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In the Light of Wisdom
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 13: The Necessity for Yoga

Now we have to go back to the lessons we had at the very beginning and freshen up our memories about the need which we felt for the practice of yoga. The need also will explain to some extent the methods that we have to employ, just as the measure of our hunger will tell us what type of diet we have to take. There was a necessity for yoga, and that necessity itself is sufficient explanation of its methodology of approach. The need was felt on account of a lack that was felt in social life. There was a persistent feeling within that something is dead wrong with human society, and the world is not going to make us happy. This is what is called "the divine discontent" which comes upon every seeking soul. It is a discontent, but it is divine, because it is a pointer to a higher kind of life. If nothing can satisfy us in this world, it goes without saying that we actually have an idea as to what can satisfy us. That something which may satisfy us should be something different from anything we can have in this world, because the world has been seen to be incapable of providing satisfaction. We have experimented with different persons and different things, and we find them unsatisfying. Then it was that we felt the necessity for a deeper probe into our situations.

Earlier in our discussions, we went into the method of relief from inner tensions caused by a conflict between the ideal within our minds and the reality without. We are not happy, because society is not always going to accept the requests of our minds. We have many kinds of rules in society on account of which our movements are restricted and the avenues of our satisfaction are limited. These are some of the reasons we found for our being unhappy in the world – we would like the whole world for ourselves, but that will not be allowed because other persons are there like us in the world who want equally as much. As a result we try many other methods of satisfying ourselves in this world. These methods, covertly employed, also do not always succeed. Sometimes our secrets get known to people, and then matters become worse. However, even if our methods are not discovered, they do not always succeed.

There is a moral prick of the conscience, a fear, an anxiety, an incapacity and various other factors coming upon us to defeat our purposes. So, man is not happy. This is what we discovered by a careful analysis of the social situation. Even if psychoanalysis is going to relieve this tension for the time being, the world is not always going to be our friend. The analytic technique of psychology is not a permanent relief, but is only a medicine applied for a temporal headache. However, we are going to be unhappy even after we are relieved of this illness. Hence comes the need for a further research into our mental realm, which was the objective of yoga analysis.

The need for yoga has been felt because the world has been discovered to be impossible to manage. The world wants us to abide by its rules and regulations. Although the urge within us is to control our environment, the world is not going to abide by our whims and fancies. This is what we discovered through our earlier analysis. It looks as if we have become a puppet in the hands of the rules of the world. There have been dictators who tried to ravage the whole world with their powers, because of the urge they felt to rule over everything. But afterwards they discovered that the method they employed was not successful, and the world recoiled upon them with a great revenge. Dictators never fully succeeded in the world; they were all wiped out, because the world took such a vengeance upon them.

The Urge to Overcome the World

The world is not going to be subjugated by human powers, it is not going to be utilised for human purposes, and it is not going to be used as an instrument for human satisfaction. This is what we ultimately realise – often when it is too late to amend. All people that lived in this world, ever since creation perhaps, have realised this truth finally when they were about to leave this world for the other world. Yoga is a conscious analysis of this peculiar situation in which we find ourselves. It is an attempt at resolving another conflict that seems to be behind this superficial conflict between the psychological ideal and the social law outside. The inner, deeper conflict is the apparent irreconcilability of the urge to overcome the world and the possibility to overcome the world.

If it is absolutely impossible to do anything with the world, why is it that we have an irresistible urge to conquer the world and make it our own? What is this irrationality in our aspirations? Everyone wishes to control everything and have everything for oneself. "If the whole universe is mine, it will be very good. Well, I may fail in the implementation of my desire – that is a different matter – but why is this desire working in me at all?" Such a devil is working inside us which seems to have no reason.

Yoga tells us that it is not a devil working; it is something full of meaning which is highly rational in its conduct. This urge is not irrational. The way of its implementation may be irrational, but the urge itself is supremely rational. It is explicable within the very structure of things, and yoga tries to discover the rationality behind this urge in the human mind. To subdue the whole world – the whole universe if possible – and to find ways and means of materialising this urge is possible, because something totally impossible cannot rise in our conscience. If it is absolutely unreal, it should be impossible for it to rise into our minds.

