The Path to Freedom: Mastering the Art of Total Perception
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 16: Attaining Unity with the Object

In every external relation the object stands outside the subject, and hereby the implication is carried that there is no proper relation of the object with the subject. This is the paradox of all earthly relation where, while there appears to be a connection of one with another, there is really no such intelligible relation. In our contemplations of all objects in the world, we make a mistake on one side and cherish a desire on the other side, creating a confusion in our own minds and thus gaining nothing by the objective contact.

The purpose of concentration and meditation is to release this mental tension between the subject and the object—to establish a proper relation with the object so that there may not be any strained relation between the two. The strain and the effort comes about on account of the relation being an artificial one. It is artificial because the object does not really yield to the dictates of the subject. The object refuses to become a satellite of the subject. While in all relationships the intention of the mind is to convert the object into a kind of instrument in its personal endeavours and satisfactions, no one wishes to be subordinate to another. This is the principle of individuality reigning supreme in every person and thing, animate and inanimate. Even a pebble would not like to be a satellite of another. It has a status of its own. Now, this status that every object enjoys is the obstruction of its relation to any other thing in the world. If each individual unit of creation has an independent status of its own from its own point of view, it cannot be subjected to the necessities of another.

The contemplation of the object by a subject is, in one sense, a proclamation of a feeling that the object is to yield to the needs of the subject. Else, there would be no need to think of the object. Why do we contemplate an object? We wish that it acts in a particular manner in relation to us, but this wish itself is unjustifiable from the point of view of the object itself. If someone wants us to yield to their wishes, that would not be justifiable from our point of view because thereby, we would be losing our status. A status is an affirmation of one’s personality, and that is surrendered when there is an objective relation with anything else in this world.

All objective relations are external relations, all external relations are artificial relations, and all artificial relations are doomed to end in failure. All our relations are bound to crumble one day and assert their real nature. That they do not exhibit their true nature always is not to be taken as an argument that there is some substance in their relationships. The natures of objects are not always demonstrated, for various reasons. Sometimes there is a sympathetic communication between the subject and the object. This is what psychologists call en rapport. A sympathy of feeling can make it look that there is a real relationship, a community of purpose, between one and the other.

If both of us are travelling towards Badrinath, there can be a community of feeling between us. It is not that we are identical with each other, not that we shall agree with each other in every respect, but in this particular respect we are one: we are travelling in the same direction for a single purpose. In this analogy, there may be umpteen similar reasons in this world, on account of which we may appear to be agreeing with one another. The sympathy of minds is due to a commonness of function, engendered by similarity of objective. If the objective is to differ, then there would be no similarity in any of the characteristics between the two, and there would then be a separation: You go your way and I go mine. Therefore, the relationship of objects is a temporary association.

In the famous verse of the Mahabharata, we are given an eternal truth of social relation: All rise is only for a fall, one day or the other. All union is bound to end in a separation, and all life is bound to end in death. This is a universal truth of things related by external contact. External contact is again defined in the very same epic, the Mahabharata.

What do we mean by external relation? The meeting of two logs of wood in a river may be regarded as external relation. They touch each other, commingle with each other, perhaps look like friends and family relations, but then the wind blows and they are cast in different directions. The winds of universal law bring people together, and the winds of the same law shall also separate them.

So the unions and the separations of things in the world are meaningful only as long as their ultimate cause is not known. This law operates not merely in the galaxies and the stellar systems in the astronomical universe, but also in the tiny molecules of an atom. Thus is the law of external relations bound to end in a separation of characters and constituents merely because the relationship is not genuine. It is makeshift, a friendship that has been brought about for a particular purpose. Here the union is not an end in itself, but a means to another purpose. If the purpose is served, the union is no more.

We sit together for a particular purpose, and if the purpose is over, we go our way and no longer sit together. The union of members in a meeting is not a real union, and so are our purposeful unions with objects in the world. The mind’s relation with an object is such a purposeful device contrived for a temporary fulfilment of the mind’s ideal. When the fulfilment is either complete or frustrated, the union is no more. If we come together on account of a friendly relation, the relation is for a purpose, and when the purpose is over, the relation is also over. If we cannot agree with each other, then also there is no union. So either way, we do not seem to be destined for permanent happiness in this world. This is a very unfortunate fate that seems to have befallen mankind and all creation on account of this peculiar situation.

