by Swami Krishnananda
Bandha ścen mānasam dvaitaṁ tanni rodhena śāmyati abhya sed yoga mevāto brahma jñānena kiṁ vada (38). It has been stated earlier that the mental vrittis, psychic operations, have caused the bondage of the jiva; they foist certain qualities on Ishvara srishti , qualities which are really not there in Ishvara srishti. The individual’s interpretation of the world created by God is a personal affair arising from likes and dislikes and imperfect perception.
If the mind is the cause of the sufferings of people, a question is raised here: “We can suppress the mind by a kind of yoga where the will is applied in an act of powerful concentration, and we can see that the mind does not function. What is the purpose of knowing God, Brahma jnana, and such relevant matters about which we discussed?”
This is a question that arises from an ignorant mind. Suppression of the vrittis does not mean yoga. The word ‘yoga’ should not be applied to such a process at all. Suppression is a negative activity. Yoga is a positive union, and it is not enough if the mind does not function. It has also to function in relation to God’s existence.
The difference between mental restraint and God-consciousness is this: while the vrittis or the functions of the mind are inhibited, the mental qualities that describe the objects outside may appear to be not there. Not seeing something is not knowledge. There is also a necessity to see what is really there. When the mind is withdrawn, it will not see what it was earlier seeing as imposed upon the objects of the world, the creation of God. But it cannot see the creation of God. Brahma jnana is the vision of God’s creation, God Himself. Therefore, a negative activity in the form of the suppression of the vrittis in any manner whatsoever, voluntarily, will not suffice.
Not seeing the world is not yoga. Yoga is seeing the world in the proper perspective. It is the vision of the creation of God as it is in itself, and not merely a negative withdrawal of the mind from perceiving it. Thus arises the necessity for Brahma jnana, God-consciousness, and not merely a negative activity of mental restraint.
Tātkā lika dvaita śāntau apyāgāmi jani kṣayaḥ, brahma jñānaṁ vinā na syād iti vedānta ḍiṇḍimaḥ (39). The Vedanta proclaims loudly that there is a temporary cessation of the functions of the mind when they are restrained by the will or an act of concentration on some particular given object. But this cessation of the faculties or the functions of the mind so arrived at will be a temporary achievement, and it does not mean that the mind will keep quiet like that for eternity without functioning.
The mere absence of the functioning of the mind is different from the withdrawal of the activity of the mind. We can wind up our action and adjourn it for tomorrow. It does not mean that we have ceased to think of what is to be done. There is a potential, a possibility of our continuing that action tomorrow, though we are not doing it just now.
A moving snake and a coiled-up snake mean one and the same thing. They are identical. We do not say that only when it moves it is a snake, and when it is lying down it is not a snake. A thief is a thief, whether he is active or sleeping. Similar is the tentative comfort that we may seemingly obtain by the cessation of the activity of the mind through vigorous concentration on an object. That is a negative achievement that we are thinking of here.
But God-consciousness is different from that. It is an entry into the very substance of the universe in the manner in which it is, or as it appears through God’s eyes. If we behold the world as God beholds it, if we work in the world as God works, if we love things as God loves, that would be God-consciousness. But merely withdrawing the mind, not thinking anything and being in a state of negativity cannot be regarded as yoga. So do not make a mistake in thinking that attaining mental cessation is the aim of life. God-consciousness is the aim. That the Vedanta proclaims.
Anivṛtte’pīśa sṛṣṭe dvaite tasya mṛṣā tmantām, buddhvā brahmā dvayaṁ śakyaṁ vastvaikya vādinaḥ (40). It is not the visible object that is the cause of bondage. The vision is not the source of our suffering; the sorrows arise on account of the way in which our mind takes these objects. Illustrations have already been given earlier that a particular object evokes different kinds of emotions and feelings in different persons, actively or otherwise. A person who desires an object has one kind of feeling towards it. He interprets it in one way and also values it in one way. A person who has lost it is grieving because he has lost it, and his thought is of a different nature altogether. And the person who has no need for it is neutral, and no reaction arises from his mind in respect of that object which evokes other emotions in the case of other people.
The objects of the world are there for every living being to see. From ant to elephant, from man to God, everybody has the same perception of things. But we do not perceive the thing as it is in itself. It is coloured by the concepts of the mind. The conceptualisation of the object is different from the actual perception of the object. Here is the difference between Ishvara srishti and jiva srishti, as has already been adumbrated.
