by Swami Krishnananda
Meditation is a self-integrating process throughout, from the beginning to the end, and hence any form of self-alienation is opposed to and becomes a hindrance in meditation. Modern man is so much a self-alienated personality that it has become a part of his nature, even as one who has been continuously ill may mistake that illness itself for a normal condition of his body. Every step in meditation is an effort to overcome the barriers to self-expansion and a deepening of one's personality within.
It may be wondered as to what self-alienation is, which is so much opposed to meditation. It is a state of mind in which one takes a falsified personality of oneself for one's true personality and labours day and night for the fulfilment of the urges of this falsely imposed personality. It is this misconception regarding oneself that is the cause of the many forms of one's painful life, of sense and ego-indulgence, all which come upon oneself as a reaction to an imbalanced personality. Psychological alienation is of many kinds: a) In these days, it is hard for people to create or nurture an intrinsic worth in themselves, living as they do in an atmosphere of artificially fabricated external values. To cite an example, there appears to be a great value in a person when he is possessed of enormous wealth or is stationed in highly powerful office of administration; but he becomes a 'nobody' overnight, when he loses his wealth or is dispossessed of his office. This feeling of 'emptiness' in himself now is because he had no worth in himself except that which was foisted on him externally by the values which are supposed to be associated with wealth and authority. He lived in a money-self or power-self rather than his own real self. This is an instance of alienation from one's own self. b) There may be difficulty, again, caused by opposition from the opposite sex, which mostly ends in a transference of values of the true self to a form of it temporarily visualised in the object of sex; this vision being sheerly a blinded one, not being able to see through the truth behind the form of attraction. In this condition of mind, there is self-alienation, the self moves as it were to the object, investing itself over it, due to which it is that the object is loved as the self. For the time being the self has become the object here, a state in which the mind is in a heightened form of restlessness. c) There can be alienation of self from people around oneself, caused by the inability of oneself to accept, abide by or follow social customs or the manners and traditions of society. This can also come about on account of a high opinion which one has of oneself, with a contempt of others in society. Here, again, the mind is restless and cannot find peace in life due to self-isolation from other people and the credit which should go to them as human beings. Attachment to one's own group and the simultaneous hatred for others due to conflicts of interest, which may be sociological, ethical or political, communal bifurcations created by caste, creed and colour, or such differences as of North and South, East and West, etc., among human beings, as also too much emphasis on artificially made social stratifications as high and low, sweep into the entire personality and create a difference where it is not, a difference and conflict creating self-alienation from fact or reality. d) An improper use of one's position in society is also a cause of self-alienation. This is a state of affairs well-known in political fields, and in offices, big and small. This is a highly undesirable and unhealthy situation which enters into one's mind and makes it perpetually sick, creating at the same time a notion under which it can easily be mistaken for health, power and the performance of duty. e) Another pernicious and unhappy condition in modern society is the extracting of labour from the poor without adequate recompense for the work taken from them. While labour is necessary, work is good and cooperation with the machinery of social and political government is unavoidable for the mutual welfare of all people, it is also to be borne in mind that work cannot be taken without due regard being paid to it and in the absence of a due reward or price for the labour that is purchased. In fact, when labour is honestly and morally requisitioned, it becomes a Yajna or sacrifice with a high spiritual import and ceases to be any more a sale or purchase of man-power as it is done in modern society. When the spirit of sacrifice is substituted by the mechanical device of extraction and extortion by exploitation in any manner whatsoever, it becomes a source of unhealthy fear, pricking of conscience and mental restlessness both in the labourer and the laboured-for. This psychological condition is a self-alienation of another type altogether. Opposite of this is the opportunity given to each individual to grow into a healthy manifestation of his or her own integrating 'potential', 'to live and let live', for the purpose of an inward evolution into a proper acquisition of physical, mental, moral and spiritual health. f) There is also a much higher alienation of self which is almost the cause of every trouble in life, viz., self-alienation from Nature as a whole. Though it is true that we live on earth and have contact with water, fire, air and ether, it would be realised on a scientific analysis of the situation that these are really not contacts but rather repulsions of cellular, nervous and psychological reactions to impulses from Nature, which we call sensory perception of the existence and operation of Nature. Contact is always a union and not reaction to stimuli. We are thus living like exiles in Nature, not being able to be really friendly with it, a fact which is daily corroborated by the experiences of heat, cold, hunger, thirst and a constant fear of physical destruction of one's bodily personality. g) The last and the greatest aberration is the separation of the self from God. This is something difficult to explain, but a greater calamity cannot befall man than this to have happened. This is really the isolation of one's entire personality and individuality from one's own Higher Self This is what is known as 'metaphysical evil' in philosophical parlance, far worse than all psychological aberrations known to humanity. This is veritably to live in the realm of death, 'Mrityuloka', as the scriptures put it, to be in a state of constant dying, as the Buddha proclaimed in his great discovery.