by Swami Krishnananda
Today we come to the more practical side of spiritual life, a necessity that arises automatically from the structure or the nature of things. We observed that the objective and the subjective sides of things run parallelly towards the destination of their evolution; and the two lines of evolution, or processes of development, seem to have a corresponding similarity and uniformity of action underlying them and controlling them even from outside.
The world-experience, or empirical perception, is the way in which the object is envisaged and looked upon by the subject as an external something. Spiritual experience, on the contrary, is the recognition and the experience of the underlying uniformity and unity that rules supreme over the apparently bifurcated processes known as the objective and the subjective sides of experience.
When the mental mode of the subject perceives an object as an external something, a modification takes place in the mental makeup. In Sanskrit, this transformation taking place in the mind due to the presence of an object in front of it is called a vritti. A psychosis, a modification, a sensation or a reaction that spontaneously takes place in the structure of the mind, or the mind-stuff, is a vritti. Just as when butter is brought near fire a transformation takes place in the lump of butter due to the effect produced by the heat of the fire, and just as objects that are dear or objects of hatred bring about a transformation in the mind of the subject perceiving the object, likewise, every object in the world brings about a corresponding transformation in the mind. This is what we call empirical experience, brought about by sensory contact and psychological cognition.
We continuously transform ourselves due to the very presence of objects outside us. This transformation is not necessarily conscious. It does not mean that we are always aware of the mental transformations taking place within ourselves. Part of this transformation becomes a content of our conscious experience, but the major part of it is unconsciously undergone. This is the peculiarity of our psychological makeup.
We have different layers of personality, and these various levels of our being determine our total experience. Our personality, the human nature, is not merely the conscious level of our activity or experience. We do not know our own selves wholly. We are ignorant of what is taking place in the major part of our own personality. This is the reason why we have moods and passages of experience, one succeeding the other, over most of which we have neither a control nor a proper knowledge.
A part of our personality is given to us as conscious experience. Similarly, a part of our bank balance may be in a current deposit, a part of it may be in a fixed deposit, and a part of it may be in a certificate. Whatever be the nature of the deposit, the whole of our financial resources is not in our current account, but part of it is drawn from the source for daily requirements. Likewise, a portion of our total experience is given to us as conscious activity. We draw upon the conscious level of our experience, and keep the major part in a fixed deposit because it is not necessary for daily experience. But, that fixed deposit can also be called into conscious experience when it is necessary. It can even be encashed prematurely when emergencies arise, or when we are in a difficult situation on the conscious level.
Usually, we do not draw upon the deeper resources. We get on with our conscious experience mostly, and we may even forget the existence of the major resources that we do not draw upon in day-to-day life. If we are very rich and our current account is large enough to maintain us throughout our life, we may even forget the existence of our fixed deposit. Likewise, our entire personality never comes to the surface, to our conscious activity or conscious experience. The major part of our life is buried deep, but it influences our personality even though it does not actually operate actively on the conscious level.
We have reserve forces of the army, of police, and so on. They do not come into conscious action always. Their energies or powers are not drawn upon every day. To give another example, we have the central operative force at the governmental level which determines the activities of the various departments. Their very existence and presence is enough to influence the activities of the lower departments at the day-to-day level of activity. Similarly, our mental structure can get on with the quota that is given to it for conscious activity, and we are likely to mistake our conscious level of experience as the entirety of our life, so that we are apt to make remarks about our own selves, judging ourselves from the point of view of what we are experiencing today at the conscious level. “I am well off” is a general remark that some people may make when they judge themselves from the point of view of what they are experiencing at that given moment of time.
We cannot judge ourselves merely by knowing our personality from today’s experience. There is a vast past behind us, and also an enormous future ahead of us. Both the past and the future determine our present. That which has gone past as an experience, leaving an impression in our mind, as well as what is to pull us ahead as a future – both these aspects of our experience have a say in the matter of our present experience. The quantity of desires in our mind – those desires that have been fulfilled, are yet to be fulfilled, and the consequent experiences that follow as a result of these unfulfilled desires of the future as well as the impressions left by past desires – all these tell upon our present life, so that our present experience is a complex of various factors coming from various sides, from different parts of the world, inwardly and outwardly, so that we represent in our individuality a cross section of world experience.
