A- A+

A Textbook of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 5: The First Principle in Yoga

In the previous session we noted that the process of perception is threefold. The objective world is designated as adhibhuta; there is a perceiver of this objective world, which is called adhyatma; and we also noted a transcendent element operating between the percipient seer and the perceived objective world, called adhidaiva. If we confine ourselves entirely and wholly to the study of the objective world, we become physical scientists—chemists, or perhaps biologists. If we confine ourselves only to the study of the operation of the perceptive process, we become psycho-logists, psychoanalysts, psychopathologists, etc. If we emphasise only the element of transcendence, we become devotees, religious people who search for a creator God who is above this world. These three approaches are basically the fundamentals of our experience in life. We cannot think in any other manner. Either we look outside, or we look inside, or we look above. There is no other way of looking at things. If we look outside, we are scientists. If we look inside, we are psychologists. If we look above, we are religious seekers.

But we observed that the principle of reality is an integrated wholeness, and a consciousness of this wholeness is not supposed to be a tripartite observation, taking each item independently, as it were, with no relation to the other principles. Studies of psychology should not forget that there are realities which are external, physicists should not forget that there are realities which are internal, and both should not forget that there are features in this world which elude the grasp of observation through science and through analysis by psychology. There are more things in heaven and on earth than philosophy dreams of, as the poet told us.

When we enter into the field of the practice of yoga, we have to have a basic knowledge of the philosophical foundations of the very practice. The concept has to be clear before we actually take a practical step. Practice is based on theory. For instance, we have theoretical physics and applied physics, pure mathematics and applied mathematics, pure physiology and applied physiology. So also we have a philosophical background of yoga and an actual implementation of it in practical life.

The philosophical foundation is that our existence in this world is inviolably involved in this threefold segregation of Consciousness—though it is really not segregated. Many people say that the world is not really there; it is a kind of illusion. Maybe it is so, considering the fact that our definition of the world as something being there in front of us, totally isolated from us, cannot be a fact, finally. If that is the case, the world as we understand it is not there. But something is there. That something is the real world.

If nothing is there, we would not be even aware that there is something external to us. The world as we conceive it and perceive it is not there. Our perceptions and conceptions have, therefore, to be thoroughly investigated, and we have to enable ourselves to delve deeper into the fundamentals, the very degrees of reality that seem to be above and beneath our normal perceptions.

We should not enter into the field of yoga practice with preconceived ideas, with a conditioned mind. We have studied something, and we have some idea about things. We should not bring these ideas into our study of yoga. First of all, there has to be a deconditioning of the mind. Communal, religious and philosophical prejudices should not be allowed to enter into this adventure of a totally new approach to things. A Hindu thinks in one way, and a Christian thinks in another way. This kind of thing will not do. We may think in any way we like, but we have to develop a faculty within us which may safely be called impersonal in its structure—impersonal in the sense that it can accommodate into its framework of operation any thought, any field of activity, any outlook of life, and any concept of God.

All these concepts, religious or political, have a fragmentary value which is applicable and useful under certain given conditions, but not always, in the same way as certain medicines work under certain conditions of the body, and a universal prescription cannot be given for all conditions of the body. We have certain types of religious or cultural backgrounds. In certain matters, a Westerner thinks in one way and an Easterner thinks in another way. Western thought is mostly empirical, and Eastern thought is of a different type, but we should be able to know how and why these differences have arisen.

When we go into the in-depth cause of the differences of cultural patterns and religious outlooks, we will find they arise on account of a sectional view that is taken about things in the world, ignoring certain other aspects whose existence we do not take into consideration. Certain ideas are inborn and are in the very veins and blood of our personality. Communal hatreds, of which we hear very much these days, have mostly a religious background—religion leading to clash instead of leading to God-consciousness, all of which has to be attributed to a purely fragmentary, isolated or communally selfish outlook of life.

If religion should be defined as the longing of the human soul for God, one must know what this human soul is. Is it made of a Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Jain framework? What kind of thing is the soul? Is it a Jain soul, a Buddhist soul, a Hindu soul, a Muslim soul? Have we such souls?

