A- A+

A Textbook of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 12: The First Step in Samadhi

Effects follow causes. But in the process of meditation, causes follow effects. That is to say, the meditational technique is a reverse order of the movement of consciousness as related to the process of the evolution of the universe. We have noticed in our earlier studies that the first conceivable evolute is space and time. It is something which cannot be seen with the eyes, but which precedes everything. The perception of things—the consciousness of anything, for the matter of that—is conditioned by the presence of a pervading factor called space and time. Therefore, we may say that the first thing created was space-time—a complex of arrangement, a precondition to the consciousness of the existence of the world itself.

You have to remember all that we went through for the last several sessions. Space-time is a potential for vibration, which gyrates in a particular fashion as required for a specific formation of a universe of this kind. The type of world in which we are living, the kind of creation that is around us, is determined by the kind of vibration that is generated by the specific order of space-time at the beginning of creation. If the vibrations were of a different kind, there would be a different world altogether. It would not be the world that we see with our eyes.

Hence, the first evolute is space-time, which has the latency of the production of a further effect, almost comparable to what we today call electrical vibration, or perhaps subtler than that. These perceptional potentials are known in Sanskrit as tanmatras. Tat means ‘that'; matra is ‘a potential'. ‘A potential of that' is the meaning of the word tanmatra. There are forces behind every physical formation in the world. These forces are not objects of sensory perception, but without them no perception is possible. Just as we cannot see our own eyes even though everything is seen with the eyes, these potentials cannot become an object of sensory perception although without them, no perception is practicable.

These tanmatras are difficult to explain in ordinary language. They are a vast sea of energy, released by the vibrations of the space-time complex—or the space-time continuum, if we would like to call it that. The so-called potentials arranged themselves in a particular pattern, mixing in a specific proportion. In Vedanta psychology, the proportionate mixing up of these potentials is called panchikarana. When this mixing up of the potential elements in a given proportion takes place, we begin to perceive. Things are placed in an external context, as it were, and we begin to be conscious of our own selves as a physical body.

We are also like objects in the world. Inasmuch as we can see ourselves, we are objects. But we regard ourselves as subjects for another reason altogether, namely, that our consciousness is able to peep through the apertures of the sense organs and become conscious of what is external to it. The physical world, including the bodies of the individuals of all species, manifests itself in this manner. Creation, in a cosmic sense, is only this much. That is to say, right from the origination of space-time up to the manifestation of the five elements, all the realms of being, all the lokas or bhuvans, all the planes of existence are constituted of these tanmatras and the physical elements. The tanmatras are also known as sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa, gandha, which are the potentials for hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling. These potentials are not abstractions or mere theoretical existences. They are as real and workable as electric energy, for instance.

When creation takes place in this manner, down to the earth of physicality, cosmic creation is complete, almost. But there is another type of creation, called individual creation, which we manufacture by ourselves due to an ignorance that is incipient in our personality. No individual, no human being can be fully conscious of what has happened prior to the manifestation of this body. We think that we have come from our mother's womb; that is all we know. But something else is behind it which we cannot know on account of the pressure of the physical existence of this body and the velocity of the sense organs. On account of this ignorance of our prior relation to the cosmic setup of things, we assume a kind of independence that is totally unbecoming in the light of our relationship to the cosmic setup, and this independence becomes the source of a new type of psychological world that we create before ourselves by the work of the mind in all its operations.

Our relationships with things—we may call them social relations or psychological relations, whatever they be—do not form part and parcel of cosmic creation. For instance, we like certain things and we do not like certain things. The cosmic creation does not manufacture likes and dislikes. We manufacture them under the impression that they are for our good, but they are for our bondage. There is no evil in cosmic creation, but there is evil in individual creation. The existence of the world as a physical presentation cannot harm anybody, but its so-called relationship with a particular individual or group of individuals can create circumstances of great suffering.

In Vedanta psychology, the cosmic creation is called Ishvara-srishti, and the individual creation is called jiva-srishti. A human being walking on the road is just like any other human being from an anatomical, physiological or even psychological point of view. But we foist certain characteristics on to this cosmically valid physicality of the individual we see walking on the road, and say: “This is my brother.” “This is my enemy.” “This is my mother.” “This is my sister.” “This is my husband.” “This is my wife.” Creation by Ishvara, or cosmic creation, does not manufacture husbands and wives, brothers and sisters. They do not exist at all for the eye of the cosmic setup. But for us, only they exist; nothing else exists. Here is the distinction between the cocoon that we have woven around ourselves by our psychological operations, called jiva-srishti, and things as they really are by themselves.

