by Swami Krishnananda
It is often said that Yoga is control of the mind, and people struggle to restrain their minds in the name of Yoga meditation, and find that it is a difficult task, if not an impossible one. The reason behind this difficulty is that the mind is inseparable from the meditator. And it will not yield to any threat or admonition, if it cannot appreciate, or understand, the significance behind the teaching that it is worthwhile restraining oneself. The mind is not easily convinced that it is good to restrain itself. Why should the mind be controlled at all? Where comes the necessity and why should people struggle to restrain the functions of the mind? Why should Yoga be equated with control of the mind? Why should Yoga not be something else? Unless this point is made clear, the effort at mind-control will not be successful. Without clear thinking, any effort in any direction will be a failure in the end.
Why should we control the mind? Let us put this question to our own selves. We will not easily get an answer. The answer will come forth if we study the structure of the universe, the nature of things. We observed in the last two chapters that the universe is not merely, a vast expanse of inter-related particulars, but a completeness in itself, from which we, as individuals, cannot isolate ourselves. Yet, we see the world as something outside us, though the world is not really outside us. The universe so-called is not an external object. Yet, we persist and contend that the universe is outside us. This contention, this persistence, this self-affirmation in us, which vehemently persuades us to believe that the world is outside, is called the mind. The mind is not a substance. It is not a particle. It is not like a sand particle inside the body, it is not even a jot of any visible substance. It is nothing but a process of self-affirmation. The mind is therefore difficult to understand. The reason why we cannot understand it is that all processes of our understanding are connected with objects external to our understanding. Whenever we exercise our understanding, it is in respect of something external to understanding. We do not try to understand understanding itself. That is not our attempt, and that is beyond even our imagination. Thus, mind cannot be known by the mind, because the mind knows only that which is outside the mind. So, the effort to know one's own mind becomes a failure, because the subject that knows requires an object that is outside it, in order that knowledge may be possible. There is no such thing as the subject knowing itself. We have never come across a situation where the subject knows itself as its own object of study. This is the cause behind our inability to know our own selves.
Our insistence that the world or the universe is outside us is called the mind. It is a kind of conscious insistence. It cannot be called a thing. It is a procedure of the consciousness by which it asserts that the world is outside. This assertion takes the form of an individual, localised existence, called the personality, whose centre of affirmation is called the mind. We may call the mind, also by some other name, such as the psychic organ. The word 'mind', especially in the psychology of the West, is used to signify a general operation of the psyche inside, including understanding, willing and feeling. The word 'mind' is a general term in Western psychology, but in the psychology of Yoga, a more detailed analysis has been made. 'Mind' is not a proper English translation of what the Yoga calls 'Chitta', especially in the system of Patanjali. The entire mind-stuff is called Chitta. It is better to use the word 'psyche' instead of the word 'mind', because the former denotes a larger composite structure than the single function indicated by the word 'mind'. Mind is that which thinks in an indeterminate manner; the intellect is that which thinks in a determinate manner; the ego is that which asserts the individuality of one's own self. There are other functions of the psyche such as memory, often associated with the subconscious level. It is impossible for anyone to be aware that something is outside, unless there is an isolated thinking or an individualising principle, known in the Vedanta psychology as the Antahkarana, and in the Yoga psychology of Patanjali as Chitta. "Antahkarana" is a Sanskrit term, which literally translated into English, would mean, "the internal organ". That is perhaps the best way we can put it in English. The internal organ, by which we cognise or perceive things outside, is the Antahkarana. The same thing is called Chitta in Yoga psychology. We need not pay much attention to the peculiar distinguishing factors or features or connotations associated with these words in the different schools of thought. But, it is important to remember that a psychic function inwardly as an individualising principle is necessary in order to assert that the world is outside or that anything is outside.
