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Sessions with Ashram Residents
by Swami Krishnananda

Session 31: Meditation According to Patanjali

About meditation... Who is meditating? And on what are we meditating? The reason for meditating on anything is to make that thing one's own. That thing on which we are meditating should be under our possession. There is no use of meditating on anything over which we have no control. We have no control over anything in the world because all things are outside us. Everyone is outside everyone else. Everything is external; nothing is inside us.

Yoga meditation is supposed to be a method to rectify this uncontrollable existence of thinking in the world. It is a union with what we are meditating upon. How can union be possible if that thing is totally outside us? There is someone sitting here. How can I be in union with him? Is it possible? If I am able to unite myself with him, I myself will become him; I will not be Swami Krishnananda anymore. The reason why such a union is necessary is that everyone is incomplete. The belief is that when there is union with the thing on which we are meditating, the incompleteness vanishes, and the gap caused by that incompleteness is filled in by that thing on which we are meditating. It completes our being. The being of our own self, which is incomplete, is filled in and made complete by the being of that on which we are meditating.

This question is deeply studied in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is a master technique of yoga practice. Does it mean that meditation is thinking some object? Everybody is meditating. The mind is thinking something, but that something is outside the mind. Already it has been pointed out that anything that is outside will be of no use at all. The mind thinks that which is not within itself; it thinks that which is outside. It is trying to possess what is not in itself; it is trying to possess what is outside itself. The thing that makes it outside will prevent it from getting united with oneself. There is what is called space, which distinguishes one person from others. There is a big gap of space. As long as space exists, one thing cannot be another thing. The very meaning of space is: creates distance. Everywhere space creates distance. It separates one thing from another thing.

In the Upanishads, we are told that when creation took place the first thing that manifested was space. There was a distorting, scattering, externalising activity that took place through everything—pell-mell, here, there, in all places; that is creation. It is like breaking up a family. Family members are united. Whatever is the number of family members, they very lovingly live together in unison. Then some catastrophe takes place, and each member is thrown to distant places so that one member cannot even see any other member. This is what has happened in creation. We are not competent to ask why this has happened, because we are the product of this happening. A product, or an effect, cannot question the cause of which it is a product. It is like trying to climb on one's own shoulders, or like trying to see through the back of one's head.

Therefore Patanjali, the great yogi, says one cannot achieve anything by meditating in the sense of thinking some object outside. In one majestic sutra he explains the whole situation. Patanjali does not write volumes of books; he writes a few words. In these few words, the whole thing is said: bahiḥ akalpitā vṛttiḥ mahāvidehā tataḥ prakāśa āvaraṇakṣayaḥ (Y.S. 3.44). This is a sutra which nobody studies. People think of yama, niyama, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, and so on, but they do not know what this meditation is.

What are you doing when you are meditating? You may do pranayama, asana, hatha yoga, whatever it is, but the final purpose is meditation. What do you do? Don't say that you are thinking God. If God is an outside object, you cannot possess Him. The whole trouble about life is outsideness. You can never become a real friend of someone if he is an outside object. To consider anything as outside oneself is a kind of insult. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says sarvaṁ tam parādād yo'nyatrātmano sarvaṁ veda (B.U. 2.4.6): Everything will desert you and run away from you if you consider anything as outside you. If you consider someone as outside you, he will run away from you; he will never look at you afterwards. Everything will run away from you. “He is considering me as an object. I will never go to this person in future. I will run away.” There is nothing so bad in the world as to be regarded as an object of somebody. ‘Object' means you are considering it as a servant, a menial whom you have to use for your personal purpose. Who will tolerate that kind of attitude?

The things in the world are not inanimate, dead things. They have intelligence. Even a stone will vibrate and react according to your wish. The outsideness of a thing is a kind of insult to that thing. Everything will run away; everything will desert you. Even this body will desert you one day, let alone family and wealth, and so on. You are thinking even this body is a kind of object, because you can see it with the sense organs. Anything that can be seen with the sense organs is an object. The body is also an object. It cannot stand; it will be rejected by the Atman.

So what does Patanjali say? There are two kinds of mental function. They are called kalpita vritti and akalpita vritti. Kalpita vritti means imagining something as existing. Imagination is also a function of the mind. There is a vritti, a mode of thought, which acts like a mould into which it tries to cast the form of the object. This is why there is a desire for objects. When an object is desired, it is not possessed. The mind foolishly converts itself into a mould, into which the shape of the object is cast. So the mind thinks the shape of the object, and when it thinks the shape of the object, it foolishly thinks that the object is possessed. The object cannot be possessed, because it is outside. Every desire will be defeated; there will be frustration. Nobody has gained anything in the world by desiring a thing. Even if it is sitting on your head, it is not your property. That which is on your head is not your property because it is outside; you can shake it off, and it will fall down. Even if you hold some valuable thing tightly in your hand, it is not your possession because it is outside. You can open your hand and it falls. But if the object is inseparable from your very being, it will not go.

