How Pressurised Layers of Various Textures Constitute Life's Circumstances
by Swami Krishnananda
(Spoken on April 14th, 1973)
To a large extent, it may be said that our perceptions are our problems. This is the seed of our difficulties, which expands itself later on into a large banyan tree of complications after complications. We do not, at the present state of affairs, have time enough to delve deeply enough into this mystery of the central problem of our life.
The common man on the street, the villager, the farmer, the businessman, and those who are engaged in the thick of life have a philosophy of their own that all problems are from circumstances that are external to us, from people outside, from the world that is beyond us. Our problems may be due to unfavourable conditions prevailing outside, difficult people with whom we have to live, injustice that is being meted out to us by others, and so on. We can frame the links of the chains of our difficulties on circumstances beyond our control.
Today we will discuss why it is that circumstances are beyond our control. How is it that we have become puppets under their thumb? Why do we sob and look helpless, as if we are weighed down by a heavy machine which is absolutely relentless and seems to be constituted in such a way that we have neither a knowledge of it, nor any power over it? What do we mean by ‘circumstance'? This question has to be answered before we can know whether we have any control over it, whether we have any say in the matter. This is partially a psychological problem, and partially a highly philosophical concept.
The circumstances in which we live are made up of various pressurised layers. We know the atmosphere of the Earth is made up of various layers of air pressure. The nearer we come to the Earth, the greater is the pressure of the atmosphere due to the gravitational force of the Earth. The higher we go from the Earth, the more sparse the forces of the atmosphere become. The air pressure, as we call it, becomes less and less as we go higher and higher, to give an example as to what we mean by a layer of pressurised or compressed frame of reference.
But the pressurised layers of our circumstances in life are constituted a little differently from the geological or the geographical layers of the physical atmosphere of the Earth. The isothermal or geological layers are easy to understand because they are physical, observable, and capable of being subjected to scientific analysis, but the pressurised circumstances are not so easily analysable. We cannot analyse our circumstances so easily as we do material objects. Life is different from physical science, and life cannot be subjected to any kind of observation available to physical science.
Why is it so? In what way does the condition of human life differ from the conditions prevailing in the physical world of natural forces? Why is it that in spite of towering achievements in physical science and the physical fields of life we are morally miserable and psychologically depressed, melancholy, moody and unhappy? This itself is proof enough to tell us that the conditions of life that govern our various experiences are incapable of being approached by the means available in the physical fields of science. Physical scientists have led us along the wrong path while telling us that life is capable of being subjected to physical laws. If our life's conditions and circumstances could have been made objects of analysis like the objects of physical science, naturally we would have controlled all the circumstances of our life as we are trying to control physical forces. Unfortunately for us, the way of physical science is inapplicable to the conditions that govern our innermost experiences.
What these experiences, conditions or circumstances which make up our life are is the theme that we are contemplating today. As I mentioned, to put it precisely, our circumstances, our conditions of life, are a pressurised layer of different textures. We know what a texture is, what a layer is, and what pressure is. Pressurised layers of different textures constitute life's circumstances.
Now, it has a variegated texture, it consists of various layers, and there is pressure. These three points we have to bear in mind. The pressure has come due to various layers being there, and the layers are there because of the variety of textures. The constitution of an object, a substance, varies according to the difference in the texture or makeup of the object. When layers after layers of the very same substance are piled up one over the other, they create a circumstance of pressure. These pressurised circumstances are, therefore, ultimately due to a variety of textures of the substance out of which the conditions are made. We have to go very carefully into this mystery, and very slowly, because nothing can be more difficult than to study what pertains to our own selves.
