A- A+

The Great System of Yoga Propounded by Patanjali
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 12: Investing our Object of Meditation with the Power of the Cosmos

The central forte in yoga is meditation. Everything gravitates towards this great purpose of yoga. Every other preliminary practice of a religious nature is a preparation for meditation, so that true religion can be said to be the accomplishment of meditation on God. All other processes, rituals, prayers, studies, pilgrimages, and so on, are contributory to this great final achievement. Meditation is yoga proper. Everything else is an auxiliary or an accessory to meditation, dhyana.

There are, we may safely say, practically as many kinds or types of meditation as there are philosophies in the world. Meditation is the conducting of the mind in the direction of the goal that is set before us by the philosophy that we follow. Philosophy is the organised concept of the nature of the Ultimate Reality, or the goal of life. Whatever be our notion or concept of the ultimate goal, that would be the determinant of the philosophy that we follow in life. The first philosophical technique is a rational exposition, a logical presentation of the central concept which we entertain in regard to the nature of the ultimate goal. In a sense, every man and every woman has a philosophy of his own or her own, because everyone has an outlook of life. The outlook of life is the philosophy of life, and one naturally conducts the affairs of the mind along the lines of the outlook that one entertains in life. What is mental function, but an activity of the whole personality in the direction of the achievement of the purpose that is set before us in the light of the outlook of the life we entertain?

Hence, it should obviously follow that any organised method of operating the mind as a meditational technique should be propelled by a consistent philosophy of life. A person who thinks nebulously or chaotically without having any aim or purpose will not be able to consistently direct the mind in any systematic manner. The mind moves in the direction of the aim that it sets before itself.

It is difficult for people, most of us in this world, to be clear as to what is the purpose that we have set before ourselves. We have immediate purposes such as getting up in the morning, having a breakfast, going to the office, going to the shop, and so on. These are all the immediate purposes that we have before us. The mind is thinking of these, no doubt, and if you are repeatedly concentrating your mind on these little daily duties, that would be your empirical concentration. But when people speak of meditation or concentration, they do not generally refer to meditating on shopping, or going to an office, school or college, etc. There is a peculiar indefinable feeling in every one of us when we speak of meditation, or feel that it is one of the duties in life.

Though it is true from the point of view of a mere dictionary meaning that meditation is any kind of concentrated attention of the mind on anything whatsoever, the definition that yoga gives is not just any kind of concentration of mind. The quality of meditation depends upon the nature of the object of meditation. Here again we come to the philosophy that has to be behind the technique of practice. We cannot just practice without some idea behind it. Always a philosophy precedes an ethical conduct or a practical technique. All our activities are nothing but expressions of a notion in our mind, an idea we entertain, a purpose that we have before ourselves, a philosophy which is our determining principle in life. It is, therefore, imperative that the object of meditation has to be clear; else, what is the purpose of straining one's nerves in this endeavour called meditation? You get up in the morning, close your eyes, and start thinking something. That cannot be meditation, because there is no clear-cut idea in the mind.

There should be a very firm basis for the operation of thought, like a strong foundation that we lay with reinforced mortar or concrete when raising an edifice of a building. You cannot have a huge, powerful structure with a shaky foundation. Meditation is the practical application of the inward relationship that we, as individuals, maintain with the ultimate goal of life. It is the yearning of the spirit within us for that which it seeks.

There are two important things which we have to bear in mind before we embark upon this adventure of meditation. Who is it that meditates, and what is it that is being meditated upon? The object of meditation, as well as the subject of meditation, these two are to be very clear. While it is difficult enough to have a clear idea of the object of meditation, it is not any easier to be clear as to the nature of the subject that meditates.

We have again to remember that we are now discussing a very important aspect of yoga, and not merely a psychological function or mental activity. Meditation is not a mere psychological activity in the ordinary sense of the term. Yoga is not a simple empirical function of the mind. It is a spiritual function, if you can call it a function at all. It is the spirit that is operating in us when we enter into the technique or the practice of meditation. The mind, as merely one of the limbs of mental activity, psychic activity, is not entirely what is concerned in meditation. It is not one faculty that is contemplating. The psyche in us has various operational diversities. The reasoning faculty, the thinking faculty, the emotional faculty, etc., are all there as expressions of the psyche.