God has become the objects. He does not see the objects. The body of the universe is the body of God, we may say. We need not have to go on looking at our body in order to know that it is there. It has become part of our consciousness. We have to go on searching for the property that we have, but we need not search for our own body. We will not lose it, as is not an object in the sense of some property. But for us, objects in the world are properties that we would like to possess or reject.
In the case of God, the universe is His body and, therefore, there is no reaction mentally from God in respect of what He creates. If we can visualise the world as God visualises it, let the world be there; it cannot bind us. The binding character of things is because of their externality and the capacity in them to evoke possessiveness, inklings of love, hatred, etc. That is the cause of sorrow. God’s creation does not cause bondage. It is our attitude towards it that causes bondage.
So let the world be there. Why are we cursing it? But we should see it as God sees it. He must also know everything. In His omniscience in all detail, He will know what is happening in the cosmos. Is God in grief? No. We are in grief.
The conception of the two birds on a tree, mentioned in the Upanishads, is an illustration that can be taken here as something very relevant. We are eating the fruit of samsara, what they usually call ‘the fruit of the forbidden tree’. It is not the tree that is forbidden, but it is actually the fruit. The fruit is forbidden. We should not eat the fruit. We must be able to enjoy the world without possessing it. We can enjoy a flower without plucking it. We can enjoy gold without owning it. We can enjoy everything without being a part and parcel of its relation externally.
Mere existence of things should give us joy. The sun is shining merely as an existence. The activity of the sun and the existence of the sun are the same. It does not have to move with hands and feet. So is the work of God. The work of God is without hands and feet.
A-pāṇi-pādo javano gṛhītā paśyaty acakṣuḥsa śṛṇoty akarṇaḥ (Svet 3.19). The Svetasvatara Upanishad tells us that God grasps things without hands. He need not have fingers like us. He can run faster than us, without feet. He can see things without eyes. He can hear without ears and He can act without a body or a limb. Vṛkṣa iva stabdho divi tiṣṭhaty ekas tene’dam pūrṇaṁ puruṣeṇa sarvam (Svet 3.9). That Being fills all this cosmos, and the very Being of that Almighty is the activity of that Almighty. If we also can be like that – if we can be happy merely with the perception of the world and the knowledge of things as they are, and our involvement in the world is not one of possession or rejection but of identity – if we can identify our consciousness with the things and enter into their substance in a state of what yoga calls samadhi, the object will be our consciousness. The consciousness will be our object. There will be no sense of possession or rejection. Then what happens to the object? It no more causes sorrow.
The idea is that the world does not cause sorrow by itself. It is our mental operation – placing the object outside somewhere in space and time – that is the source of our difficulty. Thus, we should reorient our way of thinking and not make complaints about the creation of God. It is perfectly in order; there is nothing wrong with it. What is wrong is the way of our perception. There is a distorted vision with which the mind of the human being envisages things in the world. Let there be the integral vision that God has in respect of things. We will see the world as heaven itself, while for the mind that has placed the world outside, it looks like hell.
Pralaye tan nivṛttau tu guru śāstrady abhāvataḥ, virodhi dvaitā bhāv’pi na śkyaṁ boddhum advayam (41). Merely non-perception of duality is not the same as freedom from it. We may not be conscious of a problem, but does not mean the problem is not there. It is there, but we are not aware of it. It should not be there. The point is not that we are not aware of it; the point is that the problem should not be there at all.
Likewise, if we merely say, “Unconsciousness of the existence of the objects outside, which is achieved by the restraint of the mind, is the aim of life,” that can be seen in the state of deep sleep also. In a way, the mind is restrained there automatically. Do we mean to say that we are free because the mind is not perceiving the world outside? The mind will again jump on the objects when we wake up.
Even in pralaya, or the dissolution of the cosmos, salvation is not attained. The cosmic dissolution at the end of things is like a cosmic sleep, where all individuals are in a state of slumber; and slumber is not freedom. We go to sleep. We seem to have no problems when we are asleep, but we create the problems the moment we wake up in the morning, as if nothing has happened to us in sleep. So unconsciousness is not freedom. Freedom is consciousness of the absence of every kind of limitation, which we cannot have merely by the unconsciousness of the presence of things.