We have a peculiar faculty called the mind, whose function is to think, to understand, to collate and associate ideas, and to determine the character of anything that is presented before it. This is to explain the function of the mind, not to explain what the mind really is by itself. As we study it today, psychology is mostly a study of the behaviour of the mind, the way in which the mind works. But the mind, apart from what it does, is also something by itself. This is what is known as the texture of a substance. The texture of something is that out of which it is constituted or made, which is different from the functions it performs. We cannot be identified with what we do. We perform various activities daily, but we are not the activities. We cannot say that we are the same as what we do or perform. We know by mere common sense that we are something by ourselves other than the actions we perform or the activities we are engaged in. Likewise, the functions of the mind are not identical with what the mind is by itself. So when psychologists tell us what the mind does, they are merely sidetracking us, not telling us the truth of the matter. What is meant by the word ‘mind'? Unless we know that, we cannot benefit much by knowing what it does. This is an important matter that we may have to study before we study human life, or circumstances as a whole.
The mind is, perhaps, the principal faculty in us. We are what the mind is. The functions of the mind control our behaviour and our circumstances to such a degree that we are inseparable from what the mind does, or perhaps what the mind is. We are the mind itself. When the mind is in order, we are one thing; when it is not in order, we are something else. When the mind works in one form, one way, one manner, we are said to be one kind of personality, one type of human individual; when our mind works in a different manner, we become a different kind of human individual.
Hence, our essentiality, from the empirical point of view at least, entirely depends upon what the mind does and what the mind is. We may safely say, to a very large extent, that mind is man and man is mind. The study of the mind is perhaps the study of man, and the variety of human individuality can be explained by the variety of the functions of the mind. It is not merely that minds work differently in different persons; even in the same person the mind can work differently under different conditions. We will become a different person tomorrow than what we are today merely because our mind has started working differently tomorrow. We can become a different person, for all practical purposes, when we start thinking differently. Someone may ask us, “Why have you become like that today, my dear friend? Yesterday you told me this, and today you are telling me something else.”
“I don't know. My mind has changed,” will be our simple answer. We cannot say why our mind has changed, but it is enough to know that when the mind has changed, we have changed. Therefore, we are the mind.
If we are the mind, and the mind seems to control us as well as tell upon all that we experience in our life, nothing could be more profitable than to study the mind because that would be an introduction to the study of the entire life of the human individual. We always keep ourselves very busy under false pretexts so that we do not find time to think about the deeper complexity of our own nature, to contemplate over the mysteries of our own existence, and to be in a position to explain to our own selves what is happening within us.
Most, if not all, of our experiences are projections of what is happening within us. The conditions of life that we observe outside in social and physical life are refracted forms, projected sequences of the ideas that occur in our own mind without our knowing what is happening to us. The mind has a peculiar habit of spontaneously projecting itself upon the screen of space and time outside. Inasmuch as this activity of the mind is spontaneous and takes place without any effort on our part, we cannot know that it takes place at all. We become helpless in the study of these mysteries of our life because the activity of the mind is spontaneous, without any effort on our part. The moment we think, we think only in terms of the projection that has taken place. There is no other way of thinking.
How does this take place? How could we be projected into space and time outside? We are not made up of physical, hard matter like brick or granite. We are made up of the very ethereal personality which is the psychological stuff of our individuality. To reiterate, we are the mind. We are made up of mind. We are made up of what the mind is made of, and the mind is not capable of being equated with any hard substance, such as stone.
If we very carefully analyse our personality or individuality, we will find that we are made up of various types of psychological fabric. They look hard and substantial on account of the thickness of the pressure, as mist can appear as a hard substance when layers of mist are piled one over the other. Even the clouds—how thick they look, how hard! They create a friction, thunder and lightning which can break even a building. Such is the capacity of even invisible, intangible and ethereal substances such as vaporised water, which is, after all, what we call clouds.
In a similar manner, we may say, impressions of perception—samskaras, as they are called in Sanskrit—are created by the mind's perception of objects, which cannot be called substantial at all in any intelligible way. How can we call a psychological impression a hard substance? But it is not a hard substance in the same way as vaporised water is not a hard substance. Clouds are mere vapour. We cannot touch them with our fingers. We will feel nothing there, but they are so thick and dark that they can completely cover the brilliance of the sun. Something which is intangible, ethereal and has no substantiality whatsoever can block the sun completely, can shower water over our head and even produce lightning bolts and thunder.
