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The Epistemology of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 16: The Force of Reality

The thoughts that we would like to eliminate in the process of concentration are those that pertain to our external relationships in human society and to the objects of sense with which we established relationships earlier. This is a hard job because the pressure of external impulsiveness towards the objects of sense is motivated by aeons of experience through which we have passed in our earlier lives. It is comparable to a push exerted upon us by the whole ocean that is going to flood us.

There is a vast reservoir of energy tending toward externalisation in our unconscious being, the anandamaya kosha, which seeks expression, and which we do not wish to give vent to. Thus there is, in the earlier stages, a struggle between our pious intention in meditation and a search for pleasure caused by the impulses that are hidden, unexpressed, in the unconscious root of our being. Therefore, in the beginning stages of meditation it is all struggle, and not happy in every way. It is true that when we are in the gravitational field of the higher forces we may not feel this difficulty, just as when we cross the gravitational field of the Earth by soaring above we may not feel the pull of the Earth below. But until we reach that point, the lower pull is a pull that we have to fight against, drawing us back to the point from where we wish to move away.

These thoughts are not ordinary things. They are not just occurrences which can be explained away in a very casual and academic fashion. The thoughts that we intend to eliminate in the process of concentration are terrible energies. They are not simple thoughts in an ordinary, psychological sense; otherwise, everybody would have jumped into the Absolute within two days of thinking and meditating. That is not possible on account of great difficulties which are unimaginable.

But, as I mentioned earlier, there is another thing within us, apart from that which prevents us from going further; there are also friendly forces. And, often we are told that God is more powerful than anything else. Though the devil is strong, God is stronger. Thus, there is something of a highly mysterious nature within us which will propel us onwards, in spite of the fact that there are karmic forces which drag us down and distract us in every direction.

The power of faith is very important. Nothing can equal it. The power of reason is secondary, compared to faith. The faith that we are referring to here is the very same thing which Patanjali mentions in a very, very interesting manner in one of his sutras when he says tivrasamveganam asannah. He uses the word samvega, which cannot be translated. It is a devastating push that God exerts upon us. We cannot use any other word except devastating: a call from God which devastates our entire personality.

Can we imagine what that call can be, and what impact it can have upon us? Our whole body will shrivel into pieces because of the love for that objective or ideal towards which we intend to move, and upon which we are trying to concentrate and meditate. A love that takes possession of us, root and branch, is the samvega. It is not an ordinary love for a rose flower, or a cup of tea, or a drop of honey. These are little, distracted affections. But there is a love which is incapable of explanation, description, definition, which will flood us, which will enter into every pore of our being, and we will not be able to understand what is happening to us. This is something like what is called God-madness—a person entering into raptures of a possession which is supernatural; and that is the faith, that is the love, that is the devotion that yoga requires of us.

When we are possessed with such a devotion to the ideal of yoga, to such a faith in God's existence and the possibility of this attainment, these extraneous and distracting pressures, whatever be their intensity, can be counteracted with a bolt from this impulse and urge for love which is superior to every other kind of love. But most of us are not possessed of this kind of love for God, or even for yoga. We have a lukewarm understanding of the implications of practice and, similarly, a lukewarm love for anything that we consider as possibly good for us. There are many, many reasons in each one's case why it should be so. Each one should know for one's own self. We cannot generalise this matter. However, the fact is there.

Are we not a few people who are perhaps awakened to the necessity of being one hundred percent occupied with this central purpose of human life? Most of us, perhaps all of us, have received a novel type of blessing from God, due to which the inconveniences that we may have in life should pale into insignificance compared to the blessings that have come upon us. These blessings will be known to each one of us if we honestly enter into our own hearts. Our problems are minor; our blessings are large and abundant. This is something that we have to take advantage of, with gratitude to God and to our Guru.

As I mentioned earlier, when we sit for concentration we are involved in a fourfold process of psychological operation which, later on, ceases to be merely psychological and becomes a conscious effort of the whole of our being. Actually, the difficulty in setting aside extraneous thoughts arises due to not being able to understand what these thoughts are and why they come at all.

