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The Philosophy and Psychology of Yoga Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 12: The Inner Secret of True Yoga

When we touch the point of meditation as the essential in yoga practice, we must be careful to note what it is that we are aiming at. Commonly, and in the usual course of things, even a careful student is likely to imagine that in meditation a step has been taken among the many others that have already been traversed. This idea of meditation being a limb or a part of the entire gamut of yoga may become confirmed by such enunciations as there are eight limbs – yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi – and one of them is meditation, as if the act or the pursuit of meditation stands aloof from the other limbs, even as one person may stand apart from other people with whom we might have been associated.

This error is difficult to avoid in the light of the fact that we are all accustomed to think only in terms of little particulars or individuals, and even when we feel a necessity to think of groups, organisation, societies and the like, we can do so only by thinking that these groups are made up of little individuals – such as a parliament or any kind of structured body. The concept of the whole, as far as our minds are concerned today, is nothing but an abstract interpretation of a coming together of all particulars involved in it, and we cannot think of an organisation without individuals constituting it.

But the meditation which the yoga refers to as the finality of its adventure is not one individual among many others. There is a basic difficulty felt by the human mind in thinking of what is generally called transcendence of particulars. Meditation transcends the lower limbs; it does not stand as one among the many limbs, but we are always used to thinking of it that way. It outgrows the steps that we have crossed over and, in a very important sense, remains as the transmuted completion, the final fruit of the whole course of practice gone through earlier, as a mature genius may transcend all the stages of learning and experience he has undergone earlier. The mature individual is not one limb, one aspect or one part of the total personality. It is the whole personality in which the earlier stages of educational transmutation do not remain isolated like particulars, segregated from this completed personality. The seed and the sapling, the tendril and the little plant are absorbed into the wide and strong tree which stands above all the earlier conditions through which it has passed.

Meditation, even when it is considered as a final step in yoga, is not to be regarded as final in an arithmetical sense. It is not a calculus of numbers, as we have in the process of counting. This important connotation of meditation, when it is properly grasped by the meditating consciousness, will free it spontaneously from the usual difficulties felt in meditation. Generally, with all our acumen of knowledge and ardour of pursuit, we remain as little babies as far as our understanding of essentials is concerned. We cannot think except in terms of a shopkeeper, a commercial man, and perhaps, at best, a mathematician. But yoga is not mathematics, it is also not a trading in a commercial sense, and it cannot be associated with any kind of enumeration of particulars in the normal empirical sense.

When true meditation, which is the fruit of yoga, is understood in its spiritual sense, it remains something inscrutable in itself. It is that stage, if we can call it a stage at all, wherein all the earlier stages of experience, learning and practice are gathered up, absorbed into its being and converted into a force which overcomes the limits of all the earlier stages and stands supreme as the final victory of the spiritual seeker.

Bring back to your memory the study we have made earlier concerning the stages of the evolutionary process of the universe – how from the one, the many seems to have evolved, and how in this scheme of the large and widespread evolutionary process, we as human individuals stand in a particular position. The purpose of our study of cosmology, or the process of the evolution of things, is to know where we are at present and what is expected of us in our longing for perfection, liberation or freedom. The higher we go towards the cause, the more complete we become in our experience, and it is not that at a later or advanced stage we look down upon the lower particulars as isolated things scattered before us. They will not be there; they will have been absorbed into the higher stage.

When we say the lower is not in the higher, again we have to be cautious in understanding the meaning of this statement. The lower is not in the higher in the same way as the child is not in the adult; but, the child is in the adult in a different sense altogether. So, the cause contains the effect by abolishing the character of the effect as it stood earlier. A masterly adult genius stands above the child which he was once upon a time and which he is no longer, notwithstanding the fact that the child condition is still within him in a transmuted, supernormal state.

Thus, in our effort at meditation as the essential function in yoga we have to know the technique of gathering up all the stages through which we have passed and stand above these stages, not looking upon them as external things, outside the consciousness that meditates, but as limbs that have been absorbed into the very body of meditation. So, if meditation is the last word in yoga, it is inclusive of the disciplines we have undergone in the earlier stages. The word ‘earlier' is to be understood not in a chronological sense, but in its logical meaning.

