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The Great System of Yoga Propounded by Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 6: The Wholeness to which We Belong

In our study of the processes of yoga, we gathered that the ascent is a gradual movement from the external to the internal, and from the internal to the universal. We have had occasion to go into some detail as regards the external adjustments that we may have to make in our personal lives when we live as units in human society. When we move from the external to the internal, we enter into the subject of psychology, or more properly, as what people call it today, in-depth psychology. In fact, it is not easy to understand the nature of even the external society until and unless we understand the individual that constitutes the unit of society. The individual is a miracle by itself. The personality, the internal structure that we are going to study in our understanding of the art of yoga, is a complex structure of various layers, and valuations of different types.

For instance, broadly speaking, we have been told that there are five sheaths in our personality: the physical, the vital, the mental, the intellectual, and the causal – known in Sanskrit as the annamaya, the pranamaya, the manomaya, the vijnanamaya and the anandamaya koshas. The three bodies, known as the physical, the subtle, and the causal, include these five sheaths. Thus, it should be apparent to every one of us that we are not merely physical bodies; we are a very complicated structure inside, and the health of the personality depends upon the extent of alignment that is achieved in relation to these layers within. There has to be an alignment of the layers of personality; then we say the person is healthy. Just as physical health is supposed to be a harmony of the humours – vata, pitta, kapha, as we are told – there is a general health of the total personality which is not merely an equivalent to physical health. There is a satisfaction which is the outcome of what we know as the total health of the personality. Even a physically well-built person may not be a satisfied person, for various other reasons. An unsatisfied person cannot be called a healthy person in the true sense of the term, notwithstanding the fact he may be a strongly built physical personality.

The inner satisfaction or freedom that one feels in oneself is the sign of true health. You should be happy, and that happiness should be a genuine expression of the harmony that has been established within the layers of personality. The happiness is not an outcome of the position of external objects. It is not the pleasure of the senses in their contact with the objects that we are speaking of when we refer to the satisfaction of the personality within. One can be happy even when one is not actually in physical contact with things. The satisfaction of this nature is genuine, spontaneous, and is the essential nature of the person himself. Your essential nature is happiness, and that happiness is not a product of the contact of the senses with the external objects, just as when you are healthy even physically, you feel a kind of satisfaction. Don't you feel happy when you are physically healthy? Is it because you are in contact with some objects outside that you are happy at that time? A person feels a kind of relief, a satisfaction and a great delight inside after recovering from a high fever, for instance. When the temperature becomes normal, a person feels a satisfaction. That satisfaction itself is the indication that the temperature has come to normal. This satisfaction is not due to eating any delicious diet, or any kind of pleasure of the senses by means of contact outside. It is a natural condition of the system. The more we become natural, the more also we become satisfied and happy.

The Yoga System proceeds to explain the ways in which we can be truly happy, happy because we are free. It is the happiness that is born of freedom from within, and one should not imagine that the so-called happiness of the senses in their contact with objects is a sign of freedom. It is the other way round. It is bondage. To seek pleasure in the objects of sense is not a sign of freedom, it is a sign of yielding to impulses. A pressure from inside exerted by the instincts through the senses in terms of objects outside cannot be regarded as an insignia of freedom. Freedom is that state or condition where you exist independent of relationships with things that are outside, and the more you are independent in this sense, the more also you are delighted and satisfied independently within. Merely because you exist, you feel happy. One cannot imagine how this could be. How it is possible for me to be happy merely because I exist? But this, you have to remember, is true satisfaction. Your mere existence should make you feel happy, not because you see things, hear things, touch things, or eat things. That is the prosaic pleasure of the senses which will end finally in sorrow. The joy of yoga is not the pleasure of the senses, or the pleasure of the body. It is a unique type of relief from tension enjoyed on account of the harmony that is established in the various layers of personality: primarily the intellect, the will and the emotion.

Our will, our understanding and our feelings should be in harmony with one another. In a more broad sense, we should think and speak and act in a harmonious manner, which means to say, we should understand things, will things and feel things harmoniously. It is not that the intellect accepts one thing and the feelings resent it. Most of our academic acceptances of the conclusions of philosophy or metaphysics, for instance, may not be agreeable to the feelings of man, so much so that geniuses in intellectual philosophies may not be satisfied persons due to the disharmony between their feelings and their understandings.

