by Swami Krishnananda
From what you have heard up to this time, you would have gathered that yoga is basically a perceptional change, and not merely an act of doing something with your body. You may do anything, stand on your head for hours, but the perception of things has not changed. The erroneous perception will condition even the practice of your asanas, pranayama, etc. because the whole problem is perception, and not something that is being done. People say, “I do yoga.” What kind of yoga are they doing? The same persons that they were years back, they are today also. The same operational method of perceiving things continues, and no attempt is made to change the way of perceiving things. This basic requirement is forgotten, and it is not known that every step in yoga is a corresponding change in one’s own perceptional procedure. If you have not changed even one whit and you are still the same person, all your doings are outside you, not connected with you.
For instance, whatever I have told you earlier would have made you have the confirmation that things are not just standing in front of you. No thing is just sitting in front of you as the eyes report to you. But we always look outward. The basic relationship of things in general will require you to know that the very thing that you are seeing in front of you is also behind you, in another form altogether. As things are not in one place, they are not just in front of you. Not only are they also behind you, they are to your right, to your left, above and below. Things are everywhere. Now, how would you look at a thing if this is the case? A practice, a kind of exercise is to be undertaken in order to change the perception of things.
Never look at an object as you generally look at it, because it is not in front of you. The pervasiveness of the location of every object necessitates the acceptance of its presence everywhere. So you are actually looking, so-called, at an object which is pervading you from all sides. A good manager or executive considers every aspect of an issue before taking a step. He looks ahead, looks behind, looks to the right and to the left, and to the top and the bottom. Every side of an issue is taken into consideration. This is not only in business management, but even in legal arguments in court. You cannot give stereotyped arguments and not take into consideration the consequences and repercussions of the statement that you are making in regard to the implications of the case. So is the case of a general in an army. He does not just go ahead foolishly. He takes into consideration all aspects of the situation before acting.
In a way, yoga is a kind of military operation. As cautious as a general is in the field, so is the yoga student. A general of an army faces a widespread situation that is everywhere around him; and in yoga we are also facing a widespread situation. Our problems are not sitting in one place; they are everywhere. They arise from top to bottom, from right to left—from everywhere. Anything is everywhere, not just in one place.
Therefore, before starting actual meditational practice, the yoga student should clarify the intention. You must know very well that yoga is not a change in the way of doing things, but a change in the way of your being itself because all doing proceeds from being. Whatever you are, that comes out of you. The doing cannot be great if you yourself are not a great person. A puny, stupid individual cannot perform great things, because the thing that is done is an emanation of one’s own self. A finite individual cannot produce an infinite result. It is necessary to know there is a parallel action taking place between oneself and everything that one thinks or sees. Action is not taking place outside; it is taking place everywhere, so wherever you start doing something, the reaction will come from every side.
The reason is, we are personally involved in the very process of acting; and the end result, as well as the process, are directly connected with ourselves. The whole thing is moving in action, including our own selves, but we think that we are apart from the action and something is being done outside with our hands. The idea that an action is outside is wrong. It is everywhere. The outside thing cannot produce any result.
Whatever you have learned up to this time is a great fundamental scientific solution to the perceptional process that I have presented before you, and it is very important to remember. It is a change in the way of seeing things, primarily in how you see and evaluate a thing. You can initially sit for meditation without going very deep into this technique. This is an exercise. Just cast your eyes around you, and think, “What am I seeing? I am seeing something, a vast phenomenon of nature in front of me. What is there behind me? The same nature that is in front of me is behind me. What is there to the right? The same nature, spreading itself like a sea. What is there to the left? The same nature. What is there above me? The same thing. What is below me? The same thing. What is there, finally?”
The thing that you are seeing is not in one place. Can you adjust your mind to the acceptance of this position that when you behold a thing, you are beholding that which is in all places? This means your dealing with a thing is actually a dealing with that which is surrounding you from all sides. A thing is an atmosphere rather than a substance. This requires tremendous power of will because for years and years you have been thinking in one way: that you are the son or daughter of some parents, you live in a city or a village, you have these relations, you have this and that. This is not the way of looking in yoga because there is a pervasiveness involved in the yoga exercise. Even if it is a simple exercise like yoga asana, it is not an activity of one individual body taking place. It is a pervasive relationship that the body has with the atmosphere in which it is involved and the substance out of which it is made.
