A- A+

A Textbook of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 2: The Individual and Creation

It was concluded that the essence, the true being or the reality of an individual is something quite different from what it appears to be on the surface to the perception of the naked eye. We do not seem to be what we appear to be. All our perceptions in the world seem to be misguided, far removed from the facts that govern life as such. We landed on the conclusion that we can exist independent of every kind of relation, which we actually do when we are in the state of deep sleep.

We are under the impression that relations are important; and life is nothing but a bundle of relationships. Whenever we define ourselves or describe conditions in life, we express ourselves in terms of relations, connections, associations, and that is how we understand life. We think that life has no meaning if it is not related to something that appears to be externally dovetailed to it. By analysis, we now understand that this is not the case. We have an independence of our own, a personality that can stand on its own legs. It is not always essential for a person to be hanging on somebody else for his ultimate survival, though it looks as if we cannot exist without depending on external factors. It was also noted that this dual aspect of our personality is due to our involvement in phenomenal relations on the one hand and, on the other hand, our being totally free from every kind of relation.

We have, as it is philosophically said, an empirical side and also a transcendental side. Empirically we are bound to the body, to human relations and to natural circumstances; transcendentally we are absolutely free. This transcendent freedom that is at the root of our being is the hope of our life. Our aspirations, rocketing up to the skies, can be explained only in terms of a transcendent reality that we seem to really be. Otherwise, our long-stretched aspirations have no meaning. They cannot even be conceived.

The desire to live as long as possible, even for hundreds of years if it is practicable, can be explained only if we are free from time. A person bound to time cannot aspire for a timeless longevity or a durationless existence. Because of the involvement in the time process, we seem to be decaying and heading towards death. But because there is something in us which is not so involved in time, we hope for a better future, though we do not know where that future is and what kind of future it is.

There is both an infinity of longing and an endless, durationless desire working together at the same time, telling us that we are not bleating sheep but powerful lions with immense strength. But the mind is a trickster, about which we shall study a little later in our course of discussions. All this put together leads us to the conclusion that we are essentially independent existence, free from empirical relations. This was noticed in the state of deep sleep, and we did exist there in a more pleasant way than in any other empirical condition of waking life.

Again, please remember all the processes we discussed earlier. These things that we are discussing are not just information that is poured on your heads, but something which will benefit you in your practical existence in this world—which will mould you, and make you something superb and novel. If you could exist merely as a kind of consciousness, which was the case in sleep, this has to be deeply pondered over. What could have been the nature of that consciousness? What is meant by ‘consciousness'?

Psychologically speaking, consciousness can be defined as a subjectivity that is aware of something. The pure subjectivity in us, which we experience in the state of deep sleep, is aware of something. We are aware of something now in the waking state, but this awareness in the waking condition is not of our subjectivity. We think very little of our own personality in our day-to-day existence; we think mostly of things outside. Just imagine what you are thinking from morning to evening. Do you go on thinking of yourself? You think only that which is not you—things outside. But in the state of deep sleep, the reverse process takes place. All that importance that you attach to the outside world is severed from your experience, and you are what you are; you stand by yourself. In ordinary waking life, you are involved in things which are not you, but in the state of deep sleep, you are only in yourself.

Would it be good to be in yourself, or would it be good to be not in yourself? This is a great question. Would you like to always be other than what you are, or would you like to be what you are? Certainly, you would not like to lose yourself in contemplating that which you are not, because all contemplations on that which you are not imply a loss of yourself. The more you think of objects outside, the more you have lost yourself. Therefore, misery rains upon you. The more you think of things outside—persons, the world, etc., and involvements of every kind—the more is the loss of your personality, the larger is the world for you, and the smaller you are at that time. Unless you are very small, the world does not look big. Your feeling of smallness is proportionately related to the bigness of the universe. The more astounding and inscrutable is this universe before you, striking marvel in your mind, the more you feel finite at that time. Is this the case?

It has been noticed that a thoroughgoing analysis of the nature of consciousness in our deep sleep will give an answer to this question. Are we puppet-like in this world? The most difficult thing in the world is to understand one's own self. Great seers have proclaimed: “Know thyself and be free.” You will be wondering, “How can I can be free by knowing myself?” Most people think that they know themselves very well. Don't you know who you are? You will reply, “Yes, I know myself very well.” You have a passport description of your personality. You may ask, “How can I consider myself as free? The passport itself is a bondage, so what do you mean by gaining freedom by knowing one's own self?” Here is a metaphysical quandary before you. You will find that this is difficult to understand. “What are you telling us? Can I be free by being myself?” This is because a little shadow of your original wrong notion of yourself still persists. You seem to be carrying your finite psychophysical definition of yourself even to the description of the state of deep sleep when you feel doubtful about what this freedom of “I am just what I am” could be. However much you may go deep into this matter philosophically, you will find that a psychological difficulty persists. The persistence of this difficulty is due to the mind interpreting transcendental matters—the mind that is involved in space, time and relations.

