by Swami Krishnananda
There are supposed to be seven stages in the attainment of samadhi, and what I described to you yesterday is the lowest type, though even that initial stage might have appeared to you as a very hard step indeed. However, to the extent you have understood what was said, you have taken a very bold step in the right direction. These stages mentioned are the processes of the disentanglement of consciousness from involvement in the various levels of the manifestation of the universe. In deep meditation, bordering upon samadhi, you are contemplating the whole universe in front of you.
The accepted categories of the descent of consciousness in the process of evolution and involution are elaborately described both in the Sankhya and Vedanta doctrines. The lowest manifestation in the process of creation or evolution is Earthly existence. We are now in the lowest category of life, involved in material associations. Not merely that, but things are utterly differentiated from one another. Diversification goes to the utmost extent when we reach the Earth plane. Nothing has any connection with anything else, and everything stands by itself. You can see for yourself that in this world, nothing seems to have any connection with anything else. Each one for himself and let the devil take the hindmost is the kind of doctrine that prevails in the lowest category of manifestation. We call it worldly existence, earthly existence.
Corresponding to the levels in our own psychophysical personality, there are cosmic levels. Because the individual and the universe are co-relatives of each other, they act and react in a comprehensive manner. We may say an individual is a cross section of the whole universe. We will find in each individual entity a miniature universe. In traditional language, these stages, or levels of manifestation, are what is known as Bhuloka, the Earthly level, and beyond that is Bhuvarloka, the astral world, somewhat comparable to our vital layer of individual personality. These levels cannot be seen with the eyes, just as we cannot see our own subtle body. They are higher levels, one above the other. There is another level, which is more subtle, called Svarloka. In the Puranas we regard this as the heaven of the gods, the abode of resplendent beings with shining bodies of fire, and not materially encumbered in any way. The gods are supposed to be capable of penetrating even hard rock because their bodies are a fine substance of the fire principle. These are the heavens of the religious scriptures.
Higher than that is Maharloka, a level where even the fire-like individuality gradually tends to evaporate into a larger and wider comprehensiveness. In the Puranas there are fantastic descriptions of the residents or the denizens of this realm. They tend to touch each other just as flames of fire can touch each other, wherein we cannot know whether there are actually two flames or they are commingling into a single flame. A complete merger does not take place, but the flame of the rarefied personality has a tendency to move towards immersing itself in another flame that is also like itself. Inconceivable are all these to our minds. Beyond Maharloka is Janaloka, another subtle realm where only Masters live, and not ordinary mortals. Great potentials of cosmic power are imbedded in every denizen of that wonderful, magnificent realm which is unthinkable, inexpressible, and totally transcendent to our understanding. So, Janaloka is a higher level than Maharloka.
These names may be difficult to comprehend, and only indicate the subtlety of the manifestation of being—so subtle that the winds of individual existence blow into the location, as it were, of individuals of a similar type. Wind blows over wind, we can say. When winds blow, we do not know what is blowing. They blow from all sides, and collide from one side to another. A gale can rush from one direction and come in contact with a similar gale from another direction. Wonderful! That is the only word we can use to describe this state.
Beyond Janaloka is Tapoloka, where the austerity of individuality reaches such a pinnacle that the consciousness of individual selfhood tends towards evaporating, like burnt camphor. When camphor is inflamed with heat, it melts into a vaporous ubiquitous substance, and it is said that such is the experience of these Masters, these austere individuals. We need not call them individuals at all. They are super-individuals. We cannot use a better word. They are the meeting point of the cosmic and the subtle individual substance, one shaking hands with the other. An illustration of this kind of experience is mentioned in the Chhandogya Upanishad. When the seeking consciousness rises gradually, in the process of samadhis mentioned, it reaches a particular stage where it has no individual or personal motive. In the lower levels, there is motivation. The seeker feels that something has to be done; meditation is to be carried on, and concentration is to be directed in this fashion. But that is only up to a level where there is self-consciousness of the seeking spirit. A stage is reached where it is about to enter the sea of existence. When the river moves towards the waves of the ocean, we cannot say whether the river exists or does not exist. It is both there and not there.
