The Study and Practice of Yoga
An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda
Part III: The Vibhuti Pada
Chapter 91: The Integrating Force
Previously we were considering the three processes of mental transformation at the time of samyama, or absorption in the given object, to which Patanjali refers in his analysis of the mind. The three transformations, called parinamas, are discussed very precisely in three sutras. Vyutthāna nirodha saṁskārayoḥ (III.9) is how the sutra starts. We have studied something about it earlier. When the impressions, or the vrittis, connected with the objects of sense are put down by the power of concentration, there is an alternate activity taking place in the mind whereby there is a succession of incoming and outgoing vrittis – a group entering, and a group trying to get out. To give a gross example, an activity of this kind can be found in a beehive. Many bees come in and many bees go out for some purpose of their own. Likewise, bundles and bundles of mental impressions enter the mind, and others try to get out.
This also happens in the biological activity which takes place in the body when toxic matter enters the system. The moment there is something in the body which is unwanted, a war takes place, and as the anatomists and biologists will tell us, the white corpuscles of the blood start fighting the bacteria or germ and in that war many soldiers die. If there is a pinprick or a kind of thorn prick, or some kind of injury to the foot, we find that the body immediately attempts to reconstruct itself, and prepares itself for the occasion. In that process of the tussle between the two types of corpuscles of the blood, many cells around also get destroyed, resulting in pus coming out. The pus is nothing but the killed soldiers who have been trying to protect the body against the onslaught of this toxic element. Likewise, in the psychological warfare that takes place at the time of concentration, many features are to be observed. Patanjali purposely and very pithily mentions three types of struggle that go on inside the mind at the time of its attempt to enter into the nature of the object in samyama.
There are various factors which will obstruct this attempt. These obstructing factors are the impressions of the mind, or rather impressions present in the mind in respect of those objects to which the mind was habituated earlier, to which it was accustomed, and to come in contact with which it was struggling hard throughout its life. In yoga, those vrittis are to be put down by the force of another type of vritti which arises in the mind. That impression produced in the mind by repeated concentration is called nirodha samskara. This is what we observed previously in the sutra: vyutthāna nirodha saṁskārayoḥ abhibhava prādurbhāvau nirodhakṣaṇa cittānvayaḥ nirodhapariṇāmaḥ (III.9).
The sutra which follows tells us about a new aspect of this very same process that takes place in the mind: sarvārthatā ekāgratayoḥ kṣaya udayau cittasya samādhipariṇāmaḥ (III.11). Just as there is a parinama called nirodha, there is another parinama called samadhi, and a third parinama by the name of ekagrata which will be mentioned in another sutra. As mentioned earlier, these are also called dharma, lakshana and avastha parinama. When the impressions or tendencies in the mind which project themselves repeatedly in respect of their corresponding objects come in conflict with the other vrittis in the mind which try to focus the wholeness of being towards the object of meditation, there is what is called samadhi parinama. The transformation which is a preparation for total absorption is called samadhi parinama; and what happens is mentioned in this sutra.
Sarvarthata ekagrata are the two types of vrittis. Sarvarthata means that particular kind of mental activity which has many objects before it, whereas ekagrata is that particular activity of the mind which has only one object before it. These two activities take place simultaneously, and one tries to push out the other. The distracting activity, we may call it, which is the tendency of the mind to ramify itself in respect of its own objects, and the tendency of the mind in yoga which has been deliberately introduced by the force of concentration – these come and go. They rise and fall. The fall and the rise of these two types of mental vrittis are called ksaya and udayau. Ksaya is the diminution – the coming down, the falling down, the exhaustion. Udayau is the rise – the coming up to the surface of consciousness.
Hence, there will be, again, a succession of two types of thought in the mind when we meditate. There will be a sudden entry of thoughts connected with the mind’s contact with objects. And because of the practice of yoga for a long time – meditation in which we have been engaged for a protracted period – there is also the other tendency of the mind which tries to overcome these vrittis. Thus there will be a flickering of the light of the mind and not a continuous glow of the flame, as ought to be there. The flickering is due to the fact that there are two kinds of energies projecting themselves forth in the mind with two different aims: the one trying to go out, and the other trying to integrate.
The work of the mind is, therefore, twofold at this particular stage: to observe the various vrittis which are trying to connect themselves with the objects, and to observe simultaneously the extent to which mastery has been gained by the ekagrata vritti over these distracting, or sarvarthata, vrittis. It is here, in this stage, that we will be able to understand ourselves a little more than when we are busy in human society. We are all alone to ourselves, observing only ourselves, entirely, with great focused attention, so that the subtle delicate tendencies which were up to this time buried due to other reasons will slowly come up – then we can observe our proclivities, our idiosyncrasies, our predilections and our natural tendencies.
As we have been mentioning, or studying again and again on different occasions, it is not possible for the mind to study its own self when it is busily engaged in activities other than the act of observation of itself because here, in this process of samyama, there is no other activity in the mind except self-observation. It studies itself, it probes into its own inner structure, and it decomposes its inner constituents. The composite character of the mind, which kept it in the form of a compact object, as it were, is attacked by the power of concentration, and the constituents are separated. These constituents are the vrittis.
