The Universality of Being
by Swami Krishnananda

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Chapter 3: Summoning Consciousness into Itself

Yoga philosophy, with its psychology, takes its stand on our common experience that we see something in front of us. All problems arise from this unavoidable phenomenon called perception of an object. Generally, we usually consider the object as totally different in its nature from our faculty of perception. In order that the existence of an object be known, there must be a knowing principle. If everything is an object, and there is nothing other than the object anywhere, there would be nobody to know that the object exists at all.

Materialist doctrines, behaviourist psychologists, etc., which contend that matter alone is, commit a mistake by not bestowing sufficient thought on the problem of perception itself. The knowledge that there is an object in front of us does not arise from the object. It is not the object that knows itself as an object. Suffice it to say, matter cannot know itself because matter is bereft of consciousness. The behaviourist supposition that consciousness is an exudation of material forces cannot stand scrutiny because, if that were the case, matter would be the cause and consciousness would be its effect. Knowing well that the effect always comes from its cause, and it cannot contain anything which is not in the cause, it would follow that the consciousness which is supposed to be an exudation or a product of matter must be incipiently present in matter itself.

Where is matter actually situated? Everywhere. The whole world is material substance. Whatever is visible, tangible, observable, is material. That is to say, there is an omnipresent character of matter. There is no place where matter is not. Now, carrying on the argument that consciousness, supposed to be a product of matter, should be inherent in matter, the conclusion would be that consciousness is wherever matter is. If matter is ubiquitous and there is no segregation of the parts of matter, that which is hiddenly present in matter cannot but also be ubiquitous. Matter is everywhere, and the result is that consciousness must also be everywhere. Since two everywheres is not conceivable because two infinities would overlap each other, and such a thing is inconceivable and not possible, this assumption also falls flat. It is not true that there are two infinities—consciousness on the one side and matter on the other side—because the very assumption is logically untenable.

Can we say that matter, which is the cause of the supposed emanation of consciousness, is all-in-all, and the perception of an object, which is material, is a self-knowledge of matter itself ? Is matter knowing itself in the form of consciousness when there is perception or knowledge of an object? Strange would be this conclusion that matter has to know itself by means of that which is supposed to be its product. Nothing can be more absurd than this proposition.

We also cannot avoid the well-known circumstance that minus knowing, there is no meaning in the knowable, or the object. Nobody can say that anything exists—matter or whatever it is—unless there is somebody who knows that it is so. This knower cannot be identified with that which is known. If we attempt to identify the knower with the known object, either the knower would become the object or the object would become the knower. Either way, there would be a very fantastic conclusion, beyond what we actually expected at the beginning of our inquiry. Yoga takes its stand on this great problem before us—the perceptional problem. The insistence of the sense organs and the mind, which always works in terms of the sense organs, that everything is outside has created the difficulty, which usually looks insurmountable.

The psychology behind the process of perception assumes that a mental psychosis or operation, called a vritti in Sanskrit, envelopes the form which is called the object, and the mental crucible into which the form is cast assumes the form of that thing which is called the object. The form gets impressed upon the crucible of the mind-stuff, and hereby a foundation is laid for the knowledge of there being such a thing called the object.

But crucibles are not conscious of themselves. The form cannot be said to be a conscious substance. This form that is impressed upon the crucible of the mind-stuff should be illuminated by a consciousness which knows: “I know an object.” Not only should there be a semblance between the form of the mind and the form of the object, but in addition to it there should also be a consciousness that this form is known.

I do not propose to use Sanskrit technological terms. However, for your information, the mode of enveloping the mental operation in respect of the form of the object is known as vritti vyapti, the psychosis modification in terms of an object. But mere modification cannot become self-conscious, so there must be an attending positive activity taking place together with the form that has been impressed upon the mind. That is consciousness. Consciousness becomes aware of an object, which is nothing but a form.

