Chapter 11: The Bliss of Yoga
The Bliss of Brahman
Now we describe the nature of Absolute Bliss, or Brahmananda, by realising which in actual experience one is totally freed from all sorrow, instantly. One attains to supreme satisfaction, incomparable in nature, and quite apart from the ordinary happiness with which a mortal being is familiar. There are innumerable passages in the various Upanishads which state that Brahman is Bliss, and by attaining it one becomes immortal. The Taittiriya Upanishad says that one who knows Brahman reaches at once the highest state. The Mundaka Upanishad says that one who knows Brahman becomes Brahman itself. The Chhandogya Upanishad declares that the knower of the Atman crosses beyond all sorrow, and one who is established in Brahman attains immortality. the Taittiriya Upanishad, again, compares the Bliss of Brahman to Rasa, or the quintessential essence, the highest taste conceivable, and it is said that having obtained this essence, one enjoys divine bliss. We are also told that one who has gained perfect establishment in that super-sensible Brahman becomes absolutely fearless, and he who tries to see a difference in it, even in the least, has fear from all sides. That the Jiva is an integral part of Brahman, inseparable in nature, and identical with it in essence, is the import behind the whole teaching. The Jiva-consciousness, which is mostly characterised by egoism in some form or other, tries to create a difference between itself and the Reality, not only in its activities, but even in its thoughts and feelings. It is this erroneous notion on the part of the Jiva that explains its Samsara, its suffering. Everything in this creation works in rhythm, and in unison with the perfect and inexorable law of the Absolute, and so pain should be the inevitable consequence of the attempt of the Jiva to break away from this universal law. Even the deities, the celestials, the denizens of heaven, in short, all things, stand in a state of perfect and harmonised relation with the Supreme Being. It is as if for fear of this Being that everyone performs his allotted duty without failure. It is impossible for anyone, at any time, to get away scot-free by violating the universal law, by asserting selfishness, however slight it may be. The Law of Brahman is utterly just and absolutely impartial. Therefore, it is the duty of everyone to maintain a consciousness of harmony with its existence, and it is this maintenance of a perpetual consciousness of harmony with Reality that goes by the name of Yoga. One who knows in experience the Bliss of Brahman fears not from anything and lives the true life of freedom from all grief and of deathless delight.
The Taittiriya Upanishad says that one who knows the Atman regards it as the only Reality, and is permanently established in that Consciousness, and then nothing that he has done or not done, viz., no Karma whatsoever, can affect him, or torment him. The results of action no more worry him. They may be there or not there - he is just not concerned with them. Abandoning, thus, both these Karmas, done as well as not done, he considers that everything is a manifestation of the Atman alone. “All this is the Atman alone” to him, says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Having regarded everything as an appearance of the Absolute Atman, he feels the presence of the Atman even in these Karmas and, naturally, it seems then that they should not be a source of trouble any more. In his case the knots of the heart, i.e., the connections apparently established between the Consciousness and the mind, are broken and the Consciousness stands supreme in its own Self without external relations, either with the mind, or the body, or the object outside. All the doubts are rent asunder and there remain no misgivings within in regard to the real nature of the Atman, or the world. The Karmas, too, perish and, excepting that the Prarabdha-Karma seems to linger on for some time notwithstanding that the Jivanmukta has no concern with it consciously, all the Karmas in his case drop off from his consciousness the moment he beholds the Eternal. He transcends death by knowing that resplendent Divine Being, and the scripture is emphatic that there is no other way to attain this state than direct realisation (na anyah pantha vidyate). By knowing and realising that splendid Existence, the Supreme Being, there is a cutting off of all bondage in the form of likes, dislikes, anger, and the like, and all these afflictions of the soul having crossed, there is a cessation of rebirth. Rebirth is due to the remnant of unfulfilled desires. When they are no more, there is no rebirth, too. By an inner vision of the Supreme Atman, one gets rid of pairs of opposites, like exhilaration and grief, etc., caused by events in the world, and that unusual hero who is adorned with a rare moral toughness within, sets aside both merit and demerit, which mean so much to the ordinary individual. One attains to supreme transcendence (Kaivalya Moksha). There are statements in the scriptures which affirm that Brahman is Ananda, or Bliss, and its realisation puts an end to all sorrow and affliction.