Now here, in this little brief introduction that I placed before you to brush up your memory of the lessons we have gone through earlier, we have to place ourselves in a proper position for this great divine technique called meditation. As I mentioned at the very outset, in creation effects follow causes, whereas in meditation the order is reversed. You have to retrace your steps in the manner you came down. Where are you standing now? You are in a bundle of psychological relationships. You are not very much concerned with the physical world. Let there be a mountain; what does it matter to you? Let the river flow. Let there be the Earth, let there be the sun, the moon and the stars. Who bothers? You give scant respect to these things, but your respect goes to tinsel, some paltry thing you call your own, or to what you call not your own. You have to free yourself from this chaos of psychological muddle before you first set foot in meditation. Are there relations in this world? Do people belong to you? How did this idea arise in your mind that something belongs to you? Who thrust this notion into the head of a human being? Is there an agreement or a bond, a written document showing that something is your belonging?

If you carefully go through the process of the entire creativity of things with an impartial eye, you will find these things are just a chimera. They do not exist by themselves. There is no such thing as belongings, property or ownership. It is a concept in your mind that they are your property. When you quit this world, you will leave all that which you considered as your belongings. If it really belonged to you, you would carry it with you when you go. Why should you not carry your luggage when you leave this world? This demonstrates that it does not belong to you. The world tells you, “Go and mind your business!” The world tells you, the relations tell you, everybody tells you, “Go! We have nothing to do with you.” You caught hold of and hugged varieties of things in this world—humans and material objects—and all of them tell you, “Go alone to the cremation ground. We shall not come.” Will your relations go into your funeral pyre? If they are yours, let all the relatives also enter the pyre. Here, nothing is yours. You stand alone, by yourself.

When creation took place, you descended from the cosmic setup of things directly, individually, by yourself. You did not bring relations with you. Nobody was there to be regarded as your relation or your belonging of any kind. Then you imagined certain things and created a new world of your own, which is called jiva-srishti. Therefore, the first step in true religion, true spirituality, true yoga is a consciousness, a freedom from these attachments that have automatically been created by the ignorance of the individual's true belonging to a larger dimension of things. Our real home is elsewhere. We are living in a dharmashala or a choultry on our journey to another destination, but we are caught up in the dharmashala and we begin to say, “This is mine.” We think that everything in the dharmashala belongs to us, but actually we must quit the dharmashala the following morning. This idea is not in our minds.

First and foremost, you should not just sit and brood with this muddle in your head, under the impression that you are meditating. Are you clear, or have you got subtle longings? You may be physically isolated from people, from your relations. Well, everybody is physically very far from the money they have in the bank, but what does it matter? They still have a consciousness of ownership. A physical distance from objects which you consider as belonging to you does not mean you are detached from them. Detachment is a dispossession by the consciousness itself of its having a relation with things. This is philosophical analysis, spiritual investigation, viveka, discrimination, application of proper understanding. Only if your doors and windows are open can a fresh breeze enter you. The grace of God, to which I made reference earlier, is the entry of this enlivening breeze of the cosmos into our own selves when we open ourselves to its influx and entry.

Meditation proper begins when the psyche is comple-tely cleansed. The yamas and niyamas of Patanjali and the viveka, vairagya, shat-sampat and mumukshutva of the Vedanta philosophy all point to the single fact of your being prepared for the entry of the cosmic powers into yourself. In the earliest of stages, you will feel as if you are standing alone in a wilderness. A fright of there being nothing around you will take possession of you.

There are two kinds of vairagya, or detachment. One is that you are physically far away from those things and persons in whose midst you were living previously, but you have the conviction that you can go back to that very atmosphere if you want. This is like a life of retirement. A retired person leaves his house, leaves his office career, and goes somewhere far off. It is a kind of detachment, of course, but this detachment will not work because the mind is sure that it can return to the original condition once again, if need be.

It should not be possible for you to return. Then you will see what kind of aloneness will take possession of you. Having a lot of things which you can make use of, but tentatively not making use of them, is not a sense of aloneness, really speaking, because the mind says they are there, after all, and you can take them whenever you want. They should not be there at all, and you should be incapable of returning to that old atmosphere. Everything has gone; and really it has gone. This feeling and conviction of there really being nothing that you can call your own can be created by the loss of all things due to conditions of society, or by an inner arrangement of your own consciousness which refuses to attach itself to anything. There is no necessity for you to wait for the day when society kicks you out. You can deliberately kick it out of your consciousness by knowing what things are made of, finally.