This situation has to be changed. The tables have to be turned. The union attempted should become a real union. This is the purpose of Yogic meditation and concentration. The power of this concentration through yoga is such that it can unite even broken glass. There is nothing which it cannot bring together because the way in which this unity here is established is not external, but by means of an internal understanding. The external relationship is merely a contact temporarily brought about by means of characteristics obtaining only in space and time. But there are bonds which are not spatial and temporal. These bonds sometimes exhibit themselves in what we call love for things in the world. They are not properly exhibited, but hiddenly present in what we call affection or love. That people overcome the arguments of reason and set aside intellectual convictions when love overpowers them is an indication that there can be a bond superior to logical understanding.

But inasmuch as this love for things gets vitiated by space-time relation, it does not succeed, but it gives a hint of there being a possibility of union. It can be taken as an instructor, pointing our way to a true possible union. That there is a moral urge for rectitude which transcends logical reason would again indicate that there is a righteousness that rules this world. There is a principle that conducts itself uniformly everywhere. Likewise, there is a principle of union among things. This is psychologically called affection or love which, as I mentioned, gets foiled due to its connection with objects that are in space and time. If love is to stand independent of objects, then perhaps it may succeed; but it gets tangled in objects and then as the objects go, the love also goes. Hence, earthly love suffers.

Together with the objects that go with the passage of time, the love of the mind for things of the world is a teaching to us, as it were, to point out the existence of a superior bond among things. This indicated bond is to be materialised independent of objects. This would be the spiritual fraternity of people. This is the love of the saint and the sage. This is perhaps also the love of God, which transcends objects and external relations, and peeps through the egoism of human beings when it marches forth in its longing for objects of sense.

Yogic concentration and meditation is a technique of freeing the principle of union among things from objective relations. In the beginning the object is taken as the target of concentration, and then the object is ultimately given up and the principle behind it is extracted. The principle is the principle of union. That I contemplate the object, that I wish to have it and I like it, is a principle involved in my relation to the object. But the principle is involved in the object. That is the difficulty.

The purpose of Yogic meditation is to extract the principle out of the object. The object is the vitiating factor. It spoils the relation, and when we judge anything in terms of objects, we seem to be selfish in our ways of approach. We should not weigh principles on the scale of objects, because principles survive and objects die. So when the objects die, the principles may also die if we are to connect the principles with the objects.

Now, here we are concerned with the supreme principle of the universe, namely the union among things. That there is such a principle existing among all things is clear to us even in our daily activities. We long for a coming together of things, and we long for happiness by means of union and contact. Just imagine the ideal that we place before ourselves in life. Our ideal is always happiness, nothing short of it, and nothing else. This happiness we try to seek though contacts. All happiness is sought through contacts of some kind or other. If we live independently, alone, there is no contact, and naturally we are not happy; we feel lonely, and run after union of various kinds.

The fact that happiness is our ideal, and that we try to seek it only through union and there is no other way at all, shows that a kind of union is permissible in the universe. Perhaps that special type of union that is at the background of our minds may bring us eternal joy. This is the ground on which the yoga technique bases itself and conducts operations in such a way that there is a gradual extrication of the principle of unity from the objects in which they are caught. The object is attractive on account of the principle getting involved in the object.

As I stated earlier, when the mind influences an object, the object looks beautiful and attractive. It is purely on account of the mind’s influence on the object that it is so. If the mind is to be withdrawn from the object, there would be no attraction. In usual Earthly relations, there is not only the mind’s influence on the object causing attraction of the object towards the mind, but also there is a tendency of the object to influence the mind, due to which it is that we are restless. Our restlessness is due to objects around us influencing us.

We cannot think independently. We always think in terms of something. That something is the cause of our agitation. Now, neither should the object be influenced by the subject, nor should the subject by influenced by the object. This is the aim of Yogic concentration, finally. There is no kind of mutual influence because any kind of influence would again be an external relation. What are the subject and the object, independent of these influences? Their status should be affirmed in a spiritual, fundamental way, independent of which mutual influence, the object and the subject reveal their true character.