We should not exert any force of will in meditation. Mere pressure exerted by the will is not enough. These extraneous thoughts impinge upon us because they have some vital connection with us; they are not totally extraneous. They are not utter foreigners. They have some connection with us. At least, they did maintain some connection, and we accepted that relationship; so, they are insisting upon that relationship once again, and though today we say 'no', they are not willing to accept this 'no'. We have made mistakes in earlier days, and those mistakes have produced the effect of these repellent attitudes which we are now trying to get rid of.

There is an old analogy about a hunter who discharges an arrow at a moving object in the jungle, thinking that it is a tiger —which he could not see properly, due to the absence of light. He discharges an arrow. The arrow has left the bowstring. When the arrow has left the bowstring, he realises that it is a cow. It is not a tiger. He feels great distress. “Oh, it is a cow! I have discharged an arrow at this animal, thinking that it is a tiger.” He repents; he grieves. But what is the use of grief? He has let the arrow off. It has to go and hit the target. He has killed the cow. Afterwards he repents, but what is the use of repentance? The deed has been done.

Something like that is what has happened to us. In our state of ignorance, we desired objects of sense. We thought they were desirable objects of sense—very, very precious, very pleasant, very necessary, very affectionate and, therefore, we discharged the arrow of love toward these objects, thinking that they were necessary things and our own possessions. When we discharged the arrow of affection or love towards these objects of sense, thinking that they are our own and are necessary, knowledge dawned. Then we realised that they are not desirable things. We had imagined that they were not tigers, but that they were cows. Now the knowledge has arisen that we have made a mistake. We ought not to have desired them, but we have desired them for ages, throughout the incarnations we passed through. The arrow has been let off; desires have been discharged in respect of those objects which we thought were good. Now we are thinking that they are not good. We have made a mistake, but those objects have their say, as the arrow will have its say when it is discharged.

So, these things which we do not want now are the things which we wanted, once upon a time. This is a difficulty before us which we have to swallow somehow or other, like a bitter pill. The consequences of karma cannot be escaped by any amount of learning. Every effect of every karma has to be enjoyed, experienced as a pleasure or a pain, and it can exhaust itself only by producing its effect; it cannot be suppressed. Hence it is that we are undergoing this peculiar stress and strain of life which sometimes looks pleasant, and sometimes looks unpleasant.

The extraneous thoughts, therefore, are forces which have a larger significance than purely the psychological operations, as we understand the mind. In meditation, dhyana, which is a deeper and more intensive process, this difficulty ceases. We do not have to struggle hard to set aside undesirable thoughts.

Then, what happens in meditation? What is dhyana? Tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam: Meditation, dhyana, is a continuous flow of consciousness—undistracted, unadulterated—towards the great ideal. Whatever be the object of meditation, towards that the whole being moves.

In the earlier stages of concentration, the whole being was not moving. It is like the government of a country which, while thinking intently on a constructive process for the rejuvenation of internal culture is, at the same time, attacked by a foreign force, and it has to work in a double manner. It has to defend itself against the onslaught of foreign forces and, also, work constructively for the welfare of its own citizens. Likewise, in the earlier stages we had to defend ourselves against the onslaught of these extraneous thoughts and, at the same time, we had to work positively towards the internal occupation of the mind, which was direct meditation.

But now, the foreign forces have gone. We have won victory in the war. Now we can work wholly for the internal constructive process—which is cultural, educational, economic, social, spiritual, and so on. When the country is strong, and it has no inimical forces threatening it from outside, it can work for its internal welfare. Otherwise, it is distracted and its attention is divided.

So now we are free in the process of meditation. The struggle which was of a war-like type in the process of concentration is over. What happens in dhyana, meditation? There is the consciousness of the fact that we are meditating. We cannot escape this. There is an intense awareness, of course, that there is an object, or objective, of meditation, and there is a flow of this consciousness. In meditation, dhyana, the object is somehow—in some form, in some way, in some mysterious manner—set outside the meditator. Now we are discussing dhyana, meditation, not dharana, or concentration. We have passed through that stage.