The hardness, the substantiality and the tangibility of an object are also psychologically explained. The difficulty of this explanation lies in the fact that we have somehow or other identified our mental substance with the layers it has produced by way of impressions of perception. Truly speaking, what we call our personality, that which we see today before our physical eyes, is nothing but this pressurised layer of impressions of perception. They are not hard substances. The body itself is not a hard substance. It looks hard like the clouds, while it really is not hard. The tangibility of an object is not the proof of its solidity. We regard the body and our related things as hard substances because of what we call the sense of touch. We say, “I touch it and it feels hard, so it has substantiality.”
The substantiality or the hardness of an object, therefore, depends upon the tangibility of our tactile sense. So it has, after all, come to a sensation. Are we going to judge the truth of a substance by the sensations it produces? We say, “I have a sensation of solidity, and therefore it must be solid.” Our conclusion is baseless, untenable and unfounded, but we have nothing but sensations in the world. Perhaps this is the reason why the great Buddha declared that everything is merely sensation, and nothing is substantial. Buddhist philosophy never believes in anything substantial, solid or existent. Everything is a momentary flow of samskaras, a flow of ideas.
The substantiality of an object is, really speaking, a conclusion that we arrive at due to a reaction that something sets up when we seem to be coming in contact with it through our tactile sense. What is the tactile sense? This, again, is difficult to explain. It is only a force that is generated by our body. There are five kinds of forces which our body, our entire personality, generates. It is not actually a set of five forces, but one force working in five ways. When it operates through the nervous system, it produces a reaction of a particular kind, and it is this reaction that we call tangibility. It is purely a psychological reaction.
If you have ever received an electric shock by accidentally touching a live wire—a plug that is open, for example—you will not be able to explain or even remember what you felt at that time because it will vanish in a moment. You will have an experience which is inexplicable. You will not know whether you are alive or dead. It will appear as if you are crushed by a heavy weight or are lifting a heavy weight with your hand, as if some ten tons of load are hanging on your hand while there is no load at all. I am giving a homely example as to how we can be deluded by our own reactional experiences into a belief of what is not really there. Merely because we have an electrical shock, we have an experience of holding a heavy weight while we are holding nothing in our hand.
Similar is the experience of any kind of touch. When we touch a table, we are not touching a table; we are touching only a set of forces which produce a reaction like the electric energy running through the live wire. It is not so powerful as the live wire, and therefore it does not feel the same, but electric forces are present everywhere. We may call these forces by any other name, but I call them electric because they produce an instantaneous jerking reaction.
A set of forces produces a set of reactions in respect of another set of forces which come in contact with them, and this reaction it is that we call tangibility. The hardness of the substance is like the weight that we feel when we get an electric shock. The weight is there when the object is not there. Similarly, the sense of touch also deceives us by a feeling introduced into our mind that there is a hard world before us. The world, the object, the solidity of personalities and substances are illusions created in our entire personality by a collocation of various sets of circumstances which cannot be easily explained, and our mind has got involved in them to such an extent that it has mistaken its own sensations for realities.
To come back to what I mentioned a few minutes before, our experiences are nothing but our projections outside. We have two kinds of projection: psychological and sensory. The sensory projections are the causes of our belief in the solidity, substantiality and variety of objects, and the psychological projections are responsible for our feeling that everything that happens, happens only outside, while it is not true that everything is happening merely outside. Psychological reactions, the reactions or projections of our mind, are responsible for our notion that all events are only outside in the world, that nothing happens inside us—which is a false belief—while, on the other side, we are deluded by the sensory reactions giving us an idea of the solidity and substantiality of things. So it is that we believe in a world of existence.
