The Universality of Being
by Swami Krishnananda

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Chapter 2: Seeing as the Cosmic Mind

By virtue of what you must have gathered from our earlier discussions, you may have understood the reason why it is necessary to practice yoga. It is necessary because it includes every other meaning, significance, and value in life. Yoga is not one kind of activity among other things in which you may be engaged. It is the art of total living, not some kind of living. Yoga is not a kind of spirituality which is to be adopted in old age. It is the science of all life—the science of every kind of life.

From the considerations through which we have already passed, one thing that must have been very obvious to everyone is that our thoughts do not correspond to reality. Our perceptions are topsy-turvy. There is no connection at all between what we consider as reality and reality as it is in itself. From a little consideration of the way we have been born as human beings, we would realise that the world came first and we came afterwards. All the elements were created first, so that the world creation as a whole is the cause and we are the effect. The cause cannot be said to be something outside the effect. The cause is not an object which the effect can behold with its eyes. How could we behold the cause of our existence? So, from the point of view of correct perception of reality, is there any validity in the way in which we look at the world? We do not feel that we are effects of a cause which is the whole world. We feel we are totally independent; the world means nothing to us. It may be there or it may not be there, but we are very safe in every way. This is a notion ingrained in the mind of every person, though it is incorrect.

The breath of life, the structure of our body, and the manner in which we think through the mind are determined by the operational processes of the world as a whole. The world operation determines our manner of beholding, evaluating, and understanding anything in the world. Since the world principle is inclusive of all the effects thereof, in which every one of us is included, it is easy to understand that our existence as individual human beings is entirely determined by the structural pattern and the operative way of the world as a whole.

As is the cause, so is the effect. But we cannot turn our heads back and look at the cause, just as an earthen pot, which is the effect of clay, cannot see the clay as an object of its own perception. Suppose, for instance, we imagine that the earthen pot has consciousness and knows that it is the effect of the clay out of which it is made. Can that pot see the clay, if we accept that the pot has eyes to see? How could the clay then become an object of the perception of the pot, which cannot exist without the clay? This is a little example of how we are caught in a vastly spread-out network of erroneous considerations and wrong knowledge. Everything that we think and do is a mistake. We never do anything right because that which is called ‘right’ is proper coordination of our mind with things as they really are, and not things as they appear to our mind.

Now, what is the difference between a thing as it is in itself, and as it appears to us? There is a great difference. People make a distinction between reality and appearance. Perhaps another analogy may be more clarifying. At dusk you see something coiled up, and because there is not enough light to see what it actually is, you may mistake it for a snake and jump over it in fear. Even if you shine a torch on it and find it is only a rope, it will still look like a coiled-up serpent. What is the relationship between the rope and the snake? Or is there no relationship? You will agree that the rope is the reality, and the snake is the appearance. Did the appearance come from reality? If you accept that position, it would mean that the snake has come from the rope. But how can a snake come from a rope? If the snake has not come from the rope, will you agree that the snake is itself the rope? Then accepting that it is the rope, there is no necessity for you to jump over it in a state of fear. The rope has not produced the snake; the snake is not a modification of the rope. There is no creator-created relationship between the rope and the snake, yet there is some relationship from the point of view of common sense because they seem to be two different things. The snake is not the rope and the rope is not the snake, and yet the rope is the snake and the snake is the rope. This is a transcendental enigma before us which is involved in every kind of perception in the world.

This also answers the question whether God has created the world. It is like the question whether the rope has created the snake. We may say the rope has created the snake because the snake is seen in it, just as we see the world and, therefore, there must be a creator of it. We are afraid of the world just as we are afraid of the snake. Who created this thing, this world? An indescribable situation is before us. This situation arises on account of our adopting the system of looking at things through the sense organs. There are eyes which see, ears which hear, and so on. The way of perception—of beholding anything through the sense organs—involves a peculiar charging of the sense organs with consciousness, as an iron rod may be charged with fire when it is red hot. And the impelling character of the sense organs, motivated by the externality of perception, compels the consciousness to get dragged outwardly, as it were, external to its own self. Consciousness cannot become outside itself, because it has no externality or internality.

Yesterday we came to the conclusion that consciousness is everywhere. Yet, why does the object appear to be outside? That happens because there is a power in the structure of the sense organs which pulls everything externally, draws sustenance from its own source, or cause, and throws that power of sustenance externally on that thing which appears to be an object in front of it. That is the reason why everything looks as if it is outside us. It is an erroneous activity of the sense organs, which are perpetually involved in a centrifugal activity, we may say, which urges a thing to run away from the centre to the periphery or the circumference. The impulsion of anything that urges itself to rush outward from the centre to the external periphery of its existence is called centrifugal, and a force that rushes from outside towards the centre is called centripetal. Instead of being our own selves through the centripetal action of consciousness trying to maintain its self-identity, the sense organs condemn consciousness to subject itself to a centrifugal action of running away from its own centre to the outer space-time periphery of life. Thus, in every act of perception we cease to be ourselves, and we become another thing. What can be a greater tragedy for a person than not to be one’s own self ? What can be a greater difficulty and problem?

