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The Process of Spiritual Practice
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 6: Merging into Universality

As the path of Yoga is a way of salvation, great caution is to be exercised in maintaining this awareness as to why we are engaged in meditation. The practice of Yoga is not a religious exercise in the sense of one's wishing to be holy, sanctified or respectable in society. It is a super-social longing arising from a super-individualistic essence in every one of us. It is the whole of creation shaking itself at its very root for recognising itself as it originally was, as it really is, and as it ought to be.

A brief introductory note was struck yesterday concerning the methodology adopted in the system of Yoga practice while engaging in meditation. The object of meditation was regarded as very crucial because its presentation before the mind, and its relationship with oneself, have much to say about any tangible success in our practice.

In the sutras of the Yoga System, the detailed processes of gradual ascent through the evolutionary stages of the cosmos are explained, and in these guidelines and instructions care has to be taken to note that we take only one step at a time, and never take a second unless the earlier step has been firmly placed. Ashtanga Yoga is the name of what is otherwise known as Raja Yoga. Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi are the eight limbs, and we know very well how the earlier limbs of these rungs of the ladder of the gradual rise into the meditational culmination are stepped over by gradual transcendence. Ethical and moral discipline, self-restraint, control of the sense organs, stabilisation of the breathing process, and restraining the operation of consciousness itself in respect of its sensory relationship with things are known as pratyahara. Dharana, dhyana and samadhi are the quintessence of the whole practice. Everything that precedes them is a preparation.

The large final onslaught commences with the attention of the mind to the exclusion of any secondary thought. The necessity to entertain any other thought than that of the chosen object or ideal will not arise. As has been seen in our earlier sessions, we convince ourselves that whatever we need is before us in our object of concentration and meditation. A falsehood of attitude, and suspicion and doubt surreptitiously creeping in saying that the object, the ideal, is not adequate enough, will be our obstacle. A hundred times we may strike our head with our hands and tell ourselves that this is not the case. "What I have chosen as my ideal is all in all. If it is not all in all, it is better to give up the practice rather than pursue what is impracticable." The devilish whisperings of the sense organs will confront us from moment to moment, telling us constantly that something is wrong with us, that our ideal is shaky and our aim is not justifiable.

The identification of consciousness with this all-consuming ideal is, in the language of Patanjali's Raja Yoga Sutras, samapatti – the attainment, the acquisition, and a comprehension, identification and unification of oneself with the ideal. Yesterday I mentioned how this unification can be established with the object of meditation in its essentiality, divesting it of what has been allowed to grow around it like moss, which does not form part of its being. The name-form complex of anything whatsoever is not the essence of the object. The name-form complex of even the five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether and everything above – is not the essence thereof.

Meditation expands its dimensions gradually when deeper concentration is called for in the attainment of samapatti. In the initial stages it is any object whatsoever in the world. Anything and everything is good enough, because all things cannot be brought before the mind at one stroke in the initial stages, due to the mind's habit to be continuously engaged only in one thing at a time, and not more. Yet, there is a difference between an ordinary engagement of the mind in one thing in our workaday world and the engagement of the mind in one thing in spiritual meditation. The one thing in which we are engaged in ordinary worldly life is just a petty, finite thing, excluding many other equally good things in the world which we can take care of later on when the time for it comes. But in spiritual meditation, where we have taken one thing for the purpose of meditation, that thing is not one among the many possible entities available in the world, but it is the thing which can take us to all things in the world. A desire for other things lurks even when attention is paid to one thing in the ordinary working process of our life; but here, while concentrating on the ideal in Yoga, desire for another thing will not be permitted. It will not even arise, because that other thing, so called, which is likely to distract our attention and call for further consideration, longing and promise, is also included in this very ideal or object that has been chosen for meditation. Even supposing that there are many other goodies in this world that are attractive and worth having, they are also concentrated in this very ideal, in this object that we have chosen. Our Istha-devata is our God, and there cannot be another God before us. There is only one.

The finite God that is before us in the form of the object of meditation is not finite, really speaking, because into that so-called apparently finite presentation, the whole universe of forces converges and impinges with a force capable of the whole creation. This is how we can accommodate ourselves to the fact and conviction within that any object that we choose for meditation is all objects, because anything is everything in the context of the structure of creation.