Such a world exists before us. “Oh, the world is terrible.” We cry and curse about the way in which the world has been created by God. Why has He created such a world? These ideas arise on account of the confusion in our way of thinking. It is a muddle that has been created. We do not know when it started. The origin of it is unknown, and also there is no need to go into the depths of it to find its origin. We cannot find out where it started because when we start to find the ultimate cause of these phenomena, we will find that we have to find the cause of our own existence first. Many a time, when we investigate into the nature of a theft, we accuse all persons—our servants, our associations, our relations; finally, we find that the theft has been committed by our own son, and we hold our tongue afterwards. We do not speak. We keep quiet. Likewise, when we go very deep into their texture, all these phenomenal experiences of our problems which appear to have been rooted in other persons and outside events will be found to be rooted in our own selves.
Now we come to the point of the texture of our experience or circumstances. I mentioned that textures produce layers, layers produce pressures, and our personality is nothing but these pressures. The texture of our experience is a very important subject of study. What is it made of? What do we mean by ‘an experience'? It is, we may safely say, made up of a mutual reaction of space-time phenomena outside, and mental conditions inside. All our experiences are of this kind, without any exception. For example, when a beautiful object is before us, we say, “How beautiful it is!” What do we mean by ‘beauty'? Why does it look beautiful? It is due to a reaction that is set up by two sets of circumstances. The condition of our mind and the placement of a set of circumstances outside together produce a vision in our mind which goes by the name of beauty. Both the sides should fit in properly; only then can there be a perception of beauty. As a matter of fact, there is no such thing as beauty by itself. It does not exist. It is only a condition that has been produced by a reaction of two sets of circumstances, two sets of forces, we may say. It is a very interesting subject by itself, the study of aesthetics. I give this example to point out that all our experiences are products of external space-time background and internal psychological activity.
Or, to give another example, what is a cinematographic projection? What is a cinema? It is also a set of two factors joined together working in front of us—a screen that is there, and certain shadows that are cast from behind by the projection caused by the passing of light through a film. The film should be there, the light rays should pass through the film, and the screen also should be there. If one of these things is absent, we will not have the cinema. If either the film or the screen is not there, then there will be no picture.
This world is something like a cinema in that way. There is a projection from inside upon a screen that is outside. But when we watch a cinema, we see neither the film nor the screen. We see something else altogether—not the film, not the light rays, not the screen. We combine the two factors into a new thing, a third thing altogether, and then say, “Oh, this is wonderful!”
Our experiences are neither purely the conditions as they are in our mind, nor purely the external screen. The screen is not seen by us, just as in a cinema we do not see the screen because if we see the screen we cannot enjoy the cinema. If we look at the projector, what do we see? Nor can we enjoy the show if we concentrate our mind on the screen only. If we go on gazing at the screen, we will not enjoy the picture; nor will we enjoy it if we look behind us at the projector. The world does not exist either when we go deep into ourselves, or when we go deep into the world outside. The world will cease to exist, as the cinema show will stop for us when we look at only the film or only the screen. But when we see neither the film nor the screen, there is a show.
We neither see ourselves properly, nor do we see the world properly, so there is what we call a conglomeration of complicated experiences. For this simple reason, we are caught up in a set of circumstances over which we have no control. We have deliberately entered into this mire of experience because we want to enjoy experiences. There are only two ways to solve this riddle: either we go deep within ourselves, or we go deep without, into the world. We touch the bottom of things either externally or internally. These are the ways of meditation.
Meditations, thus, can be grouped into two types or categories: the external meditations and the internal meditations. These meditations have the power to break through the pressurised layers of our personality, just as when we project a powerful ray of light we can see through the clouds. We can see through the mist if the light is powerful enough. The concentrated mind in meditation is like a forceful jet of light that we cast upon these sets of circumstances upon which we are meditating for the sake of piercing through them.
