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The Yoga of Meditation
by Swami Krishnananda


(Spoken on September 17, 1976.)

The need for the renunciation of the affirmations of the individual will arises due to its irreconcilability with the requisition of the Divine Will. This is the point made out in the statement, Sarva-sankalpa-sannyasi Yogarudhstadochyate.

Sarva-Sankalpa-Sannyasa is the relinquishment of the assertions, whatever they be, of the individual will. The irreconcilability between individual affirmations and the pattern of the Divine Will is something which the will of the. individual in its present condition cannot properly understand; because the realm of the Divine, the Universal, happens to lie outside the ken of the vision of the individual, and due to this reason there has arisen the chance of the commission of an error on the part of the individual, by which it mistakes its own affirmation for the total reality.

The sorrow that follows as a consequence of these affirmations is attempted to be obviated by means which are really inapplicable to the purpose. This is the reason behind the failure through the process of human history of all the endeavours of mankind to find peace in the world. Our efforts, perhaps, are genuinely motivated but are misapplied. The apparatus of our effort is unsuited to the purpose because the task on hand seems to be so immense that even the highest endowment of the human individual, the rational faculty, falls short of the ideal; and inasmuch as every effort of man is an outcome of the application of his will and reason which itself is far removed from the purpose on hand, there is obviously a failure in the attainment of the ultimate purpose. Success as it is expected to come to us does not come. There has always been a struggle and a continuance of effort, right from time immemorial, for the achievement of an end which has not yet come near us. It seems to recede from us like the horizon. The nearer we appear to be approaching it, the farther it goes away from us. The cause behind this failure, the individual will cannot grasp because it has the egoism, the adamantine feeling, due to which it mistakes its efforts to be all-in-all and complete in its capacity, while there is a qualitative defect in the very nature of the effort of the human will on account of which it does not touch even the fringe of the Divine Purpose. The practice of Yoga, especially as it is propounded in the Sixth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita, with which we are concerned at present, is a unique endeavour. In the different verses of the Gita, in this Chapter, we are explained practically the different stages by which there is to be brought about an inner qualitative transformation of the individual will for the purpose of its getting tuned with the intentions of the Divine Will, which is the meaning, the significance of Yoga essentially. The Yoga of the Bhagavadgita, the Yoga of meditation, Dhyana, is the inner qualitative tuning up of the essence of the individual with the essence in the cosmos. It is not merely a coming in contact of one thing with an other, the human mind with the Divine Mind as if the two are essentially different, but a commingling of purpose in a union of intention and quality.

Yada viniyatam chittam atmany eva'vatishthate; Nihsprihah sarvakamebhyo yukta ity uchyate tada.

This is a verse which gives in a few words the hidden implication of the practice that is expounded throughout the Sixth Chapter of the Gita. The point made out in this verse is that the mind is to be fixed in the Atman. This is Yoga. The restrained mind is established in the nature of the Self. This establishment of the controlled mind or the will in the constitution of the Self is really the Yoga of the Bhagavadgita. Now this is easily said but nothing can be more difficult to practise because the restraining of the mind, the 'niyamana' of the 'chitta', which is referred to in this half verse is all things and everything. What is the nature of the restraint that has to be exercised over the 'chitta' or the mind in order that it may be established in the Self, the Atman?