Some biologists say that we can see the real colour of a leaf on a tree only in pitch darkness because when we shine a light on it, the colour changes. Light influences the leaf; light influences the objects. We cannot see anything in pitch darkness, but we cannot see the true colour in the light. So are the object and the subject in their mutual relation. We cannot see them in their independent status. They are never independent. Always they are mutually related, influencing each other, as with the planets; there is always a perennial mutual influence between the planets, a gravitational pull. Similarly, there are always objects disturbing the mind, and the mind influencing the objects. This is the difficulty involved in the practice of concentration and meditation.

We have never learned how to think independent of an object. Inasmuch as we have never learned this technique, and this is what we have to achieve in the end, we utilise the object itself to transcend the object, as a diamond is cut by a diamond. The object of concentration is enabled to transcend itself in the process of concentration. When the object is concentrated upon, when the mind fixes its attention on the object, the nature of the object receives the impact of a wider and wider scope of action and influence. It reveals its inner relationship with other objects. Instead of a single object influencing the mind, a wider relationship of things outside seems to influence the subject in meditation.

The student of yoga confronts a wider field as an object, rather than a single unit of concentration. The knot is getting untied and loosened, as it were. An object is nothing but a knot of force. It is a knot of energy, and this is to be loosened by the concentration of the mind.

This coil of force, sometimes called kundalini in certain Yogic language, is to be made to uncoil itself. The coil of energy is the object—a whirl of force. On account of energy getting located at a point in space, it looks like an object. When the energy is released, when the kundalini opens, when the coil opens up and releases itself, the force coalesces with the other centres of force called objects, and then it is that they have an internal relationship among themselves, rather than merely a possibility of such a relation indicated in the external contacts.

Even when the objects are locked up in their exclusive relations, their internal urge for union demonstrates itself in the restlessness which they exhibit within themselves. Scientists tell us that every rock vibrates with moving atoms, and there is no static rock. Every cell in our body vibrates and tends to grow and change. This is the restlessness exhibited in every body, tending towards an uncoiling of energy or force for the sake of an internal union with other objects. Concentration of mind helps in the releasing of this energy from its locked-up locations and makes it move smoothly towards other centres, which are also made up of the same force.

The kundalini shakti is nothing but objective energy which is present not only in our own selves, but also outside in bodies. It is the solidity of a stone, the liquidity of water, the gaseous character of fire and air, the emptiness of ether, the restlessness of the mind, and the affinity of objects chemically, biologically and also psychologically. All this is kundalini operating, which is nothing but the universal energy located in certain points in space—externally as objects, internally as centres of thinking.

Now, the mind is also an object from one point of view. When we think of untying the objective energy, we do not mean merely a physical object outside our bodies. The mind is also an object insofar as it is locked-up energy. The world is not merely physical. There is an astral or subtle world internal to the physical world, and subtler still is the causal universe. The mind is an object in the subtle world, while the so-called objects that we contemplate are the things of the physical world. It makes no difference finally whether the object is physical or psychological. It becomes an object obstructing the release of energy when it is located in one point of space.

The mind is, for all practical purposes, an object, inasmuch as it thinks in terms of an object, assumes the form of an object, and has all the characteristics of an object: transiency, perishability, and fickleness of character. When the mind is focussed on an object, whether external or internal, a kind of heat is generated—not heat in the sense of fire or atomic energy, but a force exerted. In its gross form this force is called prana, and in its subtler field it is called thought, mind, etc. The hatha yogins, kundalini yogins and tantrics feel that the energy that has its impact upon the object of concentration is prana shakti. This is why some people practise asanas, bandhas, mudras, etc., to lock their limbs in such a way that the pranas are not allowed to move in their proper channels and are directed to a particular spot in the body which is said to be the location of the kundalini shakti. This rule may apply to any object, for the matter of that. The concentration need not necessarily be a point in the body.