As I mentioned, just as the sun is covered by clouds, the real truth is covered by these layers of our personality. The layers are cosmical as well as individual. We need not go into the details of the cosmical and individual layers. Vedanta calls them the sheaths, the koshas, etc.—the annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya, anandamaya koshas subjectively, which have their cosmical counterpart as Virat, Hiranyagarbha, etc., a different subject by itself. These layers are, therefore, subjective or objective, macrocosmic or microcosmic. These layers—the annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya, anandamaya koshas—are not like five shirts that we put on, one over the other. We may be under the impression they are five kinds of shirts or sheaths, like a scabbard into which we thrust our sword. No. The five layers of personality are called the five sheaths. One enters the other, one seeps into the other, one slowly fades away into the other, one is connected with the other. Rather, we may say it is only one kosha with five different densities or pressures, like air pressure. It is not five different airs that we see, but the same air in different densities.
The five koshas, the five layers of our personality, are five types of density of the samskaras produced by our mind through ages of our perception of objects. That is why I said we do not know when it started. Anadi—beginningless is this mystery. We have passed through many births and many deaths, we have lived through many lives, and in every life the only activity we do is to frame impressions of perception and thicken the personality, increase the number of layers, and thus also increase the pressure. We feel heavily laden, weighed down by suffering and inexplicable difficulties on account of our involvement in this pressure of the layers of our personality. We are deep within a lustrous substance.
Though I said that we are the mind—man is mind and mind is man—this is only a manner of speaking. There is something deeper than the mind. Even the mind is like a cloud over what we really are. While the layers of our personality are like clouds over the psychic centre that we are, even the psychic personality, the psychic centre in us, is like a cloud covering the essentiality of our being, which is the sun that is within us, which is the intelligence that is within us. It is this intelligence that has to get roused so that we may pierce through the veil of these layers of our personality and attain what we call Self-realisation.
What is Self-realisation? I will give an example. Suppose the sun is covered by clouds. Imagine that the clouds are so thick that they are very near the sun, and also imagine that the sun identifies himself with the clouds and begins to feel, “I am dark. I cannot see.” If such a circumstance could be imagined, that is what has happened to us. Our deepest essence has got mixed up with these layers of samskaras, or perceptional impressions, created by repeated activity of the mind in the form of perceptions for ages and ages through the metempsychosis under which we have been suffering, and today what has happened is that we have become the clouds ourselves, and the sun has forgotten his lustrous nature. We are no longer the sun that we were. We are only a bundle of clouds that are so thick. The sun is completely buried under the clouds so that the sun is non-existent, as it were, for all practical purposes. Consciousness has got buried in matter. It has gone further still into a worse condition. It has identified itself not merely with this bodily material existence, but it has gone deeper, further, into a state of aberration by identifying itself with relatives, friends, sons, daughters, husband, wife, and so on. That is worse still than the identification of the consciousness with the body. So we are in a very unfortunate state of affairs, very unfortunate indeed. Consider how bad our condition would be if we had to forget our own selves, then lose ourselves in what we are not, and then identify ourselves further still by externalising ourselves into attachments and aversions in respect of other persons and things.
First of all, there is the covering of consciousness with the clouds of these pressurised layers of samskaras. This is what is called the covering of the Atman by the sheaths of the personality. But the drama does not end there. Something else happens. Do you know something worse has happened to you? You are not merely aware that you are a body; that is not merely what has happened. If only the clouds had been covering the sun and the sun had identified himself with the clouds, then the notion would be, “I am the clouds. I am the body.” But this is not simply what has happened, though it is bad enough. “This is mine. This is not mine. He is my friend. This is my fatal enemy.” These ideas are further descents of consciousness into a worse form of circumstances. While the idea that you are the body is sufficient to take you to perdition, matters have become worse by the identification of bodily relations with other persons and things.
Therefore, in meditation you have to take a right-about turn from the circumstances you have been involved in, as it is intelligible to you just now under your nose. Think of what has happened to you until now, and from that given condition of your mind and consciousness at this moment of time, you have to retrace your steps gradually. There is no use merely closing the eyes and meditating. You will get nothing out of it because you must know, first of all, what has happened to you. Otherwise, how will you meditate? It is like taking some medicine from the chemist shop merely because you are sick, without knowing which medicine is necessary. If you go and grab something from the chemist shop and swallow it, that will not do. What has happened to you? Analyse this a little bit. “This is my illness. My disease is of this specific character, and I may require this specific type of treatment.” That is the meditation into which you are to be initiated. Though everyone has to take medicine when ill, it is not the same medicine because all are ill in different ways. Similarly, the methods of meditation will not be identical for every seeker or every sadhaka, though it is true that everyone has to meditate.