In this manner, we become more and more complete as we ascend in the stages of yoga practice, and we become happier and happier as we move forward, and feel a sense of strength, energy and power superior to the strength that we wielded through our personalities in the earlier stages. Why does one feel stronger, more powerful and more adequate in a larger sense in the later stage? It is because the powers that were there earlier have been included within oneself. The larger ascended stage is more powerful in every sense because all the energies of the lower states are to be found in this condition which is superior by way of sublimation, transmutation and absorption into its own being.

When we try to understand the true meaning of the meditational activity in yoga in this light, it is difficult to know how the mind will refuse to concentrate and wander about into particulars, objects of sense, and get distracted by thoughts which are irrelevant to the purpose. The question of irrelevance should not arise if we have really, honestly, passed into this higher class of ascent from the lower classes; but if we have passed merely by bribing the teacher and not by studying, then naturally these problems which we face, or which we hear that people are facing, will be common to us. We cannot use bribery here. Everyone has to undergo every type of discipline necessary for this purpose. It is honesty to the core as far as oneself is concerned. One cannot deceive oneself here. Though in ordinary worldly life we live by deceit and exploitation, these are–a misnomer and meaningless terminology in yoga, where we stand alone to our own selves.

So, meditation is a gathered-up granary of all the treasures which you have gained in the earlier stages of practice, where you have become immensely rich due to the resources which you have gained and brought together by self-transcendence, by the ascent of personality through graduated discipline, which varies in some detail from one particular system to another particular system. The disciplines prescribed in the path of devotion, bhakti yoga, or the other disciplines in the system of Patanjali, or the well-known system of direct contact with the Universal Being known as jnana yoga, all differ from one another in the minor details of the implementation of methods, but these details are minor and not major issues. Principally they aim at the same purpose. A uniform type of discipline is expected from a student, whatever be the path one chooses.

To bring back to your memory the point I touched upon earlier, any kind of self-deception will not work here. You cannot have secret longings in your hearts contrary to our officially proclaimed aspiration which is God-realisation, or perfection through yoga practice. You may officially be yogis but privately grief-stricken individuals with frustrated emotions and torn feelings. This will not work. Here again, you have to be honest to your own selves. Every disease has to be noted carefully. Even if it be a little difficulty like a thorn in the sole of the foot or a little trouble that is gnawing into you, these difficulties have to be counted as essentials in the sense that their presence will affect your peace of mind in the later stages. Every debt that you owe has to be paid. This is an ancient tradition in the religions of India. A person who owes some debt to others cannot go scot free; whatever you owe has to be paid. Just as we owe something to the environment around us, consisting of people or things, we also owe some debt to our own selves. There are layers of personality, vestures of the individuality, which have their own demands, their own asking and clamouring voice. We carefully attend to some of these clamours every day when we try to appease our hunger, quench our thirst, guard ourselves against cold and heat, and so on, but these are all minor types of attention that we pay to our requirements.

The major issues are emotional, intellectual, and wholly private. These are the urges of the whole empirical personality in certain directions natural to empiricality as such. Everyone who is lodged in this body as a human individual, in this world of space, time and objects, everyone who is stationed in this manner will naturally have certain impulses consequent upon this position. We may call it a devil which is obstructing our spiritual longings but, nevertheless, that devil has to be paid its due. Any kind of frustration is a secret admission of the reality of that which we officially declare as unreal. This is a self-hypocritical attitude. We publicly own a philosophy which does not go hand in hand with the doctrine of the emotions, the feelings and the sentiments. Do you not believe that we have sentiments which are not necessarily logically acceptable, emotions which can be turned upside-down at the least wisp of wind blowing over us? Who can say that there are no unfulfilled longings? Though we may say they should not be there, these do's and don'ts of religion cannot be applied to our own emotions. They have to be treated like untutored, uneducated patients who require proper administration of the necessary panacea.