Jīva dvaitaṁ tu śāstrīyam-aśāstrīyam-iti dvidhā, upādadīta śāstriyam ātattvasyā vabodhanāt (43). Here the author tells us that the duality that is created by the individual’s mental perception also is of two kinds. It does not mean that everything that we see is a source of trouble. There are certain things which may help us in advancing on the path of the spirit – though certain things which we think in our mind are deleterious for our spiritual advancement.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, two kinds of vrittis have been distinguished: functions of the mind that cause sorrow, and functions of the mind which do not cause sorrow. We have to make a distinction between these two things. So it does not mean that every kind of mental perception is only sorrow-giving.
For instance, when we see the world as an independent existence consisting of the solar system, the sky and the heaven, the stars, the hills and the dales, and the rivers and the oceans – when we perceive the world that is in front of us in this manner, we are not necessarily disturbed. Rather, we will feel elated by the perception of this vast expanse of the sky and the scintillating stars. This is one kind of perception which is not necessarily disturbing. But there are disturbing perceptions which are caused by emotional attitudes – namely, the perception of things linked to the feeling that it is ours or it is not ours. The world as a whole is not of that nature. We do not want to possess the hill or the solar system, but yet we perceive it.
So there are non-pain-giving vrittis or faculties called aklishta vrittis, and pain-giving vrittis called klishta vrittis. The aklishta or the non-pain-giving functions of the mind are the processes of general perception, as has been mentioned. But those which are causing pain to us are those functions of the mind which are charged with emotions of love and hatred, the sense of I-ness and my-ness.
We may take advantage of the perception that is of utility to us, but that kind of perception which is totally useless and is harmful should be abandoned. What are these two kinds of vrittis? They are explained here.
Ātma-brahma-vicārākhyāṁ śāstrīyaṁ mānasaṁ jagat, buddhe tattve tacca heyam iti śrutyanu śāsanam (44). When we meditate on the relationship between ourselves and God, a function takes place in the mind. The thought of God also is a mental function, but it is a helpful function. It will not bind us. This particular salubrious ennobling function of the mind which is God-thought, though it is also a function of the psyche, is not binding. It is liberating.
Buddhe tattve tacca heyam iti śrutyanu śāsanam. But when we actually enter into God, the thought of God also ceases. So the particular mental function, though it was a function like any other function, has helped us in freeing ourselves from the bondage of life and enabled us to enter into God-consciousness.
All meditation in the beginning is a mental function. But the aim of meditation is to not continue the mental activity. The aim is to merge the subjective consciousness in the object. The mental function continues so long as the object is outside the perceiving subject. Even if we think of God as something outside us, the mind will be thinking as if God is some kind of object. But when identity takes place, in a state of samadhi or union of consciousness with the object (it may be any object or with God Himself), the mental functions cease. Until that time, these good vrittis or helpful functions may continue.
Śāstrāṇya dhītya medhāvī abhyasya ca punaḥ punaḥ, paramaṁ brahma vijñāya ulkāvat tānya thot sṛjet (45). Grantha mabhyasya medhāvī jñāna vijñāna tatparaḥ, palālam iva dhānyārthī tyajed grantham aśeṣataḥ (46). Tam-eva dhīro vijñāya prajñāṁ kurvīta brāhmaṇaḥ, nānu dhyāyād bhaūn chabdān vāco viglāpanaṁ hi tat (47). With these quotations, the author tells us how certain functions of the mind are helpful to us, like the learning of the Veda, the study of the Upanishads, the absorption of knowledge in the Bhagavad Gita or of any religious scripture which will lift our soul to the higher values of human life, and any kind of knowledge which illumines us, enlightens us, gives us intellectual strength and broadens our vision. These are all only mental operations, but they are very helpful ones. Study, education, and culture are all mental operations, but they are positive – very, very necessary for the progress of the individual soul.
But when the object is attained, the identity of consciousness with the final object is complete. There is no necessity for further study of scripture. We need not be in a school or a college for a lifetime. If the education is already over, then put it into practice. After the study is over, the books must be thrown away. They are not of any utility to us. They are only helpful for gaining knowledge in the beginning; afterwards, they become a burden, and we give all the books to the library.
As a person who takes the pith of a grain then throws away the husk and does not run after the husk, in the same way all study, learning, academic qualification, etc., should be finally abandoned as husk after we have entered into the very substance of that knowledge – where consciousness becomes the very aim or purpose of all education and study. Otherwise, endless study is a waste of energy. Vāco viglāpanaṁ: a waste of time and energy.
