Sadhana – The Spiritual Way
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 3: The Object of Meditation – The Apex of the Cosmic Triangle

From all the considerations we went through during the earlier days, it would have been noticed that the adventure of spiritual life, yoga sadhana, is not anyone's individual affair. There is no such thing as "I shall do sadhana"; because sadhana is the very process of eliminating this "I," the "I" cannot do sadhana. Further, the great relationships that our so-called personality has with all things in the world prevent us from entertaining any such notion as that the achievement of yoga is the fulfillment of an individual purpose. It is not for "my" salvation, it is not for "your" salvation, because the "my" is only an adjective of "I," and "you" is a correlative of "I"; so, when the one thing goes, all the three go. Just as there is no such thing as "my sadhana," there is no such thing also as "my salvation."

If you persist in the old habit of thinking that "you" are engaged in spiritual practice for "your" liberation, insurmountable problems will face you later on, because the age-old question will arise: "When I attain salvation, what will happen to other people who have not attained salvation?"

If again you persist in your foolishness that the others are there and you are quite free in the highest heaven in the state of liberation, you will face another difficulty: in your omniscience attained in salvation, you will behold outside you many bound souls who have not yet attained salvation. When you can see something external to you, totally unconnected with you, unliberated but related to a liberated perception, then that would not be salvation, because already it has been pointed out that salvation is the attainment of the Infinite, where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, and visualises nothing else. The Immortal is sufficient to Itself, and It does not require the perception of somebody else. But, your omniscience in salvation would naturally present before you the whole world of unliberated souls, bound jivas, so the contradiction in your present worldly life will persist even in salvation! So, would it be better not to go for salvation?

These are not simple things that you can just bypass. This confusion in the mind that will persist till the end of your achievement will block your vision one day, and you will be like Trishanku hanging between earth and heaven – neither here nor there, confused, neither in this world nor in any other place.

Obstacles in meditation are supposed to be many. These obstacles do not come from anybody else. They come from your misconceptions about your own self and your relationship to other people, your wrong notion of God, immortality, and salvation. Discrimination, viveka, which is supposed to be a prerequisite quality in the practice of sadhana, clarifies this position, and it enables you to distinguish between what is proper and improper, what is right and what is not, what is real and what is unreal.

Each one of you should deeply probe into your own heart and raise this question to your own self: "For whose sake am I doing spiritual practice?" It cannot be for your own personal purpose. If not, then for whose purpose? Are you engaged in yoga practice for the freedom of your wife and children? If not, is it only for yourself? If that is not the case, then whose is the salvation? Let each one privately answer this question to one's own self.

Your freedom is the only thing that you are seeking in all the walks of life. Everywhere you have found some kind of limitation, bondage, and insufficiency which you want to be rid of. For that purpose, you have come to listen to certain methods of practice, by which you will be able to free yourself from the tangles of wrong associations with things in the world. With these clarifications in your mind, gird up your loins for the practice of meditation, which is final yoga. The fundamentals of the practice of meditation have already been mentioned earlier, and their foundation has already been laid. If this foundation is strong, then it is easy to build the superstructure of the further stages of yoga practice.

In the beginning you absolve yourself from all connections, social as well as psychological. Then, take a relaxed position and occupy any posture that is convenient for you. What is suitable to you as a posture is to be chosen, each by oneself; one person's method may not suit another person.

Sthira sukham asanam: easy, comfortable, fixed posture is what is prescribed. It should be easy. Liberation of personal tension in effort, relaxation of the tension of the muscles and the nerves, and an easy mental position is the beginning, the initial step of meditational techniques.

On what do you meditate? Again I dilate upon what I mentioned to you briefly earlier: the object of your meditation is the dearest, nearest, most beloved, incomparable in its beauty, magnificence, and power to fulfil. It may be that you have a chosen form in your mind - an image of a god, an idol, a portrait, a diagram, or a concept. Again answer a question to your own self: is this diagram, this image, this lingam or idol or portrait my dearest object in the world? You will hesitate to say that this is the dearest. How can a portrait be the dearest object in the world? No chosen object of this kind can finally be the dearest thing which you can hug for ever and ever, because you have other dear things in the world. Who can say that they are not there?

Now, prepare yourself for another adventure. Is it true that this ideal that you have chosen, the form that you have selected for your meditation, is certainly the dearest? It cannot equal any other beauty or magnificence in the world because of one central fact: This particular ideal that you have chosen for your meditation is a passage to the widest expanse of infinite fulfilment. This ideal individuality of the chosen object is a representation of infinite forces penetrating it, charging it, connecting it with all creation.