The guidance of a spiritual master, and the support that you receive from the study of scriptures, and even the company of colleagues who are honest in their pursuit, help you in this direction. If you have normally passed through the stages of discipline required of you, there should be no reason why there should be distraction in meditation. If there is distraction and a troubled feeling even when you are sincerely seated for meditation, you should conclude that you have not passed into that stage honestly; you have somehow cheated, and got a degree that you do not deserve. This is the reason why you have distractions, troubles, and a sense of pain in the body and even in the mind when you sit for meditation. How could you have any kind of agony or a sense of uneasiness when you are preparing to confront the Almighty Himself? Should you not be in a state of joy? "Oh, the wondrous time is coming to me." Your feelings should blossom forth in a delight which surpasses all the satisfactions of life if you honestly and sincerely believe that meditation is the opening up of your own soul before the great God of the universe. But if you have a suspicion in this regard, some kind of doubt, then you will receive a kick from your own feelings.

This again comes to the point that you have not touched the point of meditation by suitable disciplines. Neither your studies have been complete, nor your disciplines have been up to the mark, and perhaps you have not convinced yourself as to the validity of the very step you have taken. Yoga is not to be ventured with an experimental attitude. If you are going to experiment with the existence of God, or Perfection, to see if something comes out, nothing will come out because suspicion is the greatest enemy of a spiritual seeker particularly. To doubt the possibility of the achievement of that which you are aspiring for is to doubt the value of your own existence. There is a cutting of the ground from under one's own feet, and you do not know where to stand. Doubting the possibility of an infinite achievement is equivalent to doubting the value of one's own thinking – to doubting your own thoughts, your own feelings and even your own aspirations. Doubting one's own self is an obvious picture of travesty which requires to be adequately treated by competent methods.

Thus, what I want to tell you is that meditation is a fulfilment of the whole of your life as a spiritual seeker. There, you stand as a ripe fruit of this well grown, mature tree of self-discipline you have maintained all along. Meditation is not an action; it is not something that you do with your body; it is not one item among the many items of your doings in the world. I have already tried to dispel this difficulty by mentioning that meditation is neither an isolated action among many other things that we do in the world, nor is it some effort on the part of our physical personality. It is an achievement by itself, where we stand above our own selves. We stand on the pedestal of the larger self that we are, whereby we at the same time go parallelly beyond the attractions of things outside because a vertical spiritual ascent also involves a horizontal expansion. The higher you go, the wider you become at the same time. You do not ascend like a single rocket, unconnected with other things in the world. It is not a plane or a helicopter that is rising above. When you lift yourself in a spiritual sense, the whole world comes with you because you are connected vitally with the whole world.

The idea, the foolish notion that you are one among many other people has to be overcome at the very outset. As every thread is involved in the fabric of the cloth and to lift one thread in a cloth would be to lift the whole cloth, you realise that when you raise yourself spiritually, the whole world of your experience is also raised up. This is what I mean by saying that every ascent also involves an expansion in the dimension of one's being. Normally all these are difficult things to remember. We cannot understand what all these things mean. “What do you mean by the whole world rising with me? I cannot understand because it is well known that the world is not with us; Rishikesh is not part of me. That it is somewhere outside is very clear to me. So what good is there in thinking the world is with me? It is nowhere with me; it is totally external to me.” The mind says that, and it will say it so vehemently, forcefully, repeatedly, again and again, that you will have to believe it – and then down goes the meditation.

It is necessary, therefore, to inject into yourself the earlier studies – at least the fruit of your earlier studies that the world does not stand outside you. These distant stars in the heaven are not outside you. There is no distance for your true being and therefore, in a sense, it is free from the anomalies of space and time. You belong to the world, and the world belongs to you, but in a way quite different from the way you may interpret it by your present way of thinking. At present when you are told that the world is with you and you are inseparable from it, you have to work hard by the stretch of your imagination to believe that it must be like that; but your feelings tell you that it cannot be. “The desk is outside me, and it is never me.” But it is you in a very important sense, which has to be clearly known when we take to the spiritual path.

