(Spoken on November 15, 1987.)
In the process of the evolution of the universe as described in the scriptures, the evolutes, or entities, that came into being in a multitudinous variety may be considered as certain centres which consist of layers of involvement, so that it appears that whatever has been created in any form whatsoever, in all the species and varieties, is a specific form of involvement. As the getting involved into something is an extraneous operation taking place over the essential substantiality of anything, the whole of creation may itself be regarded as a kind of extraneous involvement.
The Purusha Sukta of the Veda regards creation as the self-alienation of God, a sacrifice which God performed – the original yajna that we can conceive of. Yajñena yajñamayajanta devāḥ, says the Purusha Sukta. The gods performed the original sacrifice, says this mantra of the Veda. Tāni dharmāṇi prathamānyāsan: Those modes of worship, adoration or sacrifice became the original systems, laws and rules of the universe. The law that operates in the world is considered as a compulsion to sacrifice, which would become clear to us if we understand what involvements take place in the process of creation.
Last time when we were discussing themes of this kind, we had occasion to refer to the involvements of the individual in what are known as the five koshas, known in Sanskrit as annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya. The sheaths of the body, so-called, the very thing that forces us to regard ourselves as particular individuals, persons or things, is not a part of ourselves. We are involved in this admixture of layers of involvement, and even these layers of involvement should not be regarded as anything material, tangible or substantial.
The five koshas are not material substances. They may be tangible to the sense organs and so they may be regarded as substances in themselves, but tangibility itself is an operation of the sense organs which are also part of this involvement; therefore, the fact being that the sense organs themselves are part of the involvement, their sensations cannot be regarded as valid reports of there being anything substantial, solid or concrete in itself.
The creation theories we have, especially in the epics and the Puranas, and even in the Upanishads, make out that creation has been a gradual involvement coming down systematically, increasing in its density until it becomes what today we call a material component – this physical body of ours, this earth, and anything which the sense organs perceive as an object. The concretisation takes place in a methodical manner. We have to bring together the concepts of creation described to us in the different scriptures in order to make out some sense in a scientific manner of how creation has come about and where we stand in this great system called creation.
To take only one type of description we have in the Upanishads and the epics, the delineation of the process commences from a centralisation of what was otherwise a transparent, featureless consciousness, the 'I am what I am'. Such definitions try to make out the characteristic of that existence which reigned supreme above all things in the origin of things. A will of that Supreme Being has been regarded as a condensation of the potency for creation, as we have, for instance, in our own selves at the beginning of any procedure, action or project in the form of a decision that we make: this has to be done in this manner.
The thought that something has to be done in a given manner is itself the beginning of the creation of this activity that is contemplated. A peculiar outline, an architectural pattern, as it were, of the proposed project is conceived in the mind before it is drawn on paper and made visible in the form of the actual structure. The original featureless Being is said to have centralised itself, as we centralise ourselves in the contemplation of a work that is to be done.
We are in ourselves featureless when we think nothing, will nothing, and have no idea of doing anything at all. When we begin to think that something is to be done, our mind, our consciousness, centralises itself and focuses itself in that given direction only for the time being. This direction is the shape that the mind takes, and it cannot take any other shape at that particular moment. A mind can think only one thought at a time, and not many thoughts simultaneously. It can think many thoughts successively, but not identical thoughts at the same time. So we streamline ourselves and limit ourselves, especially at the time of willing or deciding upon a particular course of action. In a similar way, we are told in the Upanishads that the cosmic will determined to take a particular shape as this universe.
We can think and will varieties of projects in our mind. It is not that the mind can think only one type of action; rather, multifold is the possibility of action that we can embark upon. In a similar way, the will of the Supreme Being does not necessarily limit itself to the pattern of this universe only. It can take the shape of any number of universes. It is because of this possibility of the Supreme Being willing any number of forms as endless universes that in our own parlance we call God ananta koti brahmanda nayaka. Endless lakhs, crores and millions of universes are ruled by one supreme God in the same way as endless patterns of structure can be projected by an architect or the mind that contemplates upon a particular action. In the language of the Vedanta philosophy, this specifically directed will of the Supreme Being only in a given fashion is known as Ishvara. In the Sankhya terminology it is sometimes identified with what is known as prakriti. Though Sankhya considers prakriti as an unconscious origin, a mould of all things that are to be created, the Vedanta psychology does not consider this original state as unconscious. It is a potentiality which is aware of itself. It is unconscious of other possibilities, but actually it is not unconsciousness. It is a setting aside of the consciousness of other possibilities at the time when the mind is engaged upon a particular action only. In this fashion God is said to be concentrating upon one particular pattern.