The object of meditation is something which requires our careful attention. In meditation, what is it that we have to concentrate upon, meditate upon, think upon? What is it? Many people have a difficulty here because they do not know what to choose. The psychology of meditation will suggest that any object can be taken for this purpose, as a point on which the consciousness can be fixed. There is a religious aspect as well as a psychological and purely logical or scientific aspect.The religious side tells us that God pervades the whole universe, and therefore any point—anything in creation—can be regarded as a way to God.

The universe is the face of God. His fingers move in every act and event of creation. There is no place, no time where God is not, so a religiously inspired student would do well to feel the presence of God in all things in creation, and take anything for the purpose of his meditation. Through any branch we can reach the trunk of the tree, because all the branches are connected to the very same trunk and to the root. Through any river, we can reach the ocean. Through any limb of the body, we can touch the whole body. Thus, as God indwells in everything in creation and God is embodied as this universe, anything can be advantageous to us for the purpose of meditation.

But there is, also, another aspect here which tells us the same thing—that anything can be an object of meditation—because the purpose of meditation is to break the knot of isolation of oneself from the total structural pattern of the universe. There is an egoistic knot, which is the centre of our individuality, affirming its isolation from everything and standing independently, by itself. This knot of the ego is to be broken through, bombarded by the activity of meditation, just as an atom can be split by bombardment and its energy released. The process of meditation is a kind of bombardment by which we hit upon the mind again and again, just as we drive a nail into the wall, so that it bursts. The universal energy that is hidden in this little atom of the mind is released, and it becomes a very potent force.

Secondly, the purpose of meditation is to open up the Universal Consciousness that is at the back of the mind. Just as the ocean is at the back of every water drop in the ocean, so too the Universal Being is at the back of every mind, every centre of individuality. But, the drop resists even being conscious that it has the ocean at the back. It wants to maintain its independence.

We do not like to be told that we are one with the universe. This is very uncomfortable for us who seek pleasure in the objects of sense; and, anyone who likes to be totally independent would not like to be told that he is one with everybody. To be one with everybody is not to assert independence, but to lose independence. One feels very, very unhappy when one is asked to do any kind of sacrifice of oneself, especially a total sacrifice by way of an alienation of one's existence itself in the interest of a larger being—which we do not want. But, meditation is an endeavour in this direction.

Everything in this world, every atom of creation, is such a centralised individual—like a knot. We can break through any knot, anywhere, and we will enter the cosmos. Thus, any object of meditation is as good as any other object of meditation. This is a point which has no direct religious connotation but is a philosophical and a psychological way of understanding the very same point.

The candle flame on which we are concentrating, or the dot on the wall that we are thinking of, or the rose flower that we are meditating upon, is not important. What is important is what that is happening in the mind. The external object, or even the concept, is only an agent in arousing certain spiritual powers within us. They act only as agents, like proper medicine injected into the body. The body does not receive any direct sustenance from the medicine. The medicine only acts as an agent in relieving the body by preventing the entry of toxic matter, and helps the forces of health to awaken into action. Similarly, we do not create anything positively divine in ourselves. It is already there, within us. We only help the revelation of it, or the awakening of it into the conscious level and not merely remaining in the background.

But, the memories of the past do not wholly leave us. Although the positively repellent and undesirable powers have been practically eliminated during the process of dharana, or concentration, the memory persists. Though we do not actually come in contact with sense objects, a desire for them may persist. At the top of Mt. Everest, we may have a desire for things which we cannot get there. We cannot get those things because they are not available there. The object of sense is far removed from the person who desires that object; yet, the taste for the object will persist: “If it had been there, it would have been good.” This desire will be there; that the object is not there, is a different matter.

Similarly, though we may think that we are free, in a way, from the difficulties of personal involvement in phenomenal existence, a peculiar difficulty will persist even when we go into deep meditation. It is a type of resistance from the memories of the past—not necessarily from the gross objects of sense, the stage which we have already traversed and outgrown.

We all know what memories can do to us. They can wreak havoc. If we go on remembering the old things again and again, we feel very much distressed. Many times we try to forget the old memories. Sometimes we succeed in forgetting them. Often we cannot succeed, because there is a taste in these memories. If it is a painful memory, we would like to brush it aside; but sometimes even very agonising memories will persist.