You do yoga asana, bend the body in different ways, but you have also to bend the relationship of this body with the nature of which the body is made. The whole of nature is doing yoga asana. If nature is opposed to you, and you cannot accommodate yourself with what is happening outside, then the exercise remains an isolated effort, not bringing any particular result. When you sit for meditation, remember that the whole of nature is sitting here. This is a fact. You are physically connected to everything in the universe, all nature. The entire nature is sitting here, erect, straight, poised, adjusted, and complete on all sides.
In the Upanishad it is said that even the earth is meditating, as it were. All nature is meditating, maintaining a balance. Anything that is maintaining a balance is actually doing yoga. When you sit for meditation, look around. Cast your eyes in all ten directions, and think, “What am I seeing? I am seeing my own father and mother who have produced me, and the great nature which is not only around me but in me—and it is me, actually speaking. The distractions of the mind will slowly cease because of there being no necessity to think anything extraneous. That the world is outside, things are in one position, anything is somewhere and not in other places, is a prejudiced habit of thinking. Yoga thinking is not the same as ordinary human thinking. It is an internal modification of the very structural pattern of the operation of the mind. The whole thing rises into the occasion of an inner, complete transformation.
When you see a thing, you are seeing everything. Immediately the mind will come to a halt. “Am I seeing something? No, I am seeing everything because this thing that I am seeing in front of me is everything. So what I am seeing in front of me? I am seeing everything. Where is that everything? It is in all directions.” When you think of the mind adjusting itself to all directions equally in a balanced condition, you immediately attain stability in asana. You will not have jerking movements, pain, and other difficulties. Your maladjustment with things outside causes the discomfort in the mind and the body even when you are seated in meditation. Yoga is a balance in the body, in social relations, in thinking, in emotion, in understanding, and in your very being itself.
But when you actually start this exercise, you will find that you are tired. An unwilling horse is easily tired, and it will never pull the carriage. It will simply stand. The mind that is unwilling is not going to be accessible to your instruction for meditation. The mind cannot be made to undergo any exercise if it is unwilling to do it. The unwillingness arises in the mind on account of its feeling that you are interfering with its old habits, which it feels are correct habits. “My old habits of thinking and doing are correct, and I am confirming that it is okay. But you are saying something quite different. I am not willing to yield like that.” Here it is not enough if you merely have understanding; the strength of will is necessary. You may even have to speak loudly to yourself. “What am I seeing? I am seeing that which is around me in all directions.” Your attitude towards any particular thing should be virtually an attitude towards everything. This is a preliminary exercise to which you can resort.
To assist you in this exercise of perceptional inclusiveness, you can chant the mantra Om continuously for fifteen minutes. All sessions of meditation are benefitted by chanting Om at the commencement. The chanting of Om is not a sound that is produced in your mouth; it is a total vibration arising in a harmonious manner from the whole of your personality. When you know how to chant it, a beautiful intonation goes with it. This vibration that is produced by the recitation of Om is not inside your mind or inside your body; it is everywhere. Just as the ripples of water in a lake move in all directions, the ripples of this wave of chanting Om will be felt as pervading the entire outside surroundings also, together with the feeling that you are getting adjusted to this vibration.
After fifteen minutes of this exercise, try the other exercise of seeing and thinking at the same time that thing which is not only in one place. First of all, with open eyes you can think, “The thing that I am seeing is also behind me, and everywhere.” Then close your eyes and feel this situation in your mind. You will find that those things are with you. Can you understand the result of this feeling that the things are with you? It is so because of the fact that you yourself are a thing like any other thing. You are not a subjective operational centre segregated from other things which you regard as objects, because the standpoint of a so-called object permits the same attitude towards you. It recognises you as an object.
The so-called subject and object are a misnomer, really speaking. Such words should not be used because, as I mentioned yesterday, the things which are this side and that side, which are called subject and object, are parallel to each other and are on an equal footing. Hence, you are not looking at an object, but are looking at a situation that includes yourself as well as the object. The one who has this awareness of a different situation altogether is neither located on this side as a subject nor is operating outside as an object. It is an inclusiveness.
