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Living a Spiritual Life
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 11: Meditation is Complete Thinking

The practice of meditation is like the functioning of an organism. For this purpose, it is necessary for us to know what an organism is and how it operates. Briefly, it may be said that an organism is a living entity. It is a total individuality in itself. It has its own parts, which make up a whole. The relationship between a part and the whole to which it belongs is something worth noticing.

There are two kinds of relation between a part and the whole. One kind of relation is called 'mechanism', and the other kind of relation is called 'organism'. Mechanical relation differs from the organismic relation of the parts of a living body. Heaps of bricks or boulders on the roadside look like a whole, because they constitute a body of several elements which are its components. In this heap, one stone touches another stone, one brick touches another brick, so there is a connection of a part to the whole, which is the heap mentioned.

The speciality of this mechanistic relation is that we can remove one part from that whole without affecting the other parts. If ten boulders are removed from the heap, the other boulders will not even be aware that something has gone. They will still stand perfectly in order. This is a peculiarity of mechanistic relation.

There are machines of various types. Every machine is made up of many parts—nuts and bolts, and so on. If one part is taken away or the machine is dismantled, we cannot say that the machine is dead, because we can reassemble the parts and make the machine once again a whole, and it will operate perfectly well.

But, take the instance of a human body. It is also a whole made up of several parts; limbs, cells, and various little elements go to form this human body. Now, if we apply this logic of the mechanistic relation of the part to the whole and sever a part of the human body, the other parts of the body will certainly know that something has been lost. Injury will be caused to the whole organism if a limb is severed, but no injury will be caused to the heap of bricks if some of the bricks are removed.

This illustration is to be borne in mind for the purpose of knowing what actually happens while we engage ourselves in meditation. If we imagine that meditation is thinking something among many other things which are also capable of being thought of, we are applying the logic of mechanism, and not organism, in meditation. We may think one thing in meditation, and think another thing tomorrow, according to our wish. One thought does not seem to be organically connected with another thought. This is what we wrongly imagine.

Neither our mental makeup nor our physical constitution is a mechanism in the sense we have defined it. The body is a living whole, and part of it cannot be removed without affecting the whole. I mentioned that meditation is something like the functioning of an organism. How does the organism operate? We can observe the function of our own body. The operation of any single part of the body is also determined, at the same time, by the operation of all other parts of the body. There is no isolated functioning of any limb of the body in a human individual. If anything happens to the body anywhere, it happens to the whole body.

A sneeze from the nose is an illness of the whole organism. It is not a malady of only the nose. If there is a headache, it is not the head that is in agony; the entire body is sick. Any kind of pain in the body will indicate the whole organism is in a state of disbalance—the parts of the organism are not set in order.

That every part of our body is as important as any other part is something well known to us. We cannot have a special affection for some part and a dislike for some other part, because they all collaborate in a fraternity to carry on this total function called the living of the organism—the health, happiness, peace and complete satisfaction that is characteristic of a healthy individual.

Meditation is to be compared to an organismic process. We have to give up the notion that in meditation we are thinking something outside the mind. When a limb of the body operates, it is not that something outside the body is functioning. When the legs move, they are not moving outside the body; the entire body is moving when the legs move. When the hand lifts an object, the whole body lifts the object. When we consider the operation of our mind along these lines, we will realise that every thought is somehow or other connected to every other thought; otherwise, we cannot know that these varieties of thoughts are our thoughts. If each thought is disconnected from every other thought, who will know that they are our thoughts? There is a uniting, cohesive principle behind even a multi-faceted functioning of the mind.

We thought something yesterday, and today we thought something else. Though we have thought a hundred things, we know that we have thought them, and we have brought all of them into a single total of comprehensive psychological operation.

Spiritual success, which is mostly through the practice of right meditation, is determined by the manner in which we organically connect the parts of the mind in its practice of concentration on the ideal. Most of the difficulties of spiritual seekers consist in the wandering of the mind, the movement of the mind away from the chosen ideal to other things in the world towards which the mind moves for certain important reasons. What is the reason? It is a total ignorance on the part of oneself as to the relationship of the thought process and the object of thought.