Little things go, but the hard things do not go, whether they are pleasant or otherwise. So, the pleasures of life remain as a type of memory and a kind of subtle longing which tells us that there would be, perhaps, a possibility of regaining all those things that have been lost. A sense of having lost certain items of pleasure will persist. Unless we read the lives of saints, we cannot understand the meaning behind all these processes taking place inwardly. These are not matters for logical discussion; they are mystical processes. They are beyond academic and rational studies. But, one who resorts to the feet of God will receive such consolation and support that even the memories will go.

It is difficult for us to believe, hard-boiled individuals that we are, that God is joy and bliss. The mind cannot appreciate that God is pleasant, beautiful, happy, etc. Our idea is that God is a legal God, mostly. He is a judicial chief. This idea of God cannot leave us easily. Though we are accustomed to being told that God is everything, He is not really everything for us, because the world is also something. The taste that we feel in the things of the world has to be also seen in God, or in the supreme ideal of yoga. This is not easy, because to sense the taste in supernatural things, we require a supernatural instrument of perception. Our physical senses cannot taste them. The subtle music of the spheres cannot enchant us when we are accustomed only to listening to the jarring noise of the transistor, because our ears are not so fine-tuned as to listen to the beauty of the music of the higher realms, nor can we visualise the grandeur of the higher, supernatural realms.

To attract us towards the higher realms, yoga scriptures go into great detail. Vyasa, the commentator on the sutras of Patanjali, goes into great details about this matter—what we will see in the heavens when we rise high in meditation. We can read about all those things. These are distractions to be guarded against, he says. Temptations become stronger as we go higher and higher. They are very weak now, in this world. We cannot resist the temptations of this world itself, what to talk of the higher realms. The subtler, higher, celestial temptations are stronger because they are more delightful, more pervasive, more ethereal, more catching than the physical, gross, heavy-laden pleasures of sense.

There is a very short sutra of Patanjali in this regard, for which Vyasa has given a large commentary on the necessity to resist temptations in the higher realms also. These higher realms are not necessarily outside. They are also inside us. Again, we have to remember that there is no inside and outside when we go higher and higher, inwardly, in meditation. It is a wider conception that we have to entertain, free from the division of the spatial distinction of outside and inside. We grow entirely and wholly as we rise higher and higher, and not partially like the individuals that we are. We cease to be this person when we go higher in meditation.

Thus, coming to the point, while there are four facets in concentration, there are three facets in meditation: dhyata, dhyeya and dhyana, i.e., the meditator, the object of meditation, and the meditation process. These persist in dhyana, or meditation. As two tanks of water filled to an equal level may flow one into the other if there is a connection between the two, and we will not know that there is a flow at all because of the equality of the level of the water in the two tanks, so will be the experience, the relationship or the connection between the meditator and the object meditated upon. The object will not any more remain an object, so that one will not know where the consciousness is operating. Regarding the two tanks that I mentioned as an analogy, one is not a subject and the other is not an object. They are equal. They are placed on an equal pedestal. One tank does not see the other tank as an object.

Likewise, the so-called object on which we are meditating gradually sheds its objectivity, and it puts on a new form which is akin in character to the subjective consciousness itself. To speak in the language of the Vedanta philosophy, the visayi becomes the visaya; the chaitanya, or the consciousness that is indwelling the subject, is recognised as also indwelling the object.

The substance of the subject is the same as the substance of the object. The thing out of which the subject is made is the thing out of which the object is made, so that neither can be called 'subject' or 'object'. We have to give up these definitions, these designations or epithets of 'the seer' and 'the seen'. There is no seer and no seen, because such a distinction will not obtain in this deeper consciousness of meditation, where both terms of relation stand on an equal pedestal. They are on par with each other, so that either we may say that we are meditating on that, or we may say that it is meditating upon us. Both statements are equally valid. We do not know whether we are meditating on the object, or the object is meditating on us. One has entered into the other and one embraces the other, as if they are twins in the womb of the mother.