Every act of perception is an inclusiveness in the operation of the mind. Unless a blend of awareness is brought about between that which is seen and that which sees, perception will not take place. If there is a complete disparity between yourself and the situation that is outside you, you cannot behold anything, appreciate anything, or benefit from anything. Every meaningful perception is an operation of equality of status between the seer and the seen. You are not superior to the things that you see. They are as important as those who see them because everything can see just as you see.
In this manner, adjust yourself to an equanimity of position in your asana as well as in your thought and feeling. And also have a surety in your mind that since these exercises are going to touch the very reality of things, you are going to benefit from them immensely. In yoga, every step in the right direction is a great achievement which cannot be destroyed. Svalpam apy asya dharmasya trayate mahato bhayat (Gita 2.40), says the Bhagavadgita: Even a modicum of your movement in the right direction is a great credit that you are adding to yourself, and this credit is never destroyed.
Hurry, haste, quickness should be avoided in meditation. “Let me do some meditation quickly, and go.” This idea should not be there. You should think, “I am not seeing a person or a thing. I am seeing the whole of nature, which has manufactured these persons and things. I am seeing the mother of all things, the parent of everything.”
Some kind of psychological discipline is necessary for every person. Usually we do anything at any time. We eat at any time, sleep at any time, and no systematic arrangement of a daily program is maintained. We must have some kind of plan within ourselves, in a general and also in a specific manner, as to what work is to be done on a particular day. Usually people do the same thing every day, with minor differences. It should not be a burden on the mind to go on thinking of what is to be done. It is a routine habit that is taking place. The work that you do should become spontaneous rather than a pressure that is exerted from outside. The need for work does not arise from outside; it arises from a total situation. Nobody is compelling you to work. The whole situation around you is compelling you to do something, which is nothing but an adjustment of yourself in a particular manner, either by doing something or by thinking something. This is a psychophysical adjustment that is called for. Yoga is a psychophysical adjustment.
That the things we need in this world are included in that which we are aspiring for is also a conviction which has to be driven into our minds: “The thing that I want in this world is not removed from my realm of aspiration.” We do not lose the world when we go to God. We lose nothing, actually. That which is our so-called external need or requirement is included in that which is totally pervasive. Both the external thing and the internal thing are included in the total. So when you seek the total, it is futile to go on thinking of another thing which is outside. That which is the total operational conviction in the mind includes that which you are considering as internal or external. The thing that you need is neither inside nor outside. To repeat, it is everywhere. Therefore, you are told to restrain the greed for grabbing things and running after that which the senses want. But there is no need to restrain anything. You are not putting pressure on the sense organs to not do what they want; you are only enlightening them to the fact that what they see is not only in that place in which they are looking, that it is in a larger situation. When even the seeing of a thing is included in the larger situation in which you are also included, the obtaining of it, for the matter of that, is also a total situation. The whole thing is a total. No particularity is allowed here.
This exercise is deeply psychological. The subliminal, subconscious mind does not permit such things, generally speaking. We have done very good deeds in the previous birth. All of you have done great meritorious deeds in the previous birth; otherwise, you would not have the chance to come here and listen to these balming messages of your glorious ideal. The prarabdha karma that comes with us when we take a physical birth has various phases of operation. In the previous birth we have committed some errors, we have done very good deeds, and we have also done deeds that are partially virtuous and partially not. All these constitute the mode of our operation in this life. Where it is a very good, virtuous, pure act, there we will find an occasion to live a comfortable, happy life, and to listen to messages of glory and high achievements.
But there are, at the same time, impediments. There are sattvic or pure karmas which allow us to think like this and sit here and listen. There are also rajasic karmas, distracting actions, and tamasic karmas. Many a time we feel stupid and lethargic, and are unable to think; that is due to the tamasic aspect of prarabdha working in us. At other times we are very much excited, and want to run here and there, and do this or that. That is the rajasic karma operating. Now you are here in a sattvic mood; you are not disturbed, and you are not sleeping. In this sattvic mood you are awake, and you are able to understand and absorb into your mind that which is actually beyond the ordinary capacity of the mind. Such means of performance by which the rajasic and tamasic potentials of prarabdha are effectively mitigated have to be adopted.
