To Thine Own Self Be True
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 4: The Object of Meditation is Not Outside

We have been designating the point of concentration in our Yoga practices as the 'object' of meditation. Actually, the word 'object' is not a suitable description of what we are aiming at finally, because what we regard as an object stands outside us. A thing that is entirely external to us cannot become our possession, it cannot benefit us because the characteristic of what is called an object is to distance itself from that of which it is an object. Our self, which is the meditating principle, stands at a distance from that on which the meditation is being carried on and it is this distance that makes us feel that it is an object like other things in the world.

We have to remember that we shall receive no benefit from anything in the world if it is totally outside us. The outside-ness characterising the object would prevent it from giving us any blessing. Even the diet that we consume, the meal that we take every day, should not stand 'outside' in the stomach. The food has to be absorbed into the organic substance of our personality in order that it may sustain us and benefit us. If the food that we take and pour into the stomach stands isolated from the linings of the stomach, it will be thrown out as if it is a foreign matter. Nothing in this world can satisfy or benefit us if it is totally outside us. So is the case with this so-called object on which we are meditating, if it happens to be something entirely external.

In the earlier days, we considered that our satisfaction and joy increases as our object of affection comes nearer to us. The more distant is the object of our consideration, the less is the satisfaction that we can derive from the contemplation on it. It has to be very near us, under our grip and control. It should not elude our grasp; it should not go out of the jurisdiction of our own selves, but even that is not satisfying. Even if an object of affection is inside your fist, held firmly in the hand, it stands outside you because that which is here grasped has not entered the hand. If one is holding the most valuable object in the world tightly in the hand, it is still an outside object because it can alienate itself from the hold when it drops from the hand. It has not become 'mine', though it appears to be mine on account of the appearance that it is under my control.

Nothing can be under anyone's control finally unless it is inseparable from the holder. That object of love and affection alone can satisfy if it will not leave the lover and cause any anxiety of self-alienation at any time. Even the richest person in the world remains unhappy at the prospect of losing that wealth he has acquired. The possibility of losing what one has is an agony in the heart. The possession of large estates, gold and silver (naturally standing outside oneself), will be a sorrow inwardly, subconsciously gnawing into the vitals of the rich magnate. The fear of losing what one has possessed will contaminate the so-called joy of having it at all; therefore, there is no such thing as real joy in the world. Even the kingdom of the earth can be lost in the split of a second. No emperor in the world can be happy. "Sceptre and crown shall tumble down." Beggar and king will go to dust and sleep on the same ground as lifeless corpses. Such a pitiable condition is not what we are expecting in our endeavour to meditate on something which we regard as the object of our meditation.

The satisfying object, the all-consuming ideal before us which we have chosen as the proper thing on which we can pour ourselves, should not stand outside us entirely. We have to place it in ourselves; the object has to become the subject. You have to become me in order that I may really love you, and I have to become you, not merely see you, but be you in order that we may be lifelong friends without the possibility of bereavement at any time. If there is going to be a bereavement between me and the object of my meditation, how can it bestow upon me immortality? The relationship is mortal, capable of destruction and separation and hence no immortal existence is to be expected from a mortal relationship with a separated object.

The System of Nyasa

In certain forms of ritualistic worship performed in temples, the person performing the worship makes certain gestures called nyasa. There are varieties of nyasas called anganyasa, karanyasa, etc. Only religious priests or a person expert in performance of ritualistic worship will know what nyasa actually means. It is a Sanskrit word which means 'placing oneself', or 'the placement of anything', in a particular location, in a given manner.

This system of 'placing' is followed in ritualistic worship of a deity in a temple by touching different parts of one's body and concentrating in the mind at the same time the corresponding part of the object, the deity, or divinity concerned. We must remember that ritualistic worship also is a kind of meditation. Worship is not a mechanical action. The mind is actively operating there; otherwise, it would become lifeless and would not bring the desired result.

In this placement of the process of nyasa the parts of the shape, contour or bodily structure of the divinity adored are correspondingly placed in the respective parts of the body or the personality of the worshipper. When I touch my forehead, or a part of my head, I utter a prayer, a word, a mantra signifying that the forehead or the head of the divinity has entered my head and is my head. So, I am not seeing the head or the forehead of the divinity with my eyes as something looking at me; rather it looks through me, through my eyes, and is 'me'. A little bit of strong imagination and feeling is necessary here, in this practice.

Suppose, instead of the idol or the murti of the divinity worshipped, we consider a person in front. You have to make that person one with you. There is a great philosophy behind this technique. It is highly beneficial and also dangerous, if the mind is not pure while attempting the technique.

