24. Cosmic Evolution
A visitor enquires about various aspects of yoga.
Swamiji: There are various levels of yoga, and it is the order of the levels that Patanjali discusses in his Yoga Sutras. We should not forget that a nut is as important as the dynamo in producing electricity and, in this sense, every action is yoga when you connect it with the ultimate purpose of life, which is God-realisation. That the goal of life is God-realisation is what Swami Sivananda Maharaj never tired of stating. The caste system, a largely misunderstood matter, is related to Pathanjali's levels of yoga. Work is allotted according to the level of fitness of a person and that is “caste”. Meditation is the art of setting the self in tune with God. So there is nothing more important than yoga for the human being. And one has to pass through various levels of yoga without missing a single step, absorbing the lower into higher as one rises from level to level. And meditation is the highest level, leading to samadhi, through which you set yourself in tune with God. And God is not a goal to be reached somewhere far away from us. For, as he says in the Bhagavat-Gita... pasyame yoga maisvaram. When He reveals Himself to the tapasvin, as to Arjuna, He identifies Himself with the whole cosmos.
Visitor: Why do such sad things as cyclones, typhoons, etc. occur, bringing death to so many people?
Swamiji: Death is a change in life. It is an occurrence of evolution. But people do not understand it as such. We send children to school to learn of life. Similarly, such happenings are there to make people understand that every action, even every disaster is a link in the chain of cosmic evolution. When the doctor amputates a limb he is thinking of the health of the rest of the body. Karma is also part of the reason for such occurrences. Every action is an interference in the cosmic vibration, and it gives a kick, so to say, and this is what is known as karmaphala. The whole world is an electromagnetic field. The engineer knows how to walk over such a field, but a child does not, with the result that he trips. If the interference with the cosmic vibration is not corrected, i.e. is not in tune with cosmic vibrations, the karmaphala gets worse, or, like interest on an investment, gets accumulated.
Visitor: I hope no compound interest!
Swamiji: Yes, even compound interest. Action decides the karmaphala. If a robber, in the process of robbing, you cuts your hand, he gets the result of doing an action for his own selfish purpose. But when a doctor amputates your arm deliberately, he does not acquire any reaction by way of karmaphala, because it is an impersonal act. So you can say that such catastrophes are partly due to the law of karma and partly due to universal cosmic evolution.
Visitor: Swamiji, should I try to change a person when I feel that it is good for him to change or should I leave him alone even though I know that it is for his good that I should change him.
Swamiji: In trying to change, you should not destroy. If you understand that the action is in tune with God's will, then you can take action. But such a knowledge can come only to a yogi who understands things in the light of God's will because of yoga being utterly impersonal. Unless your knowledge is totally impersonal, you cannot judge correctly. Your doubts whether your understanding of an action is in tune with God's will or not can be cleared only by your own consciousness of God's will. For example, the sun, the Ganges, or, say, fire are good or bad not in themselves. What matters is your consciousness of the value that the sun on the Ganges has for you. Great yogis have made statements regarding these matters because they had consciousness of the values that things have.
Another visitor: Why do sannyasis wear orange-coloured clothes? Has it got any special meaning and value?
Swamiji: It is merely to distinguish this class of people from the others.
Visitor: Is there a particular influence that colour is supposed to have on a person? Is it not an indication of what the sannyasis are meant to be?
Swamiji: These theories about colour or other things are unimportant, and not of any value or meaning.
Visitor: (Just then the temple bell for the second kala, arati, started to ring.) What is the meaning of the bell at puja time?
Swamiji: The temple bell and the bell at puja time indicate something auspicious and good. It is merely by social agreement that the ringing of the bell indicates that. It is said that this world comprises sounds, colour and motion. The postal stamp has value for you because you have been told that it has such and such a value in your society. The monkey does not value it because in his society it has not been agreed that this stamp has a value.
Visitor: Why is camphor or other light waved at arati or puja time?
Swamiji: It is to give a visual direction to your mind to the force of spirituality behind the act. Every act must have a coordination of purpose, without which the act has no meaning, value or attraction. Religions must have coordination of purpose or else they are useless.
Visitor: Is it necessary for everyone to have initiation and only from a yogi or sannyasi?
