The Study and Practice of Yoga
An Exposition of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda
PART I: THE SAMADHI PADA
Chapter 44: Assimilating the Object
Paramāṇu paramamahattvāntaḥ asya vaśīkāraḥ (I.40): The extent of the powers that accrue to a person by means of these meditations is incalculable. There is practically nothing that is impossible to achieve through meditation. In this sutra, Patanjali startles us by his conclusive statement that one who gains mastery over the mind also gains mastery over all things, right from the minutest atom up to the widest cosmos. This is the meaning of the sutra: Paramāṇu paramamahattvāntaḥ asya vaśīkāraḥ. All slavish mentality vanishes, and dependence on things ceases. Needs or requisitions of every kind come to an end, because everything becomes one's own by the mere fact of this inward sympathy being established between the meditator and the object meditated upon through these techniques, which are the ways of entering into the structure of things.
But we have to be cautious thrice over in understanding well the type of meditation which leads to such powers. It is not a thought or a mere brooding over some external object in the casual manner we look at things in ordinary life. Meditation is not a casual thought; it is a wholesale dedication of whatever one is to that which is meditated upon. We have already had occasion to observe, several times, that this condition that is laid down is practically something impossible to fulfil because human nature is such that it does not know what is meant by wholesale dedication. But it is this that is required, and nothing short of it, because what we expect is something complete and not partial.
When we wish that a desire of ours be fulfilled, we do not think that only a part of the desire be fulfilled. We expect the desire to be fulfilled entirely, completely, to its very root. A thorough fulfilment of a desire, wish or aspiration of any kind in respect of any objective or ideal is impossible if there is not a corresponding dedication of wholeness of being from the other side as well - on the part of the meditating consciousness – because a part cannot draw a whole. We cannot draw the attention of the whole if we are only a part – we also have to be whole. It is only the whole that draws the whole towards itself. Any partial attention paid towards an object will draw only a partial aspect of that object towards us, and not the whole of it. So no desire that we have can be entirely fulfilled, inasmuch as we have never given ourselves entirely to that object.
But here in this sutra we are given the most technical form that meditation can take, by which alone it is possible to gain mastery over things. Here, mastery does not mean the authority that one exercises over someone else, like a master has over a servant, etc. It is something quite different altogether, because the authority or the power that one has in this world is artificial, foisted upon oneself by conditions which are external to oneself, and they have a beginning, of course, and they shall also have an end. That which is entirely outside us can always remain beyond our control. There is no such thing as gaining mastery over a thing which is totally outside us, whether it is an animate being or an inanimate object.
Hence, it is futile on the part of any person to attempt to gain mastery over things without properly understanding the circumstances alone under which this aspiration can be fulfilled. Our enthusiasm is of no use; it is understanding that is called for. When, in meditation, the deeper essences of one's personality come in union with the deeper essences of the corresponding objects outside, the level of that particular object gets mastered by the particular level which is corresponding to the object in the subject itself. So whatever be the level on which we are, that particular level of the object gets mastered in the condition of the level on which we ourselves are; and neither the object nor the subject can be on different levels, as then there can be no contact of one with the other.
As we go deeper and deeper into the essences of things, the mastery over things also becomes greater and greater. In the outermost periphery of life that we are living in the sense world, the mastery over things is very feeble, almost nothing – nil, we can say. In our present condition we have mastery over nothing, and we cannot control anything, not even a mouse – even that has its own say. But when we go inward through the peculiar techniques which Patanjali describes in his sutras on meditation (we have not touched upon these sutras because they are very difficult to understand – very strange, yet scientific – so I have reserved them to the end so that we should not touch upon these things in the beginning itself) by which the inner levels of the subject can come in union with the levels corresponding in the object, the result that follows is – tremendous control over everything. And by a mere wish or thought, things will be materialised, events can be effected, anything can be gained at any time and under any condition. Sarvam āpnoti sarvaśaḥ (C.U. VII.26.2), says the Chhandogya Upanishad. Everything is obtained at any place, at any time, and in any condition whatsoever in which it may be expected.
The mastery which we are speaking about in respect of meditation is gained by entry into the object and not by standing outside the object – this is the point to remember. This is essentially brought out in another sutra: kṣīṇavṛtteḥ abhijātasya iva maṇeḥ grahītṛ grahaṇa grāhyeṣu tatstha tadañjanatā samāpattiḥ (I.41). This is a very important sutra which has immediate relevance to the methods of meditation. We cannot gain mastery over anything by standing outside it. This is the point to remember in every effort that we make in the fulfilment of our wishes or desires. There is no such thing as success when we stand outside success – we have to become one with it.
