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Sadhana – The Spiritual Way
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 5: The Descent of Creation and The Ascent of Consciousness

Yesterday I endeavoured to clear some of the major misconceptions that are likely to harass the mind of a yoga student, a practitioner of yoga. It was also necessary to clear up the enigmatic relation that one maintains with human society outside. I emphasised the fact that since we have been living like social units right from our birth, we are accustomed to think only in social terms. We forget that God is not a social being. He is not one among the many; but the human being is one among the many others like one's own self.

The existence of a human individual in society is tremendously influenced by the nature of the society around, so much so that one cannot easily, as a physical and psychological individual, wrench oneself from social relations. Society has become a part of our very skin, and to peel off social contact would be like peeling our own skin. Yet, some such super-normal adventure has to be embarked upon when we take to the practice of pure spirituality, or yoga.

The desires of the human mind, which are socially oriented, individualistically conditioned, as they have become part and parcel of our very way of thinking, persist in telling us: "How could you attain salvation, when society is clinging to you?" This question was cleared in our earlier discourses, and it is necessary for every one of you to bear this in mind, if you are really going to be a one-hundred-percent student of yoga and not merely a half-hearted appreciator or participant in the work of spirituality.

The intention here is to purvey to you the spiritual background that exists behind your personal and social way of thinking and interpretation of things. The Atman or the soul that you are is not a part of human society. There is no society of souls. You will be wondering, "Is it so? But, what is society, then?" Society is a well-arranged pattern of psycho-physical individualities.

The Atman or the soul is not confined to your body. It is a consciousness, a pervading essence, of which we appear to be a little part, on account of our association with this body – just as, if the space contained in a little tumbler has the awareness of itself as being within the tumbler, it will think that the space which is largely expanding outside is external to it, due to the walls encircling this little space inside the tumbler. But, if the walls are removed, there is no tumbler space; it is one space all-pervading, omnipresent.

Therefore, the idea that the Atman attains salvation may not be associated with another wrong notion that an individual person attains salvation. The world is also a soul by itself; as there is an apparently conceived individual soul, there is a world soul which animates all existence in any form. The world soul may be compared to the wide space pervading everywhere, and the apparent individuality of our own soul inside may be regarded as something like the space contained, encircled by the wall.

Who attains salvation, finally? Neither you nor anybody else, taken in their individualistic sense, because the Atman attains salvation. It is not the body or the mind that goes to God in the state of liberation. When you say that the Atman reaches the Absolute and reaches salvation, you immediately bring before your mind the notion of what the Atman is, truly. Too much explanation on this subject is not necessary, as you are practically aware of the essence of what was spoken to you earlier.

If the Atman is a pervading essence, as the so-called space inside a vessel is really the all-pervading space, the attainment of salvation by the Atman would mean the attainment of salvation by the omnipresent consciousness itself, which is called the Atman in terms of the bodily existence. Salvation is a universal attainment – universal in the sense that you cannot separate yourself from the environment in which you are located when you are rising up to the state of salvation or attainment of God.

The environment of human society is part and parcel of your existence here in society. In a similar manner, the entire nature is a larger society than human society, which is an inseparable accompaniment to your personal existence. Society and nature cling to you, not as external objects or things, but as your own wider involvement in the life of the universe. The attainment of salvation, therefore, is an indescribable, unthinkable achievement. Humanly conceivable methods of operation cannot comprehend this truth. For the time being, when you are an ardent student of yoga persisting in the salvation of yourself, you have to stand up as a super-human person. The yogi is not a person. He is a super-individual comprehensiveness, the meaning of which has to be clear. When you rise to the Almighty, the entire creation rises with you.

I have been mentioning another analogy on other occasions that when you wake up from a dream, all the people in the dream also wake up with you; they are not remaining there outside you. It is not that you, separately from those people you have seen in the dream, have woken up. This phenomenon also is unthinkable. Society-bound mentality cannot understand this philosophical or spiritual connotation of spiritual experience. As all the world of dream experience rises simultaneously into a wider comprehension of waking consciousness, in a similar manner the world consciousness will rise up with you. If this does not take place, salvation has no meaning.