This is the reason why there is sorrow hidden behind every act of perception. By running after the objects of our sensory perception, we lose our energy, the consciousness force, in proportion to the intensity of our longing for the object. We become weaker and weaker, mentally and physically, the more we long to contact that which seems to be outside us. A sensuous person is a weak person, morally, intellectually, and physically. He will fall sick socially, physically, and mentally. The reason is, the Self loses itself in the act of perception.

According to the psychology of yoga, perception is of two types: ordinary perception and emotional perception. We see so many things around us. There is the sun, the moon and the stars, trees in the forest, mountains, rivers, etc. This is general perception. By beholding the sun or mountains and rivers, we are not emotionally disturbed in any way. Yet even in this undisturbed perception, consciousness moves outside to the object. Even in that general perception which is not emotionally conditioned, our energy moves out and we see ourselves outside, as we see ourselves outside in the mirror which reflects our face. We sometimes feel enamoured of our own face when we see it reflected in a mirror. Certainly we would like to see it! We love ourselves so much that we like to look at our reflection in a mirror, and we think we look beautiful. We dress ourselves in fine clothes and groom ourselves, and do all sorts of things to see that we are more beautiful—at least in our reflection in the mirror. Similarly, perception of the world is like the perception of ourselves through our reflection in a mirror. Some activity of the externalising of consciousness takes place; otherwise, we will not see anything outside.

But there is a more dangerous activity of the sense organs, which is emotional perception. When we behold a thing, we are disturbed by intense longing or intense hatred for it. This is another result altogether of perception. "Oh, how nice, how beautiful! I want it." "Oh, how stupid, how idiotic! I don’t want it." These two kinds of mental modifications are called psychoses: one which in a normal way opens a passage of consciousness to its own externality, and the other which is irritating in its nature. It disturbs us, and we cannot have rest. A desire for wealth disturbs the mind, and a tiger in front of us will disturb our mind in a different way. If you see a few nuggets of gold in front of you on the road, observe what transformation takes place in your mind. “Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Come, come, come.” When you feel a sensation of this kind in your mind, you are in a state of turmoil which is of one kind; and if you see a lion in front of you, you are also in a state of turmoil, but of a different kind. This is a little bit of psychology of the mind. Whether it is a generally perceived externality of consciousness or a disturbed process of the externality of consciousness, one thing is common to both processes of perception, namely, we go out of ourselves.

Would you like to go out of yourself and become something else, and temporarily cease to be yourself ? Immediately a shock is injected into your personality while seeing something which you want and seeing another thing which you do not want. You are pulled outside towards that thing which you want or do not want. For the time being you are elsewhere; you are not in yourself. This is mental sickness. It is not raving madness, but is a preparation for perpetual agony in the mind, and can lead to complete erratic behaviour if it becomes very intense. Lovers can go mad, and criminals can also go mad because of the intensity of the externalising activity of the consciousness operating through the sense organs. You know now in what kind of world you are living. Is it a blissful world? Are you in heaven, or are you in a concentration camp where you are brainwashed to believe something which is totally erroneous, out of context? This is the work of the sense organs that you love so much.

What is yoga, then? It is the process of an active withdrawal of consciousness from its externalising process, and allowing it to rest in itself so that it sees things as they are, and not as they appear through the media of the sense organs. Keep all this in your mind before you take to actual practice. “Why should I control the mind? I am perfectly all right.” This feeling may sometimes arise. A person who is totally confounded and lives in a state of confusion cannot know that such a mistake has taken place at all. A person who is perpetually sick for years together may not even know that he is sick because it becomes a natural condition.

There are two types of withdrawal of consciousness from this process of its externalisation. The first step to be taken is to free oneself from the emotional turmoil involved in the perception of things, positively or negatively. The second step is to free oneself from even being conscious that there is anything outside at all.

In yoga psychology, technical terms are used to characterise these two types of psychoses. The painful, emotional modification of the mind is called klishta vritti. Klishta means painful, agonising, sorrow-giving. Vritti is a mental modification. There is another modification which is known as aklishta vritti. Aklishta means non-painful, but it is still a modification of the mind, such as the modification taking place in the mind when we look at a tree in front of us. It does not matter to us whether the tree is there or not, but yet the consciousness of the fact of its being there is immediately an indication that our mind has moved outside. Though it is not causing any agony, still it has moved. That kind of movement should also cease because the Self is not an external object. God is not outside somewhere. The Absolute is everywhere, and that which is everywhere cannot be seen as something outside. Here is the whole secret behind the foundation of yoga psychology. Now you know why it is necessary to be a yogi.

