In the Light of Wisdom
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 21: The Kingdom of Heaven is Within

We have been discussing the relations which the asanas, bandhas and mudras have in respect of certain psychic centres of our bodies. These exercises are in the end expected to stimulate these forces within, so that the whirl of energy may become a straight current. The whirls of energy called the chakras are to be straightened so that there may be a free flow of the current of energy. These whirls called the chakras tend in different directions, and it is these varying tendencies which distinguish the one chakra from the other. They differ from one another, not only in the direction of their movement, but also in the intensity of their motion. Physicists tell us today that one object is distinguishable from another due not only to the number of electrons which constitute the object, but also to the velocity at which the electrons move. In a similar manner, we may say the chakras are distinguished from one another by their intensity as well as the direction of the motion of the energy of which they are constituted.

The essence of all this sadhana is therefore the disentangling of these whirls or currents of force, which are like knots. The untying of these knots corresponds to the process of yoga, especially in the kundalini path. The knots have to be slowly disentangled, stage by stage, with due consideration of the intensity of the force. The lower the centre, the slower is the motion of the chakra. We may say it is denser or more opaque, so that in one sense at least it is not responsive to the processes of thinking—much less to the light of consciousness within. The lower the chakra with which the mind gets connected, the slower is the thinking process and the lesser is the light from within that is revealed or manifested through it.

The lowest is what is called the muladhara chakra, and there are many others above it. This is the densest, the grossest and the most earthly region in our physical system. When the mind gets lodged in the lowest chakra, we are conscious only of physical bodies and objects external to us, and we are intensely desirous of these objects. Physical desires and physical passions are the characteristics of the identification of the mind with the lowest chakra. So gross does the mind become in its association with this low centre that people who are in this level may be said to be animal men or savages. So gross is their way of thinking that they cannot visualise anything except in terms of physical bodies and physical relationships. Their desires are purely physical, they have no intellectual enjoyments, and they cannot appreciate art or beauty. All that they can see is gross physical bodies, their own as well as objects outside. This is the fixation of the mind in the lowest chakra.

The higher chakras are stages of the gradual disentanglement of the mind. The characteristic of the higher chakras is that the desires get purer, more ethereal and less involved in physical objects. The purpose of the yoga exercises we have been studying is to unlock this energy, release its knots, and enable it to flow in a particular direction. This function of the unlocking of the force, the release of energy, and the enabling of it to flow freely is done not only by the direction of the prana with the help of the exercises, but also by another method which is the recitation of mantras. The path of kundalini yoga, as well as hatha yoga, is very much connected with the path of mantra yoga, and the one is indistinguishable from the other. There is a network of three practices in one school of thinking, which goes by the name of mantra, tantra and yantra. This network of practices involves the recitation of a formula (mantra), the performance of a rite or a ritual (tantra), and the worship or concentration on a particular symbol or diagram (yantra). These are all especially connected with the school of thought called the tantra. The particular feature of this method of approach is the continued repetition of a mantra or a formula which helps enhance the results that follow out of the exercises. There is a beautiful combination of many methods—asanas, bandhas, mudras, pranayama, mantra japa and concentration of mind. It also includes certain forms of worship which are in the beginning external, and then in more advanced stages, purely mystical or inward.

The tantra shastra is a very vast field of study. The mantras are of a special significance in this path of yoga, because these recitations have a direct impact upon certain parts of these chakras. If we have seen diagrams of these chakras in any text of yoga, we will find certain letters engraved on some parts of these chakras, often pictured as the petals of a lotus. The chakras are compared to a lotus that has blossomed. The flower blossom has certain petals of varying number, and the lotus flower is nothing but the sum total of all the petals. Many petals make the flower, so also the petals of a chakra make up the parts of the whole chakra. Mantras help in opening and directing each petal separately, one after the other or sometimes simultaneously, just as we may wake up a sleeping person by touching his limbs part by part. When a person is asleep we may touch the head, touch the chest, touch the hands or touch the feet—and then the person wakes up from sleep. The mantras help in touching, manipulating and stirring the petals of the lotus, and the sleeping energy is supposed to rise by the very repetition of the mantra.