A single individual, when properly studied, is in a position to give us an idea of the total cosmic situation. All the roads that lead to the various corners of the world cross at a point, which we call the individual, and this cross section is the study in the practice of yoga. Just as the main switchboard may show us the position of the various pinpoints or plug points in electricity, a cross section that is taken in the form of an individual and studied properly will give us an idea of the world situation today.
The whole of the cosmos has its impact upon every individual. The cosmic situation cannot be objectively studied, on account of the inadequacy of our instruments; but the whole cosmos can be studied through every individual because every individual, taken independently, represents a replica of the cosmic situation. The whole cosmos is reflected in each individual, and the study of the individual is, therefore, the study of the cosmos. The bondage of the individual, again, is due to a cosmic situation, and the liberation of the individual will also be an outcome of a cosmic situation, so that samsara is not merely an experience of a particular individual but a cosmic situation represented in its totality. The liberation of an individual is also a cosmic experience. There is no such thing as individual salvation. When an individual attains liberation, the whole cosmos is correspondingly affected because the individual is a reflection, as it were, of the whole cosmic setup.
The study of the psychology of yoga is, thus, a cosmic study of things. It is not a study of the psychology of a particular individual or the cooperation of the mental makeup of an individual taken independently. The practice of yoga is a cosmic science because the study of the individual is at once the study of the cosmic situation. The study of the world and the study of the individual mean one and the same thing. We can take a single leaf of a tree and study the entire makeup of the tree; the structure of the entire tree is reflected in the makeup of a single leaf. Or, to give another example, a single cell of the body will tell us what our whole body is. When our blood is medically examined, only a drop is taken, and the whole system of our body is studied from that single drop of blood. A single cell taken out of our body, when properly studied, will tell us what our whole personality is, because the entire system is organic in its structure. It is organic in the sense that everything is influenced by everything else. Every part of the body is a representation of the total body.
Every individual is thus a representative of the total cosmos. Everything that is in the pindanda is in the brahmanda. Whatever is outside, is inside. The universe is an organic structure, even as the human body is an organic structure. And just as the organic structure of the human body can be studied by studying a part of it – a cell, for example, or a drop of blood – the whole cosmos can be studied by the study of a single individual.
Even in the individual, it is the centre of the individual that matters most – the mental structure. The psychology of the human being is the whole human being. When our mind is studied, the whole of our personality is studied in all its levels of experience. The study of mind is the study of yoga. The study of human nature is the study of mind, and that again is what we know as the study of yoga in its generality and in its particularity. The control of the mind is yoga: yogaḥ cittavṛitti nirodhaḥ (YS 1.2). This is because the mind is a cross section of the whole creation. We can operate upon the entire cosmos by operating upon the factors constituting the mental structure of an individual. The study of the mind is the study of yoga, or the study of the cosmic structure, and the control of the mind is the control of the whole universe.
We are now pinpointed at the cross section that is called the psychological organ. In Sanskrit, it is called the antahkarana. The study of the antahkarana is the study of the psychological structure of the human being. What is the psychological nature of a person? It is everything that can be comprised within what may be called the experience of the individual. What we call our experience is our psychological operation. I deliberately use the word ‘experience’, and not ‘consciousness’, because consciousness is mistaken for the waking experience of our day-to-day life. But our psychological structure is not exhausted by the waking experience merely. We have other experiences than the waking. There are various levels of our psychological structure. What we are is not merely what we experience in our waking life. We have dream experiences which bring out more of our personality than the waking life. Many of our truths are revealed in our dream life rather than our waking life.
Do you know why our whole personality is not revealed in waking life? Because there is social censor – the reality, as it is called in psychoanalysis. The reality of the world censors many of our experiences. Just as our mail can be censored and those letters which are objectionable in their nature may not be delivered, objectionable desires and experiences are not delivered into conscious experience due to social censor. This is the reason why we bury many of our experiences within us, and keep ourselves locked up within a prison house created by our own selves, so that we have a private personality which is independent of our public personality. We are different in our house from what we are in our office. When we return from the office, we speak with our family members in another way altogether from how we behave in the office. This is because the office experiences are controlled by public censor, and so we do not deliver our entire personality there; otherwise, we will be regarded as misfits. So we deliver ourselves in a very controlled manner in public life, so that we are artificial personalities. Our natural personality is submerged because society does not want our entire personality to be exhibited. We may be unfit, anti-social elements if our entire personality is shown. Society has a law of its own. Not only society, but the whole universe, in its astronomical setup, has a law of its own; therefore, we try to abide by the laws operating outside by exhibiting a necessary part of our personality, and burying inside what may be called an unnecessary part of our personality from the point of view of the social law that is operating for the time being.
