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An Introduction to the Philosophy of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 9: Meditational Self-Analysis

To recall our memories to the subject of meditation, we noticed that there are principally three approaches to the technique of meditation. There is the subjective method, the objective method and the transcendent method. There are also ways of approach which synthesise all these envisagements. The system of yoga propounded by Patanjali, particularly, touches upon all these aspects, and so we shall reserve this subject to a later time, because it is the most popular system, and it has also the special advantage of being a blend of all these avenues of approach to Truth. The objective method borders finally upon the universal method, and this, again, is a subject we have to set aside for a later consideration, as it entails an entry into advanced techniques.

We shall touch upon a system of thinking in meditation which is peculiar to the philosophies and religions in India, particularly. It is not so much in vogue in other countries, though a suggestiveness of this type can be found also in the mystical doctrines of the Western saints and sages. But it is predominant in the Indian systems, not only in Hinduism, but also in Buddhism and Jainism. It is a special feature because it comprehends within its perspective the essential relationship of the individual with the whole of creation. The central emphasis laid by almost all the philosophies in India is the co-ordination of the individual with the universal. Whether it is a metaphysical system or a psychological one, every system of thought has, as the ultimate objective of all its approaches, the bringing together of the apparently diversified facets of the individual and the cosmos. For this purpose an analytical technique is being adopted.

The individual, the jiva, as it is usually called, the person, 'You' and 'I' is a complex structure of body, mind and spirit. The spirit which is the deepest essence in the individual ramifies itself as a controlling power through the various functions of the individual or the personality.

If we could bring to our memories certain interesting points, which we noted earlier, we would recollect that we observed by analysis that there is a permanent relationship of an inextricable nature between the individual and the universe. We need not repeat the theme here because we have already touched upon it. But what is this relationship that involves a threefold linkage by which the individual is connected to the universal or the cosmic, in the process of knowing? In the process of knowing there is an undercurrent of activity going on without our being conscious of what is happening.

Let us take a gross example, of looking at a tree and becoming conscious of its existence. This simple, commonplace cognition of the presence of an object outside is not so simple as it appears on the surface. It is a very complex activity that manifests itself as the end result, viz., knowledge of the object, the tree, for instance. For the simple act of even standing on our legs, about 450 muscles are supposed to work simultaneously, a fact of which we are not always aware. When we throw into our mouth even a little piece of raisin, the whole body is set into activity, like a dynamo working in a factory. It is not a simple act of a little stuff being put on the tongue. The entire alimentary canal and the respiratory system, the bloodstream and every cell of the body is set into motion because of the entry of a particular object, which is there for the purpose of absorption into the system.

Likewise is the perception of things, knowledge of objects, awareness of anything. We become aware of the objects by the interaction of three facets of reality – the subjective side, which is known as the "Seer", the objective side which is the object "Seen", and a third element which is absolutely essential for establishing a conscious connection between the "Seer" and the "Seen". In Indian theological systems or epistemological analysis, it has been discovered that the very consciousness of an object, even if it be the simple consciousness of an insignificant thing in the world, is a universal phenomenon. There is no such thing as an individual function, anywhere.

The whole world is active when even a single event takes place at any point in space, just as the whole body is active even if a little thorn is to prick the sole of the foot. It is not a local effect merely; it is the entire body-organism getting energised into the requisite action. The whole world becomes aware of even the wisp of a wind, the fall of a leaf or even the movement of a bird, and this is not merely a gospel that you hear in the New Testament, the sermon of the Buddha, or the Upanishad; it is a scientific fact. This is a great revelation which came to Seers of such profundity as the Upanishads, for instance, where we are awakened to the fact of a cosmic interconnection of things, which sets itself into motion at the time of the occurrence of any event, perception, or whatever it is.

This takes us deep down into its further implications, which have direct relevance to our practical life. We are not really independent individuals. We are not isolated persons with no connection among ourselves. We are participants in a government which operates as the central system of the universe. When we become the citizens of a particular nationality or country, we automatically get transformed into a vital relationship with that organism of administration called the government, whether or not we are always conscious of this circumstance. Likewise, the revelation of these great sages brought before their eyes a mysterious circumstance of the inter-relationship of things, so that everything that we are, let alone what we have, belongs to the whole cosmos. We have no personal property; we may call it a universal communism or socialism, wonderful even to contemplate! We have no personal belongings. We cannot say that even the body is our own property. Everything belongs to the All, at once.

