(Spoken on July 14, 1990)
In our meditations, generally four kinds of thought operate. Firstly, there is the thought: I am meditating. Secondly, there is the thought: I am meditating on something. Thirdly, there is the thought: There is an operation of the mind called meditation. There is a fourth thought of the attempt to exclude what one does not want to think at that time. This fourfold operation of thought characterises the initial stages of meditation.
In the art of meditation, the first attempt on the part of the seeker would be to diminish the number of these thoughts by eliminating the outermost first, and gradually bringing the mind inward to its own centre. The outermost thought would be the thought that certain things have to be eliminated from the purview of our thinking: “I should not think certain things during my meditation.” Now, what are these things which we would not like to think in meditation? Mostly, this is a vague idea, and we cannot easily make a list of all the things that we would like to avoid in our meditations. Or, briefly, we may say that they are all those thoughts which do not correspond to the nature of the object of meditation. Inasmuch as making a list or computerising these thoughts to be eliminated is not easy in a purely objective fashion, we may take to another recourse of seeing what thoughts we would like to entertain in regard to the object of meditation. And are there other thoughts intruding into our mind which do not essentially pertain to the nature of the object of meditation?
Here also you will find a little difficulty. In the same way as listing unwanted thoughts is not easy, listing positive thoughts in harmony with the nature of the object of meditation would also be a little difficult, because what are the thoughts that arise in your mind when you contemplate your great ideal, the object?
The first thought that would arise is that the object of your meditation is the dearest, the most beloved, and there is nothing in the world comparable to that object. But if there are things in the world with which you can compare other things as higher or lower, that is a thought that has to be eliminated. The thought is that the object of meditation is incomparable, and any other thought that the object is subject to such comparisons is to be abandoned. Now, why is the object of meditation incomparable? It is because you have somehow or other convinced yourself that this object is divine in its nature. Not only is it inclusive of all your aspirations, but the fulfilment of your longings can be seen in that concentrated point which is your object of meditation. This is why we call it Ishta-devata: my beloved object, my deity.
You must understand what you mean by saying ‘beloved', ‘dearest'. There are many things in the world which you like very much, but the beloved is not simply what you like. There are many desirable things in the world, but they are not to be considered as beloved. The beloved is incomparable, it is only one, and it cannot be more than one; otherwise, this devotion to the object would be what is called vyabhicharini bhakti. Vyabhicharini means deviating from the centre or the promise given. It is divided devotion. Divided devotion is not reliable devotion. It will be, finally, a kind of hypocrisy that is engaged in by the mind. All your longings are to be seen as being fulfilled in that Ishta-devata.
What are your longings? Your longings are the multi-nature of your desires. Let them be multiple, but they will be seen here. Do you not see all the rivers in the ocean? If you take a bath in the sea, you are veritably taking a bath in all the rivers of the world. In a similar manner, you may convince yourself that an object of your meditation is a symbol of inclusiveness, while all other things in the world are exclusive in their nature.
All objects in the world exclude one from the other. One is different from the other. The object of meditation is not different from anything, because all the things that you may think of as existing anywhere in creation are to be found in that concentrated spot. It is a miniature inclusiveness of cosmic existence. It is not only inclusiveness, it is capable of responding to your call. It is intelligent, all-knowing; it is a veritable incarnation of God Almighty. The conviction that all things can be found in this object of meditation is pre-eminently important. If the mind oscillates and feels that there are also other things which have some kind of value, they will be the source of your distraction. You have to know that all the values of the world are not only subservient to this supreme value that you recognise in the object of meditation, but the values of the world are actually not values. They are not merely lesser values; they are a negation of value, really speaking.
The relativity that characterises things makes their substantiality void. Nothing exists in this world by itself. An independent existence of anything is actually inconceivable. There is a relatedness of things in their character; everything hangs on something else for its subsistence. You cannot cognise or perceive anything in the world without distinguishing it from something else. If there is not something other than what you are seeing, that object that is seen will not be cognised. Also, the qualities that you see in objects are perceived by differentiation, division and elimination.
Therefore, independently, substantially, nothing can be regarded as self-existent. The relativity of things completely destroys their assumed self-existence. This is to say that nothing really exists in this world by itself. If that is the case, you cannot expect anything from anything. How can you expect any value to come to you from things which do not exist by themselves, which are hanging on something else? You cannot beg for things from a beggar; he must be capable of giving you something. But things in the world cannot offer you anything because they themselves exist due to certain things offered to them by other things in the world. This is the meaning of the relativity of objects.