It does not mean that social law is the same everywhere. For example, in social circles of natives who are not up-to-date in the sense of a modern, civilized, educated culture, the laws may be different. Certain natives or aboriginals remain nude, whereas we regard that with opprobrium. Similarly, marriage laws differ from society to society. The way in which people judge each other also differs from society to society. The social customs, faith and religious background all determine the way in which we exhibit ourselves in society. Hence, we judge our personality from the point of view of various factors involved in our present setup of environment.
Our environment is, again, complex. We are not in a very simple, easy environment at any time. We have a political and social environment of which we have to be conscious, and the social culture and etiquette must also be taken note of. We cannot go against these. And there are umpteen other factors which are woven into the very fabric of our personality from our birth itself, so that we are artificial personalities from childhood onwards. We do not know what our real personality is.
Sometimes our real personality exhibits itself when society casts us to the winds. A situation of that nature may occasionally arise in our lives. Sometimes revolutions take place in society which completely throw out the existing norms of ethics and conduct, and each person seems to be standing on his own or her own legs. When there is no control of any kind, everything is at sixes and sevens, when we do not know whether or not we are going to live, when everything is in the form of a social fever and a political upheaval, the true colour of the individual personality comes up.
But such occasions are very rare. These are only academic or theoretical possibilities that we are discussing, as they do not take place every day. They have occasionally taken place in the history of nations; but as they are not daily experiences, they cannot be taken as normalcy in our behaviour. Normally we always live an artificial life of a controlled exhibition of our personality, and the major part of it is kept in reserve for exhibition only under possible and given circumstances.
The practice of yoga is an art of bringing out to the conscious level of experience the entirety of our personality, so that we may not be artificial individuals at any time. To be artificial is a very unhappy thing, as we know very well. We do not like to be what we are not. Yet we are compelled by circumstances to exhibit an artificial personality. We speak with people in a very made-up fashion. We have to think thrice before we utter words, because every word that we speak may be weighed on a balance, especially if we are a political unit. And so we are very controlled in our expression, and do not give up the entirety of our ideas; we look in all ten directions before we speak a word. All this is because we have to take note of the consequences that follow from our actions. We cannot be normal persons in the present-day world, to mention the situation precisely. No one is one-hundred-percent normal because society controls us, political laws control us, our economic conditions control us, and even our family circumstances have a say in the matter. We are not absolutely free individuals in society. We are bound by various factors, and so we are unhappy at the core of our hearts.
We try to be happy by creating artificial conditions, which are mostly techniques of forgetting our worries rather than the solution to our problems. We go to movies, to clubs, to parties, on picnics; we have a drink, a smoke, strong tea, etc. All these are methods of forgetting the devil. They are not solutions to our problems, because these problems cannot be solved. We know these problems are so deep and complicated that they cannot be solved at all. So what do we do? If they cannot be solved and if they weigh heavy on our heads daily, they may create a complex and we may become maniacs. To avoid this possibility of going mad, we create artificial circumstances of forgetting the tense situations in life.
Hence, we live artificial lives from beginning to end, forgetting reality altogether, and never giving reality a chance to get into our lives. Reality is terrible. The world is not our friendly neighbour; it has its own laws, which we cannot abide by, so the best thing is to forget the worries rather than solve the problems. Most of us adopt this escapist attitude of forgetting reality. Most of us are escapists. Every person in the world has some form of escapism in his or her personality on account of not being able to find an ultimate solution to problems. The problems are so many; they are quantitatively large and qualitatively very annoying. Life is an utter failure in the case of most people in the world. It is not a success, because reality is different from the makeup of our psychological constitution. We can be successes in life only if our inner nature is to be in conformity with the outer reality.