Repetition of the Mantra

What is this repetition, we may wonder? It is itself a very great science. It is not merely the sound that we make that is the recitation of the mantra. As a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with the making of a sound. It is the release of an energy by means of vak (speech). Speech is this energy when it is expressed. Energy is released in expressions of every kind—speech being the most important. The power of the word is tremendous. The word is not merely the characters that we write on a paper. That is only an external symbol for the sound and the force that is signified in the symbol. An algebraic formula, for example, is different from what it signifies. The formula that we write on a blackboard is only symbolic and is only a memory device to help concentrate the mind on something significant. An equation in mathematics is only an aid in recalling a fact. The fact involved in the formula or the equation is different from the formula itself. If an equation in algebra is committed to memory, we are enabled to remember a significance that is hidden in the formula. Likewise is a mantra. The words which apparently constitute a mantra are only aids in memory and aids in generating a particular type of force in our system. Every mantra is a locked-up force and is indicative of a particular type of force. The bundles of energy need not be of a similar character. The mantra represents a symbol or a bundle of energy which can be released at our will.

We might have all seen fireworks at some point. Especially in India, we have beautiful fireworks released during festivals like Dipavali. The constitution of a particular type of firework is such that when it is set on fire, it takes a particular form. Those who have seen it will know what I mean. Sometimes this firework will take a circular shape when it burns, sometimes it will shoot out like stars, and sometimes it will whirl about in various beautiful patterns. All these can be seen merely by igniting the particular bundle of energy inside. The ignition is common to all, but the way in which they get released is peculiar to each bundle of energy. Likewise, the repetition of a mantra may be a single process, like the striking of a match with which we set fire to the energy that is in the firework, but the effect that is produced is different in each case, on account of the inner constitution of that firework.

The mantra therefore is like a firework, and the mantra can be ignited through constant repetition. When it is set on fire in this manner by repetition, it takes different shapes. It shoots up, it whirls, it bursts—or it may calmly and coolly exert an influence. It can construct or it can destroy. Like atomic energy, the mantra is useful for purposes of construction as well as for destruction. The mantra is like an atomic force—neither good nor bad—and can be used for any purpose that we like. The chanting of the mantra is therefore a pressure that we exert on gunpowder that is bundled up in a certain structure. When we exert too much pressure or bring about a friction upon the gunpowder, it bursts forth in a particular fashion. The repetition of a mantra is nothing but an influence that we exert on the energy that is hidden in the mantra.

The mantras are manifold, just as we can have various forms of fireworks. Each has a pattern of its own, so we can choose any mantra we like, according to the purpose for which we wish to recite or chant it. The spiritual aspirant’s motive behind the recitation of a mantra should be wholly spiritual. We are now concerned only with the spiritual aspect of the practice of yoga, which is the ultimate good. The inner chakras are to be released by bombardment, as we may call it. The mantras act as bombarding principles which impinge upon the chakras and rouse every petal of the chakra within. One goes on hammering on the petals, as it were, by the repetition of a mantra. The constant hammering rouses the energy part by part. There are certain mantras which are connected with the entire chakra, and there are certain mantras which are connected with certain petals alone.

According to the type of initiation that we received from our Guru or master, we will be told how to tackle these and what sort of mantra we have to repeat. The specific mantra is given according to the stage in which the mind is and the evolutionary condition of the consciousness. We should not meddle with these without understanding them. The correct recitation of a mantra is therefore important, and we have to be initiated into the mantra by a competent teacher. The teacher alone can know our minds, and this is done by a careful analysis, and through that analysis the proper mantra will be given.

The lower chakras are disentangled first, and gradually the forces become calmer and calmer in their action. In the beginning they become tremendously active, so much so that we may find it difficult to harness them properly, but later they become calm. The mind is often portrayed in Buddhist psychology in certain diagrams as a wild bull being tamed—a very interesting thing. Especially in Zen Buddhism, we will find these techniques of taming a wild bull. It is true that the mind is a wild bull. We cannot touch it, we cannot go near it, and we cannot even look at it. It will attack and try to gore us with its horns. Later on, by gradual application of different techniques, the bull becomes so calm that we can even ride on it. In the beginning we cannot even look at it, because it is so ferocious. Later on it becomes a vehicle for us to sit on. So is the mind—a wild bull which we cannot touch in the beginning, because it controls us rather than we controlling it. Man is a slave of the mind in the initial stages, and then he becomes the master of his mind. The recitation of the mantra is a way to release the psychic energy that facilitates this mastery.

