The Yoga of Meditation
by Swami Krishnananda


(Spoken on September 19, 1976.)

The tendency of aspiration for communion-with Reality is present, though in a latent form, even at the lowest level conceivable. Even in crass material existence this urge is not absent. The urge for awakening into a consciousness of Reality manifests itself in various stages, and even the so-called unconscious condition of inorganic matter is not outside the purview of this universal longing for the Absolute. The condition of the grossest form of ignorance, as can be seen in inanimate matter, is only one character of the preparation of the potential individuality to rise to the status of Supreme Experience. In this sense we may say that nothing lies outside the Absolute. Not the worst possible evil, not the ugliest of forms, not the greatest intensity of vice can be regarded as external to the constitution of the Absolute; because in this cosmic menstruum, which we call the Absolute, everything gets transformed into the finest form of gold or diamond, whatever might have been its shape or contour earlier. When it is viewed as an isolated part, a broken piece of a beautiful bangle, it does not look really beautiful, because it has lost connection with the whole of which it is a part. Even broken pieces may create the shape of a beautify if they are brought together to form the pattern of the completeness of which they form a fragment. You bring together all the pieces of the broken bangle and arrange these pieces in the shape of the roundness which is the essential form of the bangle, and you will not see this broken piece. The broken character of the piece vanishes when it enters into the vital completeness which is the rotundity of the bangle, and it is beautiful, once again. What has happened to that ugliness of the shape which was seen in the part, which was the broken piece?

The beauty of a thing or the ugliness of an object, the virtue and the vice that we see in things, are all view-points and not essentialities. They do not really exist, but they are the character, the manner, the method of reading a meaning into that substance from a particular standpoint. Now, the standpoint of the Absolute is inclusive of every conceivable standpoint. It is my standpoint and yours and of every blessed being. When the total view-point cannot be envisaged, the perfection of creation cannot be visualised.

Why has God created an ugly world, is a question that somebody puts now and then. But it is a matter to ponder over, if it is really ugly. Why is there pain in this world? But do we know that there is pain? Our feeling of pain is our definition of pain, and the feeling of the pain can be there even if the pain is not really there as an objective existence, because our definition of values and our reading of meaning into things is really a result of the conditioning that characterises our individuality, and the defect of creation is nothing but the finitude of the individual who sees the defect. There cannot be defect in perfection which is the Total Being, and all evil, whatever be the nature of the evil, whether it is physical, social, political or ethical, all these forms of ugliness, evil and irreconcilability are the readings which the isolated consciousness makes in the projected forms of the counterpart of its own nature. Whatever we see in this world, whether as the physical Nature or the individuals in the forms of living beings, all these are the correlative of our own observing centre. We should be able to appreciate that when we view anything, when we try to understand anything, and when we judge any value for the matter of that, we do not include ourselves as a part of that observation. We stand outside the object which we try to observe and judge. So, there is an incompleteness already introduced into the object of judgment by the isolation of ourselves from that which we are judging, but from which we cannot really separate ourselves from the point of view of perfection.

The Real is not exclusive of anything. It is inclusive of all things. It includes us also. The vision that is perfect cannot exclude the position of the observer, and an observer cannot have a correct observation of anything if he tries to stand outside as an observer. There is no such thing as a correct observation of any type whatsoever, whether scientific or otherwise, if the observer is to be vitally severed from the context of the object that is going to be observed and studied. This is the reason why we cannot have a knowledge of the Ultimate Reality through scientific observations, because scientific experiment and observation is the method adopted in knowing an object through an instrument, in which position and act of perception the observing individual always stands apart from the object. The location of the instrument also disturbs, to some extent, the nature of the observation and the conclusion arrived at through the observation. We have in modern scientific language, what is known as the 'principle of indeterminacy', which is an outcome of observing the sub-atomic structure of things through the subtlest instrument possible, and a conclusion that has led to a theory that, perhaps, causality does not obtain in Nature, definite effects may not follow from definite causes, because of a hypothesis that the movement of electrons around a nucleus cannot be determined mathematically or through any kind of algebraic equation, even if they are observed by the finest of instruments. Inasmuch as it has become not possible to observe mathematically the causal relation obtaining between the electron and the nucleus around which it moves, or in the context of the movement of the electrons, it has been opined that such a relation does not exist in Nature and, therefore, there is indeterminacy prevailing everywhere. This theory has introduced itself into other fields of knowledge also, such as ethics, morality and sociology. But this conclusion need not necessarily be correct, because the incapacity to observe the causal relation obtaining in the realm of sub-atomic particles can easily be due to the interference of the instrument of observation on the path of the movement of the electron.