It is sometimes asked why it is that this particular shape should have been thought by God, and why He could not have thought any other form, because we people who suffer in this world see nothing good whatsoever and have pinches of pain day in and day out. We often feel within our own selves that perhaps God would have done better if He had thought of a different kind of universe.
The will of God, says the scripture, is not a deliberate purposive individualised action. It is not the way in which we think. There is a difference between our individualised thinking and God's thinking. The scriptures tell us that the will of God is only an assistance that is offered to the potentialities of creation already existing in the form of seeds of individuals who lay sleeping during the state of pralaya or cosmic dissolution and did not attain salvation at that time. The dissolution of the universe or the end of the universe during kalpa-anta, the end of the kalpa, is the withdrawing of all created bodies into that bosom of all things, in the same way as all our feelings, thoughts and volitions get absorbed in the state of deep sleep.
When we are asleep, we have no desires. We do not contemplate upon any action that is to be done. We do not will anything whatsoever. There is no world in our mind, and in a similar manner, there is no world during creation of this reverse form of the will of God, namely involution, called pralaya. But we know very well that when we wake up in the morning the same thoughts arise once again, sometimes in the very form in which they entered the state of deep sleep, and at other times in a slightly modified form, so that the waking into a new life in the early morning after getting up from sleep is not actually an entering into an absolutely new world of experience. It is an experience of all those potentialities which sank into oblivion during the state of deep sleep, and we do not become new persons the next day; yet, there is a growth of our experience through the passing of time, through the process of evolution, we may say.
The particular form that the universe takes in any given creation is said to be conditioned entirely by the groups of individuals for whom this world is a field of experience. The world is bhoga bhumi, the field of enjoyment of all the karmas. Enjoyment also includes painful enjoyment, not merely pleasurable ones. The karmas of the past with which individuals of the previous kapla or cycle entered into the darkness of oblivion during pralaya have to wake up into germination as plants rise from seeds when rain falls. This rising of the tendrils of individuals from the seed in the form of which they lay during pralaya – these little plants of growing individuals – require a field of experience, a world which can provide them the facilities required for enjoying the fruit of the good karmas that they performed in the previous life, and also reap the penalty for that which they have done wrongly.
The world is a mix-up of both good and bad, as we say. It has the capacity to give us pleasure and also to inflict pain. The constitution of the world is arranged in such a way that it contains neither more nor less than is necessary for giving equal opportunity as decided by different individuals according to their previous karmas. Equal dispensation of justice is the law of this world. The equal distribution of the nemesis of actions of individuals does not mean that the same thing is given to everybody. Whatever is due to a person is given, as a mango seed projects into a mango tree and cannot become an apple tree, as thistles become thistles, and so on. Whatever the seed was, that alone is the shape it takes when it becomes a plant or tree. Similarly, whatever was embedded there during the time of pralaya, or cosmic dissolution, rises up into action during the daylight of the next creation.
Yathā pūrvam akalpayat (Rigveda 10.190.3) says the Veda: As it was before, so it is now the process of creation. As it was yesterday, so it is now for us today. We do the same work today as we did yesterday. Though our methodology of action, the pattern of movement, is practically the same today as it was yesterday, the actions are not necessarily identical because there is an impulse to onward march in the process of evolution. God creates today in the same way as He created yesterday. This is what we are told in the Veda. But that similarity of today's creation to the creation of yesterday is something like the similarity of our behaviour and actions of today to our behaviour and actions of yesterday in pattern and makeup, but they are not identical. We eat every day, we drink every day, we sleep every day, we work every day. This is the similarity. But it does not mean that every day we eat the same thing, drink the same liquid or do the same work. The details differ, but the general principles remain the same.