Now, who is it that meditates? Is it the thinking faculty or the rational faculty or the emotional faculty or the volitional faculty? What is it that is predominantly functioning in the process of meditation? It is not easy to answer this question off-hand because we have to be good psychologists to know what is actually operating when there is a concentration of thought.

The concentration that we are speaking of in yoga is of a spiritual character. We are here concerned with spiritual meditation, and not merely the meditation of a technologist, an engineer, a mechanical operator, etc., though all of these are also concentrating, meditating perhaps, while working at their professions. Yoga meditation is a spiritual meditation. We have to go back to the studies that we have already made in regard to the concept of the spirit. Spirituality is the condition of the spirit; therefore, it has a universal character. There is no Hindu spirit or Muslim spirit or European spirit, etc. There is no such thing whatsoever. The basic minimum of reality, the irreducible substance of the core of the individual, is what is known as the spirit, and that is like an incandescent flame in the heart of every human being. Just as the flame of a lamp does not differ from one to the other, the spirit blazes forth in the heart of every human being.

This spirit, again, is something very difficult to understand by ordinary analysis. Credulous minds are wont to imagine that the spirit is like a little limpid lamp that is shining in the centre of the heart, like a candle that may be burning inside a room. Not so is the nature of the spirit. The spirit is sometimes known as the Atman in the Sanskrit language. It is this Atman that is really concerned in the process known as spiritual meditation. This spirit, or the Atman, is not a candle flame that is burning inside the body. It is the whole thing that we are. Whatever you regard yourself to be, that is the spirit. You cannot say what you yourself are. You are not merely the emotion, you are not merely the volition, you are not merely the reason. None of these faculties can be regarded as the whole of yourself. You are also not merely the body, and not merely the psyche. Everything is included in what we regard as our personality. We are a completeness by ourselves, a totality, a wholeness which speaks for itself in its own language. This wholeness of our personality is the empirical expression of the spirit that we really are.

Our spirit is slumbering; it is sleeping; it has not woken up fully. It peeps through the sense organs and the waking state through the apertures of the senses, but the whole of it is not manifest, and that is why the whole of our personality is not revealed in the waking life. We are submerged beings mostly, like a wholesale dealer of commodities who keeps the larger portion of his goods in his godown and brings out to the open shop or market only that which is to be sold. When you look at the shop you see only certain things he has kept in front, but the inner supply is not visible. The larger stock is kept inside, and only that which is necessary for the day's use is brought out. In a similar manner, our personality acts. We are like wholesale dealers with a tremendous godown inside where we have deeply buried all our commodities, our property, and we bring out to the shop or the waking consciousness only that much which is necessary for the purpose of transaction in waking life. The whole of the personality cannot come into force, or action, in the waking existence, though some of our resources manifest themselves in times of crisis. Our real strength is not always revealed under ordinary circumstances because that strength is not required under normal conditions. Occasionally, when there is a need arising in our lives, the inward resources come to the surface. A part of that which was hidden is brought out for the purpose of action.

All this is only to explain that in our conscious life we are not whole beings; we are only partial, just as the value or the worth of a dealer cannot be judged merely by what he has exhibited outside, on the surface. Thus, what we are thinking consciously in our waking life is not the entirety of our thoughts. It is only that little bit of it which we have expressed outside for the purpose of our daily routine. The immediate needs of life call for only that much of energy or force from within ourselves.

But in meditation, this method will not do. It is not enough if we merely scratch the outer surface of our personality and engage the attention merely on the conscious mind in meditation. It is the spirit within us that meditates, or rather, I should say, the spirit that we are engages itself wholly, totally, completely, in the great adventure of spiritual meditation. We have to come up entirely to the forefront of this battlefield of confrontation of the individual with the Absolute, which is the real meditation. We have to bring out the best that is within us, the whole of our energy, the total aspiration, and all the desires get commingled and get focused in one direction, like all rivers joining together when they touch the ocean in a fraternal embrace, as it were.

