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What is Knowledge
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 4: Yoga – An Integration of Consciousness

The doctrines behind the practice of yoga, whatever be their background and theoretical foundation, come to almost a unanimous conclusion that the novel adventure known as yoga is an indispensable in the life of a human being, and it principally consists in what may be called 'integration of being'. Now, this suggestion that one's being has to be integrated – and this is precisely yoga – this principle, at the same time, implies that the final aim of the 'being' of anything or anyone is the enhancement of that very 'being' itself, a sort of augmenting of the 'being' of one's own self in such a way that the achievement of integration leaves nothing left over as something yet to be achieved, known, contacted, realised, or experienced.

There is a sort of integration already established in our psychophysical personality – we are not disintegrated individuals – due to which fact, we seem to be thinking in a sane manner. We maintain a kind of physical health, which is what may be regarded as the harmony of the physiological system; we seem to be thinking cogently, logically, sensibly, which is also a sort of integration of our psyche; and above all, we maintain that sort of integration in ourselves which makes us feel convinced that we are not dismembered as a composite of parts, but an undivided something. This is the reason behind our conviction that we exist, and we have no doubt about it. This conviction of one's own existence is a state of consciousness, and it is integrated because it has no doubts about its own self. It is not schizophrenically divided within itself, and no one feels like a bundle of differentiated parts. That we do not consider ourselves as discrete elements artificially brought together into a tentative completeness is a proof that we have a sort of integration in our own selves. This is psychophysical or social sanity, which is our present condition – the state of affairs in which we are. But this is not enough.

Yoga considers that there are larger dimensions of integration, areas of contact which have not yet been explored by our present little integration of individuality; and the existence of such larger dimensions of a wider form of integration is what keeps us restless from birth to death. The satisfactions with which we are acquainted in life are the consequence of a little bit of integration that we have achieved. By 'integration' we are to understand a sort of harmony that obtains between ourselves and anything with which we are connected, in whatever manner that connection be. Our satisfactions, our joys, and our securities are direct results of this harmony which seems to be there obtaining between ourselves and the outer atmosphere – call it social, or anything else – and also within our own selves in the layers of our own personality. This is why we are satisfied.

But we are also dissatisfied. The dissatisfaction in life is the other side of the fact of our existence, which arises on account of there being something more to be achieved than what we have apparently achieved in our life. What we seem to have achieved is the source of our joy, and what we have not achieved is the cause of our unhappiness.

So, yoga is a practical science, though it is founded on a very important system of theory, doctrine – a logical foundation, we may say. As far as you are concerned – students in this academy – we need not go into the details of the theory, because that is too much for you. We shall confine ourselves to the actual practical side of what you consider as yoga, for which you seem to be moving from centres to centres'in search of That which you are seeking unknowingly.

The aim of yoga, therefore, is an integration of consciousness. This is artificially achieved by our attempts at possession of desirable things, and a tentative conviction we entertain in our own selves that the possession is secure and we have nothing more to ask for in this world. The presence of something which we have not yet obtained, and yet seems to be there expecting an answer from us in regard to our relation to it, keeps us insecure. So far as the satisfied human being is concerned, it may safely be said that the so-called satisfactions of human nature, if they give the indication of there being a completeness in themselves, would also show that their source is insecure, unfounded.

It is only the discriminating consciousness that feels dissatisfied with its present achievements. Ignorance is bliss, and when we know nothing about what lies ahead of us, and we are not even conscious of there being anything at all beyond our possessions and our areas of operation and action, we are kept in a state of ignorance. This ignorance also brings a sort of joy, because of the disconnection of consciousness from the awareness of there being something beyond itself. So, the ignorant person is happy, and we too are happy, though we know very well that our very physical existence here is not secure. It is a terrible insecurity in which we are placed, and the next moment's fate of our physical existence is not known to any wise man in the world; yet, we are happy. This is an instance of how ignorance can be bliss.