Great disciplinary training under competent teachers in institutions which are favourable for this practice is necessary, and sufficient time also has to be given to it. These studies here are for a short time, and are not a final answer to your queries. It is a preparation for enabling you to develop a mode of thinking which is totally new, and entirely oriented in a fashion that may be called comprehensive or universal in its nature, but the actual practise has to be done by you. This course does not mean that your program is complete. You are only shown the path, but the walking has to be done by you. Light is shed on the way, but you have to move along the line indicated by the light. This is a light that is being shed upon the path of your life, and you have to take it very seriously in the sense that you have to do something, after having learned something.

In your studies, or in any kind of study, for that matter, certain subjects are taken up for consideration. You take up particular subjects: history, geography, mathematics. What do you study in yoga? What is the subject? Easy answers will not come forth. Are you studying yourself? Many people say it is actually a study of one's own self. The study of man is really man. It is true. But what exactly is this ‘yourself' when you say you will study yourself? Will you lock yourself up in a room, not seeing anybody and having no concern with society and the world, and delve inside your physical individuality to focus on what the mind is thinking and how the breath is moving? Is this what you mean by ‘study of one's own self'?

Some people say that the world is very big and its realities are actually glaring before us every day, from morning onwards. You are something in your own personality; yes, of course, granted. But what about the world in front of you? Are you not hitting your head against it every day? What is the purpose of merely sitting inside and brooding over something that seems to be there inside your body? What about this world which is troubling you every day? That is another aspect of the matter. People have never been satisfied either with encountering the world outside in a business fashion—a managemental, political fashion, or whatever it is—nor have people been found to be happy inside and wholly satisfied merely because they have been sitting quietly in some distant place such as Uttarkashi. So while granting that, finally, it is the study of your own self that is involved in the study of yoga, a broad idea about what this selfhood can be should be entertained, about which we have studied something earlier. In previous sessions, we have considered some aspect of this self. A self is just what you consider yourself to be. You have some idea what you are; that is the self. But what is the idea that you have about yourself? What do you think you are?

There are, according to ancient traditional analysis, three aspects of this consideration of the self. This is a muddle before your mind, and mostly you do not think of these aspects. Anything that you consider as vitally connected with yourself is also a self. Something without which you cannot exist, something which is, according to you, a very essential ingredient in your existence itself, cannot be regarded as something outside you because that conditions your existence. You love it, hug it, want it, caress it, and keep it with you to such an extent and with such intensity that, for all practical purposes, it is yourself only—like a mother clinging to her only child, or even like a wealthy man clinging to his money or a politician clinging to his power. It is so very intimately connected with your existence itself that you cannot say that it is outside you. It is so because if that is not there, you will feel like crumbling. When the power goes, the man becomes like a mouse; he does not know whether he even exists. When the wealth goes, the man dies of a heart attack. When the child goes, the mother commits suicide. Why does this happen? A child cannot be the self of the mother, so why is there so much consideration for that little thing, to such an extent that one can sacrifice one's own life? If your selfhood can be abolished for the sake of another thing which you regard as inseparable from you, something has happened to you in regard to your relationship with that thing.

Your so-called self—Mr. or Mrs. So-and-so, whatever you are—encased within this body, as you wrongly think, has escaped the clutches of encasement in this body for certain peculiar reasons which you cannot always understand, and entered into the child, entered into power, wealth, land, property, etc. This self, which really cannot be regarded as a self because it is outside you and you have no control over it, nevertheless seems to have such a hold over you that it is one kind of self. It cannot be regarded as the primary self because it can leave you one day. All your possessions, all family relations, all wealth, all power, everything can go. Therefore, that kind of thing which appears to be inseparably connected with your existence cannot be regarded as a primary self because it can leave you at any time, and so it is called a secondary self. In Sanskrit, it is called a gaunatman. Gaun means secondary. All things in this world which you love intensely and consider as part of your very life are secondary selves.

You also have to handle this secondary self properly. Do not say, “I have left my family. They are not connected with me. I am staying in Gangotri. I have abandoned my property. I have committed my pension.” People sometimes say that, under the impression that this secondary self has gone. But it cannot easily go, because it is a psychological concept. This secondary self is also psychological. It appears to be physically there in front of you, but your involvement in it is a psychological affair, and so it can harass you even in Gangotri. “What is this? I am sitting here. I had so much. I was a judge. I was a magistrate. I had a lot of property.” The inner voice will harass you by telling you that you have lost something when you are physically somewhere, unknown to people.