The samadhi technique rises into higher and higher reaches when the object becomes expanded in dimension into the area of the five elements themselves. Here, you are not concentrating on one particular thing, but the entire physical cosmos. You have to train your mind to some extent in contemplating in this manner. How would you be able to think of the whole world at one stroke? All the earth, the whole world, all that you see in the sky, all space and time – you have to roam your mind from one corner of this concept of the universe to another corner of it, until you reach the summit of impossibility to go beyond the horizon of your thought. Take the mind above the skies, rise above, go further up, higher and higher, higher and higher into the topmost pinnacle of the roof of the heavens, until the mind is unable to feel anything beyond. Go down below into the nether regions; go to the right and the left and in all directions of space. Imagine that you are two or three thousand miles above the Earth in a rocket where the gravitational force of the Earth does not operate, and you can walk in space at that distance because there is no gravity pulling you down to the Earth. What do you see there? There is no light nor darkness, east or west, north or south, top or bottom; in that pinnacle of the centre of space, direction ceases. There are no events taking place. The sun does not rise or set; there is no day and night, and time cannot be calculated. You are in a menstruum of melting your personality itself. You have become all space – all the stars that are studded in the sky, everything that you can imagine as contained in this vast space. The whole time process melts together into a single compound of indescribable expanse in which you are located, into which you are entering, wherein you are melting down, and you do not know what it is.

This is one suggestion among the many other possibilities whereby you can contemplate the whole physical universe at one stroke, or beyond the earlier stage of taking one object only for your meditation. Here, in this technique mentioned, you are in union with the entire structure of your environment, physically and astronomically. There is such a unity, such an identification, that you feel that the hills and dales, the stars, the sky, and all things have gone into your body, and you have entered into them. If this state, this stage, this experience, can at least be imagined with your strength of thought and power of will, that cosmical experience taken in a physical essence is regarded as savitarka, a technical term used by the sage Patanjali. You need not go into the meaning of all these Sanskrit words. Suffice it to say, it is a so-called logical argumentative process whereby you comprehend in your expanded thought dimension all that can be grasped at one stroke simultaneously, without anything left out.

This technique can be extended further into the higher potentials of the physical cosmos. You need not think of space, time and distance, right and left, top and bottom, and the dimensions, directions, etc. You can persuade your mind to contemplate on the essence of this situation which is just a sea, a vast ocean of energy. There are no stars, no sun, no moon, no mountains, no Earth. You are floating, as it were, in the sea of incomprehensible force. You have to know what a force is. It is a scientific term which means anything and everything to students of science. A force is that which is not a solid object. It is a pressure. It is an exerting, a commanding, an interfering, a possibility, a probability, fading away into mere thought finally, because there are no things to be thought by the mind in that condition – not even the starry heavens, not even the vast creative physical universe.

This is an attempt in imagining the tanmatra condition of the universe. Hard is this way of thinking. The egoism of human nature will not permit any such adventure. You will be kicked back with a blow from something which you cannot know, like Indra kicking Trishanku because he attempted to go to heaven when the gods felt that he was not fit for that, so he fell headlong, with legs up and head hanging below. This is Trishanku Swargam, as it is called.

Any attempt at this kind of practice with desires lurking in the mind, with emotions boiling, with loves and hatreds creeping into the heart and subtly telling you that they are also there – any attempt at meditation of this kind without purifying oneself of all the psychological dross of loves, hatreds, egoism, and such features will land you in a danger equal to touching dynamite, which may explode in your face. Many a meditator trying the impossible on the foundation of a weak beginning, not knowing his or her weaknesses, has come to sorrow. There will be the possibility of developing complexes in the mind, and you will not gain what you expected to gain. You may even lose what you already had before you started the practice. You may become an abnormal, crazy person if your ethical and moral nature has not been properly trained. If you are a lover of things and a hater of things at the root of your mind, and your emotions have not been subdued, and you are still Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so, this person or that person, if you attempt to go skyrocketing along this tremendous technique which is meant only for superhuman natures, God forbid this attempt, and the Guru is to be your guide here.

You should do this practice; I am not saying that you should not attempt it. Everyone should be after God, and everyone should obtain salvation, and this difficult task should be undertaken by everyone. If one has achieved it, another also can achieve it – provided the same training and discipline is undergone.