However, yoga is that art of awakening the sleeping consciousness of the human individual to the fact of there being something beyond its present location and area of action, and making it really integrated. We have to be very slow in trying to understand what 'integration' means. What do we mean by this word, which we are mentioning again and again? What is yoga, then? It is a communion that is not merely established as a sort of external achievement, but an inward attunement which is directly experienced in relation to that which is beyond and above the present level of conscious experience.

This is something like what goes by the name of 'intuition', in a very, very specific sense. It is a direct entry into the object, so-called, of consciousness – an object, which need not necessarily be a physical something. By 'object', we have to understand here anything that lies outside consciousness as the content thereof. A content which cannot be assimilated into consciousness but remains outside it somehow, with which the consciousness has to struggle to establish a sort of relationship – this is our present life. We know very well that the world of people, the world of things, the world of nature, is outside our consciousness; and yet, we cannot rest quiet by merely being aware that it is outside our consciousness. We are terribly insecure by being aware that there is something outside the purview of our consciousness, and we wish to abolish this insecure feeling in us by imagining that this object is not outside us.

A person who is intensely in love with something abolishes the insecurity that is apparently there, arisen out of the independence of that object in respect of the experiencing consciousness. A person who is hateful in his attitude also is engaged in a similar act of abolishing the feeling of insecurity arisen on account of a hateful thing, by engaging himself in that procedure of behaviour by which the object does not any more exist as an outside something. I do not know if I have mentioned to you that in love as well as in hatred, we are engaged in a single operation – namely, the abolition of the independence of the object, and an insistence that it is no more there outside us. In love, we absorb it into our consciousness, and it is no more there outside us. In hatred, we try to abolish it in some way or the other, by various means, and it is no more there as a contending party.

Consciousness cannot brook the presence of anything outside it; the whole question boils down to this issue. We cannot tolerate the presence of anything else, but we cannot help being conscious of there being something outside us also. So, there is a tentative, artificial adjustment which the human consciousness makes with everything around it, which is what is called social concourse. It does not mean that we are friendly with anything. But we know very well that we cannot help it. There are occasions when we cannot establish this friendly reconciliation with objects, for reasons known to our own self. Then, we retaliate, and create a circumstance wherein again we are under an impression that we are integrated, in the sense that the object outside the consciousness is not there. In circumstances where it is possible for us to abolish the existence of that object by absorbing it into our own self by love, affection, and converting it into a satellite, as it were – a subordinate of our consciousness – we are again integrated artificially. 'Artificially' is the word to be underlined. A real integration is not established anywhere in human life.

Thus, no human being can be said to be really secure and happy. There is only an imaginary satisfaction we are creating – a fool's paradise, as it were, is this world. We seem to be quite secure, happy and comfortable because we have created a fool's paradise around ourselves, in which we are ruling like masters. This is a fool's paradise because it is not really a paradise. It is not real, because no real integration has been established by our consciousness in respect of the atmosphere around it – call it people, call it things, call it the world of nature.

Yoga does not tell us to be satisfied with this artificial integration. It is seeking to establish real integration. Again, to come to the point, what is real integration? It is not a tentative adjustment that consciousness makes with its atmosphere by love or hatred or by political manoeuvres, but by a real embracing of the very being of that object – an embrace wherein the subjective consciousness and the object so-called do not any more exist as two entities, two persons, two terms of a relation. There is no relation whatsoever; it is a relationless widening of the dimension of our being. When we widen our dimension, we exist as a non-separate, indivisible, secure something, and not merely in a state of artificial extension of our dimension – as is the case with a rich man, for instance, or a political ruler whose jurisdiction or dimension of existence is artificially expanded to the extent of the area of his operation. A king or a political administrator is integrated very, very artificially with the area which he rules, and the rich man is artificially integrated to the extent which his wealth can go. But no one can possess wealth, because the wealth is something outside the consciousness of one's being. The possession of wealth and the security that one feels in its possession is totally artificial, because one can be dispossessed of it in a second. So is the case with land, property, and political power.