We have various types of Yoga, beginning from Hatha Yoga onwards, all which are supposed to be endeavouring towards its achievement, the purpose of Yoga, the control of mind. But unless the final aim is kept in view properly at every stage of the effort here, one is likely to miss the point and Yoga would not be achieved even in several lives of efforts. At every step, at every stage of the effort, the final end has to be kept before one's mental eye, and only then, it would be possible for us to-restrain the mind in the manner intended for the ideal of Yoga. The purpose of the control of the mind, the restraint of the mind, the 'niyamana' of the 'chitta', is to make it harmonious, in constitution and quality, with the nature of the Atman in which it is expected to be established. This is precisely the essence of Yoga. There is a constitutional disparity between the 'chitta' or the mind and the nature of the Self. There is a tendency in the mind to go outward in the direction of the objects located in space and time, and this tendency of the mind is precisely the opposite of what is required by the nature of the Self. As long as the mind is prone to this tendency, as long as it is habituated to this activity of moving towards objects of sense, it would not be possible to restrain it for the purpose of making it harmonious with the nature of the Self. The meaning of the term Self, again, is a point on which we have to bestow a little thought. Just as there has been a lot of misconception about the nature of the control of the mind through the different types of practice in Yoga, there has also been a misconstruing of the meaning of the nature of the Self. As it is difficult to understand what the mind is, as it is also difficult to know what the Self is. We are at a handicap either way. Neither can we restrain the mind when the nature of the mind is not known, nor can it be established in the Self when we do not know what the Self is. The Self is not any substance. It is not an entity. It is not a body. It is not an object. It is not something which is inside the body, as many people are likely to imagine. That the Atman is within, is a usual saying which we have heard often times, but this 'within-ness' of the Atman is a peculiar connotation and meaning which is different from the spatial encasement of an object. The Atman is not inside in the sense of something being encased within the four walls of limitation of any kind in the physical sense. The 'within-ness' or the 'insideness' of the Atman as propounded in the Upanishads is a strange thing altogether. When we say a person is inside a room, we have some idea of what insideness means, but it is not in this sense that we say that the Atman is inside. It is not as if the Atman is inside a body and is not outside. When we say that something is inside, it is understood that it is not outside. But we are also told by the very same scriptures that the Atman is all-pervading; it is omnipresent. So, how can it be said to be inside anything, when it is all-pervading, or omnipresent, all inclusive? What is the significance of this statement that the Atman is within? Here is the crux of the practice of Yoga. It is within. Yes! it is true, and it is also omnipresent. The two concepts are not incompatible. It is the strangeness of this concept that makes it difficult for us to conceive the Atman. How is it possible for an omnipresent Absolute to be inside? For this purpose we have to know the meaning in which the word 'inside' is used in the scriptures. The 'pratyakchetana' which the scriptures speak of, the inward-turned consciousness with which the Self is identified, is not the spatial inwardness of any physical substance or even of thought, but a Universal Subjectivity which is characteristic of the Self, with which condition, or state, the mind is supposed to be set in harmony. For this purpose a peculiar and strange and novel technique of restraint of the mind is to be adopted, not the ordinary methods of restraint that we are used to. You cannot control the mind in the ordinary manner as you control a horse, or a lion or an elephant; because the restraint of the mind intended here is the setting in harmony of the mind with the characteristic of the Self which is at once 'Universal' and 'inside'.

The inwardness of the Atman is the subjectivity of the Atman. The Atman is not an object. It is not a 'vishaya' and, therefore, the movement of the mind towards an object is not the way of contacting the Atman, because any type of external movement is incompatible with the requisitions of the nature of the Selfhood of anything. The Atman is not outside, though it is everywhere. This is another peculiarity which we have to understand. You may ask me, why it should not be outside when we say it is everywhere. A thing that is everywhere should also be outside. Yes, and no. It is inside and yet it is everywhere. The meaning is this, that it is an omnipresence which is characterised by subjectivity, the meaning of which we have to properly understand. This is the 'Vaishvanara Atma-tattva' which the Upanishad speaks of. The Atman is Vaishvanara, says the Upanishad, which means to say it is the Self of everyone. The Selfhood of anything implies the non-objectivity of that particular thing. The connotation of the word Self is the impossibility of its getting objectified in any manner whatsoever. It cannot be objectified even in concept, even in thought, even in mind. You cannot, even by the farthest stretch of imagination, externalise the Self. That is the meaning of the word 'Self', 'Atman', and yet it is everywhere. Is it possible for anyone, is it humanly conceivable to visualise that state where the mind can fix itself in an omnipresence which is incapable of externality or objectivity. This peculiar, novel, enigmatic status of Being is God-hood. This is 'Atma-tattva'. We are often told that the Atman is Brahman; and when we study these passages in the Upanishads we are likely to imagine that one thing is identified with another thing. The Atman is set in tune with Brahman, or it is merged in It, or identified with it in some manner. But, there is no such thing at all. the Atman is not going to be identified with Brahman, and there is not going to be any connection between the two, because they are not two beings. They are only two statements-of a novel state which cannot be easily grasped unless it is explained in its various aspects.

When we lay stress on the omnipresent aspect of this Being, we call it Brahman. When we stress the Selfhood of this very same omnipresence, we call it the Atman. The two terms, Brahman and Atman, do not connote two different things, but two different definitions or two aspects of one and the same Being. The Self-aspect is called the Atman; the Omnipresence-aspect is called Brahman. Now, we have to construe the meaning of both these aspects in a single gamut of the act of the mind. This is Yoga, actually. In one instantaneous grasp of thought, it should be possible for us to enter into the blend that is indicated by both these aspects, Atman and Brahman. This is not possible ordinarily, because the Selfhood which is incapable of objectivity cannot be conceived as an omnipresent Being, because the moment we conceive omnipresence, we externalise it; it becomes something spatial and, therefore, temporal.

