by Swami Krishnananda
The modifications of the mind called the non-painful ones are somewhat like organic defects, and the others known as the painful ones are somewhat like functional disorders, the latter following from the former. A functional disorder can be a direct consequence of an organic defect. There is a basic structural malady in the very process of our knowledge, so that what we know has no direct correspondence to reality. This world is called an empirical existence, a transiency of process, phenomena rather than noumena. These descriptions of the world and the world-experience are common to most of the philosophers in the world. We are not living in a world of reality. Our cognitions and perceptions are false representations, and not correct perceptions, of Reality. Patanjali holds that what usually goes by the name of Pramana or right knowledge also is, in the end, a misrepresentation of Truth, due to a particular form of the modification of the mind. And when the mind is to be restrained in Yoga, every modification is to be restrained, even if it be in the form of what we may call practically right perception. It is right only from our point of view, but not from the true point of view of Reality as such. Our knowledge is right, only because it is workable in the world of phenomena. It has a utilitarian value, but it is not ultimately valid when it is made to stand the test of perfection. The other processes of the mind, such as logical deduction and induction, inference, and other well-known methods of right knowledge in this world, proceed from perception. Perception through the senses is the principal avenue of knowledge for us. Everything else is a result that follows from sensory perception. Thus, logic, whether it is inductive or deductive, also cannot be regarded as finally valid and capable of giving us the knowledge of Truth, since it hangs on perception. And perception is through the senses, and senses do not represent Reality. So, all perceptions, whatever be their nature, and all modifications of the mind are, in essence, psychic transformations. And, inasmuch as Yoga is the inhibition of the very stuff of the mind, even our knowledge of the world outside has to be made subject to transformation by means of the practice of Yoga.
The knowledge that we acquire, through the senses, of the world outside, is conditioned by the very structure of the world, of which we are also a part. And conditioned knowledge cannot be regarded as finally valid in an unconditional manner. This defective perception of the human individual, or any other individual for the matter of that, breeds the pains in the form of the Klishta Vrittis. Our sorrows are caused by our erroneous notions. When we wrongly perceive, wrongly think, and wrongly understand, the consequences thereof have to be borne by us, because our joys and sorrows are practically the way in which the mind reacts to circumstances outside. Action and reaction, psychologically, are the joys and sorrows of life. Hence, when we enter into the realm of the practice of Yoga, we have to be doubly cautious about any mistake creeping into the very technique of practice, because of the prejudice already in us, in the form of our individualities, and a persistent notion which will not leave us till the day of doom, vehemently asserting that the world is outside of us and that the object of knowledge is totally cut off from the subject. This misconception that Yoga is an individual affair, and that it has nothing to do with the outside world or human society, is the basis for other doubts arising in the minds of novices in Yoga practice. It is surprising that even the so-called adepts in Yoga carry this misrepresentation in their heads, and social well-being and the world's future are dissociated from the values entertained by them in connection with the practice of Yoga.
The practice of Yoga, surely, is not an individual affair. It is not some individual sitting in a corner, doing something in the name of Yoga. Individual existence itself is a misnomer. It is a falsity to the core, and if with this false affirmation one takes to the practice of Yoga, one could well imagine the result that would follow. Nothing will come of it. One will be wasting one's time. Thus it is that thousands of people who may be engaged in the practice of Yoga may be in a state of despair, in a mood of dejection, having achieved nothing and entered into greater and greater mental difficulties. It has been hammered into our minds again and again by ancient masters that unless there are the essential prerequisites with which one has to be equipped, one should not take seriously to Yoga. An impure mind, ridden over with gross desires and prejudices galore, should not touch even the border of Yoga. Otherwise, it will burst open like a dynamite which is handled by a person who knows not what it is. While Yoga is the solace to the whole of mankind, and there is no other panacea for the ills of life, it can also prove to be a dangerous thing if it is not handled properly. We may go crazy or become mad or gain nothing in the end, if our enthusiasm in the line of Yoga is misdirected and prejudiced and rooted in old desires, which persist even when we enter the 'Temple of God'.
