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True Spiritual Living
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 10: Preparation for Meditation

We are inwardly connected with everything in the world, but outwardly it appears that we are disconnected from all things. If we are really disconnected from things, we cannot have desire for things; but if we are connected with everything, then also we cannot have desire for anything. So, desire seems to be a kind of unscientific attitude of the mind which cannot be justified either way. If we are really disconnected, we cannot have anything, so why should we desire anything? But if we are really connected to everything, where is the point in desiring anything?

Then, what is desire? It is something very interesting and, therefore, it eludes the grasp of understanding. The pressure of the connectedness of ourselves with all things within, exerted upon our apparent disconnectedness with things outside, is the reason behind desire. It is, therefore, a contradiction. Desire is a great contradiction. It is a conflict in our personality, and so it is an unsolved problem for all times. It is a great enigma, a mystery. Nobody can understand what it is, why it is there, and what its purpose is. But if we try to go deep into its makeup, we will find that it is caused by this peculiar relationship between our inward connection with things and our outward disconnection from things.

Outwardly, we are not connected to anything. What physical connection have we got with things of the world? Everything is scattered hither and thither, unrelated, unconnected, with nothing meaningful cementing the objects or things. I am sitting here, and you are sitting there; what is our connection? There is absolutely no connection. This is one side of the issue. The other side of the matter is that we are really connected—subtly, inwardly, by invisible threads. This inward invisible connectedness of ours with everything in the world presses hard upon our outward life in the world of the society of things; and it is that pressure that expresses itself outwardly as desire for things.

We long for the objects of the world, though outwardly they are apparently not connected with us. This longing is due to an inward feature not visible to the physical eyes but, as I said, this inward feature comes in conflict with the outer conditions. That is why there can be desire at all. If there is no such contradiction or conflict, there is no point in desiring anything. To repeat: if we are disconnected from things, there cannot be desire; if we are connected with things, then also there cannot be desire. So, desire is something which we cannot understand, and yet we are under its grip. We are pressed hard by it, and we are like puppets dancing to the tune of these peculiar pressures which have taken possession of us completely.

We have a double nature, and it is this that makes us inscrutable beings—inscrutable to others, and inscrutable to our own selves also. We are phenomenal, temporal, outwardly transient, but inwardly perpetual, permanent, eternal. So, there is an impact of the eternal on the temporal, and vice versa; this is human life. This is the cause of our joys, and also the cause of our sorrows. We are joyful because of the eternity present within us, and grieved because of the temporality seeping into our veins. The temporal chaos of outward society, with which we are unable to reconcile ourselves with any amount of understanding and scientific effort, is the cause of our sorrow; but inwardly there is something which speaks in a different language altogether. Though we cannot see it, that is our real nature. That something is not seen does not diminish its importance.

Therefore, there is a great task before the yogi, the seeker of Reality, one who seeks to live a spiritual life. We are on the verge of a battle of the Mahabharata. This Mahabharata is nothing but the fight between the eternal and the temporal, and often it appears that success is not clear before one's eyes, and we do not know which side will win. The power of the temporal can sometimes push back the urge of the eternal.

It is said that Karna, with his physical force, could push the weighty chariot of Arjuna at least a few yards back, to the surprise of everyone. Such was his physical strength. But that was only an apparent success. His downfall was imminent. There can be an apparent defeat of the spiritual sense temporarily, on account of the force of temporal circumstances in which our bodily individuality is involved. It may look that God Himself is dead, or is defeated, at least, but this is only an apparent defeat and a false feeling of frustration. The success of the Kauravas was not a real success, though it looked as if they were successful in the beginning. It was a preparation for their total destruction.

The power of the temporal world of space, time and causality is a real power indeed. The power of diversity, the power of disconnectedness, and the power of social irreconcilability and tension—all this is a power, no doubt, and we cannot face it easily. But the power of the eternal is greater, though it works very, very slowly, notwithstanding it is firm in its steps.

The effort of the spiritual seeker in his practice of yoga is tremendous indeed. One would be startled at the amount of effort that may be required in achieving even a limited success on the path. It is most difficult to understand and even more difficult to practise because the knot, which is called granthi in Sanskrit, by which our personalities are tied up to the eternal on one side and the temporal on the other side, is hard to break.