The physical body of ours is constituted of the five elements, and how do we say it is our property? Just as all the walls of a building are made up of bricks, mortar, etc., our body is made up of earth, water, fire, air and ether. We cannot say it is 'our' body. The very substance of the body belongs to the structure of things, and the body can be resolved back into the cause from which it has come and out of which it is manufactured. Now we are discussing a very important subject in meditation. The very first step that we take in the direction of the assessment of the circumstances of our physical body will take us to a point of concentration, where we will lose the sense of individuality.

Let us just imagine, as persons endowed with a little commonsense, a situation where the cells of the body and everything that our body is made of – the flesh, bones and marrow – all belong to the world outside. What does remain to belong to us afterwards? We will be stunned even to imagine this situation. We cannot breathe for a moment. It appears that we have borrowed all things from others, to whom they belong, and we have unnecessarily appropriated them and got introduced into that false apprehension of a sense of consciousness which is called egoism, an unwarranted assessment of proprietorship. When we assert our consciousness in the direction of a false proprietorship, we are supposed to be egoistic persons or, can we say, thieves?

So, our awareness or consciousness or mind or reason or intellect, whatever we call it, somehow wrongly reconciles itself to the appropriation of things which do not really belong to it, and then we find ourselves in hot waters in a second. We have dragged into our own personal cocoons of individual life things which belong to somebody else. The five elements are the owners of this body, and they are everywhere. Everyone's body belongs to them, so that none of us has an independent physical existence. We have lost our physical personality in a moment. This is one step in meditation, even without our going further into the greater implications of this system of self-analysis. We will be surprised even to realise this initial fact of the dissolution of our physical existence into the cosmic elements. Our breath will cease because of the shock that has been injected into our minds by the realisation of this tremendous, unexpected revelation.

Apart from the body that we are endowed with, we have the sense-organs. The cosmology of the Vedanta philosophy, the Samkhya, and even the yoga system of Patanjali accepts that there are subtle layers of our personality. Apart from the physical body is the subtle body, the astral system in which the mind is located and through whose operation the sense organs begin to work in the direction of objects. Different from the physical body constituted of the five elements, we have the subtle body inside, in which there is the prana with its fivefold activity, there are the senses of perception, and also the mind and the intellect. All these are present here as one organisation. In fact, what we call the subtle body is only a name that we give to the total of all these internal functions – psychic, sensory and vital.

These may appear to be 'ourselves' just as the body appears to be 'ourselves'. But in the same way as we falsely imagine that the body is ours, we also falsely imagine that the mind is ours, the senses are ours – for even these do not belong to us. We may be further surprised here and may not be able to stomach all these things. We now realise that the body has gone, and the mind even seems to go, and then what remains? The cosmological deduction in the systems of thought tells us that the sense-organs are controlled by certain deities and they are the owners of the sense-organs, even as the five elements are the owners of our body.

The theology and the cosmology mention that the solar system centralised in the Sun is the divinity or the deity presiding over the eyes. There is a subtle system of connection between the eyes and the Sun. We cannot physically observe what this connection is. Something about this mystery we learn from the Upanishads. So is the case with the ears – by ears we do not mean the fleshy ear-drum but the particular capacity of hearing within, which operates through the ear-drum and enables us to hear sound. So are the other sense-perceptions: smelling, tasting, touching. They have all their central governing systems behind them and these so-called perceptional organs are only instruments operated by powers that are cosmically set up in various directions – powers known as deities, the angels that govern and guard us.

This is just to indicate the principle behind the recognition of a relationship between the individual and the cosmic even in the subtle body, and not merely the physical body. The eyes have gone to the Sun, the ears have gone to some other divinity; the smell and the taste and the other senses, even the powers of grasping and locomotion, all go to the presiding principles which are internal to the physical universe. Even as there are layers of the individual personality, internal to the physical system of ours, there are planes of the cosmos. The planes are the levels of existence; we call them lokas, the different densities of the manifestation of the cosmos, internal to the physical, and functioning as the vital, the mental and the intellectual realms. These cosmic vital, mental and intellectual planes are internal to and transcending the physical cosmos which we see with the physical eyes.