Is there anything in the world which is inseparable from us? Everything is separable, everything is chaos, and there is a foolish hunting for those things which cannot become our property. We can get nothing in this world. Every item leaves us, and then we have to go weeping one day because the whole thing is gone. This is because space cuts off one thing from another thing. Great thinkers and philosophers in the West have, in a desperate mood, concluded that reality cannot be contacted by the mind, because the mind thinks of that which is outside it, and reality is all-pervading; therefore, the mind cannot contact it.

The mould into which the form of the object is cast does not assure possession of that object. Some people think, “So much money is there; large heaps of currency notes are there. So many millions of dollars and rupees, mountain-like they are heaped up in front of me.” Go on thinking; the mind will take the shape of that heap of currency notes and you yourself will become the currency notes, as it were. But you will never get it. That is called kalpita vritti, imaginary thinking. Though there is a satisfaction even in this, it is a foolish satisfaction. You bathe yourself every day with liquid cash, but still it will not become yours. The water which you pour on your body while bathing does not become your property; it goes out afterwards. You may pour the most costly things in the world on your body, but they will not become yours. People put on gold chains, gold rings, and they think they are becoming very beautiful. They are not becoming beautiful; they are the same old people even with the ornaments. The gold chains can go, the earrings can go, the anklets can go—everything goes, and afterwards what has happened? These ornaments have not become part of your body. It is imagination which gives a false satisfaction of having possessed them. A gold chain is on the neck, and a person is very happy. “See, I have a gold chain.” You don't have the chain; it is outside you. The chain does not become your property merely because it is hanging on your neck. All these things are called imaginations. All your joys and satisfactions in life are only imaginations, and imagination seems to be working and bringing some joy because the mould takes the shape of that object. It is the shape cast into the mould of this mind that makes you feel that you have got the object. But the object is far away; only the shape of it has been cast into the mould. Here is the mistake in thinking any object.

But there is another vritti of the mind, called akalpita vritti, which is not imagining that something is there; it is you yourself. Can anybody think with a stretch of imagination that what is thought by the mind is yourself only? This is a new kind of thinking. Who on earth can do this kind of thought, this kind of meditation? It is already mentioned: sarvaṁ tam parādād yo'nyatrātmano sarvaṁ veda. Everything that is outside you will run away from you. But that which is yourself will not run away. That which is yourself is the Self—call it Atman or anything else. If something can become yourself, it will not run away from you. But if it is there as an object of seeing, perceiving, contacting through the senses, it will run away because it is outside. Nobody likes to hear that they are outside. Nobody likes to be discarded, it is a very hopeless thing, and nobody, not even a dog, would like to be discarded. Even a tree will not tolerate it. It will vibrate. They can find out your feelings.

So, bahiḥ akalpitā vṛttiḥ mahāvidehā tataḥ prakāśa āvaraṇakṣayaḥ. We are spiritual seekers. We are not here to play jokes with yoga meditation. We are not here to live in a fool's paradise, as they call it, that everything is getting on: “I am doing so much japa, and taking bath many times. I ring the bell, and read scriptures.” All these are part of kalpita vritti. The japa has not entered you, the scriptures are outside you, the bell is outside, the arti is outside, the god whom you are worshipping is also outside, but it looks as if something is happening to you. You are very happy because the image of that object—whether the bell, arti, book, scripture, whatever it is—is cast into the mould of the mind that foolishly thinks it has possessed it. Neither have you possessed the book, nor the bell, nor the arti, nor even the deity. Everything is outside you. But you have an idea, an imagination that it has come into you. The reflection, as it were, of the object is cast into the mould of the mind and is made to think that it is real. In a cinema only light is seen on the screen, but it looks like a solid object, three-dimensional. People are moving about and talking. There is nobody talking; it is only a flat screen and flat shadows falling on it.

In the same way, a flat reflection of things outside—even if it is a religious thought, it makes no difference—is again only a reflection; it will not bring satisfaction. That is why people who have done so much japa, so much tapasya and so on, are unsatisfied, miserable. They go from place to place. When everything fails—japa has failed, meditation has failed, nobody wants to talk to you, you have lived fifty or sixty years of life with this kind of routine, nothing happens—then the neglect which has been shown to the true self inside reacts and revolts, and creates a situation of imaginary importance by moving about, doing propaganda of one's own self, making friends and groups and communities of one's own self, and having a thousand disciples. When you walk on the road, a thousand disciples follow you. One thousand disciples are following you; how great you are! But the thousand disciples are outside you. You are a simple, petty nothing even if one thousand disciples are behind you. When everything goes—japa doesn't work, nothing works—you create disciples and then go all over the world, travelling in airplanes, etc., and think that you are a great man. You are only a petty man; nothing is there except people who can desert you at any moment.