Our idea of omnipresence is something like that of the vast expanded space. But space is not a proper comparison with this omnipresence, because though space is everywhere, it is external. It is something that the mind can conceive and, therefore, space is also temporal. The non-temporal omnipresence which is the nature of the Self is non-spatial. Because of its being non-spatial, it is non-objective and, so, the normal activity of the mind in terms of a 'vishaya' or an object is to be checked for the purpose of establishing itself in the nature of the Atman. This technique of checking the mind is, again, called Yoga. This is indicated in this word, Viniyatachitta.

Difficult indeed is it to grasp this meaning. More difficult is it to practise it, because the mind revolts against even an idea of such a definition of the Being that is our ideal in Yoga. The mind cannot conceive anything that is non-spatial, non-temporal; and, so, it cannot conceive the Atman. Hence it cannot establish itself in Yoga. Therefore, a gradual method is prescribed so that there is no attempt at a sudden jump into the sky which, of course, is impracticable. There is a prescription of a graduated technique of internal growth by which the mind is capable of rising above itself in self-transcendence. These are the stages of Yoga especially narrated in the aphorisms of Patanjali. Also, in a very precise manner, Bhagavan Sri Krishna gives us an indication of the necessity to tune ourselves at every level of our being, when he says:

Yuktahara-viharasya yukta-cheshtasya karmasu,
Yukta-svapnavabodhasya yogo bhavati duhkhaha.

We are asked to be equilibrated in our attitude and conduct at every level and stage of our life. There is not to be an over-emphasis on any aspect. Balance is Yoga. We are to pass through the various stages by adopting the golden mean or the via media, the middle path, as it is usually called. We should not go to extremes at any step, at any stage, any level of our practice. The idea behind this prescription of the middle path is that we should not ignore any aspect of reality. While we are generally prone to conceive reality as a transcendent Being, we should not forget that it is also a down-to-earth present reality. It is not merely above, but is also immanent. It is manifest even as the lowest conceivable matter. Even here in this body, which is the immediately presented reality before the senses and the mind, there is an element of truth which cannot be ignored. It is to be transcended, no doubt, but we are not to ignore it. The fact that something is to be transcended does not imply that it is worthless. Every level of being is a stage or a degree of reality, and every degree has a meaning and is as important as every other as long as one is in that particular stage. The stage in which we are at any moment of time is the only reality for us. We cannot judge the lower in terms of the higher unless we have reached the higher, though the ideal of the higher should be there before our mind's eye, in order that we may be able to conduct ourselves higher. The balance that is required of a seeker in the practice of Yoga is, again, a very difficult thing to conceive.

There is always a tendency to over-enthusiasm in the seekers of Yoga. They want only God and nothing else. 'I want not the world'. These are the stock pronouncements that seekers make in their initial zeal. It is wonderful to love God alone, and want God alone; but one must know what God is, before trying to know the method of contacting Him and expecting Him to be one's sole aim and purpose. When untutored and immature minds conceive God as the ideal of life, and in an enthusiasm, or ebullition of devotion, concentrate themselves on this imagined ideal, they are likely to imagine God as a transcendent Being, bereft of relevance to the immediate realities of life. Then it is that they feel the pinch of these realities of the realm in which they are located at the present moment. Then there comes a difficulty which is inconceivable. There can be revolt in the physical body, the vital organism, the senses and the various proclivities of the mind. The revolt of the body may lead to illness, sickness of a different type; the revolt of the vital organism may lead to neurotic conditions and complexes of various types as the psycho-analysts describe, moodiness, a melancholy attitude, a sour face and a sort of inner grief which is the opposite of what is expected of the spiritual seeker.

At every stage of the practice of Yoga there is expected on the part of a seeker a positivity of intention and inclination. There should be, in the face of a seeker, visible delight, a satisfaction, a joy, though it may be of a lesser degree, but not melancholy. The difficulties mentioned by Patanjali are the obstacles in Yoga. They are not indications of success, but problems to be solved. These obstacles face us on account of our missing the point, due to an extreme of feeling. We cannot catch God as a transcendent Being merely; we have to tune ourselves to Him in His omnipresence. This is a very significant admonition of the Bhagavadgita. God has to be known in His reality and not in any imaginary form which the mind is likely to bolster up as a theoretical definition. The harmony in diet, etc. mentioned in the Bhagavadgita signifies the need for balance in the practice of Yoga. It is essential for a seeker to know where he stands. We must know our strengths as well as our weaknesses. We should neither over-estimate nor under-estimate ourselves, which means to say, we have to be honest and sincere to our own true Self, in all its degrees of expression.

