The Nature of the True Religious Life
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 13: The Super-Physical Union of Yoga

As a science of life, yoga goes deep into the ultimate reality of things and is not satisfied with the surface view of the world to which we are usually accustomed. Thus, yoga is a very serious matter, the final step that a person takes in life, being bent upon the solution of the great problem of existence which harassed the minds of persons like Buddha, and to enable people to tread which path incarnations like Christ were born into this world. Messengers from the Eternal descend as incarnations – sages and saints and masters and adepts – to help mortal individuals rise to the peaks of achievement towards which all life is moving. Hence, that all life is yoga is well said.

All life is yoga, any kind of life is yoga, anything that you do is yoga, whatever you think is yoga, whatever you speak is yoga – provided that what you think and what you feel and what you act and how you behave and conduct yourself is a continuous adjustment of your being with the requisition of that great yoga which is the universe contemplating itself. What is yoga? Yoga is the universe contemplating itself. It is not your thinking of somebody, not A, B, C or X, Y, Z meditating on some God outside; it is the whole creation becoming aware that it is. That is yoga. It is in this sense we can say that every life is yoga, provided that it becomes a conscious affair. Unconsciously everyone is a part of this vast universe, but consciously we have to be such a part.

Hence, yoga is a rousing of this unconscious relationship to a conscious experience. Unconsciously we are no doubt in perpetual unison with the whole of the universe; no one can gainsay this, but this has to become a conscious affair. Unconsciously you may be the son of a millionaire, but thereby you regard yourself in no way better. When you become conscious that you are the heir apparent of a millionaire, you become wealthy. It is consciousness that matters, not the thing as such. The thing may be there, or may not be there; your awareness of it is what really matters.

Yesterday I told you that the whole world is consciousness. As the Upanishad says, sarvam khalv idaṁ brahma (Chh.U. 3.14.3): The whole universe is the Absolute scintillating in various forms. And as the Madhyamika Buddhism puts it, the whole universe is a void. Void of what? Void of forms and names, particularisations and sensations of every type. Nagarjuna, the great thinker of the Madhyamika School, declared that the whole of reality can be summed up in one word: nothingness. It is a nothingness of everything that is perceptible to the senses. Everything that is cognisable by the empirical mind and recognisable by the empirical senses, all this is a nihil, a zero; it is not there. It is a phantasm, but you think it is a hard, diamond-like, flint-like reality because you yourself, as a perceiving individual of the same, are a part of this phantasmagoria. It is like blind men being led by the blind.

Thus, there is no chance of our recognising the phantasmal character of things. We cannot know it as long as we are involved in it. When we have joined a band of thieves, we have to behave like thieves. We cannot behave like policemen at that time because we are part of this band. Thus, we have become part and parcel of this band of sensory experience. The world that we experience is nothing but a bundle of sensations. The world is not a solid object. It is a heap of sensations, vibrations, actions and reactions. This is what the great Buddha was not tired of telling again and again in all his sermons: Transitoriness is the nature of this world.

It is not that the world is transitory, but the world is transitoriness itself. It is not that a bird is flying; there is only flying without a bird – something very difficult to understand. Many of the disciples of the Buddha could not grasp what he meant. The meaning was that there is no solidity, substantiality, perceptibility, tangibility, etc., in the objects of the world, including our own body. The substantiality, the hardness, the solidity, the thisness or thatness of things is an electrical repulsion brought about by a coming together of two electromagnetic impulses from our fingers and from the structure of that particular thing we call matter or objects.

People who have had the experience of an electric shock, of a high voltage particularly, would have known what one feels at that time. If you touch a live wire of 250 volts – not a higher one, of course – you will not know what is happening. There will be a peculiar sensation of a tremendous weight, as if a hill is tied to your hand. A large weight is hanging on your arms. It will actually feel as though somebody is pulling you down with tons of weight, while there is no weight, really speaking, and nothing in your hand. A mere electrical contact, a repulsion created by the velocity of the electric force, can create a sensation of an iron hill hanging on your hand.

Why go so far? You have a solid, tangible experience of substantial centres of pleasure and pain in the dream world, which you cannot deny at the time of experience. Oftentimes we get awakened to a real perception of this world by a shocking experience in dream, like a roar of a tiger or a fall from a tree, and the like. Unreal things can create real experiences. You can have a real waking from sleep by an unreal roar of a tiger in dream. Very strange indeed! How can an unreal cause produce a real effect? This happens.