We have seen before that really things are not outside. As such, our persistence that things are outside poses a big mystery. Obviously, the functions of the mind are a blunder. What we call the mind is clearly a miscalculated affirmation. A terrible catastrophe has befallen us in the shape of our persisting in an error which is contrary to the truths of the universe. If the universe or the world is not really outside us, and if we are not seeing nothing but seeing externality, we are surely in a world of blunders. We are perpetually committing mistakes after mistakes, with the result that our entire life may be regarded as a heap or a mountain of mistakes, all mistakes being the consequences of our original self-affirmation called variously as the mind, the Chitta, and the Antahkarana. It is easy enough to appreciate why the mind is to be controlled. The mind is to be controlled, because it is the essence of mischief-making, because it is the root cause of all the troubles in life. The mind is the central mischief in the individual personality. It is the great dacoit, as Acharya Sankara calls it, the thief who robs us of all wealth and makes us paupers, looking beggarly in the eyes of all people. Why should the mind be controlled? Why should there be a need felt to restrain the Antahkarana? Because the mind is the principle of mistakenly asserting the existence of an externality which is really not there. The nature of things is such that the mind's functions, as they are being carried on now, are uncalled for, unwarranted, and thoroughly erroneous. We do not see things as they are, and therefore, we cannot act also correctly, inasmuch as action is preceded by thought, and thought is a mistaken movement of ourselves.
Here comes Yoga with a great message to us. Our life being a movement in the wrong direction, landing us in repeated problems and rebirths, it is necessary to station ourselves in the true position in which we essentially are, and not lose our own selves. Loss of self is the greatest of losses. We have lost ourselves in imagining that we are not the thing that we actually are in relation to the nature of the universe. We have lost ourselves in imagining that we are isolated persons – men, women and children and many other things – in relation to the nature of the universe. In order that we may be freed from this turmoil or sorrow called Samsara, or life in this empirical world, Yoga comes as a rescue, as a message of hope and solace, telling us that there is no hope for humanity, that there is no chance of peace prevailing anywhere, if self-restraint is not going to be the law of life. Self-restraint, in a way, is the same as mind restraint, because we are practically the same as the mind. We do not make much of a difference between self restraint and restraint of the mind. Because, for us Jivas, empirical individuals the mind itself is the sorrow. What we are, as we appear now, is just the mind operating. The need for self-control or control of the mind arises on account of the need for perfection which is the goal of everyone. We do not wish to be suffering like this. Our final ambition, aspiration or desire is redress of grief and attainment of freedom which we have not seen with our eyes in this world. None has seen really what freedom is. Everyone is bound in one way or the other. When we imagine that we have got out of a bondage and entered a state of freedom, actually we have entered into another kind of bondage in the name of freedom, a fact which we will realise sometime later. There is no such thing as real freedom in this world, because freedom is the same as attunement with the state of ultimate perfection, or at least, a degree of perfection. If we are far away from even the least percentage of what perfection can be, and our ideals and ideologies in life pursue a phantasm, we cannot hope to have peace in this world by any amount of technological progress. People today are carried away by gadgets and instruments, and researches in the field of externalised technology. This is not an achievement. If by science is meant the logical knowledge of the nature of things, science is wonderful: it is unavoidable in life. But, if by science is meant technological inventions, setting up of factories and industrial organisation, science is a bane on human life. It will not help us, because it carries us further away from the centre of reality, and compels us to affirm more and more that the world is outside us, rather than the fact that we are inseparable from the world.
The science of Yoga, therefore, is a psychology of a philosophical nature. The very introduction of the system of Yoga by Patanjali is by way of an instruction that the mind has to be controlled – Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah. Patanjali does not go into the details of the philosophical background of the necessity to control the mind, the background that comes in Samkhya and Vedanta. Yoga is control of the mind, restraint of the mind-stuff. Yoga is Chitta-vritti-nirodhah. The moment we hear this, we begin to get excited. Yoga is control of the mind. Therefore, we have to control ourselves. We begin to close our eyes, hold our nose, and become nervous and tense in our system! That is an unfortunate result that often follows from an over-enthusiasm, emotionally aroused in ourselves by hearing the very word Yoga. We should not be stirred up into an emotion, just because we listen to the word Yoga mentioned by somebody. A calm and sober understanding is Yoga. Yoga is not emotion. It is not stirring oneself into any kind of made-up or artificial individuality. A calm Chief Justice in a court does not get roused up into an emotion; rather, he begins to understand the circumstances. Emotion is not possible where wisdom prevails. The mind has to be controlled. It has to be done intelligently. Emotion has no part in it.