Well, it may be true that the things of the world are made of such stuff as dreams are made of. But, they are still worse. Even dream objects can be seen for the time being, and they seem to be giving us a tentative satisfaction. Dream objects are much better than what we consider as near and dear in this world. Because the things of this world do not exist at all, they are not even as valuable as dream objects. With these deliberations, you must detach yourself from the involvement of consciousness in pleasant things, or even in what you call unpleasant things. The pleasant and unpleasant are created by the human mind; they do not exist in the cosmos. This is very important to remember.

After this inward analysis and conscious conviction, your true meditation starts. When you are absolved of all these social relations of attachment and aversion, you begin to find yourself as part and parcel of the physical cosmos. Now you do not feel that way. You never feel, even for a moment, that your body is made up of the same substance as the physical world. You are made up of only wealth, belongings, love, and a merrymaking atmosphere of family life. This is what you think your life is. But really, your life is a different thing. It is an actual belonging to the very physical nature itself. The very stuff out of which a tree is made, or a brick is made, is also the stuff out of which this body is made. Thus, your real friend is this nature, this world outside. People, in the sense of a psychological or social relation, are not your friends. Nature is your friend because the very substance of your body is the substance of nature. This meditation is the first step in cosmic meditation.

Earlier I had given you some indications of different types of meditation. Now I am trying to take your mind along another line which may be called cosmical contemplations, where true yoga begins, where you begin to see things as they really are and not merely as they appear to your eyes. You are not contemplating on concepts, but on realities as they are. Can you imagine for a moment that you belong to this vast physical nature? Sit for a few minutes. Go to your room or to a temple or under a tree or to any other place, and sit for ten or fifteen minutes. Begin to contemplate that every atom in the world is vibrating through your body, and every atom in your body is coextensive with the structure of physical nature outside. The sun and the moon and the stars are touching you, as it were, because of the inseparability of the substance of physical nature from your own physical body. The Yoga Sutras consider this as a kind of samapatti, or samadhi.

An attainment which is superb in nature is called samapatti, and the equilibration of consciousness with the structure of things is called samadhi. Both these mean one and the same thing. Your consciousness is set in tune with the structure of things, with physical nature, so that physical nature does not stand outside you as something to be handled by you, to be harnessed, conquered or utilised. Are you going to harness your own self or put your own self to use? Such ideas will not arise. You have no need of conquering nature. These days we speak of conquering nature in scientific and astronomical terms. This is ignorance, pure and simple. Why do you wish to conquer yourself? You are not outside yourself. It is a stability that you have to establish in your own consciousness, in terms of your belonging to nature as a whole.

Naturopaths sometimes say all these things in the parlance of medical science. Medical textbooks such as the Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita on the Ayurveda Shastras tell you how the cosmic elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether are vibrating through your body. You are prone to illness of various types because of the disparity between the working of nature outside and the body inside. You are at war with nature when you assert your physicality and independence beyond a certain tolerable limit, and fight with nature instead of considering it as your friend and well-wisher. Nature is not merely a friend and well-wisher; it is inseparable from you. You are yourself nature.

You are now in a state of cosmic consciousness. Do you realise this? If these thoughts have really entered your mind and you have appreciated what it means, you are veritably on the borderland of a universal appreciation of things. You will love a leaf in the tree; you will embrace the stem of a plant that is in front of you; you will be happy by looking at the flow of the river; you will be rejoicing by looking at the sun; the very sky will thrill you. You will no longer complain that the world is wretched, very bad, hopeless. There will be nothing hopeless in this world. The entire nature will reveal a beauty, like the opening of a rose flower. The ugliness of the world, the uselessness of it and the dearth that you see is because of the extent of the separation that you have established between yourself and the world of nature outside. The more are you distant from nature, the worse is the world for you, so you create hell. Hell does not exist by itself.

I am using the terminology of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, which uses the specific words samapatti and samadhi. These words are a little difficult to understand, but they need not frighten you. It is a simple matter of being always in a state of equilibrium with the perceptible objects in the world. Everybody is a friend. “My dear friend, please be seated. My enemy, get out!” You do not have to say that. There are no such things as friends and enemies in this world.

The first stage of samapatti, or samadhi, is an earnest attempt, deeply felt from within, to commune one's consciousness with all perceptible phenomena, the world of nature involved in space and time. I will give a little hint on certain subtleties of the system of Patanjali's yoga. As I mentioned earlier, in the earliest stages of this practice of communion with nature there is a consciousness of the similarity between you and the world of nature outside. This is one aspect of the matter. Another aspect is the dissociation of the objects of perception from false associations foisted upon them.