Thus, a complete revaluation of values precedes entry into the path of yoga. Great masters who are leaders par excellence, like the Buddha and the Christ I mentioned, cannot be regarded as ordinary religious men. They do not belong to any religion because they were percipients of reality. And while we are told that yoga is union, actually what is intended to be conveyed by this instruction is that the basic reality in you comes in union with the basic reality of things. In one language it is called samadhi or samapatti; in another language it is called union with reality. It is called God-realisation, cosmic experience or cosmic consciousness, freedom from birth and death, attainment of immortality, and other names you can conceive in your mind.

Our structural pattern of personality has got involved in a mire of externality to such an extent that we would find it hard to enter into the technique of the inwardisation of consciousness. You have heard it said that meditation is an internal affair and when you hear that you have to inwardise your consciousness and centralise your being within in meditation, you may be under the impression that you have to close your eyes and look inside your chest or contemplate something within your physical heart, the inwardisation getting identified with a centralisation within this physical body.

This inwardisation referred to in yogic meditations is not of this kind. It is not a physiological, spatial or physical entry into your body. You are not withdrawing the mind from an outside something into an inside something, attempting to place the mind inside the physical body. This inwardness or pratyaksha chaitanyata of consciousness is hard for us to imagine in our minds because we are like the prisoners in the den which Plato describes in his Republic – looking at the shadows and beholding their movements on a dark wall, getting identified with the shadows themselves, and not knowing that we have an archetypal or original existence. Thus involved in the perception of shadows, unsubstantial movements, we would not be able to imagine even in our minds what it is to inwardise consciousness.

Consciousness is the seer, the knower, the pure subject. As a pure subject, it cannot become an object of cognition or awareness. Thus, when you transfer the logic of this subjectivity of consciousness to your earlier conclusion that the whole world is consciousness, you can know where you stand at this moment. Stretch your imagination a little bit with effort. What do you feel at this moment? In this pure, non-objective or purely subjective consciousness which is the substance of all things in the universe, what is your location? Where do you stand?

This establishment of yourself is yoga. There the mind does not oscillate, does not flicker, does not move to any object outside because it is just not there. Things which are apparently hard melt into this liquidity of consciousness, into which you too liquefy yourself, to put it into intelligible language – liquefy in the sense that the location of your presence enters into the locations of all things. As all rivers enter into every other river in the ocean and every river is everywhere, all things are everywhere, and you too will find yourself everywhere.

This happens merely because of one important fact that your essentiality as pure consciousness recognises itself as present in all other things also equally, due to the fact that the whole world is scintillating consciousness, the alaya vijnana, the repository of universal awareness. It is not a particular person’s awareness, yours or mine. It is thus not an inwardisation of your particular awareness into your physical inwardness, but an inwardness of what metaphysically may be called subjectivity proper. It is a metaphysical subjectivity, not a physical subjectivity of bodily inwardness. Yato yato niścarati manaś cañcalam asthiram, tatas tato niyamyaitad ātmany eva vaśaṁ nayet (Gita 6.26) says the Bhagavadgita: As the mind moves hither and thither in meditation in search of its food, from there, from that particular corner into which it is moving, draw it inwardly into the selfhood of itself. This is your effort in yoga.

We are living in an unreal world in one important sense. We are living in a world of shadows. These people moving in front of us are the shadows cast by originals which we cannot see because we have been chained in one direction only, as Plato puts it in his great description. Our necks and bodies are chained tightly in one particular direction towards the dark wall upon which we see the movement of the shadows cast by the originals of people moving in the sunlight behind us, but we cannot turn our neck and see behind us because we have been chained tightly.

The space and the time complex are the chains which tie us forcefully in the direction of the shadows, the movements. They are called shadows because they are merely movements of another thing altogether, which cannot be seen with the eyes. We may call it the world of three dimensions, or the world of shadows; we may say it is a world of movements, transitoriness, a world of flux, as Buddha said or Heraclitus said, or anyone might say in his own language.

The problem is that we ourselves are involved in this flux. Therefore, we cannot see it is there. Whatever be the sermon that we hear regarding the flux and the transitoriness and the shadowy nature and the non-externality of things, all these sermons and lectures and teachings go over our heads. Nothing will enter our vitals because we are involved in this very flux we are supposed to cognise.

Thus, yoga is difficult, like climbing on one’s own shoulders. Hard is this because it is necessary to achieve an almost impossible task of standing aside, away from or apart from the whole flux of nature including the flux of your own bodily individuality so that the meditator, the yogin, the seeker, the spiritual aspirant, is not inside your body. It is not you that is meditating. The you or the I have gone here. Gate gate paragate parasamgate is a great mantra of Buddhist Mahayana by which they proclaim the reaching of the other shore by this involved consciousness. Mani padme hum. All these mantras of Buddhism imply the entry of the jewel of your essentiality into the lotus of universality. This is mani padme hum, and this is this parasamgate, the entering or the reaching of the other shore of consciousness of the Madhyamikas, of the Yogacharas, and of even the Vedanta philosopher.