You have to listen to me carefully here again. The mind that is involved in space, time and relations is trying to understand that which is not involved in that way. So in the early stages, it looks like a difficulty and a contradiction. The involvement of the mind in external relations is so profound that you seem to be incapable of thinking in any other manner at all. Even if you agree for the time being that your essential nature is pure Existence-Consciousness, when you start thinking of it, you wrongly locate it somewhere.

Do you not feel that this Existence-Consciousness is in you? But this is a wrong definition of yourself. In the state of deep sleep, you are not inside yourself; you are just what you are. So, do not say that Consciousness is inside you. There is no insideness there; it is just what you are. Difficult it is to conceive this. The Existence that you are, the unrelated Being that you are, the pure Consciousness that you are in the state of deep sleep is not something inside you, as if you are outside it. So do not make the mistake of juxtaposing a wrongly related psychophysical individuality with that which you really are.

The whole point is, we cannot get out of this clutch of psychophysical involvement, however much we may try. And where doubt persists, a kind of fear also persists simultaneously. Whenever there is doubt, there is also fear: “Where am I heading?” Here, a very subtle investigative approach is called for. Yoga philosophy and psychology tell us that an impure mind cannot study this subject. A mind full of desires, with suppressed emotions, torn feelings, internally non-aligned—persons with such a mind are not in a position to understand this subtlety.

In the Yoga System of Patanjali, it is mentioned again and again that the mind has to be purified before it embarks upon investigations of this kind, because you are trying to rise above yourself, together with an attempt to rise above the world. This attempt will not end in success if you are already involved in the world and very much fond of yourself as a body and a personality, and loves and hates tear you apart day in and day out.

Every yoga student is, to some extent at least, a sincere, honest, purified mind, with no muddle in the conscience. There should be nothing in your conscience that pricks you. You should be very clear that your search is honest, it is one hundred percent sincere, and you are not just making a joke with it. If this sincerity is at the back of your pursuit, you shall certainly be able to achieve your purpose.

This Consciousness which is Existence, which is what you are basically, is not somewhere. This also is an important thing to remember. Where is this Consciousness that you are? Is it lying on the bed when you are sleeping? Is the Consciousness just as wide as the cot on which you are sleeping? The mind may say “Yes, it is so”, but it is not so. The Consciousness is not sleeping; the sleeper is somebody else. You cannot locate Consciousness in space and time, because Consciousness is that which is conscious of space and time. Therefore, it cannot be involved in space and time. Space and time are objects of Consciousness. How do you know that there is space, time or objects? The knower cannot be involved in that which is known. If the knower is involved in the known, there cannot be knowledge of the known.

Now we have drawn another conclusion: This Consciousness that we are is not involved in space, not involved in time, and not involved in any kind of physical or external relation, merely because of the fact that if such involvement has taken place, the awareness of there being such things would not be there. If Consciousness is not involved in space, it is spaceless. If it is spaceless, it is dimensionless. If it is dimensionless, it does not have a location. For the purpose of our understanding at present, it would be everywhere. That which is not located in space is spaceless, dimensionless. We may say it is infinitude. Are we all-pervading in our basic essence? Is this not an astounding, wonder-striking, unbelievable conclusion? You will say, “I was thinking that I am only a little person somewhere, living in a little room. Am I something more than this?” This is a great solace. This message of yoga, this message of Vedanta, this message of the ancient masters is a solace to us when we appear to be sinking in this world of problems galore.

If this is the case, then our entire attitude to life changes. How would we live in this world of persons and things if this is our real nature? The conclusion that follows from this analysis will be clear to each one of you. You will not be a person afterwards; you may perhaps be called super-persons Persons who have transcended the consciousness of personality and are able to live a super-personal existence are called super-human beings—super-men, super-persons, super-individuals.

To think this, to be brooding over this, to be conscious only of this, is the greatest spiritual meditation that you can think of. No meditation is greater than this. What is it that you are thinking? The mind will shudder with a fear of its being lost in this vast ocean of a discovery that it cannot contain within itself. It is like an ocean entering a little pot; the pot will not be there anymore. Infinity seems to have entered this finitude of human individuality. This vast world of perception is a universal object, as it were, presented to this universal Consciousness.

