by Swami Krishnananda
I shall endeavour to portray in simple terms what one may regard as the central objective of human life and the possible methodology that could be adopted in implementing this objective, and its realisation. You must have heard a lot about what is known as yoga. And many a textbook, many a discourse must have given you varied information on this mysterious technique known as the art of the practice of yoga. In simple terms, without involving technicalities, if yoga is to be defined, it can be called the system of harmony. For example, what is called harmony in the English language, yoga is in Sanskrit. Yoga is nothing mystifying or beyond the conception of human understanding. But there is a great proviso in this simple definition of yoga as harmony. While it is true that harmony in every field of life is what we seek in our day-to-day existence, it is necessary to know what harmony actually means. And when the essential of that simple fact called harmony gets imbibed into our consciousness, our personality gets stabilised. Stability of personality, equilibrium of consciousness, harmony in all walks of life, is yoga.
Harmony implies an adjustment of oneself with an environment that is external to oneself. When there is no proper adjustment of one thing with another thing, we call it disharmony. When there is a proper adjustment, a smooth working of one principle, one fact, one object, one person with another, we regard it as harmony. Now, the question which may arise in our mind at the very outset is, why should harmony be the central objective. Why should harmony be regarded as the essential of life?
The reason is the very structure of the universe. The universe is a system of harmony. We, as human individuals, form part of this universe. We form part of it in such a way that we are integrally related to it. Before proceeding further, it would be profitable to know what it is to be integrally related to anything in the world. I shall try to give you an example from common experience. You must have seen heaps of stones on the roadside. A heap of stones is a group of small units of inanimate matter put together in one place. In that heap of stones, perhaps each stone is touching every other stone. Though each piece of inorganic matter called stone in that heap is connected by way of contact with every other stone in the heap, we cannot say that any particular stone is integrally related to every other stone in that heap. They are mechanically connected, not vitally related.
There is a difference between a mechanical connection and a vital, organic relationship. The contact of one stone with another stone in a heap is mechanical. There is no life in this connection. If one stone is taken from that heap, the other stones will not be affected in any manner. They will remain as they were. There will not be any kind of harm done to the remaining stones or a diminution in their structure if a few stones are removed from the heap. So, a mechanical group is that in which parts are so related to the whole that if some parts are removed from the whole, the remaining parts are not affected at all. That is what is meant by mechanical relationship. But organic relationship is something different. We have the example of our body itself. We know very well that our physical body is made up of minute organisms called cells. These cells are so connected to one another that they give the appearance of a single whole called the body, similar to a heap of stones on the roadside, we may say, in one way. But what is the difference? While the removal of a few stones from the heap does not vitally affect the remaining stones, removal of a few limbs of our body vitally affects the whole body. We know what it would be to an individual, a human being, if the limbs are to be amputated the legs or the arms removed. Remove a portion of the body of a person; what a difference it makes! The very existence of the body is seriously affected. To come to the point, the harmony of the body is disturbed. That is why when a limb of the body is cut off, there is intense pain, agony and a dislike towards it. We dislike any kind of interference with the limbs or organs of our body because the limbs are vitally connected as a living whole in the system of our personality.
Now you know the difference between a mechanical relationship and a vital relationship. What I mean to say is that we are vitally related to the cosmos, not mechanically connected. Our connection with the universe outside is not like the connection of a stone in a heap so that we may do anything we like without affecting the world outside. That cannot be. Our connection, our relationship with the world outside is such that it can be compared to the relationship of the limbs of the body to the whole system of the body. Any meddling with the system is neither warranted nor called for.
To conceive what the universe would be, we have to conceive what a human individual is. In Indian Vedic mythology we have the concept of what is known as Purusha, the Supreme Being. Purusha means man, the human individual. But when the Vedas speak of the Purusha in the cosmos, they mean the concept of the universe as a single individual, a Cosmic Individual, whose relationship with the parts of the cosmos is similar to the relationship of an ordinary, limited individual to the limbs of the body.
Can you imagine, for a moment, what it would be to remain as a cosmic individual? Suppose you are the consciousness animating the universe; how would you conceive this possibility? For that, again, you have to bring the analogy of the human body. Do you know that you are an Intelligence, or a centre of consciousness? You may put a question to me: How do I know this? It can be known by an experiment. You know that you are a complete whole called Mr. So-and-so, Mrs. So-and-so, and so on. When you say I am such and such a person, what do you actually mean? What do you refer to? To the hands, to the feet, to the nose or any part of the body, or to all the parts put together? What do you mean by saying I, or the individual that you are?