Your attachments and aversions are the first things to be studied. When you try to meditate, your duty would not be to first think of some unknown God as the Creator of the world, of Whom you can frame no idea in your mind. You cannot form the idea of God in your mind when you have subtle attachments for the objects of the world. All the while you will be denying that you have attachments, but you do have them. It is one of the tricks of the mind to keep you from succeeding in meditation. You will always think that you are all right, because otherwise you will succeed. The mind does not want you to succeed, so you always assert that you are all right.
There is no use in patting yourself on the back. When you are ill, when you are weeping inside with a deep sorrow, what is the use of smiling outside? “My dear friend, how are you?” This smile will not do. You are grieving at heart. You are sinking down in grief, so be honest to yourself. This honesty to oneself is self-analysis. Everyone has to find a little time for self-analysis. “What is happening to me? Why was I like this a few minutes before? Why did I speak these words? Why did these ideas come to my mind? What do I gain by these thoughts? What betterment have I brought about by entertaining these ideas? And finally, are the notions that I have framed in my mind justified? Are they logically tenable from the point of view of my ultimate good?” This is how to start self-analysis.
Hence, as I mentioned, the first and foremost thing in meditation would be to find out if you have attachments of any kind. Are you tied down to any centre of objects? Have you secret cravings? Have you emotional relationships? Are you agonised inside, in your inner subconscious personality? Are you weeping inside? This is what you have to ask your own self. You may be looking all right outside. As I mentioned, you may be smiling outside while weeping inside. You must smile inside. Then only can you start meditation. If you are crying inside, that will not do because only a healthy personality can meditate. A sick mind, a set of sickened emotions, cannot sit for meditation.
Therefore, the first thing would be to make your personality healthy, positive, constructive, and relevant to the great goal that you have set before yourself. Have you subtle attachments of any kind? There are two kinds of attachments: sensory and egoistic. Purely sensory attachments are connected with the senses. But sometimes the attachments are purely egoistic. You may be clinging to your own position, authority, ijat, as it is called. That is also attachment, but it is not sensory; it is purely psychological. We may be under the impression that we are free from attachments merely because we do not have sensory cravings, but egoistically we may be swelled up like a balloon. Both are equally bad. Sensuality and egoism are two sides of the same defect of our nature. When we overcome one thing, we get into the clutches of another thing. Maya will catch us from both sides. It will give one blow from this side, and if we go that side it will give another blow. Hence, ego and sense are the two sides of attachment.
While it is difficult to know if we have sensory attachment, it is more difficult to know if we have egoistic attachment because we may be under the impression that we are free from it. Sometimes we are tested by God Himself or by our own prarabdha. We are rubbed hard. When we are rubbed hard, we can know whether there is ego or not. Otherwise, nobody has ego. Everybody's ego seems all right because we are all wonderful people sitting here. Who has got ego here? But if we scratch a man, we will know the ego.
Well, these are very essential factors we have to bear in mind. We should not go merely under the impression that we are all right, because nothing can be so hard as the study of one's own self. We cannot study our own selves because the self of ours cannot be made an object of study. It is not outside. It is inside. It is ourselves. This is why it is said that we must be under the guidance of a spiritual adept, an elder, for a long time. We must be under the direction of a spiritual elder for a protected period of time; otherwise, we will be under the impression that we are meditating while we are only sitting quiet without achieving anything.