The metaphysical foundations of Yoga are as important as the actual technique or the actual practice of Yoga. That is why the Yoga practice is always based on the Samkhya of Kapila or on the Vedanta. A person who has no knowledge of the philosophical basis of Yoga would be performing a mechanical routine of practice. As a machine moves, the individual may move, thinking that Yoga is being done. Inasmuch as the universe is one whole, and is not capable of being partitioned into individuals, there cannot be such a thing called individual practice of Yoga. The moment one enters into the realm of Yoga, one enters into an oceanic expanse, where one can recognise all the friends and brothers of the world. The greatest service that one can do to humanity, to the world, or to the universe as a whole, is to enter into Yoga; and we cannot isolate social welfare or the world's good from Yoga meditation. They are one and the same rather. The dedication to Yoga is the greatest of all services one can render, because one enters here, or at least attempts to enter, into the heart of things, instead of merely working on the surface, superficially, in the name of social service. The world will not change merely because we have a notion about it, and on the basis of that notion, tackle its problems. No problem of the world has been solved even to this day. They are there, because one cannot even understand how these problems have arisen. They have arisen as the result of a total misconception in the minds of individuals.
And so, if, Yoga means union, naturally it should be a union with that which is in its own status, and not with that which is made into an appearance of somebody's cognition or perception. This is a very subtle point, difficult to comprehend. The significance behind it is exceedingly hard to appreciate. This is because we have not been accustomed to think in this manner. We have been told by teachers, and the popular books on Yoga, the common-place routines which we have to pass through when we become religious or devoted or inclined towards Yoga. But then, inasmuch as true Yoga is an internal adjustment rather than an external practice, it requires greater effort on one's own part than in the usual routine affairs of life. Yoga is more a state of being rather than outward doing. Any amount of external doing may not be Yoga at all. Because one will be the same person inwardly with no difference whatsoever, if one's outlook of life has not changed. If the mind persists in thinking in the same old manner there would be no progress made. Honesty in one's own heart is essential. We should not be self-deceptive individuals. Oftentimes people take to Yoga, because they want to become teachers of Yoga. It is an insult to Yoga, rather than an appreciation of the glory of Yoga, to learn it only so that one may teach it. For, then it looks as if Yoga is intended to be an instrument for one's way of life, rather than for an inward transformation of the spirit. In the language of religion, we may say that Yoga is the art by which we have a vision of God. It is nothing if one teaches Yoga in society. One may teach it or not teach it. That is a different subject altogether. The vision of God, the cognition of the Ultimate Reality, union with the Absolute finally, is the aim of Yoga. If this aspiration is inwardly absent, the practice of Yoga becomes a mere mockery and a waste. The point that Patanjali makes out in telling us that even the so-called right perceptions are wrong perceptions should awaken us from our slumber. But what do we do in our Yoga? Our practices are rooted in the wrong perceptions only. We cannot get over the old psychological prejudices concerning the externality of things. To get over these prejudices inwardly, there is a need to purify one's mind. Gross debris in which the mind may be sunk has to be cleared, for which many methods are suggested by the ancient adepts. These are: humble service of the Master or Guru, humility of conduct, an inward capacity to assess one's own position in life, not over-estimating oneself in any manner, and a clarity which is free from the desires that are consequent upon the wrong perception of the world as an object outside.