On a careful examination of the situation you realise that when you refer to yourself as So-and-so, you do not really take into consideration the limbs or the organs of the body, because if a hand is amputated, you do not say that a part of yourself has gone. You still remain a whole individual. If two legs are gone by any kind of medical operation, the individual is still whole. The individual never feels that a part of his personality has gone. He will say that a part of his body has gone, but a part of himself has not gone. He will still think as a whole being. Otherwise, if the limbs of the body were to be an essential part of the personality, then, when the legs are amputated, for example, a person would be thinking in a lesser percentage. There would be half-thinking, one-fourth thinking, thirty percent thinking, and so on. But that does not happen. There is whole thinking, whole understandingthe entire consciousness is kept intact, in spite of the fact that the limbs are amputated or cut off. This shows that you are not the limbs of the body. You are something independent of these limbs that constitute your external form called the body. You are an intelligence, or a spiritual being. You are a centre of consciousness which animates this body, on account of which the amputation of the limbs does not in any way affect your personality. You are essentially consciousness.
The concept of the Virat Purusha, or the Cosmic Being, which I mentioned as stated in the Vedas, is only an extension of this concept of the individual consciousness to the cosmos. Can you close your eyes for a few seconds and imagine that instead of your being a centre of consciousness animating this small body, you are a centre of consciousness animating the whole universe? Can you expand your imagination to this extent? How do you do this? It can be done with a little effort of the mind. I shall tell you the technique. The consciousness which you are, which animates every part of your bodyhands, feet, fingers, nose, eyes, etc.this consciousness that you are, which indwells your individual body, is so uniformly present in every part of your body that you may be said to be present in every part of your body. You are present in your fingers, you are present in your toes, you are present in your nose, and so on. You, as a complete whole, are present in every part of your body. Now, can you extend this analogy, or comparison, to the whole universe? Just imagine your consciousness is not merely in your finger or your toe, but it is also in this table that you see in front of you, it is also in the chair, it is in the mountain, in the sun and the moon, in the galaxy, etc.
If you can extend your imagination in this manner, if your consciousness can exceed the limits of your bodily personality, and if you extend this pervasive character of consciousness beyond the limitation of your bodily personality and concentrate it on every other object in the world, you become a Cosmic Individual. This is Yogic Contemplation, Meditation in the highest sense of the term. This is the apex which you reach after many stages of meditation
This is a difficult technique, because you will not be able, ordinarily, to extend your consciousness to other objects in the world. We have a prejudice, an old habit of thinking that the objects are outside us. But, do you know that your ten fingers are outside you? They are objects; you can see them as you see any other objects in the world. If these ten fingers (i.e. these objects) can become part of your personality, then why should not other objects in the world become part of your personality? They do not become, because you have limited your consciousness by an old prejudice of thought. Prejudice is irrational; it simply asserts itself and is not amenable to reason. Why should you limit your consciousness to your small body? What do you gain? Why not extend it to other persons? Why not feel that all people seated here are part of a wider, social individual, just as you imagine you are a human individual? Why limit your consciousness to the people seated here? Go further to the vaster world and imagine that you are the world-individual! This world-individual is what religion means by God.
People ask, Does God exist? This is a meaningless question. If the world exists, God must exist, because God is only a name that we give to the Consciousness that indwells the whole universe, just as consciousness indwells your own individual personality.
You may ask, How do you know there is Consciousness everywhere? I ask you, How do you know your friend has consciousness? You know you have consciousness, but you cannot see consciousness in your friend. But you infer from his intelligent activity that he has consciousness. Likewise, from the activity of the cosmos we can infer the presence of a Cosmic Intelligence.
This Cosmic Intelligence, immanent in all objects, is what is called God, the Supreme Being. It is called the Absolute because it is Complete Consciousness and there is nothing outside it. When there is something outside it, it is called relative consciousness. When there is nothing outside it, and it is All-in-All, all-pervading, it is called Absolute Consciousness. You are a part of the Absolute Consciousness because you are a part of the universe. You are an organic part of the universe, not a mechanical part like a stone in a heap. You are vitally related to the whole cosmos, so that you are an essential part of the cosmos.
From this analysis we come to the astounding conclusion that the whole universe may be compared to a vast individuality. This is what the Vedas call the Parama-Purusha, or the Supreme Being. When such terms are used in the texts, what is meant is that our salvation lies in being friendly with the universe as a whole.
The health of a finger of your body depends upon the health of the whole body. If the whole body is suffering from typhoid fever, can a finger be healthy? No, the finger will will be affected by the same illness because it is vitally related to the whole body. Likewise, whatever the universe is, that you also are. The universe is a perfect balance of forces; and so, inasmuch as you are an integral part of this perfect balance of forces, which is the universe, you know how you have to conduct yourself in life. You cannot afford at any time in your life to violate the law of the universe. You have to abide by the law of the cosmos, which is samatva, or equal distribution of attitude. Yoga is defined in the Bhagavadgita as samatva. Harmony is yoga. Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the Superman of the East, says: samatvam yoga uchyate (Gita 2-48). This is a very simple, unambiguous and non-sectarian definition of yoga. Harmony, balance, equilibrium is yoga.