The methodology of the repetition is also very important. The recitation of a mantra is not easy. It is not just mumbling something, but rather a very scientific process. We should not only pronounce the characters correctly with proper emphasis and intonation, but also our hearts should be in it. Our feelings also contribute to the effect produced by the recitation of a mantra. If our minds are elsewhere, the effect may not take place. But there are certain mantras which are like fire, which will burn even if we do not know that they are inflammable. Even if we unconsciously touch fire, it burns our fingers. Likewise, there are certain mantras which will produce immediate effect, even if we are not properly thinking of them—provided of course that we chant them regularly and with method. However, if our thoughts are actually engaged with the chanting, then the mantra will be instantaneous in its action.

The letters of a mantra are symbolic of certain constituents of force, and when they are joined together they produce a reaction—somewhat like chemical reaction. If acid and alkali are mixed together a reaction takes place; otherwise, if they had not been mixed together, we would not have known anything about the reaction. If we have acid in one hand and alkali in another hand, apparently there is no reaction because they do not come into contact. However, when the two are mixed, immediately there is a release of force.

Aspects of the Power of the Mantra

Every letter of a mantra is like a particular chemical molecule, and when these molecules are mixed, immediately there is a reaction. There are contraries in chemical principles, and there are others which can combine without sudden reaction. The letters of a mantra are like chemical principles, which when chanted combine into a single force. The production of an effect from a recitation of a mantra may, to the surprise of the reciter himself, look quite different from the form and the nature of the mantra. For example, milk can become curd by an internal change of constitution, and the effect may look in its nature apparently quite different from the cause. The mantras were “seen” by a rishi (sage, seer of the truth) in their original forms—they are not just inventions of some mind. They are presided over by a power which is called a divinity or a devata, and there is also a rishi to whom the mantra was revealed.

There are three factors in every mantra. One is the Seer, called the rishi, the second is the deity or the potency inside called the devata, and the third is the energy that is automatically released by the combination of the letters in repetition. The mantra itself has a power of its own—that is one thing. The potency inside it, which is called the devata, is the second thing, and the thought of the Seer to whom it was revealed is the third thing. In the repetition of a mantra we always remember the rishi, just as when we read a book we acknowledge the author and pay a kind of reverence to him or her. Then we contemplate the potency behind the mantra, which is also the meditation on the devata, and then we chant the mantra.

Some of these mantras, though not all, are like dynamite. They can explode in our faces, or they can be used for good purposes if we know how to handle them. That is why the initiation aspect is very much emphasised in the recitation of a mantra—particularly certain types of vedic mantras and bija mantras in tantra. There are two kinds of mantras which require initiation with a great caution: the mantras of the Vedas, and the mantras of the tantra with bijas or symbols. The other mantras are not dangerous, and their results accrue only after a long time. When a particular mantra is repeated in these manners, there is an impact produced on a particular centre of thinking which is the chakra. The mantra has to be chosen for us according to the level of our thinking, because that mantra which we recite has an immediate connection with the chakra in which our minds are located at present. If we take up a higher mantra, it may not have any effect because we have not reached that stage. If the lower one is chosen, that might cause a descending to a lesser level. A proper prescription is therefore necessary. Therefore, both hatha and kundalini yoga combine these aspects of asana, bandha, mudra, pranayama and mantra japa for the rousing of the force within.

Sometimes it may so happen that the repetition of a mantra for a protracted period brings about certain experiences, primarily physical and physiological in the beginning, and later on certain psychic visions and sounds may occur. These experiences may come to the sadhaka as a kind of obstacle, because it is difficult to know what is happening. In certain of the yoga texts like the Svetasvatara Upanishad, we are told what experiences will follow through a methodical practice of these techniques. One of the precepts of yoga is that one should not pay attention to the experiences. The experiences are passing phases, and they are not proper objects of concentration. It is similar to the convalescing period of a patient, where the patient has different kinds of feelings on different days but they are all passages to normal health which will eventually come. Therefore we are not to concentrate our minds on these because tastes may change, feelings may differ, and so on. Likewise, the different experiences in these practices are passing transformations—physical, physiological and psychological. They should not be made objects of concentration, and the lights and the sounds are not to be thought about. Sometimes they may be pleasant and sometimes they may be disturbing, because this process of the release of energy is sometimes moving forwards, but then sometimes there may be a step backwards. This backward step is actually a tendency to go forward again with a greater jump.

There are moods of various kinds which may come upon the mind of a seeker due to the internal transformations that take place. One should not worry about these moods, because the external moods are nothing but the expressions of our internal feelings which rise primarily from the lowest recess, which in Sanskrit is called para. There are four stages of the manifestation of this mantra shakti or energy, and in Sanskrit they are called para, pasyanti, madhyama and vaikhari. Para means the supreme, unmanifest form, but we will not feel any apparent or tangible result when the effect is placed primarily on the para. It is difficult to say what these para, pasyanti, etc. really are. They are stages of the manifestation of this energy, and in the psychological language of modern times we may compare these stages to the unconscious level and its gradual manifestation step by step to the conscious level.