Yoga is a different art altogether. It is not an intellectual science. It is not going to teach you something which is purely rationalistic in an academic sense. It is going to make you a whole being. The word ‘whole' has to be underlined. We are not whole persons, normally. We are partial beings. In our day-to-day life, a part of our personality manifests itself, and the whole of it is not revealed to the surface of consciousness. Psychologists tell us that there are layers of the psyche. For instance, they speak of the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious levels. There can be even more levels than these, but we shall be satisfied with these: the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious.

We are all these at the same time, and we are not merely what we think on the surface. Now we are here in this hall thinking something in our minds on the conscious level. We may apparently be looking like persons who have nothing buried inside us, apart from what the mind is thinking at this present moment. Perhaps we are thinking noble thoughts and we are contemplating ideals which are highly enlightening and inspiring, but this contemplation of ours should not be merely an activity of the conscious level. Then it is not yoga. Then it is not meditation. It is merely listening, sravana, an understanding of the superficial level of our personality, because we have also to remember that we have deeper levels in us than the conscious level, which are keeping quiet in ambush, and they shall have their voice at a later time when an opportunity arises.

Do you know that you are not in the same mood throughout the day? Each one may look into himself or herself and see what are the moods through which one passes from morning to evening. Are you in the same mood at all times? Are you always happy, or always unhappy, always agitated, always wanting something? Nothing of the kind. You have varying attitudes. Just now you are something and at another time you are something else, and you cannot know what mood you shall be in after a few minutes. You cannot say that you will not be in a mood of rage after a few minutes. You may say, “Why should I be angry? I am quite all right.” But circumstances can rouse your personality to that condition, about which you may not have any apprehension at the present moment. Sudden impulses may arise which are put down at the present moment on account of an activity on the conscious level – for instance, just now, the listening to a speech. But this is not the whole of your personality working. Only the conscious level of the personality is working, and that is not enough. That is why adepts in yoga, the great Masters, tell us that sravana alone is not sufficient; manana is essential. They go further and mention what is called nididhyasana. This means to say, this conscious acceptance of yours at the present moment has to go deep into the subconscious in manana, and also to the unconscious in nididhyasana. Thus, the whole of the personality is brought to the conscious level. The entire being is conscious, and there we have no hidden personality. This is one of the functions of psychoanalysis: to bring out what is inside in the deeper layers of personality. But many of us are incapable of doing this work of searching what is inside us, mostly because many of us may be busy in outward activities, engaged so much in some work that there may not be time for the mind to think what is inside it. It is concentrated only on a particular aspect of the manifestation of its contents which is engaged in that particular activity. The other aspects are buried inside.

In yoga, this will not do. Mere listening and mere study will not do. You have to go deep into your personality. An analysis of the whole personality is called for. This is taken up when yoga proceeds along the lines of asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, etc. As you go further and further, you go deeper and deeper into yourself. Not merely that, when you go deeper and deeper, you also become larger and larger in your dimensions, a thing that you cannot understand at present. What actually will take place when you ascend higher is something which your mind cannot comprehend at this present moment.

When you go deeper and deeper, you also become wider and wider. This is something very interesting. Thus it is that you approximate yourself to the Atman within, and at the same time approximate yourself to the Brahman without. The Universal Being is the Brahman, the Absolute, and the deepest essence of ours is the Atman, so the more we go near the Atman inside, the more also we become expanded in our consciousness in the direction of the Absolute, Brahman, the Universal Reality.

So, coming to the point, it is essential that we should see that our layers of personality are set in alignment. We should not be double or triple personalities – thinking something, feeling something, speaking another thing, and doing a fourth thing altogether. This kind of thing will not succeed in the world for a long time. There is no use deceiving oneself. What is the use of deceiving oneself? What does it bring? What is the purpose? It is nothing but sorrow, untold suffering, to adopt personalities in oneself which are false to one's true nature.

