Chapter 1: The True Nature of Life
What I spoke to you during the inaugural session is basically an introduction to the foundational philosophy of the practical side of yoga—namely, the reason why you should practice yoga at all. The mind is a rational principle. It argues, it questions, and it will not take what you give it unless you make it feel that it is necessary for you. You cannot thrust some dogma into the mind. The mind resents any kind of dogmatic approach. It requires a rational foundation and a convincing explanation about what you are going to give it. Therefore, engaging in yoga practice without the mind accepting the rationality behind it may not give the required result.
I mentioned during the inaugural session that your structure is basically inseparable from the world of nature. This is very important to remember. You have a prejudice in your mind, due to which you imagine that the world may do whatever it likes and you are totally unconcerned with it. This is not so. The world has something great to tell you, and you have no right to disregard it, because you are inextricably related to the world structure. You will learn that you are involved in the world in many layers of your personality—so much so, that it would look like you yourself are the world. You will be thrilled, actually, to hear all these things. “Am I myself the world? What is it that I want, afterwards? Yoga is telling me that I am the whole world. It is seeping into my vitals, it is passing through my veins, and it is the building brick of my whole physical body. I exist because the world exists.” Would you like to hear these statements? Your health will immediately improve even by hearing these things. A sick person will feel a sensation of rejoicing. “Is this so? Am I so perfectly guarded by the stuff of the world?” This is brief ly what I told you during the inaugural session.
Now continuing, we have to see in what other ways we are involved in the structure of creation as a whole. When I use the word ‘world’, I do not mean only this physical earth. It is a general way of referring to the entire phenomena of creation. You are vitally connected with it. Before you came into the form of a human being, the universe existed. You have not created the universe; it has created you. It is your parent, and you are its child. It is the cause, and you are the effect. You are totally dependent upon it—dependent not as an external accretion totally outside it, but as a vital limb of this wondrous creative force.
What are the ways in which you are involved? Physically, it appears to be very sound that you cannot exist outside the material of this cosmic structure. Have you anything other than the physical body? As a physical entity, as an individual, you live in a society of similar individuals. On the one hand, it is to be noted that you are a physical entity, but you are also a social entity. You cannot exist without a body, and you cannot exist without social relations. You cannot live like a stone, unconnected with people outside. As the physical substance of the world makes up your physical body, so also your social consciousness is made up of the contribution made by the arrangement of individuals called human society. You are largely influenced by the setup of people around you, including international regions. The whole world of humanity is influencing you. What happens to the man next door will have an effect on you. What happens to the whole district will affect you. What happens to the whole state will affect you. What happens to the whole country will affect you. What happens to the whole of humanity will also affect you. So you can imagine to what extent you are integrally related to an atmosphere beyond and transcending yourself. Physically you are identical with and inseparable from the cosmic material substance, and socially you are inseparable from the large mass of humanity.
Inasmuch as you are inseparable from something, you have an obligation towards it. There is an obligation, socially speaking, to the members of your family, to your village, to your community, to the district, state, country, and the whole world. You have a duty to pay tax. You cannot say, “I am not concerned with what happens in some other place in the world.” If even one very serious event takes place in some part of the world, it can affect everybody else in the world.
You are not living unconnected; intensely connected is the very pattern of your living. Physically, as well as socially, you are larger than what you appear to be. You are not what you appear to your physical eye. Keep it in your mind always. You are not an isolated individual, neither materially, physically, nor socially. Now, what is the situation in your mind? Can you think whatever you like and let others go to the dogs, or is it not possible? There is a superintending principle inside the body called the mind, or the mind-stuff, about which yoga is very much concerned. You say you have a mind, and another person also has a mind. Is there any connection between one mind and another mind?
From what has been said in relation to your social relationship with people, it appears that you have a mental connection with other people. Because social consciousness is nothing but mental awareness of the connection of one way of thinking with another way of thinking, you cannot be totally detached in your way of thinking from the need felt by other people to also think in some way. You have to be charitable in your material life, in your social life, and even in your mental life. Total independence of the mind is not possible.
Oftentimes, the mind appears to be the personal property of the individual. “It is my mind. It is none of your business.” It is not so. The mind is not your prerogative. It is not a commodity that you have purchased that entirely belongs to you. Your mind is not your property, as you wrongly consider it to be. Your body is not your property; it belongs to the whole world. And your social existence is not your property; you belong to the entire society of humanity.
