The Heart and Soul of Spiritual Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 11: Meditational Techniques

There is what is known as the exoteric way of thinking and the esoteric way of envisaging things in general. The prosaic way of looking at things, as you are accustomed to do in your daily life – taking things for what they appear to be and artificially adjusting yourself accordingly – is an exoteric performance on your part. But, as you know very well, things do not in themselves exist as they appear to your eyes, to your sensations. To handle things in the manner in which they are to be handled essentially, in the spirit of their own true existence, is the esoteric approach.

Previously I spoke to you on certain intricate psychological issues concerning the functioning of the mind and the necessity to understand this way of mental operation from the point of view of true knowledge. I mentioned this in the context of my explanation of what tantra sadhana actually means. As it was a little difficult for you to understand, hearing about it for the first time in your life, I am continuing this theme, almost repeating the issue that I raised previously – namely, an attempt to know the inner secrets of mental operation.

Spiritual seekers, students of yoga, are well known to have determined to renounce irrelevant things which act as a hindrance on the spiritual path and to pursue what they regard as the spiritual way of living. Previously I highlighted the difficulty in knowing what it is that you are going to renounce and what it is that you are going to make a part of your own being in this spiritual quest.

The consciousness of something – whatever it be – is the connection of consciousness to what is called an object. Spiritual renunciation, or a life of austerity, is connected with non-attachment to things; but what are the things that you are going to renounce? What do you mean by a 'thing', first of all? For the purpose of the analysis of spiritual psychology, we should consider that as an object or a thing which is a content of consciousness. If the consciousness is aware of the existence of something other than itself, that can be regarded as the content of consciousness; that is the object thereof. Objects do not necessarily mean things like mountains and rivers and the like, because the entanglement of consciousness in the process of earthly existence and bondage does not seem to so much be concerned with the existence of mountains and rivers or things in general but with an operation of consciousness itself within itself, dissecting itself into two parts, as it were – the awareness by itself, and that of which the awareness is aware.

There is no such thing as awareness of awareness. Such a thing has never been seen because awareness, or consciousness, is pure subjectivity and it cannot know itself as another or other than itself. That is to say, the seer cannot become the seen. Yet, a peculiar situation gets created in the consciousness itself where it contemplates an 'other' than its own self. That 'other' may be a physical object or it may be merely a conceptual condition.

What are you going to renounce in spiritual life? The bondage is not in the existence of the creation of the world by itself, but in the involvement of consciousness in a particular way to what it considers as a created object. There are more things in creation than you can perceive with your eyes in this world. There are several planes of existence whose nature no one knows. Are you going to renounce those things also, about whose existence you have no knowledge? What are you renouncing? You may renounce known things in terms of sensory perception – objects, as they say – but is objectivity confined only to perceptible things in this world, or does the objectivity range beyond the human ken and rise into different levels of being? Even in brahma-loka, the apex of the operation of consciousness, there is an operation which is involved in a sort of subtle duality.

The persistence of consciousness to separate itself into the seer and the seen is what is to be investigated. Even when you disregard a thing as irrelevant, the consciousness is aware that there is an irrelevant thing. The irrelevance of a particular thing to be rejected in the process of renunciation is itself a content of consciousness because unless you know that something is irrelevant, it cannot become irrelevant. The moment you are aware of the fact of something being irrelevant, it has become a content of your consciousness. So, even that which you reject is a part and parcel of your thinking process itself. You have to free yourself of this tangle. There is no use merely going by the routine practice of abandoning what you consider as an obstacle, not knowing what is actually happening to the mind when you are engaged in this process. The bondage is not in the things, but in the peculiar arrangement of the mind with regard to those things. That modification of the mind – chitta vritti, as it is called – is the bondage; it is also the source of joy for you.

The entire story of the involvement in heaven or hell is taking place within the mind only. You are bound in your consciousness and you are also free in your consciousness. Freedom and bondage are not something existing outside the process of your thinking; they are dramatic performances within the ocean of mental process itself.

Therefore, you should not take for granted that things are very clear to your mind and that you can go ahead, because when you appear to be moving forward, there may be a pull which is retrograde, invisibly operating behind you. You cannot know that something is operating behind you. Every object has a shadow. That shadow pursues the object. However far you run away from the shadow of your own self, you cannot get away from it because it is part and parcel of your own existence.

The negativity-consciousness is a shadow cast by consciousness itself and, in attempting to think that it is moving along the path of positivity, it forgets that it cannot actually become positive unless it has paid its debts to the persisting impression of negativity at the same time. A dual action takes place in the mind when it thinks. Total thinking is not understood. It is not known to anybody how one can include everything in the mind. The rejected thing also is a part and parcel of the process of thinking itself. This is what I mentioned to you last time, in brief.