This Ishvara-tattva is thus the original potentiality of creation. Here everything lies in seed form ready for germination, as seeds lie sleeping under the earth when the sun is scorching in summer, but wait for the rainfall in order to germinate. Until that time, we do not know whether there are seeds lying in the field at all. When there is the rain of the possibility of providing the requisite conditions necessary for germination of the seeds takes place, there is the world coming up as a little ankura. The Panchadasi of Vidyaranya tells us ankura is a tiny manifestation of the plant from the bosom of the seed.
This tender plant of creation which has risen from the seed of Ishvara is known in Vedantic language as Hiranyagarbha. Vaiṣa pelavo jagadaṅ kuraḥ (Panch. 6.203), says Swami Vidyaranya. Tender is this world, subtle is this creation, dreamlike is the form of Hiranyagarbha's operations. We compare the individual dream to the cosmic dream of Hiranyagarbha and say we are in the dreaming state – a part, as it were, of this cosmic dream. The little plant grows up into a thicker formation and it rises to the stature of a tree stretching its branches of foliage all over, and here the creation of the tree is complete.
This creation, when it becomes complete in all its colourful manifestations, is the Viratsvarupa. This very world in which we are now living is the Virat-tattva. We are daily contacting the Virat. We are touching it, we are seeing it, we are smelling it, but we cannot recognise it, the reason being a simple difficulty in our mentation, the process of thinking – the insistence of the mind to externalise everything that it thinks, and the pressure of the sense organs to tell us that everything is outside of us. The world is just as it was during the time of the Virat's manifestation as this cosmos, but to us it does not look like that because the senses objectify our perceptions. There is no objectified perception in Virat.
The creative process goes down further into a threefold manifestation, which is the reason why we are unable to recognise the fact that we are just now in the body of Virat himself. This inability on our part to recognise what is actually happening now is due to another blow that has been given to the further process of descent, namely, the tripartite manifestation in which Virat appears as adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva. These terms simply imply the object, namely this physical universe, the subject which perceives – you, me and everybody, any living creature – and that which makes it possible for anyone to have any perception at all, an intermediary superintending invisible principle.
This invisible superintending principle, because of the fact that it is invisible, makes it possible for us to wrongly convince ourselves that the world is wholly outside. If this connecting link between ourselves and the object outside – this so-called divinising superintending principle – also were an object of our awareness as other things are, we would have found ourselves immediately, instantaneously, in a sea of experience, and not just in a world of objects. Fortunately or unfortunately for us, the superintending principle, this thing that is between me and you, is not visible to anybody's eyes. If it had become visible, the world would have ceased to exist in one second.
This manifestation of the Virat into the threefold organisation – adhyatma, adhibhuta, adhidaiva – is this world of the five elements earth, water, fire, air, ether, or prithvi, apas, tejas, vayu, akasha. The ingredients of these five physical elements are the subtle potentials known to students of philosophy as shabda, sparsha, rupa, rasa, gandha. We may say by way of analogy that these potentials are something like electric bases of the physical objects.
Now this creation, which has come to this level of the tripartite manifestation of the subject and the object connecting themselves in a process of perception, has still to descend further. It is not enough if it ends here. The perception that we have of the world is a terrific form of involvement. It is necessary for us to remember that this entire process of so-called descent, right from the Supreme Being down through the stages of Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat, is a gradual condensation of universalised consciousness. There is no objectification; there is no perception through the sense organs. They are not men. Virat, Hiranyagarbha and Ishvara are not human beings like us because they are not mortals or finite entities. The finitude of experience starts only after this tripartite creation. Even after this finitisation takes place, even after a particular individual percipient begins to be aware of his own or her own finitude, something worse takes place. That worse form of individual creation is actually the manifestation of these five koshas, which are almost an inverted form of the original cosmic coming down of consciousness in the form of Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat. We are just the opposite negativity of the positive manifestation of the Supreme Being through the stages of Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat.
We are doing sirsasana, as it were, in our mind and consciousness when we look at things. There is a complete reversal taking place when we descend into our body, something like the right looking as the left, and the left looking as the right when we look at our own face in a mirror. See yourself in a mirror. You will see the right as the left and the left as the right. A complete reversal of perception takes place. That is one kind of reversal: the right becoming the left, and the left becoming the right. But there is another kind of reversal taking place when you see yourself standing reflected in water, say on the bank of a river, for instance. Stand erect on the bank of the Ganga and see yourself. You will see that your head is lowermost. Though the head is the uppermost part of the body, the feet which are the lowermost will look the uppermost. So this is another kind of reversal.
