Swamiji on Facebook Swamiji on Twitter Swamiji on Youtube

A Study of the Bhagavadgita


Chapter 8: The Stages of Yoga (Continued)

A sacrament which is dedicated to the Supreme Being is brahmārpaṇaṁ. What you offer to the Supreme Absolute cannot be something that is external to you. That which is external to you does not really belong to you, so it cannot be offered. How will you give a gift of something which is not your property? What is really yours can be offered; then it becomes charity, a gift. That which is totally outside you is not your property, because of the fact it is outside. So any amount of material gift is no gift unless you yourself are also there as a part of the gift. Something of you has to go.

What you have to offer to the Supreme Absolute is Atman, and not anything material. Atman is offered to the Paramatman. The jiva consciousness is dedicated to the Universal Consciousness. You are offered, nobody else. You offer yourself in the altar of the great yajna of Universal Consciousness brahmārpaṇaṁ. This is the greatest dedication that you can give to God. If God asks you, “What will you give me?” you cannot offer God some bananas or sweets because they are not your possessions. Only you are your possession. You have no right over anything in this world except your own self. Not even one needle can be your property, so the offering that you have to make to the Universal Being is only yourself. This is jnana yajna, the wisdom sacrifice, as it is so called. Into the flame of the wisdom of the all-pervading nature of God, you offer yourself in the consciousness of a practical annihilation of your individual existence.

When you offer something into the holy fire in a yajna or a sacrifice, you seem to be offering some substance some material of ghee or rice, etc. But here in this wisdom sacrifice, what you offer is not some article from the world outside. It is a part of yourself. A little of yourself goes gradually with every little sense of belonging to the whole. This is brahma havir. Brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam: You offer yourself into the flame or the fire of God so that you get burnt into the ashes of a non-entity altogether.

Who is offering this? You are offering. Who are you? Now another difficulty is placed before you. The offering is not made by you; it is made by itself, to which you are making the offering. It is offering itself to itself. The war of the Mahabharata is waged by the Universal Virat. It is not engaged upon by Arjuna, Bhima, the Kauravas. “I have come to engage upon this great work.” Kālosmi lokakṣayakṛt pravṛddha (Gita 11.32). The Viratsvarupa, the Cosmic Form, speaks in the Eleventh Chapter. The great war is the universal war. It is motivated by the Universal Being for its universal purpose, and the Universal is offering itself in the sacrifice of the yajna of the Mahabharata war. You cannot lift even a finger unless the central Universal Will operates, even as without the order issued by the total muscular setup of your personality, your fingers cannot lift, your eyelids cannot move; so is anything that you think or seem to be doing in this world. Even this so-called yajna that you are trying to perform is a motivation that comes from the Universal Being. The Universal offers itself to the Universal. God knows God. God contemplates God. God offers Himself to God: brahmaṇā hutam.

Brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ: The aim, the purpose, the destination of this kind of cosmic sacrifice is the attainment of God only. God, through the performance which is also God, reaches God through the sacrifice, which is also a movement of God within Himself. This is the drama of God in this world which is Himself, where He is the director and the actor, the arena and the light, the audience and the performance. This is the cosmic drama that God seems to be playing for His own pleasure, and not for your pleasure, because you cannot have any pleasure unless this pleasure is there behind you, animating your existence.

Brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ brahma-karma-samādhinā. This kind of sacrifice as mentioned is a kind of communion that you establish with God. Brahma-karma-samadhi is the inner communion cosmically attempted by your so-called individuality. Samadhi is communion, equilibration of consciousness, an establishment of total harmony between the subjective and objective universe so that no one knows who is seeing what whether the world is seeing you or you are seeing the world. They coalesce into a single existence. That is called samadhi. And in this consciousness of the sacrifice of yourself in God-consciousness, you are entering into a veritable samadhi condition while you are actually working in the world. Sahaja samadhi is also the name given to this kind of experience. Varieties of samadhi, or divine communion, are described. In one state of samadhi there is an obliteration of your existence, a consciousness of a flood inundating you from all sides, and an experience of Being as such; in the other state of samadhi you see the variety of the world, and yet you are in the state of the Infinite.