If this peculiarity of mental operation is not known to you, there can be backward movement even in the so-called advance along the spiritual path. That which you have not understood can still be a part and parcel of your duty or entanglement. "Ignorance of the law is no excuse," is an old saying. You may not be aware of certain operations taking place, but that is not an excuse. You have to know them. Every law operating in the universe must be known; otherwise, the unknown law will act upon you and you will have to pay the price for being unaware of it.

The first and foremost of objects is the body itself. You always imagine that objects are somewhere far away from you and that they are not necessarily near you. But the biggest object is your body. It is as solid an object as anything else in the world. You can see it, you can touch it and you can operate it though the senses in the same way as you operate any other object. Can you disassociate yourself from body-consciousness? If this could be achieved, you have disassociated yourself from object-consciousness also. If your consciousness persists in believing that it is the body, then it will cast a shadow upon other mental operations also, whereby your apparent physical isolation from objects in the act of renunciation may not serve any purpose. This is because the attachment to things in the world arises out of the first and foremost attachment to this body. As long as this attachment continues, the other attachments cannot be visible. So hard is the ego, so strong is the personality- consciousness, but you may say you have renounced the whole world.

The cause of the very awareness of there being such a thing called the world of objects is your body-consciousness. Can you, in your meditational process, disentangle yourself from the feeling that you are a subject, though you are really an object? You have a subjectivity in you and also an objectivity in the form of the body. When you say 'I', you mix up two issues simultaneously – this bodily existence and also that which is conscious of bodily existence.

Some time ago I also mentioned how, in meditation, you can disentangle the mind from its apparent location in this body. I gave you the technique of placing yourself far away, somewhere in mid-space, and sitting there by the power of your imagination and looking back to your own body seated in meditation on earth. It is a very difficult thing to do because you cannot see your own self as an object sitting somewhere. But, this has to be done. The mind is a great trickster. However much you may try to control it, you will find that it is controlling you, rather than the other way around.

I am repeating once again the meditational technique I mentioned to you. Place yourself in an expanse. Intensely, by the power of will, feel that you are away from your body – as far away as possible. You may be sitting in brahma-loka and visualising from there, at that distant point, the existence of your meditating body somewhere on the face of the earth. You are seeing yourself as an object. Normally, seeing yourself as an object is not possible. Here is a psychological technique of isolating the feeling of your existence from the bodily consciousness and, by the power of will, feeling that the body is away from where you are, so that you may look upon your body as you look upon anything else in the world. What do you think of this tree, this mountain, the people and society outside? In that way, look upon this body also.

Generally you do not appreciate this way of thinking because you think that you are the bodily subject, not knowing that the body cannot be a subject. It is necessary to wrench your mind from entanglement in this body as a subjectivity, which it is not. The body cannot be a subject, and yet you say "I am coming", "I am doing", "I am going", and so on. Who is going; who is coming; who is thinking? Answer this question. You are again thinking in terms of the body – though it is not you, because it is a sense object. You can sensorily come in contact with your body, but the attachment of the mind to this particular physical frame due to what may be called the old prarabdha of actions that you performed in the past – this involvement of the mind with the force exerted by the prarabdha karma is so vehement that you, for all time to come, cannot expect a release from this body-consciousness.

You have performed actions in the past. They rebound upon you as a boomerang and come as concrete presentations in spite of the fact that you thought that their reaction is far away. The reaction to an action is not distinct from the action itself. They are organically related. Therefore, when some disturbance is created by way of an action, immediately its brother comes up in the form of the reaction, and this necessity to pass through these experiences compelled by the reaction is what is called the prarabdha karma. It is intense. As long as it persists in this manner, you will go on thinking you are only the body. But, you are a yoga student. You are not an ordinary person in the world. And so, your true subjectivity has to be realised before you handle things in the world by way of renunciation of objects. Unless you have renounced this body as your own property, you cannot renounce any property in the world.

There are many methods of meditation, but one of the most important things I mentioned is: wrench your mind from this body and place yourself away somewhere. You are not here in this hall of the Academy; you are just now on the top of the mountain that you are seeing in front of you. Is it so?

I will tell you a humorous story. Two friends climbed a mountain in the Swiss Alps, and they got lost. There were many peaks, and they did not know which one they were sitting on. They looked at a map of the place. "Let us find out where we are. There are peaks everywhere." Then one of them said, "Yes, I know where we are, which peak it is. Do you see a peak in front – there? There we are sitting!"

Humorous though it may look, this is what we are actually doing in our daily life. Where are we sitting? You may say you are sitting in your room, but actually you are sitting in the location of the object which you are thinking in your mind. Though you may be in India physically, mentally you may be in America or somewhere else – in the high heavens. Where your heart is, where your thought is, where your feeling is, where your longing is – there you are really sitting, and not in your room or in your office, as you imagine.