The practice of Yoga is not a demonstration before others. It is an inward approach to the Ultimate Reality and a surrender of oneself before that all-knowing Being and, therefore, it is necessary to be thoroughly dispassionate here. Any kind of hypocrisy is uncalled for. Now, one can be hypocritical knowingly or sometimes unknowingly. We may imagine ourselves to be what we are not, due to an ignorance that is preponderating in us. Sometimes, of course, this cannot be ruled out, we can be deliberately hypocritical, also. This is unfortunate, indeed; because to deceive oneself is perhaps the greatest of harms possible. Thus, before stepping into the path of Yoga, one has to assess oneself properly, like an auditor calculating accounts of a firm, where he keeps his eye on every little point, and knows the strength and the weaknesses of the accounts, simultaneously. We have to strike a balance-sheet of our own psychological personality and know where we stand at any given time. We have to know that we are in the presence of God Himself when we step into the realm of Yoga. We are not just social beings any more. Even the first step in Yoga is an entry into the spiritual field.

Even as the aspiration to tread the path of Yoga is supposed to transcend the realm of ordinary learning, even the learning of the Vedas, because the life spiritual is a stepping into a new quality of living, and it is quite different from the usual mode of thinking in social terms or from the point of view of one's own individual personality. So, what is to be brought out in this context is that we should not be too enthusiastic about God-realisation unless we are clear about the structure of our own minds and our own weaknesses, especially. The weaknesses of the psychological organ are also as important as the aspirations of the mind for God; because the shortcomings of one's personality are certain erroneous movements of the mind. These movements have to be set right by intelligent techniques. There is no use merely closing one's eyes to these weaknesses, because they can rise up one day as vehement tornadoes and attack you unawares. Even a small weakness can assume a large proportion, like a mountain, one day, if it is neglected for a long time, and, therefore, even a least weakness is not to be ignored, and one has to be very honest about its assessment. Well, of course, it does not mean that you have to tom-tom your foibles before the public and in the newspapers. You can keep a private diary of your own and make a secret jotting of what your weaknesses are, which cannot be compatible with spiritual life. These have to be overcome with a tremendous effort by the treading of the middle path, by no over-emphasis on any side. You cannot suppress your mind merely because it has a weakness. The weakness is a kind of illness, and you cannot suppress the illness. You have to cure the illness by intelligent means of meditation.

The Yoga practice is not a suppression of the mind or the will. It is rather a sublimation of the constitution of the whole mental realm. It is a boiling of the mind into its quintessence and an enabling of it to evaporate into the cosmic atmosphere, and, therefore, you are not to exercise a forced volition, or will, on any aspect of shortcoming in the mind before you actually take to any positive step to practise Yoga; and the weakness can be overcome by various methods, just as a good physician adopts several means in treating an illness by injection, dietetics, regimen, etc. together with the introduction of a proper medicine, as well as by isolation, quarantine treatment, etc. The mind also has to be treated in this manner. You cannot apply just one method; you may have to isolate the mind psychologically. You may have to fast it sometimes, and, sometimes, you may have to feed it; but you must know how to feed it and when to fast it, in what proportion, where, when and in what manner. This is the technique of a good doctor or a physician. You cannot apply the wrong method to the mind because the mind is 'you'. It is not something outside you. It is not outside because it is your own inner structure that you call the mind. You are treating your own self In Yoga, the object and the subject are identically treated. You are the means and you are also the end. At every different stage of rise in the practice of Yoga, the very same thing becomes the subject as well as the object in different degrees of intensity, until, lastly, the stage is reached where the difference between the subjective aspect and the objective aspect gets narrowed down to an identity of being, so that there is neither the subject nor the object in the end. That state of Supreme Being which is neither to be regarded as a subject nor as an object is the omnipresent Atman in which the mind is to be established, and it is for this purpose that this 'niyamana' or the restraint of the mind is prescribed in the Gita.