Then it is that a miracle takes place. 'Miracle' is the only word we can use. We cannot call it by any other name. A wonder, a marvel happens which will enable the joy of creation to burst out in the midst of this process of meditation. The ananda, the bliss that is at the core of creation, will open up its treasures, and nature will begin to smile through every nook and corner. Afterwards, there will be no inimical impact. Nobody will frown at us. Everyone will smile, “Now my friend has come.” Just as our family will receive us back when we return after long, long years of separation, the exiled one, the Prodigal Son, comes back to the father who receives the son with great affection: “My son, you have come back.”

The Chhandogya Upanishad says that all nature will receive us. Tribute will be offered to us by every point in creation, as if we are kings of this world. From every nook and corner, from every part of the horizon, tribute will come to us. Offerings will be poured at our feet, as if we are the owners of this creation. Is this not a miracle?

But, we are yet on the verge of entering into the bosom of things. We have not yet gone deeper. There is only a sensation of having touched the borderland of the truth of things; we have not yet entered. Like the vision of Arjuna that is described to us in the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavadgita, it is only a vision. We have not yet possessed it. We are seeing a large treasure in front of us, but it has not yet become our property.

These are the indications that we are merging into a state which is often called samadhi, or it can be called by any other name we may use to describe it. Sakshatkara is one name, which means direct Realisation, immediate experience, entering into the substance of things. Samapatti, is another name, which means the acquisition of the noumenal truth in all things. Many other rapturous terms are used to describe this sense of possession, which is not like the possession of the goods of this world.

There is a difference between that possession and this possession of property here. We do not really possess anything in this world. We are imaginary possessors of things. We are in a delusion when we think that things are possessed by us. Nothing can be possessed, because things are outside us—and everyone knows that everything is outside. The money that we have, the land that we possess, the buildings —these are not ours. How can they be ours? They are not clinging to our body. They are independent. They were there before we were born, and they will be there even if we die. How then can we think that things are ours? So, we are imaginary, deluded possessors of things in this world, madmen thinking that things are ours. But when we unite with objects through samadhi, we become real possessors, because to really possess a thing is to enter into the being of that thing. As long as the being of the possessed object is outside the being of the possessor, nothing is possessed.

The being of money is outside us and, therefore, we cannot possess that money. At any moment it can leave us; and, even now, when we are thinking that it is ours, it is not ours. We are under a total illusion. But in meditative union, a real possession of an uncanny type takes place. That is why the joy is unbounded. Samadhi, samapatti, sakshatkara, or Realisation, is unimaginable at present.

When we possess a dear object and embrace it, enjoy it, swallow it, we are in a condition where we lose self-consciousness. To possess the dearest object and make it one's own is to lose the sense of being. This experience is faintly reflected in artistic possessions, rapturous music, elevated literature, and romantic experiences which go beyond the human level of experience. There, one loses the sense of being. It is a kind of giddiness of consciousness, where it cannot know what is happening to it. It is simply merged in a joy, and joy possesses it. It becomes joy. There is no I, no you, no object—nothing. It is just bliss bursting forth.

A faint reflection of this kind of joy is sometimes, though rarely, also felt by people in this world—for a fraction of a moment, not for a long time. But there, it is a different thing altogether. The Reality is possessed—the archetypes, as Plato sometimes tells us in his great philosophical disquisitions. The archetypes, the originals of things, are possessed—not the reflections that we are catching now. If the reflections make us giddy with joy, what will happen to us if we possess the originals? We become mad with joy by catching shadows; what will happen to us if we catch the originals? Unthinkable is that condition! Nobody knows what samadhi is.

There are stages of this attainment, and even this attainment is not a sudden jump into the ocean. Perhaps even when we enter the ocean, there is a gradual entering. We touch the water slowly with our feet or with our fingers, and a little of our body goes into the ocean. Little by little, we go inside, and we do not suddenly enter into the bosom of the waters. Similarly, this great attainment is a gradual experience. Sometimes —very rarely, in exceptional cases—it may look like a sudden possession, like a devil coming and catching hold of us. But, very rarely it is so. Mostly, it is a graduated process. We rarely get possessed like that.

Thus, we gradually, slowly, enter into these substances which are the realities, the archetypes or the originals of things, and we become pulled towards these things. When we touch the substance, the reality, the archetype, the original of a thing, it is as if we are touching a live wire which will pull us with a tremendous force, because the force of Reality is the force of anything that is here in this phenomenal world.