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The Call of Yoga is the Call of the Universal
by Swami Krishnananda

(Spoken on Swamiji's 56th birthday on April 25, 1978)

As human beings you cannot make others happy, and you cannot be happy yourself. But we have to go deeper still. Psychology is not everything, though it seems to be a very important aspect of study. What is it that determines the character of an individual? While we have tentatively concluded that human nature as a psychological unit determines social patterns of existence, we have now to understand how it is that the human mind thinks in the way it thinks. There must be something determining the very way of thinking itself. We have an idea of what is good for us. How does this idea arise in our minds? Who put this idea into our heads? How was this idea implanted in our being?

Now we go deeper into a field which is not visible to the eyes, perhaps not even included in the field of the study of psychology. We go to a section of study, a field of analysis and research which usually goes by the name of philosophy – a poor word indeed which cannot connote all that we are intending to convey, but which points to the necessity to study human nature in a perspective which is wider than what is comprehended in psychological studies. Here begins the role of yoga, and this is why yoga is so necessary for us. It tells us where we stand; the answer to the 'why' of a thing comes from the system of yoga. While science can tell us how things work, it cannot tell us why things work in the way they do.

The 'why' is a difficult thing for us to comprehend, but yoga is the answer. If we are thinking in a particular pattern, say the three-dimensional pattern of thinking to which we are shackled, unfortunately for us, it is because we are placed in a world of space, time and causal relationships.

We are now placing our foot in forbidden lands almost, not accessible to science and not visible to the naked eye of the human individual. We think in the way we think merely because of the setup which can be called spatiotemporal. It is a familiar term, but it is difficult to understand the meaning behind it. What is this spatiotemporal structure in which the individual seems to be placed?

The spatial context is the three-dimensional context. We can think only in terms of length, breadth and height. There is no other way of thinking. Even with the farthest stretch of imagination, we can think nothing else but length, breadth and height. This is what we call the three-dimensional way of thinking. But yoga tells us that this is not the only possible way of thinking, though perhaps it is the only one available to us at present, limited as we are to the space-time setup.

It will be very interesting indeed to go a little deeper into this subject. This space-time complex weighs so heavily upon our minds that we are almost its slaves. We are not masters, as we imagine ourselves to be. We are forced to think only in a particular manner. We may say we are brainwashed by space-time. It compels us to think only in this way. We think in this way and no other way. Everything is quantitative. This is one way of thinking. When we think anything, for the matter of that, it means that we think of it in terms of a quantity. It is a measure with length, breadth and height. Even if we think of a minute particle as small as an electron, we cannot think of it except as a little dust which has a small dimension. This is the thinking in terms of quantity.

The second aspect is the thinking in terms of quality. Every quantity has a quality. It has a character. There is a way of defining it. It has an attribute, a relationship. This is how we think quantitatively, whether something is large or small.

The third way of thinking is relation. Everything is related to something else. Either it is positively connected or negatively connected. We cannot define any object without relating it to something else. When we say grass is green, we mean that this particular thing called grass is of the colour which is different from what is not green. If non-green things do not exist, green things cannot be seen. A cow cannot be seen unless there are non-cows, etc. This is only to give a broad idea of what a definition ultimately is. Every definition is qualitative, and this definition is given by abstraction of characters by relationships with other objects; and if something external does not exist, definition is impossible. So this is a third limitation on our minds. Everything is taught in terms of relationship, definition, abstraction from externals.

The fourth limitation on our mind is what is called thinking in terms of conditions or modes. Everything is in one state. You are in one condition, I am in another condition, X, Y, Z is something else, being in another condition. Everything is in a particular state, susceptible to change into another state, etc.

So there are only four ways of thinking: thinking in terms of quantity, quality, relation and mode. Now, this limitation is imposed on our minds by the peculiar setup of space and time. This is a third aspect yoga studies, apart from the aspect of society and human nature as psychological unit, the relationship of the human individual to nature as a whole. We are a part of nature, not merely a part of the family or the human society in this world. We do not pay sufficient attention to this aspect, unfortunately. We always think in terms of our little families – our father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, etc. If we are a little more generous, we think of our community, the nation, and the best thinking possible is what we call the international way of thinking. But what is the international way of thinking? It is the human way of thinking only. We do not think of animals, etc. We think only of people, human beings. We are not concerned with anything other than the human being, even when we think of the United Nations Organisation or the greatest thing conceivable. So we as human beings think only of human beings, nothing more, nothing less.

But the world does not contain only human beings, and it is also doubtful whether the human being is the best of all items available in the world. There may be things better than human nature which are not visible to us, not intelligible to our minds, but are conditioning even our very existence, like rays emanating from cosmic existence. Today our modern thinkers refer to cosmic rays and other rays emanating from stellar systems and regions of nebulae, etc., whose existence is only a name for us; but to what extent they determine our existence here, nobody can understand. Perhaps we can be blown out of existence in one second if these forces begin to work. With all our efforts here we will land ourselves in nothing.