What are the vrittis? They are not substances. They are not things to be seen with the eyes. They are only energies of the mind. They are the forces of the mind itself, or rather, they are the desires of the mind; these are the vrittis. The various likes and dislikes in the mind are really the vrittis. And, what is this like and dislike, desire, etc? It is the urge that is felt inside the mind itself which propels it towards something outside, whether it is a physical object or a conceptual notion. This urge within is the disease of the mind. That is the obstacle. That is the impediment. There is an inner pressure felt by the mind itself, due to which it is obliged to move out of itself in respect of an object of sense. This is the sarvarthata vritti.
An ekagrata vritti is not normally present in the mind. It has to be brought about; it has to be introduced by effort. This is samyama; this is, precisely, yoga. The ekagrata vritti is the healthful tendency of the mind, the power with which it keeps the organism of the mind intact and prevents any kind of depletion of energy. The integrating force, which is the ekagrata vritti, will not allow the leaking out of mental energy in respect of objects outside. It blocks all the passages of sense and the tendency of the mind. But these tendencies are also powerful enough, so they try to break through the fortress which has been built by the ekagrata vritti, and then, somehow or other, try to get out, just as prisoners can run out of the jail in spite of the great guard that is kept around them. Somehow or other something happens, and they get out. This is what happens, says Patanjali: sarvārthatā ekāgratayoḥ kṣaya udayau cittasya samādhipariṇāmaḥ (III.11).
Therefore, we should not be under the impression that the moment we sit for meditation we are in a peaceful ocean of milk and honey. It is not like that. This is when the real war takes place. In the beginning it was only a preparation for this great Armageddon. And, the war that takes place inside is more fearful and more difficult to face than any kind of warfare that we could have heard of. It is not like the political wars or the external tussles that we hear through the passage of history. This is more painful because it is connected with the subtler layers of being. Also, the subtler the level, the greater is the sensitivity felt; therefore, the pleasures and the pains – both – are more intense on the subtler levels than on the grosser levels. Hence, the joys of meditation as well as the pains that precede this experience of delight are both equally very intense.
Thus, there is a great competitive activity going on inside the mind between two aspects of it – the higher and the lower, as we may call them. There is, on the one side, the desire to ramify the mind into the various objects for the purpose of contact, and on the other, the effort to centre the mind. We usually lead a life of external relationship. This is withdrawn, and the rays of the mind are brought back to the centre by the ekagrata vritti. So on the one hand there is an attempt at the withdrawal of the rays of the mind to the centre, and on the other hand there is the tendency of the mind itself to allow the branching out towards objects.
We can observe in our own selves, many a time, that we have two tendencies. Sometimes we like to give vent to our own sentiments, and we feel great pleasure in it. We have some feelings which we may call weaknesses. They are the sentiments. There is no logic behind them. “I like it”; that is all we say. Why we like it, we do not know. We like to give ventilation to that particular sentiment, and we become happy. And at other times, we are more rational with our mind. We begin to argue out: “Why should this sort of inclination, which is completely out of my control, arise in my mind?” Sometimes we are more judicious in our judgement over ourselves, whereas at other times we are stimulated to give a long rope to our feelings.
As we do in life on the outside, the same thing happens inside. Generally, the inclination of the mind is towards pleasure. It does not want pain of any kind. This is the simple truth of the whole matter. Inasmuch as there is a peculiar notion that contact of any kind with the desirable objects brings pleasure, one naturally tries one’s best to find some chance for coming in such contact. And, the withdrawal of that activity is painful. Anything that contravenes one’s attempt at the pursuit of pleasure is pain. Hence, even this yoga practice becomes a pain if it obstructs the natural tendency of the mind towards objects of sense, contact with which it has always regarded as a source of pleasure. But if we can remember the conclusion of all our studies of the earlier sutras, we can very well recollect that it is a foolish idea of the mind. There is great blunder involved in the notion that pleasures come by contact. There is great error of judgement which has to be set right by more intelligent ways of mental analysis. This, therefore, is the meaning of this sutra, sarvārthatā ekāgratayoḥ kṣaya udayau cittasya samādhipariṇāmaḥ (III.11), which tells us that the peculiar mental transformation called samadhi parinama is nothing but the rising and the falling, alternately or successively, of the tendencies of the mind towards various objects outside, and the tendency of the mind towards self-integration.
Tatāḥ punaḥ śānta uditau tulya pratyayau cittasya ekāgratāpariṇāmaḥ (III.12). This is a very advanced stage. Most people cannot reach this stage. Even the so-called advanced ones are only in the first stage, called nirodha parinama, where there is simply a struggle between two tendencies of the mind – namely, the tendency to go out and the tendency to concentrate. That is all. We cannot think of anything more than that. But this sutra tells us that we have to rise to a higher state. That particular state which is indicated in this third sutra, in connection with the parinamas, tells us that when we go higher, something strange takes place. We will see something very uncommon – most unexpected, we may say.