Therefore, keep in mind that there is a self called a secondary self, or gaunatman. Let us see how to handle it in the course of time. But do not say it is unimportant. Your husband, your wife, your children, your money, your property, your land, your power, your position—they are all important to you. Their absence can kill you; such sorrow can descend upon a person. You will be wondering how it is that you get involved like this, but it is so. No one is free from it. But you have to free yourself from it by the application of certain techniques which are peculiar to yoga practice. Very difficult it is, because you are touching dynamite, as it were. Severing vital relations is like death; and one may really die if such severance is attempted prematurely.

I told you that there are three aspects of this concept of self. One is this secondary aspect of self, the gaunatman, to which we cling as an object of affection and necessity. Another aspect is called the mithyatman, a false self, such as this body. We very much regard this as ourselves. It is certainly so. How can we say it is not? But in our earlier studies, we observed that there are conditions or circumstances in our daily life where we can exist even without the consciousness of this body.

You have to remember all that we studied earlier. In dream and sleep you do exist; that is what we observed. How do you exist minus consciousness of this body which you otherwise consider as your own self? There is a falsity involved in the concept of the body as the self. Many illustrations, such as the amputation of limbs, demon-strate that physical diminution does not diminish the consciousness of self. The consciousness of selfhood is the same in a puny person as in a giant. The giant does not have a larger concept of self; the concept is the same. It is a kind of self-identity of consciousness. As I mentioned, even if all the limbs are removed, you will still have the consciousness of identity of self. All this shows that the body is not the self. Otherwise, you will feel that you have lost yourself by the amputation of limbs. You do not feel like that.

Even though this body is a false self which you consider as a real self in your daily activities, it has to be properly taken care of. People sometimes refer to it as Brother Ass. You cannot throw it away, because it has to carry the burden. Who will carry the burden if the ass is not there? It has its purpose, yet it is a great problem for you. As handling objects of affection in the world is a problem, handling this body is also a problem, though you know very well by our philosophical analysis that this is not the true you.

Thus, there are these two aspects of self: the secondary, and the false. The third aspect is the primary one, about which I have been haranguing for a number of sessions. The primary aspect is indicated by the condition in which you are existing in deep sleep. It is an indication, a mark, a symbol of what you are really from the circumstance of sleep: pure Consciousness of Being. I am repeating a little bit of what I told you earlier so that you may not completely forget it.

This pure Being-Consciousness is our essential, primary Self; and this Being-Consciousness cannot be located inside the body. Though by some mental operation it looks as if we are sleeping inside the body, really it is not so. It is a larger operation extending beyond the ken of this physical limitation. This pure Being-Consciousness cannot be segregated into localities of people—something here, something there. It is incorrect to say “I am one Being-Consciousness and you are another Being-Consciousness” because Consciousness cannot be segregated or partitioned. It cannot be divided into parts; it is an indivisible whole. This indivisibility also implies its infinity and eternity. This is briefly the conclusion that we drew earlier in our studies. So it is true that in yoga you study your own self, but you must look at this involvement of the self in at least three ways. Which self will you take up for your studies when you study yoga—the secondary self which is the object of affection or concern, or this body, or something which you cannot grasp?

Yoga teachers of yore have systematically arranged the process of study. There are scriptures on yoga which are especially devoted to practical consideration, the most outstanding being Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which is entirely practice and psychology; and we also have the Bhagavadgita and the Upanishads, to mention only a few.

A gradational approach is prescribed. What is the first thing that you do when you enter into yoga? Generally, you start doing yoga asanas, physical exercises, pranayama, sit quietly thinking, and then you meditate for a little while. This is good. This is a kind of kindergarten approach in the early stages, but you must feel that one step forward has been taken. For three months you have done yoga exercises, breathing exercises, and sat in meditation. You must feel within yourself that you have taken one step forward. You should not think that you are in the same condition that you were three months earlier.

“I have done something, but I have to do something more. I have taken one step forward, and I am now a little larger than what I was earlier. I am now qualitatively better, and the dimension of my personality is perhaps enlarged in some way. I am healthier, happier, more satisfied, and fewer are my desires.” If these feelings arise in your mind, you have taken one step. Otherwise, it is something like trying to walk on the road by lifting both legs simultaneously. You will not move forward. You have done a lot of walking, but you are in the same place. That kind of thing should not happen.