Yoga is Chitta-vritti-nirodhah, and Yoga is indispensable and unavoidable for every person, because everyone is in the same condition. Everyone is a part of the vast creation. Even those who do not know what Yoga is, and do not practise it, and have no idea about it, are essentially intended for this great movement called Yoga, towards the goal that is the goal of everyone. Yoga is control of the mind, and mind is to be controlled because it is the principle of isolation in a false manner. It is the mind, it is the Chitta, it is the Antahkarana or the internal organ, that makes us falsely believe that we are individuals, with a physical independence of our own, isolated from the vast structure of creation. Therefore, control of the mind is necessary; it is unavoidable under the circumstances. If one understands one's position and knows where one stands, he must also know what is the step that he has to take to place himself in the correct position under the system of the universe. Having known something about the nature of things and the structure of the world, and having come to know consequently that the mind is the mischief-maker and the isolating principle in our own so-called individualities, we come to a conclusion that it is absolutely essential to tune the mind back to the structure of things, and abolish this isolatedness of ours as individuals, and that union of the so-called isolated finitude has to be effected with the original infinitude. This union is called Yoga.
We have heard that Yoga is union, but many a time, we do not know the objects which are to be united. Now we know what 'union' actually means in the language of Yoga proper. It is a complete transcendence of our finitude. A separatist tendency persists in us, and Yoga is nothing but overcoming the barriers of this individuality by entering into the oceanic expanse of our true nature, which is also the nature of everybody. When the mind is restrained in this manner, Chitta-vritti-nirodhah is effected. This false feeling that we are different from others, that things are constituted of isolated particularities, leaves us; and we get established in our essential nature, which is the community of existence in all things, and not an isolated individuality. This establishment of one's own self in one's own true nature, in universal character, is the aim of Yoga.
Yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah. Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam. In two verses, in two Sutras, Patanjali gives the whole of Yoga. What is Yoga? Yoga is Chitta-vritti-nirodhah – the restraint of the mind-stuff. What happens when the mind-stuff is restrained? Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam. The seer establishes himself in his own Self. The seer means the conscious subjectivity in us. This so-called subjectivity of consciousness ceases to be a subjectivity any more, because the subject has no meaning if there is no object outside. Subject and object are co-related terms, one hanging on the other for their subsistence. If the outside does not exist, there is no inside, and vice versa. So, when the person who has restrained the mind-stuff has realised that the things are not outside himself, the object ceases to be, and with it, the inside also goes. So, no more is there such a thing as subjectivity or individuality for that person. It does not exist any more. Thus from the restraint of the mind or the control of the mind follows a re-installation of one's own self in one's own true nature.
Here again, we have to strike a note of caution as to what is "one's own true nature". Many a time we are likely to mistake the meaning of this phrase, "establishment of one's self in one's own Self". We have an inveterate habit of thinking that we are sons and daughters of some parents. We cannot forget this. We are also inveterately affirming that we are men and women, that we are in a body. We cannot forget this also, whatever be the Yoga we might practise. So, what is the sort of establishment in one's Self that one is going to achieve or attain with this sort of a persisting malady in one's own thinking? If one is a man or a woman, a son or a daughter, a rich man or a poor man, he cannot get out of the corresponding idea which limits his vision. What sort of Yoga can anybody practise in such a situation? A little bit of brushing of the brain is necessary to free ourselves from at least the grosser misconceptions in which we are involved. There are subtler misconceptions and grosser misconceptions. While the subtler ones are the more powerful ones, and they have to be tackled at the appropriate time, the grosser ones at least should be given up initially. But, we are prepared for neither. We are hard-boiled persons, persisting somehow or the other in our own preconceived notions, and set attitudes and relationships. We are friends to some, and enemies to others; we are related to some in some ways, to others in other ways. This is most unfortunate, because such wrong attitudes come in the way of our regarding ourselves as real students of Yoga.