We have always been under the impression that there is an intrinsic difference between ourselves and the objects of sense. Or rather, to put it more plainly, there is a difference between you and me. It is this difference that makes you a ‘you’ and me a ‘me’; otherwise, there is no such thing as ‘you’ and ‘me’. There is a peculiar feature which characterises things and persons, due to which they stand apart from one another. To pinpoint the subject on hand, there is a gulf between the subject and the object. They cannot be identical. The ‘you’ cannot be the ‘I’ – that is the simple essence of the matter. The ‘I’ is the meditator; the ‘you’ is the object. And the ‘you’ is always a ‘you’; the ‘I’ is always the ‘I’. How can the two come together? They cannot come together because of the disparity of character. But, though this is the usual idea that we have about ourselves and of things outside us, this is not the truth about things.
It is not true that there are such distinguishing and separating features in objects as to isolate them completely, forever, from other things. It is not true that the inherent characters or structural features of an object are so vehement that they cannot unite themselves with the nature of the subject. The reason why there has been so much of struggle in the mind inside, in the form of nirodha parinama, samadhi parinama, etc., is that the mind is unable to get out of this prejudice that the object is the object and the subject is the subject; that they are two different things. We feel, “I like the object. Where is the point in liking the subject? I am the subject. And inasmuch as the object is completely dissimilar to me – it has characters which I would like to possess, which I do not possess at this moment – it would be my duty to grasp that object, absorb it into myself, and make use of it in the way I like.” This desire arises on account of the notion, the conviction, that the object is different from the subject. Otherwise, the desire for the object will not rise. It is very clear.
The sutra tells us that when we go deeper into the practice of samyama, this prejudice breaks down – the walls fall, the screen is lifted and we will see something strange before us. That strange feeling we will have when the screen is lifted between us and the object is what is called ekagrata parinama. What is this strange feeling, or experience? Tulya pratyayau is the simple phrase which explains the entire thing. The consciousness of the object, and the consciousness of the subject, create in us two different feelings. You can experiment with your own self, if you like. Close your eyes and think deeply of an object which you love most. What do you feel at that time? Each one will know what it is. Close your eyes and think of your own self; don’t think of anybody else. What feelings arise at that time? Compare the one with the other. They are poles apart. There is a peculiar sensation which you feel in the entire system of your body and mind when you think of a beloved object, quite different from the sensation that you have when you think of your own self.
Hence, the distinction that is between the two types of experience, subjective and objective, explains life phenomenal. But here, in this ekagrata parinama, these sensations will not be dissimilar in character. Whether we think of our own self or we think of a beloved object, the sensations will be same. There will be no two different sensations. This is something very difficult to understand. How is it possible? When we think of a mango, or when we think of a cobra, how will we have the same type of feelings? They are two different feelings altogether. But yoga tells us they are same. There is no difference, provided that we have reached a particular state of thinking. ‘How is it possible?’ is a doubt that can arise in the mind. How can a detestable object, when thought of, generate the same sensation and feeling as when we think of a beloved object? It is not understandable.
But the yoga psychology explains the reason. The detestable character of an object and the beloved character of an object are due to our peculiar reactions in respect of objects. And those reactions are because of the structural peculiarity of our own psychophysical organism. The child of a snake will not be afraid of its mother snake. It is humans who are afraid. The structural feature of the organism of the child snake is not dissimilar to the mother snake. There is some uniformity, so they will not be afraid of one another. The ‘like’ that the mind evinces in respect of an object is due to that reason only. That is the reason why I may like one thing and you may not like that very thing. What I like, you may not like. What is the matter with you? How is it that the same object evokes two different feelings? It is because the different reactions that we set up in respect of that object depend upon the structural peculiarity of our own psychic and bodily constitution. Therefore, it is not the object that gives the pleasure, and it is also not the object that is the cause of pain; it is the inability of the mind to adjust itself, or rather the inability of the total organism to adjust itself with the location, structure, character and relationship of the object.
But in this ekagrata parinama, this difficulty is obviated. We enter into the deeper layers of the object, so that its external features, which stand outside us, are not there any more. The inner essence of the meditating consciousness and the inner essence of the object stand on par. Or rather, to give an old example which we repeat again and again, we begin to see the wood in the table as well as in the chair. We will no longer call this a chair. It is only a piece of wood. We will not call it a table. It is the same wood. There will be no difference in the feelings of the mind in respect of the table and the chair, inasmuch as it does not see the table and it does not see the chair. It sees only the wood. So how can there be a difference in feeling? Whether it sees the table or the chair, it sees the same thing. Whether we see the subject or the object, we are seeing the same thing. How can there be difference of feeling?
Thus, tulya pratyaya means the equanimity of feeling, or equality of perception. Identity, practically, of cognition is the result of the rise of the mind to that state which is called ekagrata parinama – tatāḥ punaḥ śānta uditau tulya pratyayau cittasya ekāgratāpariṇāmaḥ (III.12). This subject we shall continue in the next chapter.