by Swami Krishnananda
Yesterday I endeavoured to clear some of the major misconceptions that are likely to harass the mind of a yoga student, a practitioner of yoga. It was also necessary to clear up the enigmatic relation that one maintains with human society outside. I emphasises the fact that since we have been living like social units right from our birth, we are accustomed to think only in social terms. We forget that God is not a social being. He is not one among the many; but the human being is one among the many others like one's own self.
The existence of a human individual in society is tremendously influenced by the nature of the society around, so much so that one cannot easily, as a physical and psychological individual, wrench oneself from social relations. Society has become a part of our very skin, and to peel off social contact would be like peeling our own skin. Yet, some such super-normal adventure has to be embarked upon when we take to the practice of pure spirituality, or yoga.
The desires of the human mind, which are socially oriented, individualistically conditioned, as they have become part and parcel of our very way of thinking, persist in telling us: "How could you attain salvation, when society is clinging to you?" This question was cleared in our earlier discourses, and it is necessary for every one of you to bear this in mind, if you are really going to be a one-hundred-percent student of yoga and not merely a half-hearted appreciator or participant in the work of spirituality.
The intention here is to purvey to you the spiritual background that exists behind your personal and social way of thinking and interpretation of things. The Atman or the soul that you are is not a part of human society. There is no society of souls. You will be wondering, "Is it so? But, what is society, then?" Society is a well-arranged pattern of psycho-physical individualities.
The Atman or the soul is not confined to your body. It is a consciousness, a pervading essence, of which we appear to be a little part, on account of our association with this body – just as, if the space contained in a little tumbler has the awareness of itself as being within the tumbler, it will think that the space which is largely expanding outside is external to it, due to the walls encircling this little space inside the tumbler. But, if the walls are removed, there is no tumbler space; it is one space all-pervading, omnipresent.
Therefore, the idea that the Atman attains salvation may not be associated with another wrong notion that an individual person attains salvation. The world is also a soul by itself; as there is an apparently conceived individual soul, there is a world soul which animates all existence in any form. The world soul may be compared to the wide space pervading everywhere, and the apparent individuality of our own soul inside may be regarded as something like the space contained, encircled by the wall.
Who attains salvation, finally? Neither you nor anybody else, taken in their individualistic sense, because the Atman attains salvation. It is not the body or the mind that goes to God in the state of liberation. When you say that the Atman reaches the Absolute and reaches salvation, you immediately bring before your mind the notion of what the Atman is, truly. Too much explanation on this subject is not necessary, as you are practically aware of the essence of what was spoken to you earlier.
If the Atman is a pervading essence, as the so-called space inside a vessel is really the all-pervading space, the attainment of salvation by the Atman would mean the attainment of salvation by the omnipresent consciousness itself, which is called the Atman in terms of the bodily existence. Salvation is a universal attainment – universal in the sense that you cannot separate yourself from the environment in which you are located when you are rising up to the state of salvation or attainment of God.
The environment of human society is part and parcel of your existence here in society. In a similar manner, the entire nature is a larger society than human society, which is an inseparable accompaniment to your personal existence. Society and nature cling to you, not as external objects or things, but as your own wider involvement in the life of the universe. The attainment of salvation, therefore, is an indescribable, unthinkable achievement. Humanly conceivable methods of operation cannot comprehend this truth. For the time being, when you are an ardent student of yoga persisting in the salvation of yourself, you have to stand up as a super-human person. The yogi is not a person. He is a super-individual comprehensiveness, the meaning of which has to be clear. When you rise to the Almighty, the entire creation rises with you.
I have been mentioning another analogy on other occasions that when you wake up from a dream, all the people in the dream also wake up with you; they are not remaining there outside you. It is not that you, separately from those people you have seen in the dream, have woken up. This phenomenon also is unthinkable. Society-bound mentality cannot understand this philosophical or spiritual connotation of spiritual experience. As all the world of dream experience rises simultaneously into a wider comprehension of waking consciousness, in a similar manner the world consciousness will rise up with you. If this does not take place, salvation has no meaning.
These precedents of consideration when you sit for meditation have to be taken care of very carefully. I have dilated upon the methods of meditation; some system of contemplation on the deity as you conceive it was explained: that was particularly an aspect of devotion (bhaktimarga). But there are other ways which certain yoga students may follow. They are the purely volitional methods of affirmation of will: it is not a devotion to any particular deity, but it is a devotion to a particular principle. This psychological method of contemplation is actually the attempt on the part of a yoga student to grasp the principles of operation in the universe.
What are the principles? You have heard in cosmological doctrines that the creation of the world as we conceive it commenced with a dark covering of potentiality for creation called mulaprakriti, the original matrix of the creative process. The methodology of the descent in the process of creation is very important to remember in the path of yoga.
The Universal Being appears to be clouded, as it were, with this darkness of potentiality for creation, as it happens when we are fast asleep. The darkness of the causes of our sleep covers the potential Atman within us, so that even if we have the brilliance of the consciousness of the Atman within us imperishably, the darkness of the potential for sleep covers it, so that when we are fast asleep we do not know what is actually happening to us. It is only when we wake up that we enter that there was some obstacle, due to which we were not aware even of our own existence. The process of creation is similar to the process of waking up from sleep.
What happens when we are awake? Our consciousness of existence manifests itself and tells us that we are, and that there is a world of objects outside. Here in this waking perception, the Atman does not directly operate; if it did, you would not see the world outside. You would see a flood of light, but that does not happen in our waking condition, due to the fact that even when we are awake, the consciousness of the Atman penetrates through the darkness that covered us in sleep and, therefore, our waking understanding is a condition – rather a little bit distorted way of perception. This is the reason why with all our intellectuality, rationality, study and learning, we cannot understand the world correctly. We see it topsy-turvy and thoroughly mistake it for something different from what it really is.
Intellectual knowledge, rationality, philosophical or any kind of achievement is not of utility in the spiritual contemplation of the soul. All the great values of life that we enshrine in our bosom as very dear to us are of no worth finally, as you will know at the time of passing from this world. Great men and poor men die in the same way. Rich man and poor man, known man and unknown man – death is a enter of everyone. Your learning has not helped in any way to distinguish you from a beggar or an illiterate man when you are actually dying.
Such learning is poor stuff, which has no essence in it. This happens because our present waking consciousness, through which we learn all things, is conditioned by the darkness of ignorance. The inward consciousness manifests itself in waking through the cloud of our ignorance – disturbed, scattered in many directions, as sunlight does when it penetrates through scattered clouds.
Therefore, the soul has to be distinguished from mental awareness. The awareness of the soul is quite different from awareness of the mind and the intellect, for the reason already mentioned. When the soul rises to action, you will find that a kind of bursting of your personality will be experienced. I cannot choose any other expression for this phenomenon. In our daily life, the soul never manifests itself. Therefore, we feel thoroughly grieved throughout our life.