There is a magnetic influence exerted by the position of the observing instrument upon the object that is observed, and due to the fact that the object is disturbed it appears to move in an erratic manner. Remove the instrument, and then observe the electron; but, if we remove the instrument, we cannot observe the particle. With the instrument we cannot know the truth; without the instrument we cannot observe anything. This is the fate of the scientific technique, and these methods which are scientific have also been adopted by the logical systems of philosophy, so that modern philosophy which is highly logical can also be regarded as scientific in the sense that it bodily incorporates into its system the methods employed in modern physics, and, therefore, it, also, cannot avoid the defects involved in scientific observation. Whatever is the defect of sensory observation through a telescope or a microscope is also the defect of observation through an intellect or the rational principle, because, though there is a great difference between a physical instrument such as a microscope and a psychological instrument such as the intellect, there is something common between the two, viz., both are instruments of perception, and the defects involved in the instruments are similar, since the defect is due to the fact that the instrument is not placed in an organic relationship with the object of observation, and simultaneously, the observer also has committed the error of standing apart in space and time from the object of observation. So, neither through scientific methods nor through the logical systems of philosophy can ultimate truth be realised.

We are told by Masters that the only method, if at all we can call it a method, of contacting the Absolute, is a non-mediate procedure which is sometimes called the method of intuition, which is the way by which the observing principle enters into the vital essence of the object observed by a communion which is integral. This is the Yoga technique, truly speaking. The method of Yoga is, thus, different from the methods of physical science and intellectual philosophy, precisely because of the fact that the Absolute is not an object of observation through the senses. We cannot visualise it by a telescope or a microscope, nor can we understand it through the intellect, because the intellect is a psychological instrument which works in terms of space, time and cause, which are the limiting factors, the determining features which prevent the entry of the intellect into the vital constitution of the Absolute which is the goal of Yoga, and which, in the end, we are aiming at even through philosophy and science.

For this intuitive grasp of the Supreme Reality which is the aim of Yoga, the Bhagavadgita gives us a novel technique. The Bhagavadgita is scientific and logical no doubt, but it is something more than being merely scientific and logical. It is scientific in the sense that it is methodical in its procedure, systematic in its approach, comprehensive in its grasp of things. It is logical because conclusions follow one after another in a series as a corollary following from a theorem. In these senses, we may say that the gospel is intensely scientific and immensely logical. It is a science and an art; it is a philosophy, but it is something different and more than al these things. It is Brahmavidya. It is Yoga-Shastra. It is Krishna-Arjuna-Samvada.

As the colophon of each chapter tells us: Brahmavidyayam yogashastre sri krishna arjuna-samvade, it is a Brahmavidya, the science of the Supreme Reality. It is a Yoga-Shastra, the art and the science of the technique of contacting the Absolute. It is a practical methodology. It is also a description of the nature of the union of the individual with the Absolute, the glorious consummation that is the Krishna-Arjuna-Samvada, the meeting of the soul and the Supreme Reality, where the Jiva confronts Ishvara. Man faces God, and the relative enters the bosom of the All. Arjuna is the individual, Krishna is the Absolute, and the two converse with each other. This conversation between the Supreme Krishna and the individual Arjuna is a non-historical and super-temporal fact. This is the essence of the practice of Yoga, by which that which is within communes itself with that which is without, the Soul is Universal.

This art which is the Yoga of the Bhagavadgita is described in eighteen chapters, right from the Arjuna-Vishada-Yoga, the first one, up to the concluding one, Moksha-Sannyasa-Yoga, the renunciation which leads to the liberation of the spirit. These eighteen chapters are a graduated process of the ascent of the soul to the realisation of the Absolute. The First Chapter itself is highly significant, and is a Yoga by itself. It is a Vishada-Yoga or the Yoga of the sorrow of the seeker. One may wonder how sorrow can be called a Yoga. But this sorrow which is the first chapter, the first step in the practice of Yoga, is different from the sorrow consequent upon ordinary bereavements in human society. When someone near and dear dies, people are in sorrow, they are in grief. But this sorrow, which is described in the First Chapter of the Bhagavadgita is of a different type altogether. It is sometimes called in mystic language, 'the dark night of the soul', a phrase coined by St. John of the Cross. The dark night of the seeking spirit is different from the dark night of ignorance in which most people are sunk. It is a condition, a pre-condition of the higher ascents in Yoga which follow and come after the preparations which the seeker makes for the purpose of the practice. Arjuna was not a foolish person. He was not a coward. He was not incapacitated in any manner. He could face the Lord Siva himself and win his grace through intense 'tapas'. How can anyone say that he was an idiot who could not understand things? Even such a hero could be in a state of sorrow when he began to confront facts. And this sorrow is a spiritual condition of inward search, not the melancholy mood of a psychological complex.

We have to understand the difference between the ordinary griefs of mankind and the sorrow that is described as the part of the Yoga of the Bhagavadgita. This sorrow is a highly elevated state. It is not the usual drooping condition of an involved soul. It is a step that the soul takes above the ordinary phenomenon of Samsara, or the phenomenal life of the world. But the first step is the beginning of Yoga. When we withdraw ourselves from contact with the externals, we are actually supposed to be in the First Chapter of the Bhagavadgita. The withdrawal, the 'pratyahara' as it is called, does not immediately take us to the consciousness of true Yoga. There is a darkness immediately precedent to the higher ascent that will follow afterwards.