The power of yoga is a different thing altogether. It is a power which is identical with our very existence itself, and not because people have voted for us as a political leader. It is not a political power that we are wielding, because we can be rid of it in a moment if we get fewer vote. So is the case with wealth of any kind. We can be robbed of all the wealth we have, and we will be a pauper in a moment. But the power of yoga is that of which we cannot be dispossessed at any time. Our strength lies not in what we possess, but in what we are. Yoga is, therefore, that sort of integration of being, whereby our state of existence – what we 'are' – becomes larger than it is now. We are something more than what we are now. Remember these words. We do not become larger by possession or by reaching up to a distant space by travelling geographically or astronomically. The power of yoga is the power of our being itself. It arises on account of what we are, and not what we have. What we have has no sense, because we really cannot have anything in this world, since nothing can be possessed in the sense of an external object.

Consciousness refuses to be artificially and externally associated with anything outside it because, basically, yoga tells us that our being is infinite. It is not a finite dimension that we are seeking to achieve; it is an unlimited dimension that we are asking for. This is the reason why nothing that is given to us can make us happy. May the world be ours, but we are still unhappy, because we know that there are more things than this world. Finally, even if the whole universe is under our possession, we may be cut off by death, and we do not know what happens to us at that time. The fact that our psychophysical existence can be wiped out in a moment by operations which are beyond our control is also a feature which demonstrates the artificiality of the way in which we are living, and the non-yogic way in which people conduct themselves.

What is yoga, then? It is that sort of expanding the 'being' of our consciousness. It is not the expanding of the consciousness of possession of anything; it is not to become a rich person, and it is not to become a very important person in the world in the eyes of people. Nothing of the kind is yoga. It is to become important in a different sense altogether – 'important', because that which is 'not you' becomes 'you'. The anatman, as they call it – the not-self, or that which is not at all us – which is threatening us, and which we would like to subdue and make a part of ourselves, that ceases to be 'that which we have to deal with externally'. We are struggling, actually, with our own higher nature. All our struggles, finally, are struggles with our own selves. It is not a struggle with people, it is not a struggle with things or the world outside, because the people around, the things around, the world – all these things that we call by these names and terminologies – are areas where we ourselves will find ourselves one day or the other, because our jurisdiction exceeds the limit of the present location of our consciousness.

If this had not been the case, we would be totally satisfied with everything that we have and anything that we are; there would be no need to think anything or do anything, and there would be no needs of any kind at all. But the world is full of needs, and it is nothing but that. The needs arise on account of the fact that our existence is finite, and we want to break through this finitude by any method that is available to us. But all these methods that we employed, and we are employing now in the pursuit of a non-finite being of ourselves, have failed throughout history.

Yoga has a new method altogether, and that method finally hinges upon what is called meditation. It is, of course, the last stage in yoga, but it has its impact upon the lower stages also. Though the finale of the education career is the achievement of some perfection in one's personality, the characteristics of the educational process have something to do with even the lowest stage of education. They are not unconnected. The means is not unrelated to the end. So, whether it is meditation or the inner communion with Ultimate Reality that yoga is, this ultimate aim has its characteristics impressed upon the lower stages of yoga also. In a way, therefore, the final structure of the universe or the ultimate nature of Reality has very much concern with the lowest level of experience.

The Real is not ultimate in the sense of a distant or remote object. It is logically remote, but not physically remote. The distance that we feel between ourselves and that which we wish to achieve in yoga is logical, not geographical. It is not far away in the sense of several millions of kilometres or light years. It is as far away from us as the waking state is away from dream state. There is a large distinction, of course, and a difference between dream and waking – a world of difference. Yet, we know the difference is logical, not physical. Dream and waking are not two different locations physically.

