The Study and Practice of Yoga
An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda
PART III: THE VIBHUTI PADA
Chapter 84: The Need for Caution When Stirring Inner Potencies
The collecting of the thoughts at the time of the concentration of the mind was the theme that we were pursuing. We have to some extent observed what the difficulties are in collecting these thoughts for the purpose of bringing all of them together into a single focus. If you remember what I mentioned earlier, the mind is not made up of any single thought – it has many thoughts inside it. How is it possible to bring the mind to a single point of concentration when it is constituted of many thoughts, when it has many vrittis? This is the trouble that one has to face at the very outset. But it can be overcome by introducing a system into the vrittis, or the various thoughts. This system is called concentration, or dharana.
First of all, the predominant thoughts have to be screened out from the various muddle and hotchpotch of ideas that occur to the mind at different times. What are the predominant or dominating ideas that occur to the mind or occupy the mind, generally speaking? We can have a review of our thoughts for a single day or for a whole month to get an idea as to what are our principle ideas. What is the area in which the thoughts generally move? An engineer’s way of thinking is a little different from an agriculturist’s or a farmer’s way of thinking, and so on. The way to which one gets accustomed has something to say about the way in which one thinks. Also, each one of us has been used to a certain type of living. That kind of living that we are adopting has a great influence upon us, and we have to use that particular way of living itself as a tool or instrument in the channelising of the thoughts which are the predominant features of our mind.
To come to the point which we were discussing previously, there is an invisible pressure exerted on the mind by certain forces behind it, due to which we do things without our even knowing that we are doing them. What are these impulses but the pressures exerted upon the mind by forces other than those of which we have knowledge, over which we have control? At the spur of the moment – at the impulse of the occasion or the incitement of a particular urge – we take to some action, not necessarily as a consequence of deep deliberate thinking but on the push of the instinct, which is nothing but the course we adopt, or take, due to a compulsion that is felt from inside, the yielding to which is called pleasure. That is why the fulfilment of any instinct brings a kind of satisfaction, and is the reason why voluntary directing of the thought in any particular manner becomes difficult. The urges within are very vehement.
Again we come to the point of the necessity of bringing the deeper instinct to the level of the conscious mind – for which a tabulating of our instincts, to the extent they are knowable, would be necessary. Many of us have been accustomed to thinking along psychoanalytical lines due to training in that particular field, so it would be not very difficult to get a general idea of the ways in which we think and the predilections or the idiosyncrasies to which we are generally subject. It is these predilections, or tendencies in us – these inclinations – which come as compulsive channels to divert our thought away from the object of meditation. Hence, it is necessary to have a correct grasp of our stand, or position, from which we can also have an idea as to our fitness for meditation. It is not that anyone and everyone can take to the path of yoga, or meditation. There should be a general minimum prerequisite, at least, obtained before one steps into this arduous practice. This minimum prerequisite can be gained only if there is a kind of satisfactory control over one’s involuntary urges. We should not be involuntary always – that would be very undesirable. We should not be whimsical or fanciful people who can do anything at any time under the pressure of impulses.
Great intelligence has to be exercised, even before we actually take to the direct practice. When we focus the mind with any amount of force, there is a sympathetic stirring of energies in the entire system. The dormant forces in our body, and even the mind, get agitated, awakened, and set to action. Many of the forces in us are generally not working; a few of the forces alone are working. But when the concentration begins, these dormant energies get stirred up into action. Even unconscious urges will come to the surface of consciousness. It is only when we take to deep meditation that we will know what our desires are. Otherwise, we will think that there are no desires at all. When we live in a secluded place, absolutely alone for months and years, with no contact with people, with very few amenities for the normal satisfactions of life, we will see what desires are there. If we live in Gangotri for years together, we will have some idea of what the mind is. It will have silly desires which are very strong in nature, and which get submerged on account of other activities in usual social atmospheres.
In the practice of concentration in a secluded atmosphere, certain energies get awakened to activity of their own accord. We dig up all the unearthed powers inside by exerting pressure on every part of the body and the mind. We do not deliberately exert any pressure, but these powers feel the pressure nevertheless because the mind is pulled in one direction by the will which concentrates and energises the object that is on hand. It is very difficult to describe in language what happens. We must take to the practice and see for ourselves what it is. We will feel, after a time, that the whole of our personality is pulled up, as it were, and there is no part of our personality which we will not become aware of. Everything will become an object of our awareness. It is not merely the mind, but even the body that will react, because we are not merely the mind and not merely the body – we are a composite of both. Thus, the whole organism gets awakened, and this awakening can result in anything.
