To Thine Own Self Be True
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 3: The Object of Meditation

The object of meditation is not just one among the many objects of the world; it is rather the 'only' object before us. Only when the object is considered as 'all-in-all', capable of bestowing upon us everything that we need, can it satisfy us fully. A partial truth is no reliable truth. A partial object is not a complete object; a one-fourth human being is not a human being. We do not want 'something' in the world; our basic longing is to have everything. Even if 25 percent of the things in the world are to become our possessions, the 75 percent which has gone out of our control will harass us and cause anguish in our mind: "Why should I not have the other 75 percent also?" If you are the king of the whole earth, you would like to conquer even the skies: "Why should the skies be there without my concern? I shall control even the stars." Such is desire.

The objective, therefore, is not some particular thing – it is everything. Since the chosen object in meditation, somehow, appears to be one among the many possibilities of a similar choice, the mind may hesitate to concentrate even on that object: "Why do you want me to think of this particular thing when I can have other things also which are equally good, perhaps more satisfying? Why should I drudge in an office with a given amount of salary when it is also possible for me to have a higher salary in another office?" The mind will force this question of why this so-called thing is your concern in meditation: "Is there nothing else in the world except this? What do you say?" asks the mind.

Here is the difficulty which is a psychological problem based on a philosophical profundity. It is not possible to concentrate on all things at once. We do not know how many things there are in this world. How will anyone mentally count these objects and bring them all together into a heap so that one may focus one's attention on them? Even if we are able to conceive the total of all the objects in the world, we would be omitting certain things unknowingly. It is impossible for one to be omniscient, and even the total of the world will exclude something which is outside the world.

Then what should be our attitude towards the object of meditation? How are we going to choose the object? There are two answers to this question. Philosophically, scientifically, rationally, anything is as good as anything else in the world. If one can visualise the object in the light of the discussions we had for the last two days, nothing would look unimportant, and nothing more important than the other. It is so because every part of the world is connected integrally to every other part forming a living whole. The little brick which goes to make your house is internally connected in an unknown manner with the stars in the heavens. Only an advanced investigation will be able to appreciate this truth of how a tinsel on earth can be regarded as having a relationship with a luminary in the heavens.

If all things cannot be conceived simultaneously in their internal relations, one can choose as the object what one likes best, loves most, what delights one's heart at the very sight of it. Now, what is it that can delight your heart? Here you will not be able to give an answer to your own self. You will be finding yourself in a position similar to the fox in Aesop's Fables which knew a hundred tricks to escape from the hounds of a hunter, but when the actual difficulty arose, it did not know which trick to choose as the best, and the hounds fell on it. Such a situation should not arise. Is there anything in your life which will delight your heart wholly, entirely, always? Someone may say: "My only child delights me – the only son which I have got after a lot of tapasya, prayer, and blessings from mahatmas. I think of it day in and day out, the little child with which God has blessed me. The sight of the child delights my heart. This is my heart's love." But can anyone love anything equally under every circumstance in life?

Kinds of Love

There are five kinds of love, which are described in detail in the Bhakti Shastras, scriptures on divine devotion. One kind of love is the love that a parent has for a child. The father or mother clings to the child, especially if the child is a single one, an only son. The parents go on brooding over the little child. Parental affection for children is one kind of love which can be seen everywhere in every family, so forcefully operating. Another kind of love is one's affection for one's parents. You love your father and mother in a manner different from the love you have for the child. Though both are loves, they are manifest in a different way. Your love for the parent is qualitatively and in texture different from your love for a child. Love for the parent involves affection together with respect and adoration, apart from what causes clinging to one's children.

There is a third kind of love which a friend has for the friend. Chums, alter-egos, always sitting together, dining together, speaking, working, going for a walk together, cannot separate themselves. They are thick doubles in every sense of the word. The friend has an inseparable love for the other as friend: the two are equals. The love that one has for one's own equal distinguishes itself from other forms of affection in a marked way. There is a fourth kind of love which a servant has for his master. There are obedient, very reliable servants, even in this world of corruption, who love their master till his death. I have seen one such servant of a judiciary in a high court. Even till the death of that judge years after retirement, that servant was with him, serving him in the same way as earlier. It was not the judge he was loving, he loved the person: "He might have been a judge; now he is a retired somebody. It does not matter. I love him. He is my master, teacher, protector, superior. I love him." The love that one has for one's superior, call him your master or guru, is a love which differs from the other types mentioned before.

