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 When the mind is withdrawn, it will not see what it was earlier seeing as imposed upon the objects of the world, the creation of God.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.