The Study and Practice of Yoga
An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 11: The Integrality of the Higher Self

There is an important difference between what is known as value and what is designated as existence. Existence and value are not identical. What is the meaning of this sutra, this aphoristic principle of the distinction between value and existence? Value is a meaning that we discover by means of judgement; existence is the character of a thing as it is in itself, independent or regardless of our judgement – and they are not always identical. When we say that such-and-such a thing is good, we pass a value judgement on that thing. Our judgement does not affect it in any manner whatsoever, and neither does it mean that our judgement is correct. All judgements are partial, which is perhaps the reason why Christ made a great proclamation – "Judge not, lest ye be judged" – because all of our judgements are wrong judgements. So, if we live our life judging others, we will also be judged in the same manner by the law of existence, which is the law of God, the Absolute. Although Christ said "judge not", we do nothing but that throughout our whole life. What is called 'judgement' is simply an opinion that we hold about things. The court also does the same thing – it holds an opinion, and we call it a judgement.

Any kind of categorical opinion that we hold about anything is called 'judgement', whether it is legal, psychological, social, or moral. We get caught up by these judgements themselves because of the fact that we can mistake what is for what it really is not. The nature of existence, the character of things as they are in themselves, need not conform to our judgements. Yet, we insist that our judgements tally with the nature of things. When I tell you that you're a bad man, I take it for granted that you are really a bad man and do not feel that I am merely holding such an opinion. I do not tell you that I hold an opinion about you that you are bad, though you may not be bad. This is not the way I think. I simply identify your existence with my judgement; and so it is with every kind of judgement. If I say that this is beautiful, it is a judgement. The thing may not be beautiful, because beauty is a character that we observe by means of a psychological judgement. Goodness is a value that we discover by means of judgement. Any kind of worth or significance that we see in things is a value judgement. But the existence of the thing is an impersonal background of the thing in itself, which is what we are going to discover by means of philosophy, and which is the goal of the practice of yoga.

Previously we made reference to the important pivot-point of yoga, namely self-control, and also we noted how difficult that is, and why it is difficult. It becomes all the more difficult because of our insistence on judging things. The judgement that we pass upon things is the method or manner by which we judge our own self also, so that we have got a uniform way of thinking which applies to our own self, together with the other things external to us. Inasmuch as the very nature of human thinking prevents an ultimately correct judgement of anything, we may be said to be living in a world of relative values and, therefore, the ideas that we hold about things are subject to modification. But no one would be prepared to accept that one's ideas are subject to modification. This is also the work of the self-asserting principle called the ego. Self-control is a gradual mastery over the ego-principle by thinning out its hard, encrusted substance through various devices such as self-analysis, austere living, and the practice of meditation.

The control of oneself, which one is supposed to exercise over oneself, is a tendency of consciousness to return to the true nature of things from the false value judgements upon which our life is usually based. The value that we attach to things and to our own self as individuals is our bondage; this is the world of samsara. The meaning that we discover in temporal life is a relative affirmation made by the ego of the subject (individual), and this has to be overcome by a gradual introduction of the principle of true existence into our temporal life. This is to introduce God into our social and personal life, because God is existence and not a value in the sense of an individualistic significance that can be attached by a perceiving subject.

All judgements and values are connected with the relationship obtaining between subject and object. Unless there is a bifurcation of the subject and the object, the seer and the seen, and a necessity arises to bring about a connection between the two, there would be no need for value judgements. Existence need not judge its own self. The question of judgement arises only when there is a dichotomy or a split in one's own consciousness, by which a necessity is felt to read a meaning into what is observed. The meaning that we read into objects of perception is the source of joy as well as sorrow; and self-control is a mastery over these emotions.

Joys and sorrows are the outcome of value judgements and are not necessarily expressions of the character of truth, because the truth, as it is in itself, is precedent to the action of the mind and the senses, prior to the activity of our individuality and, therefore, does not stand in need of any meaning being read into it. Existence itself is a meaning by itself; any other meaning need not be attached to it. Is existence good or bad? We cannot say anything, because the highest conceivable value is existence and, therefore, further adjectives cannot be attached to pure existence. When we utter the word 'absolute', we have said everything. There is no need for any adjective, because there is no adjective that is going to add any meaning to it. It will only diminish the meaning rather than increase it, because this term signifies the totality, and there is no further significance that can be added to increase its value.