When the mind becomes transparent, when it gets thinned out and is able to reflect the character of anything that is brought near to it, then it shines like a crystal which can reflect within itself any quality or attribute of any object which is in its proximity. The capacity of the mind to draw into itself the character of any object that is brought near it can be seen in the three levels of knowledge, namely, the object of knowledge, the process of knowledge, and the subject of knowledge. The mastery extends to all these three links in the process of knowing. We can condition the nature of the object in any manner whatsoever for the purpose on hand, and can know it in that particular condition. We can reshuffle the way of our knowing and observe the character of the object from any aspect of it, according to the emphasis that we lay on the method of meditation at that time. We can also know the nature of the subject in that condition, so that there is a complete knowledge of all the processes - subjective, objective, and also the link between the two. This is called samapatti, which means acquisition in the real sense of the term. It is not like an acquisition of a piece of land or a little money – it is not of that nature. Here, acquisition does not mean a legal acquisition, or a social possession, or a mere idea of one's having something with oneself – nothing of the sort. Acquisition here means a real union with that which is expected, wanted, desired and aspired for, so that once it is acquired there is no bereavement of oneself from that which is acquired.
Every contact is supposed to end, finally, in a sort of separation. There is no such thing as permanent union in this world. We cannot possess anything for all time. No desire can be eternally fulfilled under every condition or stage of life, because of the fact that the situation of an object is not under our control. No object or no person in this world can be under our control fully or really, because they have their own existence and status – all of which are regulated by the powers of the cosmos. And unless and until we are able to comprehend these rules and regulations of the cosmos, and be harmonious with their operations, no mastery can be gained over any object or any person – nothing of the sort. Therefore it is that we have sorrow of separation in life.
But here, in this samapatti or the acquisition intended through yoga, there is no separation, no bereavement, and no a cutting off from one's beloved. There is a perpetual union established merely because of the fact that this union does not contravene the law of the universe. It is sanctioned by the law itself, and therefore it is a permanent union. How does it get sanctioned by the law of the world, as distinguished from the ordinary types of contact we are familiar with in the world of sense? It is done by the recognition of the inner nature of things, which alone is what is taken into consideration by the law of the universe, and not the external relationship. From the point of view of the world as a whole, or the universe taken in its completeness, we are something quite different from what we appear to be as individuals. For the pattern of the whole of creation, an individual is something quite distinct in status and function from what that individual appears to other individuals by means of sensory perception, mental cognition and social relation.
So, in this yoga of meditation, one severs oneself from these artificial contacts which have been contrived for the purpose of practical convenience by individuals, and enters into the true relationship of things – a relationship which is not social, which is not sensory, which is not physical, and which is neither temporal nor spatial. This is the secret of ultimate success achieved through the yoga of meditation in one's coming into union with the objects of desire, whatever they be. The anatomy of this process is what is described in the sutra: kṣīṇavṛtteḥ abhijātasya iva maṇeḥ grahītṛ grahaṇa grāhyeṣu tatstha tada ñjanatā samāpattiḥ (I.41). Once we take to the path of meditation, we are practically dead to the world. We cannot have one leg here and one leg there. It is a complete absorption of whatever we are, entirely, in that objective that we have taken up as our goal of life. Either we live for it or we die for it – that is all, and nothing short of that.
Any kind of half-hearted approach here is dangerous. There is no need to say that there can be no success with such an approach. Here, the demand is complete, to the very core of our fibre, because what is ultimately expected in this meditation is that we totally enter into the very being of that object. That is the only intention in meditation. If our intention is something else, we cannot succeed in this meditation. We must be very clear, in the beginning, as to why we are meditating at all. What is the purpose? If there is any kind of subtle artifice, or any kind of peculiar inward gulf that we have created between ourself and the objective, which may not be visible outside but is subtly present inside, then the laws of nature, which are subtler than even our thoughts, will understand this and kick us out from the very realm in which we are trying to live, and upon which we are trying to place our feet.
The intention of meditation is not to gain pleasure, satisfaction, or status in life. People often say, "I want to practice yoga for a little peace of mind," – all of which is tall talk, a kind of speaking without understanding what they are really saying. They do not know what peace of mind is, or why they have taken to yoga. It is all very strange, indeed, and that is why nothing comes of it. It ends, finally, in a waste of time, like a kind of hobby into which one has entered without being serious about it. But is nothing can be more serious than yoga, because it is the science of the internal structure and nature of things, and it is not merely a way of living in outer society for the purpose of either the mere achievement of human ideals, or the satisfaction of the senses.