Happiness may be spiritual, intellectual or sensory. These three types of happiness are being discussed here in detail. In the Taittariya Upanishad we learn that Bhrigu approaches his father for wisdom and hears from his father the nature of Brahman as that which is the cause of all things, the sustenance of all things and also the end of all things. Bhrigu tries to investigate Brahman in his own experience and passes, stage by stage, from the physical to the vital, from the vital to the mental, from the mental to the intellectual, and from the intellectual to the blissful layers of experience. He does not go beyond Bliss, and recognises that Spiritual Bliss is the source of everything, and everything lives on account of this Bliss and returns finally into this Bliss, at the end of time. Brahman should definitely be Eternal Bliss in nature.
The Nature of the Infinite
Prior to the creation of this world, there was the One, undivided Absolute, unconditioned by the differences of the seer, the seeing and the seen. There was that divine, Infinite Brahman, above the differences of knower, knowledge and known. It was without distinction of space, time and causality. This difference starts only when the Jiva arises as an evolute at the time of creation, wherein are the intellect as the seer, the mind as the process of seeing, and the various external objects as the seen. No such thing ever was before creation. This state of feeling is faintly indicated in such relapses of consciousness as in Samadhi, sleep and swoon. Sage Sanatkumara asserts that Bhuma, or the Plenum (fullness, completeness) alone is Bliss. There is no Bliss in the finite things which are subject to the distinction of knower, knowledge and known. This was the reply given by the Sage to Narada who complained about the dissatisfaction of his mind and the grief that was tormenting him in spite of his vast learning and proficiency in the arts and the sciences. Well, prior to learning there is only the triple affliction from the internal, external and celestial causes, but after it comes there is the pain of committing it to memory, the possibility of forgetting it, the chances of humiliation before more learned ones, and also the likelihood of priding oneself in front of learned ones. With all this grief, Narada approaches Sanatkumara requesting to be taken to what is beyond all sorrow. Sanatkumara’s answer is that Bliss is what is beyond sorrow, and it is only in the Absolute; it is not to be found anywhere else. Certainly it is not the happiness that one is accustomed to in this world, because the happiness of the world is entangled in many troubles and afflictions, and often it brings only sorrow as its consequence. Hence it is the opinion of Sanatkumara that all earthly happiness is pain only in another guise and he gradually asserts that wherever there is a perception of a second to oneself, it should be considered as finite and a source of unhappiness, and where there is no second to oneself, it is the Infinite, and it is Bliss. The Non-dual Infinite is not directly experienced by mortals, yet it is the consequential effect of the experience of the relativity of things, and naturally it does not require any proof to establish its existence, because of its Self-luminosity.
The Example of Deep Sleep
Prior to the creation of the dualistic world there must have been only the non-dual condition, since there is no other alternative at all. This is known to us as a semblance in the state of deep sleep. One’s own sleep is a valuable proof of it. Sleep does not stand in need of any other proof, though the experiences of others are inferred by us from their behaviour, etc. Our own experiences are not so inferred, but are directly known, as, for example, in deep sleep, where we are sure of our existence though there are no mind and senses functioning. This conviction is what is meant by Self-luminosity. In the state of deep sleep, there is absolutely no grief. Even the blind, the sick and the wounded have no such feelings of deformity, then. Thus, we have to conclude that the absence of sorrow in sleep is felt by us directly and positively, and inasmuch as there is no sorrow at all, we cannot identify it with anything other than happiness. Else, there can be no reason why people should take so much pain in preparing beddings, and so on, to go to sleep, even at the cost of wealth and much inconvenience. There is definitely something positive in deep sleep which is to be investigated.