The object of meditation is the consummation of all the desires of the human being. It is not one of the objects that we seek. It is not a banana that we want to eat, or a cup of coffee that we want to drink. It is the finale of everything that we want. Therefore, when the mind engages itself in its confrontation with the object of meditation, it cannot think of anything else, just as, perhaps, when a person is about to die he cannot have a diversity of thought. Nobody can know what a person thinks when he is about to die. Only when you are in that condition will you know it because it is an extreme state of affairs where the energies of the body get mustered in and grouped into a focus of attention in a single direction, and there cannot be a double thought. There can be only one thought. In extreme conditions of drowning, death and catastrophe, a loss of everything, total bereavement, impending destruction, etc. – in such conditions as these, our personality is said to come to the surface in all its vehemence and power. Then the reason behind this working of our personality in totality is the exigency of the occasion, the need of the hour, the requirement of the time.

In spiritual meditation this bringing up of the totality of our personality should be a conscious endeavour. It should not be an impulsion from outside, as is the condition when we are about to die or a catastrophe is to befall us. By an understanding of the nature of the goal of life, by a philosophical or logical conclusion that we have arrived at through the conviction or the satisfaction of the wholeness of our being in regard to the goal of life, on the basis of this it is that we can start meditation.

Many people complain that the mind waivers; it flits, it moves hither and thither, and it is difficult to bring the mind to a point of concentration. It has various things to think. Why should it think only this particular thing that we have chosen? Here is a very important point for us to ponder. The object of meditation is not to be regarded as one of the objects in this world. If we tell the mind that this is one thing among many, then there is great justification in the mind for choosing something else. If the object of meditation is one empirical content, like the other denizens of this world, why should the mind not go to something else? Why only this? Why should I meditate on a flame of a candle? Why should I concentrate my mind on a dot on the wall? Why should I entreat my mind to concentrate on the concept of a deity or an image or a picture or a portrait? What for? The mind will put this question. What answer are we going to give? Are there not many other better things in this world? The world is full of richness and variety and beauty and grandeur in magnificence and taste. The mind knows this, and so how can we wean the mind from the delicacies of this world and the beauties and grandeurs of creation, and tell it to concentrate on a dot or a black point on the wall? “What for?” will be the question.

Unless we are able to convince the mind in regard to the necessity for such a concentration as a part of discipline of spiritual life, there would be no success in meditation. We should be a hundred percent honest and sincere when we embark upon this adventure, as I mentioned. We are not just joking with ourselves. The art of meditation is not a humour, or a kind of diversion. We are not merely making ourselves feel that we are doing something worthwhile for ourselves just because we have nothing else to do. It is nothing of the kind. It is a life-and-death matter for us. Spiritual meditation is a matter of life and death. It is not an ordinary joke, because it is that which is going to decide what we are going to be in our future life. Not merely that, it will decide what kind of success we can have in this life itself. The extent of success in any walk of life here in this life, and the nature of our future in another life, will all be decided by the extent of our success in meditation. Meditation is a glorious adventure. It is a magnificent endeavour. The moment the mind thinks of the glory of meditation, it will be in a state of rapture. It will be possessed by a power which is beyond itself because of the completeness which the object of meditation represents.

We may have many doubts as to the choice of the object of meditation and the way in which we can convince ourselves that the object of meditation is the whole of our aspiration. There is nothing else we have to aspire for. We have to be a little bit tutored in the science of life in order to be logically convinced that any object of meditation can be considered as a focusing point of the total energy of the cosmos. We are not just contemplating on an image. That is not the truth of the matter. The object that we seek in meditation, even if it be an image, for the matter of that, is not just an isolated object, though it may appear to be so. The portrait, the picture, the diagram or the concept of the image, whatever it be, is only a symbol to conceive a focusing point where the energies of the world converge.