We are friends of both God and the devil. This is our difficulty, and this is also our weakness. But, this state of affairs cannot continue for long, as we see that mankind cannot continue in this circumstance of the present day for a long time. There is an intense struggle and effort put forth by people everywhere in the world for some sort of reconciliation, but the reconciliation is not forthcoming. All the international organisations of human society have failed, and there is apparently no chance of their achieving any success even in the future because of a mistaken notion, on the basis of which these organisations have been formed. We cannot have a real unity among mankind if we assume or take for granted that mankind is diversely distributed, with no apparent connection between one another. But this is our basic assumption: the East is East and the West is West, and the twain shall never meet. If that is the case, then there is no hope.

But we have hope as our support. We live on account of hope. We breathe today on account of a hope for a better future. If there was no hope at all, we would perish today itself. So, again there is a contradiction between our social life and our personal efforts. We try and try and try, but achieve nothing. Why? Because the effort that we put forth for bringing about a reconciliation in our lives with other people, and the various methods we are embarking upon for bringing about a unity of mankind, is a tendency of the basic unity in which we are rooted essentially—the nature of the eternal, from which we are inseparable. That is why we are working for universal brotherhood and universal love—one mankind, one world government, and so on. We hold conferences everywhere to bring about an understanding among people, a collaboration of ideas, and some sort of a unity to the extent possible.

But why do we attempt this if unity is not visible in outward life? If you and I are absolutely disconnected, why should there be conferences? What is the purpose of organisations? Where is the meaning in any kind of effort for cooperation? This meaning is hiddenly speaking from within us in a language we cannot understand; but that being our essential nature, we also cannot turn a deaf ear to it. We are struggling to listen to it, even with our deaf ears. But on the other side, the world of diversity presses upon us very hard and insists upon individual selfishness, and a necessity for warfare for the sake of the protection of the ego.

Now, this is not merely a social problem, but a spiritual problem—the problem of the seeker and the yogi—which will face him with a ferocity which he cannot encounter unless he is well prepared right from the beginning. What does the yogi or the seeker do under such circumstances? What is his aim, ultimately? What is the purpose for which we are working? What is yoga? It is the great art of supreme reconciliation whereby the temporal and the eternal do not any more fight with each other, but appear as one and the same thing. Our personalities do not seem to be divided between the eternal and the temporal. We become embodiments of a dual aspect of the single Absolute. That is the nature of a superman, which we are aiming at in the practice of yoga.

Thus, in silent seclusion, in a calm atmosphere, we deliberate and ponder over these problems of life, and inwardly compose ourselves for the purpose of this arduous task that is before us. It is necessary that, as is the case with a scientist working in a laboratory, we have to find time to be alone, to work with our own inner laboratory. We should not be busybodies. A scientist cannot be running about in the marketplace throughout the day and achieve what he wants to achieve through his observations and experiments in a laboratory. It requires complete isolation. When a physicist studies things through a powerful microscope, he will not be thinking of the world outside. He will not be even aware of things around him. Such will be his concentration, because such is his interest; such is the intensity of the problem before him, as it is very complex.

It is imperative that the seeker of  Truth, the practicant of yoga, should find time to be alone for a few hours of the day for the purpose of this analytic effort—which is yoga, precisely. For this, we have to be seated in a comfortable posture. We cannot practise yoga walking on the road, just as we cannot have our lunch or dinner walking on the streets; we have to be seated at a table or in a comfortable posture. Well, we can eat our food even while walking on the road, but the body will not receive that food because it has not been taken in a manner that is acceptable to the human system. While we can chant the divine name and do japa even while walking on the road, and it is quite good, as far as it goes, that will not be sufficient because its intensity is inadequate. Inasmuch as this is a very serious practice, it requires a seated posture and utter isolation, wherein the body and the mind come together in collaboration for a single purpose.

Now, it is accepted that all this is, no doubt, a difficult thing for the busy industrialist or the commercialist, the office-goer or the labourer. But it all depends upon the value that we give to what we regard as the aim of our life. Where there is no interest, there cannot be consistent effort; and we cannot have interest in anything unless we recognise value in that thing. So, it all depends finally upon what we regard as our primary value in life. If it is making money that is our value, well, we make money and spend our life in amassing wealth. There are people who amass gold and silver, and die without enjoying it. There are people who have other sets of values, such as name, fame, power, authority. After their death, they would like to have a tablet fixed on their tomb: “Here is a hero!” He has gone, nobody knows where, but even after death he wants name and fame.