Therefore, inasmuch as the distance between our present consciousness and the state which yoga wishes to attain is only logical, and not physical, there is a great hope for us. It is in this sense that we say that Reality is immanent in every one of the degrees of its expression. It is immanent in the sense that there cannot be a real distance between the aim – the goal, the end – and the means. The distance is not like between Rishikesh and Delhi; it is like the distance between our childhood and our present state of maturity. There is a distance, of course. We were small babies many years back, and now we are grown-up individuals. There is a distance, but that distance is not measurable mathematically by foot rulers or any kind of measuring rods. It is a different kind of distance altogether, the distance between ignorance and knowledge. What is the distance? There is a large distance, of course, but yet we know what sort of distance it is.

Thus, the distance between ignorance and wisdom is the distance between you and God. This is the distance between your present state of consciousness and that state which you are trying to attain in yoga. So, be happy that you are really not far away from it. You need not travel with visas from one country to another country; no such need is there. It is sitting on your nose, and you have only to open your eyes that it is sitting there. But, this is precisely the comfort that yoga gives, and also the difficulty that is before us. Nothing can be more comforting than to realise that everything is with us, but nothing can be more difficult than to handle our own selves. We can handle everybody. The whole army can be handled by one man, but he cannot handle himself because the nearest thing is also the most difficult thing. The nearer a thing is, the more difficult it becomes to understand. Distant things, of course, lend a sort of charm and attraction, but when they come near, they become formidable objects. And the nearest thing is your own self, and you are the most formidable difficulty before you. This is why yoga is not easy, though it is the most comforting thing because you are handling your own self.

How can you have any difficulty with yourself? "I am 'I'. So, I am very happy. If it is a question of handling my own self, there is no problem before me. I can handle myself." But that is also the problem, because nobody can be more difficult than you yourself. Here is the majesty and the beauty of yoga, and also the terror behind it.

Thus, you will find that there is a great difference between ordinary learning and the acquaintance with the practical science of yoga. The practice of yoga is not an ordinary learning, like a science; it is not a reading of a book, or gathering some information or obtaining a certificate; it is nothing of the kind. It is living in a particular manner, and living in consonance with the conditions prevailing in that logical superior state which is what you are seeking. The characteristics of your higher being are to determine the way of your present state of living.

What you call ethics, or a moral way of living, is nothing but the determination of the lower conditions of living by the characteristics of the immediately higher state of affairs. It is not a social mandate that you call moral life or good conduct. Nobody is asking you to do anything or behave in a particular way. It is a necessity arisen on account of the immanence of a higher dimension of your being in the present state of your consciousness. So, morality is your own law. It is not something that is told to you by somebody else. A consonance of your present dimension of consciousness with its own higher area is goodness, morality, ethics, servicefulness, and so on, is worthwhile as a value in this life.

Finally, you will find that the most important object in this world is yourself. You will be surprised to hear that you are an object. In what sense are you an object? Here we have a great philosophical difficulty, as it were: "What do you mean by an object?" An object is that which you wish to study, investigate into, and know fully. But, in all methods employed by science as it is understood today, the object is always considered as something totally unconnected with the experiencing or observing subject. This is a peculiar feature in classical scientific attitude: the object has to be totally cut off from the scientist. It is impossible for the scientist to observe himself through a telescope or even through a microscope. He is sure that what he sees through these instruments is not himself. How is it possible for a person to see himself through a microscope? He sees something different. Therefore, there is a conditioning of the very methodology adopted in science by the assumption that the object of observation and experiment is totally outside the observing subject. This is an unfounded hypothesis because it appears that the world is finally not made in such a way that things are alien foreigners before you, whom you have to look upon with a suspicious attitude; so why do you experiment on a thing?