This psychology has to be taken advantage of in the meditational process. Go on asserting in your own self that "I am as much an object of the world as any object is". Then, what happens? The whole world of objects, including this body, will present itself before you and you will have a total perception of the total object, which is the created universe. At that time your body will not be persisting and coming with you in your consciousness, in this manner. It will go with the objects. Then where are you at that time? If you are not in this body at that time because you have transferred this object to the world of objectivity, where are you? You will be where consciousness is. You have already made it clear to your own self that you are not in this body – as it is an object and you do not like to be in any object – because that is the very principle of renunciation. If you have succeeded in alienating your mind from its location in this body and have converted this body to an object in the world as other things are, where are you at that time?

You, being consciousness only, are in consciousness. Who is in consciousness? Consciousness is in consciousness. But, where is consciousness? It cannot be somewhere, because you have transferred all these ideas of 'somewhere' into the world of objectivity. You are not somewhere. The idea of somewhere immediately leaves you because of your transforming the body into an object of the world. You are not somewhere. If you are not somewhere, you are everywhere!

Can you think like this? A shock will be injected into you immediately if you succeed in thinking like this: "The whole world is an object of consciousness – including myself as an individual apparently sitting here. Therefore, as a yoga student, as an aspirer for liberation, I am visualising the whole objective cosmos. I am not in any particular place." Because place is involved in objectivity, you cannot be in any place. You must be, therefore, outside the purview of the determining, limiting factor of space. You are in an unlimited status located not somewhere, but located everywhere.

This consciousness is the Virat-consciousness to which I made reference earlier. It is God-consciousness. If at all you can imagine how God thinks, this may be the way. The whole universe is visualised as presented before the one all-pervading consciousness. Since you cannot escape this conclusion in regard to yourself, you are touching the borderland of God Himself when you meditate in this manner.

It is necessary for you to keep this in mind again and again. Nobody thinks like this, generally speaking. "I don't want anything in the world," people glibly say. "I have left everything." But, you have not left the body. Though physically it is not possible for you to remove the body from your mind, you can, by an act of will, meditate that the object has gone with the world and you are free from the world. This is true renunciation. If this cannot be achieved, the renunciation becomes incomplete. Stick to this point. Assert it again and again. Speak loudly on this issue. Chant this mantra of your being an observer of the whole objective world as consciousness – not located somewhere, but everywhere. Go on repeating this mantra in any language that you can think of. And remember, the idea that you are a body will come again and again and persist and hang on you. Again wrench your mind from this location of the body. Place it somewhere. Tell the body, "You are no more me, because you are an object; you are a sense object. How can a sense object be me?" Tell this body, "Now you are one with the whole world of creation. You are not isolated from it as you thought yourself to be." Thus, go on meditating.

This Academy course is not merely a course of lectures. It is a practical recipe that is furnished to you for betterment in your life. When God blesses you, you require nothing else. When the Ultimate Reality blesses you, you require nothing else. You may be afraid of what will happen to the world to which you are related, connected. It will take care of itself, somehow or the other.

There are other ways of meditation than the one I just mentioned, such as meditation on great, powerful masters. In a sutra of Patanjali it is said, vitaraga visayam va cittam (Y.S. 1.37): Contemplate on that mind which has freed itself from all concern with objects. There are powers which are un-thinkable, like the powers of Incarnations. Read the life of Sage Vasishtha, of Vyasa, of Suka, or of any other incarnation like Christ or any other, and see the might, the force that they exerted on everything. They thought, and it materialised itself as that which they wanted because they did not confine their thought to the body which incarnated itself together with their coming into this world.

Yoga Vasishtha is one of the scriptures that describes the great process of materialisation of thought – the concretisation of feeling – and when you think "it should be like this", it should be like that, because the idea that something should be like this is the determining of the object process by the consciousness which contemplates it.

You know the story of Visvamitra and Vasishtha. King Visvamitra wielded millions of weapons, and Vasishtha had nothing except himself. The power of the army was on one side and the power of thought was on the other side. The thought which disentangled itself from the particular body but visualised the whole universe as a total object had a greater power than the physical movements of an army or police. So is the power of Vyasa, Krishna, Jesus, and all the mighty ones. Hanuman – oh, what a strength! How did that strength come? It came because the energy of the universe entered into him.

Actually, what is called brahmacharya is the process of allowing the energy of the world to enter into you. You repel it, usually, by sensory activity. That shakti or bhava endowed Hanuman with immense energy. There are many other instances. If you think of an elephant, you feel like an elephant walking. Balesu hasti baladini (Y.S. 3.25) is one of the sutras of Patanjali. Think the elephant! You will see some tremendous change taking place in the cells of your body. The might, the energy, the potency of this animal called 'elephant', when it is thought of continuously, directly acts upon the mental process. The mind begins to feel a tendency to become stronger and stronger.

