by Swami Krishnananda
We were considering the aspects of psychological non-attachment as the first effort that one has to make while living in seclusion for the purpose of the practice of yoga. This is almost fifty percent of what one has to do in fortifying oneself adequately against onslaughts by the forces of nature – outside, as well as inside. The vulnerable parts of the human personality are the most dangerous enemies in the path of the spirit, which set up reactions and stimulate their counterparts in the world outside. Everything in us is connected by a string with everything else in the world. All that is outside in the world of creation is connected with us by subtle appurtenances. So, whichever be the spot within us becoming predominant in its strength, that particular spot stimulates its corresponding part in the world outside and draws its counterpart towards itself. This activity of the mind is called indulgence, which it does through the senses, which are its instruments of action.
Many a time, we are likely to be under the impression that our troubles come from the outside world, and so we go to distant places like jungles, forests and cloisters; and there are occasions when we feel that the troubles do not always come from the world outside – that they are all inside us only. So, it is necessary that we do a very thoroughgoing psychoanalysis of our own selves, irrespective of what is happening in the world outside. Both these are partial truths; they do not represent the entire truth.
It is true, of course, to a certain extent, that our troubles are not necessarily originated by the world outside. Many of our problems are internal, and a proper adjustment of ourselves internally may solve many of our difficulties. But the world is also a source of trouble in the sense that it is connected with us and we cannot simply isolate it from our personalities or our individual lives.
So is the case with ourselves. We cannot say from where the trouble arises – whether it is from inside us, or from outside – because the trouble arises simultaneously from both sides, inasmuch as both the internal centre and the external counterpart of it are connected by subtle artifices which we cannot easily understand.
So, again, we come to the conclusion that there is something tremendously difficult about the practice of yoga. We cannot be one-sided in our approach at any time; but we are prone to a one-sided approach always. It is difficult for the human mind to consider both sides of an issue, due to a weakness of its nature. Either we hang on something outside, or we hibernate in our own minds. This happens to us not only in our daily activities, but also in our religious attitudes. We are either too extrovert or we are too introvert, and neither of these natures can be regarded as ultimately desirable or successful. We must have a comprehensive view and take a joint action, as it were, from within as well as from without.
While it is necessary for us to find out what are our weaknesses, we have also to recognise at the same time what are the things around us which may be in a position to stimulate these weaknesses into activity. We have to subdue our passions and inordinate urges within – not only by an inward analysis, philosophical contemplation, and company of the wise, saints and sages, etc., but also by keeping physically away from those counterparts of these inner urges which can stimulate us into activity in spite of our satsangas, studies, japas, meditations, etc. So, there is a necessity to perform a double action at the same time: inwardly, be wary, cautious, vigilant, self-introspective, and pure to the extent possible; but outwardly, also be guarded. So, seclusion is one aspect of the matter, and self-analysis is its other side.
This process has to continue every day. As our great guide Patanjali puts it, success is quick in the case of those seekers who are persistent in their practice and do not break the practice by discontinuing it even for a day, and keep up the intensity of the practice in the same manner as they entertained it in their hearts at the commencement of a fit of renunciation with the love for God in their lives. All this is easily said but very difficult to practice because while we may be wise, the forces of the world – also equally wise – are capable of circumventing every one of our precautions, and sometime harness the very means of our protection as instruments of their action.
The very caution that we have taken may become an instrument of our indulgence and fall. In other words, even our friends may turn against us and become enemies. The conducive atmosphere that we are thinking of in our mind may become an obstructing atmosphere. We have only to study the personal lives of sincere seekers who live in far-off places, away from towns and cities; their thoughts, feelings, and emotions are to be studied. We will find that it is a very complicated tale – not always a happy one to hear – and there should be no wonder if after years of practice, no tangible result has followed.
Our desires have various stages and forms of manifestation, and they are very wise, like snakes. They know how to act when the time for action comes. They know how to withdraw themselves when it is time for them to withdraw themselves. Prasupta, tanu, vicchinna and udara are supposed to be the four conditions of desire. If circumstances are unfavourable, the desires will be sleeping.
Suppose you are in Gangotri or Uttarakashi with no cloth, no woollen blankets, no financial resources, and nothing to set you into action in the direction of fulfilling your wishes. You would be undergoing a kind of compulsive austerity, and for a time it will look like you are on the spiritual path, practicing penance for the sake of God-realisation. But, beware! The desires are sleeping. A sleeping person is not a dead person. So, when there is a latency of desires in Gangotri, etc., it does not mean that they are destroyed, because they are lying in ambush to catch you at the earliest opportunity that may be provided to them.
Desires which are sleeping may become causes of mental ill-health. There can be a manifestation of peculiar complexes of behaviour in that person – susceptibility to sudden rage or anger at the least provocation, and desire for silly things which a normal person would regard as meaningless. A desire for a pencil – we can imagine what a desire it is. We will think it is foolish to desire a pencil; but a person whose desires have slept for years and could not reveal themselves even a little due to unfavourable conditions would find a tremendous joy even if a pencil is presented to him. A fountain pen is, of course, heaven. Why? Because the desires have been starved. They are hungry like lions, ready to devour anything that comes near them. A hungry lion is a dangerous animal even it is unable even to get up because it has been starved for days. Therefore, it is essential that we should not play jokes with God or the system of yoga by merely running to cold, remote regions, taking baths in icy water, and not seeing the face of human beings. This may continue for years, but that is not the whole story. There is something more about it.
The prasupta condition is the sleeping condition of a desire. We cannot know that the desires are sleeping, except by the complexes that we manifest in our lives; and unless we are good psychologists, we cannot know what these complexes are because they would look like normal behaviour to us. It would be unnatural behaviour in the eyes of a very shrewd observer – even to a normal person, in the worldly sense; but to one’s own self, it may look like very healthy behaviour. Irascibility is one of the features found in people who have forcefully subdued their desires for a long time. They immediately get angry by even the smallest thing, and make wry faces and retort in a manner in which even a person in the world would not indulge.
Sometimes, the desires become thin. They are not sleeping; they are awake, but they are thin, like a fine silken thread – as, for example, when we descend from Gangotri to Rishikesh but stay in an ashram. The desire is slowly awakening: “Oh! I have come to Rishikesh. This atmosphere is more congenial than in Gangotri, but my desire cannot be fulfilled because I am in an ashram.” So, the desires are like a weakened snake which has been starved for many days and is slowly trying to move, wriggle out of its hole and find an opportunity to fulfil itself. But it cannot, due to the restrictions of the atmosphere in which one lives.
When we voluntarily fast – not under compulsion – on ekadashi, for example, the desire for food is thin. It is not destroyed, because we have a satisfaction that tomorrow we will have a good meal. That satisfaction is itself a strength to bear the pain of today’s fasting; otherwise, if we are not sure that we will get food for even ten days, or do not know what will happen for days together, then it will be a horror. Very difficult is this mind to understand.