The seer of this world is not a person. We have already come to the conclusion that you, as a seer of this world, are, in your own roots, a universal comprehensiveness, but you look like a little individuality because this essential universality of Consciousness has been locked up within the little prison of this body conditioned by the sense organs, and the whole sea of Consciousness is peeping through these apertures of the sense organs and seeing itself in the world of objects—as it happens in dream, for instance. The big things that you see in the dream world—space, time, mountains, rivers, sun, moon, stars, everything seen in dream—are presented outside. They seem to be as much external as the world is in waking life. But what is this mountain in dream made of? Is it a physical substance? You can touch it. You can hit your head against a wall even in dream. You can feel hunger and thirst. What are these substances in dream made of? You may say this world is made of physical substances, hard material. What is the material out of which the dream object is made? It is made of mind-stuff, psychic essence. If the mind is not to be identified with matter, then the world of dream also cannot be considered as a material perception. What we call dream is psyche perceiving psyche by externalising itself in a mode of alienation of its own psychic individuality.

We are told that, in this waking world also, a similar cosmic operation has taken place. As an individual psyche segregates itself into an objective substance in dream, in the process of creation the universal Consciousness segregates itself, as it were, as this vast cosmos. Thus, cosmically, creation has taken place and this world has come into being before us in the same way as individual operations take place in dream.

The process of the evolution of the universe is described in a series of categories, in a descending order, so that we may be able to recognise our placement, our relationship with this world of perception. Where are we located? In what place in this world of vast dimensions are we, actually? In the dream world, where we observe a dream world in front of us, where are we located? Are we in some place? It looks as if we are in some place because the perceiving psyche, the dreamer, is naturally in the dream world, and is located in the same fashion as the waking individual is while perceiving the world outside. Yet, the truth is different. The perceiving individual, the dreamer, is involved in the psychic operation of its split into the seer and the seen, so that the idea of the location of the dreamer being in one particular place is another miscalculation of the psyche.

In a similar manner, a miscalculation has taken place when we observe a world that is totally outside, as it were, while it cannot be outside under the circumstances we have discussed just now. Scriptures, which are the authority before us for understanding the process of evolution, tell us that the manifestation of the universe is a centralisation of universal Consciousness as a potential for manifestation, just as the dream world is a manifestation of a potential of the psyche to so manifest itself. We may even say it is a desire. The potential for the manifestation of this vast universe is a pressure point of a universal character, manifesting itself everywhere like a vibration. It is a tremendous occurrence, which we cannot conceive in our minds at present. It is something like what scientists call the Big Bang. Let it be a big bang or a small bang; something took place. How did it take place?

Actually, that state of the universe which was prior to what scientists refer to as the occurrence of the Big Bang was not a solid substance; it was nothing but a vibration. We cannot understand what a vibration is. It is subtler than even electricity. Electricity is a gross form of vibration, a potentiality for some occurrence. That is all we can say about it. The potentiality suddenly manifests itself as a condition prior to creation, which is called space, in the same way as it happens in dream. To be able to perceive a dream object, there must also be a dream space. The objects in dream cannot appear to be outside unless there is a dream space. If the space is not there, no object can be there, and there will be no dream. If there is no dream space, which goes together with dream time, we will see nothing. So we are told that a vacuous atmosphere, as it were, was cosmically created. As in dream the waking subject ceases to be for the time being and divides itself into the condition of the dreaming subject and the dreaming object, the universal Consciousness alienates itself, as it were, by ceasing to be itself for the time being, in an apparently created vacuum called space, for the purpose of the manifestation of a futurity which is the physical universe, just like dream. The difference is, one is individual and the other is cosmic.

The solidity of the objects that we perceive through the sense organs is the consequence of their being located in an atmosphere outside. Anything that is external to Consciousness looks material and solid. The universal Consciousness alienates itself. “God created the world,” say the scriptures. What was the material out of which He created the world? Was it iron and steel, brick and mortar? What is the substance out of which this world was made?

This question has led to one hundred answers in various religious parlances; and the more we think of it, the more we wonder at the structure of this creation. If the universal Consciousness is the only existence finally, how could it create the world out of a material outside itself? The Vedas and the Upanishads tell us that God Consciousness, universal Consciousness, materialised itself spatially and temporally, as it were, in a cosmic fashion and appeared as this cosmos, as our own mind manifests itself as this body.

There are stages of this condensation of Consciousness into the apparent diversity of creation. It is not a sudden creation of diversity. It is a graduated, step-by-step delimitation of Universality into lesser and lesser forms of itself until it becomes a little individual, down to the atom. But in all these processes of delimitation of the universal Consciousness in the process of creation, the pure Selfhood is not lost sight of. Everyone, everything, every state and every degree of reality maintains an identity of itself.

We will not be able to understand what this conscious-ness of self-identity is unless we refer to our own selves. You maintain an identity of yourself. You are a self-identical individual: “I am what I am.” The vehemence with which you assert your self-identity is characteristic of every so-called individuality in this world. Even an atom is an individual by itself. It maintains its self-identity. It has a nucleus, it has space-time inside it, and it is a solar system by itself. It is a world. One atom cannot become another atom; it is just what it is. It can collide and it can bond with another, but it cannot be other than what it is.