The happiness of deep sleep should be considered as positive and not merely as an attempt to forget the pains of the world. Even healthy persons who have everything that they want and cannot be said to have any pain whatsoever, go to sleep and find there is happiness which is incomparable. Though the arranging of soft bed, etc. at the time of entering into the state of sleep may be regarded as sensory in the sense that it is born of a contact of the tactile sense with an object, viz., soft bed, yet, the happiness of deep sleep is not born of any such contact. Tired by the activities of the world and seeking for a place of rest to remove this fatigue, one tries to go to sleep and prepares several means for this purpose, such as soft bed, etc. The truth, however, is that there is a total dissatisfaction with the business of life, because, the Jiva, though it may not be aware of it, is wandering away from the source of happiness when it moves amongst the objects of the world. Whenever there is a dualistic experience, the mind is naturally in a state of aberration and cannot be satisfied until it reverts to the natural state of unity. Soft bed etc., is only a preparation for this natural rest which it finds when the distinction of the knower, knowledge and known is transcended, and duality is completely negated. All mental activities in a world of space, time and cause should, thus, be regarded as unnatural from the point of view of the Supreme Absolute. It is to forget its miserable plight in the world that the Jiva runs to Brahman constantly in order that it may become one with its supernal Bliss.
In the Upanishad, the examples of a falcon, a hawk, a child, a king and a wise man are given to illustrate the nature of Divine Bliss which far surpasses the pleasures of the dualistic world of desires. Just as the falcon, which is tethered to a peg or held firmly in the hand by means of a string, may try to fly higher and higher, but cannot find a place of rest till it returns to the source to which it is tied; just as a hawk may soar to lofty heights throughout the day in all directions but must return to its own nest at the end of the day for final rest, it being possible for it to find real satisfaction and true freedom and peace only in its own nest; just as a small child lying happily on a tiny beautiful bed after having drunk deep from the mother’s breast smiles lovingly and appears to be an embodiment of happiness due to the fact that it is completely free from the distinction of ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and from the afflictions of and likes and dislikes; just as an emperor who is the master of a large empire, who has all the conceivable pleasures of the world, and has the joy of having possessed everything and living unopposed and uncontested, may be regarded as an embodiment of the climax of satisfaction among human beings; so does a person who is well-versed in the scriptures and is established in Brahman, having attained the peace that comes by the realisation of having done everything that is necessary to be done and having obtained everything and known everything, having reached the summit of wisdom, have a different kind of happiness altogether, beyond all the happiness of the world, due to a direct communion with Brahman.
All these types of happiness are due either to a slight reflection of the Bliss of Brahman or a direct experience of it. The Jiva craves for this unearthly happiness and never rests until it finds it. It is for this reason that there is a regular entering into a state of deep sleep by the Jiva after all its frantic attempts at acquiring happiness in the world of objects.
The ignorant condition of a child’s mind, the perfectly satisfied condition of an emperor, and the spiritually poised divine condition of the sage, represent three examples in this world of the state of the absence of likes and dislikes, due to which there is a degree of indication of the approximation of the individual to the Absolute. Everyone else who is entangled in the network of likes and dislikes is unhappy in this world, for the obvious reason that in the latter case there is a forgetfulness of the Atman and a constant contemplation of outside objects. When there is union of oneself with one’s most beloved possession, there is a forgetfulness of both the internal and external world, and there is a merging of oneself, as it were, in the beloved object. The Jiva is busy with the outward world in the waking state and enters the inner world when it is in the state of dream. In deep sleep it loses its individuality and so does not know whether it is human or animal, with desire or without desire, and knows no distinction whatsoever. In this sense, we may say there is, for the time being, an obliteration of Samsara in the state of deep sleep, the Jiva having been there one with Brahman. It is one’s egoism or the personal restricted consciousness relating to its specific qualifications and conditions in life that becomes responsible for one’s pleasures and pains in this world. The Upanishad proclaims that when egoism is removed, one goes beyond all the sorrow that afflicts one’s heart. The Bliss of sleep and the ignorance that characterises sleep are both experienced by a Consciousness, and this fact is confirmed later on by a memory that one has after waking up from sleep. But for this Consciousness which is permanently present, there would have been no remembrance later on of either one’s having had happiness in sleep or one’s having known nothing there. This Consciousness is Brahman, says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, and this Consciousness is Bliss. This ignorance which acts as a covering veil in the state of deep sleep is only a withdrawn condition of the intellectual and mental sheaths which are active in the waking state. This temporary dissolution of the mind is called sleep, and this itself is called ignorance. As ghee can be solidified and melted, the intellect of the Jiva can solidify itself into certain special experiences of the waking state or get merged into the molten condition of complete negativity of experience in sleep. This state is also called Anandamaya-kosa (bliss-sheath).