We have to stretch our imagination a little bit to understand what all this means. Every atom in creation is a point where the energies of the world are focused. There is no point anywhere, not even in a single atom, which is completely isolated. There is an interconnection, an interblending of powers, energies. The mistake that we usually make is to perceive the object of meditation through the senses as contained in space, located in space and time, naturally cut off from every other object. That which is known as space and time is a peculiar indescribable interference in the interconnectedness of things. Ordinarily, we cannot convince ourselves that one thing has any connection with the other. We do not see that connection, and we cannot believe what we cannot see. It is our empirical logic, but it is not true that what we cannot see may not be true.

The eyes cannot see the truth behind things because of the fact that the eyes are wedded to a limitation of function due to the involvement in space and time. The very purpose of space and time is to sever the subject from the object, the seer from the seen, one thing from another thing, and to make everything appear isolated, cut off and empirical. If the senses are to be wedded to this sort of perception, it is impossible for us to convince ourselves that there is any kind of inner relationship among things. A little reasoned activity of our mind will tell us that there is something behind the screen. By philosophical inference, logical deduction, we will be able to learn a little more about the truth of the world. Things are not what they seem. What is on the surface is not the truth of things. Even a grain of sand is not an isolated particle, as it is possible to converge the energies of the world in a single grain of sand.

In meditation, what you are required to do is to draw this relationship from every corner of the world in the direction of the point on which you are concentrating. Why this point? Why not some other point? You can take any point. Just as you can pursue the course of any river in the world and reach the same ocean, you can reach the Ultimate Reality of the cosmos by concentrating on any particle in the universe. Any god is as good as any other god. Any object is as good as any other object. The purpose of choosing a particular object is only to satisfy the predilection of the mind, the idiosyncrasy of our makeup, the peculiar pattern of our psyche. That is all. What appeals to me may not appeal to you. It is not that your object is better than mine, or my object is better than yours. That is not the point. Why we differ among ourselves in the appreciation of things is because of the inner variety of structure in the psyche of which we are made.

The reactions that we set up in respect of objects, and vice versa, the reactions which objects set up in respect of our own selves, depend upon our inner psychical makeup. The choice of a mantra, the discovery of a particular pattern of meditation, the choosing of a deity or an object of meditation, the nature of the initiation that the Guru gives to the disciple – all these depend upon the nature of the disciple, the condition of the mind of the disciple, the stage of the evolution of the recipient; and bearing in mind the situation or the circumstance of the psyche of the individual concerned, the technique of meditation is chosen. That is why it is said that initiation is necessary. It is not just that you can think anything you like and imagine that it is meditation.

The necessity for initiation by a competent teacher arises on account of the fact that it is difficult for people to understand themselves. One cannot fully know what oneself is because, as I mentioned, we are generally wedded to only the conscious level of our life. As the deeper subconscious and unconscious layers are buried, inwardly they may have no access to our personality. Therefore, no one can know oneself wholly. We know only partially something that emanates from the bottom of our being as and when an occasion arises, but we never know ourselves wholly. The teacher is supposed to have some insight into the nature of the disciple. The competent teacher will have an understanding of the requirement of the student, and there comes the need for initiation. Initiation is the introduction of the mind of the disciple to the technique of right thinking in the direction of that particular object which alone is required in that condition of the mind of the disciple. So it does not mean that everyone can meditate on the same object. No one can think in the same way as another. As no one can be in the same stage of evolution as another, meditations vary in detail, though the general principle is the same.

The general principle of meditation is to invest the chosen object with the ultimate power of the cosmos, just as we invest the glory of the power of our whole nation into the flag which we adore on a national holiday. The flag is only a piece of cloth, but it is invested with the sacredness, sanctity and force of the entire nation, the power of the government, which is what we adore in that symbol. Likewise, the object of meditation that we choose is only a symbol, and it is supposed to be invested with powers of omnipotence, omniscience, etc., which are said to be the characters of God.