Here the whole process becomes a mistaken one. It was already assumed in our earlier analysis that consciousness cannot be in one place and an object also cannot be in one place. Since matter is everywhere, objectivity is also everywhere. Everywhere is the perceiving consciousness, and everywhere is the perceived material which is the basis of the objectivity of anything. But the sense organs deny this fact by saying that the object is only in one place. We cannot see an object everywhere; it is only in one place, and it has only one form. This insistence of the mode of sensory operation that the object is only in one place, and it has only one form, is a total contradiction of the fact as such—namely, the form cannot be in one place since the basis, or the very base of the form, is matter, which is everywhere, and the consciousness that knows it is not attached only to the one single form.

Here is the necessity for the practice of self-restraint, mental control. The entire activity of the mind is erroneous. All that the sense organs tell us is a blunder. This is the reason why we are perpetually anxious, as if the very ground under our feet is being cut off, though an illusionary satisfaction is presented before the sensory consciousness, making it appear that there is a real contact of the object with consciousness. What we want is contact. This is a prejudice of consciousness. Two dissimilar things cannot come into contact with each other, and similar things also do not come into contact with each other. Similar things converge and become one, as the waters of two tanks on an equal level flow into each other. If the two are totally dissimilar, there is no question of their coming in contact with each other. Either way, we are in a very bad position. We are not actually seeing the form in one place, though the limitations of sensory activity tell us that it is so. The senses are not all-pervading; they have some limited apertures through which consciousness moves outside in a fivefold form—seeing, hearing, etc. Hence, common perception contradicts the facts as such.

The purpose of yoga practice is, therefore, to enable the mind to stand abreast of the true nature of things and restrain the senses from the irregular activity of externalising a thing which is really not external. That which is all-pervading—matter or consciousness, whatever it is—cannot be perceived as something outside. Hence, all perception is contrary to the true nature of things because things are not outside the process of knowledge. This difficulty is to be overcome by regular practice of a process called restraint of the movement of consciousness in terms of a so-called outward object.

We think we are happy by looking at an object, but it is not so. This so-called happiness which apparently arises when the assumed consciousness comes in contact with an object is a tremendous illusion presented before the whole process in this manner which I am describing to you. Consciousness is agitated always because while it is truly universal, it looks as if it is limited within the body. It is like a prisoner in a jail which resents its location within the ramparts of the jail. It wants to break the walls of the prison and go outside. It is trying to do this adventure by moving out of itself into a world of space and time, which is considered to be totally outside, and by a psychosis, a modification of the mind, it touches the form which it has assumed to be totally outside it.

When that limited consciousness which is within us eagerly awaits a means of expanding its limited location within the body, it creates an illusion before itself. When a so-called object is sensorially observed through the internal consciousness, the limited consciousness rises up in joy at the possibility of coming in contact with that object by which means it can expand its dimension beyond the limitations of bodily encumbrance. When the object comes near, it has greater satisfaction because it feels that now its joy is not very far off. When it actually comes in contact, as it were, it rises into a mad ecstasy of imagining that its widened dimension has already been achieved by the introduction of the form of the object into its own self. We have already seen that this introduction is not possible; the object cannot touch the consciousness. Therefore, the so-called happiness of the imagined contact of consciousness with the object is totally unconvincing and absurd, and so we may say that all joys of the world are the result of a tremendous illusion that is cast before the sense organs.

Great saints have said that the world is like a madhouse where there is a crazy continuous effort of the individual to break its boundaries by the erroneous effort of contacting something else, by which means it imagines that it can expand its boundaries. Contact is not the way that the dimension of consciousness expands because contact of two things is not possible; they always remain apart. Since all the efforts of life in imagining that some joy will come from earthly existence become futile, and will go to dust one day or the other, all happiness in this world eventually becomes the dust of the earth. As we do not want to die in that miserable condition we are trying to see that our mind is set in tune with the facts of nature, which is possible only if the senses do not insist on externalising the object, making the mind believe that the world is outside.