A goodness which is the characteristic of godliness is to be the foundation of your spiritual practice. Perhaps you are trying to think as God would think. You can imagine how God thinks. If this outlook can be developed in yourself, you can go along these lines of prescription of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras – the vitarka, vichara, ananda, asmita samadhis that he speaks of. These stages of savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvichara, sananda, sasmita, and the other nomenclatures associated with this gradual ascent signify the rising of consciousness to the comprehension of the categories of the Sankhya evolutionary process mentioned by these philosophical guardians.

Yesterday I mentioned what these categories are. The Yoga System of Patanjali is a practical application of the philosophy adumbrated in the Sankhya, as mentioned. The consciousness widens its comprehensiveness as it slowly rises, and also becomes deeper and deeper. It is wider because its object expands in the area of its comprehension. In the beginning it was one pinpointed object, an ideal chosen as something located somewhere, and then it expanded itself into a larger area of many things, including the whole Earth; further on it entered into the still larger area of the tanmatras, the pure potentials, etc. This is the way it expands its width or dimension. It also becomes deeper at the same time. There is a quantitative expansion, and also qualitative deepening in the process. We not only become larger, but also become greater, deeper, more profound. Our quantity increases, and our quality also increases, so that in these gradual ascents we seem to be nearing the possibility of the grasp of all that can be conceived as contained in this world but, because of the qualitative intensity involved, this grasping will not be just like the grasping of the treasures of the Earth which we can lose also at any time, but a permanent grasp.

A grasp by the sense organs is impermanent. The senses cannot unite themselves with the object of their contact or grasp. They stand outside. If a fragrant rose garden is near our house and we have enclosed it with glass walls, honey bees hovering around to collect nectar from the roses may hit their heads against the glass, not knowing that there is an obstruction which prevents them from actually coming in contact with the flowers. Many a time the bees even die by striking against the object that obstructs their coming in contact with the flowers. The senses reap this fate in their trying to contact objects of sense. They see something and want to grasp it and own it, but they cannot because the glass screen of space and time debars any kind of vital unity of the sense organs with the objects present outside.

As I mentioned previously, we have a camouflaged perception of these objects. We seem to be seeing them, but we are actually seeing only the obstacle giving a shape to the so-called real object. The senses do not come in contact with objects, though we are trying in this world only to achieve this contact of the senses with objects. Our life begins and ends with the search for an impossibility. Grief begins our life, and grief ends our life, and we live with grief. But in samapatti this Yoga contact, wherein our dimensions expand quantitatively and also we are qualitatively becoming fit for this grasp, we are not in contact with anything; consciousness grasps consciousness.

In fact our mind, our consciousness, can grasp only itself. We cannot grasp another thing. The otherness involved in the object prevents our actual grasp of it. We regard everything as 'other', and then want to make it our own. What we can grasp is only ourselves, and what we can possess is also ourselves. We cannot get anything more than ourselves in this world. But to the extent the world has become us, to that extent the world has ceased to be; and to the extent that an external object has permeated into our seeing, visualising, knowing consciousness, to that extent the world is ours.

Tasya lokaḥ sa u loka eva (Bri. Up. 4.4.13), says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: In this state we not only own the world, we are the world. Tasya lokaḥ: This becomes the world. Sa u loka eva: He himself is the world. In the beginning it looks as if the world is entering us, embracing us, surcharging us with its omnipotent existence; later we become the universe itself. This is achieved gradually through these samapatti's mentioned by Patanjali in his sutras as vitarka, vichara, ananda, asmita. That is to say, in a grasping of consciousness of the reality of creation through these categories of the evolutionary process, the physical universe is first divested of its association with name and form, then the tanmatras, the pure potentials, are divested in a similar manner, freeing them from even the concept of getting involved in the space-time process.

The world appears to be inside space and inside time. Even Newton, a very great scientist indeed, thought that the world is inside space – that space envelopes the whole physical universe. But science has advanced, and modern day physicists tell us that the physical world is not inside space, that space is a part of the physical world. The physicality, the solidity, the extendedness of the so-called visible world is a condensation of space itself, so the world is not inside space.

I mentioned yesterday that there is a way of thinking in terms of four dimensions, and not merely in terms of the three dimensions of length, breadth and height. Thinking in four dimensions includes thinking not only in terms of time and space, but also includes a merger of the linear forces of time, in which condition the world ceases to be something inside space and time. That is to say, you also are not any more inside space. You are not in India, you are not in Europe, you are not on this Earth, you are not in space; you are in this immeasurable expanse of indescribable something. You are not anywhere, but everywhere. You are not at some time, but at all times. You are not connected to something, but are related to all things. Space, time and causation converge into a single unitary awareness.