So, the whole physical universe is the owner of our physical body, and the whole astral or the causal or the subtle universe is the owner of our subtle body. We have technical terms for these cosmic principles, as we find them in the Vedanta philosophy. The whole physical cosmos animated by a co-ordinated function is called 'Virat'. The internal subtle universal co-ordinating principle is called 'Hiranyagarbha'. The individual layers of personality are inseparable, not merely in spirit but even literally, from the existing system of the universe. The physical body having gone to the five elements, the senses going to their divinities, the mind to the moon and the intellect to Brahma, and so on, we will find that there is practically nothing remaining in us, to call our own. We have not only become beggars with nothing belonging to us, but it appears as if our very existence is getting threatened. We cannot exist, even. This seems to be the point towards which we are slowly heading, a most uncomfortable thing for every one of us. We are not going to get even the least recognition of even being an existent entity, let alone as a person with property and individual status. What can be worse for the ego than this?

When all the property has gone, a person would at least want to live, but even that we are not going to be conceded. We cannot even live. What does one say to this? The universe wants to swallow us completely even to the utmost extent, and meditation is nothing but a conscious awakening of ourselves to this great truth of our reality belonging to a different order of things and not suddenly getting perplexed or surprised at the revelation of this fact thrust into us by force, by the process of universal history. All the processes of events we call history, even the processes of birth and death, are only the forceful introductions into ourselves of the law that operates in the universe. If we would not abide by the law – we are not prepared to abide by the law voluntarily and honourably – we are perforce brought into its acceptance by the sufferings through which we pass in life, the sorrows we call our fate, and the penalty of reincarnation.

It is nothing but the urge of the individual to unite itself with the universe that manifests itself as all these events, visible or otherwise. Now we revert to the point with which we started in the beginning. This system of meditation has a cosmological suggestiveness, whereby we may be seated in a calm and sober posture and rouse ourselves to this consciousness of our belonging to all things. We belong to everybody. Literally, we are a property of all things. We are not supposed to have any personal property, because we are a property of all. Nothing belongs to us, but we belong to everybody.

What a change of affairs! Earlier I thought I am the owner; now I realise I am owned by somebody else, and by everyone everywhere. This is the death-blow dealt by knowledge to the ego's complacence. The ego cannot tolerate these things any more. It resents vehemently even a talk about these possibilities. It will hush you up and say "talk not", and then the vehemence of the affirmation of the personality will get stirred up so intensely that, if we are not careful enough to go stage by stage without being in a hurry, there is likely to be a revolt from the ego, a revolt from everything that we are, because we have been accustomed to think in terms of personality and self-affirmation, and today there is none to do it reverence. Our parents teach us false values: "This is your friend, this is your enemy." We are told this from the very childhood. "This is your land, this is not yours, this is your uncle's property, that is your enemy's business." We are told this, and it is told so many times that we get totally brainwashed early. We are taught these very same things in our schools and colleges, so that we become embodiments of stupidity and we know nothing of the true nature of things.

We can imagine what an effort is necessary to counteract this erroneous notion that has become an incrustation on our personalities, a part of our false being. What effort is necessary! Do you think a few minutes of sitting with closed eyes will be of any avail? We have taken many births. In all the births that we have undergone, down to this incarnation, we have been thinking wrongly, and a mountain of errors has grown over our personalities; and now, today, since a few years, or months, or a few days, we have been trying to rectify these errors. If we do not recognise any tangible progress in our practice, we should not be disappointed. We should be able to understand our position. After all, since how long have we been trying to think rightly? For ages and ages we have been thinking wrongly and now since five years or so we have been trying to think at least rightly. Well, it is a good attempt, and praiseworthy, and we must be happy about it that we are blessed with a proper thought. But we should not be in a mood of melancholy, or disappointedness that no success has come. How can there be visible success when the effort has started only a few years back and there is a huge ocean-like atmosphere which has to be encountered in our meditation? We have to be, however, confident that we are on the right path. Part of the success is in the confidence that we have in our minds. "Yes, now I have understood what the matter is."

This satisfaction of certainty and confidence in our minds is a large percentage of our success, and we will gradually realise that things are not so bad as they appear on the surface. If our heart is really given to this practice with a sincerity that arises on account of a hundred-percent conviction of our going to achieve success, this truth will triumph, and under the law we are bound to succeed. It may be that we may take years to realise tangible results, or it can be that we may achieve results more quickly by the ardour and intensity of the practice. What is conducive to the success is not merely a study of books or listening to discourses but the welling up of feelings, the stirring of the spirit and the ardent longing that we evince in ourselves for the realisation of this truth, which alone is, and nothing else can be.