The mind which is inclined towards sleep prior to the state of sleep gets later dissolved into the state of sleep itself, and while, in this introverted inactive condition it had experienced only a slight reflection of the Bliss of Brahman, it now experiences in deep sleep the same Bliss in a completely withdrawn condition of oblivion and forgetfulness of the world. As there is no ego functioning in the state of deep sleep, one does not feel this experience personally. The personal consciousness is possible only when the ego is active as in the waking state. The Mandukya Upanishad mentions that in the condition of the deep sleep the Jiva is unified as it were, and becomes a mass of Consciousness, enjoys the Bliss of Brahman through the inactive psychoses of the mind, and itself becomes the embodiment of Bliss there. All its ramifications as thoughts, feelings, etc. get unified into one, and, as several grains may be unified into a lump of paste made out of them, all the variegated mental modifications of the waking condition become heavy laden when they get reduced to a harmonious state, as different drops of water may gather into one mass forming mist or snow. This is the medium of the manifestation of the Sakshi-chaitanya, or the Witnessing Consciousness, and it is Bliss itself, as has been explained already, and not merely a state of the absence of pain. It is an experience of positive delight. But with all this experience of Brahmananda in the state of deep sleep, the Jiva hastens back to the waking condition due to certain Karmas working to fulfil their demands in a different state of consciousness. It is on account of these unfulfilled Karmas that one does not continue to exist for long in any particular state of consciousness. There is a constant change of states on account of the change in the manifestation of the Karma forces. When there is waking up due to this reason, the Jiva, for a few minutes, after having experienced sleep, continues to remember the Bliss it experienced there, and retains this conscious condition as a faint recollection of the Bliss of Brahman manifested in sleep.
After the experience of deep sleep, there is a return of the mind to the waking world due to the activity of the Karmas not yet worked out. These Karmas direct the mind of the Jiva in certain particularised channels of activity, which is the business of the waking world. The Bliss of the Absolute experienced in sleep is forgotten by the Jiva instantaneously, because of the sudden switching on of the consciousness to something quite different from what was experienced previously. However, there is an inclination of the mind towards this Bliss experienced prior as well as posterior to the state of deep sleep. This is the reason why there is an unequalled happiness immediately just before and after deep sleep. This, however, does not mean that any inert condition of the personality has any spiritual significance because, here, in an ordinary inert state, there is not even a consciousness of the state in which one is at the time. It is essential to have a vigilant consciousness of the condition in which one finds oneself in order that it may be converted into a step in the spiritual ascent. If one knows very well that the silent condition of the mind without thoughts of objects is the conscious condition of oneself, then, naturally, it would have spiritual value. It is not enough if one is merely silent and sits quiet without doing anything. It is essential also to maintain a steady consciousness in that silent condition of the mind. This is exactly what differentiates between Nidra (sleep) and Samadhi (Super-consciousness).
Mere informative understanding also is not of any significance here. What is essential is experience by an actual living in it, and this cannot be possible unless one lives a dedicated life under an able preceptor and studies the scriptures with faith and devotion. Else, it would be like a person who said that he knew that the Vedas are four, and demanded the present promised to one who knew the four Vedas. Intellectual information is bare featureless description. It does not enter into one’s life and cannot affect one’s position. A mere reading of words is one thing and the understanding of their meaning is another, and even if there is correct understanding, actual realisation is far above and beyond it. Until actual realisation is attained, it is necessary to serve a preceptor who is established in true wisdom.