These precedents of consideration when you sit for meditation have to be taken care of very carefully. I have dilated upon the methods of meditation; some system of contemplation on the deity as you conceive it was explained: that was particularly an aspect of devotion (bhaktimarga). But there are other ways which certain yoga students may follow. They are the purely volitional methods of affirmation of will: it is not a devotion to any particular deity, but it is a devotion to a particular principle. This psychological method of contemplation is actually the attempt on the part of a yoga student to grasp the principles of operation in the universe.

What are the principles? You have heard in cosmological doctrines that the creation of the world as we conceive it commenced with a dark covering of potentiality for creation called mulaprakriti, the original matrix of the creative process. The methodology of the descent in the process of creation is very important to remember in the path of yoga.

The Universal Being appears to be clouded, as it were, with this darkness of potentiality for creation, as it happens when we are fast asleep. The darkness of the causes of our sleep covers the potential Atman within us, so that even if we have the brilliance of the consciousness of the Atman within us imperishably, the darkness of the potential for sleep covers it, so that when we are fast asleep we do not know what is actually happening to us. It is only when we wake up that we realise that there was some obstacle, due to which we were not aware even of our own existence. The process of creation is similar to the process of waking up from sleep.

What happens when we are awake? Our consciousness of existence manifests itself and tells us that we are, and that there is a world of objects outside. Here in this waking perception, the Atman does not directly operate; if it did, you would not see the world outside. You would see a flood of light, but that does not happen in our waking condition, due to the fact that even when we are awake, the consciousness of the Atman penetrates through the darkness that covered us in sleep and, therefore, our waking understanding is a condition – rather a little bit distorted way of perception. This is the reason why with all our intellectuality, rationality, study and learning, we cannot understand the world correctly. We see it topsy-turvy and thoroughly mistake it for something different from what it really is.

Intellectual knowledge, rationality, philosophical or any kind of achievement is not of utility in the spiritual contemplation of the soul. All the great values of life that we enshrine in our bosom as very dear to us are of no worth finally, as you will know at the time of passing from this world. Great men and poor men die in the same way. Rich man and poor man, known man and unknown man – death is a leveller of everyone. Your learning has not helped in any way to distinguish you from a beggar or an illiterate man when you are actually dying.

Such learning is poor stuff, which has no essence in it. This happens because our present waking consciousness, through which we learn all things, is conditioned by the darkness of ignorance. The inward consciousness manifests itself in waking through the cloud of our ignorance –   disturbed, scattered in many directions, as sunlight does when it penetrates through scattered clouds.

Therefore, the soul has to be distinguished from mental awareness. The awareness of the soul is quite different from awareness of the mind and the intellect, for the reason already mentioned. When the soul rises to action, you will find that a kind of bursting of your personality will be experienced. I cannot choose any other expression for this phenomenon. In our daily life, the soul never manifests itself. Therefore, we feel thoroughly grieved throughout our life.

If the soul had an occasion to manifest itself at least once in our life, we would not know what sorrow is. But it never manifests itself at all; it is always submerged within the dark cloud of ignorance created by unfulfilled desires of past lives, which we have brought with us when we have taken birth in this life.

With a tremendous attempt of understanding and will, we have to try to delve into what we really are. Very rarely, we become totally ourselves. It is said that sometimes, under certain circumstances, the entire soul takes possession of us – when we feel that we are in possession of the whole world; when the world has entered into us; when we have become emperor of the world. Can you imagine the state of an emperor of the whole world? Such a person never existed in history, and such a person is not likely to exist, also. But at least in imagination you can feel what that person would experience when he is the master of the whole world. The total person will rise up to a comprehension of the total world. Indescribable joy, temporarily manifested through the calmed quality of the mind, will reveal, in a symbolic manner at least, what one would experience when the soul rises to action.