The intention behind meditation is, therefore, something super-physical and super-individualistic, to put it properly. This is a thing which is a little difficult for the ordinary mind to grasp. The purpose of meditation is not to exploit the object of meditation for any purpose whatsoever, because any kind of exploitation is against the law of nature. We cannot utilise anyone or anything in this world for our own purpose, because this is the essence of selfishness, and nature abhors any type of selfishness. Nothing can be utilised for our own purpose or with an ulterior motive, in any manner whatsoever, beyond that object which we are trying to contact. Mostly, our contacts with people and things are selfish, either covertly or overtly, and ultimately that is why there is failure. There is no one who goes along in life with a laugh or a smile on their face. At the end there is only a sob, because a kind of deception has been followed as the technique of living throughout one's life, which, of course, cannot get out of the sight of the subtle visions of nature. Therefore, let it be noted again – a point to be underlined with red ink – we cannot take to the path of yoga if our intention is selfish. This means to say that we cannot take to the path of yoga if we want to utilise the success in yoga for another purpose altogether which is subtly present in our mind. In that case we will receive a rebuff from the forces of the world, from the laws of nature, from the law of God Himself. We will be fools of the first water if we enter into the path of yoga with these motives.
The purpose of meditation is not to utilise the object of meditation for a purpose. It is not done for an ulterior end which is other than the object of meditation. When I speak to you, my intention is selfish because I want something from you; that is why I speak to you. This is how we live in this world. Everything is utilised for some end. But no person, and no thing in this world, can be regarded as an end in itself. We do not love any person; we do not love anything in this world except for something else for which these are utilised.
A technique of this sort will not work here in this field of yoga – it will utterly fail. And so it has to be cautiously noted, in the very beginning itself, that the purpose of meditation is to gain a superior control over things – not by means of authoritative relationship exercised over the object externally – but by a sympathy of entry of oneself into the being of the object, wherein alone the object can be really friendly with us. That itself can be called real love or affection, if anything of that kind exists at all. However, when your being is outside my being, my love for you is tentative, artificial and subject to destruction, and that is why nothing comes to us, finally.
In the sutra: kṣīṇavṛtteḥ abhijātasye etc., Patanjali points out that we become commingled with the character of the object of meditation. We get tinged with the attributes of the object of meditation. We absorb into our being the very being of the object of meditation, as a crystal would absorb the character of anything that is brought near it, so that we become the object for all practical purposes. There is no question of using that object for some ulterior end. The question itself does not arise, because we ourself are becoming the object. The ultimate nature of reality is 'being', and we refer to this Supreme Reality as the Supreme Being. God is called Supreme Being – a very interesting word. It is Pure Being, Existence as such – that is the nature of reality. The nature of anything, ultimately, is 'being'.
Thus, to gain control over the reality of anything – of course we do not wish to gain control over the unrealities of things, as there is no meaning in it – if our intention is to gain mastery over the realities behind things, then we have to enter into the being of those things, because the reality of an object is the same as the being of that object. Its external structure is not its reality – the reality is something else altogether – and it is the essence of the object that has to become a part of our nature. Then only is there mastery, and not before. This cannot be done if there is a subtle, extraneous desire present in the mind of a type which is sensory, social, physical, or whatever it be. We have to become utterly philosophical here, and bereft of all the usual prejudicial ways of thinking which are the old grandmother methods which we have been taught – all of it has to be shed. Then, a new way of thinking has to be adopted, because here we do not expect anything from anything – we expect only the thing itself. So, here we are in a new world of thought. Not the world in which we are ordinarily living now, but in a different realm altogether where we do not want anything from any person or any thing, nor do we want anything through any person or any thing; we want only the very essence itself of the person, or being.
This is possible by deep absorption of thought into the characteristics of the object, which are the methods or the techniques that Patanjali has stated in his sutra (to which we have not made reference up to this time). However, this is the conclusion drawn: we get assimilated into the object, and the object gets assimilated into us; this is the purpose of meditation. Whatever be that object, this is the process that takes place. It may be a little pinhead, or it may be the whole universe – it makes no difference. The purpose and the method are identical, and here is the secret of mastery or success.
Here we have the psychology of success and the philosophy behind the fulfilment of all of the efforts in life, namely, the identity of being. Such is the purpose of meditation, and unless the inner significance of this purpose is properly grasped, there will be little success. The extent of our success in meditation depends upon the extent of our understanding the intention behind meditation, and the methods thereof.