Swamiji: A Guru is necessary to give mantra. It is not necessary that he should be a sannyasi or yogi, but the Guru must be capable of guiding you in the practice of your mantra by his comprehensive knowledge of what initiation from the Guru to the disciple is meant to be.
Visitor: You have very clear-cut ideas, Swamiji, about all problems.
Swamiji: Doubts must be cleared by clear-cut thinking.
Visitor: Why, in spite of guidance from the Gurus, sannyasis and yogis are there catastrophes in the world?
Swamiji: There are two aspects in the guidance you get. One is the aptness of the guidance in the context of your problem and understanding. If this aspect is wrongly handled, the guidance becomes useless. The other aspect is that one should take into consideration the level of understanding of the person to whom guidance is given. The guidance given may not be meant for that level. It follows that there should be obedience to law. In a sense, obedience to law is the control of it. So if you understand the law, obedience is the result, and the object of obeying the law is fulfilled. We have to clearly understand the Cosmic law behind cyclones, tidal waves, earthquakes, and such other phenomena. The phenomenon rightly understood is truth. But if it is not rightly understood you call it a miracle or a visitation. There are no miracles. There are only natural phenomena.
That the sun, the stars and the heavens do not fall on your head is a miracle to you. But science tells you why it is that such things do not happen. Once you understand this scientific law, it is no more a miracle. A cow walking on four legs, a man walking with two legs—neither is a miracle. A rustic, ignorant of the levels of the density and the pressure it exerts, is wonderstruck to see the aeroplane weighing tonnes of steel flying in the air. It is a miracle to him. But when you understand the laws of science, you do not consider it a miracle but a natural phenomenon. The pilot guides the plane through the different densities of the atmosphere. The levels are the density of forces, and when you reach a particular level you are able to operate that law and control that force. Different forces work at different levels of density. When the pilot is at a particular level of density, he can operate the force of that level. But he cannot operate that force from a lower level of density. Similarly, a low level of understanding cannot operate the law of the higher level. Hence, guidance must be given for the level at which guidance is asked for.
Another visitor: I would like to make a study of Indian philosophy and yoga in its many aspects.
Swamiji: I will suggest books which will take you months to read. After that you come to me again and we will discuss more on the subject.
Another Visitor: How to get into the practice of meditation? How does the natural process come?
Swamiji: Meditation is a natural process according to your capacity for understanding it. A cow cannot meditate on spiritual knowledge because the level of its intellect is low. And there is no such thing as natural thinking. You say, for instance, it is now daytime. But it is true only to you, for it is not day for everyone in the world. So, any thought is untrue once you begin to think in this “natural” way, as you put it. You cannot accelerate the working of Mulaprakriti. All its three characteristics – sattva, rajas and tamas – are working simultaneously, and you cannot distinguish one from the other. So when the mind works in the natural way, as you put it, it is really acting true to its own nature, because it is not taking you to the truth behind the thinking. Meditation counteracts this unnatural thinking of the mind, and the unnatural thoughts then cancel each other. The meditating mind is like a still lake. Because meditation is thinking a single thought, you can call meditation a natural process, in that sense.
Visitor: To quicken the result, cannot pressure be put upon the meditational process?
Swamiji: No. Only by education of the mind meditation can progress. It is not by pressure, by bringing your will to bear upon it that meditation can succeed. Because meditation is not an activity. It is an automatic adjustment with reality. Schools teach you only how to think properly. They educate you into the way of thinking correctly, clearly and purposefully. Now all this is only a directive for the child or student to think properly, and no student can be made to think faster or deeper by teaching itself with cramming knowledge. This must come from within the student himself.
Even so, meditation is only the process of educating the mind to think properly. The mind is habituated only to think in terms of body and ego, and not in terms of Truth. The mind is involved only in the personality, and cannot think beyond it. This way of thinking must be counteracted. This is what meditation does. It is “awakening” you to your own self and not a physical act of driving you to yourself. Hence, meditation is not tiring, it is an activity which leads you to your natural state or natural thinking, if you like to call it so. Externally meditation can be regarded as religion, internally it is concentration. Ultimately both the external religion and the internal concentration fuse together into a natural state or condition. That is the nature of samadhi.