The knowledge that we have in this world is sensory, and even intellectual or rational knowledge is sensory, ultimately, because it is a refined form of sensory perceptions, and, so, there is a gulf of difference in quality between spiritual perception or intuition and sensory contact which we call knowledge in ordinary language. When we withdraw all the faculties of sense and intellect, there is an absence of ordinary knowledge. The vision of the world ceases. One cannot see an object in front of oneself. When the senses are drawn away, weaned from the objects which are their counterparts, naturally there cannot be any perception. The senses are brought back from the objects; and then, how can the senses conceive or perceive objects? There is no seeing of anything. Everything is darkness. This darkness which is the outcome of withdrawal from objects of sense-contact is a very advanced state which is immediately precedent to the condition described in the Second Chapter of the Gita, where God himself comes, as it were, and takes us by the hand and leads us along the higher regions. The First Chapter of the Bhagavadgita is, thus, a necessary state in Yoga, though it is called Vishada-Yoga, or the Yoga of grief. It is the condition in which the soul that is seeking finds itself when it has withdrawn itself from external contacts and severs relation with outer phenomena. There is, then, the commencement of a new type of interpretation of values, wherein situated, the soul begins to visualise everything in the context of the relation of everything to the total and not in its localised capacity.

The difference between the kind of knowledge with which one interprets things in this stage and the knowledge we have ordinarily today is this: while we look at an object or visualise anything, when we see a person or judge things, we forget the relationship of that person, that object or thing with the whole to which everything really belongs. We always commit the mistake of individual judgment, isolated valuation, as 'this person is good, or bad', 'this, or that is beautiful, or ugly', and so on. This is a wrong judgment, no doubt, because it is not possible for us, as individual, isolated observers to read the context of the relevance which that object has in its internal connection with the total to which it belongs. Thus, all judgments are erroneous, ultimately. There cannot be a really correct judgment if the judgment is made by an isolated individual and the object also is an isolated something. In the state of Yoga, the way of evaluation changes. Everything is judged from the universal point of view.

The vision of the Absolute really commences from the first chapter of the Gita, though it is just an initial indication of this grand vision. Gradually, there is an increase in the intensity of perception, and this intensity is described in various ways through the verses of the different chapters of the Bhagavadgita, until we are taken to the conclusion of the Sixth Chapter, where there is a complete overhauling of the individual personality, and a highly concentrated state is reached by the individual. That concentrated condition in which the individual focuses itself for the purpose of the task on hand is the Dhyana-Yoga of the Sixth Chapter, wherein fixed we are an integrated personality and not a dissipated individual.

But even the Sixth Chapter is not the complete Yoga. It is only the completion of the integration of the personality, necessary for the higher ascent, which commences from the Seventh Chapter, wherein, like Hanuman flying across the ocean to Lanka, the individual attempts to cross the sea of existence and enter the ocean of the Absolute. The individuality, which is the characteristic of the observing individual, gradually loses its essence and begins to harmonise itself with the Universal, right from the Seventh Chapter of the Bhagavadgita. While the individual is described in the first six chapters, the Universal is the theme of the next six chapters; and it is not enough if we merely describe or outwardly try to visualise the Universal. There has to be a union of the individual with All-Being. This is the purpose of the last six chapters. The integration of the individual, the visualisation of the Universal, and the union of the individual with the Universal Being are the stages of the Yoga of the Bhagavadgita. We reach the consummation of it in the last chapter, called Moksha-Sannyasa, the renunciation of every character of individuality in the liberation of the spirit, which is the riding together of Arjuna and Krishna in the single chariot of the cosmos, which is the quintessence of the meaning of the last verse:

Yatra yogesvarah krishno yatra partho dhanur-dharah;
Tatra srir vijayo bhutir dhruva-nitir matir mama.

When the Arjuna that is the purified integrated individual is seated in the same chariot as that of Sri Krishna, the Supreme Absolute, then there is assured peace, prosperity, victory, plenty and justice everywhere. This is the justice of 'satya' and 'rita' proclaimed in the Vedas. The gospel of the Bhagavadgita is the gospel of Yoga, which is at once cosmic, individual, social, political and everything related to life. This Yoga is for everyone, for you and for me, and every person in every stage, and hence this Yoga which is the interpretation of the individual in terms of the higher values of life and the judging of every lower stage in terms of the higher, is to be the ethical, legal and social standard of human life. The principle of the Bhagavadgita-Yoga is, therefore, that one should live in the awareness of the Supreme Reality, and conduct oneself in life, whatever be one's stage, in the light of this awareness of the higher realms of being.