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The Yoga of Meditation
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 7: Self-Withdrawal and Self-Discovery

The problem on hand is a very serious one and calls for a great concentration of mind and tenacity of practice. We do not propose to discuss here the purely personal, the biological, economic, social and political aspects of human self-alienation, which are a different subject by itself, but would enter straight into the main problem of man's alienation from Nature, and God, which is the crux of the whole matter, the cause of every suffering conceivable, and an ultimate answer to all questions. And it is this final solution that a student of meditation seeks in his practical life of an entire adjustment of himself with reality.

There is an intense psychological analysis made in the philosophy of Buddhism, and systematised later on, in a different way, by the sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. The world we live in, according to Buddhist psychology, is Kama-Loka or the world of desire, in which the Kama-chitta or the desireful mind operates, like a hungry tiger prowling in a dense forest. This is not so easy to understand as it appears on the surface, for the Kama-Loka is different from the world which the scientist sees, for example, with his subtle instruments. Kama-Loka is the private picture which each individual mind projects upon the screen of the scientific world or the world of true forms, known as Rupa-Loka. There is a meaning that is read by an individual into everything that is of the world of forms. This meaning is Kama or desire. An object is beautiful or ugly, good or bad, 'mine' or 'not-mine'. Such evaluations and understandings of the mind in regard to the object-forms are its own desires or Kama. This would prove that we live in the world of desire rather than the world of true forms, for we cannot imagine an object to be entirely free from these personal evaluations mentioned.

The scientific world, on the other hand, is neither 'mine' nor 'not mine', neither beautiful nor ugly, neither good nor bad, for in this realm of true forms or Rupa-Loka objects exist by themselves, independent of evaluations by others. The mind which perceives these true forms behind the projected pictures of desire is Rupa-Chitta. The first step in meditation would be to withdraw consciousness as Kama-Chitta from the Kama-Loka and raise it to Rupa-Chitta of Rupa-Loka. This is tantamount to viewing things in their own nature, objectively, without foisting upon them one's own subjective wishes. This is one of the most difficult things to perform in meditation, for no one, ordinarily, can visualise anything independent of one's opinion about it. But, nevertheless, this has to be done. In Patanjali's Yoga-Sutras, the corresponding realm for Kama-Loka is of what he calls Klishta-Kleshas or painful afflictions in the form of ignorance of truth (Avidya), self-affirmation (Asmita), love and hate (Raga-Dvesha), and clinging to bodily life (Abhinivesa). The world of true forms in Patanjali is that of Aklishta-Kleshas or painless afflictions of the mind, such as normal perception and cognition (Pramana), erroneous perception and cognition (Viparyaya), doubt (Vikalpa), memory (Smriti) and sleep (Nidra). These are psychological functions independent of the wishes of the individual, hence impersonal in a way, corresponding to Rupa-Chitta or the mind perceiving the true forms of things. In short, to function in the Rupa-Loka would be to think as an object would think of itself, irrespective of any idea of it by a subject. This is something like raising oneself to the Kantian world of quantity, quality, relation and modality, independent of personal passions and prejudices.

But behind the Rupa-Loka is the subtler world of object-potentials, or Arupa-Loka. In the language of the Vedanta, this may be compared to the world of Tanmatras perceived by Arupa-Chitta or the subtle formless mind operating in that realm. This realm is unthinkable by the normal mind and is reached by the practical process of meditation in which the consciousness is withdrawn from Rupa-Loka to Arupa-Loka. But there is a transcendental mental realm or Lokottara, where the Lokottara-Chitta or the transcendental mind operates almost abolishing the distinction between mind and its objects, where one borders upon the cosmic mind which has no objects outside itself. These four stages may be taken to correspond to Patanjali's gradation of Savitarka, Nirvitarka, Savichara and Nirvichara stages of Samadhi.

The methods prescribed to rise from Kama-Loka to Rupa-Loka are: (a) inhibition of bodily and mental functions by Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara; (b) concentration on one selected object without thinking of another, by Dharana; (c) replacement of the object by a mental image of it; (d) divesting the image of all concrete sensations and conceiving the image in an abstract mental cognition with all the individualised characters of the image. It is here that Rupa-Jnana or the lowest form of super-normal perception dawns.

There are five stages of Rupa-Dhyana or meditation on the true forms of things, viz., (a) removal of stupor by reasoning or Vitarka; (b) removal of doubt by discrimination or Vichara; (c) removal of aversion by compassion or Karuna; (d) removal of distraction or worry by contentment or Mudita; (e) removal of sensuous desire by one-pointedness or Ekagrata. The emphasis in the method of Patanjali is on concentrating gradually on more and more subtle objects, while in the Buddhistic method stress is laid on greater and greater elimination of objective consciousness.

There are four stages of Arupa-Dhyana or meditation on the subtle essences of things (we may say Tanmatras): (a) In the first stage the mind transcends the consciousness of matter and form, of distinctions and limitations, and gets concentrated on the idea of infinite space. This infinite perception brings joy to the mind, for here space-perception is freed from the usual concrete empirical perception of it and raised to a non-empirical abstract concept. (b) In the second stage, the mind transcends the concept of infinite space and is concentrated on the concept of infinite awareness; it is merely aware of a concept of consciousness as infinite. (c) In the third stage the conditions of the 2nd stage are overcome and the mind gets concentrated on the infinite void and is aware of the void alone. (d) In the fourth stage, the lower stages are transcended and the mind rises to a state where there is no knowing, or non-knowing, but an inexplicable awareness, which is pure and simple.

Beyond this is the realm of Lokottara-Chitta, which no one can describe, for here the mind assumes the state of Cosmic Being and is one with the forms of all cosmic processes.

According to Patanjali, the lowest stage of mental concentration is known as Savitarka, wherein the mind in concentration becomes one with the gross object (Sthula Artha) associated with its name (Sabda) and concept (Jnana). The second stage is of Nirvitarka, in which the mind gets united with the gross object as free from name and concept. It is not the object that becomes known by the consciousness here, but the consciousness freed from the sense of 'I' and 'mine' gets identified with the object. There is no 'I-ness' or 'this-ness' in regard to the subject or object, but the two become one and there is only the consciousness of the object in a state of union. The third stage is of Savichara, wherein the mind in concentration becomes one with the subtle object, like atoms and forces or Tanmatras etc., coupled with the ideas of space, time and causality and connected with the several attributes and relations. The fourth stage is of Nirvichara, wherein the mind in concentration becomes one with the subtle object, like the forces behind things, Tanmatras in their essences, free from the notions of space, time and causality and free from all attributes and conditioning relations. The fifth stage is of Sananda, where the mind in deep determinate concentration becomes one with the joy of Sattva, by the subjugation of Rajas and Tamas, though the latter are not completely destroyed here. The sixth stage is of Sasmita, wherein the mind in deep determinate concentration becomes one with the pure universal intellect or Mahat which is almost indistinguishable from the Universal Self. Here Rajas and Tamas are completely overcome and Sattva shines in its full splendour and glory. With a distinction of determinate and indeterminate meditation in the Sananda and Sasmita stages, the total steps to be covered become eight in number.

All these are the stages of what Patanjali calls Samprajnata or the objectively conscious condition in various stages of subtlety of being, tending to universality. Beyond all these is Asamprajnata or the non-objective absolute state of being which is attained by supreme dispassion, resulting in the stoppage of all mental functions, leaving, however, the impressions of their cessation.

Transcendent to everything, there is the Nirbija-Satta or the seedless Absolute Existence, without even these impressions mentioned above. Here, the Goal of life is reached.