The conflict is not between our desires and the social laws – the conflict seems to be something different. It is between the irresistible urge for perfection within and the impossibility of implementing it in practical life. Our longing for perfection contradicts the realities outside in the world, and vice versa. While perfection is the thing that we need and we want, it is the only thing that we cannot find in the world. This is the contradiction between the world outside and the longings inside. It is not merely social laws that contradict us; the world's structure itself seems to be such that it appears to be in conflict with what we long for from within.

We tried to understand the reason for this urge within us in our analysis of perception of the world in one earlier stage of our study. We realised that we have as our true nature and true Self something which seems to be transcending our body personality, and which is transcendent even to the world of objects outside. This is what we studied. By implication, by inference and analytical judgement we discovered that the true Self must be different from the material encasement. The Self seems to be a conscious entity which refuses to be restricted to the bodily limitations, and it moves out in its reaches to the objects outside. It seems to be immanent, not only in us as personalities or individualities, but it also seems to be immanent in the objects of perception outside. Not only this, it seems to be present even in the process of perception.

I have already given an analogy for us to meditate on, namely, the waters in two tanks being connected with a stream. Our consciousness, our true Self, seems to be a kind of stream filling our personality here, filling the object there, and connecting the two together in an inseparable, indivisible and unbroken link. Such seems to be our true nature, and there should be no wonder as to why an urge for overcoming the conflict between the inner and the outer should arise in our consciousness.

The longing for perfection arises not merely from the mental realm of our personality. The mind, which is limited to the body in all its practical functions, receives an impetus from the consciousness within. The impetus is a universal urge, because the consciousness is indivisible. This indivisible something which seems to fade away into an infinitude of being, gives a push to this limited mind, and an infinite push can be tremendously powerful. We can imagine how powerful the infinite could be, and such infinitude of propulsion received by this fragile mind of ours is the explanation for this longing to attain unlimited perfection – whether or not the world of objects outside is going to understand it and answer its needs. In its discovery of the rationality behind this human longing for perfection, yoga psychology realises also another important fact. If anything is rational, it should be practicable; the irrational is impractical. If there is any reason behind our longing for this infinitude of perfection, if it is rationally justifiable, it should also be practicable.

Yoga should therefore be a practicable affair, and it should not merely be a wild goose chase. If an infinitude of my being is the explanation for my longing, I should be able to fulfil this longing. My mistake may be in not being able to put it into practice properly in a world of this nature. The mistake does not lie in the longing itself. The urge within itself is not meaningless, but the difficulty seems to be in how to relate it to the circumstances of the world outside. We don't lack intelligent people in this world, but we lack people who can relate their intelligence properly to the prevailing situations in the world.

There is no use in having intelligence merely in theory. The intelligence has to come down to the level of the earth and then be acted out in accordance with the practical conditions prevailing in the world. Intelligence is not merely a theory; it is a capacity to adjust oneself with the world outside. That is intelligence. When rationality, which is another name for intelligence, pushes itself forward in our lives, it also gives us hope and seems to promise a fulfilment of our expectations. Yoga analysis of psychology is therefore deeper than the psychoanalytic techniques, because while psychoanalysis concerns itself merely with the conflicts of one individual in his relation to the society immediately around him, the psychology of yoga concerns itself with a genuine conflict of the human mind in general – not merely with one person's mind in its relation to what is outside itself.

It is not my difficulty or your difficulty – it is the difficulty of every person in this world. There is no use in studying one person's mind to cure an illness, because this illness is general to all people. We cannot take one person to the clinic and examine the mind of that person and cure that person of that conflict. It is impossible to truly cure the malady in this manner. It is a general malady that seems to be pervading the minds of all people, and it is more a subject of general psychology than abnormal psychology. Sober minds which are perfectly sane are in this state of conflict. It is not abnormal minds alone that are in conflict – normal minds are also in conflict, says yoga. What we call normalcy of behaviour is itself a kind of conflict. We call it normalcy because everybody seems to be in the same kind of conflict. If everybody in the world is a fool, we cannot know who is a fool, because foolishness looks normal. If there is however another person of a different nature, then we can try to find out the distinction. Everybody without exception in this world seems to be in a similar state of conflict. Not even one is an exception; hence, we cannot know that we are in a state of conflict.