The world is not outside. What you want is not external in space and time. What you want, the so-called thing or object, is everywhere. Anything that you want is everywhere. All things are everywhere, and they are at all times. That which is everywhere is also at all times and, therefore, you can realise your aspiration to fulfil the longing for all-pervadingness at any time, and at any place. There is no space, time and condition that limits this process. Here we are actually at the gates of spiritual practice.

To give an analogy of what is happening to us in this regard, look at the dream process. Don’t you see an object in front of you? You are a dreamer. Your dream consciousness sees people outside, sees things externally, the whole world of space and time. You would like to come in contact with them. Now, who comes in contact with whom in the dream world? The whole structure of dream objectivity is a manifestation of the mind which was earlier in the waking condition, as we call it. The whole externality is within the internality of the waking consciousness. You need not use the word ‘internality’ because that creates a difference between the internal and the external, so you may say the universality of your mind. The mind that is working in a waking condition is a comprehensive mode of operation. It is called a gestalt, a total. The mind is not made up of little pieces. The total waking mind manifests a total world—only it is externalised. The total world, which is contained within the total mind of waking consciousness, wrongly becomes an externalised total, and meanders here and there in that world which it has erroneously manufactured.

Just as we can pursue objects in dream—enjoy them, detest them, want them, not want them, and die for them—a similar thing takes place in the waking condition. There is a mind larger than our own mind, which is usually called the cosmic mind. We may compare this cosmic mind to our waking mind in the process of dream perception. All that happens in this world is actually a cosmic dream, and whatever we experience in this world, in any manner whatsoever, is exactly comparable to the process of perception in the individual’s dream perception. The difference is that one is cosmic and the other is individual, but the process of perception is the same. In order that we may not be entangled in this wrong perception of externality in our daily life, we must enter into the bosom of the cosmic mind. Just as the waking mind is pervading everything in the dream world, the cosmic mind is pervading everything in our waking life. So who is seeing the world? The answer comes from the dream perception itself. Who is seeing the dream world? The comprehensive waking consciousness erroneously projects itself as an external world, and sees itself as an outward total.

This is also the case with the cosmic mind. It is a universally operative total whole manifesting itself, as it were, comparable to the dream experience, in the form of this world which appears outside. Just as the dream world is not outside the waking consciousness, the whole universe is not outside the cosmic mind. As we are included in the operations of this cosmic consciousness, the universal mind, the world that we behold before us is not actually beheld by Mr. so-and-so, Mrs. so-and-so, this person, that person; it is beheld by the all-pervading mind. Suffice it to say, God sees the world—not you, not me. But the ego, the affirming principle in each individual, refutes this possibility of a universal mind seeing everything everywhere, and like a crazy, isolated, cut-off individual, hangs in a very precarious manner in its individual cocoon of existence, and obtains nothing—because whatever there is, that something is not capable of contact by perception. All things being involved in the cosmic mind, contact is not possible, and even perception is not possible. There is no such thing as perception of an object; it is an experience of a total involvement of self-awareness in an all-pervading manner. This attitude of the establishment of consciousness in itself is the goal of yoga.

A sutra of Patanjali, in the very beginning of the Yoga Sutras, defines the whole of yoga in a few words: tada drastuh svarupe avasthanam (1.3): The seer establishes itself with itself, never wanting to go outside, as it were, imagining that it is somewhere far off. The mental activity, the psychosis of sensory perception, prevents this all-pervading consciousness from settling itself in its own all-pervading nature, so there is a clash between the transcendent and the empirical, the real and the unreal, the Absolute and the relative, God and the world, you and somebody else.

This conflict is perpetual. We may say it is actually the great war of the Mahabharata or the Ramayana—the war of consciousness against the object that it sees and wants to absorb into itself. The victory of consciousness here is the abolition not of the object, but of the objectivity of the object. The renunciation we speak of in spiritual life is not the abandoning of the object, but the wrong notion that it is outside. You cannot abandon the object. It is there. Even if you say you have renounced the objects of the world, the objects are there, and they cannot go away from your consciousness. Even if that which you clung to is thousands of miles away from you, you cannot say that you have renounced it, because it is there. That which is really there cannot be renounced. The only thing that is possible, and it is necessary, is the renunciation of the mode of perceiving the object. The externality of the object is renounced, not the object as such. When the externality of the object is renounced, the object becomes the subject. The world becomes yourself.