It is said that the prarabdha karma cannot be destroyed. What you have done in the previous birth will have to be experienced in this birth, whether you want it or not. You cannot destroy the result of an action that you have performed earlier. The result of an action lasts forever, until it is experienced. You will get what you have given. But the sattvic meditational effort has a very imposing effect on the rajasic and tamasic karmas, and puts them down for the time being. You have so many desires in your mind, but just now you have put down all of them while listening to me. That is how the sattvic karma acts in subjugating the impulses of that which is contrary to the actual spiritual practice. That you are not agitated here and do not want to run away immediately means that you have subjugated even the rajasic karma. That is the power of sattva. You are poised, and the state of being in poise puts down the effects of rajasic and tamasic karmas for the time being. But inwardly, the other karmas will also act little by little, causing some physical and mental inconvenience, though the power of the pressure exerted upon them by the sattva activity will make them as harmless as a toothless snake. The snake will be there, but without teeth. Its teeth have been pulled out by the sattvic karma. Though the distracting tamasic karmas are still there, moving about like cobras, they cannot harm you because you have pulled out their teeth.
Sitting for meditation should be a daily practice. If you miss a meal one day and have it the next day, it will disturb your stomach and your appetite. Like the intake of medication which is continuous, your intake of diet should also be continuous. The intake of the exercise of meditation should be continuous, though it need not be for a long time. That you have no time to sit is an irrelevant matter. You can sit for five minutes at least. The quantity or the duration of sitting is not what is important; the quality of your thinking is important. One minute of intense thinking is superior to an hour of dull thinking. As sattva predominates, the capacity to think becomes more and more intense. The love for contact with reality is such a flaming passion in the minds of spiritual seekers that it will burn up all obstacles. If the practice continues every day, the strength of sattvic forces will become accentuated and increased more and more, so that the potential for distraction and lethargy will be substantially mitigated. This is one thing that you have to keep in mind.
There are many other aspects of your life that you also have to look into. The food that you eat and drink, the company that you keep, the books that you read, and your general activity have to be streamlined in such a manner that they do not harm your basic purpose. It is up to each person to keep a diary of this kind. Assess yourself: “What have I done since morning? What is the first thought that occurred in my mind when I woke up?” It is very important to take note of what is the first thought that arose in your mind when you woke up. Similar is the case with the thought with which you are going to sleep at night. Keep a note of this. “Now I am going to sleep. What am I thinking at this moment?” That thought will inf luence the condition into which you are entering sleep; and the first thought that arises in the morning when you wake up will inf luence the whole day. It is commonly said, in a humorous way, “Start the day with God, end the day with God, and live with God.”
A diary of self check-up about one’s own personality—which is hidden inside and is mostly unknown even to oneself, waiting in ambush to pounce upon us one day or the other—is to be kept so that the submerged potentials of difficulty are taken note of. What we are thinking now is practically an operation of the conscious mind, and what is inside, in the subconscious mind, is not coming up at this moment. Psychologists tell us that there are layers of psyche—deeply buried unconscious potentials which carry us forward to repeated births and deaths in the future—which lie sleeping as if they do not exist at all. They seek an atmosphere of operation in order that they may rise to the subconscious level and finally to the conscious level. Our experiences are not only outside in the conscious mind. The conscious experiences are actually conditioned by the instincts of the subconscious and the potentials of the unconscious. We are not exactly as we appear to be in the conscious mind.
There is a determining faculty within our own selves which conditions even our decisions and our performances. Some psychoanalysts say there is no free will, and what is called free will is only an illusion created by the potential of the unconscious and subconscious which presses us to work in a particular direction, and because of the connection of this pressure with the conscious mind, it looks as if we are deliberately doing something. Like a hypnotised person who thinks he is acting deliberately but is actually being controlled by the mind of the hypnotist, our operations are not entirely free in a literal sense. We should not be foolhardy and imagine that we are masters of everything. To the extent we are deeper than the three layers of the mind, to that extent we may say we are masters. But we are working on a particular level which is an illusion projecting itself as an independent medium, not knowing that it is a puppet being pulled by the strings of the submerged instincts of the subconscious and the unconscious. In a puppet show, the operator is not seen; only the dancing puppets are seen. It may look wonderful, but why is it wonderful? There is something else inside which we cannot see, and we are not supposed to see.