The Vedanta doctrine tells us that we are a reflection and also a limitation – avaccheda and abhasa at the same time. We are not little Gods just because we are parts of the Supreme Being. A little spark of fire is a little fire, but we are not little Gods as sparks of fire are little conflagrations. This difficulty in us has increased not merely by our being finite little things of divinity, which would have been good enough, but there has also been a topsy-turvy perception, a reflection, as it were. We see things through the mirror of space and time, and coloured by the vision of the sense organs which are constructed in such a way that they project only our desires, and we can see nothing in the world except what our desires command us to perceive.
Consciousness descends through these five koshas. There is a potentiality in the beginning as anandamaya kosha. It germinates as it germinated in the cosmic form into this subtle body, the sukshma sharira, as it is known, and then it becomes grossened into the physical body. Then there are the apertures called the sense organs created by the desiring individual. Consciousness comes out of this body through the sense organs, and peeps out as we peep through a ventilator and see things that are outside. Not only have we descended from God, we have become something worse than that, namely, we have entered into this shackle of the physical encasement and then come out of it conditioned by it, so that we see everything as coloured by the requirements of this physical body and the sense organs.
The practice of yoga is to some extent a difficult method, inasmuch as we have to reverse the whole process of descent in our practice gradually, very subtly, systematically. As things have happened downwards, they have to now take place upwards. Our mind is not the original consciousness of God. It is a diluted form of consciousness, a reflected form of consciousness, a finitised, limited form of consciousness, and it is conditioned by the demands of the body, the desires of the mind, the impulses of the instinct, and the potentialities of all the samskaras that lie embedded in the anandamaya kosha. This is the reason why it is said that the beginning of yoga is primarily an ethical and moral discipline which Patanjali Maharishi calls the yamas and niyamas, and which others call the sadhana chatushtaya, all meaning one and the same thing finally.
The desires should not condition our perception. We can perceive the world, but we should not perceive the world as required by our own particular desires, and we should not see things through the glasses of our longings. This particular form of conditioned perception in terms of our prejudices, loves and hatreds, etc., is not perceiving things as they are; we do not look at the tree as a tree, but as my tree, a tree in my garden, a field which belongs to me, a person who is my brother, a house which is mine, etc. In this manner we perceive things, and not as they are in themselves. This perception of things as galvanised, coloured and varnished by our own prejudices and desires is a very, very crude and objectionable type of perception. This type of thinking, when it gets hardened into the only possible way of thinking, can become morbid and so unhealthy that such a person who has entered into this morbid state of intensified form of desire-charged perception cannot be regarded as a normal person. He becomes a patient of abnormal psychology.
Patanjali Maharishi has something to tell us about this matter in a single sutra. Avidyā-asmitā-rāga-dveṣa-abhiniveśaḥ kleśāḥ (Y.S. 2.3): Painful is this world because of the fact we perceive the world through painful conditions which dominate the mind, namely, ignorance of the origin of this personality of ours as a non-conditioned consciousness first and foremost, avidya, as it is called, and then a limitation of our own personal being as located in some place as this body only, called ahamtva, asmita, egoism. The forced limitation of the otherwise ubiquitous all-pervading consciousness into the location which is only this body is called egoism, ahamkara. It arises from the ignorance of the otherwise universal nature of our own selves. So avidya breeds asmita. Then comes raga and dvesha because when we know that we are only in one place and nowhere else, we certainly know that other people are not connected with us in any manner whatsoever, that the world is totally outside us and unrelated to us, and that it has to be dealt with in the manner our desires tell us, namely, by love and hatred. So raga and dvesha emanate from this ahamtva, or egoism, engendered by ignorance of the fact of our being originally universal existence. Then the love of the body, which is necessary for the fulfilment of the desires of the body, causes at the same time our fear of death, abhinivesa, the clinging to this body. Unless we cling to the body and love it intensely, we cannot fulfil its desires.
