by Swami Krishnananda
In meditation we deal with the object more effectively than when we think of objects in ordinary life. I can think of you in one way from the point of view of daily concourse and the business of life, but my thought of you in meditation is altogether different.
As I mentioned in the previous session, meditation is not thinking. It is not a social communication that we establish with objects. In sensory and social contacts, objects are looked upon as one of the units of the external world. They are judged and dealt with in a purely empirical manner. An object, when we look upon it socially and empirically, exists as a point in space occupying a location as a physical body. It has also a location in the passage of time. And thirdly, it has a definition, a quality or a characteristic.
Whenever we think of an object, these three associations come into operation even without our thinking of them. An object can be only at one place; it cannot be at two places at the same time. And an object can be only at a particular moment of time; it cannot simultaneously occupy temporal locations of past, present and future. Also, it is impossible to think of an object without its having some sort of a relation with other objects. This is how we look upon things usually – with a physical location, a quantity, and a mass. Every object, physically speaking, has this three-dimensional character – a structure of length, breadth, and height. It is inseparable also from the passage of time. We exist in a place and in a time simultaneously. We are here and we are now. These are inseparable associations of an object. Space-time causal relationship of an object is inseparable from the object.
This gives us an impression that we are not judging an object properly, giving it due respect, but only defining it through extraneous characters which need not necessarily belong to it. To define an object as something occupying a particular space or existing in a particular moment of time, or as bearing relationship with other things, is not to define it independently. This is what is usually called the definition by accidental characters, or tatastha lakshana. Accidental attributes are characters which are foisted upon the object only for the time being, just as when we say that such and such a person is a district collector or a prime minister. This is not an essential definition of the object, because one cannot be a district collector or hold an office always. Any kind of definition by way of qualities or characters which are only temporarily obtained is called tatastha lakshana, or an accidental qualification workable in the utilitarian world but not an essential attribute or the substantiality of the object.
In meditation we are to hit upon the substantiality of the thing rather than its externally associated characters. The object may be in one place; that is quite all right. But the question is: What is that object which is in that particular place? Therefore, there is no use defining the object as something which is in that place. We have to dissociate the object from its temporal and spatial associations, and also its three-dimensional character, because when we probe deeply into the structure of an object, we will realise that objects are not three-dimensional. They appear to be so on account of their location in space and in time. Whenever space and time get associated with an object, that object appears to be three dimensional; but inasmuch as we cannot look upon an object as independent of its association with space and time, we also cannot conceive of an object independent of the three-dimensional character. We cannot think of any object which has not this character of three-dimensionality.
As they say, reality is four-dimensional. Nobody can think of that fourth dimension because other than length, breadth and height, we cannot conceive of a geometrical character of an object. But we are told today that there is such a thing as the fourth dimension, which is supposed to be not merely the time association with the object independent of the spatial association, but a blending of the spatial and temporal characters simultaneously.
We separate space and time in our judgment of things. We always speak of space and time, and conceive of them as two different relationships or defining characteristics of an object. This is the limitation of thinking. There are certain fundamental restrictions in the way of thinking itself, which stultifies all the processes of logical understanding. Logic is a process of thinking by which we separate the defining character, called the predicate, from that which is defined, or the subject. This is very interesting. It is something like breaking the leg of a person and then trying to join the broken parts. Why do we break the leg at all and then have to call for a bonesetter?
Logic has this intrinsic defect of separating the subject from the predicate – not in the grammatical sense, but in a logical sense. Logic isolates the quality, or the adjective, from the substantive, and then tries to define the substantive in terms of the adjective. This is the reason why Truth as it is cannot be known by logic. Reality as such is incomprehensible through logical understanding because logic has a defect of isolating the subject and the predicate. But Reality is that which is universal and all-comprehensive. It has to comprehend within its substantiality all the adjectives as not in any way separate from it, but as inseparable from it. Such an object is inconceivable to us because we are restricted to the operations of the mind in space and time.
In meditation, we try to be beyond these limitations of conception of an object, and try to hit upon the object as it is in itself. These technical methods are described in some of the sections of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and also in certain other philosophical meditation scriptures. When we try to conceive of an object in meditation, we regard it as a spatio-temporal something. It may be an image, a murti, a vigraha, a painted picture, a diagram drawn on a wall or on the floor, or it can even be a mental concept. Whatever be the form of the object of meditation, it has this limiting character of being in space-time, and causally related to other objects.