I am looking at you, and when I look at you I am seeing your eyes; they are outside me. But that is not the proper way of looking at you. You have to look through my eyes and I have to look through your eyes, so that instead of myself and yourself being face to face, we stand in collaboration parallelly – one 'enters' the other. The two eyes have become one eye; the two heads have become one head and they come to a state of coalescence. Who is seeing? This question will not arise at that time. Are you seeing the object or the object is seeing you? You may say it is either way. It may be that you are seeing through the eye of the object or the object is seeing through your eyes. If this practice of nyasa in the process of worship becomes successful, divinity will enter the worshipper.

The great god, the incarnation, whoever be your ideal you are worshipping, is seeing through your eyes and you are seeing through its eyes so that it 'is' you and you 'are' it. I hope you are able to appreciate what this means. Its hands are your hands and your hands are its hands. Your heart is its heart; its heart is your heart. Your feet are its, and vice versa. Every part of your body is correspondingly the part of the body of that divinity you are adoring in meditation.

Then what happens? You have absolute control over that object in the same way as you have complete control over the limbs of your own body. I can tell my hand to lift, and it lifts; I can tell my legs to walk and they walk. But if I tell the legs of somebody else to walk, they need not, because they are not identified with my consciousness. The legs of another person have not become one with my legs; therefore, I cannot tell them to walk. They will not move. But if my legs have become another's legs, and if I tell them to move, they will move.

The whole building will move if your consciousness has identified itself with it, part by part, little by little, bit by bit, in every little detail, and you become the whole building itself. This is the secret behind the nyasa technique of worship in the ritual of daily performance in temples, or even in one's own altar at home. Such a process has to be adopted in our meditation on the object, whatever be that object which we have chosen for the purpose.

There is an interesting aphorism of sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras which refers to this kind of process: The identification of yourself with the object of meditation is somewhat like the identity seen when a coloured object is brought near a clear crystal, so that the colour has entered the crystal; the crystal becomes red if a red flower is brought near it. The objective and subjective sides enter into each other and the one is indistinguishable from the other.

The crystal may be compared to the meditating consciousness. The object of meditation may be regarded as something similar to that which is brought near the crystal. In the process of the entry of the structure of the object into the structure of the crystal, and the very substantiality of the crystal itself, the two get identified into a single mass of being, so that one will see that the object itself has become the crystal or the crystal has become the object.

The object 'flows' into the subject; the subject 'flows' into the object. Or to cite another illustration, imagine that there are two tanks filled with water up to the brim and they are on equal level (not one high and one below). There is a passage between one tank and the other tank so that water flows slowly through that passage from one tank to the other tank, and from the other tank to this tank. One will not know the water of which tank is flowing to which tank. There is a mutual commingling of the waters of two tanks. The water in between, in that passage, may be considered as the water of this tank or that tank.

In this consciousness of the identification through the placement of nyasa mentioned, the object becomes united with the consciousness of the meditator in such a way that, at that time, in that experience, one will not know whether the object is within oneself or oneself is within the object. Who is in whom? Is the object meditating upon you, or are you meditating upon the object? If the great God is in front of you, is He contemplating you when He gazes at you, or are you contemplating on Him? Either way the answer is correct.

The Interconnectedness of All Things

In meditation, what are you supposed to do? Do not commit the mistake of thinking that the object is outside you. Nobody in this world is really outside another. Some stupidity that has entered our mind goes on insisting that things are outside us as if we have no connection with anything in the world (we stand independently ourselves, with our flimflam egoism making us stand physically isolated). This is not a fact. All things in the world are flowing into us every moment of time and we are also flowing into everything in the world every moment. The whole world is entering us just now. If that entering of the world into us were not to take place, we would not be alive in this world even for a day.

We are sustained, and we feel that we are alive, strong, and healthy because the world of power and sustenance is entering into our personality perpetually, either through the breathing process, the food that we take, the energy that is coming from the sun, and many other influences impinging upon us from the total atmosphere of what we may call ecological environment. The very forest around us enters us with its balming influence.

People say that it is good for you to sit under a green tree when the sun is shining in the clear sky because the green leaves of a vastly spread-out tree, when they receive sunlight during the daytime, undergo a process called photosynthesis, by which action they manufacture oxygen. Therefore, it is good to sit under a green-leaf tree during the daytime when the sun is shining. But we should not sit under the tree at night because, then, it produces carbon dioxide and not oxygen. Sometimes old grandmothers tell children, "Don't go near the tree at night. A demon is sitting on it."