Yoga Brings Freedom from Conflict

Conflict has become a state of normalcy to us. Inside there is conflict, and outside there is conflict. Everywhere there is conflict in every person that we see. We live in a world of conflicts, and therefore it is that we are not able to realise our situation. We cannot judge whether people are abnormal or normal. It is difficult to define what is abnormalcy and what is normalcy. For us, the majority is normalcy, and the minority seems to be abnormal, but this is not the correct way of judgement. The judgement of yoga psychology is more fundamental, and it needs a profounder rectification of the ways of human thinking than is generally known to people. That we look all right need not mean that we really are all right. To actually be all right is a different thing altogether. If we were really all right, there would be no sense of longing or want in our minds anymore.

The sense of want itself is an indication that something is not all right in us. If there is something annoying our minds, we cannot just go scot-free with the idea that we are normal in our ways of thinking. According to yoga psychology, to be perfectly normal is to be free from any kind of conflict with nature outside – not merely with people around us. Even if all our friends agree with us, the world – which is more than just people – may not agree with us. If all the world of people is going to claim that we are normal, or perhaps even a great person, it need not be correct, because the world is more than people put together. The other aspect of the world which is different from 'people put together' may not agree with this conclusion.

Yoga goes deeper still – deeper than human psychology – into the psychology of creation itself. The yoga student therefore is not considered merely to have relationships with human beings. The world does not merely mean mankind. When we talk of world peace, for example, we unfortunately mean only mankind's peace, but mankind does not make up the whole world. Mankind is only one part of the world. What makes us think that humanity is all the world? Universal brotherhood does not merely mean mankind's brotherhood. Yoga psychology recognises this and therefore goes into the fundamentals. Unless we are in harmony with the world in its truth, we are not going to be happy in this world.

The world is not merely man – remember this important point again. Even if we are in tune with all people, we cannot be truly happy. A thunderstorm may strike on our heads, but this has nothing to do with people appreciating us or being friendly with us. The impetuous forces of nature and the intractability of the elements are something quite different from man's attitude towards them. The earth's orbit, for example, has nothing to do with people's thinking about us or people's thinking about themselves. If all the nations are at peace, it doesn't mean that we can have any control over the movement of the Earth. We can have international peace in mankind's realm, but peace cannot be insured by everyone merely acceding to it. Something else also has to accede, and we cannot ignore that aspect of the matter.

We have to remember that there is a vast universe around us, wider than the population of the world, and we cannot completely ignore it in our consideration of our environment outside. To yoga, the world is not mankind merely, and not humanity. Yoga also considers the world in its creational aspect. One may say that yoga psychology is more metaphysical than it is simply human. In one sense we may call yoga “metaphysical psychology”, in the sense that it goes into the fundamentals of things as they are and not as they merely appear to us. Social adjustment may be a need, but adjustment to the world is something which should be regarded as a greater need.

With this foundation, yoga tries to build up the structure of its practice. The psychology of the mind in its relation to other minds is different from the psychology of the mind in relation to existent things as they are. Generally, what we mean by psychology is mental reaction to other minds—especially human minds. But what is the mind's reaction to other things of the world? These things also exert an influence upon us.

The objects of perception are the concern of yoga psychology—not merely the minds of other people. The reconciliation of the mind with its objects is the foundation of yoga psychology. This reconciliation has been attempted by the Samkhya, and it also did not succeed. The reconciliation was not practicable because of the conflict between the purusha and the prakriti of the Samkhya. On one side there is the infinite consciousness of the purusha, on the other side there is the infinite prakriti or matter. There was a gulf between the two, and one stared at the other without being able to touch the other. If prakriti gazes at purusha and the purusha gazes at prakriti, and one will not come in contact with the other, what is the relation between the one and the other? There Samkhya ended in a particular philosophy of its own, into which we need not enter now.