Self-restraint or self-control is, therefore, a return of consciousness from its meandering movements in the world of temporal events, to the realm of true existence. But nothing can be more difficult than this arduous adventure. The spiritual adventure is an adventure of self-restraint. Self-restraint or self-control is not any kind of mortification of the body, as it can be misconstrued often by amateur yogis. Many of our yogis may read a false meaning into the great requisite of yoga called self-control. It is connected with physical existence and social life, no doubt, but it is something much more than our physical existence and social life. It is much more because it is connected with the attitude of our mind and consciousness. The attitude of consciousness will determine the character of austerity, self-control, or the extent of success in the practice of yoga.

Our social status or physical features do not always express the inner attitude that we have towards things, and our life is nothing but an inner attitude. Philosophy is nothing but our attitude towards things, and it is this that requires a thoroughgoing transformation from less comprehensive realms to more and more comprehensive ones. To become more comprehensive in one's attitude would be to feel less and less necessity for judging things and objects. The necessity to judge things becomes less and less on account of a diminution of the intensity of subject-object relations as we proceed further and further. In the beginning, the subject and the object look completely disconnected from each other, as if a great effort has to be put forth to bring them together for particular purposes in life.

In the lowest level, the whole of nature seems to be so discrete and scattered in its particulars that it looks like an almost impossibility to bring these particulars into a sort of unity for the purpose of social life. It is very difficult to bring animals together to make a parliament, because they will never agree in their minds on account of an intense instinctive affirmation of their bodily individuality, to which they are wedded. In our human life also, the animal instincts are not absent and, therefore, to the extent that they are present, we become incompatible elements. This explains wars and battles and irreconcilable attitudes in human life – these are owing to the vehemence of the animal instincts that are present even at the human level. All of these, of course, are meant to be overcome and subdued by a complete transformation of conscious attitude.

As it was pointed out, the difficulty lies in the fact that we are accustomed to certain habitual ways of thinking and action. Our thinking and action has become part of our skin and blood, and therefore to change it or to bring about any kind of reorientation in it is next to an impossibility for a layperson. No one can change one's own self, because the self is the identity of existence even in its individualistic connotation. A self-identical being cannot change itself, and the moment it changes itself it loses its self-identity. No one would like to lose one's self-identity; one clings to it with great force. Everyone resents any kind of order or mandate in respect of bringing about a transformation in one's own self-identical personality.

Philosophical understanding of things means a training of the reason – to apply reason to its objects in more and more generalised terms rather than by clinging to particular instances. Philosophy makes us more and more general in our attitude, and this, of course, is the tendency to a universal approach to things. The intention of self-control is to establish the lower self in the Supreme Self. It is to enable the Ultimate Self to exercise a control over the lower levels of self. When the Absolute Self takes charge of our lower levels of self, we have attained the pinnacle or culmination of self-control. God takes charge of us, ultimately. This is ultimately the meaning of self-control – the Supreme Self controls us.

As I endeavoured to point out previously, self-control is relevant to the introduction of the rule or sovereignty of the higher self in our lower realms, so that what we call an unselfish attitude or a selfless attitude becomes a presence of a higher form of self and not an attitude of absence of selfhood in any way. Ātmaiva hyātmano bandhurātmaiva ripurātmanaḥ (B.G. VI.5), says the Bhagavadgita. In cryptic language, Bhagavan Sri Krishna says in the Gita that the Self is the enemy of the self, and the Self is the friend of the self. We cannot understand the meaning of this merely by stating it, but it has a tremendous meaning - perhaps it has all of philosophy contained in it. The Self is the friend of the self, and also the Self is the enemy of the self. The Self becomes the friend of the self when we understand what this Self means.