If you tap one object to the deepest core of its being, the topmost level of the universe has been tapped. The whole world will vibrate by the stroke that you have dealt on a little object in your meditation. The stroke is a mental effort of tremendous attention and unsurpassed concentration, a bombardment that you are engaged in upon this object. Bombard it by repeated concentration and attention and prevent any kind of distraction by a repetition of the belief that this is all-in-all for you, because here is a door to the infinite resources of the cosmos. The door may not be the Infinite, but it is a passage leading you to the richest treasure of cosmic attainment. Then, all the dear things in the world will converge into that object.

As the apex of a triangle expands its compass further and further as it advances towards its base, likewise, imagine in your meditation that your chosen object of meditation is the apex of an inverted triangle. Even if it is a pin-point of the apex of the triangle, it has the seed of developing itself into the wider dimensions of the base of the triangle, which can extend itself to infinitude, to all space.

Imagine a triangle which is as big as this whole world – not a little Euclidian geometrical triangle that you draw on your mathematics note-book. This triangle is as big as you can conceive in its widest extent. And, the point in the inverted position is the object of meditation.

Proceed further, for the sake of your satisfaction, that the whole tree of the universe will rise up from this little seed of the apex of the inverted triangle. This will give you great joy. The whole banyan of the cosmic tree is here in front of you in the position of a little dot of the object of concentration. At the very outset it would be difficult for the mind to encompass the whole thing at once.

The choosing of an idol is not a foolish imagination. It is the touching of the cosmos at one point. All the points in the universe are everywhere; therefore, this point that you have chosen for your meditation also is a representation of all the points that are everywhere in the world. So, you have touched the whole creation by touching this little object of your meditation, even if it be a wooden idol, a stone image, or a triangle imaginarily placed before you by your mind, or anything for the matter of that – a portrait of God Himself.

These detailed descriptions of what is going to happen at the beginning of your meditational process will raise your spirits at once to a height. You will not sit for meditation with a brooding, despondent mood. "It may be or may not be," – that question will not arise. "It shall, it must, and it has to come, because I have rightly chosen the method. I have understood the whole process of attuning my mind to my purpose." Thus, concentrate your mind on anything that you have chosen for your ishta devata. It is ishta because you love it incomparably and infinitely; it is a devata, a divinity, because it is the adored god before you. Why is it a god? It is a mini-god who will manifest itself into the Infinite God. It is a little incarnation of the Vishvarupa of the Almighty in the form of this little lingam, this picture, this portrait, this point on the wall, this rose flower, this candle flame – whatever it is.

Thus, anything in the world is good enough for meditation; and if that is the case, any place in the world also is good enough to sit. All things are good enough and, therefore, all places also are equally good enough, but you should not be frightened whether this is so or not. Doubts tempt us like traitors, insinuating themselves into our heart and seeing to it that we do not succeed in our attempt. The whisper of the negative force will be heard continuously, together with our higher aspirations.

Rama and Ravana are inside us, and will be speaking at the same time. The positive and the negative are working together. The daiva-asura sampatti is within our own selves, as described in the sixteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. The pros and cons of every event in the world scintillate within our personality.

The entire history of humanity is shining forth within us. The whole Ramayana, all the epics of the world - the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Mahabharata – are taking place within us. They have taken place, they are taking place, and they will be taking place also, eternally. The epic movement is an eternal process. It is not something that happened earlier in ancient historical times. It is eternally taking place, just now at this very moment also. These stories are eternal descriptions of the cosmic process perpetually taking place in a timeless manner.

You must lecture to your own self, "This is so, this is so, this is so." As you repeat a prayer again, repeat these descriptions to your own self, even if it be through an audio tape. It will be telling you the same thing: "Here it is, here it is, this is so, be careful."

You require a mentor right from the beginning till the end. That mentor is supposed to be your guru, who will take you by the hand from the earth up to the highest heaven. It is not that the guru initiates you and then leaves you in the lurch to take care of yourself. The guiding hand of the real guru, as you should conceive him properly, will follow you wherever you go, telling you secretly, "I am here; I have not left you."

The higher soul is your guru, and the guru is your higher soul. How could you expect the higher soul to depart and enable you independently to move forward? The lower spirit advances simultaneously together with the higher soul, which also is your own self. The higher voice tells you, "I am always here. Never will you be deserted at any time."

Thus, prepare yourself for the art of meditation. Chant "Om" deeply in a sonorous tone, beautifully in a musical voice, pleasing to yourself, to your own ears, so that the chant vibrates within your personality and energises all the cells of your body. Chant this Omkara, this mantra, for fifteen minutes continuously, beautifully, satisfactorily, musically touching your heart. What do you feel at that time?