Gurus have been deserted and condemned by disciples for a little thing which the disciples could not accommodate with them. The disciples criticise and denigrate the Guru, because they want the Guru to behave in a manner which is according to their instinct. Otherwise, how long will this Guru cater to the instincts of the disciples? A little thing and they say, “The Guru is harassing me.” One man came and told me this. Every day he comes and sits here. He went to a Guru. What is the good of going there?

I asked him, “What is the trouble?”

He replied, “I don't want to be harassed.”

“Who is harassing you?”

“The Guru is harassing.”

I asked, “What kind of thought do you have about the Guru? Why does he harass you?”

Some kink in the head of this man, some way of thinking that he has got would not tally with that Guru. Disciples are supposed to think like the Guru, but now they want the Guru to think like them. Otherwise, the Guru is condemned. You reject the man completely and won't talk to that Guru afterwards.

This is the tragedy of spiritual seekers. Meditation has gone, japa has gone, purushcharana has gone—you throw dirt on the whole thing—then you become a very important pontiff. Your name will come in the papers that you are doing such a miracle, you have opened hospitals. When everything fails they open hospitals and schools and so on, everywhere. So many schools and colleges he has opened, and so many hospitals, so much food he gives to poor people. This is also a tragedy of life: we started with something and ended with something else. Somewhere going, everybody laughing. Shakespeare writes in one place that the gods are laughing at human beings. The gods play with human beings as children play with flies. Such is our status—a total misconception. We don't like anything. Why can't we like anything? Because everything is outside, it wants to run away from us. The Guru will run away, and the disciple will run away. Money will run away. Everything will go away, and nothing will be there except an empty shell. Only space will be there, which God created first. What remains finally is only empty space; the whole substance has gone.

So, to come to the point of meditation according to Patanjali, this tragedy will not take place if you honestly feel the being of that thing as your being. You can take any object for your meditation, and it will speak. Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, whose name you must have heard—a Russian leader and a founder of the Theosophical Society—had this identifying power. If you go on thinking the table, it will lift up. If there is a flower, it will move because you have become the flower. You cannot lift anything unless it is you. You cannot lift even one leg of an elephant, but the elephant lifts itself completely. Can anybody lift an elephant? How is it lifting itself and walking? It can do so because it is itself. But the elephant is outside you, so it cannot come under your control. It is said that Lord Krishna lifted a mountain. He did not lift any mountain; he lifted his own hand, that is all. He was one with all things. The mountain was himself only, so when he lifted the mountain he was lifting his own hand. What is the difficulty in lifting his hand? But if the mountain is outside him, then nothing can be done.

The whole world will come to you, provided you are the whole world. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says yasyānuvittaḥ pratibuddha ātmāsmin saṁdehye gahane praviṣṭaḥ, sa viśva-kṛt, sa hi sarvasya kartā, tasya lokaḥ sa u loka eva (B.U. 4.4.13): This world becomes not only yours, you become the universe. Birth and death, the tragedy of transmigration, coming and going, is caused by the spatial isolation of ourselves from the universal existence. Creation has damaged us completely, and cast us out as a spatial object. We are suffering; we are really suffering. Everybody is suffering. From Indra, the devatas, down to insects—everybody is suffering. Misery is the name of life because everybody is cast off by the spatial, externalising process. Creation has to recreate integration; evolution has to become involution. From being an effect of a cause, you withdraw yourself back to the original source. You become the very thing from where you have come. You have come from the physical elements. You become the very earth itself; you become the very water itself; you become fire itself; you become air itself; you become space itself. You become space, time and causation itself. You become death itself. Mṛtyur yasyopasecanaṁ (K.U. 1.2.25). In the Katha Upanishad it is mentioned in a humorous way that the Great Being uses mrityu, death, as a condiment for its diet. Who can eat mrityu? But you yourself are mrityu, so why are you afraid of it? If mrityu is outside, you are afraid of it. A transformation taking place inside your own self is mrityu. “Nothing is outside me; all things are myself only.” This is called akalpita vritti, where the thought identifies itself with the object. The object becomes the thought, and the thought becomes the object. You and I are one.

Then your face will shine. Everybody will know that here is a special person. They will do namaskar to you. Even without knowing who you are, they will do namaskar because there is something resplendent in your face. It is told in the Chhandogya Upanishad that there was a disciple called Upakosala. His teacher did not pay much attention to him; he went away on a journey. But Upakosala was such a great tapasvin that the gods took pity on him. The divinities came and taught him the secret of the universe. His face started shining. When he came back home, the Guru had returned from his journey.