The whole world is trying to enter into us and sustain us but we repel the entry of these beneficent forces by our egoism. When friendly forces of the world tell, "We shall come and enter you and protect you," we say, "Oh! Don't come near me. I am sufficient by myself. I am more important than you." Does not any person feel that he is more important than anything in the world? Secretly one feels like that, but is it true? You cannot live for a minute here if the beneficent air from the cosmic setup does not enter your nostrils to sustain your lungs and protect your heart. How can you be bragging with your egoism that you are an independent person in this world? You cannot live for three minutes if the fresh air does not enter your bodily functions. From where does the air come?

All these peculiarities connected with the world outside to which we pay scant respect in our daily life are our sustaining forces. The unknown things, the discarded things, the rejected world, is sustaining us. We have rejected God Himself and many people feel that they can get on without Him also, that they are self-sufficient. But the compassionate God, the beneficent Nature, the loving world outside is blessing us in spite of our disregard for it, like a good parent who bears all the torment and the naughty behaviour of children and still loves them though the children reject the parents through egoism and haughtiness. This is a psychology applicable to every kind of relationship between us and the world outside – applicable also between us and the object of meditation. This chosen object is a representation of the whole cosmos. So, when you love that object, you are loving all things connected with that object. The ray of the sun is all the sun; the incarnation is all the gods. The Absolute Itself is concentrated here.

Blindly, mechanically, imagining that you are doing some meditation, somehow, because it is mentioned in the twenty instructions of Gurudev, and somehow attempting to trudge through that process with effort and pain in the body and the knees, is not real spiritual practice. There will be no pain in the joints, no backache, no fatigue if the object in front of you is excessively delighting. If you are in a state of rapture in the presence of your love, then you will not say that your back is aching. Nobody will talk like that because here is the enrapturing thing in front of you.

This object of your meditation, to repeat what we have been telling for the last two days, is a representative of the omnipresence of Cosmic Power. What can be more delighting to you? When you concentrate on it, you are concentrating on the total creation itself. "Myself is the cosmos – entire creation." So did Krishna tell Arjuna, "Look at me!" and the whole universe was presented then. The object will tell you the same thing; the subject will speak in the same language.

In three days of continuous meditation, correctly and carefully conducted in this manner, you will feel a difference. You will feel perpetually happy inside; you will be smiling at all times. You will not have any kind of distress in your heart. You will not grieve or make complaints or say that something is wretched, bad, stupid. There is no such thing in the world. The stupidity or wretchedness and darkness that you see in certain persons and things in the world is due to your wrong perception of the thing by placing it in the wrong context, dissociating it from its universal 'ingressive' interrelatedness.

Cow dung in the agricultural field is a beautiful thing, but it has to be in the proper place. On your dining table dung is not beautiful. The ink that is flowing from your pen when you write a message is a beautiful thing; but the very same thing when it has fallen on your clean linen shirt is an ugly thing.

Beauty is the characteristic of that object which is placed in the proper context of the visualising consciousness. Ugliness is the characteristic of that object which is wrenched out of context. Thus, what makes a thing beautiful or enrapturing or ugly or wretched is the context in which it is beheld, or appreciated. So is the case with yourself and everybody.

Hence, place this object of meditation in the proper context and don't put it somewhere here, in the temple, in the puja room, etc. It is not anywhere of that kind. It is just here, with you, in you, around you, everywhere.

When you are in a mood of meditation you will find that you are with it and in it and through it and everything in respect of it at all times, even when you are walking on the road. It will protect you not merely in the puja room but even when you are travelling outside. It can protect you even when you are on death bed. It is your real friend. "Peace will come to you," says Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Gita, "if you know that I am your real friend. When you are in trouble, I shall be there to help you and bring succour to you."

The Object is the Soul's Beloved

This great object of your meditation is not a dot on the wall. It is not a symbol, it is a representation of all the powers (omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence), which you have placed in one object for the purpose of practical concentration. It is your soul that is actually meditating on the soul of the object. It is not 'your' body, not even 'your' surface consciousness or conscious mind that is just 'thinking' the object placed outside in meditation. It is not the phenomenal part of our personality that is contemplating the phenomenality of the object. There is a noumenal essence in the meditating principle and similarly there is a noumenal principle in the object. The two commingle.

The thing that you are in essence, the 'thing-in-itself' as they say philosophically, is not the thing that is there before your eyes. The thing that is before your eyes is the phenomenality foisted upon the thing as it is, which is the soul of that particular object.

Your personality that I am seeing in my presence now is the phenomenality of your root which is not visible to the physical eyes; nor can you see me in a similar manner. Unless the soul rises into action, you will not feel happy under any condition. Even when you take a beautiful meal, the soul has to be satisfied. When the soul rises into action, the whole personality also rises into action. Then it is that you feel strength in your personality.