There is, then, another kind of love which a wife has for the husband and the husband has for the wife. This phenomenon is considered as the apex of all loves. This love is totally different in characteristic, intensity and significance from all the other types of love in a variety of ways.

These are the five bhavas or feelings of emotional ardour towards an object, to which we feel attached strongly. The loves cannot leave us until our skin itself goes and the bone breaks. Even if we are to think of the Almighty Lord Himself as our great object of devotion and love, we will not be able to think of Him in any other manner than in terms of one of these emotions, these feelings.

Wholeness in Concentration

For the last two days we have been analysing the circumstances of life, both subjectively in the case of ourselves, and objectively in the case of the world, through the faculty of understanding. We exercised concentration of reason in trying to find out where we are actually placed in this world. But there is another faculty in us which is the feeling. Sometimes the feeling can overpower the understanding and speak in a language totally different from the language of logic which the understanding employs. Though the understanding tells you that you are of this kind and the world is of that kind and you are not as you are appearing to be on the surface, the world is also quite different from what it appears to be, the feeling will say that things are exactly as it sees them. One can tell a father or a mother that their child is not really their child: It has taken many births; it had many parents and it is passing through many incarnations; they are a caretaker of this child for the time being only and should not be attached to it as if they are the possessor of it; it had many parents in the past and it will have many parents in the future also, so this is not their child. If you say so, the reason of the parent may understand what you say, but the feeling will say, "It is my child only. Do not talk to me in any other style. Whatever you may say through your rationality and your scientific outlook, I do understand well; nevertheless, my feeling says it is my child, I love it as mine own."

Whose is this land? Whose is this house? Are you going to live in this house for all time to come? Tomorrow you may pass away. Why do you cling to this building, land and property as if you are going to be there using it for all time? Tomorrow you may quit this world. "Yes, I understand, but my feeling says it is my house; I shall not leave it. This is my property, I shall enjoy it."

The feeling does not always agree with the understanding. There is a clash in our personality between understanding and feeling, reason and emotion. When we gird up our loins very sincerely and honestly for the purpose of resorting to spiritual meditation, we should see that this conflict between understanding and feeling is not there. We must develop an integrated outlook of things. The object of meditation should satisfy us emotionally through our feeling on the one hand, and on the other hand it should also be known carefully as to what it is made of structurally, threadbare.

When you resort to the object of meditation, you must also know what it is that you are thinking of. Sometimes a sense object may delight you very much and you may say that it is the best object and you would meditate on it. You may ask me, "What is the harm in meditating on a sense object, as you have already told us that the object should satisfy us and I think that my particular object of this particular sense is satisfying me. What is the difficulty? I shall concentrate my mind wholly on this object which satisfies my sense organs."

Yes; in one way you are right. Take to that particular type of concentration because it satisfies you. But I did not say that the quality of the object of meditation is merely one of satisfying. It should also be the 'only' object you can think of and there is nothing else. Here is a condition which you will not be able to fulfil easily.

Can a person love any object forever, throughout one's life? "I have taken this as my object of affection. Will I go on clinging to it until my death without changing my concentration on that?" No one can make a promise in this manner. For some reason or other, one day you will get disgusted with this so-called affectionate object. Everyone knows what the reason is for such an eventuality. The son can abandon the father; the father can abandon the son. The husband can reject the wife. Anything is possible. Under conditions only do you love things; unconditionally you cannot love anything.

Sensory pleasure is conditioned by various factors but the object of meditation should satisfy you unconditionally, not with an 'if so', 'but', and 'whereas'. Such clauses should not be introduced when you take to concentration on the object of meditation as a wholesome lifelong security and delight. The object of meditation is not only entirely satisfying to the feeling and emotions, but it is also not one which can cause a shifting of your attention to something else. The chosen object is everything, for ever and ever.