The cosmos originated with a central point of vibration, as they call in the Tantra Shastra, a bindu. A point was this whole universe. Such a vast thing was only one mini-atomic point before creation. The whole brahmanda (cosmic egg, as the scriptures call it) was potentially present in this pin-pointed egg-like little atomic point which manifested itself in the form of this tremendous, inconceivable cosmos.

What happened then, we do not know. Something must have taken place; the scientists call it the "Big Bang." What sound! It is the sound of cosmic Om – not a mere sound that you are producing, but a cosmic thunder with a lightning as bright as millions of suns, which expanded gradually, little by little, until it concretised itself into the physical space before you. Space is not an emptiness; it contains the whole physical manifestation of the universe. It is emptiness to the physical perception.

A tremendous vibration again takes place in this cosmic space, and this movement is what we call air – not just the air that we are breathing, but the very essence of prana shakti pervading this whole cosmos. By the friction that is produced, it ignited itself into the heat of the cosmic fire. It went on vibrating until it developed the tendency to gradually cool down into the liquid of the cosmic waters on which, according to the scriptures, Narayana sleeps. God created the cosmic waters first, say all the creation theories of the religions of the world. Then the water gets narrowed down in its compass; slowly it solidifies itself into the physical universe. The Taittiriya Upanishad gives briefly the entire cosmological process. The Universal Being thundered into the spatial form of existence, and It slowly came down to the physical form of this world, from which manifested plantations, edibles, foodstuff, which formed the body of the human individual. Thus, we are born as this person, that person, in this world.

This is the real Omkara, of which our chant is only a symbol. It gives you a picture of what the original is like. Thus, chant Om. Visualise before your mind this entire magnificent object of your meditation. It is no more a little wooden idol; it is something else altogether. It is a mini-incarnation, a Vamana who can become an avatara, as we have it described in the Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana. Vamana was a little, mini-human form which was assumed by the Supreme Being Himself for a definite purpose. When the time for it came, that mini-individual expanded itself to the cosmic individual – the Virat Purusha.

These are some of the interesting things before you for starting your meditation. Take a deep breath; in the same way as you have chanted Om, so also calmly, pleasantly, undistractedly, breathe in and breathe out. Fill the chest with air. Breathe through both the nostrils easily, but fully, deeply inhaling, so that the lungs are completely filled with fresh air. You can hold it for a second, but don't hold it for more than one or two seconds. I am not describing any kind of nostril holding and kumbhaka, which is not necessary. So, let this pranayama process of easy inhalation and exhalation continue for some time, until you are settled in your muscles and nerves of the body. At this moment, you will find that any posture is good enough.

Then, you have the stages described in the Yoga Sastras dealing with your sense organs, which present before you a picture of the world, even of God Himself, quite different, of course, from what they really are. What is sense perception? What are the senses doing? And, where are they? You may think that the eyes that see, the ears that hear, etc., are the sense organs. They are only organs, but not sensations. You have sensations, without which the organs will not get animated. A dead body also has these organs. It has eyes and ears but it has no sensation, so the eyes may be open, but there will be no seeing in a corpse. The seer is not the physical eye, but a sensation of visualisation, a form taken by the mind itself.

What does the mind do in this condition? The one integrated mind that it really is ramifies itself into five different rays – as sunlight, allowed to pass through the mouth of a pot with five apertures at the bottom, will be seen to project itself in five different channels. But, if the holes are fitted with certain lenses of a different structure and colour, the same sunlight which passes through the inside of the pot will project itself through these five apertures in five different manners. These five different manners of the projection of a single integrated mental process are called the sensations. So, we see colour through one sense, sound through another, etc.

Actually, the basic substance of colour, taste, sound, touch and smell is one and the same. There are not five different things here inside us. They look like five different things because of the different lenses through which the single light passes. Thus, they give a wrong picture of things. If these contorted light rays through the five apertures are allowed to project further upon things outside, then the seer inside, which is the mind, will see the world of five-fold perception in a totally different manner from what the world really is. This is what has happened to us. We cannot see things as they really are. We see, we hear, we touch, etc., through the senses which are already conditioned by the structure or the avenues of perception.

In order that you may not be tempted by these Disneyland-like presentations due to these distortions of sensations, you have to practise a process called pratyahara, which means the abstraction of the sensory operations, and centring the energy of these sensations in their source, which is the mind itself. Difficult is this process. The sensations are rebellious. Illustrations are given in the Bhagavad Gita, telling how difficult this method is – though it is very simple to hear. Wild elephants, roaring lions, terrible tigers, bursting tornadoes and cyclones may be compared to the operations of the senses.