Think of the beauty of the moon, or anything that is most beautiful. Your mind becomes beautiful, and you become beautiful because you are the mind. Think of the tremendous roar of the ocean; indomitable power it has got. Think that, and you become the very same strengthening element as the ocean. You can think anything that you like which will infuse into you an energy that is much more than your own. The contemplation on the powers of those people who have freed themselves from raga, or attachment to things, is one of the methods of meditation. The god of your mantra is an object of meditation, whoever that god be, because that god who is the divinity presiding over your mantra is the medium of blessing that you have to receive. It is more than you, and it is also more than anything else that you are looking at with your eyes or are cognisant of.

You are meditating on Lord Ganesa, or Subramanya, or Narayana, or Surya, the mighty soul of the universe. Look at the sun mentally – not physically opening the eyes, but mentally. You can imagine the energy of the sun. If you have studied a little astronomy you will know what the sun is – incomparable, indomitable energy, radiance and purity. Nothing can stand before it. It burns all objectivity. Solar energy, heat and light are the object of your meditation. This is one of the ways in which the Gayatri mantra is chanted in meditation. It is the mantra of Surya Bhagavan. Do not merely chant it mechanically. The great cosmic force of Surya charges your mind with its own presence, and meditation on this divinity is actually accepting the presence of this divinity in your own mind. It takes its position in your mind. It rules you, afterwards. You are possessed by it and you perhaps feel and think like that only.

The sutras of Patanjali have various techniques, about which you have perhaps heard. Together with this art of meditation with which you have to get accustomed, you have also to know how to deal with the so-called world of objects. You can handle them effectively – if you do not believe that they are outside you – by the power of thought. If you wish it should be like that, it will be like that.

Since your final aim is liberation of spirit, moksha – God-realisation, as it is called – it becomes incumbent on your part to attempt, with all your effort, to place yourself in the position of this state of moksha. Feel that you are already liberated; you are in the state of utter liberation. Conceive what that state could be. "When I am totally freed from all bondage, where am I?" You have your own concept of moksha, or liberation, which is utter freedom from every kind of limitation. Place yourself, with great effort of thought, in that condition. Moksha has been achieved already.

One of the psychological secrets of achieving what is necessary for you is to assert that it has already been achieved. A thing that is in the future is an object of dread. You do not know what it will do to you, because it is outside you; it is far away. Assert that it has already come to you, that it is with you and it has been in your possession – without any kind of doubt about it. "I have got it; this particular thing that I wanted has come to me" – and it shall come to you. This is what is meant by the dictum, "Ask and it shall be given." You have to ask by the process of your thinking itself – not merely verbally. The mind says, "I want it. I want it! Certainly I want it; and I have got it." It is not merely wanting, because in wanting you keep the object away from yourself; in having it, the distance is eliminated.

You will be stunned by the power of thought. Miracles will take place if the thought is restrained from this unnecessary entanglement in feeling that it is inside one body only and not in other bodies. You are also present in every other body because you are a non-located consciousness visualising the whole world. This is sometimes called brahma-abhyasa, or the practice of meditation on the Absolute. Even if you utter the word 'Absolute', you get a sudden shocking experience inside. The Absolute, the Parabrahman, the all-pervading Sole Existence – the very thought of it will purify your mind. You do not have to take holy baths or do such rituals; the mind gets purified by the thought of purity itself. If you think of purity, purity has taken place.

But, you should not think of impurity at the same time. It is like a person being told not to think of a monkey when drinking milk; he will certainly think of a monkey at that time because he has been told not to think of it. You have been told that certain things are to be avoided, so they will immediately come to you. The idea of avoiding may be sublimated, together with that which you are meditating upon, so that objectivity is completely annulled. Pure universal subjectivity arises inside you. You-Are-What-You-Are, I-Am-What-I-Am, in the highest sense.

With that knowledge and with that practice, which you have to continue every day, you will find miracles taking place daily. Unexpected things will take place. You will not know how the whole atmosphere has become something quite different from what you have been thinking about it. Yoga is a great blessing. It shall take care of you more lovingly than hundreds of mothers. The Yoga Shastra says that yoga loves you more than hundreds and thousands of mothers. It wants you much more than you want it because that is your real being. Your real being wants this so-called being of yours. That is why yoga is considered as a mother. It is not merely a word that you consider as yoga. It is an awareness itself. It is an acceptance on your part of everything being all right. When you accept that everything is all right, it has to be all right by the power of your thought, by some miraculous operations which you cannot imagine just now. Yoga is power, it is knowledge, it is abundance – and it is yourself, finally.