So gradually there is a solidification of this ignorance into a worse form of involvement: egoism, love and hatred, and intense attachment to this body, decorating it, worshiping it, and considering it as the only reality. “I am all in all as this body. This body is everything, and nothing more can be there. Whatever is required by this body has to be given, even to the detriment of anybody else.” And simultaneously there is a fear of destruction of the body. The inner sense tells that this love of our body cannot carry much water. One day it has to end, so the love of our body goes with the fear of death. So dear is this little body, this beautiful and lovable body, but it will end one day. Therefore, we move earth and heaven to see that somehow or other that we postpone death, if not try to get over it completely.
Here we have a psychopathological perception of things, a great subject studied in abnormal psychology these days, put pithily in a little sutra by Patanjali: avidyā-asmitā-rāga-dveṣa-abhiniveśaḥ kleśāḥ. In yoga practice, we have to free ourselves first and foremost from this prejudiced form of perception through the glasses of our desires, loves and hatreds.
When perception of persons and things gets clarified by our freedom from loves and hatreds and perception through ahamkara or egoism, we begin to see things and perceive things as they are in themselves. From Kamaloka we go to Rupaloka, as Buddhist psychologists tell us. From klishta vritti we go to aklishta vritti, says Patanjali. From a modification of the mind which is pain-giving, abnormal in its nature, we rise to a non pain-giving modification of the mind, which is the subject of general psychology.
Rupaloka. Rupa is the form of the object, the characteristic of anything as it is in itself. When it is possible for me to visualise you, to see you as you are in yourself and not as you appear to me, that perception is a higher form of the operation of the mind. So from prejudiced perception, desire-full perception, love-hatred filled perception, which is the worst thing that can be done to us and we can do to others, we rise gradually to impersonal perception of the world. Ishvara-srishti is beheld by us when we rise from the painful perception caused by and inflicted upon us by jiva-srishti. Jiva-srishti and Ishvara-srishti are two terms employed in our scriptures to indicate abnormal perception and normal perception.
As I mentioned, we are living in the Virat just now. This very moment we are on the lap of God. It is not an attainment tomorrow. It is not a time process, it is a timeless achievement. We cannot know that, because we perceive the world through the sense organs that are vehemently charged with the desires that compel us to see things as outside, because unless a thing is outside, we cannot deal with it through love and hatred. So our dealing in respect of persons and things outside through love and hatred necessarily causes an externalisation of their location through the sense organs and mental processes.
So from this abnormal perceptional level we rise to a normal perceptional level, which Patanjali in his sutra calls pramana, right knowledge. We see the world, no doubt, but not as we see it otherwise in our desire-filled condition. The process of the identification of ourselves gradually from these levels of normal perception and normal cognition to higher levels is the theme adumbrated in the Mandukya Upanishad. All this that we see with our eyes is Vaishvanara, which individually appears as the Vishva. The Vishva is the name that we give to the little fraction of the Vaishvanara, who is partitioned and made worse by a reflection through which it perceives the things. If this involvement in the perception of things through a reflected medium – namely, the medium of desires – ceases, we begin to see things in their true colours.
Everyone in the world will be a friend of every one of us. Not only that, we will be able to visualise everyone as our own selves. Just as all trees are trees in the forest, and all water in the ocean is water everywhere, you will find that there is a sea of humanity in which you are also an ingredient, and you are not merely a percipient of another person. It is not good to perceive a person. It is good to feel the presence of a person as one feels one's own self. This is pramanatva, or right perception, as risen above the ordinary involved perception through desires.
This very initial step is a very difficult step because it requires a total right-about turn of our mind, as if we have to see our own backs and see our own face without the medium of a mirror. How do we see our own face without the medium of a mirror? By the stilling of the mind. You can visualise your face without a mirror, but you cannot see it. You are the face; therefore, you cannot see it. Inasmuch as you are the eyes, and you are the face, and you are yourself, you cannot see yourself as you see another. The visualisation of oneself as oneself is independent of a reflection of oneself seen through a mirror; so has one to see everyone else also. You have to place yourself in the context of another person in order to be able to see the rupa of that person and see that person as a location in the Virat's body, and not as an object of exploitation, utilisation, harnessing, etc.