Variety in Happiness
When there is the feeling of the possession of a desired object, there is also a temporary cessation of that desire, and the quality of Rajas in the mind which propelled the desire outwardly comes to a cessation. The Rajas having ceased for the time being, there is a quick introversion of the mind and a revelation of the stability of Sattva brought about as a consequence, which occasions a sudden reflection of the Bliss of the Atman within, which makes one happy at the time. Sensual happiness, therefore, is not something imported from the object outside, but really belongs to the Atman within, though, on account of ignorance, the Jiva does not know that this is the fact. The object merely acts as an outward agent causing a temporary cessation of Rajas in the mind and an accidental manifestation of Sattva, wherein the Atman is reflected perspicaciously. Thus, it becomes clear that every sensory happiness of the world is ultimately a distorted expression of Brahmananda. Yet the mistake here lies in the Jiva’s wrong notion that the pleasure has come from the object, and its consequent clinging to the object. It is this clinging that causes the sorrow of the Jiva, and its transmigratory life is occasioned by its desires due to love for pleasure. In this world there are only sense-pleasures of various kinds, but the true Bliss of Brahman is never felt at any time except during the short duration of the interval lying between the cessation of a thought and the rise of another. Broadly, we can classify happiness into three groups: 1) Bliss of Brahman experienced in direct realisation; 2) Impression or the Vasana, of it, experienced immediately after waking from deep sleep, etc; 3) Sensory happiness which is the reflection of Brahman Bliss through the psychological organs. Other than these three types, there is no happiness anywhere. However, it does not mean that there are three independent kinds of happiness; the latter two are only manifestations of Brahmananda, or Absolute Bliss. The Bliss of Brahman is manifest in the state of deep sleep in the way explained, and the mind and intellect, working in dream and walking, distract it by the operation of Rajas, externally. The same thing, in fact, appears as the cause in sleep and as effect in the other two conditions. These changes in the states of the Jiva are due to the working of the Karmas of the past, lying hidden as latent forces ready to germinate when suitable circumstances are provided. During the waking state, Consciousness pervades the whole body and is said to be specially active in the right eye; in dream it operates in the region of the throat, and in deep sleep it resides in the heart. There is a gradual widening of the field of Consciousness as it moves from sleep to waking. It is due to the identification of Consciousness with the objects in the waking state that one begins to feel that one is a human being, and so on. Such feelings are connected with bodies and are not relevant to Consciousness as such. The individual is, accordingly, happy, or unhappy, or indifferent, as and when the forces of the Karmas begin to work differently in the different stages of evolution. When there is a complete cessation of both happiness and sorrow, it means that the Karmas are not actively operating. By contact with physical objects, and also by generating of imaginary ideas, happiness and sorrow are possible, but when there is neither of these experiences there is joy which is not born of sense-contact, and in this condition of silence of the mind true spiritual bliss is revealed.
On account of there being a generality of egoism (Ahamkara) in these experiences, the Jiva does not have actual experience of Brahman then, but only the inferential glimpse of it. Egoism is of two kinds, gross and subtle. The gross one is that by which one refers to oneself as “so-and-so”, meaning thereby that oneself is a body. The subtle ego is the simple feeling of “I am”, without any other association, such as the body, etc. The subtle ego-consciousness prevails even when there is an experience of spiritual happiness, when there are no thoughts of anything in particular, and there is silence of mental activity. Just as we can infer that cool water is in a pot by the feeling of coolness outside the wall of the pot, so can we infer that there should be an Absolute due to the very fact that there is cessation of thought and individuality-sense. In proportion to the forgetfulness of the ego by the practice of Yoga does one gain an insight into the spiritual happiness revealed through the development of a subtle vision within.
The Art of Yoga
The Kathopanishad succinctly describes Yoga as a resting of the senses in the mind, the mind in the intellect, the intellect in the Cosmic Intelligence, and the Cosmic Intelligence in the Supreme Purusha. This is the way of what is called Nirodha-Samadhi, or Super-Conscious State achieved by complete annihilation of all psychic functions. The ego, in this condition, having been transcended and absorbed into larger dimensions of being, the Yogin ceases to be a person any more. The Lord Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavadgita that Brahmananda is the state where there is neither the perception of duality nor experience of sleep. The Lord exhorts us that by the intellect endowed with fortitude, the mind should be gradually brought under control, and when it is once subdued well and fixed in the Atman, one should think nothing at all. Whenever the mind moves astray due its fickle nature born of Rajas, then and there should it be brought back as one does horses with reins. The mind should, thus, be fixed in the Atman. That rare, purified soul whose mind has been purged of Rajas, that Yogin who has become veritably Brahman due to freedom from the impurity of desires, reaches the Bliss which is supreme, wherein, having been controlled by the practice of Yoga, one experiences the Atman by the Atman, and is immensely delighted thereby, wherein is found the absolute supersensible happiness to be visualised only by the higher rarefied intelligence, wherein established one does not shake, or oscillate from Truth at any time, by obtaining which one does not think that there is any gain other than that, and having rooted oneself in which one is not affected by even the most tormenting of sorrows – that is to be known as Yoga, the dissociation of oneself from union with pain. This is to be achieved by firm conviction in this spiritual ideal, without yielding oneself to despondency on the path. Thus constantly practising the Yoga of the Atman, the Yogin contacts the Bliss of Brahman and exists as Brahman, all his senses having been trained out and absorbed. But such control of mind is hard and may be compared to the difficulty of bailing the ocean with a blade of grass, uprooting the Meru mountain, or drinking fire.