The grosser problems of ours, and the lesser or the subtler ones, are classified in the psychology of Yoga, especially in the Sutras of Patanjali. Because of the fact that these great men are used to thinking in lofty terms, they use philosophical expressions to designate the problems of life. Patanjali, in his Sutras, uses a very pertinent term, significant in psychology, to make a distinction between the subtler problems and the grosser problems of the individuals in general. These problems of ours are all mental problems. All our difficulties are psychological, finally; and what is psychology, but a study of the functions of the mind. And the functions of the mind are called Vrittis in Yoga psychology. So, Patanjali tells us that our problems are only Vrittis, functions of the mind. The grosser Vrittis are to be distinguished from the subtler ones, which are more philosophical and metaphysical in their nature. So, Patanjali classifies all Vrittis into two categories – the Klishta Vrittis and the Aklishta Vrittis. Klishta is that which gives pain; Aklishta is that which does not give pain. Klishta is a word meaning pain, suffering, sorrow. A Klishta Vritti is a function of the mind which gives perpetual sorrow everyday, and an Aklishta Vritti is a function of the mind which does not directly pain, but is there like a chronic illness. There is a clear distinction between acute illness and chronic illness. An acute disease suddenly jumps upon a person bringing with it an intense pain or high fever. Whereas, a chronic illness is like eczema. It is there all the time troubling the person, but the person does not mind it, because he is now accustomed to it. Constipation, eczema, and certain other chronic illnesses persist in many people; and yet, it is the acute diseases like intense temperature or splitting headache that are immediately attended to, because the latter are highly agonising. Likewise, we have acute psychological problems and chronic psychological problems – the Klishta Vrittis and the Aklishta Vrittis respectively.
Let us consider the Vrittis of love and hatred. They are really painful indeed. By love, we are pained. By hatred also, we are pained. Whoever entertains love and hatred knows how painful both these things are. Any man with a little jot of common sense will know what suffering is brought upon oneself by the fact of loving anything or hating anything. We are perpetually restless, because we like something or dislike something. We are grief-stricken by loving something, and we are equally grief stricken by hating something else. These are our daily problems, and all our problems are only this, that we like something or dislike something. This like-dislike is one of the items brought under the category of Klishta Vrittis by Patanjali – this Raga-Dvesha, rising from ignorance ultimately. We cannot love or hate a thing, unless we are shrouded in ignorance about the nature of things. When we love something or hate something, we do not understand that thing. So, a lack of proper understanding of anything is the reason behind our liking it or not liking it. Likes and dislikes are unwarranted, misplaced and totally miscalculated attitudes of ours, especially when we like or dislike a thing with our emotions attached.
A philosophical liking and disliking is one thing, and emotional liking and disliking is quite another thing; the latter is much worse. What are called Klishta Vrittis are practically all emotional in their nature. Our feelings are attached to them. When we like or dislike a thing, we do not philosophically like or dislike it, but we like it or dislike it emotionally. Our feelings are roused, we are stirred in our personality. Any intense like or intense dislike is called passion, something that simply throws us out of gear, like a whirlwind or a tempest or a cyclone. That is called passion. It could be anger, it could be intense like, it could be intense dislike, it could be intense hatred of any kind. Inasmuch as likes and dislikes, Raga and Dvesha, arise due to a misunderstanding of the nature of the objects of like or dislike, ignorance forms the base of Raga and Dvesha. Avidya, non-intellection or nescience, is the root of likes and dislikes.
First, we do not understand anything. Then we fly into a passion of like or dislike. But, midway between these, there is a subtle thief who creates the problems that we call like and dislike. That is self-affirmation, Asmita. This Asmita or self-affirmation is a highly political mischief-maker. In the political field, there are certain peculiar mischievous elements, who may not belong to either of the opposing parties. But they can still create problems for both the parties. Likewise is this peculiar thing called Asmita. One does not know to which party it belongs, but it is the greatest devil that one can imagine. When we try to discover it, it is not there. It is like searching for darkness with the help of a torchlight. If we want to know where darkness is, we have to use our light of understanding, and when the light of understanding is thrown on it, it vanishes. Even so, this self-affirmation is something which is there, but when we try to know where it is and what it is, we cannot know it. It vanishes. So, this self-sense, the affirmation of oneself as an isolated individual, which follows immediately the ignorance of the nature of things, is an indeterminable, so-called something – Anirvachaniya as the Vedanta calls it, an existence which is indescribable, indeterminable, and unthinkable also. From where does this arise? How is it that we have come to affirm ourselves as something quite different from what we really are? We cannot know this, because trying to know this is like attempting to see the darkness with the help of a torch. We cannot see it, because light is there. But, when the light goes, it is there.