The world is not meant for our enjoyment through the sense organs. This is a very, very wrong way of looking at it because if we try to look at the world as an object of enjoyment, of harnessing, it will also do the same thing to us. Sarvaṁ tam parādād yo'nyatrātmano sarvaṁ veda (Brihad. 2.4.6) is a great maxim of Sage Yajnavalkya as recorded for us in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: You will get nothing in this world if you look at that thing as something outside you because that thing which you look upon as something outside will also look upon you as something outside itself. So there is an exclusive relation, and not an inclusive relation of things. We exclude each other in the perception of ourselves as totally distinct entities, and do not include ourselves in a common fraternal perception.
The awareness of things as they are in themselves is the great feat of yoga. In the heightened form of this perception it is called samadhi or union, as it were. There are certain hints given to us in the sutras of Patanjali as to how this can be achieved. Each one has to place oneself in the position of the object of perception. Only then can the desire for that object cease. Love and hatred towards that object can come to an end. The loving or the hating of a thing is because of the fact that we cannot place ourselves in the position of that thing, much less think and feel like that thing. The placement of oneself in the location, in the context, in the contour, and in every way of that particular thing which we otherwise see through the sense organs is at-one-ment with that object.
Bahir-akalpitā vṛttiḥ mahā-videhā (Y.S. 3.44) is a very enigmatic sutra of Patanjali which is very little read by students, and even if it is read, the meaning of it is not made clear because of the subtlety of the expression. The mind is a vritti that is operating in terms of an object of cognition. The vritti is nothing but a psychosis, a mental operation. This operation of the mind is always in terms of something that is external to it. This is called kalpita vritti. A created modification or psychosis of the mind in terms of an object of cognition is kalpita vritti.
Now, the sutra tells us that in yoga we have to develop not a kalpita vritti but an akalpita vritti as bahih. We have to think in a very subtly positioned way, placing our mind in that object which it cognises otherwise. The mind has to go outside the body, as it were. You are facing me here now when I speak to you, and therefore, I am perceiving you as a person in front of me, outside me. This is kalpita vritti taking place, ordinary cognition of the mind. In yoga, this perception does not take place. I place myself in the context of your position. You are not facing me and I am not facing you, but I am facing the same direction as you are facing, and in your practice you will be facing the same direction as I am facing. You will be seeing through my eyes, thinking through my mind and operating through my body. This brings siddhis, as they call it in yoga, power over the object. It is power not only over objects, but also over persons and things. The siddhis, or the potential miracles which are said to be taking place in yoga, are nothing but the automatic results following from one person becoming another person or the percipient becoming the object itself.
This feat is difficult because we have never tried at any time to think as a thing would think. Zen meditation sometimes tells us in a humorous way that when you see a little sparrow picking up grains, you have to feel that you are picking up the grains. You have become the sparrow, and you are actually picking with your beak. Zen meditators unite themselves with the air that blows, the river that flows, the trees that stand, the stars that shine, and the sun that is illuminating in the sky. “Fine, fine, good, good, beautiful, beautiful. All is well.” These are the words of Zen masters. All is well, all is well. Happy, happy, happy – because anything that the mind thinks becomes the mind itself. The vritti of the mind which is kalpita, that is, an ordinary vritti, which actually becomes a mould for the casting of the shape of the object into itself, ceases to operate in that manner and becomes the very mind of that object. The mind and the body are clubbed together, and so when you identify yourself with the formation of an object, you automatically become identified with the thought processes of that object also. Mastery over things takes place.
Yoga siddhi is mastery over things, anything whatsoever. That is possible only when you become that. As long as you want to master an object and it stands outside you, you will have no say in this matter. The thing that you have to master has to be yourself because actually you can be a master only of yourself. You cannot be a master of anybody else. There is no 'anybody else' who will be subject to your commands. You can subject yourself to your command, and nobody else. But everybody else, the whole earth, the world itself will be subject to your command, provided you become that object. This is yoga siddhi, yoga samadhi, for which we have to gradually rise from this prejudiced perception through the klishta vrittis and become master of the perception of things through the aklishta vrittis, and learn the art of union as described in the sutras of Patanjali.