Both these conditions are difficult to fulfil. Your dearest friend cannot be your dearest friend for all times. You cannot give a guarantee that you shall be with him always. No relationship is permanent in this world, not even the closest relationship of husband and wife. There are no permanent relations anywhere. Things can separate themselves for any reason. If that is the case, which sense object can you choose for the purpose of meditation? There is a danger in choosing a sense object as the ideal for meditation because it will compel you to shift your attention to something else afterwards when you get fed up with it due to excessive intimacy, overindulgence and the non-utility of the object after a while. We cannot even eat the same type of meal every day. We would like a variety even in our food. What if every day one eats the same food? One will want a little change. We would like to have another object. People go for different things, because no object can be a 'total' object. But it is necessary for every seeker of truth and student of Yoga to convince himself that the object of meditation is a 'total' object, not just 'one of the objects' in the world. Otherwise, the mind will jump from one thing to another thing. Why should it not, because it knows that there are other things also?

How is it possible to regard one object as all things? Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita's eighteenth chapter mentions that there are three kinds of appreciation, three kinds of knowledge or understanding. That perception which makes one cling to one finite thing only as if it is the sole object of love is the worst kind of appreciation. It is the least knowledge that one can have of anything. But there is a higher kind of understanding where one is able to appreciate the relationship of one thing with another thing, organically. It is not that I am sorry only if my child is sick; I will have a concern also if my neighbour's child is ill. I would not like anybody to suffer. It is not that my people alone should not suffer; nobody should suffer, since all are equally human. There is a concatenation of things. Humanity is one mass of concentration. Our concern is not only for our little family, not even for our little state or our nation. The whole mankind is one family. We are members of the family of all of humanity, the world itself. This is so because everything is connected to everything else in the creational process of God, in the same way as every limb of the body is connected to every other limb of the body.

This knowledge which beholds the interconnection of all things among themselves is a higher knowledge, says Sri Krishna, but the highest knowledge is something quite different. It beholds one Being, from which one cannot extricate oneself. All are immersed in that Being. All the rivers find themselves in the ocean; they do not stand separately in the sea.

Likewise is the case of the choice of the object of meditation. You love that object as your dear child. There are some devotees who develop what is known as vatsalya bhava, the affectionate attitude towards the child transferred as God Himself seen in an image or idol. You may consider God as your child. Transfer yourself to the position of a father of this little child who is Rama or Krishna or Christ. Visibly see them as living bodies. You have a symbol. People embrace pictures, paintings of Krishna or Christ; they kiss the cross which is hanging on their neck: a great delight it is. You can embrace God through a symbol, an idol, a cross, a murti made of marble or metal, or a diagram. People worship it, hang it on the neck, hide it secretly and feel immense satisfaction that it is there.

Or you may have a majestic feeling as Bhishma had towards Sri Krishna. Bhishma's love for Krishna was not sentimental or rapturous as the gopis had towards him. He loved Krishna as the master of the universe, great force and power, indomitable energy descended as an incarnation of the Absolute. That is the bhava of Bhishma, which is something like considering God as the Supreme Father, who is the Creator of the cosmos. This attitude is called aishvarya pradhana bhakti, God loved in His Might and Magnificence and Glory. Ramanuja, Madhva and acharyas of that kind advocated a love of God which is known as aishvarya pradhana bhakti, devotion emanating by the perception of the magnitude, magnificence, glory, power, and strength of God. "Great Master, all-powerful Thou art! Great Father, Thou art all!"

You can regard God as your beloved of heart, which is usually the most difficult thing to conceive. That is called madhurya pradhana bhakti, wherein one melts in the sweetness of love. In aishvarya pradhana bhakti one admires the greatness of the Almighty; here one tastes the sweetness, the deliciousness, the beauty, the tenderness of the exquisite presentation. God is honey. There was a saint in southern India who used to jump in joy, calling God by no other name than 'Honey' – "Oh Honey, oh Honey! Oh Honey, bathe me. Oh Honey, come! Ocean of Honey, inundate me, I shall drink You! Oh blissful Honey, come!" When you are virtually mad with the ecstasy of love of God, you will not know what word to use to describe it. "Oh my Beloved, You have come!" Afterwards, your mouth closes, because you do not know what other word you can use in respect of that thing which is simply breaking your heart due to the excess of love. At that time you have no word to speak. You keep quiet in the stillness of bliss.

