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A Textbook of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 4: The Transcendent and the Immanent

We noticed earlier that in our knowledge of things, in our perceptions, three phases or processes are involved, namely, that which is the seen object, that which is the seeing consciousness, the individual concerned, and the third process is an intermediary superintending principle which makes the perception possible.

On account of the transcendent character of this intermediary principle, it cannot be perceived by an individual. It is that which, finally, sees all things. While the seer, as the individual subject, sees an external object in space and time, this so-called thing which we cannot understand, which eludes the grasp of all understanding, is the seer of both the subject and the object.

I see you, and you see me. When the one sees the other, the seer is called the subject and the seen is called the object. But there is a seer of both the subject and the object; that is the transcendent seer. Inasmuch as this transcendence is operating between every subjective side and every objective side in the various levels of the developmental process of creation, there is nothing secret in this world. Everything is known to someone. You cannot hide yourself in a corner and do something, unknown to people. A great hymn in the Atharvaveda says that when two people in a dark cave quietly whisper to each other, thinking that nobody sees them and nobody knows what they are saying, there is someone who listens to this whispering, which is like thunder reverberating through the cosmos.

Therefore, be very cautious. Everything in this world is public. There is no private life, because your privacy is known to a super-public intervening principle which knows the movement of every single leaf in a tree, which can count every hair of everyone created in the world, and which knows the number of the winkings of the eyes of everything that is created. As the Upanishad puts it, this is a terror before everybody. Mahad bhayaṁ vajram udyatam (K.U. 2.3.2), says the Kathopanishad. Great fear is this, that you cannot exist without being known by somebody. You cannot do anything, even privately, without being observed by someone.

If this fact has gone deep into your heart, how would you live in this world? You may say that it would be difficult to live in the world, but I say that only then will you live correctly. Your real life will start only after you accept this great principle operating everywhere, within and without—not as a terror, as the Upanishad puts it, but as your great protector and caretaker. It sees that you do not go wrong. The law is not there to punish you; it is there to guard you and to see that everything is well.

This transcendence of the process of perception of things is the divinity of the cosmos. We may say that the study of the object as such, pure objectivity, is the function of physics or chemistry, the study of the pure individuality of the subject is psychology, and the study of that which is the eluding transcendence may be called religion, philosophy, theology, spirituality, yoga, or any name we like.

So, what is religion, philosophy, yoga? It is not merely the study of what is going on inside us, and also not merely the study of the objective universe by observation and experiment. It is a total operation of our whole experiential condition. The life of yoga, spirituality, religion—the life of God—is something difficult for an ordinary individualised point of view to grasp because we are always used to thinking in one of two ways. Either I think of myself or I think of something else, other than myself. But we forget there is something totally different from ourselves, as well as from the other. We think that the world consists of only two things: that which is seen and that which is seeing. Who knows that there is a third thing? The world does not know it, so the world also does not know what is yoga, what is spiritual life, and what is religion.

If this definition of true religion were to go into our hearts, I think the world would become a heaven in three days. There would be no conflict, no war, no suspicion, no doubt, no fear from anything. There are some people who think that they can bring heaven to the earth. Well, it may be possible, but it is only a question of ‘may be'. The practicality of it is so remote that it is almost an impossibility because of the simple fact that the egoism of human individuality is so vehement and hard like flint that it will never permit this acceptance of the world being ruled by something other than what sees or what is seen. No man will accept it. No man can know it. Therefore, it looks as if the world will remain like this. The world can become a heaven under special conditions, and one may or may not be able to fulfil those conditions. On the objective side, it is a kind of physical science that is the area of study. Inwardly, it is a study of the mind and psychology. Transcendentally, it is religion.

Now, here the word ‘transcendence' has to be properly explained. You may be under the impression, because of the conditioning of the mind to certain usual ways of thinking, that transcendence means somewhere higher, some kilometres above. That is not the case. It is not a spatial, geographical ‘higher up' that is called transcendence.

Our mind is conditioned very much, right from its inception, into the process of thinking only in a certain regimented fashion, and new ways of thinking cannot be introduced into it so easily. The mind always resents change; it wants only stereotyped things. It will immediately resent any change that we introduce. “This is no good,” is what the mind will tell us.