Studies in yoga, therefore, have to be taken up in a systematic, degree-wise fashion. The usual instruction given to us is, that which seems to be immediately impinging on us like a chronic disease and cannot be easily avoided must be taken up first. It is something like knots being untied. Suppose you tie a knot in a rope, and then tie another knot, and then tie a third, fourth and fifth knot. If you untie these knots, the topmost knot will be untied first, not a knot below. The first knot that was tied will be taken up last; the last knot will be taken up first.

Now, what is it that is first, and what is last? This process of creation—the evolution of the universe, into which we had some insight during our studies here—will tell you which came first and which came last. The first was God Almighty Himself; and you should not touch Him suddenly, immediately. God is very respectable, beyond. The last thing in which we got involved is something else. What we observed was that there was the Absolute, pure universal infinity, which became the cause of the manifestation of the precondition of externality called space-time, which vibrated into certain forces. In Sanskrit they are called tanmatras, cosmic vibrations which condense themselves into the objects of hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling, and then solidify into the physical world. These constitute the entire realm of being, all the degrees of reality in creation—the fourteen worlds, as they are called. Then comes the tripartite segregation: the object, the subject, and the transcendent link which we understand as existing between them. Then our concern turns to the threefold type of selfhood, about which I mentioned something just now.

Having understood this much, where do you stand now? When you wake up in the morning, what is it that engages your attention first? Do you think to yourself, “How am I?” No. You think twenty things which are outside. “Today I have a lot of work. I have to meet this person. I have to go to the shop. I have to go to the court. There is a case today, a hearing, and I have to meet this person for this, that reason.” Some fear, some anxiety, some commitment seems to be hitting your head when you get up in the morning. All this is involved with the world outside. You do not think of yourself, of God, or of anything; nothing comes to the mind. You have commitments in the world: “I have to go. I have to catch a train. I have to book my ticket for a flight.” How many things are in your mind?

You think only that which is totally external. Your relationship with externals takes most of the time. You have to adjust yourself to these conditions very cleverly because if you make a mistake in the adjustment, you will come a cropper. Most of your time goes in adjusting yourself to changing conditions. You have to put on extra clothes if it is very cold, and you need an umbrella if it is raining. If it is very hot, you have to take a cold bath; and if you are tired, you have to take rest. If there are some people who are impossible in their behaviour, you have to know how to adjust yourself with them. If a creditor comes, you have to know how to speak to him, and so on. Every minute there is an adjustment of personality, and it is a strain. You cannot be totally free and carefree; you have to make adjustments with so many things. This is the first thing that you have to take into consideration in order that these things should not harass you too much when you are trying to go deeper into the realities of life. In Patanjali's system especially, brief statements are made about the methodology to be adopted in establishing harmonious relations with the external world. These are called yamas.

Generally, the world behaves with you in the same way as you behave with it. This is so because, basically, you are vitally connected with the structure of things outside. The world will do tit for tat; as you do to it, so it will do to you. If you smile, it smiles; if you grin, it grins; if you show you teeth, it shows its teeth; if you hate it, it hates you; if you love it, it loves you; if you want it, it wants you; if you do not want it, it does not want you. This is a peculiarity with the behaviour of things outside, the so-called ‘outside'.

The yamas in Patanjali's system are the technology adopted by the ancient master to see that we do not place ourselves in a disharmonious situation with anything outside. You must know how to handle anything in this world in a harmonious way. If there is some dissonant sound coming from somewhere, you have to develop within yourself a kind of assonant reaction towards it. If a small thing comes, you have to become small before it; if a big thing comes, you have to become big before it. You have to adjust yourself accordingly with what is in front of you.

This is well said, but actually it cannot easily be practised because it is a day-to-day technique and is not a general instruction for all people, for all times. How you can adjust yourself cannot be said off-hand, because it is a daily affair. What you will eat tomorrow, you cannot say today. It depends upon your condition tomorrow. So how can I tell you that tomorrow you should eat a particular food? Every day—at every moment, almost—there is some new encounter for you. This difficulty goes in the case of those people who have the blessing of living with a great master who guides them. Every day you will have some peculiar difficulties, and you cannot envisage tomorrow's difficulty today.