There is a contributory, cooperative activity going on in the mental structure of every living being. Minds act and react. Biological researchers have demonstrated that if you think something about the tree in front of you, it will know what you are thinking. If you say, “Tomorrow we will cut this tree,” it will immediately vibrate at your nearness. It will shake because you said you are going to cut it. The leaves will tremble; they will shrivel, agitate, and will resent your very presence. On the other hand, you could say, “How beautiful is this tree! How beautifully the foliage is spreading around! How beautiful are the flowers! What nice fruit! Beautiful thou art, this magnificent banyan tree in front of me. I love you. You give shade to all people. You give fruit. You give oxygen to me during the daytime. I am grateful.” If you tell this to a tree, it will bless you. There is nothing in this world which cannot bless you. Even an ant can bless you.
Incidentally, there is a passage in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad which says: “Those whom you take care of, they will take care of you.” You may wonder how an ant will take care of you. Remember, there are no ants in this world; they are integral parts of the cosmical setup. Even an atom will take care of you. You will laugh at this idea. Your body is made up of the very same atomic core which makes up the ant, the tree, the protoplasm, the bloodstream, everything. There is a vital connection with the core of all things in the world. They act and react.
There was an Englishman who walked in the sunlight and got sunstroke. He thought about it. “Why is the sun so cruel to me? He is a god, giving light and life and energy to all people. God of the universe, bless me!” From the next day onwards, he collected beautiful flowers, brought some holy water, stood before the rising sun and said, “Great Lord, bless me. I offer thee these humble flowers and this holy water. You are the life of all life. You are the most beautiful thing I can imagine. Representative of God, I beseech you, bless me.” From the core of his heart he developed a religious feeling towards the sun, and then he could stand in it the whole day without getting sunstroke.
In a similar manner, we must develop a knowledge of the psychology of all living beings. There is a kind of mind in every living creature. There may be a difference in the degree of the mind’s capacity in different living creatures, but potentially, incipiently, in some form or the other, the mind exists everywhere. Even the atom has a mind. It has an intention in its vibrations, and that intention is the mind. Why would a tree yield fruit unless it had an intention or a purposiveness within it? That purposiveness is what is called the mind.
Thus, deeply feel within yourself: “I am inseparable from the physical aspect of the world, inseparable from society, and inseparable from the mental units constituting all the psychological vibratory units of life. I cannot think irrelevant thoughts, thoughts that are not in consonance with the welfare of other minds.” Remember this point well. You cannot even think something aggressive, violent, abhorrent, as a criminal would think. It is not possible for a person to entertain criminal thoughts without being subject to the punishment which nature itself will mete out one day or the other. You can escape man, but you cannot escape nature. Nature sees more than man can see. If walls have ears, they also have eyes.
You have a body and a mind. You have prana inside, which is called the vital principle. You breathe in and out constantly. There is a very, very important activity going on in you: the breathing process. You breathe even if you are not conscious that you are breathing—as, for instance, when you are asleep. Somebody is guarding you even if you are unconscious of your own safety. Are you contributing anything to the breathing that is taking place while you are sleeping? Have you done any service to the breath? The beating of the heart and the working of the prana in the form of breathing go together. If you stop the breath, the heartbeat will be seriously affected. But the heart and the breathing process work perpetually from birth to death, without resting even for a minute. Everybody wants to rest. You are tired, but the heart is not tired, and the breathing is not tired. Suppose they are tired and would like to rest for one day; would you like it? Why should everybody rest, and not they?
It is because you are guarded by a great parent who loves you more than you love that parent. That parent is not a human being; it is the whole world. The world structure has manifested your personality in a specific form for a purpose to be fulfilled which is cosmic as well as individual. Life has a cosmic purpose as well as an individualised purpose, into which secret and nature we shall slowly enter in the coming days. The breath that you are breathing is not just air that is nearby. It is pumped by the whole world of visible vibration which is called air. Remember wherefrom this little air enters the nose. It is not from within this room only. The air in the room cannot move unless it is pulled and pushed by some activity taking place outside, until it reaches the top of the creative centre. The centre of the cosmos pumps this energy into the heart and lungs of every human being, and it pumps this energy to every leaf of every tree. It acts as a life principle of everything that lives. Life does not come from any particular locality; it comes from the entire creative setup. All life is the world, this universe. Everything is life; nothing is dead.