“How is it, Upakosala, that your face is shining today? Who taught you?” asked the Guru.

“Someone who is not a human being,” replied Upakosala.

Gods took the shape of a bird, a bull, etc., and taught him the whole truth of the universe. The gods will help you even now. The Yoga Vasishtha says that all the quarters of heaven are ready to serve you. All the quarters of space will bend before you. All the gods superintending over the quarters of the whole creation will bend before you. Meditate that you are the All.

Again, this is not the mistake of imagining the shadow of the All. That is kalpita vritti. I told you this sutra of Patanjali is very difficult. You can imagine you are the All, and the All is outside only. You can think you are Akbar Badshah, but you won't become Akbar Badshah by that thinking. The mind should not think the object; it has to become the object. When you feel that the five elements are yourself, you are in savitarkasamadhi, as Patanjali calls it. The feeling is that there is a shape of the five elements, and also the name of the five elements, and you have become the mighty five elements yourself. You are the entire earth, and all water, space, time. Everything is yourself only. This is savitarka samadhi. It is not thinking the five elements; you have become the elements themselves. You are the heavy earth itself. When you walk, you will feel that the whole earth is moving. You will feel heavy, heavy like the earth. Hanuman became very heavy, they say. He could break everything. How did he become heavy? He was a great yogi. The whole earth entered into him and he became heavy like the earth. Hanuman broke everything. From where did he get the strength and the weight? He got it because he was one with the five elements. The whole earth was sitting inside, and it crushed everything. Such was the strength of Hanuman.

That is yoga. Yoga is not simply imagining: “I am doing something. I am a very busy man; I have no time. I am going here and there, going on pilgrimage.” Nothing will work. If you play with life and go on chatting, saying all kinds of stupid things, and go here and there, miserable will be your fate finally, and the purpose of your coming here will be a waste. Maya is terrible; it won't allow you to go forward. It pulls you back: “Don't go.” The earth pulls you. The gravitational field will pull you down to the earth, and it will not allow you to go up beyond the gravitational line. For that, uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ. The gravitation of the higher self should pull this lower self into itself, and you must cross this gravitational field of the earth and fly in the skies, as it were. That is yoga and meditation. But you are caught up in this body, this person which is raga-dvesha, so the meditation doesn't come.

I mentioned to you, briefly, the great hidden meaning of a few words of Patanjali's sutra, bahir-akalpitā vṛttiḥ: Transfer yourself to that on which you are meditating. He is telling only one sentence. Transfer yourself to anything. Even to heaven, even to Brahmaloka you can immediately transfer yourself. You yourself become Brahmaloka, and then see what happens. But don't hesitate. Don't have any suspicion: “It is not possible. I am not meant for it.” Then you will not be meant for it. “It is possible for me. If Hanuman could achieve that, I can too. If Lord Krishna lifted the mountain, I will also do it. If not today, tomorrow. One day I must do it.” Like Buddha said, “Let the bones break; I will not get up. I will achieve it.”

Though the mind is so tricky, so very treacherous and unreliable, it has the great force and potentiality to pull you up, because the higher Atman is working inside you also. The purified mind is the higher Atman; the impure mind is the lower Atman. So, uddhared ātmanātmānaṁ (B.G. 6.5): You are your friend. Bandhur ātmātmanas tasya (B.G. 6.6): Your friend is yourself; nobody else is your friend. What is the meaning of saying “You are your own friend”? The higher being, which is pulling you up, is your friend. The lower being, which will pull you down, is your enemy. So each one has to find out where one is pulled, this way or that way.

It is a little sutra: bahiḥ akalpitā vṛttiḥ mahāvidehā tataḥ. Become disembodied in your meditation and the worlds, the gods, will protect you always. You are not merely the possessor of the world, you are the world. When it is said you are the world, you have become the Vishvarupa yourself, and the Vishvarupa doesn't want any property. He doesn't want anything. He himself is all things. This is samadhi, actually. There are so many stages of samadhi: savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvicara, sananda samapatti, etc. It is impossible to think that such states are above you. There are seven stages of rising until you become the supreme Absolute itself.

Every day you must do this work. Don't waste your time. When you have some seva to do, do the seva. Afterwards, be alone to yourself. Don't talk to any person. Why do you want friends? Who are these friends? What kind of friends are they? Who is going to help you? Today they say one thing, and tomorrow they will condemn you. Today's friend is tomorrow's enemy. This is all no good. You should not depend on anybody. You are your own friend; you are your own enemy. You have come alone; you will go alone. Be careful. Nobody here is yours. So trust in that Great Being who is always with you. Suhṛdaṁ sarvabhūtānāṁ jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati (B.G. 5.29): “Remember, I am your friend,” Lord Krishna says. “I will come to you.” Trust in it, and be at peace.