This advice should not be given to a novice. Beginners in the field of yoga should not concentrate on centres of the body because it could cause a dislocation of personality or even psychological aberration. We should regard it as proper for beginners in yoga to concentrate their minds on an external object or a concept. Even if it be a concept, it should be of an external ideal. In the beginning of yoga practice the object of our concentration should be outside us, and not inside, because here the emotions are not disturbed. We may get disturbed emotionally and psychologically if we are to abolish the concept of the object at once, because nobody can live without an object. Our life is objective, and so we have to take care that we do not disturb our minds by abolishing the concept of the object and concentrating the mind internally on centres of the body. Therefore, let the object be external in the beginning, and let it be a beloved object, an Ishta Devata, so that the emotions are kept intact. The object is there, and our affection for that object is also there.

Now we begin to concentrate. How do we concentrate? Generally we never concentrate on anything in this world. We always think in an impersonal or general manner. When we look at a person, we do not look at any particular part wholly. Though it is understood that we are looking at the person, we do not gaze at a person’s eyes, nose, forehead, ears, etc. It is a general glance, and that is all. Likewise, we recognise an object by a general perception or cognition. We never have the occasion to concentrate our attention on any object, even a small thing in the world. We just look at people in front of us, and at objects; this is general cognition of things.

But concentration is a different thing altogether. It is not general perception or cognition. We are not merely casting a glance over the objects. It is not surveying things, but focussing, fixing the mind only on the object in such a way that we become conscious of every part of the body of the object. This is concentration. We begin to concentrate on every detail of the constitution of the thing. Whatever be that object, we begin to concentrate on every detail of its structure, its colour, its shape, its size, its weight, its location, its meaning, its duration of existence, its meaning for us, and so on. We concentrate upon it in a way that we generally do not do when looking at the ordinary things of the world. We have to concentrate on every blessed characteristic of the object. It is then that the characteristics unleash themselves.

If we go on gazing at a person, the person may get up and go away. He won’t sit there; he would think there is something wrong. So it is with an object; when we gaze at it in concentration, it will reveal its true nature. It won’t be there any more. The object itself will cease to be.

The concentration is an analysis of the constitution of the object. It is not merely blindly looking. It is a penetrating look of the mind into the structure of the object, by which we begin to have an insight as to what the object is made of. And when every character of the object becomes an object of concentration, the characters which constitute the object stand apart, while earlier they used to stand together to constitute the illusion of the object. The object is really an illusion; it is really not there.

It is rather an objectness that we see, than an object. That would be the proper way of defining what we see. It is an objectness, a character of something being external to us as an object. There is really no object, truly speaking; and if it had been really there, it would never come under our control. We can do nothing with it, gain no access into it, and have no knowledge of it. It is not really there.

Do you really believe that there is an external object in your dream world? Look at a mountain in your dream world. Is it really there? Yes and no, both are the answers. The mountain in a dream world is really there, and the dream person can hit himself against a dream wall and have dream bleeding, dream pain, dream suffering, dream medication, and so on. A dream person may find it difficult to climb a dream mountain; but is the mountain really there?

Now, the question can only be answered from the standpoint that we take. If we take the standpoint of the dream itself, yes, the mountain is there and we cannot climb that mountain, it is too steep. We can fall down from a dream tree and break our legs. But if we shift our standpoint and look at the phenomenon from another angle of vision, we will find that the mountain that we see in dream is constituted of something which is no different from what is in our mind in the dream world.

We never imagine for a moment that the dream mountain is made up of mind. We think it is made up of stones, mud, thorns, trees, etc. Can we even think in dream that the dream mountain is made up of mind? Yet mental substance has appeared as an object, and there is no real mountain. The mind has taken the form of the mountain. The mind which is our own thinking nature has taken an external form, and that external formation of the mind itself is the object. So, it is only an objectness and not really an object. The mind has assumed an objectness, as it were, in dream in the form of a mountain and many other things, while the things are not really there.

So are the world’s objects. They appear to be there, as objects can be there in the dream world. We think that the mountains in our waking world are constituted of stones, earth, solid mass and so on, which is the same way that we thought in our dream world. We can never for a moment think that the world is made up of forces, as we can never imagine in dream that the objects there are made up of mind. When deep thought is bestowed upon the object, it will be noticed that it is made up of a substance which is akin to the subject.

This is the reason why we can have an intuition of things. How could we have intuition of another thing altogether, which has no connection with us? The truth is that it has a connection with us because fundamentally, the substance out of which our thinking principle is made is the same as the object, as is the case with the dream objects and dream minds. It is on account of this fundamental possibility of union that yoga becomes successful and meaningful.