There is a universal setup of things beyond the natural forces definable in terms of science. So what is mankind? What is man? What is the human individual? We first thought that he is one drop in the ocean of human society. Then we came to the conclusion that this drop is very important because it is the totality of the drops that makes the whole called society. Then we are led to the more advanced conclusion that even the human individual cannot be self-determining because the individual is controlled by forces which are spatiotemporal, natural, and far beyond the reach of human thought and understanding. The last step that we take is the understanding of a universal principle in the individual.

Our restlessness of any kind, the insecurity that we feel in life, the unhappiness to which we are subject, whatever be the nature of that unhappiness, is all due to the working of the universal in us as particulars. There is something in us which tells us, “Something is wrong with you, my dear friend. You are pursuing a will-o'-the-wisp, a phantasmagoria, under the impression that you are all-in-all.”

You are not all. You have sides and aspects in you which reach beyond yourself, and the call of the Universal in you is the restlessness that is felt in your mind. If you cannot sleep happily at night, if you do not know what will happen to you tomorrow, and if you are anxious about your future, all this is because of the working of a secret power within you from which you are not really separable. You are a particular unit of a universal setup in a more real sense than the fact of your being a unit in human society or in any other conceivable whole to which you may belong. Here comes the great clarion call of yoga. You are not a perishable, mortal, physical body merely, though in your ignorance you may think you are such.

The law of the conservation of energy tells us that nothing can ultimately be destroyed. There can be transformation of nature or character, but annihilation is unthinkable. Death is a misnomer finally for yoga. What we call death or destruction is the subject becoming aware of a field beyond its local measure, to which it also belongs and where it has a duty of its own. Every change, every transmutation or mutation, physical or otherwise, is a tendency of the individual to transcend itself into the reality to which it belongs and which it is essentially. The only word we can use to define this reality, which the individual ultimately is, is the Universal.

What is the Universal? It is that indescribable something which is the common denominator behind all individuals. This is the reason why we have the impulse to do good to people. Otherwise, wherefrom does this impulse come? Why should we work for the welfare of people if that universal element is not present in us? There is a common principle working in all creation, not merely in human nature. Even subhuman species, all that we call the entire panorama of nature, is guided by a single law, and that law is the reason behind the feeling of oneself for another – the affection that we feel, the love that we evince, the connection that we wish to establish with others, and the infinitude that we wish to achieve in our personal and public life.

There is an endlessness before us. If we need something, we want it endlessly. Suppose we have a little requirement. We would prefer to have it as much as possible, whether it is happiness, or a salary, or a status, or even long life. How long do we want to live in the world? As long as possible, without limit. If it is ten thousand years, it is very good. We would like to live for ten thousand years, or crores of years. There is no limit for this desire. Everything that we require ultimately hangs on limitlessness because of the fact that a limitless being is working behind us, of which we are only phenomenon.

Hence, the call of yoga is the call of the Universal. The yoga practice, beginning with the physical exercises that we perform, is nothing but an adjustment of our personality to the requirement of this Universal law which operates in every field of life including the physical, the bodily.

Thus it is that we are placed in a very happy atmosphere by the Creator of this universe. We have to be happy in our minds that there is something great beckoning us from behind as well as from the front. The ultimate goal of all of us is success and not failure. We are never going to fail. We always are after victory. Jaya is our motto. Triumph is our heritage. Defeat should be unknown to us. Nature never gets defeated; it always succeeds, and if we are inseparable from nature, victory is our birth-right. There is no question of defeat or setback. Positivity is the law of life. Unhappiness is unknown to us. Sorrow, unhappiness, a sense of defeatism is born of the ignorance of these values and a subscribing of oneself to the lower values of life, the selfish centres which sometimes begin to operate due to the limitation of our outlook merely to the physical body and its physical needs.

Yoga takes us beyond the limits of mere human perception, and it tells us that our human outlook is only an insignia of an omniscience that is our ultimate heritage, being immortal units of the reality which is the centre and the heart of all creation. We belong to all, and everything belongs to us. Perhaps the universe is a tremendous democratic setup where each is for everyone else and everyone is for everyone else. Everything is ours, and we are everyone else's.

Everything is our duty. It is a duty because it is a right. They are not separable. When the law of nature begins to work, when the principle of Universality begins to guide our life, rights and duties commingle and become one single act, while in our ordinary life they appear to be two different things. Rights are not the same thing as duties, but here they are identical; there is no difference, because we do not stand outside this law. When law operates from the outside, it looks like a limiting force, sometimes annoying us and making us unhappy. But when we are set in tune with the law, we are the determiner of the law and we wield the law. Obedience to law is happiness; violation of law is sorrow. Why should we violate the law when we are inseparable from the workings of the law, when the law is working through us and our very existence is due to the existence of the law?

Thus, yoga makes us dutiful citizens, good administrators and most unselfish individuals working not only for one's own self, because one's own self does not exist in the scheme of creation. It is a myth. There is no such thing as 'me'. What exists is a universal purpose, a common good. When this is the great reality to which we are awakened by the system of yoga, why should not humanity live in peace? Why should not international solidarity be a reality? Why should not God descend into this world?

This is to give you a short outline of the great heritage before us, the legacy that has been handed down to us by our ancient masters, the great seers who could see through things and not merely see things as we see. We must be happy because we are blessed and a great fortune of positive victory is ahead of us. God bless you.