Another important aspect that we have to bear in mind in this connection is that the object, so-called, of meditation is not something in front of us, just as a thought is not something in front of the mind. The mind cannot think a thought as standing outside itself. The relationship of the mind to the ideal we sometimes call the object of meditation is vital, living, organic—not mechanical. Therefore, that chosen ideal which is the object of meditation cannot stand outside the operation of the mind. If the linkage of the object of meditation is organically related to the mind in a living process of comprehension, the mind cannot wander in the direction of some other thing without disconnecting itself totally from the ideal of meditation.

This disconnection is unfortunate, because the very purpose of the choice of the ideal called the object of meditation is to decide once and for all, in the beginning itself, that there is a benefit accruing from the meditational process. If the mind feels that such a benefit is not going to accrue, and it has a doubt about the whole process or adventure, it will move in another direction, in the direction of something which it feels will promise real satisfaction.

The contradiction is very obvious. How would we choose an object of meditation as the beloved and the most worthwhile of things for our ultimate satisfaction, and then divorce ourselves from that ideal after a few minutes by engaging the attention on something other than that on which we have bestowed so much faith at the beginning, as the ideal of fulfilment?

There is a psychological contradiction involved in this agonising activity, which is a dual process in which the mind, on one hand, decides to engage itself wholly by attention on what it has chosen as the object of its fulfilment; at the same time, it disconnects itself from the chosen ideal and goes to something which it has abandoned earlier as not worthwhile.

This happens because the organic connection of thoughts and the relation to objects is not properly known. Most spiritual seekers are very bad psychologists. They don't understand how the mind works at all. The mind works in terms of things and objects, no doubt, but it does not think or operate upon the objects in a mechanical manner so that we can withdraw ourselves from it at any time just as we can take away some stones from the heap.

Everything is connected to everything else; this is something we have noticed in our earlier observations. The world clings to us in some way, positively or negatively, because of the organic relation it has with our own selves, and we cling to every part of the body because of the organic relation that there is between the parts and the bodily individuality.

Whenever there is a clinging to something, or a desire to abandon something, this positive and negative prehensive process takes place. Even when we dislike a thing, we are establishing our connection with that thing in a negative manner. It is not true that the mind is connected to the object only in affection, and not in dislike. It is one and the same thing for the mind whether we like or dislike a thing; there is attraction on one side and repulsion from another side, but both these processes are taking place in the mind itself. So, it is a concussion, a kind of push or blow that is dealt to the mind, whether it is in a state of affection or dislike.

Thus, organic thinking, to which I made reference in the beginning, cannot involve the process of liking and disliking, because likes and dislikes are mechanical activities of the mind. We are not mechanisms, as I mentioned. So, if we are real spiritual seekers, we can neither love nor hate because in that wrong process of liking and disliking, choosing and eliminating, we have become a mechanism like a printing machine, a bulldozer or a railway train; we have ceased to be a human individual.

Then, no satisfaction can follow by any activity that we engage in. The whole world will look wretched, life will look miserable; we will get nothing out of anything we do, because in every action, this blunder is committed—namely, the isolation of the part from the whole in a mechanical manner, forgetting the fact that our body and mind are an organic completeness, and the total individuality which is psychophysical is also organically related to the whole world outside. So, there is no escaping from anything in the world. This is why Bhagavan Sri Krishna reiterates in the Bhagavadgita, “You cannot keep quiet.”

There is no such thing as keeping quiet. No part of the body keeps quiet. As a physiologist knows, every part of the body is always actively operating, working. Why does it not keep quiet sometimes? It cannot keep quiet like a stone because it is an organism. This organismic relation among the parts of the body as well as the processes of the mind in their connection or their relationship with the world as a whole is the foundational knowledge that should help us in our onward movement in meditation.

Now, in this context of our analysis, you can know on what to meditate. You yourself will know where the object of your meditation is. It is like finding out where your body is. Ask a question to your own self, “Where is my body?” The answer is very clear. But, such an answer does not come if another question of a similar nature is raised: “Where is the world?” You will say the world is there, outside, but you do not say that your body is somewhere outside. Why don't you say that the body is somewhere there?