People who have lost the gearing of their minds (who are incapable of consciously thinking as normally people do) are called madmen. But they exhibit greater physical strength than normal men. A madman can kick a door with such force that can break it in a few minutes, which a normal man cannot do, because that so-called madman is not confining his mind to the conscious level only. He has become something other than the conscious (though it is a negativity into which he has entered), while the normal man is on the conscious level only, disconnected from the subconscious and the unconscious levels. Therefore, the so-called normal man is physically weaker than the madman, as people say. The reason is that the mad mental condition has delved deeper from the conscious level to the lower levels, though in a regressive negative abnormality. It looks sometimes that he is behaving in an unconscious manner – he is not in his senses. May be so, but one is not in one's senses in deep sleep also. One becomes the total person in sleep. One is fifty percent, twenty-five percent, or so, when awake, so that the energy and happiness in sleep is greater there in comparison with the lesser percentage of strength and joy in the waking condition.

This analogy is to illustrate the fact that the 'soul' in you has to rise up into action and enter into the 'soul' of the object. You should not see the structure, pattern, the outer shape of that object, nor are you to consider yourself as a son, daughter of somebody. That idea also must be shed. The spirit beholds the spirit in meditation.

The very same description corresponding to this fact in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali tells us that you should divest yourself, and also the object, of associations which are not true to you and to its real nature. Only then what the Yoga Sastra calls samapatti, or samadhi, will ensue. My total union with yourself or your total union with me is samadhi. I am you, and you are me. This cannot happen as long as I am one person and you are another person, and the meditating consciousness is in one body with the object remaining totally outside.

The description of the great master Patanjali in his Yoga Sutra is that all associations foisted upon an object should be removed gradually and we should try to behold the object freed from the notions that we have of it. When I am seeing a person in front of me, what do I think of that person? Many ideas arise: This person has come from Calcutta, the son or daughter of so-and-so, working in that office, with so much education. This person's name and form is like this. What else can I think about the person? But none of these descriptions really 'mean' that person. A person need not be in Calcutta; he can be anywhere else also. He may not be doing that particular work always; he may be doing some other work. Why do you associate that person with that work? Remove that idea. Don't say that he is doing this work or is from that place, having that form, and so on.

Now, the form of the object is a very complicated feature that appears before us. From our discussions the other day, you would have gathered that even the form of our body is an effect of pressures exerted by karmic forces generated in our previous lives, and also the possibilities of the future.

You should not forget this characteristic of the present personality. The body is not suddenly manufactured, abruptly, from some source, and we are here like a fruit dropping from a tree. None of us has come abruptly, like a solid body jetting forth from the mother's womb. Millions of forces arising right from the heavenly world onwards have contributed their little share in shaping this personality, due to the interconnection that the forces of prarabdha have with all the relationship of previous lives and the future formations also.

Cosmic substances are responsible for the manufacture of this little body. Everything is here in this body saying "I am here, I am here." It is as if you have borrowed money from ten thousand people and your very existence is conditioned by the existence of those people. You are not any more a human being singly existing, because you are eating the food which is bought by the money that you borrowed from ten thousand persons; ten thousand people's karma is inside you when you eat such a meal.

Indeed, this body is not your body; it is borrowed from varieties of sources in the large universe. As there is no house minus bricks, cement and steel rods, there is no body minus the five elements and the composite forces that have entered into it through the prarabdha potencies.

Thus we bring into our memory the nature of the focussing of attention that we have to carry on in meditation. The soul in us rises into action. Only if my soul speaks to you, you will respond from your soul. Otherwise, if I speak through my tongue, you will also speak through the tongue, and the words will be only above the throat; they will not rise from the heart. If your words do not rise from your soul, they will not exert any influence. Sometimes people say that what someone said deeply entered their hearts. It can enter your heart either negatively or positively, as the case may be, by receptivity or resentment.

Anything grand, glorious, majestic, beautiful, systematic, artistic, aesthetic, touches your heart; that is the soul of the object. The beauty, grandeur and majesty that you behold in anything is what you call its soul. The soul of art is the beauty of presentation. That is why the soul is in a state of rapture on seeing a beautiful painting or hearing wonderful music.

The object of your meditation is beautiful, like an artistic painting or a blossomed lotus. It can sing a beautiful song to you. It can delight your stomach with a dish, it can speak to you like a beloved friend, and it can guide you like a mentor. It can protect you like a policeman; nay, it can bestow on you immortality. Why? Because this beloved object stands here as an ambassador of the Government of the universe, through which medium we can contact the Justice of the cosmos, His Supreme Majesty, His Highness, God Almighty.