Transcendence is not above us in a physical sense. It is not merely an ascension from the level of the seer and the seen, but is also an inclusiveness of both the seer and the seen. You have to listen to all this very carefully. This so-called transcendence, which we cannot observe or understand, is inside us and is also inside the object, apart from being above both the seer and the seen. Philosophically, we may say the transcendent is also immanent. In religious parlance, people say that God is above the world and is also in the world. We have heard it said many times, but still we may not be able to understand the meaning of this statement ‘above the world'. We think that above the world means beyond the sun and the sky, beyond space and time. We think of God as being transcendent, above the world, and we think that ‘immanent' means God is hidden inside a particle of sand, etc., but actually it is a peculiar arrangement of consciousness that is to be understood as both a transcendence and an immanence.

How could one be both above and below? The mind cannot grasp this point. Can a thing be inside as well as outside? That which is inside is only inside. How can it be outside? We have never seen such a thing.

I will give an example how transcendence can also be immanence. We have all passed through certain stages of education. The lower classes are transcended by the higher classes; the higher class is above the lower class. In what sense is it above? Is it two feet above or one kilometre above? It is a logical ascendance, and is not physically something higher up. The higher degree of education is above the lower degree, and therefore we may call it a transcendent level—transcendent because, in a very special sense, it is above the one which we have already overcome. But it is also immanent. How?

That which we have transcended as a lower category of education is included in the higher. We do not reject the lower when we go to the higher; the lower is automatically absorbed into the higher. The lower is inside the higher, but not inside as something sitting inside a room. This is also a logical concept. We have to apply our mind very cautiously in understanding what this transcendence and immanence mean. It is not a physicality of transcendence or immanence; it is not something being on the terrace above and something being in the room below. These ideas of physical spatiality have to be abandoned when we think in purely logical or scientific terms.

This situation is what we may call the cosmic structural pattern of this world, these phenomena. We are living in this kind of world. What is our situation finally when we live like this, in this atmosphere that has been described? All instruction in every branch of knowledge is included here. The study of the nature of the Ultimate Reality is considered as inclusive of every other study of the arts and the sciences that we can think of. The nature of the universal Self is inclusive of the characteristics of every other thing which appears to be other than the Self.

Now, this other than the Self, or the anti-Self, the non-Self, or the anatman, as people sometimes call it, is also to be properly understood. What is meant by the anatman, or the non-Self, when we have already been told that everything is included in the Self? Where is the otherness of the Self?

If we wrongly imagine that in our higher degrees of education we have rejected the lower degrees as something outside our higher level, then that lower becomes an anatman to us, while it is really not so. The anatman does not exist because it has automatically been absorbed into the Atman that is above; yet, by the interference of the old habit of thinking through space and time, that which is below, or which has been transcended, may be regarded as something outside that which has risen above it.

People always say, “I am above.” Such mistakes are committed even in official circles. Suppose there is an official. He is above all his subordinates. Everybody knows that. In what sense is he above? Is he sitting on top, on a pedestal? Suppose there is a District Collector or a Commissioner who has a large jurisdiction around him. The Collector is ruling the entire district. He pervades the district as an authority connected with that area. But he does not physically pervade it. It is his operative transcendence—the Collectorness, we may say—that is pervasive. There is a difference between the personality of the Collector and the Collectorness that is in him, because if the Collectorness is removed due to retirement or by any other way, he no longer has authority over anything.

All the residents in the district are, in a way, subordinate to this one person—not because he is physically larger than other people, but because there is an element called the ruling principle. This ruling principle is invisible. We cannot see the Collector, really speaking; we see only the person. What we see is the physicality of the person. The Collectorness in him cannot be seen, though we conceptually foist it on him and say, “The Collector is coming.” The coming is only of the physical body. Because of the presence of that transcendent Collectorness in him as an immanence, we mix up two things and when that person is coming, we say, “The Collector is coming.”

The transcendence which pervades the entire district is also immanent in that particular person. We should not look upon him as a person, but as an operative transcendence, a vehicle by which the entire district moves—something like an avatara, or incarnation, we may say. The Universal element pervading the entire district is incarnated in that particular individuality, so although he appears as one person like other persons, he has a greater power than any other person in the district. The greater power is due to the transcendence of his invisible authority, which is also present inwardly as an immanence, so he is visible and invisible at the same time.

Therefore, the transcendence is an abstraction, as it were, to the unthinking mind; and even the concept of God, Whom you are aspiring for through your studies and yoga practices, may look like an abstraction. This is why you cannot sit for meditation for a long time and cannot completely devote yourself to it. There is a fear inside you that the object of your aspiration—the Universal, the transcendent—appears to be merely a concept in your mind, and the reality is the solid world that is in front of you.

