manner what this electromagnetic constitution of an object could be. These stages in yoga are not subjects for discussion or academic description. They are stages of actual experience and we describe them for the purpose of a guidance that is given beforehand to the student as a sort of fore-warning concerning what is going to come and what is to be encountered. The invariable feature of everything, whether it is gross or subtle, is its position or location in space and in time. This is an important fact which we have to bear in mind. Everything is in space; space is inseparable from time, and time is inseparable from space. These days we say it is 'space-time' and not 'space-and-time'. The two are not different things. When the one is there, the other is also there, automatically.

But, everything is in space-time, whatever be the intensity of our thought in regard to an object, gross or subtle. We will find that we cannot escape the predicament of space-time-association when we conceive of anything. Even when we think of such featureless things as electricity or the electromagnetic field, which is really not a space-time content, we have somehow to imagine that it is some power that is moving like air in space. The so-called electricity or electromagnetic power can be imagined only as a content of space-time. It exists somewhere. Even if it exists everywhere it is in space, and it exists sometime. It is now, it was here, it will be there, etc., are unavoidable notions. These ideas cannot leave us. And, this is the last trouble that we have to face in our quest. The notion of the grossness of the object is also a difficulty which we have to overcome by an intensive self-identification by which we drop the idea of the object and the name associated with it, and 'become' it rather. But more difficult is the other problem of the 'location' of the object in space-time. We cannot get over this idea as long as we remain as human beings.

This stage of meditation is not a stage of human thinking; we are no more supposed to be persons, thinking something, because when we remain as persons, we are in space and time. The subtle form, the tanmatra, is then taken up for consideration and it becomes the object of meditation. But it is in space-time, again. So we deeply ponder, brood over, meditate upon this subtle pervasive principle behind the element, the tanmatra, the force that is inherent in and forms all that is gross, as conditioned by space-time, because we cannot do anything else. We have to agree that it is in space and in time, due to the very limitations of the mind which cannot think in any other way. This association of consciousness with the subtle principles behind the elements, as conditioned by space and time, is a tendency towards an absorption of a higher order.

Things as they are in themselves, the thing-in-itself, the reality that is independent of any association with the perceiving consciousness, the reality that is unconditioned, and not the reality as we think it, is not in space, not in time. The pervasive character of reality, the omnipresence of it, precludes any interference in the form of space-time associations, for, to be in space and time is to be located somewhere and sometime. But reality is not somewhere and sometime. It is everywhere and at all times. Now, we cannot imagine what it is to be everywhere and to be at all times, because our imagination can conceive this everywhereness only as a kind of existence inside space, though it is everywhere in space, and an existence for a lengthened period of time, an indefinite period, for, the idea of time does not leave us.

Even when we think of an indefinite, endless period of time, we are thinking of time only. But reality is timeless and not endless duration. Even if we are to conceive of an infinitude of the series of durational existences of something, we are thinking in terms of space and time, again. But the absorption becomes so intense that the ideas of space and time evaporate into pure being. The thing ceases to be a thing by itself. Neither are we somewhere, nor is the thing anywhere. The idea of 'where' and 'when' does not arise. This, again, is an unintelligible experience for the beginner. No human being ever born can imagine what this state can be, where space is not, and time is not, too. Even the idea of there being no space and time is in space and time. When you abolish the idea of space and time, you have done this feat in space and time only.

We cannot escape this difficulty however much we may try. It comes as a direct experience which each one has to pass through and know by one's own self. This is a stage where one becomes a superhuman force and not an individual any more. No more is the humanness present there. The individual is taken possession of by the powers of the universe. One becomes a part and parcel of the entire Nature in its vast expanse. Man, then, is not a national of any country; one is no more a man or a woman. One is, then, not a human being at all. Nothing on earth can be adequate to describe one's presence there. The 'I' and the 'you' are not there. The ideas of 'you' and 'I' cease. This is the penultimate state of the divine merger of the individual in the Supreme Reality.

The union has not taken place, as yet, but it is as if one has touched the ocean of Being and is enchanted by its very contact, is transformed through every fibre of one's being, and the iron that man is has become the gold, the philosopher's stone, of that great reality. The soul reveals itself in its pristine purity. The peace that passeth understanding, the joy of the soul, reveals itself here, and one is happy merely because one is. The very fact of being becomes a source of inexpressible and immeasurable satisfaction. One exists not as a person but as a Super-Person, a Super-Individual, a God-Man.