Yoga psychology realised that, notwithstanding this metaphysical dualism of the Samkhya, a kind of freedom for the purusha could be achieved if it could understand its true relation with prakriti. Consciousness can appreciate its relation with matter. In our analysis of perception done earlier, we went beyond the gulf in the Samkhya between purusha and prakriti and discovered a natural relationship of consciousness between the subject and the object. It appeared that a proper reconciliation between the subject and the object would be impossible without delving into this consciousness which is between the subject and the object. Yoga psychology therefore is based upon the acceptance of the fact that the gulf between the subject and the object is not final, but it can be resolved through adopting a means higher than that available merely to the individual mind. It is a means which seems to have connection with a deeper nature of the individual—the true Self of the individual.

All lower conflicts can be explained only by the higher reconciliation. Nothing that is visible before our eyes and nothing that we think in our minds can be resolved or understood properly without reference to a realm above, higher than or deeper than the mind and the senses. Thus, we philosophically conclude that the practice of yoga should finally be based on a reconciliation between consciousness within and matter without. It may also be the point of the Samkhya, namely, the reconciliation between the purusha within and the prakriti without. Man and nature have to be reconciled—they should not create a jarring noise between themselves, they should not clash, and they should move parallel with the same speed and with adequate understanding of each other.

If nature and man, the object and the subject are to move parallel, at the same speed, and in the same direction, there will be no conflict, and the world would then be our friend. But if the world moves in one direction and our minds move in another, there will be no parallel movement in us, and we are not going to be reconciled. The world is not going to answer to our needs. Now, the question is, is the world going to follow me, or am I to follow the world? Who is to lead, and who is to follow? Man, in his egoism, feels that the world should follow him. This is the dictator's attitude, and we know what happened to the dictators. Not one of them has survived, because nature has no ego, and it will not tolerate an ego. The ego will be subjugated one day or the other. Man cannot bring nature down to follow his ego. The egoless condition is superior to the egoistic condition, because the former is more general, while the latter is special and particularised. While the former condition of egolessness is applicable in all conditions, the condition of egoity is applicable to individuals alone. The special has to subsumed into the general.

Man has to obey nature, for nature will not obey man, and a proper settlement between the two must be arrived at if both are to exist and function at a common level of reality. At present, the levels of reality between the two are poles apart. The conflict between man and nature has been caused by the ego of man; but if ego is removed, nature fuses itself into man and man fuses himself into nature. There should be nothing to prevent this union. Two egoless beings will cease to be two beings—there will be only one being. While two egos try to repel each other, egoless beings try to unite with each other. When man becomes egoless, he becomes one with nature outside, and he becomes as powerful as nature itself.

The Psychology of Yoga is the Fundamental Science

The harder the ego, the weaker is the person, because the more he is remote from the natural powers. The most egoistic of people are also the weakest. They may assume an attitude of power and confidence, but nevertheless they can feel threatened from any side. The lesser the ego, the more powerful and confident we feel, because of our being backed up by the natural forces around us. Therefore, the path of yoga is to diminish the ego, so that it may become in tune with the egoless condition of nature. The individuality should become more and more ethereal, thinned out and capable of attunement with the egoless condition of nature. The object before the mind is not merely one local body like a mountain or a tree; the object is all things that are in front of us. The whole of nature is our object, and all the small bodies are only parts of it. The mountains, the rivers, the trees, the plants and the many things that we see in front of us are nature gazing at us from different directions. Nature in its totality is our object. Man's mind has only one object, not many objects. We have to confront only one thing in the world and not many things. The whole creation is a single object which is operating with its many hands; but they are only hands—the body is one. The five elements, the astronomical universe in front of us, and even the bodies of personalities—all these are only arms of a single nature spread out everywhere.

We have to confront nature in its completeness and not try to confront this person, that person, this body or that body. This is not going to satisfy us. In that sense, the psychology of yoga is more all-encompassing than the general psychology which is studied in schools and colleges. Yoga is a psychology of the mind in its relationship with a universal object, and it does not deal merely with the relationship between this object and that object. Hence, it is the study of fundamental problems of human nature. If these problems are studied, we study the problems of everyone in the world—mine, yours and everybody's. The psychology of yoga is the fundamental science, and it is the gate to open up the mysteries of nature itself.