When the mantra energy is inaudible and even intangible, not palpable, unintelligible and incapable of being felt in any manner, it is supposed to be a stage of para. When it slowly rouses or wakes up into action, and there is only a tendency to rise—although it actually has not risen—it is supposed to be the stage of pasyanti. The middling stages, called madhyama, are neither gross nor subtle. It is this stage that is supposed to be the anahata stage. Mystics are of the opinion that the para is comparable to the lowest recess at the base of the navel in the astral body. A little above it is the pasyanti. The madhyama is near the heart which is the seat of the anahata sounds (the sounds which are internally produced by the movement of the prana, and not by contact with things). Later we have the vaikhari or the grossest form of the energy, which comes out in the form of speech or the mantra that is uttered.

It is the instruction of the texts of yoga that when we recite a mantra, it should rise from the navel and not merely in the throat. It is not just a muttering through the lips or a slight sonorous sound that we make in the larynx—it is rather a force that we feel right from the deepest levels in the navel itself. Especially in the chanting of Om we will feel, if it is done properly, how the effect is felt in the navel, and then slowly how the energy seems to rouse up into a sonorous expression in the chant. This is the case with every mantra, which means to say that our whole being should be set in resonance with the recitation. Our mantra should be in tune with our own being, and vice versa.

The whole mantra is a vibration. All the mantras are forms of vibration which ultimately merge in the supreme vibration of pranava or Om, which is supposed to be the highest of mantras. Just as all rivers commingle in the ocean, all mantras may be said to be merged in the supreme mantra Om. It is the highest. The vibration that is produced by the chanting of Om is supreme, and all other mantras join it, because Om is an indeterminate mantra and therefore has no particular shape. While all mantras other than Om have particular forms of expression, Om by itself has no particular shape or form. It is indeterminable and its object is not any particular devata or deity, but the universe as a whole. The mantra japa techniques therefore lead finally to Om japa. God or Ishwara is supposed to be designated by Om.

As I said, while every name has a corresponding form, Om by itself has no particular form. Particular mantras have particular deities, but Om has no particular deity. It is general, and so it attracts the general force of the cosmos. It will not produce any effect immediately, because the general effect that will be produced later will be of such a nature that when it comes, we will feel as if the universe were coming to us from all sides. The mantras that we choose in our japa should therefore be sattvic, in the sense that they have relevance to the pranava or omkara (Om). If we take to mantras which have the power to produce immediate results, we are likely to get locked up in the concentration on these objects of the particular mantras. Temptations are not infrequent in these stages. The chant of a mantra, therefore, is possible only after a proper choosing of the mantra. We should not chant just any mantra according to our whim or fancy. Just as meditation needs an initiation, the japa of a mantra also needs initiation. By a beautiful blend of these methods—repetition of the mantra, concentration of the mind on the meaning of the mantra, the direction of the vital force or prana towards a centre, combined with physical exercises called the asana, bandha and mudra—a very good effect on our centre can be produced.

Evolutionary not Revolutionary

I have to repeat again that these centres are not objects of perception, but are subtly involved in our own personalities. When these are influenced, our whole system gets influenced. We change with the chakras, and it is not merely the chakras that change, as if we were merely the observers of the change. We are nobody outside—we are the chakras. When there is an impact produced on the chakras, it is an impact felt on our whole system, and we receive the impact. It is a self-transformation that takes place, and not only an objective transformation in the sense of an external thing or substance getting influenced by our force. It is not us exerting an influence on something else, but an influence which is exerted on our total being. One has to be very cautious in meddling with oneself, because the process of the release of force should be evolutionary and not revolutionary.