How will the spirit move further, higher up, when there is no individual motivation? Self-effort is not possible there because the very idea of self has gone. A magnificent statement is made in the Upanishads that a divine representative of the Absolute manifests itself: Amanava Purusha—not human, something quite different. A radiant force manifests from the Supreme Being and directs the seeking spirit towards the higher realm. We cannot know how it takes place. Illustrations are like symbology; they can suggest something, indicate something, but cannot actually articulate the nature of this existence of Tapoloka. We have heard of austerity, self-restraint, but our idea of self-restraint is a kind of personal exercise that we would like to undergo. Here, in Tapaloka, it is not a personal exercise; it is a natural state of affairs. The senses melt completely, and no longer exist. At that time, these so-called sense forces, which work havoc in this world, look like streaming rivers of consciousness itself. Actually, what is called sensation operating through the sense organs is a stream of consciousness moving through them, but we cannot detect that this stream is taking place on account of our total involvement in the physicality of the sense organs. In Tapoloka, the physicality is shed completely, and the senses become diminutives. They turn inward toward their source, instead of moving outwardly. This is the great manifested form of one level of consciousness.
The highest is Satyaloka, which is sometimes called Brahmaloka. This state can be described as Truth-consciousness. It is the universal concentration of the Absolute, in the form of a creative potentiality towards the manifestation of the cosmos. Words fail here. We cannot say anything about this. Beyond that is the Absolute proper.
We have to pass through these levels in our exercise of meditation, which no more remains an act of individual concentration but takes the shape of a union at every level. The words 'concentration' and 'meditation' cannot be used in these levels because it is a commingling of consciousness with its counterpart, and the miraculous, blissful, liberation of individuality takes place. People in the world are unfit even to hear this. Such marvels exist above us.
Yesterday I mentioned one stage of samadhi, known as savitarka, where intellectual activity rarefies itself into the process of a tendency to commingle with the object. In the beginning, the concentration is on a chosen ideal, because at the very outset it is not possible for the mind to comprehend a totality of things. We cannot think all things at a time. We can only think one thing at a time. That one thing which is the chosen ideal for the purpose of meditation is called the Ishta Devata, the most beloved of things that we can think of. Whatever we are concentrating upon should be the most beloved thing in the world. If it is not so, the mind will not go near it.
A total absorption of the mind takes place in the visualisation of what consciousness feels is its utter beloved, and nothing can compare with it. That is why it is called Ishta, or the most desirable, lovable divinity. Why is it called divinity? Because it is a promise of fulfilment of whatever you are seeking and asking for. Unless the ideal of meditation is capable of fulfilling all your requirements, the mind cannot go for it. You cannot concentrate on anything continuously because there is a doubt whether that particular thing is capable of blessing you with all the things that you need. So, with effort of will you have to conceive an ideal which is capable of giving you whatever you want. Actually, this conceived ideal is a pressure point of the forces of the universe which centralise themselves in this conceived ideal and act as a kind of doorway into the opening of a wider force that is behind this particular point. In this sense, you may take anything in the world as a point for concentration. Just as when you touch any part of the body you are actually touching the whole body, so is the case with soul-filled concentration on the chosen ideal. But care has to be taken that you should not dabble with this idea of the chosen ideal. It is not an experiment that you are doing in meditation; it is an important exercise.
As I mentioned yesterday, the characteristics involved in this particular chosen ideal are the idea of the object, the name or the nomenclature that is associated with it, and the thing as such. The thing as such is un-contactable by sensory operations or even by ordinary mental activity because it is actually behind the meditating consciousness as an undercurrent, just as at the base of two waves in the ocean is the ocean itself. The reason why a wave cannot know the ocean is because it believes that it is one crest of individuality, differentiated from other crests which are the waves. Though one wave can contact another wave, it cannot contact it at the base because if the wave subsides to the root of its origin it will touch the root of the other wave also, so that the duality between the subject and the object will coalesce and become a total of both features, widening the comprehension of consciousness.
You can imagine what it would be like if what you see is non-differentiated from the process of thinking. What you think in your mind is in one place, and you yourself are in another place; but if these two places or locations join together hand in hand, as it were, then the experience becomes widened into a collision, a coming together of both sides, the subjective and the objective. There is a transcendent consciousness at that time. This is savitarka samadhi.
The next higher stage mentioned in the system of Patanjali's Yoga is known as nirvitarka samadhi. These technical words merely indicate the liberation of the concept from its involvements in space and time. When we concentrate, meditate, and enter into samadhi at the savitarka level, even if the whole Earth and creation were to be the object of our meditation, there will be a subtle persistence of the feeling that this entire thing is in space. The world of matter, which we think is this creation, is within space. Even Newton, the great mathematician and scientist, thought that the world is inside space. It took years and years to free scientists' minds from this concept. Everybody feels that everything is inside space. The liberation of this concept of space being involved in the great widened ideal in sarvitarka samadhi is called nirvitarka, where the concept of space as a carrier of the object ceases and, in some way, the association of the ideal of meditation with so-called space gets diminished into a coming together of spatiality and individuality of the object. We ourselves become one with it.