Hence, in the concentration of the mind, just for the sake of argument and analogy, place yourself in the position of a dream subject meditating on a dream object. What would happen? You would wake up from dream. If you start meditating in dream, you will not be in dream. You will wake up because all phenomena exists on account of external relation, and concentration is a breaking up of that relation. When the relation is broken, there cannot be phenomena. The whole phenomena of dream vanishes. You wake up, wiping your eyes.

So is this external relationship of things to be broken through by the power of concentration of mind, and the objects will shake themselves up and reveal their inner structure as something different from what we think them to be. The objects of the world terrify us, just as the tigers in dream may terrify us. But, fortunately or unfortunately, the tiger in the dream is only made up of our mind, and yet it can so terrify us that we can scream and wake up. So are the things of the world, part of which we look on with fondness and part of which we look at with dread and fear. But they are made up of a universal substance which can be brought together into union by a technique of concentration of mind. The purpose of concentration, therefore, is to disturb this locked-up energy. In dream, for example, energy has been locked up in the form of a mountain. We have to unlock that energy. The mountain should be shattered so that it may once again merge itself in the mind of which it is made.

A whirl of mental force, under a stress of aberration, alienated itself from the principle and became an object in dream. To bring it back to the status of the thinker from that of an object thought, it would not be enough if we merely gaze at it with affection or hatred, but we have to focus upon it. In dream also we have love and hatred, but that does not awaken us from dream. Something catastrophic should take place; then we wake up or become conscious that it is dream. Occasionally we begin dreaming that it is a dream, and that also seems to be a part of the dream itself.

Likewise, philosophers in the world are supposed to be conscious dreamers. They are dreamers, like others, but they know that it is a dream, while others are caught up in the dream. This is a difference between a philosopher and a naive person in the world. While both dream the world, one is aware that he is dreaming the world and the other does not know that he is dreaming. So the dream mind, as it were, should focus itself on the object and fix itself in such concentration that the external relationship is broken. The mind’s contact with the object in terms of love and hatred ceases. In concentration of the mind, we neither love the object nor hate the object. It is not emotional relation; it is a purely impersonal contact. It is like a scientist observing an object in a laboratory. He neither loves it nor hates it.

Likewise is concentration an impersonal focussing of mind on the object for a definite chosen purpose. It is not that we wish to acquire anything out of it, or we want to abandon it. The mind fixes itself on the object in concentration, continuously. If we hold the flame of a blowtorch to an object, say a piece of glass, it starts melting. Usually glass will break, but before a blowtorch, it starts melting. Similarly is the object in concentration. While ordinarily it offers an opposition to us and acts as a counterforce, challenging us and demanding love from us, and controverting our dislike of it when we apply this force of concentration, the objects behave in a different way altogether. There the objects are neither friends nor foes. They are units of creation, impersonally existing, and ready to unravel their mysteries for us.

The Yogi, therefore, is like a great scientist who confines himself to a single effort of the concentration of his mind on a given subject and focuses his attention on the object so that the effect is felt not only on the object, but also on the mind that is meditating. The transformation that takes place in meditation is not merely a change that is taking place in the object; a simultaneous change takes place in the mind also, because the mind and the object are mutually related. When we disturb one, the other is also disturbed. Whatever happens to one happens to the other because the mind and the object are two terms of a single relation. Hence, in the act of the concentration of the mind, whether it is done objectively or subjectively, the purpose achieved is twofold. There is a regeneration of mental consciousness inwardly, and an unravelling of the mysteries of the object externally.

As a matter of fact, intuition of the object is not a function of the mind in its cognitive process because intuition is not a cognition or a perception. It is an entering of the structure of the mind into the structure of the object. In intuition, the substance of the mind communes itself with the substance of the object. They evolve simultaneously in the process of meditation. Whatever change may take place in the object of concentration has also a simultaneous and parallel impact upon the mind that concentrates. They move together. We cannot extricate one from the other. We cannot take one, independent of the other. But mostly we are not aware of what is happening in our minds. We are so engrossed in the objects that we are unaware of internal transformations, but changes do take place without our knowing what is happening.