By such analysis, we may try to get over all thoughts in the mind which intrude into our process of meditation, and again assert in our meditations that the ideal on which we are contemplating is a self-existing reality. It is not a related object. It is not related because it is inclusive of all things. The objects in the world are exclusive of other things whereas the chosen object, the Ishta-devata, is inclusive of all things. This is the difference between the other persons and things in the world and that which you have chosen as your Ishta-devata.
Hence, the objects, persons, things, ideas, etc., which are to be eliminated from the process of direct contemplation, are easily understood. They need not harass you anymore. They will not give you what you want because they have no substantiality in them and have the characteristic of being relative. And more than all that, even supposing that there are some values in the world, they are all to be found in that which you are asking for in your meditation.
This is the first step that we may take in our sessions. Eliminate distracting, extraneous, unrelated ideas by a philosophical and value-based judgment of things. When this is achieved after many sessions of meditation and thought of the ideal, you will have only three thoughts left: the idea of the object, the idea of yourself being there as a contemplating individual, and the notion that something is going on—namely, that meditation is going on.
If the object is dearest, you are not to be considered as equal to it, because if you are also dear to yourself, the object cannot be called the dearest. To what extent are you dear to your own self? That extent will diminish your love for the object of meditation. Two things cannot be best; no two things can be utterly beloved. Here is a conflict between yourself and the object of meditation. In the earlier stages, it was a conflict between external thoughts and the thought of meditation. Now it is something that boils down to the difference between yourself and what you have chosen as the best. Is it really the best Ishta? Do you love it entirely?
If you love it entirely and it is your God, the entirety of the love that is evinced in regard to the object of meditation abolishes all love not only for things outside, but even for your own self as an independent existence. The meditator loses the sense of love for himself; but more than that, at the same time, his very existence seems to be melting, gradually. A thing that you do not like does not exist for you. A thing that is not your beloved is not in your mind; it is out of your mind. This will also be the case in regard to your own self. I love my object, my deity, my ideal, my God so much that there is no love left after I have poured all my love upon that. There is not even a modicum left that I may centre it in regard to my own self. I have poured all my love on my ideal, so where is the love left for myself?
Then there is a gradual withering of the personality. The constituents of individuality gradually get dismembered, as it were. The parts of the body dissolve and lose their constitution and substantiality. Why does this happen? It is because concentration has moved from the self of the individual meditator to the object of meditation. “Am I not important? Am I so negligible?” may be questions that one may raise to one's own self. “Am I always to love others, and I am nobody?” This question should not arise because that which you are contemplating upon is not other than you. It is not somebody, it is everybody; it is all things. It is not something among many things; it is not somebody among many other bodies. And as you are also somebody, that somebody has to go, before that all-inclusive perfection.
It does not mean that you are not important, but your importance is enhanced by your identification with the importance that you recognise in your supreme object: I find myself in that which I love most. That kind of love is the supreme form of love of God. God-love is not object-love. It is not love of somebody or something. God is neither somebody, nor is He something. Your supreme object is not something that exists somewhere, nor is it calculable in terms of the difference between itself and others. It is all things, all values—which is to say, you also are included in all the values that are to be found in it. The meditator loses self-consciousness on account of the intense concentration on that object. But as long as you have some regard for your own self, intense love for the maintenance of this body and individual personality, somehow there is a fear that you are losing something that is worthwhile. Who would like to drown oneself? Even in the sea of God, drowning is horrible.
Hence, there is a desire suddenly coming as an impediment even here in the recognition of the most beloved form of the concept of God. Self-love is the greatest impediment. Nothing can be as harmful as that because self-love is ego-love. You are not loving the universal Self, but your personality self: this body, this mind, this related something. But in a well-conceived and analysed form of contemplation carried on with the deepest conviction of its supreme value, you will see yourself in that. You will not be losing yourself, as you fear, but you will be recognising yourself as a larger value than the value that you are now wrongly associating with yourself.
The original of every individual is in the heavens. We are shadows of our own personality, as philosophers tell us. Even these persons seated here are not real persons. They are shadows of their originality. That originality is in the heavens. That is the reason why, many a time, you feel very miserable about yourself. It is not true that you really love yourself. Sometimes you get fed up with your own self: “This wretched personality, let it go!” Why should you feel like that if it is the most beloved? Only when it is pampered does it look beloved. Otherwise, it gives you pricks now and then, taunts you, and tells you what it really is: “I am a shadow, my dear boy. You are not here. You are in the highest heavens.”
Every human individual actually extends to all the levels of creation. All the lokas mentioned in the Puranas and the epics are to be found in a miniature form in our own selves. The chakras of hatha yogis or kundalini yogis are only miniatures in our own personality of the cosmic existences of the worlds, realms, or lokas. Therefore, we are veritably cosmic in our nature.