“It is not 'somewhere'; it is not 'sometime'; it is always, and everywhere in me.” If this type of organic affirmation applicable to one's own body can also be applied to one's relationship to the world outside, we will find that the whole world is aglow with the life that throbs together with our own so-called individuality. The world will rise up into action for our own benefit.

That is an analogy to show that when we are engaged in the practice of meditation, the whole world is active. It is not some secret action that we are engaged in, in a corner of our room. “Nobody knows that I am meditating. I am calmly sitting in a corner, and nobody in the world knows that I am meditating at all.” This is a mechanistic view of our thought process; but, if we know the organic connection of ourselves, our mind, and the world as a whole, there is no secrecy anywhere in the world. The walls have ears, and the entire space has all eyes to know what is happening everywhere.

The benefit in meditation, as also the trouble that we may have to face in meditation, arises on account of this organic relation that subsists between ourselves and the world as a whole. As I mentioned, we wake up sleeping dogs. The world is sleeping and is not concerned with what we are doing, because we have severed ourselves from the world in a wrong notion that we are mechanically connected to it and can do anything we like in regard to things in the world. But once we establish a vital connection in our deepest heart of hearts, an organism as the whole world begins to throb in our act of meditation, and every tree, every leaf, every brick, every bird in the air will be aware that something is taking place.

We have read in the Puranas and the scriptures that gods in heaven become aware that so-and-so is engaged in meditation. Where are the gods? They are perhaps in high heaven, but there is no such thing as high heaven in an organic completeness of God's creation. When we touch something, we have touched everything, so when we have thought one thing, we have thought everything. When we touch one part of our body, we have touched every part of our body; the sensation is complete.

Meditation is such a kind of cosmically oriented total thinking—though the word 'thinking' is a very inadequate word to describe what actually is taking place at that time. The personality rises in a wholesome manner, in a wholesome relationship with the world of things. Everything begins to vibrate in harmony with us. We have neither friends nor enemies at that time, because the negativity and the positivity of love and hatred have arisen in the psychology of mental operation due to disconnection of the personality from the operations in the world outside.

If we persist in thinking that we are only in some place and the world is somewhere else, and perhaps the object of our meditation is in a third place, we will only be wasting our time in sitting for meditation. Nothing will come out of this activity as a fruit thereof, because the fruit is connected to the total tree. It is the entire tree that biologically yields the fruit of its activity, right from the roots to the trunk, to the leaves and the branches. The growth of a tree is like the growth of the human body. It is also an organism—everything is everywhere within it. The fruit that is hanging on the end of a twig is directly connected to the root that is under the earth.

Thus, what is happening within us, and so-called outside ourselves, is related to all things, but the concept of our relationship to all things is totally alien to human nature. No human being can think in this manner, because every person is different from every other person. Everything is different from every other thing. We cannot see one thing connected to another thing, or one thing really related to another thing. Even a brother is not really related to his own brother; they can separate themselves without harm or disadvantage. The closest relations in a family can sever themselves as if they were never family members at all. All organisations of people can collapse by the separation of the members thereof, because every kind of connection in this world—political, social, industrial, business, whatever it is—is a mechanistic relation and, therefore, it can end one day, as it began. But the world process is not going to begin sometime and end sometime. It is a movement from eternity to eternity. God operates through all this creation and, therefore, He operates through the meditational process also.

It is certainly a great advantage for us to go on repeating this idea of an organic connection between ourselves and all things, and that all life is vital life. This is perhaps what was in the mind of the great sage who said, Udāracharitānām tu vasudhaiva kutumbakam, ayam bandhurayam neti gananā laghuchetasām (Maha Up. 6.72). “This is my relation, this is my enemy, he is my brother, he is somebody else—this kind of calculation of relation with other things is poverty-stricken thinking,” says the Yoga Vasishtha. For a large-hearted individual, there are no individuals at all. They are like drops merged in the ocean.