For various difficulties which are of a social character, people adopt double personalities, triple personalities, etc. We have already gone into this detail in our study of the social existence of the human being. There should be no occasion in our life when we have to so project our personality in society that we are false to ourselves. That is the work of the principles or the canons of yoga, known as the yamas, about which we have made some study earlier. The practice of the yamas is nothing but the art of adjustment of the whole personality in respect of society outside in such a way that you will be true to yourself, and also true to society. It does not mean that you have to be false to yourself in order to be true to society. That is not a proper way of living. Nor should it be that you are true to yourself and false to others.

It is difficult to live a life of yoga, no doubt, but it is not impracticable. We have to learn this technique because yoga is, as the Bhagavadgita puts it, samatva: samatvaṁ yoga ucyate (B.G. 2.48). This is a pithy aphoristic statement which is not explained further in the Gita itself, but it has an abundance of significance: Alignment, or harmony, is the secret of yoga. What this alignment is, what this adjustment is and what this harmony is, it is up to us to understand by a deeper study under a Guru, a competent teacher. It has to be harmony in every level and in every respect. ‘In every level and in every respect' – this point should not be forgotten. It is not only in some levels and only in some respects. It is not that I am in harmony with you under certain conditions, and not in harmony under other conditions. That would not be a healthy way of living.

We are ultimately aiming at God. That is what we have to remember. Our aim in the practise of yoga, our aim of even life in this world, the aim behind our day-to-day activities is God-realisation, the attainment of the highest perfection in the Absolute, and that is True Being, Pure Being, Complete Being, Universal Being. I began by saying you have to learn to be happy merely by being yourself, not by being in contact with something else. This is so because when the being of the Absolute is reflected in your personality in some measure or some percentage at least, the bliss of that Being also is reflected in you. The Absolute has no contact with something outside. It is called the Absolute because it is non-relative. It has no relationships with anything else. It has no external object to come in contact with. It is being and consciousness and happiness – sat-chit-ananda. A ray of it, a faint reflection of it in our personality, is enough to make us immensely happy and satisfied, merely by our being itself.

There is, in modern parlance, a philosophy known as ‘holism'. It is fantastically spelled as ‘holism', but what is intended is ‘wholism'. It is a philosophy designed by General Smuts, who was in Africa. The philosophy behind it is that there is an ascent from one whole to another whole. That is why he calls it ‘holism of evolution'. When there is an evolution of things from one level to another, it is not that some part evolves into another part. It is not that one part evolves into a higher level. The whole being evolves into another whole altogether. To make it more clear, we can give an example, for instance, of the growth of a child. At every level of the growth of a person, there is a wholeness that is rising from one level to another. The baby is a whole being. You cannot say that the adult is a whole and the baby is a partial expression of it. Not so. There is a wholeness of personality and a completeness of being even in the baby that is born just now, and in the next moment it is a whole, after one month it is a whole, after one year it is a whole, after ten years it is a whole; at every step it is a whole. It is a movement from one level of wholeness to another level of wholeness.

Thus it is that in the practice of yoga we have to learn the art of rising from one wholeness to another wholeness – not merely biologically as the child grows into the adult, for instance, but in a more significant and deeper sense. The rise from one level to another in yoga is not merely a physical rise, like the child rising into the adult or the youth. It is a total rising of all the sheaths of the personality – the physical, the vital, the mental, the intellectual, and the causal – the annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya, anandamaya. Only then it can be called yoga; otherwise, it is merely thinking. Yoga meditation is not thinking of some object. You have to draw a distinction between these activities. When you think of something, you are not meditating on that object.

Meditation is a very sacred term. It is significant of the absorption of the totality of your being and that objective on which you are concentrating. When I am thinking of a tree, the whole of my mind may not be absorbed in the thought of the tree. Very rarely in our lives do we see our whole personality rise into action. Never it happens. When we go to bed and are in a state of deep sleep, profound sleep, they say the whole personality is absorbed. There are a few other occasions also when the entire personality rises into activity – for instance, when it is confronted with the fear of death. If you are sure that death will come now and you are not going to live more than a few minutes, then your personality works in a way that the whole of your force is roused into activity.

In the practice of yoga, therefore, a conscious attempt is to be made to bring the whole of our personality into action, action towards God-realisation through the various stages by which we have to pass. Thus it is that we are genuine wholes at every level and every step of practice. The stages mentioned by Patanjali – yama, niyama, asana, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, samadhi – are such wholes. We are not partial expressions.