Thus, Patanjali tells us that there is a peculiar, indescribable element, called self-sense. This is the consciousness of oneself as a separate entity. This is the same as Adam and Eve becoming conscious that they are naked. This is the metaphysical evil of the philosophers, the original sin which theology speaks of and which breeds every other sin, the grandparent of all other troubles and whose first children are Raga and Dvesha or like and dislike. Cain and Abel, the children of Adam and Eve, are no other than Raga and Dvesha, like and dislike, love and hatred. These great stories of creation and Genesis are highly philosophical and spiritual in their nature. From a lack of understanding of the nature of things, ignorance or nescience or Avidya arises – this self-sense, this consciousness of individuality, this personality-consciousness which takes the shape of the feeling of 'I am', the feeling of being somebody or someone different from others totally. This 'I am' is quite different from the 'I-am-That-I-am', which the Genesis speaks of. The 'I-am-That-I-am' is a highly cosmical affirmation; and it is quite different from the 'I am'-ness we are acquainted with in our daily life, and which relates to our physical body, and which is the individualised essence of our own personalities. Because I am, everything else also is. Where there is the subject, there is also the object. It follows at once. There is no need to argue separately the existence of an object outside, it follows automatically. If I am, something else also must be. That something is the object. Because there is the object outside myself, I must have an attitude towards it of this nature or that nature. There cannot be an undecided factor called the object in front of me. I have to think something about it. It is either myself or not myself. It is not myself, because I see it outside myself. That is why I call it an object. And so, if it is not myself, I cannot like it. Hatred of the object is engendered automatically by the very fact of the affirmation of it being outside myself. Anything that is not myself is my enemy. This is the basic affirmation of all individuals.
However, it is not an unadulterated hatred that preponderates in our lives. There is something very, very peculiar about the object which is not myself. It is an appearance, as another individuality in space and time, outside myself, of the very same thing of which I am also an appearance. This is very unfortunate, and at the same time, very interesting and dramatic indeed – inasmuch as that which I call the object outside in space and time is an offshoot, as it were, an appearance, of that one thing, of which I am also a similar appearance. The subject and the object being thus co-related, I have also a basic love for the object. I cannot wholly hate it. So, there is no such thing as hundred per cent hatred for anything, nor can there be hundred per cent love for anything. We cannot love anything hundred per cent, nor can we hate anything hundred per cent. We can have only a mixture of both. This is Samsara, the terrible mire into which we have been thrown, worse than even the worst of concentration camps. We are tortured in a way that is worse than the treatment meted out to prisoners in camps of the above kind. We are pulled in two directions simultaneously. On one side we cannot hate, on the other side we cannot love. Inasmuch as the object appears as something outside us, we cannot love it. But inasmuch as basically it is not really outside us, we cannot wholly hate it either. So, love and hatred continue to form an admixture of two contrary attitudes of ours, making us a laughing-stock in the eyes of our own selves. We have to mock at our own selves due to this illness into which we have landed ourselves, where we cannot think fully either this way or that way.
Such is love and hatred, Raga and Dvesha, arising from a self-sense, which in turn evolves out of a lack of understanding. Because I am an individual, I am that and nothing else. I have to preserve that individuality. I love it intensely. Nothing can be loved so much as one's own self. No love can equal one's own love for one's own self. Self-love is the greatest of loves, and here 'self' stands for bodily individuality. Nothing else is seen in an individual. So, love of life and fear of death follow as a natural corollary to this love of bodily individuality. We dread death, because we love life. Dread of death is the same as love of life. They are not two different things. One means the same as the other thing.
Thus is this chain action following from an original mistake, a blunder, an ignorance of the true nature of our relationship with things. Avidya breeds self-sense, which breeds love and hatred, which breeds clinging to this bodily individuality and a hatred for the very thought of the destruction of this body. Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesha: this is a broad fivefold classification of the painful Vrittis-Klishtas, as Patanjali calls them – which are the grosser difficulties or the grosser problems in life, because we feel them everyday. Everyone knows that everyone is in this condition. Because this condition, this sequential suffering, is so obvious and clear like daylight, and so gross and prosaic, the Vrittis involved are called "Klishta Vrittis", painful, agonising functions of the mind.