Romeo sees Juliet and Juliet sees Romeo. The gopi sees Krishna and Krishna is dancing in the circle of rasa. Mortals cannot understand what all this is. The joy of madhura rasa is the pinnacle of the feeling possible in a human being.

Are you able to conceive your object of meditation in that way: "Oh, my dear Honey, come!" Will you say that, or will you say that it is only a dot on the wall or a pencil, a rose flower, a picture, an idol, a lingam? Will you think like that? You may ask: "Why should I love a lingam or a murti which is made of metal or wood?" If you think like that, then your meditation will bring you nothing worthwhile.

When I have a love for you, do I love your bones, your flesh, or your nose? What am I loving? When I tell you that I am delighted to see you, what am I seeing? I am seeing something inside you, the 'you' which is not a conglomeration of bones and flesh. Thus, also, when you are satisfied and overjoyed at the perception of an object of meditation, you should not look at it as a metal, or a picture or drawing. It is vibrant life.

If you are capable of choosing the object properly, you can pour upon it any kind of feeling. It is your child, master, husband, wife, friend, father. It can be anything whatsoever, provided you are able to adjust your feelings correctly in respect of that object which becomes your all-in-all. The object is a representation of a cosmic force. People say that Krishna is a concentration of the total power of the cosmos. One ray of the sun, properly concentrated through a high power lens, can draw the energy of the sun. That is why this concentrated personality of Krishna could assume a cosmic form.

The object of meditation is a concentrated focus of the entire structure of the universe. To give the same example, if you touch any part of my body, you have touched my entire body, though it is only a touching of the toe. The toe will communicate the message to the whole body. The little object of meditation is not one object as such. It is a representation of the totality of creation as a whole, because the universe is reflected even in an atom.

As you can reach the ocean through any river, can reach a place through any road, can fly with an aeroplane to any place in any direction, so also can you reach the Universal Whole through any symbol that you employ, because every symbol is a representation of the Total Whole.

All right, intellectually you have understood that every object is as good as every other; scientifically conceived, it represents all the things in the world. The whole creation is concentrated in that object, but can you love it? You have to understand it as the focussing point of the whole universal power and also be capable of loving it. You cannot simply look at it with a scientific eye merely.

There was a lady who was weeping in sorrow. She had some grief; the tears were flowing. The husband was a scientist. He came running and said that he wanted to take a little of her tears because he wanted to see what they consisted of. She said, "I am weeping and you are trying to analyse me scientifically?" Look at that man's attitude on her feelings. He had scant respect for the feelings of the weeping lady; he was concerned only with the components of the tear and wanted to chemically analyse it in the laboratory. He had no heart; he had only brain.

In a similar manner, with all your understanding of the nature of the object of meditation being one concentrated point representing the whole universe, you may not be able to pour your affection on it: "It is only a lingam, a cross, a picture; how can I love it?" It is necessary to accommodate yourself to the need to love it also in the same way as you love anything in the world.

Tantra Sadhana

There is a technique of meditation prescribed in another section of the scripture known as Tantra Shastra, a technology of approaching divinity in a different manner than the way generally known to people. It is not necessary to look at an object in order to concentrate upon it. The need to have a physically visual object in front is the lowest kind of requirement. You can be immensely happy by the very thought of the object, mentally, and generate the same sensations inside, even when the object is not present physically.

What happens to you is that even when you look at an object physically, the sensations that you feel inside are psychological; physically you are getting nothing from the object. The beloved object that is physically in front of the eye does not enter one's body. It is standing outside. The object of affection, even if it is sitting on one's lap, is really outside oneself. It has not entered one's being. How, then, can one feel happy?