It is said that in the case of Buddha meditating, he never knew what was happening to him even a day before his illumination. His was almost in a state of despair that nothing tangible was taking place. But inwardly he was growing and there was a readiness for an outburst of consciousness, of which he had no knowledge. It was an internal manifestation of consciousness, an inward growth silently taking place, and outwardly the form of the mind was maintained.

So in the Yogic process, the mental transformations do not always become the object of our awareness. It is not always that we are conscious of what is happening to us when we have taken an object as our ideal of concentration. But suffice it to say, if we have gained some sort of control over our thought of the object, we can rest assured that we have gained a parallel control over our mind also because it is our mind that has gained control over the object, which would be impossible if the mind had not evolved itself to the position of that object.

Thus, there is a movement of energy, vertically we may say, tending towards a union, like the union of two sides of a triangle at their apex, while they are apart at their base. The object and the mind concentrating evolve simultaneously in their structures, loosening themselves, becoming more and more intimate between themselves while they stood apart earlier—becoming intimate between themselves on account of a conscious realisation of there being a fundamental affinity between them, like two people recognising each other after a conversation, examination, etc., of their situation. In the beginning they did not recognise each other. Then they began to enquire: “Who are you? From where are you coming?” And then finally they realise that they are relatives. “Oh,” they say, “I never knew.”

Likewise is the object in meditation. It was so far, far away, unconcerned with us, and we were struggling with it, for or against. Now slowly accosting the object, we begin to realise that, after all, it was not an unconcerned, unaffiliated object in the world; it was a very old friend whom we have treated very badly. Now the friend comes and says, “I am your old friend, sir,” and there need be no more of this tug of war—no competition of the object trying to exert influence on the mind, and the mind trying to exert influence on the object. This is the tug of war, competition.

Let there be no such competition, no mutual influence, but a confluence, rather, a coming together which is possible only when there are characters of a similar nature. But this does not take place immediately. There is a lot of struggle to be undergone in the beginning, because the real nature of the object does not reveal itself at once. The raga and dvesha, the love and hatred element in our minds, does not quickly leave us. Always we are in a state of agony, anxiety, frustration, etc., even when we sit for meditation.

This leaves us with great difficulty. This is the reason why we take so much time in achieving success in meditation. If that were not there, there would not be much difficulty. The old samskaras work so strongly within us that they also get released together with the release of energy. It is not only the good within us that is released, but also the bad. They all rise up. When we sweep a room, all the dust rises up and covers our eyes. Likewise, when we clean our mind in meditation, the dust in the form of samskaras rises up and blurs the vision of the object. Then it is that we do not know what is happening to us, and we become confused.

The dust has to settle down or go out. The samskaras have to find their way out of our mind by means of sublimation. They become part and parcel of the mind or the object, and no more exist as vitiating elements within us, as toxic matter annoying us. The samskaras always exist as some kind of encrustation on the mind, which should not be the case. The samskaras are, after all, mental forms, and they are not really outside the mind. Just as an object is a whirl of energy, the samskara is a whirl of mind. So you have to set right this whirl, make it straight and make it come back to the mental source, which is called sublimation.

The sublimation of samsakaras or desires is the process of setting right these whirls of energy of the mind in the form of desires, etc., making them straight, and making them come back to the original source so that there is only a single indivisible mind. It is this indivisible mind that reflects the Truth consciousness in it wholly.

Thus, by gradual effort of establishing an affinity of oneself with the object of meditation, the disparity between the two principles gradually gets diminished. The two come together by force of habit and there is ultimately a spiritual union which was only hinted at in our loves of the world, earthly affections, longings, and so forth.

That union supreme and par excellence, which we achieve in the spiritual realisation of the cosmos in meditation, is indicated faintly in earthly affections. We should take hold of this indication as a guidepost and, with its aid, we should enter through the object, and not merely love or hate the object. We should enter through it, because it only indicates; it is not itself a destination. It is like a messenger of the Eternal that is speaking before us. This messenger’s voice has to be heard properly. He Himself made the guide for us, and He shall take us by the hand and take us to That which speaks through Him. This is what is achieved in meditation by a gradual diminishing of the distance between the subject and the object, by concentration free from external thought, wherein the consciousness is wholly engaged in the given concept.