There is something very important for us to remember here where we enter into a greater philosophical realm than before. The painful Vrittis are brought about by certain structural defects in our own selves. There are certain organic defects in our personality which become the causative factors behind the painful Vrittis mentioned earlier, just as a group of dacoits may unleash certain violent elements and work havoc in society, while themselves remaining as the main string-pullers behind the screen. They may not be visible outside. The havoc – workers are seen, no doubt, in public, but they are moved to action by certain forces which are not visible. These latter forces lie behind the screen. Likewise there are certain forces which cause the mischief which we see in front of us as our sorrows, as our pains. These invisible causative factors behind our difficulties in life are the "Aklishta Vrittis" or the non-pain-causing functions of the mind. They are non-pain-causing, because we do not feel the pain that they cause. But they are of greater danger than the so-called pain-causing ones. A direct attack is one thing; and inwardly maintained or inwardly sustained hatred is quite another thing. The painful Vrittis directly attack us every day, and in a way, we know that they are there. The next thing is to know what to do with them when we confront them in daily life. But, the other Vrittis, the Aklishta Vrittis are not directly seen. We cannot even know that they exist. It is like a creeping cancer in the system, whose existence is not detected easily even by physicians. We get to know that there is a cancerous growth only when it pains. When it has just started at the root, when it is working surreptitiously at the base, it is not easily noticed. Likewise, there is a cancerous growth in our own basic structure, an organic defect as we may call it. This is the Aklishta Vritti or the so-called non-painful function of the mind. Even as five different items are mentioned by Patanjali in the category of pain-causing functions, five others are mentioned by him as non-painful ones. The Sanskrit terms that he uses are Pramana, Viparyaya, Vikalpa, Nidra and Smriti.
Pramana is direct perception. Viparyaya is wrong perception. Or, we may say that Pramana is right perception and Viparyaya is wrong perception. Vikalpa is doubt, oscillation of the mind. Nidra is sleep, torpidity. And Smriti is memory or remembrance of past occurrences. All these are functions of the mind only. The mind works in different ways when these processes take place. It may be very surprising that even right perception is regarded by Patanjali as an undesirable Vritti. Patanjali clubs even the so-called right perception or epistemological cognition of things as an undesirable function of the mind, which has to be curbed. This is like considering even a good man as undesirable at times. It is very difficult to understand how it can be! Why is it that even a normal person should be regarded as undesirable? What is wrong when I see a building in front of me, which is really there? What is wrong? What is wrong if I am convinced that it is daytime when it is really daytime and not midnight? All these come under right perceptions and why should they be regarded as something contrary to Yoga? What is wrong? We cannot understand! We cannot easily understand what actually is in the mind of Patanjali. But we will know what is in his mind and we will appreciate what he says, if we can recollect some of our earlier observations.
Likewise are doubt and wrong perception. We do not see things properly. Something appears as something else. When there is cataract in the eyes, one moon is seen as two moons; a distant object appears as something else. Again, we see water in a mirage, when water is not actually there; we see a snake in the rope. To people suffering from jaundice, sweets taste bitter. So many other examples can be given of erroneous cognition and perception. All these are mental functions. In sleep also, the mind is there, though like a coiled snake. A snake that is in a corner, winding itself up, does not cease to be a snake. It is very much there. If we touch it, we will know what it is. The modifications of the mind are wound up for the night, and that is sleep. Or, it is like a court case that is adjourned to be heard the next day. That is sleep. A sleeping rogue is a rogue only. He will not become a saint, merely because he is sleeping. Even so, the mind may be sleeping; yet it is the mind. It is nothing but that. So, Patanjali is very cautious. He says that sleep is a function of the mind. It is a trick of the mind. It is a kind of manoeuvring which the mind conducts for its own purposes. And then there is memory. The mind sees and it remembers: "Yesterday, I saw this. Yesterday, this happened; the day before yesterday, something else happened." Memory also is a function of the mind. These functions of the mind do not cause us daily sorrow. That is why we are not even aware that these functions are taking place. We are not always aware that there is a process going on in the mind. When there is a building in front of me, I am just aware that there is a building in front. I do not make an analysis to know that there is a building in front. It is a spontaneous perception which is at once clear. All Aklishta Vrittis are of a similar nature. We are not aware of these mental perceptions, because they do not prick us like needles every moment, as the Klishta Vrittis do. So, it is necessary to exercise a greater caution in our understanding of the non-painful Vrittis than in the case of the painful ones.