Hence, first of all, make a clear note of your attachments and aversions. Have you likes and dislikes? Have you axes to grind? You know what having an axe to grind is. Have you any such thing inside you, some secret motive behind your actions? Be a very honest and open-hearted person. It is better to be an open-hearted, simple man than a complicated, big man. That is no use in the spiritual path. Spiritual life is not for the big man. It is for the small man only. As the Christ beautifully put it, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” You must be poor in spirit, which means to say, you must be completely cleansed of the dross of all these layers of your personality and stand naked before the Supreme. For this it is that you practise self-analysis. Your attachment, emotions, likes and dislikes, and the position of the ego that you occupy have to be very carefully studied through analysis. They must be cast aside using what is known as vijatiya vritti nirodha meditation.
The setting aside of all factors that are extraneous to the goal of meditation is vijatiya vritti nirodha. All these subtle egoistic attachments and the craving of the senses are extraneous factors unconnected with the goal of meditation, and therefore they have to be carefully put aside. The first thing is to clean yourself, not to practise meditation. Meditation is not the first thing. You have to cleanse yourself first, make yourself healthy and positive, prepare yourself for the act of meditation by completely weaning yourself from those conditioning factors of attachment of sense and ego, and making yourself open to the positive ideas of the object of meditation. This has been put in two terms, two words only, both in the Bhagavadgita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali: vairagya and abhyasa. Abhyāsa vairāgyābhyāṁ tannirodhaḥ (Y.S. 1.12), says Patanjali.
These vijatiya vritti nirodha are vairagya, the isolation of your positive personality from all extraneous factors of subtle attachments, etc., and abhyasa, which is meditation. Meditation comes later because it is a more difficult thing to perform, so first have vairagya; only then you can practise abhyasa. Abhyasa is the practice of opening yourself up to the light of the sun. It is not enough if you merely try to sit in the sun while covering yourself with all sorts of clothing. Remove the clothing and bask in the sun, and enjoy the energy of the sun. To bask in the sun is to meditate on the ideal of your life, but before that, you have to unclothe yourself so that you may receive the energy of the ideal. If you cover yourself with mud, thick clothes and a dark screen and then sit in the sun, you will not receive the energy of the sun.
Hence, meditation is a positive opening up of our true personality by cleansing it of all the dross of attachments, likes and dislikes, prejudices of every kind, secret motives of every thought, and by being honest to oneself. There cannot be a greater virtue than honesty to one's own self. Otherwise, we would be hypocrites, as mentioned in the Bhagavadgita, internally contemplating objects of sense and cherishing egoistic ambitions while outwardly appearing as seekers of truth. Karmendriyāṇi saṁyamya ya āste manasā smaran, indriyārthān vimūḍhātmā mithyācāraḥ sa ucyate (B.G. 3.6): He is called a self-deceiving hypocrite who appears to be seeking truth outside but inwardly has subtle motives and is unable to sever himself from attachments and aversions.
Such is the tremendous preparation we have to make for meditation, and once we are prepared for it, once we have got ourselves ready for it by equipping ourselves with all these positive means through a careful and meticulous avoidance of all these extraneous factors—vijatiya vritti—then it is that we will sit for meditation and catch it, like a matchstick catching fire. One strike of a matchstick is sufficient for it to catch fire. Now our matchstick is very wet. Perhaps there is no sulphur there, and it is only a stick. It is said that plantain stem devotees have to become wooden devotees, and then become gunpowder devotees. Gunpowder catches fire quickly, wood catches fire a little slowly, but plantain stem will never catch fire at all. However much a man is told something, he will go away without understanding anything. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was very fond of this analogy of gunpowder, firewood and plantain stem. So let us not be plantain stem devotees. We should be at least wooden devotees, if not gunpowder devotees. Gunpowder catches fire immediately; the moment we think of God, our hair will stand on end.
Thus, and in this manner, may we find time to analyse ourselves. Let us not get lost in the daily activities of life while complaining that we are very busy and have no time to think of God, because the greatest business of life is the thought of God. All our business is only for the sake of this supreme business, and if we have no time for that while giving all our time to extraneous things, vijatiya vrittis, then that would be a calamity. Hence, may we be cautious, vigilant, one-pointed and determined in our pursuit of yoga dhyana, meditation on God, by a cleansed personality and an honest heart.