So, this world, this universe of perception as described through the evolutionary processes of the Sankhya, gradually becomes the objects of meditation. To repeat, first a single object, an ideal is placed before you for the purpose of meditation and worship, then all objects, then the whole physical universe of earth, water, fire, air, ether, then the tanmatrassabdha, sparsha, rupa, rasa, gandha – then space and time itself. Here the concept of the world ceases. You cannot go beyond this in your thought process. Any attempt to go further than the concept of space and time would take you inward into your own self, and your scientific adventure of probing outwardly into the mysteries of the universe will cease; science will not work anymore. As some people say, here science ceases and turns inward in a mystical contemplation of the scientist himself. The scientist no longer beholds the objects of observation and experiment, because the scientist is no more there to observe or experiment anything. The scientist has to probe into himself.

Here the outward pursuit reaches its limit of possibility, and directs its attention to the inward profundities of the beholder himself. If beauty is in the beholder, the world of scientific perception is in the scientist himself. The scientist is seeing his own mind finally when he attempts to behold the world outside in his laboratory equipment. When you delve deep into yourself, turning the attention inwardly from the outward experiments that you have been carrying on up to this time, you cease to be a physicist, a mathematician, a chemist or a biologist. You become a psychologist. You become a philosopher. You become a mystic. You become a Yogi.

What do you find when you divert your attention within? These findings within will be commensurate with those higher realities mentioned in the Sankhya categorisation process – Ahamkara, Mahat-tattva, Prakriti and Purusha. They cannot be contemplated upon in the way you did earlier, because they involve you also. How could a scientist experiment with himself through the tools or instruments available in a laboratory? In a similar manner, how would you contemplate on the cosmic Ahamkara-tattva or the conscious principle which is Mahat or Prakriti when you are not anymore something that can be seen with the eyes, or even thought by the mind?

Inasmuch as it is not even capable of thought in an externalised fashion, it becomes a universalisation process. Meditation inwardly becomes a process of universalisation. Earlier it was an outward contemplation, and now it becomes an inward meditation leading to a merger of the outward and the inward in a universality far from any kind of rational comprehension. There is no need for the operation of the mind and the reason here. These are only ambassadors of the great government of the Universal Spirit, who are recalled into their original souls, and the Centre reigns supreme. Here you contemplate yourself not as somebody, but the potential of all things at the same time: I am what I am.

Well said; but caution here again is the watchword of the seeker. Take time; do not be in a hurry, and do not go beyond your limits. When you feel exhausted and your mind is telling you, "Thus far and no further," it is time to rest.

There was a king who announced to the public that whoever ran the farthest distance would be gifted the land that he had covered in the race. People thronged to participate in the race for the gift of land that was being offered by the king. One person ran several miles, and he was gasping. He felt like he was going to die. His legs would not move. His breath refused to operate. He felt, "Let me go a little further. I can get a little more land, a little more land, a little more land." This person who wanted more and more land without the readiness to actually compete in the ordeal of running the race fell down dead, and he lost not only the land, but he also lost himself. No one, even Yogis, should commit this mistake.

A swami met me many years ago. His head was shaking perpetually. He was a very learned, educated, qualified person. I asked him why his head was shaking perpetually in all directions. He said, "I came to you to find a remedy. I tried to feel myself present everywhere in everything, and it has landed me in this condition." Anyway, I said something to him regarding where the mistake lay.

When we are after great things, we should not use even the small things that we have, because of our unprepared manner of asking for great things. We can have great things if we are also great enough. A small comprehensive mind cannot go beyond its limitations. We must become large in order that we may obtain the large. The difficulty before us is simple; we are not totally free from sidetracking desires which will subtly tell us that there are good things in this world.

For this purpose, you must keep a diary, because all things cannot be remembered by the mind always. You have heard many things being told to you here, many interesting things of a beneficial nature. How many things can you remember even if you have taken down some titbits in your notebook? So, have your diary wherein you write what are the possibilities of committing a mistake in the future, one of the mistakes being the fact that there are other things also that are good enough for you. Let them be there. Accept this voice of the mind. "I agree with you that there are good things in the world, but they are included in this very thing, this ideal that I am pursuing. When I have my Ishta, I also have all things." Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.