The Upanishad says, tam evaikaṁ vijānītha hyanyā vāco vimuñatha, yacced vāṅ manasī prājña ityādhāḥ śrutayaḥ sphuṭāḥ (48): Know that alone, and do not go on talking too much about it. Close your mouth for some time and be concerned with that great goal of life. On that let your mind rest, and speak not very much because energy is wasted by too much talking.
Yacced vāṅ manasī prājña ityādhāḥ śrutayaḥ sphuṭāḥ. The Kathopanishad tells us that the sense organs which are perceiving the world and are entangled in this perception have to be slowly withdrawn and settled in the mind. The mind is to be settled into the intellect; the intellect should merge in the cosmic intellect; the cosmic intellect should finally settle in Brahman, the Absolute.
Aśāstrīya mapi dvaitaṁ tīvraṁ mandamiti dividhā, kāma krodhā dikaṁ tīvraṁ mano rājyaṁ tathe tarat (49). Up to this time, we have been describing certain faculties or functions of the mind which are non-obstructive. They are helpful. Now we are being told there are certain obstructive faculties – functions of the mind which are deliberately harmful. They have to be abandoned. What are they?
These harmful functions also are of two kinds, intense and mild: tivram mandam. Very intense, harmful functions of the mind are desire, anger, greed, etc.; and the mild obstacles are building castles in the air, imagining something unnecessarily, moving in the skies with no purpose whatsoever. Both of these are obstacles. Neither should we be angry, nor full of passionate desire, nor have greed, nor should we build castles in the air. Even if the mind is not actively doing any destructive work by building castles, it is actually paving the ground for such activity later on.
Just because a person keeps quiet and does nothing, says nothing and thinks nothing, it does not mean he is a wise person. He is like an idiot from where the seed of harmful activities may emanate. People who keep quiet and do not do anything at all are dangerous persons. They must do some work.
Ubhayaṁ tattva bodhāt prāk nivāryaṁ bodhā siddhaye, śamaḥ samāhitatvaṁ ca sādhaneṣu śrutaṁ yataḥ (50). Both these vrittis have to be abandoned for the sake of knowledge of God. What are they? They are building castles in the air, and actual active manifestation of desire, anger, etc. Shama, dama, uparati, titiksha, sraddha, samadhana are certain virtues that have been adumbrated in the Vedanta philosophy, similar to the yamas and niyamas in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, as necessary methods that can be employed for restraining the mind both in its active harmful aspect as well as the mild harmful aspect. When by actual habituation to the process of deep meditation the knowledge arises, these faculties also will cease. Thereafter there will be nothing left in the world, in the mind.
Bodhād ūrdhvaṁ ca tadheyaṁ jīvan mukti prasiddhaye, kāmādi kleśa bandhena yuktasya na hi muktatā (51). Whatever be the remnant of the mind, even if it is very subtle and mild, it will cause some trouble one day, as a seed lying on barren ground may not be visible at all to our eyes; but when rain falls that barren ground becomes wet and fertile and the seed which was not visible to anybody’s eyes shoots up into a little plant and becomes a tree afterwards. A thing that is mild and is keeping quiet, not doing anything, is a tamasic condition of the mind. It is not sattva; it is not positive. Therefore, absence of mental activity should not be considered as wisdom.
Jīvan mukti riyaṁ ma bhūt janmā bhāve tvahaṁ kṛtī, tarhai janmāpi te’stveva svarga-mātrāt-kṛtī bhavān (52). Someone may say, “All these qualities that you are mentioning here – of absence of the mental vrittis which cause harm, etc. – are applicable to a jivanmukta purusha. What is the harm if they are there as long as I am alive, provided that I am assured of liberation after death?” This question, this point, is also meaningless, because nobody who has the least remnant of desire of any kind, even in a sleeping condition, will attain God.
It does not mean that we can live a free and abandoned life in this world and then attain God-realisation after death. It will not come because the kind of life that we live in this world is an indication of the kind of life that we will be living after death. It is not that another kind of tree will grow there, when one kind of seed is sown here. Whatever the seed is, that is the tree. This is the life we are living in this world, which is like a seed that we are sowing for a large plantation that will shoot up in the next birth. And whatever fruit will be attained and eaten in the next birth will be of the same nature as the seed that we have sown here.