The happiness is a reaction set up by the nervous system inside. It is purely internal, to bring about which situation, the object outside acts as an instrument. The object of affection, physically, is just an instrument. It cannot bring satisfaction, really. The satisfaction is in the nervous titillation, mental operation, psychological acceptance.

If this is the case borne in mind, you do not need any physical object in front of you to be happy inside. Even if you want an object of that kind, you can close your eyes and feel its presence and the same situation will be summoned from within. You will burst forth through your nervous system, in your mind, and you will feel the same sensations as you felt apparently by the perception of the physical object, externally.

Later on, even the thought of the object will not be necessary. There is a higher kind of concentration, namely, that the substantiality of that object is inseparable from the substantiality of oneself. The happiness that you feel in the presence of a beloved object is due to the Atman manifesting itself thereby. We are confused in our mind when we feel that an object of sense is giving us satisfaction. What is actually happening is that when you are desiring an object, the mind goes out of the Self. You are out of yourself at the time of your love for anything outside. You have transferred yourself into the object. As you are out of yourself, you are unhappy: you have lost yourself. The identity of yourself has been broken by the separation of your so-called self in transferring it to the object outside. Then you are not in you; you are somewhere else, in that object. You can be even in London, though physically you are sitting in India, by the transference of mind to that object which is there.

The unhappiness of the mind is caused by the separation of the object from the Atman. When you obtain the object, when the object comes near, the desire diminishes due to the prospect of having it. When it is nearer and nearer, the joy goes on increasing further and further – "Oh I am getting it!" When it is actually under one's possession, physically, it is immense joy. The mind ceases to go outside itself at that time. It settles in its own root. You plant yourself in yourself due to the feeling of the mind that it need not any more think of the object and it need not go out of itself. That is why you are feeling happiness when the object seems to be under your possession. The happiness has not come from the object, it has come from yourself only!

So, be careful in the choice of your object. This object of your meditation should be satisfying to you in every way, not merely as a titillating medium as a sense object, but as a total blessing that is going to be poured upon you.

Don't you think that you are meditating on the object because it is representing God Himself? Do you consider God as a sense object? He is the All. Everywhere He is legs and feet, everywhere eyes, everywhere Vishvarupa, the Universal. How will you consider Him as a sense object? That great Being, the cosmic inclusiveness, was concentrated in one person called Krishna, which the gopis were chasing. Why were they after this one person? He was capable of manifesting himself as all persons because the concentrated whole was charged with the force of the whole, which attracted their attention. When anybody loves you, they feel for the time being that you are all things; otherwise, nobody can really love. If you are only 'something', the love also will be 'something' only. It cannot be the all-consuming thing that it really is.

When you choose the object of your meditation, be sure that you can persuade yourself to pour your affection on it. Don't be under the impression that you are only concocting some feeling which is not genuine. You can summon anything if your mind is really concentrated on it. Jnaneshvar Maharaj concentrated on a wall; he just touched it and it started moving. The great Bharadvaja Rishi, who gave a grand reception to Bharata when he went to the forest in search of Rama, summoned the gods in heaven by uttering mantras in his yajnashala and the divinities started raining down on earth.

Your feeling, your love, your longing for God in the form of the object that you have chosen is not an imagination of your mind. It is a truth that has been manifested before you in the form of this little 'occasion' of the cosmic power. Your heart is meditating, not merely your brain or sense organs. The meditating consciousness is the soul of yourself. If you want the soul of the object to speak to you and delight you, then your soul has to rise up to the occasion and concentrate itself on the soul of the thing looking like an object.

Who is meditating? Your soul is meditating on the soul of the object. When I love you, I love your soul, the greatness, grandeur, beauty of your depth of personality, and not your physical feature. And when I love you, it is not my body that loves you, nor my mind. My whole being, the root itself, is poured forth on your centrality. The deepest root of mine is loving the deepest root in you. Soul loves soul. "Nobody loves anything except the soul," says Yajnavalkya in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

The soul of the meditator is pouring itself forth upon the soul of the object, so that it may become united with the All-Soul of the universe. Such is the background which you need in your mind before you take to Yoga practice in the form of meditation.