Would you like to be another person, or would you like to be just the person you are? The loss of self is the greatest loss, and so every individual in creation maintains its identity of wholeness. Hence, the manifestation of things is actually the manifestation of lesser and lesser wholes from the ultimate Whole—which is a real whole, and not a conditioned whole. We are all conditioned wholes. Our personality is a whole by itself. We are not fractions. We think: “I am not half an individual, or one-fourth of a person. I am full.” But there are other ‘fulls'—namely, other persons and other things in this world. So this wholeness that one feels in oneself as an individual is a conditioned wholeness; it is not unconditioned. It is conditioned by the existence of other wholes.

People say, “I am a free person.” Naturally, we have some freedom. But we are not wholly free, because if we were wholly free, absolutely free, there would be no freedom for other people in the world; we would be depriving them of their freedom. Each individual has a tendency to manifest its own freedom to the extent of its own wholeness of personality. We have only conditioned, limited, sanctioned, licensed freedom, but not total freedom. Total freedom is only in that condition of wholeness where there is no conditioning of the wholeness.

The theory of creation brings us to the daylight of the fact that the Universal, or God—the Ultimate Absolute, which is the final Whole—delimits itself into smaller and smaller wholes. Another example of how this could be is the way in which our physical body is made. This body is one compact whole, as it were, as it appears to be. We do not feel that we are little pieces clubbed together into a mass that we call the body. Nevertheless, we are not one indivisible mass. This body is made up of tiny cells. The cells are joined together with such force of cohesiveness that it looks as if we are one compact whole. There is a cementing element which brings these cells into a tremendous cohesiveness, an apparent indivisibility, which is the reason why we feel that we are one whole; otherwise, we are houses made up of little bricks. Do we not think that this building is one single, solid mass? It looks like that, but it is made up of small bricks kept one over the other and held in position by certain other structural items such as iron rods, etc. It is not one mass.

In the same way as little wholes such as the cells in our body can join together to give the impression of a larger whole which is this physical personality, so is everything in the world. The reason why this wholeness is felt even in a conditioned existence is the pervasion of the universal Consciousness. So, the transcendent is also immanent. We are not little cells. We are not any one of the cells, though we are all the cells. You may ask, “How do I come to the conclusion that I am all the cells, though each cell is different from the other? Is it not a contradiction in thought itself? How can many things create a sensation of oneness?”

Do we not feel that we are one? Or do we feel like a bundle of little things moving on the surface of the Earth? This indivisible Consciousness, which is Universality in our essential being, is the reason why we feel this totalness, the holism in our own individuality, while actually there are little wholes of which we are made. So the entire creation, the whole universe, is apparently diverse, but basically it is a unity. It is a manyness in a singleness.

The Veda mantra tells us: ekaṁ sād vīprā bahudhā vadanty (R.V. 1.164.46). Great sages tell us that One Reality is parading, as it were, masquerading in this form of a variety of things. This manifoldness of the universe, this perception of variety of any kind, inwardly or outside, is a drama played by Consciousness. The whole universe is an enactment of this universal Consciousness. It is a play. If we can witness this drama as a director thereof, we will enjoy it. But if we are involved in it, we will see it piecemeal. The total will not be seen.

The universe of creation is, to repeat once again, a descending order of finite wholes, starting from space and then coming down to the elements of air, fire, water, earth, down to the little physical elements, to the atom. This whole cosmos is, for the purpose of visible perception, a physicality and a solidity—as we see, of course. But inside, this solid world is made up of subtle potentials. The entire physical universe is called bhautika prapancha. Inside this physical universe are subtle potentials, like electric energies, called tanmatras. Tanmatra is a Sanskrit term indicating a cosmic vibration taking place inside the physical universe, a vibration solidifying itself into this visible form.

Subtler still, inconceivable, is the space-time relation. The most difficult thing to understand is the relation of things to space and time. We mostly feel that we are inside space and inside time. Newtonian physics said that the world is contained in space and time as glass globules are contained in a soda bottle. As things are inside a basket, or materials can be inside a cup or a vase, Newtonian physics thought that the physical universe is inside space and time.

But later developments of science tell us that the world is not inside space and time. It is itself space and time, solidified, and externalised by a kind of causal relationship. The great dictum of the Vedas and the Upanishads coincides with the modern theories of physics—relativity, quantum, and so on. The most exteriorised materialism of physics has, fortunately for us, landed itself on the lap of the Upanishadic dictum of there being only one Absolute. We shall consider this further in the next session.