There are other occasions, it is said, when the soul will totally take possession of us. When we are drowning in water and we have no other alternative, the entire life process will get congealed into our experience. What anyone would feel at that time of drowning, only the drowning man would know. Others cannot know it.

At another time also the soul seems to be taking possession of us – when we are enjoying dreamless sleep (not disturbed sleep), stone-like sleep, log-like sleep. When you wake up, you feel tremendously refreshed. Even a sick person feels better after sleep; wounds heal in a remarkable manner after a patient's good sleep. You do not like to wake up after that experience because that joy of the fulfilment of your soul which pervaded your entire personality in sleep does not allow you to rise up from it, so you would like to sleep more and more. But, when the sleep is over, you have only a memory of that wonderful, blissful, relaxing sleeping condition, and then you begin to think. You begin to think only through this darkness of the potentiality of sleep.

In the creative process, some such thing takes place. The Universal Consciousness of Brahman, the Almighty, penetrates through this potential of prakriti which is the creative seed. The penetrating consciousness (though it is the Absolute), when it passes through the darkness of the creative potential, gets coloured by the conditioning process of the mulaprakriti. This Absolute-Potential is the Creator of the universe – as we call it Brahma, the progenitor of the cosmos. The Absolute Being, God as He is in Himself, does not create anything. He is All-in-All and He is alone and there is nothing outside Him. The question of something being outside gradually manifests itself when this Universal Being penetrates through this veil of mulaprakriti. That conditioned consciousness, universally spoken of, is called Mahat – the great universal Intellect of Brahma.

There is further down a manifestation. As sleep becomes the dreaming condition and the dreaming condition becomes the waking condition, this Mahat- Being, or the Brahma-principle, descends into a more clarified outline of the future-created universe. In dream we have an outline of the waking condition. That outline of creative thinking is called Hiranyagarbha, another form of the descended Consciousness itself.

When it comes down again into the waking state, it is called Virat and we are now in that condition. We are in Virat-consciousness just now – multiplicity is everywhere, projected awareness of things is at all times, but there is a great distinction, nevertheless, between Virat-consciousness and our personal consciousness of the world. Virat knows all this manifestation as itself only, as its own body. But we cannot feel that the whole universe is our body. For us, unfortunate that we are, the world is outside us, apparently with no connection with us.

Then there is a perceptional process taking place. We cannot perceive the world as Virat perceives it, because Virat's comprehension of the universe is an "I," as we feel in regard to our own body in the waking state, as "I am I." But now, because in the waking state we begin to think through the sense organs, and project the consciousness in an external fashion through space and time, we wrongly think that the world is outside us and we have the necessity to function through perceptional facilities.

Now, in this type of meditation, a reverse order takes place. The first stage of this reversal process is to withdraw the perceptional faculties which externalise the world as if it is outside, and bring these faculties to concentrate themselves on the mind itself; then, with great effort of will, assert that you are an inseparable physical part of Virat-consciousness. You feel at that time that you have become a World Individual. Then, there are other stages, higher and higher, as above Virat there is Hiranyagarbha, above Hiranyagarbha is Ishvara, who is the manifested form of the Supreme Being through mulaprakriti; then there is God as He is in Himself – the Absolute.

This contemplation is prescribed by certain teachers of yoga like Patanjali in his yoga Sutras. There are certain Sanskrit descriptive names given to these processes of gradual ascent. The very first step of true meditation takes you beyond the concept of your individual body; the mind tries to permeate through the bodies of everybody in the world. It is as if all the world is meditating at the same time. In a manner which will not be very clear to you, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras call this condition savitarka samadhi. You don't need to be frightened by the word "samadhi," because it is just a simple name to describe an equilibrium of perception. When you behold all things in an equalized fashion, it is called sahaja samadhi. It is not a transcendent anaesthesia, as some modern materialistic psychologists define it. Psychology cannot understand what this state actually is.