The study of the sutras of Patanjali is a little difficult for beginners who are not acquainted with the technical approach of the great Master, because the sutras were written for the purpose of memorising only, and not for teaching. In those days textbooks were not available. No printed books were there, so you could not purchase books from shops or read them in libraries. Therefore, you had to remember the teachings of the Master by certain aphorisms which could create circumstances of remembrance of all the teachings of the Master. So these sutras – Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, and so on – are available today as aphorisms signifying certain essentials of the teaching, and they are not expanded teachings. Thus it is that when you read merely the sutras of Patanjali, you will not make much sense out of it. Yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (Y.S. 1.2). The art of yoga is described as the process of the inhibition of the activities of the psyche. Now, you do not know why these should be done at all. He does not tell you all these things. All this is implied already. Why should the mind be controlled in the practice of yoga? What do I gain by that? The answer is not given there; only the technique is given. The answer as to why it should be done at all, the rationality behind it, is in the Sankhya, on which the Yoga is based. That is the metaphysics or the philosophy on which the practice of yoga as described in the sutras of Patanjali is based.

So, first of all, we have to maintain in our minds a clear idea before us. That is the Sankhya, which has to precede the Yoga. Eṣā te ‘bhihitā sāńkhye, buddhir yoge tv imāḿ śṛṇu (B.G. 2.39), says Bhagavan Sri Krishna: I have mentioned to you the principles of Sankhya; now listen to the Yoga. The Sankhya is the preceding background of the actual technical practice, which is Yoga. To put it precisely, Sankhya is nothing but the consciousness of the ideal. It is the knowledge of the great goal that is before you. The entire process through which you have to pass is rationally placed before you as an explanation; that is the philosophy of the Sankhya or the Vedanta. The ideal has to be clear; otherwise, what is Yoga? People say, “I sit for meditation,” but they must know on what they are to be meditating and why they are to meditate. These two questions have to be answered, each for oneself.

The aim should be clear, such that there should not be any necessity to change the ideal afterwards. Today you feel that God is the ultimate goal of life, tomorrow you think that social service is the ultimate goal of life, the third day you think that something else is the goal of life, etc. That is, you have not clearly thought of the problem. Your logic has been very feeble. You have to be logically able to deduce the final conclusion in this respect, so that the final aim is clear and there is no necessity to change the ideal afterwards. When you know the nature of the ideal, you will also know the nature of your relationship with that ideal, just as when you know that you have to go to Delhi, you will have an idea as to how far Delhi is, how you have to move towards it, etc. The relationship between yourself and the ideal becomes clear automatically when you know the character of the ideal. These should precede the actual practice. Otherwise, there can be doubts in the mind: “Am I doing the right thing or not? Am I being taught the right thing? Is it the proper practice?” and so on. When the Sankhya principles are clear in the mind, the ideal is perspicuous and there is no doubt in the mind whatsoever as to the goal of life; the relationship of oneself with the ideal is clear, and the path also becomes automatically clear. You know how to tread the path.

You move gradually from one stage to another stage in such a manner that you need not have to retrace your steps. This is another important caution to seekers. They should not be in a state of enthusiasm and excessive emotion by which they jump over certain stages, imagining that they are well up in the practice. Sometimes the regression would be very painful and the rising further would be a more difficult affair. Therefore, it is better to go slowly, rather than go hurriedly under the impression that God has to be achieved in this very life and so you must jump quickly. You know very well that you go gradually. A child does not become an adult in one day. The seed does not become a sapling or a plant in one minute. Everything has its own time. Nature is an evolutionary process, and not a revolutionary activity. You should not undergo any revolutionary practice in your practice of yoga. Let it be a gradual evolution, without missing even one link in the chain of development. It has to be done very cautiously and very patiently. Even if it takes millions of years, it does not matter. Miss not a link, because once you are sure that you have not missed even one link in the chain of development, you need not have to retrace your steps and fall back upon the old stage from which you are attempting to rise.