Thus, our attitudes, our thoughts, our feelings, our actions, our outlook in this world will tell us what kind of person we will be in the next birth. So we must be cautious and live in this world in the same way as we would like to be received in the next world.
Kṣayā tiśaya doṣeṇa svargo heyo yadā tadā, svayaṁ doṣataym ātmāyaṁ kāmādiḥ kiṁ na hiyate (53). There are people who think that going to the heavenly world is also a kind of attainment, that it is good enough. The attainment of heaven is defective because it is like a bank balance which will not be eternally there and will get exhausted as long as we do not positively contribute something further to it.
The circle of heaven that we speak of is a realm of experience where we enjoy the desirable, happy fruits of the good deeds that we performed in this world. But all deeds have an end in themselves. Every work is perishable; therefore, the fruit that will be yielded by that particular action that we have done, even if it be good, will have an end one day. And then what happens? When the momentum of the good deeds that we have performed in this world ceases to produce its effect in heaven, we will fall back to this world again and be reborn here. So the idea of going to a heavenly world in the sense of an enjoyable field of comfortable existence should be given up. What we require is God-consciousness, God-realisation, and not merely joys, even in higher worlds.
Tattvaṁ buddhvāpi kāmādīn niḥśeṣaṁ na jahāsi cet, yatheṣṭā caraṇaṁ te syāt karma-śāstrā tilaṅghinaḥ (54). Desires persist even in a subtle form, even at the last moment of life. Sometimes we cannot even know that there are desires. Very subtle propensities continue, and sometimes they create impressions in the mind which are not necessarily compatible with the existence of God.
It is difficult for the mind to entertain the thought of God always, because God is not a heaven. He is not a realm. He is not a stage of life. He is not any kind of region which we have to reach. These ideas of reaching God, going to God, have to be first of all purified in the beginning itself because even when we think of God, sometimes we think like children, as if He is somebody sitting somewhere in a corner and there is a long distance between us spatially. The existence of God is nothing but the existence of what we call the Universal Principle. Inasmuch as it is everywhere – not only in some places – the reaching of it is a process of inward transformation, and not a movement in some direction.
When we reach the waking state from dream, though there is some sort of a distance between dream and waking consciousness, we do not have to travel by a vehicle. It is an inward transmutation of consciousness that is taking place, and suddenly we are in a different world. So is God-consciousness. It is an inner transmutation of consciousness from the lesser dimension to the highest dimension possible. This distinction should be drawn between actual God-thought and the imagined God-thoughts of most people.
Buddhā dvaita sva tattvasya yatheṣṭ ācaraṇaṁ yadi, śunāṁ tattva dṛśāṁ caiva ko bhedo’śuci-bhakṣaṇe (55). Bodhāt purā mano doṣa mātrāt kliśnā syathā dhunā, aśeṣa loka nindā ceti aho te bodha vaibhavam (56). The author here criticises the imaginary ideas of certain untutored minds, who are not properly educated in this line, who believe that the last thought may be enough to lift them to the state of God after death, and so in this life they may live in any manner whatsoever. The author says this is not possible because our thoughts are what we call life. Our life in this world is nothing but the way in which our mind operates. Basically, moving about is not life. The mental vrittis are the actual life.
What we think in our mind is the kind of life that we live and, therefore, if we believe that we can have freedom of choice in this world – which is completely unrestrained – and we can expect a fruit of complete discipline after death, this will be not possible. Otherwise, we will be like animals living in the world and expecting God-realisation after death. The mind which is completely unrestrained and given to abandon, and goes for things in the manner of an animal going for his grub or food – if that is the case with the mind of an ordinary human being, his fate will be the same as the fate of an animal. We do not expect a buffalo to reach God. Sudden change will not take place at the time of death. Sudden changes never take place. Nature always moves in a progressive way. It is evolution. Revolution does not take place in nature. It is a gradual, step-by-step movement.
So in the next birth we cannot be something totally different, entirely different from what we are. Just as tomorrow we will not be totally different from what we are today, in the next birth we will not be angels. How can we become angels in the next birth when we are animals in this birth? An animal does not become God. A gradual process of evolution takes place from animal to man, from man to good man, from good man to unselfish man, saintly man, God-man, and finally God Himself. These are the stages of development and, therefore, we have to undergo this spiritual education in the manner prescribed.