This joy itself is an object of experience. There is no object any more, in the sense of the objects we speak of. We have been referring to objects on which we have to meditate or do samyama. Now, there is no more the object. The gross form of the object has gone; even the subtle has been transcended. The self is in possession of the infinite joy of a cosmic comprehensiveness. This joy is an experience, inasmuch as consciousness experiences this joy. The joy itself is the object of consciousness; though for all practical purposes, joy cannot be regarded as an object in the ordinary sense, it does not remain any more outside consciousness. Yet there is a supreme Self-Consciousness of a universal character, though not the self-consciousness that we have as individuals. It is an indescribable, pure and subtle Awareness of Being which remains at the time of that experience – a joy that does not come from things and objects, because they are not any more there – a joy that is the very characteristic of the Self, the Consciousness, supervenes.

This experience is super-physical and super-psychic, even. It is not the mind that experiences the joy, not even the intellect, not anything that is psychological. The spiritual root in us effloresces and reveals its own nature to its own self. The revelation is not to somebody else. It is not like sunlight falling on someone's face. It is the Sun shining on himself and becoming aware that he is shining upon himself and feeling an immense satisfaction born of the very luminosity and resplendence of his being.

There is a Universal Self-Awareness at this stage of the satisfaction that arises from consciousness in its essentiality. This joy-experience is sananda-samapatti. The Self-Consciousness which is attending upon this joy universal is sasmita-samapatti. Here the efforts of the individual do not continue. One need not have to struggle to meditate. There is no effort on the part of a person, because there is no person at all. Individuality is carried by the current of the universe, of God Himself, if we would call it so. One is possessed by a Power that is super-individual.

One is no more oneself, and therefore one has no responsibility over oneself. Hence, there is nothing that one can or need do. The very question of 'doing' ceases, as the individual is not there as a person. There is no agency in action. There is no doership. There is no individual performer of actions. There is the pure sense of Being, that which sometimes we are told about as the condition of 'I-Am-What-I-Am', or 'I-Am-That-I-Am'. Words fail here. Speech is hushed. The mind is transported into an inebriating cosmic sense.

This is the ultimate union of the soul with All-Being and this is the final stage, practically, of samapatti, where the river has entered the ocean and does not any more exist as the river. One does not know in the ocean which is Ganga, which is Yamuna, which is Amazon, which is Volga. No one knows what is where. Everything is everywhere at every time in every condition. One becomes the centre of the Being of all things, the heart of everything. One becomes the Immanent Principle of the cosmos. This is God-Experience, in the language of religion. This is the realisation of the Absolute, brahma-sakshatkara. Here the consciousness reverts to Itself and stands on Its own status. It has not become aware of something. It is aware only of Itself.

The Drashta, or the Seer, becomes himself. As one proceeds higher and higher through these Samyamas or samapattis, one becomes more and more oneself in the true metaphysical significance of Selfhood. When the samapattis grow intense and rise higher, one becomes less and less the object that one is, and more and more the subject that one has to become, until the Pure Subject as an all-inclusive experience is realised.

In the sananda and sasmita stages, consciousness becomes the Whole Subject, without even the least trace of objectivity in it. This Pure Subjectivity of experience cannot be designated even as subjectivity, because the human mind has a prejudice on account of which it regards subjectivity as something counterposed to objectivity. But this is not the logical subject that we are speaking of, but the metaphysical subject, the spiritual Being-in-Itself. It is subject, no doubt, because of the fact that it is aware; but of what is it aware? It is a subject which has no object in front of it and, so, it cannot be called even a subject as known to human thought. There is a complete melting away of even the sense of cosmicalness of consciousness in that Being-Qua-Being. When all ideas melt into Being and the very seed of Self-consciousness ceases, the experience is called nirbija samadhi, or the seedless 'Communion'. The seed referred to here is the potentiality to revert to individuality. This seed of experience phenomenal is burnt up in this Supreme Transcendence. The tree of samsara or world-consciousness will not grow any more from this seed which has been fried up in the fire of wisdom. There is no more bondage in the form of entanglement of any kind. This ends in moksha, final liberation.