The mind has to be rooted in this awareness for a long time. You must again be cautious here not to mix up your world perception with this world consciousness that is savitarka. Mortal world consciousness is one of externalising perception through the sense organs. Here in this new world perception of the savitarka state, there is nobody to behold the world through the sense organs. The world contemplates itself, though it be in a physical form. You can, with the power of your imagination, feel, for a few seconds at least, that all space-time, the stars, the sun, the moon, and all physical creation has entered into your body. You will not be seeing this world outside, because the whole world has entered you and it has become you for the time being. Thus, even the lowest stage of yoga achievement is far removed above ordinary sensory perception of the world.

These things have to be understood only at the feet of a great guru, or master. Studies of yoga literature will not clarify your mind, because here are things which you have never heard of, and you will not easily hear also, when you are in your daily routines of work in the world. However, whether or not you are going to rise into this state in this birth, I shall at least outline before you what will happen to you in the practice of yoga as described by Patanjali.

The world consciousness will melt down into a higher stage where it will not be in any way associated with even a tinge of sense perception. When we think of this world awareness in this condition of yoga, we may be under the impression that the world is visible to us. This error, therefore, is to be overcome. In another higher state called nirvitarka, which means essentially the non-contaminated visualisation of the whole world as inseparable from you, you are not merely a world individual, you are the world itself. You will be shuddering from the root of your being even to think such things. Your hair will stand on end; your body will tremble; your prana will stop the breathing process, and your heart will throb for a second because of this shock that you may receive in a response of this kind in meditation.

The still higher stage is savichara, a technical word that suggests the experience of the world as an ocean of forces, rather than of objects or physical things. The world is not made up of solid objects, finally. It is a congealed form of cosmic energy, far subtler than even electrical energy. You may call it prana shakti, which is more than the breathing process. All the universe is a vibration of force which gets condensed into certain formations when the physical consciousness arises. Can you conceive the whole universe, including yourself, as an ocean of energy only, and not as a heap of individuals?

But beyond this there is something, yet. There is an awareness of the fact that the whole universe is nothing but a sea of energy. This condition is that of the Cosmic Mind; you may call it Brahma's Mind – all-pervading, Universal Mind contemplating Itself as the background of even the energy of the cosmos. Nirvichara is the next higher stage, wherein the contemplation process ceases and becomes bare experience. It is not so easy to apprehend what bare experience is, minus the thinking process.

Then comes the most magnificent state of sananda or universal happiness. All the joys of the world melt down into this one mass of happiness. Whatever joy we can conceive in this world, any type whatsoever, will all get centralised here in this center which is everywhere, with the circumference nowhere. This condition is supra-transcendental.

There is a higher state still, which is called sasmita. It will not be even an experience of universal bliss, but just an awareness that "It is." We are almost touching the borderland of God-consciousness: "I am not enjoying the happiness of the universal experience. There is no enjoying there; I am myself the joy." If you yourself are made up of joy, what would you feel at that time? There would be no experience of joy. Joy experiences itself. This is Universal "I-AM-I."

There is something more than that, too. It is the entering into the bosom of God, called kaivalya. It is the aloneness of God-Being, unimaginable for the human mind. God only knows who God is. God contemplates Himself, God knows Himself, God is what He is. This is liberation of the soul. It is salvation, it is moksha or mukti. It is not merely somebody going to God in the sense of an outer attainment; it is God Himself absorbing the whole creation into Himself, as He was before the creational process. The creation ceases, and it melts down into God-Being. This experience is moksha – final liberation. Some such picture of our advance in the path of yoga is described in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Stop thinking for a second and feel what you are, now. If, by even hearing these truths, they have entered your heart, you should consider yourself blessed. Your sins are destroyed; all the karmas are gone. You are a polished, shining individual.