These are not merely imaginations; they are facts, because every corner is replete with omniscience, really speaking. Every bit of everything in the world is a vehicle of the Supreme Almighty; therefore, when I say that omniscience and omnipotence can be discovered in even a grain of sand, I am not exaggerating. It is a scientific truth. God is present in everything. They say in every individual He is present. In every grain of sand, every particle, every atom, this supremacy of the Absolute can be discovered if proper techniques are adopted. It is like the breaking of an atom bomb by bombarding it with concentrated energy.

The concentration that you practise in meditation is nothing but the bombarding of a network of forces, which the object represents. Any object, for the matter of that, is a network of forces. There is a tangle of energy, and it has to be bombarded by concentration, just as a particle is bombarded by a physicist in a laboratory. When a particle is bombarded, it splits and releases energy, and then we say the atom has burst; and when it bursts, the energy it releases is tremendous.

Every object in the world is a vehicle of tremendous energy, but the energy is sleeping. It is a coiled-up force. This coiled-up force is what is called kundalini in ordinary language. Every point is a kundalini. Everywhere is a coiled-up energy, but it has to be released. Just as electric energy is used for bombarding atoms, mental energy is used for bombarding objects. So when there is a tremendous force exerted by the mind by continuously thinking of a particular character of the object, the object is bombarded psychically. Psychic energy is more powerful than electric energy. This is something well known, and I need not expatiate upon it. The object releases its energy and then you begin to discover in that very object the interconnection of things, like a ganglia of nerves in which you can see the interconnection of all the nerves in the body. Every centre of force, every chakra in the body is a centre which connects itself with everything else in the whole body. Similarly, on a careful examination of the objects of the world you will discover that they are all knots of cosmic energy, and therefore any knot is as good as any other. You can take any object as a particular point on which you can meditate. Everything is equally divine. There is no undivine thing in this world. But, as I mentioned, the choice varies on account of the difference in the evolutionary level of the individual concerned. There is no question of superiority or inferiority in the object of meditation. It is a question of choice, according to the need of the time.

This is an introduction that I placed before you in regard to the choice of the object of meditation and the conviction that we have to arrive at before we can actually work upon the process of meditation. The object of meditation is not a physical object. We have to free ourselves from this obsession. We are not thinking of some stone image or metal structure that is in front of us. There are no such things as metals and stones in this world. They are all centres of energy. Everything is nothing but energy in this world, whether it is material or otherwise and, ultimately, we are going to realise that it is not material. It is divinity itself; it is God facing us in these forms: nama rupa prapancha. This is what we are going to experience in the long run, but in the beginning it looks like a material object. The materiality of the object is nothing but a face that it has put on because of the involvement of space and time, and the density which it has reached.

Therefore, we have to be fully convinced as to the perfection of the object that we have chosen for our meditation, and we have also to be convinced that success is ours; it has to come. When the technique is correct and the methodology is okay, success has to be there. It is like mathematics. When the premise is correct, the conclusion has to be correct; but if the premise is wrong, then we may go wrong in the conclusion. Therefore, we should be sure that the foundation is clearly laid. We must have a clear thought as to the nature of the object that we are meditating upon, the purpose of this meditation, and the relationship that this object has with the ultimate goal that we are seeking through this. Meditation is a means to an end. It is a path that we are treading. It is a journey, a process. It is not the goal by itself. So when we know what the goal is, we can know also the path that is leading to the goal.

Hence, again the point comes, which has to be reiterated, that the goal of life has to be clear in the mind first. If the aim is not fully placed before the mental eye, there will be wavering of the mind. If we do not know which way we have to go, what it is that we have to reach, we cannot know how to move. Movement is not possible unless the direction of the object towards which we have to move is clear. Hence, the aim of life has to be fixed first. The aim of life is a remote aim, of course, the last thing that we want to achieve, but there are immediate aims and intermediate aims which are connected with that ultimate aim. These also have to be clear to us. Before we successfully start the meditational technique, it has to be, theoretically at least, clear as to the various gradations of aims that we have placed before ourselves in light of the ultimate aim, which is the goal of existence.