Yoga is not merely chitta vritti nirodha in the sense of restraint of the conscious mind. The word chitta that is used in yoga does not mean only conscious operation; it is the total psychical energy that is called chitta. The entire psychic power, in all its levels, is chitta. Restraint of the total operation of all the three layers of the psyche is what is referred to as chitta vritti nirodha. When we are thinking something and we stop thinking it, it does not mean that chitta vritti nirodha has been attained, because we may stop the process of thinking a particular thing due to a pressure from another side which is also calling our attention.
The necessity to be subject to impulses which are beyond our control is what is handled in yoga. Are we free in ourselves, or are we forced to do things and think in a particular manner? A cow that is tied with a sufficiently long rope may not know that it is tied. It will move freely, grazing in the field. It will not know that it has been limited to the distance of the rope with which it is tied unless it tries to go further; only then will it see that it is conditioned. Similarly, we have a kind of freedom which is granted by the distance of the rope with which we have been tied to our personality, and we may not know that we are tied at all.
What is the rope? It is the impulse to be present only in one particular body, to concern ourselves only with one particular object, and the incapacity to think that we are ubiquitously connected with things in the world, which are also ubiquitous. No operation is localised. It is wisely said that everything is everywhere at all times. That object of achievement which brings about the right-about-turn of our operations that situations are total, that they arise from everywhere, is the fundamental psychological approach which should form the practice of yoga.
Many people have an inner fear that yoga is something they are doing which is not connected to the daily duties of life. Here is the snag in the very way of thinking. “My basic operational duty is something; yoga is another thing, at the tail end of something.” Yoga is a pervasive controlling inf luence on even the duty that you are performing in life. Yoga is the dharma, or the cohesive force operating behind everything that you think and do. Yoga is nothing but a cohesive power that you are exercising in a total fashion, which includes your activity. Do not say, “Yoga is outside my duties in life. I have my family, I have my office, I have many things, and yoga is somewhere else.” Yoga is a pervasive attitude of consciousness, without which you cannot do anything, even in your office. A yogi can be a good executive, a good manager, a good office worker, a good sweeper, a good carpenter. Anything a yogi does will be done expertly. A yogi will wash vessels better than an ordinary servant because of his comprehensiveness and total approach to everything. Nothing is insignificant for him.
There is a basic psychological total transformation that you are attempting in your mind. Unless you have changed a little bit, the yoga that you do will be outside your purview and will not touch you. To repeat, yoga is not ‘doing’ something; it is a change of ‘being’ inside—not only your personal physical being, but the total being in which you are involved in every circumstance. This is a refurbishing of psychological thinking, washing your brain completely—cleaning it thoroughly from dirt accumulated in the form of erroneous thinking, whose impressions are imbedded in the brain, in the setup of the mind, in the unconscious and subconscious levels, and even in your social life.
These are some of the preparatory steps that you can take before jumping into the heights of the topmost meditation on the Absolute. All these problems become naught in one second if the consciousness becomes concentrated on the greatness of the Absolute. These psychological and social difficulties will be set at naught in one second, just as all the troubles of your dream world are set at naught by waking because in waking you are in a different state of consciousness. Your meditation on the Absolute is an enhancement of the type of consciousness which is required, and it abolishes all problems in one second. All the evils of dream have gone. You have paid all your debts, and nobody troubles you any more because you have woken up.
All troubles are operations of consciousness. Waking into the consciousness of the Absolute is an awakening which is beyond the ordinary way of thinking, such as thinking in terms of checks and balances, profits and losses, statistics, etc. There are no statistics before the Absolute. It is a total inclusiveness which merges, absorbs into Itself all your problems. When you reach the Absolute, your problems also go with you. They do not exist any more. They become nectar. If that concentration—the power of affiliation to Absolute consciousness—is deep in you, that one act of intense love for this Great Being is sufficient to save you forever and ever. And every other thing that you have to do is included in that one act because it is a supreme total act which removes the necessity to have any kind of individualised action.
When God comes, everything comes. When the Absolute is with you, the whole universe is with you. Your problems are gone in one moment when you awake to this consciousness. Mumukshutva, longing for liberation, is the final solution for your psychological problems, etc. The desire for the Absolute is the one thing that is necessary. You do not want anything else, and you need not do anything else. Love God, love the Absolute, and be free. All sadhana is concentrated in this deep longing within us for entry into this great, wonderful, immortal, magnificent, glorious Being, which is our own higher Self. Love for God, love for the Absolute, is the panacea for every kind of suffering. All suffering goes away. You are blessed.