Thus, in our meditations we are in a position to feel ourselves as present in the object of meditation. Actually, we should not call it an object. It is no more an object to us; it is a higher form of our own self. If a larger dimension of our self can be regarded as an object by our lower self, then we may also call God an object. The superior is higher than the inferior, but the superior is not necessarily outside the inferior. It is only a calculation of value, and not a real, objective perception. Therefore, the God-oriented thought is the thought of the higher Self of your own personality. Your own higher Self is being contemplated by the lower self, and because of the fact of the higher including the lower, it does not become difficult for you to merge your lower self in the higher because the higher includes the lower.
Then, what happens? You see only that which you have been contemplating upon. At that time we do not know whether we are thinking the object, or the object is thinking us—whether it is a contemplation of someone on something, or something is contemplating on someone. As the analogy goes, when there are two connected tanks filled with water up to the brim and they are on the same level, water flows between them from one tank to the other, and you do not know which water flows to which tank.
The externality of things prevents the mutual collaboration of values between oneself and the other. The object, so-called, has to be on a par with our own selves, and we have to be on a par with that object. If I am superior to the object or the object is superior to me, there will not be a correspondence between me and the object. There should be such a similarity of nature between me and the object I am contemplating upon that we can melt into each other. If there is the slightest difference between one and the other, they will not merge. They will stand separate.
This union of conscious Being—the union of the subjective consciousness with the very same consciousness existing as the so-called object outside—is called samadhi in yoga terminology. Samadhi means equilibration of consciousness. In our perceptions of the world, such equilibration does not take place. In most of our perceptions the balance tilts either on the objective side or on the subjective side. Either we love our own selves too much compared with other things, or we love other things too much compared with our own selves. A balance is very rarely seen between ourselves and the world outside. It is not easy to strike that balance, but as the world is a complete inclusiveness, this balance has to be struck in order that we may contact Reality, so to say. Reality is not exclusive of anything, as we have already mentioned; it is inclusive of all things, including your own self. This consciousness of unity is samadhi; sometimes it is also called samapatti.
The gradations of this union also are to be considered so that we may know what is actually ahead of us. We cannot always know what is laid for us in our future. In the earliest of stages, everything seems to be clear. We have come to a holy place, a meditation hall in an ashram; we are in the proper mood of contemplation, and everything is fine. But it will not be fine always, because the suffering that the mind would feel when it is presented with some context or situation with which it cannot accommodate itself will cause it some kind of restlessness and agony. We will not know what is happening. The mind will say, “What are you doing to me? I was getting on well with things and persons, and all things in the world look beautiful. Now, what are you up to? What is the matter? Why are you sitting here and thinking something which is not my way?” But if we do not listen to this call and persist in our concentration, it will tell us, “I can no longer accommodate myself to this body. I shall bid goodbye to you.”
When it starts thinking in this manner, the pranas get agitated. There is a connection between the mind and the prana. At that time we feel tremors in the body; we will feel a kind of jerk in the whole physical personality in meditation. It is the non-accommodating response from the mind, communicated through the pranas to the body, that is responsible for this agitation, and we should not be carried away by this difficulty. It is a passing mood.
Whenever you pursue something which is not the usual habit of the lower nature of the mind, these kinds of difficulties will certainly arise. But, abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṁ tannirodhaḥ (Y.S. 1.12): These agitations of the mind, these vrittis as they are called, should be somehow or the other subdued by intense persistence, which cannot be possible unless you actually love that which you are asking for. If your love is half-hearted, if there is a doubt about God's benedictions upon you, if you do not know what is going to happen in your realisation of God, then the intensity will come down. If you are not sure that you are going to succeed, how will you wage a battle? If in the beginning you doubt whether you will win or not, then this kind of war is no war. You have to go with the confidence that you are going to win. Then the strength also emerges.
Unknown forces will enter into you by the confidence that you entertain in yourself. “I shall stand first in the exam, not second or third. Why should I not? I have studied well. Everything is clear to my mind. I have no doubt.” So also is the conviction that is required here. “Everything is very clear to me. I have chosen the right path. The object has been correctly chosen, and there is nothing wrong with me. I have adapted myself correctly to the nature of meditation. I shall succeed. I shall break this entanglement of personality consciousness. I hope to achieve God in this birth itself. Why should I take many births? What is wrong with me that I should take hundreds of births?”
Analyse yourself: Is something wrong with me? Go on making a list of your wrongs, if you have got any, and brush them aside by the conviction that there is no point in doing anything devious in this world, because of the fact that the world is not going to give you anything, not even a farthing. Such convictions will give you confidence, and it will not be merely a theoretical assertion that you shall attain it today, in this birth. It may be really possible. Yogis tell us that many births can be compressed into a single birth if the concentration is very intense. After all, births are not really physical; they are psychological. It is the mind that takes birth, so the bodily existence is not a real impediment to us. It is the mental existence that gives trouble. If all the potentialities in the mind which are causes of future births can be compressed into a process of intense concentration, many births can be passed through in one birth.