Actually, the reverse is the case. The more invisible a thing is, the more real it is; and the more tangible it becomes, the more unreal it is. The solidity of a thing is not the reality of the object. The invisible force that is the constitution of the object is the reality. The ‘I am' in you is not the physical body; the ‘you' visible to the photographic camera is not your real reality. In a similar manner, just as this ‘I am' in you, which is invisible, is more real than the visible object which is your physical personality, the concept of God should not remain merely as an abstraction in thought—even as ‘I am' is not a concept in your mind but is a solidity for you, more solid than the solidity of a physical thing. Hard is this to comprehend because the mind etherialises everything that is perceived by a process of knowledge, and solidifies and converts into reality that which it sees with the eyes or is made tangible to the senses.

A great tragedy, as it were, has befallen the whole of creation. The stories of creation tell us that there was a fall of man. We know the story of the fall. There was a headlong coming down, like Trishanku, with legs up and head down. This is also a logical process. When there is a fall, what falls, actually? Has some solid object fallen? No. It is a reversal of consciousness that has taken place. A topsy-turvy perception becomes what we call ordinary human perception.

These interesting things are not known to the prosaic mind which is accustomed to the ordinary studies of our educational institutions. Are we seeing things properly? When we continuously see a thing for a long time, we are likely to mistake it for the real process of perception. If we go on telling a lie a thousand times, it becomes a truth; so when we are accustomed to an erroneous perception for our whole life, we cannot imagine that there can be another way of perception at all.

In the previous session I mentioned the phenomenon of seeing yourself in a mirror. Some reversal takes place even there: the right looks left, and the left looks right. You must have observed this. So when a reflection takes place, this is also a kind of fall, we may say. The original face has fallen through the medium of the mirror into the structural pattern of the objective perception of your face, where you see yourself as topsy-turvy. If you want to know more about this topsy-turvyness, you can stand on the bank of the Ganges and see yourself reflected in the water. You will find that your head, which is above, appears lowest, and that your feet, which are the lowest, appear as topmost. This is what happens in a reflection.

The individual is sometimes called a reflection of God—that is, a reflection of the Universal. It is called a reflection in one particular sense. An analogy should not be stretched beyond its limit. Every comparison has a limit of its own, and only certain features are supposed to be illustrated by any kind of comparison. We can say that an elephant is a quadruped and a cow also is a quadruped, but it does not mean that an elephant and a cow are identical. The comparison is for one purpose only. The reflection aspect is to indicate that the individual, which is a reflection of the Universal through the medium of space and time, sees things upside-down, and perhaps right as left, left as right, and so on.

If we study the whole story of the process of creation, we will realise that the individuality of percipients came later than the cosmic structure of what are known as the tanmatras, the physical elements, etc. The cosmic aspect of creation came first; the individual aspect came afterwards. Hence, when the will of the Universal manifested this creation, this world that we see as if it is outside us was not an ‘outside' for anybody, because there was nobody to see it. All these ‘anybodies' cropped up later on, like tendrils, from the large form of this cosmic creation. We are all individuals, like offshoots, who have arisen afterwards. A segregation of the inner constitution of this cosmic setup took place in some manner, and individuality shot up and began to behold its own parent as if it is an object outside.

This world is our parent from where we were born, which is to say, we are a part and parcel of it. We are organically connected, vitally related to this world even now. There is a living relation between ourselves and all things that we see outside. The world is not so much outside us as we are made to apprehend, yet we feel that it is outside. This isolation of the individuality of percipients from the cosmic whole is the so-called fall. When it takes place, there is a complete loss of consciousness of the original. We can never imagine for a second that we are a part of this universe, because this screen of space and time prevents us from knowing it. The biblical Genesis says God kept a flaming sword at the gates of heaven so that mortals could not enter, so that the fallen mortals would stay outside. The flaming sword is this space-time. It will not permit us to pierce through it and notice the connection that we have with it. Blessed are those who can pierce through it!

Now, this has taken place during the process of creation. The so-called individual adhyatma has been isolated from the total, creating a perceptional process of an object which is the world outside, adhibhuta, and it becomes totally oblivious of the adhidaiva, or the divine principle. The God-consciousness in us is completely dead. We are either conscious of the material world or we are conscious of only ourselves as this person. What can be worse for us? It is so bad that we call it samsara, a veritable hell into which we have descended.