Who is coming? It is Rama coming, or it is John, James or Jacob. Who told you that this person is Jacob or John, or Rama or Krishna? Is it written on their skin or in their blood? Are they made up of their name? The name is an unnecessary psychological foisting. Though a name may be necessary for social life, it is not really a part of the existence of that person. Nobody is a John, a Krishna or a Rama. He is just what he is, like anybody else. Tomorrow he can have another name. There are people who change their names by an announcement in a government gazette. He is this name today, and tomorrow he is another name. That means to say that the name is not an essential ingredient of the human personality. Yet, you are so much attached to your name that even in sleep, you know you are that person only. Suppose a person by the name of Krishna is in deep sleep and I say, “Mr. Jacob, please get up.” He will not wake up because even in sleep, he knows that he is not Jacob. So much attachment he has to his name. But if I say “Krishna, get up”, immediately he will get up. So you know how much association you have consciously established between yourself and a flimsy quality called name.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras say that in the practice of meditation, dissociate the object from the name that is attached to it. That is one aspect of the matter. You are not Krishna or Jacob; you are not this, and you are not that. You are just some person, whatever the person be. You can be anything, any person; what does it matter? Today you are an officer, tomorrow you are something else, but you are the same person. So the Yoga Sutras tell you to dissociate the truth of the person from the name.

There is another thing as well. You also have some idea of the person. When I see a thing or think of a thing, I associate some qualities of my own making with that object: This person is like that; this thing is like that; gold is valuable; iron has such a value; the tree is sandalwood; this is a mango which is worth eating. Various qualities are associated with the objects of perception by the thought of the object. It is easy to dissociate a person from the name, but it is more difficult to dissociate the thing from the idea that you have of that particular object. Actually, your idea of the object is not the real object. From your context of location in this world and the manner of your mental operations, you have some notion of the object, but why should you think the object is made like that? Gold is very costly, though it has no value at all, actually. It is like anything else. It is like stone; it is like mud. It has become valuable because of certain characteristics and a utilitarian value that you have foisted upon it. If the whole earth was gold, perhaps gold would have no value. If it is rare, then it has some particular worth. Hence, the idea, the value, the utility of a thing, or the notion that you have about a thing, is not a part of the thing.

The thing as such, the object as such, is to be the ideal of contemplation. Can you meditate on something free from the notion that you have about that object, and also free from the name associated with it? This is a tree in front of you, a sandalwood tree. Why do you call it a tree? You could have called it by any other name. It is some substance, made up of some material which is also the material that is the component of other things in the world. It has a shape, it has a form, it has a location. It need not be called a tree; it can be called anything. It is something, a substance belonging to this cosmos of physicality. Remove the idea of tree. Do not say, “It is a very valuable thing. I can extract oil out of it because it is eucalyptus.” Remove these ideas. Let there be oil or let there be nothing, it does not matter. It is just what it is.

The concept of the object as it is in itself, free from the notion or the idea about it and the name attached to it, is also connected with this first step of meditation. Technically, this step, this stage, this communion, this samapatti, this samadhi, is called savitarka. The idea is that it is a total revolution that you are introducing into the very process of thinking—veritably a revolution, a transvaluation of everything, including your own self. You begin to find yourself in a new world, as it were. It will look as if you have woken up from a long dream. Look at the change that you must endeavour to practise in this technique of meditation. The whole world has changed; it is a different world altogether. You have to think differently from the way that you thought earlier. It is a totally different operation of the mind. Then you see a thing which is not at all the thing which you saw earlier. You see the world of nature, not friends and enemies, not belongings, not things that are yours or not yours, not beautiful and ugly things, not useful and useless things. You will see things as they really are, located in some particular point in the context of creation.

Here is what the Yoga Sutras call the first step in samadhi. Though it is called the first step, for us it is something like the final step, because even this cannot be attained easily. You have understood the whole thing, your mind is accepting it, but the old habit of the mind in thinking in terms of its own relations persists to such an extent that it is flowing through your very veins.

To get into the habit of this new perspective of thought which, according to the Yoga Sutras, is the first step in samadhi, is indeed a herculean task. Days and nights have to be spent in order to achieve at least a modicum of it. Man instantaneously becomes a kind of superman with this new outlook, this new sense of communion, a new detachment and a new sense of belonging—not to people and things, but to creation as a whole.