Then, there are difficulties of various kinds, and aberrations of many types may take place. People get into obsessions of various kinds, and they also have physical disorders if the rousing of the energy is forced by the power of will. Yoga is not merely exerting the force of will—it is the sublimation of the will into the understanding and feeling, which then lead further to intuition or integral vision. In spiritual perception what functions is not merely the will or the understanding or the feeling, but the blending of all these together in a flow which goes by the name of spiritual vision—sakshatkara is one of the terms used to describe it. When we see objects through the eyes or think through the mind, then it is perception or cognition. When our total being begins to see, it is called intuition. However, our whole being is never in tune with things at any time, and therefore intuition is unknown to us. A part of our being begins to vibrate with the objects, but our whole self is not in consonance with the things. The gradual ascent from one chakra to another is an ascent from sensation to perception, from perception to cognition, and from cognition to intuition. When we rise from chakra to chakra, we also have nobler and nobler perceptions and grander visions of reality, which are inclusive of the lower features and more universal in their character. This rise brings power, together with knowledge and joy. Strength, understanding and happiness get combined when the mind releases itself from the clutches of the lower centres and goes into the higher.

This process is gradual and evolutionary, as I said. There is no jump from one chakra to another, but rather a connection from one to another. The chakras tend from one to another. In certain texts of hatha yoga we will find the chakras portrayed as rings apparently unconnected with one another, except that there is a rod in the centre—which is the spinal column—and that rod passes through the many rings. The chakras are however not unconnected rings; they have an organic connection with one another. Thus, when the release of energy takes place in one chakra, immediately it is sympathetically felt by the other chakras in a certain proportion of intensity. Our whole body is an organism, and no part of it can be completely isolated from the other. If we have an injection of a medicine, we can sometimes feel the working of the medicine throughout our system in an instant—proving that we are an organism and not a machine. The chakras are organic links of our body, and so to touch one would be to touch all, though in varying degrees of intensity.

Remember this: we touch ourselves in the touching of the chakras. We handle ourselves in the handling of the chakras. We deal with ourselves in dealing with the chakras. This is also a very important thing to remember. We are tackling our own selves in these forms of meditation and not something like the chakra of someone else. It is not so—we are not dealing with another business—it is our business. It is not like the business of the world which we can throw away, but it is something vitally connected with us, which cannot be distinguished from our true being.

Many a time we forget this fact, and we are likely to look upon the chakras as external things, just as we look upon the body as outside us in some way. So much externalised is our way of thinking that we think God is outside us, the world is external to us, and the chakras are also external to us. Everything is external to us. It is difficult for us to believe for a moment that we are involved in everything—in other persons, in the world, in God, in the chakras and in all things. There is nothing in which we are not involved in this world. We cannot stand outside and be an observer of the things of the world. Such a thing is not possible. This is more important to remember in the case of meditation, because the forgetfulness of this fact and an illusory notion that we are observers, standing apart from the objects of meditation in yoga, brings us difficulties of various types.

We can imagine how serious a matter it would be to deal with our own selves, and if we proceed wrongly we will be out of order and out of tune. It is not something else outside—it is not some chakra that is going out of order—but we ourselves. This is the importance, the significance, the difficulty and also the glory of this practice. All these details I have mentioned in connection with the extended practices of asana, which is a limb of yoga, though all these details are not necessarily mentioned by Patanjali in his sutras, and apparently they are not connected or concerned with the system of Patanjali. I mentioned them only as information to enable those who are so inclined to be able to take to these detailed techniques of mantra japa and the practice of kundalini yoga, etc. Included therein is a word of wisdom combined with a word of caution.

The practice of asanas is therefore a very important limb of yoga, and this is associated with the movement of the prana within. This is because the asanas are vitally connected with the nervous system inside, through which the prana moves. The asana and pranayama therefore go together, as the one may help the other. In fact, the stage of pranayama is supposed to be next above the stage of asana in the system of Patanjali. We move one step higher when we concentrate our minds on the regulation of the vital force. Just as the practice of the asanas is an effort at bringing about a system of harmony in the physical body and the nervous system, pranayama is an attempt at harmonising the vital energy within. The vital force is that which moves our limbs and also our breathing process, inspiration and expiration.

The respiratory process may be said to be the outward form of the inward movement of the prana. The way in which we breathe will give a hint as to how the prana moves inside us, and indirectly, how we think in our minds. The method of thinking has a tremendous influence on the movement of the prana in the nervous system, and that is indicated in the way in which we breathe. Whether we gasp or heave a breath when we find it difficult to breathe, whether there is quick breath or slow breath, whether there is deep inhalation or shallow inhalation—all these are the things that we can observe when we breathe. The inhalation and the exhalation are supposed to be harmonious and without jerks.