So the meditating consciousness is not yourself. You yourself as a boy or a girl or a man or a woman or an individual of this type are not the meditating centre. You have already got out of this flux, so you are visualising the whole world as an object in front of you, as a movement and not a substance. The world is not a substance. It is merely a movement. This is what they mean by saying it is a shadow. This can be recognised only if you can perform this almost impossible feat of getting out of your body yourself. You have to stand outside your own body.

There is a very beautiful sutra of Patanjali where he gives a hint at this possibility of our standing outside our body and looking at our own body. When you are able to see your own body as any other object, you are really meditating. Otherwise, you are only imagining that you are meditating, and you are regarding this part of the flux as a reality and considering other aspects of it only as a flux.

There is a very simple, unrecognised sutra of Patanjali, but very important for the purpose of meditation, where he uses the word mahavideha (Y.S. 3.43). Many teachers do not even recognise the existence of this sutra because they cannot understand what it actually means. Meditation is a mahavideha condition of the mind, says Patanjali. He does not explain by way of a commentary; a simple word is used. A great disembodied state of the mind is called meditation. By ‘disembodied condition of the mind in meditation’ he means the getting the mind out of the involvement in this body and feeling its presence equally in other bodies. This alaya vijnana, the cosmic awareness, this great mind that thinks the whole world, the God-mind if you would like to call it so, is what really meditates, and not your mind or my mind. The meditating mind is a divine mind, and to enter into this purely meditating divine mind, you have to find an exit from this body.

I am seated here, and each one feels I am here. This little five feet or six feet length of myself is here. My mind is inside this body. My mind cannot be outside my body. This is what we, each one of us, thinks. Now in this mahavideha meditation, in the attempt at getting out of this body, what are you supposed to do? Do you know? Strongly feel that you are inside the body of another object. I am inside the tree, not inside this body. I am the tree itself seeing this person seated here. It is not this person seeing the tree, but the tree seeing this person. And you have gone there, entered into that object. This is a system of telepathic communication also; telecommunication, telekinesis, and such other things which you must have heard of are techniques of a simple transference of your mind to that which you expect to think in a particular manner, do something in a particular way, behave in a particular manner, etc.

This technique can be adopted in regard to any object in the world. You can think as another person thinks. For this purpose you have to transfer your mind to the personality of another individual and assume the couture of that individual in every respect, to every minute detail. Right from the top of the head to the tip of the toe you are that person, not this person. That person is seeing this person; the mind has gone out of this body. This can be applied in respect of anything, or to all things at the same time. This is a far more advanced system of meditation where you can feel your presence not merely in one particular thing to which you have transferred yourself, but in all things in which your basic mind is present – not the empirical mind, but the archetypal mind, the original mind, the alaya vijnana, the supreme consciousness. Then you will see the world as an object in front of you, and you too will be an object as a part and parcel of this vast universal thing.

So in this meditation, it is not any particular person that meditates because this person so-called that is yourself or myself goes with the objectivity of things in space and time. You get out of this objectivity of space and time and you will find, if you are sincere, if you are honest, if you are sure that your technique is correct and you are hundred percent hopeful that success must come – not ‘may’ come, but has to come – you will see the world dancing to your tunes. There is no doubt in this. You will not be a servant of the world; the world will become your servant. The dog does not go with the tail. The tail goes with the dog. This is a conviction that has to arise in your mind. You should not go like a doubting Thomas. “Oh God, if there is a God, please help me.” This should not be your prayer. “If it is possible, let me try.” Then nothing will come. Why should it not be possible?

“If it had been possible for a Buddha, if it was possible for Christ, if it was possible for this person and that person, why should it not be possible for me? Certainly it is possible for me. And it is not only possible for me, but I am meant only for that, and I have no other function to perform in this world. Every other so-called duty, performance of mine in this world is a contributory link to this development of my personality toward this central achievement of the cosmos.” This conviction itself is a meditation.

Jijñāsur api yogasya śabdabrahmātivartate (Gita 6.44). Even this conviction itself takes you above all the scriptures. The Bible and the Vedas are no more necessary for you when this conviction enters into you whole-souled. It is in this condition that great saints like Mira began to dance in ecstasy. They were not mad people. They were not crazy persons. They were in the height of immense sanity. The joy that took possession of them was such that they could not control themselves. Every cell began to dance in ecstasy, so the whole body danced. Tukaram, Namdev, Ekanath, Mirabhai, Surdas, Tulsidas – they looked like madmen because they were dancing in superb ecstasy of an uncontrollable possession, which state they achieve on account of this conviction.