Hence, meditation is not your doing, or anyone's doing; it is a happening. It is something that takes place. It is not that which one puts forth effort to do with the strength of one's body or individual mind. It is a spontaneity of expression, an automatic flowering, a natural opening of the bud of the soul, in which event, a simultaneous revelation of the inward involvement of the soul with all things takes place – our Oversoul, the true Self within everyone and everything else in the world. Therefore, an awakening of the Soul, the true Self, to its own essential nature automatically involves an intuition into the selves of other people also. When you know yourself, you also know others at the same time. This is so because you do not stand outside others, in the same sense as the higher stages are not outside the lower stages.

This will be clear if you have properly understood the meaning of what we learned through these investigations in the field of cosmology, the coming and going of things in the process of creation. A very investigative attitude of the mind has to be adopted every day, and you have to find sufficient time for this work. You should not employ a mere business attitude to yoga. “I shall sit for one hour and do what is possible.” You should not give lip sympathy to such an important thing and speak to this great being before you with tongue in cheek, with no real affection for it.

Again this experimental attitude will come: “Perhaps something will come. If it doesn't come, it does not matter. I can get on somehow.” The yoga system says that if you can somehow get on without it, well, get on, because there is a peculiar thing called honesty to one's own self which is difficult to explain in words. Honesty in regard to one's own self is more difficult to understand than the honesty that we should have in regard to others. Often, we may be honest to others, but we may not be so to our own selves due to the weakness of the very nature of which we are made and the subtle voices that speak from within us which are contrary to our higher longings. At present we live in two worlds, the higher and the lower, and these lower realms have a strong sway over us because they are ruled by the sense organs, and information is conveyed to us only through the senses, which is something that is not capable of becoming reconciled with the longings for the higher world.

In the beginning stages of yoga it is a very terrible toil, as you must have concluded by all that you have heard from me. It is a great, painful austerity in the beginning stages – though it is not supposed to be a pain, really speaking. It is very difficult to free yourself from a bad friend whom you have always thought of as a real friend. Because you considered yourselves to be friends, it took a long time for you to realise that he is a dacoit and he will not leave you so easily. As you have been his friend for such a long time, for years and years, in the beginning it will be hard for you to free yourself from the clutches of this dacoit friend. Because you have realised the situation too late, you can imagine how much willpower you may have to exercise in this area.

Really, to be honest, there should be no pain, but it is painful because we are now living in the lower ego and not in the higher Self. The bodily ego works very powerfully in terms of the senses, so we have all sorts of subtle longings within us – political longings, social longings, economic longings, physical longings, moral longings, ethical longings, personal longings, this longing, that longing. All these are present in each one of us, though we may complacently admit to our own selves – again, not truly – that they are not there. Each one knows to what extent one is involved in these political, social, economic, personal, physical, ethical and moral levels. Who says they are not there? But, let them be there; we are not going to quarrel with them. We must be able to convert these levels or associations by transmuting them into that which we are seeking as our final aim.

Yoga is not opposed to normal life. It is not against politics, economics, sociology, etc, though some enthusiastic seeker might think that yoga is quite different from life in the world. Yoga, spirituality, religion, divine love or the path of God is not opposed to life in the world; it only transforms the life into gold rather than the rusted iron that it appears to be now. The life that you are living is not negated in yoga. It is transmuted and converted into the pristine purity of its essential nature. Life becomes more genuine, meaningful, sensible and perfect, rather than being refuted, negated, as people may wrongly imagine. The world is not destroyed or abandoned in yoga. It is converted, transformed, sublimated and made whole, healthy, rather than the condition of ill health in which it is sunk today.

Thus, you will appreciate how noble an adventure yoga is. It is not something you do as Mr. or Mrs., this or that, boy or girl, etc. It is that indescribable something in you which is permeated with the very web of the whole universe and which equally permeates the very structure of all things. Therefore, to truly aspire to the aim of yoga is to also aspire to the well-being of all people in the world; it is also a step taken in the direction of service to mankind. It is perhaps the greatest service that you can conceive in your mind, because thereby you try to enter into the very substance of all things. It is a gesture of good will and service, more potent and effective than the service that you may be able to do with the words you utter or the gestures of your hands and feet. If you know this inner secret of true yoga, the essential in meditation, you should have no reason to get distracted or pulled hither and thither, which is unthinkable if the discipline has been undergone carefully, stage by stage, slowly, and with immense patience. Such is yoga.