There should be, first of all, a conviction and a doubtless affirmation that the meditational process is going to succeed—that it is not a dubious adventure on our part. “Let me try and see if it comes; if it doesn't come, let me give it up.” If this attitude is behind our beginning the process, nothing will come. Doubts are our traitors, as the poet said. We have no enemies in the world except our own doubts. They destroy all worthwhile things in life.

If there is a true relation between one thought and another thought in our mind, a true relation between our psychophysical organism and the world of perception, then life assumes the form of a magnificent reality, and it never remains a meaningless pursuit, as it sometimes appears to people who are segregated psychologically and socially.

Really, things are not so separate as they appear to our senses. There is no paralysis of the organism of the world process. They are vitally connected. As we can summon any limb of our body to work in an instant and it works, so should be our conviction inside that we can summon any god for our purpose, if we really want it to be done. The Yoga Vasishtha tells us that such a devoted, honest, sincere seeker does not require any security guards. He is protected by the gods from all the quarters of heaven. Sarvā diśo balim asmai haranti (Chhandogya Up. 2.21.4): Every quarter of heaven will come beseeching you, offering you its tributes, says the Upanishad.

The world seems to be rejecting us, and making us look like poor nobodies. This has happened because we have rejected the world. The world is behaving with us in the manner in which we are behaving with it. “The world is totally outside me,” we are saying every day, so the world also says, “My dear boy, you are totally outside me; I will give you nothing.”

Therefore, if we are poor in mind, body, and social connections, we should not complain that somebody else is the cause. We are the cause. The world is rich, enormously filled with divine treasures. The world can never become poor. The poverty is in our relationship to things. Meditation is a rectifying process so that we may, by our sincere endeavour, live a satisfying, comfortable, happy life of no perplexity, no anxiety, no sorrow, and no expectation of something unknown in the future. Everything becomes a certainty.

The world is a certainty, it is not a doubtful existence, and if our relationship to it is also a certainty in the manner described, in an organic fashion, then the tree of creation, as we have it mentioned in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita, will yield the fruit of immortal bliss.

There is no benefit, even in the least, by affirming our egoism too much and defying the existence of somebody else. By doing that, we defy the world itself. If the world is defied, mortality seeps into the vitals of the personality, and death takes place. Death is the inability of the bodily organism to cooperate with the functioning of the physical organism of the cosmos. We die because of our egos only. The ego-ridden physicality, the bodily existence, is given a deathblow by the widely spread physical operations of the five elements earth, water, fire, air and ether. The five elements do not die, and if the bodily individuality is also made up of the five elements only, we have to explain what actually takes place when we die. There is a dismembered situation arising in the physical components of this body by the severance of the ego from its connection with this earlier formation of the five elements as a physical individuality. Death is, therefore, the severance of the ego from the five elements.

When it connects itself to only certain parts of the five elements, it locates itself somewhere and says, “I am here.” This is the individual speaking; and who is the individual? It is a little shred isolated from the widespread five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether—and centralised in an affirmation which is called ego-consciousness. If this ego, which is only a name that we give to the affirmation of consciousness in one place only, can be melted down by its isolation from this location of the body, and can be connected to all the widespread nature of the elements, we become cosmically aware, and we will not feel the pinch of death at that time. It is the ego that feels the pain, and the ego is only a wrongly affirmed centre of the all-pervading consciousness.

With all this available information, we have to daily recapitulate whatever we have heard from teachers, guides and masters, from scriptures, from sadhus and sanyasins, and try to digest these ideas and attempt to live them, knowing well that we are finally going to be more happy than an emperor if this benefit can accrue.

Meditation is not an activity, it is an operation of our being itself. It is not a work that we are doing, like a labourer, due to which we can get tired, and we would not like to do it all because it is somebody else's business. Meditation is not somebody's business, it is my business; and, my business is equal to the whole world's business. Therefore, there cannot be fatigue in meditation. There will be rejoicing inside that every step we take in the direction of this successful art is also a step taken in the direction of more and more fulfilment of our personality, and not a negative reaction set up by anyone.

Purnam is the world. We have often heard it mentioned in the Upanishads. Completeness is creation. Completeness is our own way of thinking. Completeness is our relationship to things, and meditation is complete thinking.