The yogi is not an eccentric person. He is not necessarily a Sannyasin. He is a wise, scientific observer of everything. He is a sage. You need not call him a monk, an ascetic, and so on. These words have no meaning before this great scientific approach to things. Yoga is a science, and not a religion in the ordinary sense. It is as scientific as mathematics itself. It is the way you have to live. Yoga is all life; all life is yoga. Knowing this, you have to learn the art of what you may ordinarily call self-restraint.

Self-restraint is the way by which you restrain consciousness from moving outside itself, and station it in itself. If consciousness is an all-pervading principle, the restraint of consciousness in yoga would mean allowing it to settle down in its own universality and not allowing it to have a wrong impression of itself, as if it is outside its own self—as it happens in the dream experience, for instance. When you behold things in a dream, you are apparently outside your own self. You see a mountain in a dream, but the mountain is inside you only. You see the large spatiotemporal complex of the world outside in a dream, but it is inside your own mind. The impulses that are present in the waking consciousness get projected outside in a made-up space-time complex, and the whole thing appears to be outside. You present yourself as an external world in the dream state.

This is exactly what is happening in the waking condition also. Just as an individual mind in the waking state projects itself outwardly in a manufactured space-time process as the world before it, the universal mind projects itself as all the individuals, such as us here, and here is space-time and the world before us. As we see people in dream, the cosmic mind sees people such as ourselves. Just as the individuals, the people we see in dream, are within the waking mind, so all of us are within the cosmic mind. We are not sitting in Rishikesh, on the surface of the earth, even as in the created world of dream the people we see are not really there. We are seeing our own self. So also in the waking condition, when we see a manifested world outside, we see it as the original cosmic mind is operating through us. We behold only ourselves everywhere. This art is yoga.

Hard is this effort because the compulsive activity of the sense organs, which is determined to pull the consciousness outside into space and time, is as vehement as the power of a flooding river in its onward rush in one direction; and no one can go against the current. It is not possible for ordinary people to curb the intensive onrush of the spate of the flood of the mind moving in an external fashion through the sense organs, because of the power of the sense organs.

It is not easy to practice yoga. The sense organs are veritable dacoits. They have great strength to dupe you, mesmerise you, confound you, and throw you out of gear. You have to first of all understand that this has happened to you. Unless you know that you have this kind of illness, treatment is not possible. You cannot, by yourself, analyse the mind in this manner because when you try to sit quietly and think over these issues, the senses will revolt. “Come on!” they will say. It is like the terror of the activity of dacoits. If you tell them you will call the police just now, you know what they will do to you. Fright will be the first experience in yoga. You will shudder in great agony at what is going to happen to you, and drop yoga in one second. “No, I don’t want this. Good riddance,” you will say, and go on your way as before.

The power of the centrifugal activity of the world is so intense that no one can stand it. It is like the power of the surging waves of the ocean; they push you and drag you inside if you go near them. To withstand the onrush of this oceanic wave of sensory activity, you have to be made of steel, not of mortal flesh. Unless you are made of steel, you cannot practice yoga; else, there will be a complete confounding and a fear that the ocean is going to drown you in one act of its ferocity.

This is the reason why you have to be always guarded by a guide or a Guru, even as you cannot initially fly an airplane by yourself and need a guide to sit beside you so that you may not crash down. You cannot even ride a bicycle unless you are trained properly; otherwise, you will fall and break your legs. So is the case with any activity. Here is a tremendous, overwhelming activity called yoga which promises you all blessedness, but is terrifying in the beginning. The terror arises on account of an unpreparedness of the mind to enter into this practice. You must go only to that extent to which your mind is prepared to accept what you are saying, just as it is in the educational process. One cannot thrust mountains of information on a little child in kindergarten. A teacher in a school should know how the child’s mind works. The teacher has to come down to the level of the child’s thinking process, and should not stand on a high pedestal of knowledge and pour his wisdom.

I repeat once again, do not start this process without proper guidance. You must perpetually have a teacher, a mentor, who will guide you along this arduous path. Sometimes it looks like walking in darkness. Sometimes it looks like moving along a zigzag, narrow passage. Sometimes it looks as if you are in a state of confused perception of things. And sometimes doubt comes. “What is it that I am finally aiming at?” You can retrace your steps at that time. Perpetual guidance, constant observation, and non-stop vigilance by a trained expert are necessary before you wholeheartedly embark upon this wondrous practice called yoga.