‘Conviction’ is a poor word. We have no word for this in language; it is not conviction, but something more than conviction. It is not cocksureness, but something more than that. It is impossible to describe. Achintyam avyaktum, says the Upanishad. Such certainty takes possession of you that the world is with you like a huge army behind an emperor, and you have greater joy than that so-called king whom I described to you yesterday as the possessor of the whole world. You are not an emperor only of this Earth, of the realms to come, with a free access to all the worlds. Tasya sarveṣu lokeṣu kāmacāro bhavati (Chh.Up. 8.4.3), says the Upanishad. A free access, a permanent passport, as it were, for entry into every realm is granted to you by this indubitable certainty that has entered into you by a correct understanding of the principles of yoga practice.

A large amount of time has to be spent in this practice. The whole of your life may have to be devoted for this purpose. Yoga is not an experiment, it is not a vocation, it is not a profession, it is not a religion, it is not a faith, it is not a creed, it is not a party to which you belong. It is your dedication. It is your envisagement of the meaning of the whole of life. It is your perception of the reality of things. Then it is that you can smile at the whole of life. You will smile at anything that you see. You will smile at all the events of your life and all things that you see with your eyes as beauties, rather than as forms of ugliness. They are an incandescent form of the glory of the Almighty. Whether God smiles or frowns, it makes no difference to Him. As the cub of a tiger or a lion is not afraid of its own mother and can jump on the mother’s face, scratch her nose, bite her ears with impunity, with no fear, you can ride on this lion of the world. It can do no harm to you. You need not be afraid of anybody.

It is not for nothing that we are told in the stories and histories of great saints that God acted as their servant, unthinkable as it may appear. Satan tempted Christ, “If you are the son of God, convert these stones into bread. Why do you starve?”

“It is not that I cannot convert stone into bread, but it is written that you should not test or experiment with God,” said great Christ.–“You cannot test God. Do you think I cannot free myself from this cup that I have to drink? The great Father will unleash the whole army of angels at my simple request. Why should Peter raise his sword? Get thee back, Satan,” said Christ. “At a mere humble request of mine, my great Father can unleash the whole army of angels. But I want it not at this moment.”

The army of Narayana, Rudra or Brahma will be at your beck and call. The great sudarsanchakra, says the Bhagavata, was hurled spontaneously, as it were, even by the very feeling of a great saint. When God is willing to be your servant, as it were, yogakṣemaṁ vahāmy aham (Gita 9.22), what about this world, what about this nature? What is this universe? Why are you afraid of it? Be bold. As I told you, only if you are convinced that you are greater than the world can you renounce the world. If you are a poor mouse or a little cat that is silently crawling in a corner of the world, helplessly driven by forces of karma, yoga is not for you. If you are a bold, heroic, adventurous spirit in this path of God, relentlessly taking to this great goal, all the angels will be at your beck and call. The whole army will be behind you, as Christ put it.

As the Yoga Vasishtha tells in a famous verse, the angels of all the heavens and realms will be at your service. They will consider it as their duty to protect you, safeguard you and provide you with your needs, provided you have abolished your ego, you have entered into the cells and hearts and the substances of all things. Why do the angels serve you? Because you have entered them. They love you as they love themselves. They are not loving you, protecting you, helping you. They feel as if they are protecting themselves. This is why the world is at your beck and call. God bestows upon you the abundance that He is because of your entry into the substances of things, which was the great vision of the Buddha when he recognised the transitoriness of things and had a vision of nirvana, which was the originality behind the shadow performances.

So my dear friends, do not be under the impression that you are having some three-month course of lessons. You are on an adventure. We are only here to speak to you in a friendly manner, not as great masters, not as Incarnations which we are not, but as co-pilgrims on the path who speak the same language and feel the same feeling on this great journey to the supreme achievement. These few days of the course here, therefore, can be regarded as a friendly concourse of fraternal spirits joining together in a common effort of a concentrated focusing of consciousness in an onward march for a common purpose.

So neither are we teachers, nor are you students. We are friends on a common platform in the interest of a great purpose, which is the purpose of all beings. We are here rather to pray to the Almighty than teach or be taught. Who are we to teach you, and who are you to be taught? These relationships have to be transcended and overcome, broken through one day or the other. It is one spirit speaking to another spirit in a super-physical communion of inward feeling of union. This achieved, yoga has been achieved. This achieved, the purpose of life is achieved, and having become successful in this, you are a success in this world.