Patanjali, in his very pointed definition of the object of meditation, tells us that we have to gradually raise the mind from the conception of the object to the apprehension of the object as it is. It is the realisation of the object rather than a mere thinking of it in terms of relationships. This is something which we are not accustomed to in our usual way of thinking. Patanjali tells us that when we define an object, we bring in three factors together. One is the idea of the object, the notion of the object, the thought of the object, the consciousness of the object – whatever we may call it. The other is the name that we give to it. ‘Cow’ is a name that we give to a particular kind of animal. The cow itself may not know that it is called a cow. Somebody else calls it by the name cow. Likewise, we have appellations or epithets associated with various objects. The moment the word ‘tree’ is uttered, a particular form is conjured up in our mind; and the effect of these words upon our mind is such that it may mean even life and death to us. For instance, praise and censure are nothing but a jumble of words, but these words have such an impact upon our mind that we may even wage war merely because of certain words uttered, sounds that have been created in the air. These sounds, these words, these appellations have become a part of the normal way of thinking.
When a child is born, there is a naming ceremony. It is an introduction to the samsaric life of the world – one more addition of bondage. Previously the child had no name. When we give an additional restricting factor, “You shall be known only by this appellation, and anything else is not you,” we are restricting the operation of the child’s mind by giving it a name. And we restrict the operation of their minds in many other ways also, by social restrictions of different types. The name is associated with the object as much as the idea is associated with the object. The idea of the cow and the name cow is associated with the cow as it is in itself. We have to make a distinction between the substance called the cow independent of the name that we have given to it and the notion that we have about it. For the time being, we can distinguish the cow from the name that has been given to it; but if no name is given to it, we cannot even think it. The moment we think of the animal or even see it, the name also gets associated with it.
One of the efforts in meditation is to dissociate the object from its name. This requires hard effort because we have been taught from our childhood that everything has a name, and this name becomes a part of the object itself due to social habit. But now the mind has to be trained in a different manner of thinking, so that we are able to think of the cow as it was before it was named for the first time in creation. What is a child before it is named? It is still a child. It is a human being, and it has all the characteristics of anything that is worthwhile in the human world, so it should be capable of being thought independent of the name with which it is associated.
While the dissociation of the object from its name is difficult enough, more difficult is the dissociation of the notion of it from its substantiality. This is a higher stage in meditation, and almost impossible for ordinary persons. The notion of the object – the thought or the mentation of the object – has two different layers of connotation. The thought of the object can be purely psychological, and it can also be physical association. The psychological association of the mind with the object is something to which I made reference in an earlier session as the emotional contact which we have with the object: that object belongs to me, or it does not belong to me; it is mine or not mine; it has such and such a value in my personal life, and so on.
The psychological association of the object with our personal life is the first thing to be dealt with in meditation. That is to say, it has to be isolated from these psychological associations. If the object does not belong to me, what is it independently? Or, if it has no personal relationship with me at all, what could that object be? Such contemplation would be an attempt at an independent appreciation of the object. This independent appreciation is the beginning of a higher kind of meditation, far superior to the one in which we tried to dissociate the object from the name associated with it.
Now, this is the apprehension of the object without defining it through emotional associations. We should be able to give a definition of the object independent of its relationship with us – or rather, independent of any kind of human relationship. Can we give a definition of an object without associating it with somebody else in the world? That would be a very great advance that we make in meditation on the object.
But apart from the psychological association which the object may have, it has a physical association. This is still more difficult to conceive. The world of objects is a network of relations. This is the philosophy of the Buddha and of Buddhism – the philosophy of the momentariness of all things. Everything in the world is a flow, a current, or a process of forces which join together at certain locations of space and time to give an impression of stability of the object. It is very difficult to understand this philosophy of Buddha. It is not Buddha’s philosophy merely; it is everybody’s philosophy. Even modern physical science has accepted it. The objects of the world are not stable substances, but collocations of forces which impinge on a particular spot in space and a moment in time by certain factors which are beyond the comprehension of the human mind, and give us the notion or the appearance of stability.