This ardour of consciousness is the principal prerequisite for success in yoga, and, in fact, no other qualification is necessary. There is no need for a great academic qualification or a learning in the manner of a library. Nothing of the kind is the essential in yoga. It is a concentratedness of the whole spirit due to the realisation of this great fact and awakening that matters finally, and in reality.

We have already observed that there must be regularity in practice. There should not be a slip-shod approach to the things of the spirit. Habit strengthens the practice. Anything that is continued daily becomes strong, by the very continuance of it in a systematic manner. What do we think every day? Among the many methods of meditation that may be there, we are to choose only a few, because there is no use burdening our heads with hundreds of techniques. A few essentials will do, from which each individual can select what is suitable to one's own predilection and make-up of the psychic personality.

This, then, is the peculiar technique adopted in Indian systems, by which the various components of the individual personality are recognised to be part and parcel of the different orders of things altogether. To recapitulate, the earth-element in the body goes to the earth; the water-element goes to water, the fire element goes to fire, the air-element goes to air, and what remains is space, which is everywhere. We have heard chemists and physicists telling us that if one is pumped out of all the space that is within, one's whole material body would be compressed into a cubic centimetre of substance. You are not six feet tall, as you are imagining. There is the space inside, and so you look bulky. If you remove all the space and compress yourself, you will be so little, less than the pigmy of Lilliput. We are not really so important as we appear to be. There is nothing in us, ultimately. We are unnecessarily imagining ourselves and pompously parading our false show in this world of vanity. We would, on analysis, turn out to be empty shells, vainglorious individuals, patting ourselves on the back for nothing, while there is the danger of our being threatened out of our wits by the law that operates.

It is up to us to realise the presence of this universal law, transfer this body to the five elements, and transfer the senses, mind and intellect to the deities. Let the sun take the eyes, the ears go to their divinities, the mind end in the moon, the intellect go to Brahma, the ego merge in Rudra, and the conscience go to Narayana. All things that we are have gone to their causes. 'Pure Being' remains, and there is only an awareness of Being, not the awareness of being so-and-so or such-and-such, but an impersonal characterless continuity of Being as such. This is the point we noted earlier also, the fact of Existence-consciousness-bliss, sat-chit-ananda, which is our essential nature. We are God-Being in essence.

We are not the body, not the senses, not the mind, not the intellect, not anything of the kind. These are all expressions of the higher order of the universe. What remains in us is not a property or a substance or an object but that basic residuum of truth, which is commensurate with the truth of All-Being. When we go deep down into the base of any wave in the ocean, we will find that we are touching something which is everywhere, that which is at the root of all the waves. When we go down into the barest minimum of our personalities, at the root, we touch that which is within everything also, at the same time, and we, then, need not have any difficulty in universal communication. When this end is achieved, one is supposed to become cosmic-conscious, like the wave becoming ocean-conscious because of the entry of itself into the very substance of it.

At present, we are individually conscious, 'I'-conscious, 'You'-conscious, 'This'-conscious, 'That'-conscious. It is like a this-wave-consciousness, to the exclusion of that wave, but when the wave subsides into the very base of them all, it touches that root, which is the root of all other waves, all individualities. Try to meditate like this. Let the whole wave of your individuality subside into the ocean of Pure Being, and then you become, not merely your being or somebody's being, but All-Being, and this is what is called God-Consciousness. This is what they call samadhi, in technical yoga terms. This is moksha or liberation. There is no rebirth afterwards, because the causative factor of rebirth, which is the clinging to personality, has gone altogether; it has been dissolved in meditation.

Why should you be reborn into phenomena? Who will force you when you have become the very cause of the entire manifestation of things? This is freedom in the real sense of the term. Until this is achieved, you cannot be regarded as a free person. You are always under the thumb of the universal law that compels you to abide by its requirements. Our so-called political independence or social freedom is no true freedom. We cannot be regarded as really free until we are absolutely independent. And that independence is called kaivalya, Aloneness, with no counterpart of other's aloneness, in which every other aloneness gets subsumed and included. This is the Supreme Goal to which meditation directs us.