In the Maitrayani Upanishad, Sage Sakayanaya instructs that when all the modifications of the mind subside, it reverts to its Source even as fire is extinguished when it is devoid of feeding material. Such a mind which seeks only Truth, which has gone back to its Source and which has turned away from all the objects of sense, sees this world of action as essenceless. The mind alone is Samsara (bondage) and, hence, it is to be enquired into. Whatever one deeply thinks, that one becomes. This is the eternal secret. By gaining tranquillity of mind, the effects of Karmas are overcome and there is the experience of the Atman by the Atman, of Bliss imperishable. If one’s yearning for objects due to confusion of mind were to be directed to Brahman, one would attain liberation at once, opines the Sage. The mind is twofold in nature – pure and impure. The impure one is enmeshed in desires while the pure one is that which is free from desires. The impure mind is the cause of one’s bondage, and the objectless mind is the way to Moksha. The Bliss of Samadhi which comes out of a total rise of the mind from Rajas and Tamas, by the establishment of itself in the Atman, is ineffable in nature.
A person of faith recollects the Bliss of Brahman experienced by him during the intervals of thoughts and feelings. There arises also the determination that all the variety of the world is spiritual, too. Once there is an insight of this nature, there can never again be any confusion in the mind in regard to the true nature of things. Nevertheless, this happiness which arises during the cessation of Rajas in the mind, is a manifestation of Brahman’s Bliss through the Sattva mode of the mind, and so it cannot be a perpetual condition of experience. All modes of Prakriti are transient. They change there position constantly like a wheel that is rotating. Knowing this, the seeker ignores even this happiness and tries to enter into the primary Bliss of the Atman, uncontaminated by the changes of Prakriti. A person who is well established in this state lives in the world unconcerned, yet performs his duties like anyone else, in the same manner as one who is serving under a master may do appointed duties as a routine and still be thinking in his mind what is really and inwardly cherished by him. Living in this world, and yet being conscious of the Divine Being, the hero attains internal peace, because of the fact that he is unconnected with what is happening either outside or inside. True heroism is the capability to subdue the senses and concentrate the mind on Brahman alone, even when the senses are impetuous and violent. As a person who throws down a load from his head feels that he has got rid of fatigue, one throws down the load of Samsara by conscious dissociation from it, and attains inner tranquillity. Happiness and misery do not affect him in the least, and it becomes immaterial to him whether there is a positive occasion for exhilaration or a negative one of grief, or whether he is indifferent. He is averse to anything that is an opposing factor to spiritual meditation, as a person is averse to adorning the body and looking beautiful in other’s eyes when there is an imminent chance of being swallowed up in the conflagration of a fire. The consciousness of the seer moves between the happiness of the world and the Bliss of the Absolute as and when occasion demands it, just as the power of perception in a crow moves between the two sockets of its eyes. Like a person who knows two languages, the seer experiences world-consciousness and also the spiritual consciousness of Brahman successively. He is not, as before, grieved or upset, due to his present novel perception, and is not annoyed or irritated by the pains of the world. He has a double experience simultaneously of world-life and Godliness, as a person standing waist-deep in the cool waters of the Ganga may experience coolness below and heat above from the Sun. In this manner, the seer recognises the Bliss of Brahman even in the waking state of Consciousness, not merely in the state of deep sleep. When he is established in such a state, he manages to retain this vision even in the dream state, but inasmuch as, together with the power of his spiritual experience, his past Karmas also work parallelly, he may have a twofold experience of spiritual Bliss and worldly pain. There is all this struggle between the inner and the outer, between the present and the past, between the power of Sadhana and the forces of Karma, until Jivanmukti is attained, where the two are reconciled. (Verses 1-134)