The last-mentioned characteristic is indicated by Patanjali in one word, namely, Vairagya. Unless one is endowed with this glorious strength known as Vairagya, Abhyasa or practice of Yoga is not possible. One cannot attach oneself to the Absolute unless one practises non-attachment to the false values of life. Herein we have to strike a note of caution. Non-attachment, or rather detachment, from the false values of life may again be misrepresented due to the notion that we are entertaining in our life. Vairagya, or detachment from the false values, does not mean a physical closure of one's eyes to the existence of things. This has been very clearly indicated in such scriptures as the Bhagavad Gita and affiliated texts. Our problem is not the existence of things. Our problem is the nature of our notion about the existence of things. Unless our current wrong notion about the existence of the things of the world, or the world as a whole, is transformed, a physical disassociation from objects may not help us much. Patanjali defines Vairagya in a most psychological manner. Vairagya has nothing to do with our view of the so-called Sannyasa. It has nothing to do with entering into monasteries or chapels or nunneries. No outward exhibition in conduct is indicated in Vairagya. Vairagya simply means an absence of sensory taste in respect of things. The taste for things is called desire. An absence of desires is called Vairagya. Raga is desire or attachment, and Vairagya is the opposite of it. The taste for things, the desire for objects, is to be sublimated in a higher perception. Our problems are our desires, not the existence of objects; because, the things will be there always. They were there even before we were born in this world, and even if we are not to be here, they will continue to be. The taste for things arises on account of a wrong knowledge of things. We love a thing or hate a thing, because we do not understand anything. The taste for objects, the desire for things, arises on account of a first miscalculation of our position in the universe, and a consequent miscalculation of our relationship to the objects outside. All this amounts to saying finally that desires melt away spontaneously when understanding arises.
The great confusion in the mind of Arjuna, described in the first chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, was considered by Sri Krishna as the consequence of an absence of understanding, an absence of Samkhya-Buddhi, a point that is made out in the Second Chapter. We lack Samkhya-Buddhi or right understanding. We cannot see things as they are, and so, we have wrong attitudes towards them. We cling to them or try to run away from them. There is no necessity to cling to things, and there is no necessity also to run away from things. Both these are unwarranted attitudes of ours in the context of objects as they really are. Everything is as we ourselves are. The world is a kingdom of ends. The Atman is the Reality of all objects in the world. There is a supreme subjectivity present in all things. Nothing is an object here. Everyone is a subject with a status of his own. Inasmuch as everything is an end in itself, and not a means to something else, nobody can be exploited in this world as an instrument of somebody else. Therefore, no one is an object. Hence, no one can be taken in an utilitarian sense as a thing for the satisfaction of oneself – a satisfaction that may arise either by love or by hatred.
A complete absence of taste for things seen, heard, or even imagined in the mind, is defined as Vairagya. Drishtanusravika-vishaya-vitrishnasya vasikara-samjna vairagyam: this is the aphorism (I-15) of Patanjali. We see things and we hear things. We see this world of objects, very beautiful indeed, very attractive oftentimes, and sometimes repulsive also. We hear also of the glories of heaven, the paradise, the Garden of Eden, Indra-Loka. One would wish to go there and enjoy life. That is a desire arising from things heard only and not seen. Desires also arise from objects seen, which is our practical experience. When there is an absence of taste for things seen or heard or thought of in the mind, on account of the recognition of the true circumstance of all things in their inter-relationship with the whole universe, desire ceases. One becomes a master. Mastery over the mind is mastery over desires.
In a sense, we may say that the mind is only desires. Desires constitute the mind. The loves and hatreds of life constitute the warp and woof of the mind. When these loves and hatreds are transcended, the mind is overcome automatically. As threads constitute the cloth, desires constitute the mind. Desires and mind are not two different things. Hence, any kind of a religious attitude is not Yoga; because, Yoga is not religion at all. Yoga is a systematic, scientific approach to things as they are. It has nothing to do with Hinduism or Christianity or any other 'ism. Yoga is like mathematics or logic, which is not Hindu or Muslim or Christian. Yoga is a perfect scientific outlook which is expected of every individual situated in this cosmos. It is necessary to develop this outlook, this capacity to understand, rather than jump into a routine of practice unintelligently. If this is not done, all one's time will be taken up in the effort to understand the technique of practice. And years of such practice may bring no palpable result, if it is misdirected at the base by a wrong understanding. We are not here to fulfil desires. The aim of life is not the satisfaction of the senses or the pampering of one's ego. We are here as trainees in a large school or institution of education. We do not enrol in an educational institution for the purpose of satisfying our desires. This life, this existence of ours on earth, is a training ground for every one of us. We are like boys in a school, undergoing a process of right education, under the guidance of the Supreme Being Himself.