Just as the asana practice should be harmonious and without jumps, jerks or twists, so should be the practice of pranayama. We should not be frightened about this method of pranayama. It is nothing but a simple form of breathing which has to be done normally. The instruction of this science of pranayama is simply to breathe normally instead of abnormally. The other variations of pranayama that we generally read in texts are only to help this normal breathing. By normal breathing, what is meant is the enabling of the prana to be equally distributed in all the parts of the body. Very rarely do we take a deep breath, as we breathe mostly in a shallow manner. A deep inhalation is unknown to us, unless we are exhausted, tired or worried. Sometimes we sigh with a deep breath, but normally we breathe shallowly. The breath becomes slower and slower when the thoughts also become less and less intense. For example, when we are about to go to sleep, the breathing becomes slow. When we get up from bed after sleep, the breath becomes more active.

The process of meditation, being a tendency to still the mind, has some resemblance to the symptoms that occur during sleep. Many people combine certain aspects of sleep with the aspects of meditation—especially in samadhi, as it is called. Deep meditation has certain characteristics of sleep, though it differs from sleep in the very important factor that we are conscious in meditation, while we are not conscious in sleep. The characteristics similar to both are that there is a slowing of breath, a natural withdrawal of consciousness from objectivity, a more intensified feeling of self-consciousness away from other-consciousness, and a tendency to feel relieved and happy. These we feel both in deep meditation and in sleep.

Moving Nearer to Our Selves in Sleep and Meditation

We feel relieved when we move nearer to our selves, and this happens both in sleep and in deep meditation. The farther we are from our selves, the lesser is our happiness and freedom. In waking life we are very much disturbed because of too much thinking about the objects of the world, and as a result we think less about our selves. So much engaged do we become in the works of the world in waking life that we do not have the time to think that we even have an inner life. But in meditation as well as in sleep, the consciousness gets withdrawn—in one case deliberately, in another case unconsciously. The inward withdrawal towards our own Self is what causes the slowing of the breath, the lessening of tension and a feeling of satisfaction.

That is why we are compelled to sleep every day. The distractions of the world are such in their intensity that we cannot tolerate them for a long time, and we cannot go without sleep for an extended period. The reason is that distractions are unnatural to the Self, and the Self cannot remain in unnatural states for a protracted period. The consciousness of the world outside is highly disturbing to Self-consciousness, but for various obvious reasons we get entangled in objective perceptions. But this is after all an entanglement, and it is not natural, and we cannot be in unnatural states for a long time. We cannot tolerate this disturbance caused to the Self by objective perception. There is a compulsive withdrawal forced upon our systems in the form of sleep. Every day we have to sleep, otherwise the body would perish.

In the sleep condition we refresh our system, not by eating food or by taking tonics, but by merely getting tuned to ourselves. We become strong when we are attuned to our selves, and we become weak when we are out of tune with our selves. Our strength and weakness do not only depend upon the diet that we take or the exercises that we practise. If that were the case, we could go on doing them without sleeping. One finds that nothing provided by the other forms of sustenance is comparable to the joy and the power that we derive from sleep. That we want to come into contact with things for the sake of happiness and acquisition of power in the waking life only goes to prove that we are under an illusion and the truth is not known.

In every effort of the mind to come in contact with things outside, it is trying to seek the ‘within’ in the ‘without’. The mind tries in a state of confusion to find the joy of the within in the objects without. We may say that in all states of objective consciousness, we are not in a normal state spiritually speaking. Because of this abnormal condition of perception in which the mind gets involved in waking life, it tries to make the best of things. In this attempt of the mind to seek the joy within in the external forms, it only gets tired and finds nothing. It is this fatigue that makes it come back to the Self, but it does not know what happens to it in sleep, because of the impressions of desires that are covering this consciousness.

What makes us unaware of things in sleep is the layer of desire that acts like a dark screen upon our own Self, which we have not been able to touch in the waking life. The unfulfilled desires lying embedded in our own Self within, layer upon layer, are what the psychologists call the unconscious. However, there is no distinct unconscious in our Self apart from our own desires. When we get ourselves locked in this unconscious level, we are in sleep. Though we are proximate to our own Self, we do not know that to be so. But in deep meditation, which is a conscious withdrawal of the mind from external consciousness and contact, it goes to the very same state of internality—but with a greater sense of freedom. This is the aim of the process of concentration, for which pranayama is the preparation. The purpose of pranayama is to bring about this cessation of distraction of breath, which has again a connection with a higher state called pratyahara or withdrawal of objective consciousness. One limb of yoga is internally connected with another, and we will find when we touch one we have touched the other, so that asana, pranayama and pratyahara are regarded as the outer court of yoga—all to be taken together at one stroke.