Vasishtha instructs Sri Rama in the Yoga-Vasishtha: "You can drink the whole ocean, you can shake the root of the mountain, you can drink fire, but you cannot control the mind." Like binding air in a little bag is your attempt to control the sense organs.

Sensations are nothing but desires. They are not really connected with physical things. Wrongly do we feel that we love things, hate things, want things and do not want things, on account of the deceptive operations and the reports of the sense organs operating in this manner. Wild dogs are these sensations. They bark and may attack you, also.

What do you do? You should not be carried away by the appearance of this tornado of the desire process. Here again a kind of self-analysis is called for. Sensations, as told already, are only desires manifesting themselves in these five formations. We want five things in this world: we want beautiful things to see, melodious things to hear, fragrant things to smell, delicious things to taste, soft things to touch. You have no other desire in the world except these. Though you may think that you have millions of desires, they are only five, basically.

Now you have to instruct your own mind. Do you want delicious things, beautiful objects, melodious music, a soft bed? Many people in this world may have these facilities, but still they are most unhappy people. Beautiful presentations, tasty dishes, melodious music, soft beds of velvet have not made rich people happy. What the senses are telling you is indeed mischievous. Even if you have all these sensuous things, you will still be the same miserable person as you were before. The sensations are terribly deceptive and you cannot trust them for a minute. You cannot trust what you see or hear, cannot trust any sensation. They are here before you to pull the Atman out and make It appear like an anatman or a dead object. This living Atman then starts clinging to a dead Atman outside in the form of the visible things in the world. Here is the drama of life, the way in which we are living.

Tell yourself again and again by bringing before your mind the experiences that ancient sages and saints also had passed through. They had the same difficulty. They were the same small people as any one of us is; they became big because of the understanding they exercised and the success they achieved in the restraint of the sense organs. When you meditate you will see a totally contradictory thing just in front of you. You will see there physically present (not imaginarily conceived) things that you once loved. You will think that they are only visions, but at that time they will not be visions. They will materialise themselves into the form that you loved once upon a time, and the same person will be there in front of you, the same treasure placed before you: "Here it is. You have left all of us and come. Here we are." Don't say they are illusory visions. They are concrete forms of your own unfulfilled desires.

When Buddha was in deep meditation, he saw his wife in front of him sitting with a little child. He could not say that it was an illusory mental conception, because she was speaking: "My dear lord, I am here. You have left me and come. Here is your child. Don't you have pity? Why are you torturing yourself? See this beautiful baby. Am I not your beloved? Have you no compassion? Please, please, listen to me."

Buddha thought, "How is it that this lady has come here?" Then, "No, don't tempt me!" he told himself. "I know very well what this presentation is. It is my own earlier pleasure of sense life that has condensed itself into the very desirable object which I loved once upon a time. Break to pieces, shatter yourself!" he told himself.

"My dear master, what are you doing on the hilltop? Here is the treasure of the whole world before you – all the gold and silver," somebody told Christ when he was doing tapasya on a mountaintop.

There were ancient saints of Christianity who lived in the deserts of northern Africa. St. Anthony the Great is one example who struggled with his visions. He saw before him the arms of a beloved, and the treasures and the wealth of the Roman Empire. They were not visions; they were there in front of him. It took him to the point of death until he could enter that he had to overcome them.

These are not stories of somebody – it is everybody's story. You are the Buddha, you are Christ, you are St. Anthony, you are the ancient master, in your own self. All these beautiful grand presentations will come before you, as we hear in the scriptures that Indra will come with all his retinue. This Indra and the retinue are nothing but the mind and the sense organs concretising themselves before you, giving the picture of solidity. You have to guard yourself.

This is to tell you briefly some of the fundamentals of pratyahara, the restraint of the sense organs. Once you achieve success in this practice, you have achieved success ninety percent, truly. Until this is achieved, it is all arduous struggle. It is a determination to swim across the current of a river in spate. Later on, if you succeed in your attempt, the river will take an opposite turn, and the world, instead of opposing you, will flow with you. A great unthought-of joy will take possession of you. Struggle will cease, enemies will become friends, the material objects will change their colour and contour, and all shall be well with you, provided this awful, very painful process of the withdrawal of the sensations (not merely the closing of the sense organs) is achieved, and the mind is charged abundantly with these energies which went out earlier and sucked the soul of the mind, making it fickle and uncontrollable.

The mind will be yourself later on. Instead of your feeling that it is "your" mind, you will feel that you are "yourself" the mind, a medium of the expression of the Atman Itself.