I have oftentimes given the example of a cinematographic picture to substantiate this view of the momentariness and the processional character of the objects of the world. The picture that we see in a cinema is not a stable picture; it is a moving process. We are told that at least sixteen pictures run in every second of time, but we cannot see it. If we see a person on the screen standing still for one minute, it does not mean that we are seeing only one picture. Many pictures have rushed past us during that one minute, but we have not been able to observe the process of the movement of the pictures on account of the incapacity of our eyes to catch up with the speed of their movement. It is a defect of our eyes. But if our eyes were made in such a way as to catch up with the speed of the film, then we would not be able to enjoy the cinema because we would see every picture jumping. Likewise, we are told that the objects of the world are processions of forces. We may call them atomic forces or electronic energies, or whatever we may call it. Buddha never used such terms; he simply called them momentary processes of objectivity. Today we are calling them energies, atomic forces, electronic processes, etc., but they mean one and the same thing.
The objects of the world are not stable points. For instance, if a powerful microscope is used to observe a person’s body, we will not be able to see them in the same way. Perhaps we do not have such a powerful microscope that can probe into the processes that are taking place in the body. For example, we will never be able to see the beauty of a person or of a painted picture if they are looked at with the powerful lens of a microscope which will magnify it a million times. We will see cells rapidly moving in various ways, and it will appear as a colony of bodies rather than a single body. If a human body is seen through a powerful microscope, we will see it as a colony of forces, an assembly or a society of cells, rather than a single person. There is no single person. The person does not exist. A society is not a single body; it is made up of many elements and units, though we call society a body for legal purposes. Likewise, for legal purposes we may say it is a body, but really it is not a body; it is only a society of cells. But if we go deeper into the structure of the cell, we will find that even the cell is a society of finer forces. The cell is not a unit or a substance. So the body is gone; it does not exist. This is not the case merely with the human body, but with everything in the world, animate or inanimate. The whole world is a movement of forces rapidly rushing towards some destination of which we are not aware at present.
Therefore, the object that we think of is not a real object. Ultimately it is only a network of relations, in which our personality also has been included. We have contributed our might in creating this apprehension of the stability of an object. Umpteen factors join together to constitute the notion of the stability of an object. So, while the name of the object has to be separated from the object, the stability or the substantiality – the physical location of the object as it appears to us – is also to be dissociated from the object as it is in itself. When we come to this stage of meditation, the object will look like a universal mass focussed at a single point.
Image worship, or murti puja, etc., are sometimes condemned by people who do not understand the religious motives behind them. They say God is not in images, He is everywhere. These are all false notions. God is everywhere and, therefore, He is also in images. It is very clear. But, it is not merely that. It is not merely a humorous definition that we give of the image; it is a higher reality that we are contemplating through the object. Inasmuch as every object is a point of the union or the commingling of universal forces to form that point of network giving the notion or the idea of the stability of that object, through that object we can enter the whole cosmos. If we touch any part of the ocean, we have touched the whole ocean. If I touch the shore of the Arabian Sea near Bombay, I am touching the waters of the Atlantic, because they are one. So if we touch an object, we have touched the whole cosmos; and if we focus our attention on the structure of any image in our meditation, we have brought universal forces into operation.
This is, again, to enter into more deep and interesting facts about meditation. When we are advanced enough in meditation, we will begin to encounter many problems and difficulties. In the initial stages, we will have no difficulty. It will look as if we are progressing very well, because we have not even disturbed the location of the object. The mind that meditates is not powerful enough to touch the substance of the object. So in ordinary meditation we are only in a fool’s paradise, as it were, imagining that we see visions, lights, etc. We will have no difficulties; everything will look all right. But when we disturb the location of the object by bombarding it with a thought of meditation, then the constituents of the object get separated. The very tendency of the object’s constituents to get separated from its name and notional association will bring into operation universal forces which have been responsible for the object’s substantiality or its apparent spatio-temporal location. Then it is that various Devatas, as they say, come to put obstacles before us. Indra and others supposedly impede our meditation, as we may have read in the Epics and Puranas. This Indra and others are nothing but cosmic forces which are responsible for maintaining the location of the object – trying to maintain its location as against our attempt to disintegrate that object into a cosmic pervasive substance.
These are personal experiences which a meditator oftentimes has to face, and they bear an intimate relation to the submerged desires of the meditator. It is not that we go to meditate entirely free from vasanas or samskaras. We have many unfulfilled desires even now. Though some desires might have been fulfilled, there are some samskaras, or unseen potencies of desires, in our subconscious mind and even below, which come to conscious activity when we have no other work to do and when there is no other effort at the fulfilment of a desire. When we will not fulfil a desire, all the desires take to reaction.