Towards this end, self-restraint is to be attempted in all its methods. It is not a single effort. The senses are very violent; they refuse to subjugate themselves to your efforts. Like a gust of wind or a tornado that blows in one direction or a blast which cannot be resisted by the efforts of your hands and feet, so is the outward rushing of consciousness through the sense organs like a river in flood that refuses to be retarded by a bund or by any other means.

Months and months, and years of effort are necessary. You should not take yoga practice as a kind of temporary exercise, like a schoolboy education which stops after some time and then you call yourself educated. This education will not stop at any time. It is eternity operating through eternity. The finite that everyone and everything is wishes to maintain its finitude. Even an ant does not want to perish as a finite ant. Even a sick man does not want to die. A poor man would like to continue, and even in his poverty he does not wish to perish. The desire for an imperishable continuance of oneself is the action of an infinite operating behind all finite actions and experiences. In this sense it is that we say we belong to two worlds together: the empirical world of space and time, and the eternal world of the transcendent Absolute.

We belong to two worlds, and so we are pulled simultaneously from two different directions. The world of empirical perception, motivated by the power of the sense organs, drags us out of ourselves, and we always want to see that which is outside us. But, at the same time, the perishable nature of this perception reminds us that this is not going to be a worthwhile exercise because even if we obtain the whole world of contact it will perish, and nothing will remain. Nobody wants to perish. The imperishable aspiration collides with the perishable nature of things, so we are partially lovers of an eternal life and partially involved in sense activity and conflict of every kind.

This conflict has to be eradicated by introducing an element of infinity into every thought that arises in our mind, every work that we do, and every word that we speak. This is what is called karma yoga. Action charged with the character of infinity becomes karma yoga, whereas action which is purely material and finite, arising from the motivations of the sense organs, is finite. The whole of the Bhagavadgita is simply this much. All action is wonderful; it is a cosmic action, provided that which looks like a movement in the form of activity is the activity of consciousness itself. In all activity, consciousness acts within itself; it is not somebody doing something else. If karma, or action, is considered to be the process of somebody doing something, it will react in the form of the bondage of karma. But if it is the all-knowing cosmic mind working in the form of the so-called individualities of activity, there will be no reaction because there is no object before this action.

Cosmic action has no object outside itself. Therefore, one who works like a cosmic person in the form of the true karma yoga of the Gita will never suffer reaction and rebirth, whereas if it is you that are doing something outside you, totally unconnected with your mode of action, it will react. Actually, what is called the reaction of karma is nothing but the Infinite kicking you back for the wrong attitude that you developed towards it. Here is a philosophy, a psychology, and a mode of practice, all which is yoga. Yoga is a practice, a psychology, a metaphysics, and the highest philosophy.

From these words that I have spoken, you would have understood the tremendous necessity to embark on this practice. It is not a question of doing it tomorrow, as you may not exist tomorrow. Why speak of tomorrow? Who guarantees that you will be here in this world tomorrow? It is now. The summoning of consciousness into itself is a question of now, and in the very spot where you are living. It is a question of here and now. “Oh, it is a very difficult thing. Let me do it later on. It is very hot. It is very cold.” This problem should not arise when it is actually a question of life and death. When you are drowning in the blunderous activities of the sense organs, will you say, “Let me drown now, and tomorrow I will do something about it”? Nobody wants to be drowned. You should come out of it just now, before you are drowned.

All yoga is eternity operating through every one of us. It is going to be perfectly successful, and you need not have even the least doubt that you will be benefitted by it because the whole of eternity—that is what is called God or the Absolute—is behind you, propelling you. “I am here; therefore, you need not fear.” This is the Supreme Absolute speaking to you. “When I am here, you need not fear. But be with me.” “Come unto me all those that are weary and heavy laden, and I shall see that you are perpetually guarded.” The Absolute perpetually guards you—not tomorrow, but always. It is not like a boss who says, “Let me see after two days.” An immediate action takes place. Because the Absolute is timeless and spaceless, it is just now and here.