If hundreds of rose petals are kept one over the other, in an instant we can pass a needle through all the petals. It will look as if it has taken no time at all, but actually it has taken time to pass through every petal, one after the other. It is not an instantaneous action that has taken place, but the nature of the action was such that it appeared so. Similarly, we will pass through many births instantaneously, though actually we are passing through all the stages of all the births. We can also pass through all the joys and sorrows of all the future births in this birth itself. We need not enter into the mother's womb once again; that is not essential. We can mentally enter into the mother's womb and suffer all the agonies of future births, which is possible only if our concentration is very intense. When the potentials of future births get melted down, God can be realised in this birth itself.
The degrees of samadhi that I mentioned are actually correspondent with the degrees of the manifestation of the cosmos, which also can be traversed quickly if the concentration is very intense. There is the physical world of perception; there is the subtle world of the tanmatras—sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, gandha, as they are called; there is the mental world of cosmic existence; there is the intellectual world; there is the causal world; and there is the final Absolute, Brahman.
The degrees to which I made reference in our concept of God also apply to us in our process of meditation. Everyone has to pass through all these degrees. In the Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita, sometimes we are told that various stages have to be passed through until we reach God, especially when, as the scriptures tell us, we pass through the stages during the northern course of the sun—the uttaramarga, as it is called. Finally, after fourteen or fifteen stages of ascent, we reach Brahmaloka and the Supreme Brahman as is told us in the Bhagavadgita and the Upanishads. But these stages can also be considered as purely psychological, and may not necessarily take immense time in the natural process. It can be actually a traversing of the soul in the process of time. It is possible for us to take many births in order that we may get educated in the art of the love of God, but taking many births is not always essential.
Your feeling is your master. What you feel about yourself, that you really are. If you feel that you are nothing, that even before God you are a sinner, then you have already characterised yourself as something useless, so how would you become other than that? Why should you have such a wrongly conceived definition of yourself? What sin have you committed? You might have made some mistake due to ignorance, but now you are awakened. The errors that you commit in the dream state do not pursue you in the waking condition; otherwise, money that is borrowed in the dream world may have to be paid in the waking world. That is not necessary because the level of consciousness itself has changed. All that you have done, all you have gained and lost in the dream world does not affect you in the waking world. All the empires that you have experienced in the dream world do not harass you in the waking world. The death of your relatives in the dream world does not affect you in the waking world. So is the case with all the things that you did in this world; they will vanish in one second.
Be happy. Not only be happy that you are blessed in the ordinary sense of the term, but that you are going to achieve what you want to achieve in this birth itself. Do not say that you do not know whether it is possible for you or not. If you define yourself in such a foolish way, you will become exactly what you are defining yourself as. Always be positive, confident, and convince yourself that you are fit enough to place yourself before the altar of God. If you are fit to be a disciple of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, you are also fit to be a devotee of God.
So let there be a strenuous effort on your part every day to condition your mind in such a way that all your activities in this world, your performances, your duties in any walk of life, have a background of this fundamental thought of God-realisation. “Why am I going to a factory every day? Why do I work in the office? Why do I drudge on in a college or a school? Why do I pull a rickshaw? What is the matter with me? Why do I sell vegetables? Why do I have a business? It is because I want to realise God in this birth; otherwise, why should I have a business or do anything whatsoever?” You are not doing business for money's sake, but because you want to exhaust your prarabdha and wear out all the karmas of the past, and make yourself fit to stand before God, the Justice of the cosmos.
Therefore, there is nothing wrong with your duties in this world. Go on doing your work as before, whatever be your performance in any walk of life, because it is karma yoga. It is an action that is yoga by itself. It becomes yoga because it is a necessary step in the direction of God-realisation. Work is not a bondage; action cannot bind, na karma lipyate nare (Isa 2), if it is done as a yajna, the performance of a duty towards God. All your actions are worship of God. Work is worship; that is what is always said. How can work become worship unless it is actually dedicated to God? And if God is all-pervading, immanent in His nature, all that you do anywhere is seen by Him, and it is certainly to be offered to Him.
The world is not always a bondage. It is converted into a bondage by your wrong notion of it. Vairagya, renunciation, sannyasa—all these terms imply the renunciation of erroneous ideas that we have about the world and people. Sannyasa is not rejecting the world and people; it is rejecting this notion of yours which is incommensurate with the true nature of people, things, and the world outside. Mentally you can adjust yourself in this fashion and be a true devotee of God Almighty. May His divine grace be upon you all. May you realise Him in this very birth.