The Self, which is the friend of the self, is the wider self which automatically imposes its law upon the lower self, not as an extrinsic force but as an immanently governing principle and the law of health operating in our body. The law of health determines the existence and function of our body. But this law of health does not work from outside, like a boss sitting in a chair externally and commanding a subordinate; it is not in this way that this law works. The law of health is immanently present in the very structure of the body. It is inseparable from the very existence of the body and, therefore, to allow the law of health to operate in the body is not to subject oneself to the rule or autocracy of another master. It is not at all a sort of subjection. It is a spontaneous allowing of oneself to be ruled by the law of one's own higher nature, which is the health of the body.

When the higher self takes charge of the lower self and the lower self allows itself to be governed by the principle and the law of the higher self, then the higher self becomes the friend of the lower self. When we obey the law of the government, the government is our friend. When we disobey the law of the government, the government is our enemy. So the government is our friend and the government is our enemy; both are true. If we obey its law, it is a friend; if we disobey its law, it is an enemy. Likewise is the higher self. If we obey its law, it is our friend. If we disobey its law, it is our enemy. However, there is a difference between the attitude of the lower self to the higher self and the attitude of the citizen to the government. It is possible for the citizen to express an opinion regarding the law which the government imposes upon him. But no such opinion is possible here, because while the government, at least to some extent though not entirely, is external in existence and operation to the existence, action and activity of the individual or citizen, the higher self is not at all external to the lower self. The higher self is not outside the lower self, just as in the earlier analogy, the law of health is not outside the body. The body cannot say, "The law of health must change. I will bring about a revolution in the law of health and introduce a new law of health." The law of health is set according to the structure of things or the law of nature.

Likewise is the law of the higher self. We cannot say the law of the higher self should change for certain purposes. It is the eternal law, sanatana dharma – the eternal law of the Supreme Self, the Absolute Self, God or Ishvara, which eternally works without any need for change or modification by acts of parliament. Yāthātathyato'rthān vyadadhācchā śvatībhyaḥ samābhyaḥ, says the Isavasya Upanishad. Eternal law has been operating eternally, from eternal time, and it will never need any modification, because the moment it would subject itself to modification, it would cease to be eternal; it is no more sanatana. That which is subject to change is not eternal, and the law of God is eternal in the sense that it is the law of the very being of God Himself. To change the law of God would be to change the very existence of God, and to bring about a destruction of God. It is absurd to think in this fashion.

Thus we come to the main principle of self-control, namely, that our lower nature – the physical, biological, vital, sensory, mental, intellectual and social aspects of lower self – have to be allowed to be governed by the principle of the higher, more integrating form of self. Here, we have to also note the difference between the nature of the lower self and the nature of the higher self. The lower self is relational, whereas the higher self is integral. The lower self cannot exist without external contact. The higher self does not need any kind of contact. The lower self depends on external conditions for its existence and action. The higher self is self-existent, self-sufficient, and perfect in itself. It does not require even sense organs to act. Hence, to bring about the rule of the higher self in the lower self is to introduce a percentage of integrality and a non-relational attitude into the lower self. We become less and less dependent on things when we become more and more self-controlled. The dependence of the lower self on externals arises on account of its own feeling of finitude. The more finite we are, the more is our need for external contact, relationship and dependence.

Self-control, inasmuch as it is the introduction of the law of the higher self, makes us more and more independent. 'Atma svarajya' is the term used in the Upanishad. Atma svarajya is where one becomes self-king, self-emperor. It is the real svarajya that one is aspiring for. Svarajya means self-emperorship. One becomes the emperor of one's own self – a self-government, and not a local self-government. This is a universal self-government.

Here, in this automatic allowing of the lower self by itself to be governed by the principle of the higher self, it becomes naturally more healthy in its internal structure. There is a tendency to dissipation in the lower self, and there is a tendency to integration in the higher self. Or, to put it in common language, the centrifugal force seems to be working more in the lower self. The centripetal power seems to be working in the higher self. There is a tendency to move toward the centre when the higher self takes charge of us, whereas a tendency to move outward, from the centre to the circumference, is the character of the lower self. The lower self has a tendency to run outward to the periphery or the circumference of things from the centre, while the higher self brings this tendency back to its own centre. This centre is not a point, but a significance that is introduced into the life of the lower self.