It is not possible to assume this sort of classical scientific attitude in yoga in respect of the world, because you are in the world, as I mentioned sometime back. But the scientist is not in the object. This is very unfortunate for him. He, now, today realises, perhaps, that he is also in the object to some extent, which has broken down the foundations of classical physics and landed our scientist friend in a new field of knowledge, where he has been compelled to awaken himself to a vista of 'objects' – which, far from being totally disconnected or unconnected from him, are such that he is participating in their very existence.

While once upon a time science, or even commonsense, might have told us that we have to deal with the world, now we are told that we are not going to deal with the world; we have to participate in the world. The world participates with us to the extent we will be able to participate in it. The world is our friend to the extent we are its friend; and we know very well that in a true state of friendship, the differentiation in thinking usually noticed between two persons ceases, and two minds think as one mind. A friend is one who thinks exactly as you think. If he thinks in a different way, to that extent the friendship is conditioned. Unconditioned friendship is a unity of thoughts into a single operation of the psyche. Likewise, we may say that our friendly attitude towards the world – or any object whatsoever, if we think it is worthwhile in any way – would require an endeavour to think as the world perhaps would expect us to think in relation to it, as a particle or an atom would expect us to develop an attitude towards it. The world no more remains as an object of experimentation and observation; the world is there as our protector, our father, our mother, our friend, philosopher and guide – our own self, in an awakened state.

Therefore, the cooperation of our present state of consciousness with the higher degrees of its own being – it being the aim of yoga – implies our cooperation and attitude of harmony with anything that is wider than us. It may be human society, it may be the world of nature, or it may even be the world of angels and celestials. All that we regard as outside us or beyond us becomes that mysterious something which we have to confront in such a way that we abolish the unfriendly attitude that we earlier developed with it. Yoga is that attitude of communion by which we handle things, and the atmosphere or environment around us, as something which is also immanently present in our present state of being. So, again to repeat, yoga takes us to that field of performance of duty wherein, throughout the various stages of our ascent in the attainment of this purpose, we visualise larger and larger areas of our own self until, in the attainment or the achievement of the final aim of yoga, we attain to that infinitude or unlimitedness of our own being wherein an object no more remains as a contending element.

Often it is said that this is equivalent to the establishment of the consciousness in its own self. This is a very pithy statement that is often made in yoga parlance: "Yoga is the establishment of consciousness in its own self." You would be wondering, "Is it not established now? Is my consciousness not established in itself just now? Is it outside me?" It is certainly outside you. It is not in itself. It is 'outside' itself, in the sense that it is conscious of something outside it. The consciousness of anything outside consciousness is the aberration of consciousness and the non-resting of consciousness in itself. As long as you, as a consciousness or centre of awareness, are aware of that which is not yourself, your consciousness is not in a state of yoga.

Thus, you are to struggle throughout your life, and not only for a few months or years. You have to lead a dedicated life of organically struggling – not mechanically striving – in order to establish this union with your own higher psychic forces, and finally with your own conscious being, until the finale of your conscious being becomes indistinguishable from what you may consider as an unlimitedness of achievement, beyond which you need not have to struggle to achieve anything.

These are difficult things for the brain to receive, and more difficult to put into practice in daily life. But you will find that it is not so difficult as it is made to appear, provided you are sincerely asking for it – and not merely making fun of it, or mocking at it, or experimenting with it, and just looking upon it as an object of diversion, intellectually or sentimentally – because the aim of yoga is not an abstraction lying beyond the ken of your present living. It is a solid reality, more real than the solidity and concreteness that you seem to be feeling in your own present state of existence.

You require a Guru for all these purposes, a living Guru, because if you are really honest in this field of practice, you will find, as you move further and further, that you will have to confront greater and greater difficulties because you are facing features of reality with which you are not acquainted, and the guidance of one who has trodden the path is absolutely necessary. Any sort of egoism and a feeling of self-satisfaction born of unnecessary self-affirmation is uncalled for in yoga. Utter humility, submission, and a feeling of sympathy with the higher values of life are necessary. You will certainly succeed if you are honest and sincere.