As the sensory organs prevent you from thinking like this, first of all you must find a place to sit comfortably where the tantrums of sensory objects will not irritate your mind. You cannot find a cosy place anywhere in this world; everywhere there is noise, irritation, and distraction of mind. Considering the facts as they are in today’s world, you have to do your practice in your own room. You cannot find a beautiful place somewhere outside; there is no such thing as a beautiful place anywhere in the world. Everywhere there are people. Therefore, confine yourself to your room.

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. Chant Om. How do you chant Om? I am giving you the first, preliminary exercise of starting concentration. Very deeply, chant Om. Everybody can chant Om, but not beautifully, sonorously and happily. Just saying Om Om Om is not the way of chanting it, and it cannot satisfy you. The chanting should engulf you completely, inside and outside. Inhale deeply, and start chanting Om beautifully. Aaaaauuuummmmmmm. Aaaaauuuummmmmmm. Now, increase the volume. Aaaaauuuummmmmmmm. Aaaaaauuuuuuummmmmmm. Aaaaauuuummmmmmmm. Aaaaauuuummmmmmmm. Take a deep breath, and then chant. Aaaaauuuummmmmmm. Aaaaauuuummmmmmm. Aaaaauuuummmmmmm. Aaaaauuuummmmmmm. If you sit together and chant, the volume increases, and you feel a greater satisfaction than when you do it singly. You can also do it alone, but if you have common meditation, all can chant together and create a wonderful, powerful vibration. You will drive out every kind of negative trait in the atmosphere, as well as in your mind.

Go on chanting like this for fifteen minutes, until the mind feels deeply engrossed in this beautiful music of your recitation. It is music. It attracts, and fills your heart. You will rejoice over it, and would like to listen to it again and again. Let the chant of Om be a musical performance on your part. It is not merely music in the ordinary audible sense; it is a vibration that you are creating.

The whole world is nothing but vibration. The so-called solidity of things is a condensation of impersonal vibrations in space and time. This body of yours that looks so hard and rigid is actually a condensed rock-like form, as it were, of a ubiquitous all-pervading liquid universal force, so that you are a centre of force in an internal communion with all things in the world. Nothing is outside you, and this vibratory chant of Om enables you to reduce your so-called solidity of personal existence into a point of vibratory centre which, when liquefied, as it were, comes in contact with all other things, which are also of the same nature. You enter into a sea of power, an ocean of force, a cosmic vibration which, perhaps, is the beginning of the universe.

In the beginning, there was a tremendous Om. We do not know what kind of Om it was, but it broke the barriers of limitation, spread itself continuously through all space and time, and manifested itself in every nook and corner, in every form that you can conceive in your mind. The whole universe is a concretised form of spatiotemporal objects. It has to be melted down, back to its own source. Do not imagine that you are far away from this centre. The centre is here, within you—here just now. There is no distance between the universal centre and your existence here. There is no such thing as distance at all. It does not exist. Everything touches everything else. This possibility should be introduced into your mind by a deep chanting of Om in the manner I mentioned.

Do it every day. Close your doors, sit alone for one hour, chant Om in this manner, and feel that you are melting into the all-pervading force of nature—which is not only your friend, your parent, but your own very, very beloved substance of which you are made. You will feel you are everywhere at that time, and nothing can give you a greater joy than this kind of feeling by merely chanting Om properly, once, twice or three times daily. All your activities and performances will become galvanised into a golden form. This recitation, this concentration, this satisfaction will act like a philosopher’s stone that converts all iron into gold, so that you live in joy, perceive joy, contact joy, and you are in a deep bliss of self-complete perfection. Even in this first stage you will feel this. Start this practice today itself. There are many more things to know about it, and we will continue in another session.