Yoga practice is a supernormal technique adopted by ancient adepts and masters, by which we can tune our inner personality to the reality that is outside. For this we have to make a thorough study of our personality first, and then study the nature of the reality that is outside. This is the study of philosophy. Philosophical investigations and analyses are the processes by which we study the nature of reality as well as the nature of our inner personality. Philosophy includes metaphysics and psychology. It is metaphysics in the sense that it is a study of the nature of reality as such, and it is psychology in the sense that it is a study of our own inner nature. Hence, sadhana, or spiritual practice, is philosophy and psychology combined. These combined together make spirituality.
Thus, we have a very difficult subject before us. It is a study of our own self as a psychological unit on one side, and study of the vast reality of the world and creation on the other side. Therefore a sadhaka, or a spiritual seeker, should have an acute intellect and be a very profound psychologist. A foolish person cannot be a spiritual person. It is not mere emotion that is called devotion to God; it is a philosophical efflorescence of our personality that takes the form of a spiritual aspiration. The aspiration for God-realisation, or the ultimate perfection of life, is the growth of our total personality in conformity with the reality that is outside. The whole universe grows together with us when we grow spiritually. The spiritual aspirant is not an ordinary individual. The spiritual seeker is a representative of the whole cosmos evolving towards the Absolute.
It is a wonderful thing to understand, to study, and to make an investigation of. We become very interesting individuals. The philosophical mind is a very interesting unit. Nothing can be more interesting than the study of philosophy and psychology in its true connotation. The study of psychology is the study of the total personality of the individual – conscious, subconscious, unconscious and spiritual – and at the same time, it is a philosophical study of the ultimate constitution of things. Philosophy, properly defined, is the explanation of events by their ultimate causes, not by their immediate causes.
For example, in medical science we have the study of disease by its ultimate causes as well as by its immediate causes. We have a headache. Why do we have a headache? Perhaps we slept in the open the previous night, in a misty atmosphere, and today we have a headache. This is the study of our headache by immediate cause. But the ultimate cause may not be merely our sleeping outside. Many other factors have contributed to our headache today. We may have walked in the hot sun, or we may have had a tense day due to overwork; we may have even had a small family quarrel which contributed to today’s headache, and so on. We can multiply causes which jointly contribute to the experience of the shooting pain or migraine that we have today. We cannot simply swallow an aspirin and cure our headache, because many other factors have contributed to it. We may suppress our headache by taking an aspirin. It may go today, but after few days it will again come. We have to go on swallowing pills because we have not found the ultimate cause of our illness.
Likewise, we cannot attain ultimate freedom or liberation merely by the study of immediate causes. We have to study the ultimate causes of things. Every experience, every event that takes place in the world has a cause behind it, and every cause has another cause behind it. There is a chain of causes and effects, taking us to the ultimate cause of things, the causeless Cause, which we may theologically term the Creator of the cosmos, God. The causeless cause is God, the Unmoved Mover, as we sometimes say.
Likewise, there is a corresponding study subjectively, studying the nature of mental phenomena. The causes of mental phenomena have to be studied – not only their structure, but also their antecedents. This would be the study of profound psychology. And, as I said, the study of psychology and the study of philosophy have to go together simultaneously, parallel to each other, because they are mutually related sciences.
The study of the spiritual nature of things is thus a blending together of the philosophical and psychological aspects of education. The highest form of education is, therefore, its spiritual form, which takes the entirety of experience and does not leave aside any part of it. We become dispassionate in this study. Education is a dispassionate process of ultimately moving towards Perfection. We should not have prejudices when we enter into the educational process. We should shed all our preconceived notions and be a clean slate, as they say, without anything written on it. This is to enter into the school of education as a fully prepared individual to receive knowledge from the school of nature and to be ready for the process of evolution in its fullness, both subjectively and objectively.
Education is not merely a subjective process. It is also not merely a study of objective phenomena. Unfortunately, today we are failures in our education because we have limited education to the study of objects. It may be physics, it may be chemistry, it may be mathematics, or it may be geography – all these are objective sciences which have nothing to do with subjective phenomena. This is why we are still unhappy even after we complete our education of these objects. We have not studied ourselves. Even the study of psychology is not exhausted these days. Psychologists are not necessarily happy persons because they have taken psychology as an objective science – as a study of the behaviour of personality rather than the inner structure of the mind.