This is the advantage, as well as the disadvantage, of meditation. When we awaken all people into action, we do not know what these people will do. They may do something very good, or they may do something very disastrous. What they will do depends upon the control that we have, and the understanding that we have, of these people. When the whole organism is awakened to action – what will happen? It will rush in the direction of the impulses that were already buried inside. If the dam of a river is broken, where will the water go? It will rush in the direction of the channel that is in front of it. It cannot go somewhere else. The course of the river is already set, and the water has no other alternative than to move along the course already laid. So these submerged impulses, buried desires and unconscious urges become the dry beds of the river along which the waters of energy will flow when the mind is concentrated. Whether this result of concentration is advantageous or disadvantageous, whether it would be pleasurable or miserable, will be known from the course which it will take. It is like putting a sword in the hands of a person who can brandish it in any manner he likes. If he is a very intelligent, trained soldier in whose hands we have given this sword, he will use it for the appropriate purpose – in the battlefield. He will not use it anywhere else; it will be in the scabbard. But if the very same sword is put in the hands of a person whose mind is not under control, it can be used for any other purpose – used in a confused manner. It can be put to misuse. Similarly, this concentration of the mind is an impersonal energy that we rouse in ourselves, which can be put to use either this way or that way.
We again come to the point of the necessity of the yamas and niyamas, which are the beds of the river along which this energy will flow. How have we dug the beds and laid the lines of the movement of this energy? To stir up the kundalini shakti, or to awaken the energy inside, is not the only point to be considered. What will happen to us afterwards is equally important. We can be in a catastrophe if the energies are raised up like that, because they will simply burst like bombs; and they can burst anything – including ourselves – unless there is the intelligence to manoeuvre these energies. It is not enough if we have only power; we must know how to use that power. A person who has power, but does not know how to use it, is a dangerous person. Likewise would be the condition of a person who takes to deep concentration and meditation without knowing how to conduct himself after the energies are roused up. When the concentration continues for a protracted period, if we take to this practice in right earnest and continue the practice for months and months, and years, then some energies are bound to be roused – and they will be roused in any person. But what are these energies that may be roused?
In the Tantra Shastra and certain other schools of teaching, we have been told that there are chakras. These are only some words for untutored people, as these chakras are nothing but certain knots of energy into which the mind has got tied up. It has to be uncoiled. There are whirls of energy inside our system which are nothing but psychic energies. They are not physical, material substances. They are whirling configurations of psychic energy which are supposed to be coiled up in various centres of the system. These chakras are affected the moment we concentrate the mind with great force. Generally, the lower chakras get stirred up first – the higher ones will not be affected. We can imagine what would be the state of our mind and the condition of our living, etc., if we get attuned to the manner of the working of these lower energies which begin to act when they are stirred up into action.
These chakras, called muladhara, svadisthana, manipura, etc., are potencies that are inside us. The capacity of our ability to act is enabled by the particular chakra, whatever that chakra be. We have various potentialities inside us; we can do so many things. What are those things that we can do? The capacity in us to do certain things is in the particular chakra in which we are located. The particular chakra that will be stirred up would be that specific centre which corresponds to the level of existence in which we are living. If we are only in the physical world, only the physical centre will be stirred up. That means to say, if our consciousness is tied to the body too much – if we are intensely body-conscious and if our intelligent life or inward psychic life is very mild and not intense enough, if the physical consciousness is very intense and vital urges are very vehement, if these are the things which we are used to in our life and which we have put down due to force of will – they will be roused to action.
Generally most practitioners, even very advanced ones, cannot go beyond the first two chakras. They move around the muladhara and the svadisthana, and cannot go beyond that. The muladhara is stirred up in almost everyone, and when it gets stirred up we will not know what happens. We will be a little bit titillated, and feel a kind of satisfaction that some sort of an achievement is going to be effected early, and we will feel that something is happening. But when the svadisthana is stirred, we are in danger. This is what generally brings the yogi down to the level of an ordinary human being – sometimes even worse than a human being – because the svadisthana is the centre of desire. While the muladhara is the centre of gross physical living – we may call it the animal living of a tamasic character – the svadisthana is of a rajasic nature, and when it gets stirred up it will start blowing like a tempest. From all directions the winds will blow. If desires blow like winds from all sides, what will happen to us? They will not blow like an ordinary breeze. They will come like a cyclone because they were sleeping and we have awakened them.
When we see a person who is sleeping deeply and we wake him up suddenly, he may do something which is most unexpected. This svadisthana is a dangerous point, more dangerous than the muladhara. As I mentioned, very few have gone beyond that level; they can be counted on our fingers. Most people get caught up in the desire level, called the svadisthana. Then it is that they get fired up with the desire for world uplift, the idea of bringing heaven on earth, and they become messiahs or incarnations; they begin to feel that they are ambassadors of God Himself, come to rectify all the defects of this world. This is a peculiar kind of ego that rises up into a heightened activity when the svadisthana gets stirred up. Or, sometimes, animal desires can get activated. They will start drinking very vehemently, thinking that it is a kind of sadhana; or something worse than that – anything can happen. We know what the desires of a human being are – these are things not unknown – and every one of them will be activated. The desires of a person who has stirred the svadisthana will be more intense, whatever the desire be, than the desire of an ordinary person. This is the dangerous point where one can simply go down into the pits if the proper measures have not been taken earlier for putting these energies into proper use and harnessing them for the purpose for which the yoga practice has been undertaken.
These are the types of conditions we have to face – circumstances we have to pass through – if we earnestly take to concentration of mind for a long time. Therefore, before one actually enters into the path of yoga, especially at the point of concentration and meditation, very earnestly and seriously one has to be very well guarded by having an insight into one’s own psychological nature as to where one really stands in one’s personal and social life.