“Oh, today is very difficult for me! I have a headache. I sat and meditated on the point between the eyebrows,” you will say. Now, you cannot understand why you have developed a headache. You have to ask somebody. What is the connection between concentration at that point and a headache? You have a backache, or your knees are aching, or you have no appetite, or you have some fever, or there are tremors in the body, etc. What can you do about that? You cannot be a physician of your own self, because you are a patient.

Thus, blessed are those who have a real teacher—a Guru, we may say—in whom they have full faith. You should not go on changing Gurus, thinking that another Guru is better than this one. Then you will be simply hopping like a grasshopper, and nothing will come. Once you have taken to one course, it is final.

In the beginning, daily adjustments seem to be easy. You hear what I say, and say, “Yes, I understand. I will try to do that.” You may do that for some time, but later on you will find that it is not so easy because the mind will revolt. “What are you doing to me?” the mind will say. “I want this only. I will not accept anything else.” And what will you do about that? You say you will adjust yourself. But it says, “No adjustment. I want this.” Oh, very difficult! Naughty children are difficult to handle.

So what do you do at that time? Very careful, loving handling is necessary when you want to restrain something. Even when you oppose an enemy in war, you do not simply jump in like a fool. There are methods and manoeuvres in the handling of an army's movement. Even when you have an undesirable trait, it cannot be simply dubbed as evil. Nobody likes to be called evil. You must know how to become a good physician to that which you consider as bad and convert it, transform it, transmute it into good. Opposition is not the way. To put it briefly, it is a juxtaposition of yourself with the circumstance in front of you by a method that is purely educational psychology.

Therefore, the first thing that you have to take up is to see what your involvements are in the public world. Do you owe something to people, some debt? If you have borrowed some money, pay it back. Never go to Gangotri with borrowed money and then start meditating. That is no good. Then it will harass you. Every paise that you have borrowed must be returned; otherwise, it will pinch you. Your heart will say that something is wrong. Even if you have uttered a harsh word which has deeply hurt someone's feelings, you must make amends for it. “I am very sorry. In a mood I uttered this. I beg your pardon. I will never do it again.” Otherwise, you will keep it in your mind and think, “Oh, very bad. I ought not to have done that.” A thought, a word or a deed which is upsetting must be carefully handled. Do not do anything which is harmful. A thing which is harmful can be harmful to both sides. It is not harmful to only one side. Both your side as well as the other side will be hurt by any kind of harmful act, word or thought. This has to be taken care of. A long list has to be made. But you cannot make this list because you think, “What is wrong with me? I am perfectly all right. I have studied well.” You have to find out whether everything is well or not by a continuous life of a little isolation in an atmosphere where you are not too much engrossed in externals. That is why people go to ashrams and study under a teacher, etc.

Thus, the essential point is to first take into consideration your involvements outside—the social and natural conditions—so that you may not be worried about things that are happening outside or things that have happened outside. And do not feel that you owe something to someone. You should not owe anything to anybody. That should be your principle. You should not take more from the world than what you have given to the world. Equal to what you take, you must give. It is good to give more than you take; but if you take more, you will have to repay it in the next birth and you will be reborn in order to clear the debt. All debts of every kind—in deed, in speech, as well as in thought—have to be reconciled.

You have to be clean, first of all. Even in your social relations, you should not look like a funny person or something impossible. There is a verse in the Bhagavadgita. Yasmān nodvijate loko lokān nodvijate ca yaḥ, harṣāmarṣabhayodvegair mukto yaḥ sa ca me priyaḥ (B.G. 12.15): You should live in the world in such a way that you should not abhor anything in the world, nor should you behave in such a way that the world abhors you.

Well, you may try your best to see that you do not abhor things, but how will you expect the world not to abhor you? The world will not always appreciate you under every condition. But the Bhagavadgita, which has been told by a great master, must have some meaning. You must not behave in a way that will be considered as abominable by the world outside and, also, you should behave in such a way that you will not be affected by things that are taking place outside. Such is the word of the Gita. You do not shrink from anything, nor do you behave in such a way that the world may shrink from you. A good person you must be. This is the first principle.