The Bhagavadgita does not always go into minor details of description. It gives a broad outline of the various stages of practice. It is up to us to know the intentions, the meanings behind these statements there, and sometimes we have to read between the lines. We have to know what could be the character or the nature of the restraint to be exercised over the mind in order to see that it is established in the omnipresence of the Self Stage by stage, it is necessary to educate the mind in the art of non-objectivity. That is the meaning of self-restraint, the restraint of the lower self for the purpose of the experience of the higher Self. There are stages of the lower self, and also there are stages of the higher Self, simultaneously. So, at every step there is one degree of the lower self that has to be controlled and overstepped and one degree of the higher Self that has to be reached. When the higher Self that is immediately above is reached, it becomes the lower self to the next higher, so that you have a purpose to be achieved by self-restraint at every stage. But at every stage the nature of the restraint varies in its qualitative technique. The technique that you adopt in one stage may not be applied to the next one, though the instruction is that there has to be a restraint of the lower for the purpose of the experience of the higher. One must know what sort of restraint is to be exercised on a particular type of lower self, because there are degrees in the intensity of the lower as they are there in the higher, or the next above.

All this requires constant guidance from a spiritual Master, as you go to a doctor when you are under treatment for a chronic illness. Why do you go to the physician? Because, everyday you have a new problem, and sometimes there can be a reaction of the treatment when the treatment is not properly administered. And oftentimes, you will have new feelings and experiences, physically, vitally and mentally. It is for this purpose that you go to the physician, to compare your experiences and the feelings with his knowledge so that he may tell you what is happening and what the next step is going to be in the treatment. Likewise, for a protracted period, one may have to be in the vicinity of a spiritual guide. This is not a technique to be learnt by a study of books, because this is a way of living which is full of vitality and meaningful significance. It is connected with practical life at every stage, and it is not merely a question of understanding or grasping a theoretical technique. Inasmuch as every step in Yoga, even the least, even the minutest, is connected with practical living with your own self, there is a need for personal guidance, because when a particular method is adopted, a technique is used in the control of the mind in meditation, certain experiences are likely to follow automatically, and these experiences will tell upon the entire system, physical, vital and psychological. At that time you must be able to know what is happening. You should not be flabbergasted or confounded. Patanjali, especially, mentions various indications of what is likely to happen, like tremors of the body and visions of various kinds, and so on. The various experiences, physical as well as mental, may be the processes of the treatment itself, but you must be able to know that they are the necessary stages that you have to pass through. Again, I have to emphasise the need for a Guru here, because, sometimes, it may look that the practice of Yoga is like playing with fire. It is held by adepts that the effort at control of the mind may be compared to baling out the water of the ocean with a blade of grass.

With confidence and steadfastness of mind, with a determined will and a carefully chalked-out understanding, one has to set oneself to the task of the restraint of the mind for the purpose of establishing it in the self; and you must be as patient as the person who would try to empty the ocean with a blade of grass. It may look practically impossible, but one day, perhaps, it may become possible. The difficulty in this practice arises on account of the avidity of the mind in adhering to its present notions and ways of thinking in terms of the objects of sense and relation to society etc., and in trying to apply these rules and laws of physical and social perception to the realm spiritual, where a new law altogether prevails. The law spiritual is qualitatively different from the law social and physical, and, therefore, our traditions which are applicable and valuable and highly meaningful in human society may not have any meaning for the life spiritual. Thus, there is a need for entering into a new type of life's evaluations. You have to take a 'new birth,' almost, when you enter the spiritual path. You have to be 'reborn,' as the great masters often tell us. Unless we be reborn, there is no hope. Here rebirth means a total transformation of the organism, including the notions of the mind, the very way of thinking itself, a reorientation of the structure of the psyche, for the purpose of getting oneself tuned to the laws of the life spiritual. This is the profound significance of this pithy statement in this verse of the Bhagavadgita.

Yada viniyatam chittam atmany eva'vatishthate;
Nihsprihah sarvakmebhyo yukta ity-uchyate tada

The mind becomes freed from all the desires for objects of sense, spontaneously, and as a matter of course, without any special effort on one's part, just as, when one wakes up from dream, there is a spontaneous withdrawal of the mind from everything that it saw in dream. This is the positive aspect of self-restraint which will bring the fruit of delight and inner freedom from conflict and tension of every kind. As a matter of fact, the test of success in Yoga is the extent of the freedom one feels in oneself internally, the strength one experiences within, and the joy that manifests itself from one's depths, without any special exertion to obtain things from outside. Nothing might have happened from the outside, but inwardly everything has changed. The joy that is reflected in the face of a person and the positivity that characterises the personality would be an indication of the percentage of success that is achieved in the practice of Yoga.