There is something more about you. You are the body, you are the prana, and you are the mind. Are you something more? You may say this is a great philosophical question. Do you exist when you are deeply asleep? You do not exist as the body, and do not exist even as the breath because you are not aware that you are breathing. Unaware of the breathing process, you exist in sleep. Unaware of the fact that the heart is pumping blood, you are asleep. When you wake up from sleep, you are conscious of the memory that you did exist in sleep. In what form did you exist? Not as the body, and not as the breath, and also not as the mind because in sleep the mind was inoperative. What was there in you?
When you wake up in the morning, you say, “I had a good sleep.” Who makes this statement? Have you thought over this interesting question? The body cannot say this because it was not even conscious, nor was the mind operating. You are speaking. It is you who remembers that you existed even when you were not conscious. How could you know that you existed in sleep when you were not aware that you existed at that time? How does the consciousness of existence in sleep arise in your mind now, when this consciousness of your existence was not there when you were asleep? How could unconscious existence be remembered by a subsequent consciousness? From where did it arise? Something cannot arise from nothing. If deep sleep was nothing, the waking state cannot be something. It will also be nothing. Life in the waking condition is not nothing; it is something. That which existed in deep sleep, and which has woken up, also was not a nil, a zero, or a negation. It had some meaning. It did exist. You did exist.
You cannot imagine a state of existence minus the consciousness of it, though it apparently seems that in the state of deep sleep there is existence minus consciousness. If that were so, you could not remember on waking that there was existence in deep sleep. By inference we conclude that the consciousness that mysteriously remembers that you existed in sleep also existed in sleep in some other way than how it operates in the waking condition. Without going into the depth of this problem, we may conclude that somehow you existed minus association with the body, mind, intellect, breathing, etc. That is to say, anything that limits you to a particular place did not exist as you existed in sleep. You seem to have existed unlimitedly. The ‘I’ that slept is some mysterious ‘I’ which did not have any association with that which limits you to a physical body or a physical individuality.
By deep logical inference, we come to the conclusion that you existed without any limitation. How could you have such a happy, blissful experience in sleep, more pleasant than any other happiness that you can expect from finite objects in this world? If I give you all the finite things in the world but prevent you from sleeping, you will say, “I do not want anything. Let me sleep first.” Why is it that you want the happiness of sleep much more than the happiness of an emperor with all the finite glories? It is because, without knowing it, you are existing as an unlimited potentiality of comprehensiveness that surpasses even the happiness of a mortal emperor.
Do you remember the importance of your so-called personality, this little person sitting here? Even though you are walking on the earth, you reach up to the heavens through all the levels of being of which you are made—the levels of the physical, the vital, the sensory, the mental, and the intellectual. You have gone to the depths of all these levels, and found out your own Being.
You are the most beautiful thing—not something else, outside you. You love yourself more than anybody else loves you. Do you love anything more than you love your own self ? “If everything goes, I must be alive.” This is a subtle potential longing on account of your unlimited existence secretly operating behind your apparent individual, limited existence. The whole world is throbbing inside you. God himself is speaking to you every moment through the language of the aspirations that emanate from your daily life. You have to achieve it. The process of achieving it is yoga practice. This is a broad foundational vision that I have presented before you about the true nature of life. This has to become a conscious experience.
Towards this end, you have to take different steps of practice. Every day this practice has to be undergone because if you miss it due to lethargy, indifference or carelessness, the trend of your practice may break. Suppose you eat your meal today, and for ten days you do not eat, then eat for two days, and again stop eating; this kind of eating will not replenish you. The intake of food should be daily, in whatever measure. Everything should be a continuity, and not bits of dissected process. Yoga practice should be an inward continuous attempt on your part, without any kind of cessation of this inward effort.
How could you not pay sufficient attention to the welfare of your own being, knowing well that you, this particular being of yours, is not a little so-called Mr., Mrs., son, daughter, father, mother? “It is some mysterious enigma that has cropped up now before my eyes. It is something strange, and nothing can be so strange as what I am. Wonderful! I am wonderful! Now I am going to actualise this experience in my daily life, so that my action becomes meditation, my life becomes contemplation, and my existence becomes practically God’s existence.” Towards this end you have to try your best, stage by stage, which are the levels, or the limbs, or the gradations of yoga practice.