In your study here, you are actually undergoing a disciplinary process of a new kind of education by which this new knowledge will become a part of your very existence itself. There is a difference between ordinary knowledge and spiritual knowledge. Everyone has ordinary knowledge, everyone has some sort of education, but this knowledge of chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc. is outside you. It is not a part of your life. When you live your daily life, you are not actually implementing it in your personality. Your knowledge has not become you. It is a commodity. It is a qualification, an adjective. It is not yourself, so it cannot help you. It is like a shirt that you are putting on. The shirt is not yourself, though the shirt is very important. It makes you look different, but you are the same person nevertheless, because the knowledge has not become vital to your life.

I told you earlier that Existence is Consciousness. It is another way of saying that knowledge is life. Existence is knowledge. Your knowledge is your existence. You are a moving embodiment of the knowledge that you have acquired. When you move, it is knowledge that is moving. It is not that your knowledge is in the studies, in the libraries, in the textbooks or in your certificate. Your knowledge is visible. Your whole personality is an embodiment of the knowledge that you have acquired through education. It is vibrating through you. Your face shines. If your face does not shine, if it is drooping and crying, and if you find yourself in the wilderness, and the world stares at you as a reality which you did not become acquainted with in your schools and colleges, then the knowledge is like water that has been poured on a rock and the rock has not absorbed it. But yoga knowledge is a different thing. It is not knowledge in the ordinary sense of the term; it is not knowing something outside you. When you study an atom or a plant, you are studying something outside you. When you study physiology, you are studying a corpse. Here, you are studying yourself.

The most difficult thing is yourself. You can handle anything in the world, but not yourself, because there is no means of handling one's own self. There is a method by which you can handle things in the world; but what is the method that you will adopt in handling your own self? There are no instruments, there is no modus operandi, there is no means at all. Without a means of handling it, how will you handle a thing? If you want to control yourself, how will you do it—with your hands and feet, with your fist, with threats to your own self? Nothing will work, because you cannot become the teacher and the taught at the same time. How could it be? It is not possible. But in some way, you are going to be that.

In the yoga educational process, you are the teacher and the taught. It is not that somebody thrusts knowledge into you. Knowledge that is already in you is made to blossom into a beautiful flower of real experience. Never believe that knowledge is outside you. That which is imported cannot become your property.

Now, again, to bring back to memory all the things that we considered up to this time, the universal Consciousness is immanent in you even now. Hence, education is to be understood as a bringing up to the surface of your awareness in practical living that which is hidden in you as an immanence, and which sometimes looks like a transcendence. The knowledge of the Self is the knowledge of the universe and, vice versa, the knowledge of the universe is the knowledge of the Self, because the cosmic structure which is this creation is involved in the aspect of the immanence of the transcendence, about which we have been discussing just now.

How would you know the whole world if you know yourself? Again a doubt will arise in your mind. This doubt arises because you have again slipped into the old cocoon of thinking that this ‘me' is only this body. Bring back to your memory once again—a hundred times a day, by hammering this idea into yourself—that the whole universal setup is scintillating through you. The transcendent is also the immanent.

The largest generality of the cosmos is present in the littlest atom, including your own self. Is this not a great solacing message to you that the whole universal force is vibrating through each individual? If it could be made part and parcel of your living experience, what authority, what power, what glory, what bliss, what desirelessness! Everything will manifest itself automatically.

Poor things that we are, we go back once again to the old habit of this Mr. So-and-so, this body, and say, “I am coming.” “What are you doing?” There is no ‘what you are doing' and ‘what I am doing', and so on. These ideas have no meaning, finally.

I am telling you all this because now you are to be placed in a new atmosphere, a total vision of an altogether different kind of perspective of all the things that you have been experiencing up to this time. You should not leave this course as you came. You should go as totally different persons in the sense that you see things which you saw earlier, but in a different manner altogether. Instead of a table, you will see wood; instead of an ornament, you will see gold; instead of the form, you will see the substance. Your vision will totally change because of the entry of your educational process here into the substance of things, which is within you and also above you in the sense I have described just now.

Contemplate this daily. Do not forget everything and again start thinking as you did previously. That should not be the case. This is a kind of medicine that is being given to you for the illness of life. It has to be swallowed and absorbed. It has to sink into your being. You have to live it; and then you will see that you are different persons. You will all be smiling. You will not cry afterwards.