Yoga meditation, which is the actual practice of yoga finally, is a development of the psychology of yoga and a blossoming of its psychological investigation, we may say. We cannot practise meditation unless we are an adept in this psychology. There is no use in merely closing the eyes and meditating when the mind is not prepared for it. The mind in all its functions, including the function of meditation, is backed up by a power within. In ordinary life the mind is pushed by a longing for satisfaction of its desires, but in meditation—which is the highest reach of yoga—it is stimulated within by a universal longing for Self-realisation. In this stirring up of consciousness towards a meditation on reality, there is a contribution made by every part of nature. Friendship and co-operation come to us from nature from every side.

In the same way, when opposition comes from nature, then it will also come from every side. When nature opposes us, we will find ourselves in hot water at every moment. Wherever we look we will find problems, difficulties and troubles, if nature starts opposing us. We cannot place our foot in this world when nature is against us, but if it is co-operative, we will find heaven everywhere. This is how nature works—for or against. It is like God Himself working. If God opposes us, the opposition will come from ten directions, but if He starts helping us, He will provide us with bliss from ten directions. We can imagine how difficult meditation is, given that nature is our object of study and analysis and that this is the foundation of yoga meditation.

Let go of the idea that meditation is a simple affair. On what are we meditating? Who is our object of meditation? We cannot engage ourselves in a meditation of any kind if nature is against us—it will put an end to our meditation in a minute. Meditation may not succeed unless we are co-operative with nature and friendly with it, and only then will it permit this function of our minds to proceed in meditation. We need to have a thorough understanding of what this meditation means and what we are supposed to do, and only then can the practice of yoga advance.

The act of meditation, which is real yoga, is a function of the mind in its relation not only with our individual personality and society outside, but also in its relations with the world as a whole. The psychology of yoga is very interesting, but it also requires in its studies a very careful attention to the mind. We are not studying in this psychology a particular mind, but “mind stuff,” which means in its generality “chitta.” It is the usual term used in yoga to signify the stuff of the mind, rather than solely the mentation of the mind. In this psychology we are not merely studying thinking, but rather the mind stuff itself. It is the substance of which our psychological organs are made—the stuff of the mind which is in relation to the stuff of the universe outside. This chitta is not just thinking connected with one person or thing outside. The substance of our minds is in conflict with the substance of the world outside, and so the substance within has to be brought into reconciliation with the substance without. This is the purpose of the psychology of yoga. We now know where we stand when we are a student of yoga.

It is not a joke—it is a very serious matter, and nothing could be more serious in this world. We know what things we are dealing with in yoga and how we are to understand ourselves and what confronts us outside. What our problems and difficulties are should be clear to our minds. Yoga is something more momentous than any other thing in this world. Yoga is not one of the duties or the functions of a person, it is the only function of a person—nothing can be as important, and everything else comes afterwards. All other things pale in significance, considering the importance of yoga. When we understand this properly, everything else becomes meaningless, relatively speaking. All functions, performances, duties and all commencements in life come afterwards, because all these become insignificant when compared with the importance of this supreme enterprise of the human mind in yoga.

Yoga is not a hobby. We may try it and leave it, or try to go without it, but we cannot go without it. Yoga is not of the East or the West—it is of everybody. It is not of a man or a woman, it is not of this age or that age, and it is not merely local. It is the law of the cosmos that we study in yoga, and who can exist without it? Can anyone afford to be without it? One can imagine what yoga is and what it means to mankind and the world. This should strengthen our personality and give us confidence, because we are dealing with realities and not with phantoms. At the same time, yoga gives us an idea of the ways of approach in life.

All this should remind us how cautious we ought to be in yoga. We are dealing with a thing which is everywhere around us. If people are surrounding us in all directions, we are more cautious in dealing with them than when there is only one person in front of us. Let there be no misapprehension that we are dealing with this object or the other object in yoga. We are dealing with a force rather than an object—a force which is in all directions—and a force which is also within us. Yoga is a study of universal force and a realisation of it in practical life. For a few minutes at least each day we should close our eyes and contemplate this truth.