What is harmony? Harmony is nothing but your adjustment with the cosmos. If you are properly adjusted with the universe, you are said to be in harmony with the universe. But if there is maladjustment with the cosmos, you are thrown out as an individual. Now, the very fact that, with your senses, you are able to see objects outside as something cut off completely from your personality shows that you are not properly adjusted with the cosmos. You cannot see a cell of your body as something outside, because it is an essential part of your very existence. In this manner, if we are able, by dint of will and power of concentration, to visualise the world as essentially related to our consciousness, we would be automatically in a state of meditation.
The substance of the world is not matter or inorganic stuff. There is a misconception among most people that the world is made up of non-intelligent, dead matter. This is not so. You cannot see consciousness with your eyes. You cannot see consciousness, or intelligence, in another person. How can you see Consciousness in the world outside? But, inasmuch as it is possible to infer the presence of consciousness in another individual by his activity, you can also infer the presence of Consciousness in the universe by an analysis of a peculiar activity called perception.
The analysis of the process of perception of objects will give you an indication that the world is made up of Consciousness, and not matter. It is only by inference that you can come to this conclusion, not by direct, visible, sensory perception.
You look at an object, a mountain which is a mile off, in front of you, and say, I see it. I ask you, What do you mean when you say that you see it? You will reply, My eyes are open, light rays which fall on the mountain travel from the mountain and impinge on the retina of the eyes, and then I am given a picture of the existence of the mountain. But I ask you, Is light intelligent or is it non-intelligent? You know very well that light rays have no consciousness, they are inert; and the mountain is inert. A non-intelligent principle cannot create intelligence, as the principle of logic demands that the cause must be at least as rich as the effect. The perception of the mountain is a conscious, intelligent activity (i.e. effect). So, the cause, the movement of light rays, must contain consciousness inherently; otherwise, it would be inferior to the effect, and consciousness cannot be produced by the inferior effect which is the light rays.
Also, take another aspect of this very problem. The mountain which is outside you does not jump into your eyes. It is far off. How do you come to know that there is a mountain in front of you? Your eyes do not touch the mountain and the mountain does not touch your eyes. Both are far from each other. There is a connecting link between the mountain and your eyes. That is the reason why you are able to know that there is a mountain. But what is the connecting link? You may say it is light rays. No. Light rays are inert. Inasmuch as inertness cannot produce an intelligent perception, we cannot accede that the light rays which are inert can be the connecting link, really. The connecting link between an object and the seeing consciousness can be only one of two things, because there are only two things in this worldconsciousness and matter; there is nothing else. The connecting link between the mountain and the perceiving consciousness would be one of the two: either it is consciousness or it is matter. If you say that matter or anything material is the connecting link between the mountain and your consciousness, there would be a gap between consciousness and the object. This is because consciousness cannot become matter and matter cannot become consciousness, they being characterised differently, just as milk cannot become stone and stone cannot become milk. Thus, if the connecting link is matter, there would be a gap between matter and consciousness and there would be no connection between the two, and you would not know that there is a mountain in front of you. So, that cannot be. And, naturally, the other alternative is that the connecting link is consciousness. Consciousness can mix with consciousness. By this inference we come to the conclusion that consciousness must be hidden behind even material objectsotherwise, perception itself would be impossible. Just as we infer the presence of intelligence by the activity of people outside, we infer the presence of intelligence in the world by the analysis of the activity of the individual, which is known as perception.
What we are driving at with all this analysis is that world is ultimately Consciousness in its nature; it is not matter. You are also not matter, because your whole personality remains unaffected even though the limbs are cut off. You are Consciousness. You are not a body. You are something far more than a body. Likewise, there is an immanent principle of Consciousness in the whole cosmos. This immanent Consciousness is what is called the Absolute, or Brahman, or the Atman. It is called the Self (i.e. the Atman), because it always remains hidden in the individual as the seeing principle, and not the seen object, because Consciousness cannot become an object which you can see with your senses. So, the Universal Consciousness, being incapable of being converted into an object, remains ever as a subject, as the Self. The Supreme Consciousness, which is the Absolute, is the Self of everyone.
If you can retain this state of mind for a few minutesthat the universe is a sea of Consciousness and you are like waves in this sea of Consciousness, and that there is nothing like matter or inorganic stuff in the worldthis is universality of perception, as different from individual perception of objects. This is meditation.