Thus, it is essential to recognise what the ultimate value of our life is, and not be confused in our mind. A confused mind cannot practise yoga. What is it that we want? That will determine the program of our life, which is nothing but a chain of efforts that we make towards the achievement of that ultimate value of our life. We have already decided that this is the final aim of life, and everything that we do should be consistent with the achievement of it, a preparation for its achievement, and our daily routine will only be a link in this long chain of our life's program. What do we do from morning to evening? That is a small link in this long chain. Many links make a chain, and our daily routine, therefore, should naturally be consistent with the achievement of our ultimate aim. How can we have a daily routine which is inconsistent with the purpose of our life? All this has to be clarified in the mind. Everything that we do should be brought into relationship with the aim of our life. This is what we can call the healthy attitude of the mind. Anything that we are obliged to do, any attitude that we are compelled to put forth in our life, has to be brought into relation with the purpose of our existence. This is an integration of values.

Then, the mind will concentrate. It will not get distracted. Why does the mind get distracted? It feels a disconnection between the aim of life that we have set before ourselves, and the activities in which it is engaged in its daily life. My aim of life is one thing, and what I do every day is another thing.  There is a tension, and the mind cannot concentrate on the aim of life because it is engaged in something else. But is it really something else? This is what is to be decided first. If it is something else, how would we be engaged in it?

Here again, we lack proper analysis and understanding. We are confused always, from beginning to end. We are muddle-headed people. Clarity is unknown to us. How can we say that we are engaged in doing something which is unconnected with what we regard as good for us? This is very strange. Are we going to deliberately kill ourselves? We will find that we will not engage ourselves in any activity which is not going to bring us some good or the other. There is something valuable in that particular direction of work in which we are engaged; otherwise, we will not engage in that work. But it is very difficult to see this meaning in our attitudes and activities.

Often we are fired up with a tremendous idealism of spirit, but the idealism is so tremendous, so high-soaring, that we may not be able to properly assess the immediate values of the circumstances in which we are placed and the activities in which we are engaged. Wisdom of life is a difficult thing to achieve. The values of our immediate surroundings have to be reconciled with the characteristic of the ultimate aim of life. This is precisely the thing that we have to do in our seated posture before we start meditating, because what are we going to meditate upon unless things are clear before the mind? There will be a perpetual struggle within, a revolt from the mind against irreconcilable attitudes which are harassing us from inside as well as from outside; and when there is such a pressure exerted upon us, how can there be meditation? So, it is essential that there should be a very harmonious bringing together of our values of life, and it should be clear to us before we sit for meditation that, “Everything is well. All is fine. I have understood what is around me, what is ahead of me, and what the connection between these two is.” If this is not clear, we will fail.

There is that essential tension, the subject with which I commenced today, between our inward nature and our outward conditions of life, which is the cause of desire. All difficulties can be said to arise from desire. Inasmuch as desire is such a difficult thing to understand on account of its peculiar character, our difficulties are also something difficult to understand. So we cannot solve our difficulties. Everything is difficult because, basically, there is a mix-up of values. This confused relation between the outer conditions of life and the object of the inward aspiration should be clarified completely.

This is the main task of philosophy, or philosophical analysis. Sankhya precedes yoga, knowledge precedes all effort, and philosophy is the basis of all ethical endeavour and psychological analysis. This is the philosophy and the ethical background of the actual practise of yoga, which will immediately take effect if the preparation that has been made is sufficient. If the gunpowder is dry enough, it will immediately catch fire. If it is wet, it will not. Likewise, if the preparation is adequate, if the understanding is clear, if we have no complaints to make, and if our adjustments are properly made, then meditation, which is the real meaning of yoga, will not be difficult for us. Like an arrow running towards its target, the mind will go to the object of meditation. There will be no distraction. Distraction is caused by the feeling that there are valuable objects outside, irrespective of the fact that our aim of life is something else, on which we are trying to meditate. So, we have not brought about a reconciliation between the outer objects of sense discretely present in the world and our aim of life, which we say is God, the Absolute, and so on.

There is a philosophical misconception in our minds, and as long as this misconception is there, yoga cannot be practised. This is part of the reason why the Bhagavadgita warns us that yoga has to be based on sankhya, which is called buddhi yoga in the language of the Bhagavadgita, which means the yoga of understanding.

Now we come to the actual essence of yoga practice, which consists of the outward preparations for meditation and the inward processes of meditation, which later on become a single effort of a total harmony of ourselves with the entire existence. This is the final stroke that we deal upon the problem of life as a whole.