Therefore, one has to know where one stands in one's psychological and social setup. Where are you placed psychologically and socially, and what are your duties and calls under those circumstances? Many of these things may appear very difficult to beginners. They cannot even understand what all these things mean. That is why they say a Guru is necessary, a teacher is necessary. This is a path which is not visible to the eyes. It is not like a beaten track on which you can drive a motor car. It is an inward path which is not visible to the eyes. It is cognisable only to the subtle mind, which is purified of all the dross of instinctive desires. Thus, to emphasise again, a competent teacher is necessary, and you should not be in a hurry. Go slowly.

So we are at the beginning of the analysis of the internal adjustment of personality that is called for when we tread the path of yoga through asana, pranayama, pratyahara, etc.

It would be beneficial for every seeker to maintain a spiritual diary every day. A specimen given by Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj is available here. It is not that you should follow the very same pattern. You can change those questions or queries according to the needs of your own psychic nature or your nature of sadhana, etc., but broadly speaking, this is the way a spiritual diary is to be kept. Every day you put a question to your own self: What progress have I made, and what are the difficulties that I had to confront? Why have these difficulties come before me? Which are the ways that I can obviate these difficulties? And, am I genuine in my aspiration or have I a double motive? Are my feeling and emotion and understanding in harmony or not? Have I a conflict with anything? Have I hatred for anything? Is there an inward resentment towards anything? All these analyses have to be made, each for oneself. I think it was Christ who said, “Before you turn to God, make peace with your brother.” You cannot have an enemy in this world and then make friendship with God. That is not possible. It is wiser to be very slow and contend with what one has achieved in the lower level – but perfectly, rather than inadequately.

Many of our difficulties are emotional and sentimental – psychic, we may say. We have emotions of various types which are oftentimes in a state of evolution. The emotions are not in a state of harmony or balance. They are upset, disturbed, due to events that take place outside. Now, the fact that your feelings or sentiments get upset due to events that take place outside shows that you have not taken even the first step in yoga. The yama itself has not been practised. It means there has not been an external adjustment, what to speak of the internal adjustment? And you are trying for the higher Universal Reality, which is far off.

We have to be, first of all, sincere in our motive, and we should accept that this is the creation of God. That means to say, the creation that is God's should have also the godly element in it. The effect has a characteristic of the cause, as philosophers tell us. Everything that God has created must have the element of God in it, and we cannot see the devil in it, because God has not created the devil. If God created the devil, and the devil is the effect of God, then God also would be a devil. It is very strange to come to such conclusions. I don't think there are devils in this world. It is a misconceived attitude of ours that sees ugliness and distortion in the creation of God. There is perfect harmony. The Ishavasya Upanishad tells us yāthātathyato'rthān vyadadhāc chāśvatībhyas samābhyaḥ (Isa 8): God has created the world in such a way that it requires no amendment. It is perfectly ordered, and His Constitution requires no further enactment of Parliament. It is arranged so beautifully that it is okay forever, but it does not look okay to us. It appears as if there is something wrong in the creation of God. This is the result not of a mistake that is committed by God, but an error in the alignment of our personality with the whole to which we belong. We belong to the world, of which we are a content. The world is the whole, and we are a part. When the part is dissociated from the whole, it cannot see beauty in the whole because it is no more a whole, it is an object. That is why we look upon the world as an object outside and not as a completeness to which we belong.

So in our attempt at the adjustment of our personality inside in the various levels, we have to take advantage of this awareness of the fact that we are parts of a whole. Therefore, the world, which is the whole of which we are a part, is not an object outside which attracts us instinctively or sentimentally, emotionally, or disturbs us in any manner, but should be a field of training for us so that when we look at the world, we look at our larger personality. We look at our own selves in a greater completeness.

The individual who looks at the world is not looking at an object, but at a larger wholeness to which he himself belongs. The very thought of this great fact or truth will bring about the needed harmony in one's personality. The clash between the subject and the object, the seer and the seen, is the cause of trouble within ourselves. There is a clash between the seer and the seen. This seer and seen are not in harmony with each other, so there is a disturbance in the emotions and the feelings and the sentiments of the seer. When the harmony is established, the emotions subside and get in tune with the structure of the whole to which it belongs. This is a subject of psychology to some extent, which we shall try to look into a little later.