Are you not seeing the variety of the limbs of your body? So many fingers, so many toes, so many limbs, so many kinds of operation in the alimentary canal, in the respiratory system, in the blood circulation; but are you different things? You are one single, indivisible entity in spite of the multifarious activities that seem to be taking place in your organism. The unity consciousness is pervading the diversity of activity even in the physical organism. So is the experience that you will have in one kind of communion where you will see the whole world lit with the light of God. Trees will be scintillating with radiance, mountains will be shining like diamonds, the sun will pour forth rays of nectar, the moon will be inundating you with beauty, and you will not actually know whether you are in hell or in which place. This is the penultimate samadhi, as some people call it. Some of the Upanishads go into great details about this. The Yoga Vasishtha, the great mystical text, is very expanded in its exposition in these matters of the gradational consciousness of the seeker in communions which come one after the other, which are all designated by different words.

There will be a flash of consciousness in the beginning. You will see lightning flashing. As if lightning strikes in the sky, your mind will experience a kind of delightful lightning flash. It will come and go. Yoga does not come always, all twenty-four hours of the day. There will be a flash, as if you are seeing something which is not of this world. A vision, a sound, a taste, an odour, some music or a touch which is celestial in its nature will be your casual experience occasionally. This is the effect of one kind of communion which your mind establishes with the higher levels.

After some time the communion will intensify itself, and you will feel a sense of belonging to this light that is in front of you. You will not merely see or hear or touch or smell these experiences as if they come from outside, as if they are the music of the spheres; you will feel that you are somehow connected to these operations and you are a part of this orchestra of this celestial being. You are not merely the listener of the music; you are participating in it in some way or the other, and you will feel an ecstasy, as if you want to dance. This will be another communion that will intensify itself a little further on.

The Yoga Vasishtha says the experience will intensity itself further, and you will see lightning flashes everywhere in the sky not only one strip in one place. It will be a floodlit sky, and you will also be a part of that experience. You will see radiance in your own personality, and one flame will not be able to distinguish itself from the larger flame which is like a conflagration in the whole sky. Then the light alone will be there. These are the communions. Brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma havir brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam, brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ brahmakarmasamādhinā.

All this experience should not be expected to come like a windfall, though sometimes it can be a windfall. There are miracles possible in this world. Sudden experiences are also practicable due to the maturity of some of the karmas of your past lives, but usually it is an exercise that is expected on your part through the Yoga process, as is very systematically described for instance in the Sutras of Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga, the eight stages.

The process of this practice of Yoga is again briefly described in the Fifth Chapter, which is the cue, as it were, to the further exposition in the Sixth Chapter. Sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāṁś cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ, prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā nāsābhyantaracāriṇau (Gita 5.27); yatendriyamanobuddhirmunir mokṣaparāyaṇaḥ, vigatecchābhayakrodho yaḥ sadā mukta eva saḥ (Gita 5.28). Two verses will tell you briefly what Yoga is. First of all, you have to shut out all the entry of external consciousness into your meditational mood. This is done by what is called pratyahara technique. The contacts of the senses with externality have to gradually be diminished in their intensity, which you should do by diligent practice.

The objects of the senses have such an impact upon the senses that whenever you see something desirable or abhorrent, you are disturbed in your mind; therefore, in the initial stages of Yoga practice, the student is advised to place himself or herself in an atmosphere in which there will not be temptations. Do not be in a supermarket or a cinema hall or a theatre. These are not places for meditation. As far as possible, also isolate yourself physically from atmospheres of temptation and distraction, disturbance, agitation, and feelings of sorrow. Physical isolation is important otherwise, why do people come to an ashram, Uttarkashi, Gangotri, and other places?

And then, when you have succeeded to some extent in weaning yourself from the consciousness of the desirables and the undesirables, you have to chalk out a process of the concentration of the mind on the objective that is before you what it is that you are aiming at in your Yoga. So the verse says, sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāṁś: externalising them totally, not allowing the mind to come in vital contact with anything that is an object of desire.

Cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ: not actually opening the eyes entirely nor closing entirely. Semi-closing of the eyes is prescribed here. Commentators tell you that this prescription is specifically because of the fact that if you open the eyes entirely, you will go on seeing things and there will be some kind of distraction. If you close the eyes entirely, you may fall asleep. So the position of the eyelids is supposed to be as if you are looking at the tip of the nose. Some say you may actually concentrate on the tip of the nose, but the actual significance of the prescription seems to be, it should be as if you are looking at the tip of the nose. You are conscious, and yet not externally conscious.

This consciousness of something which is not actually an external consciousness is also the reason why often people prescribe early morning hours for meditation. In sleep there is total unconsciousness, and in waking there is external consciousness. Neither of these states is suitable for actual meditation. So early morning, Brahma-murta, just before sunrise or somewhat at that time, your consciousness seems to be just awakening to a perception of the world outside but it has not actually perceived the world outside, nor are you sleeping. So there is a semi-consciousness. It is a consciousness, not unconsciousness, not outside consciousness a consciousness, pure and simple. This is the reason, they say, for the instruction that the early morning hours would be good for meditation.

Similarly is the case with the instruction that before you go to bed would also be a suitable time because you are slowly absorbing all your activities at the end of the day. The mind becomes calm; the senses become less active. A similar state as in Brahma-murta will follow to some extent before you go to bed in the evening, so both in the morning and in the evening you may try to practice Yoga.

Sparśān kṛtvā bahir bāhyāṁś cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ: concentrating your mind in this manner. Sometimes it is said that you can concentrate on the centre of the eyebrows. This verse also refers to that. Cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ: The middle of the eyebrows can be regarded as the point of concentration. It is not that everyone should concentrate only in this way. This is one way among many other possible ways. One of the reasons for the efficacy of concentration in this manner on the centre of the eyebrows is psychologically, mystically, from an occult point of view, it is said that the point between the eyebrows is the centre of the mind in waking consciousness. The mind is supposed to be working through the particular spot here, through the brain which acts through the centre of the eyebrows, the Ajna Chakra as it is called in occult science. In dream the mind is supposed to be operating in the throat, and in sleep it goes to the heart. So as the mind is already there in the waking state spontaneously occupying its own seat in the point between the eyebrows, it will be comfortable for the mind to concentrate there itself. You just make it work in the very place where it is sitting. That is perhaps the reason why this instruction is given that you can concentrate on the point between the two eyebrows: cakṣuś caivāntare bhruvoḥ.

Prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā: When you breathe in and breathe out, the mind also oscillates like a pendulum. The more intense is the heaving process of breathing, the more is the agitation that the mind feels. And so the seatedness of yourself in a calm and quiet posture will also eliminate the intensity of the activity of the prana. The inner breath and the outer breath will slow down to some extent, as if they merge together. It is prana and apana prana is the exterior breath, and apana is the interior breath. You breathe out, the prana is operating; you breathe in, the apana is there. Both will join together, as it were, when the mind is calm and quiet: prāṇāpānau samau kṛtvā.

Nāsābhyantaracāriṇau: You will not know whether you are breathing through the right nostril or the left nostril. It is just a little breathing in a harmonious manner.

Yatendriyamanobuddhi: restraining the five senses, the mind and the intellect in the manner described in the earlier chapters, and in the light of what we have studied already, to which process a little reference was made towards the end of the Third Chapter of how we can control the kama and krodha, desire and anger, restraining thus the senses, the mind and the intellect. Muni: Silent, calm and quiet, non-interfering, minding one’s own business such a person is muni, or you may call him a saint if you like, wanting nothing but liberation of the self. What do you want? “Liberation, Universal Existence, and everything conducive to that, which is my duty. I am not interested in anything else.” Wanting only that, he is a mumukshu, wanting God: mokṣaparāyaṇaḥ.

Vigatecchābhayakrodha: free from every kind of binding mortal desire, having no fear because God is in front of you. He is at the back, He is on the right side, He is on the left. He is guarding you, so what fear do you have? Therefore, vigatecchābhayakrodha: without desire, without fear, without anger; yaḥ: whoever is in this condition; sadā mukta eva saḥ: that person should be considered to be already liberated.