Liberation is not an attainment in the future, for to think of the future is to think of time, once again. We have already decided that the notion of time has to go. So we cannot say that this is something that will come afterwards, because the idea of 'afterwards' is the idea of time. Moksha is eternity, and we cannot think what eternity is. We can only utter some words, and they cannot convey any proper sense to us at present. Eternity is not endless duration, it is durationless existence, the very absence of time itself.

This is the state of the purusha, according to the Samkhya, and the Yoga of Patanjali. It is the state of Brahman, according to the Vedanta philosophy. It is the state of the Absolute, as the philosophers explain. It is the liberation of the Spirit, the nirvana that one hears of. This is the Goal of life, and when this stage is reached, it does not remain as a stage any more.

Moksha, known also as kaivalya, or Absolute Independence, is not one of the stages of experience. It is all-experience melted into one mass of Being. All that was there earlier will also be found there. It is not that the earlier stages are forgotten and one has gone to some new thing altogether. We may wonder where are all these physical objects, these trees and mountains, these friends and relatives, this wealth and status, all these wonderful and beautiful things in the world. Where are they? Have they been left out somewhere, down below? No, not so is the truth. They have not been left behind. They have been transformed into the 'reality' that they are, and they will be seen as they are, and not as they appeared earlier. This is the great solacing message to all Doubting Thomases who imagine that they, perhaps, lose something valuable as they reach God, or attain liberation.

Friends! You do not lose anything. Rather, you gain everything, and even that which you have apparently left will be found there in its true form, as great thinkers like Plato are never tired of telling us that the 'Ideas' are the realities. The Archetypes are there, the shadows of bodies are not the realities. These things that we see here are the reflections cast by the eternal 'Ideas' or the Archetypes, which may be found there, in the cosmic realm. We ourselves are shadows. The so-called 'you' and 'me' here are the shadows cast by realities which are in that Supernal Realm, so that when we look at ourselves, we are not looking at our real selves; we see only our own shadows. Our reality is in the heavens. We are there, as angels, in our true forms. The form that we experience in dreams is not our true form.

The things that we see in the dream-world are not real things. The true things are those which we see in waking, whose shadow is cast, as it were, in dream. So is this world. It is a shadow which we are pursuing unnecessarily, under the impression that something will come out of it. It cannot be pursued with advantage. It will keep you always in tenter-hooks, because you cannot pursue the shadow. It will run ahead of you, as the horizon recedes as you move towards it. The original is somewhere and the reflection is somewhere else. We are under the wrong impression that we are located in the reflection seen in the mirror. This is what the great teacher Acharya Shankara mentioned in an image. When you see yourself in a mirror, you see yourself, of course; but do you see yourself really there?

Suppose you wish to decorate your body by looking at yourself in a mirror, do you decorate that thing which you see inside the mirror? Suppose, then, you want to put a beautiful mark on your forehead by looking at your face in the mirror, do you put it on the mirror because you are there? You want to dress yourself. Do you dress the mirror? You dress the original, rather. When the original is decorated, the reflection is automatically decorated. You need not worry about the reflection at all. You concern yourself with the original rather than the reflection. But, in this world, unfortunately, we are after the reflections, the shadows. We are trying to satisfy and please and decorate and beautify the reflections that we are, and things are, and forget the original. Here is our sorrow, the malady of all life on earth.

Man is not going to be happy with his boasted knowledge. Human enterprises in this world are a pursuing of the shadow. The reality is elsewhere. This is a message which all the great philosophers, saints and sages have given us through the ages. The original, again, is not somewhere far away. This is another misconception that has to be removed from the mind, for the original is not even as much removed from the reflections as our face is from the mirror. The two are juxtaposed, and stand self-identical. The Great Reality, the Archetype, is inseparable, spatially and temporally, from the reflection.

God is here, and not in the heavens above. The Absolute is just here, under the very nose of ours. The eternity that we are going to experience, the moksha that we are to realise, is not merely an original Archetype that is removed in space. Again the idea of space comes in, and the notion of time persists in our minds. The Goal is not outside in space, and is not to be reached tomorrow as a future of time experience. All this is difficult indeed for the human intellect to understand. One becomes giddy when thinking about it. But, God loves you more than you love Him, and you are bound to achieve this glorious consummation of life.