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A Textbook of Yoga
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 14: Consciousness Alone Is

Before you move forward, it is necessary for you to see that your feet have been firmly planted on the ground and all things are clear to you. The advance along the line of yoga is something like a military operation. You are conscious that there is an encounter. This is the first step. As is the case with the awareness of an army general, so is the case with a yoga student. The yoga student is aware that there is going to be an encounter. What kind of encounter? Whom are you going to encounter?

From a military point of view, it is an encounter with some other country. In the case of a yoga student, it is an encounter with people outside and with the world in front of you, because they have always been too much for you. You suspect the world and suspect everybody in the world, as every country suspects every other country, basically, though the suspicion will not be openly manifest in behaviour. You do not go on declaring that you suspect everybody, but you do suspect them. You are always cautious about even nature itself.

After this awareness of there being something to be faced, an assessment of the situation takes place. What kind of strength does the other party have? It takes a lot of time to understand this. Who is it that is facing you? After a lot of investigation with the application of various methods, you come to a conclusion about the strength of the other party. Then comes an assessment of your own self. What is your strength? To what extent are you in a position to face this encounter? If your strength is not equal to the strength of the other side, you will not suddenly go for an onslaught. There will be peace negotiations, give-and-take policies and, for some reason or other, the matter will be dragged on for an extensive length of time.

This also happens to the yoga student. You have some idea of the world, and of people around, and about your own self; but it is not a complete knowledge. There is a fear, together with a longing. There is a longing to face the encounter, but a fear that it should not be done hastily. The world is so large and people are so many that you have to take all these factors into consideration before you take any step.

Well, you know to some extent what is the strength of the world and what is the strength of people. But you may not be fully aware of your strength because mostly you look like a fraction of this vast sea of power that is around you, and you may not be prepared to risk your life and your career in facing this world which is so large, and people who are so many. But sometimes you will gird up your loins and put on courage, saying, “I have a strength within myself which may not be the physical strength of an elephant, but it is a strength born of my thought and feeling.” Atma shakti is the power of soul. “God will bless me.” This is what the seeker thinks, even in the beginning itself. “God will bless me” is a way of thinking that one's own effort and energy may not be sufficient, and that some other support is necessary.

Even the powerful Pandava forces were not confident of winning victory. They had the assistance of the gods in heaven, but even then they required some collaboration from a friend and well-wisher, who was Bhagavan Sri Krishna. That is why we go on saying, “God bless! God's grace is, of course, there. God will not let me down.” The Pandavas knew that Sri Krishna would not let them down. In the hour of difficulty, he is always there to render succour.

So the seeker feels, “After all, even if my efforts may not be sufficient and adequate, God is there to see that I am honest in my aspirations, and He will bless me, certainly.” You have a hope that you will win. Afterwards, the war actually begins. What do you do? Do you know what a war means? It is not a foolhardy jumping into something. It is a tremendous arrangement of factors which moves forward, backward, sideward, and so on, sometimes visible, sometimes not visible. Sometimes the manoeuvres are clear, even to the other side. Sometimes it looks like you are doing nothing, only keeping quiet, but actually you are not keeping quiet. The Pandavas kept quiet for a very long time, but that was not actually a keeping quiet; it was a preparation for an onslaught. So even if the force of a military strength appears to be keeping quiet, it is always on guard and ready to take the necessary step.

Likewise, as with many other similarities of this kind, there is a yoga type of military operation with the whole world that is before you. It is very important to realise in the beginning itself that you have the required facilities, appurtenances, equipment, to face the difficulties in yoga. The equipment is your inner strength of conviction, first of all, and a feeling that inasmuch as you are on the right path, success is bound to come. Many a time success does not follow, even after years of effort. But the Bhagavadgita is behind you as your philosopher and guide, and it tells you that you should never look to the end result of your effort even if it be in the form of an expectation of success, because when you have done your duty, the consequences will automatically follow. You need not have to bother about whether they will come today or tomorrow.

Many are the circumstances which go to contribute to the appearance of what is called victory, or success. Adhiṣṭhānaṁ tathā kartā karaṇaṁ ca pṛthagvidham, vividhāś ca pṛthak ceṣṭā daivaṁ caivātra pañcamam (B.G. 18.14) is a verse in the Bhagavadgita, which tells you how many factors are involved in the production of an effect such as success, for instance. Your physical and mental strength is one factor. Suppose you are a sickly person; you are coughing, have aches of every kind, fever, and also the mind is oscillating. You may not be considered ready for this work. The psychophysical condition is one factor: adhisthana. Adhisthana is the basis itself, which is your mental and physical condition. You must be very clear that your condition is perfectly fit for this adventure.

Then comes tatha karta, the intention behind the adventure which you are trying to embark upon. This is a very important factor. Why do you do anything? What is the intention behind it? Vague, various and multi-faceted are the answers to this question. If you ask any yoga student, “Why are you practicing yoga?” each person will give a different answer. One will say, “I want freedom.” Another will say, “I want to become a teacher of yoga.” A third will say, “I want to regulate my breathing.” A fourth will say, “I want to increase my height.” These are the answers. Or rarely, without actually knowing what they are saying, one may say, “I want to attain God, whatever God is.” Even this good answer that you want God is not a clear answer. It is a child's answer about something which you cannot understand. The intention behind your practice should be very clear. Each one of you is your own master in this respect, and do not make mistakes by having wrong motives or intentions. That is the implication of the word karta in this verse of the Bhagavadgita. Adhisthāna is the psychophysical condition; karta is the intention of the person inside—the ego, as it is called.

Kartā karaṇaṁ ca pṛthag-vidham. The third factor is the facilities that you have to do this practice. Have you adequate facilities? Have you a room to stay in, or are you outside in the wind? Have you some means of eating a single meal in a day, or are you starving? Is there any other opposition from anywhere? Is there any kind of hindrance, whatever it be, from inside or outside? All the facilities necessary for this practice should be there. These are the karanas, or the instruments of action. These instruments are not necessarily physical instruments; they are conditions that are to be considered as conducive to doing yoga practice. So, adhisthana, karta and karana are the three factors mentioned.

Vividhāś ca pṛthak ceṣṭā. The fourth factor is the possibility of your being engaged in various types of activity, while your intention is to be engaged in only one kind of activity. Vividha ceṣṭā is the practice of circumstances which are also possible in your case, though your intention is to wean yourself from all these possible extraneous actions and concern yourself with only one type of action. That is, if you have the facility to do something, you may do it, though that is not your intention. For instance, even if you have no intention to commit theft and are not thinking about it, but are placed under certain circumstances where to commit that action is most easy and nothing will happen to you if you do it, then the possibility of stealing may manifest into action.

Actually, there should not even be the possibility. Even if gold is heaped in front of you, the idea of owning it should not arise in your mind. Even the idea should not arise. You should not have doubts in the mind. “If I do it, it is all right, though I was told that it should not be done.” You have a dubious attitude at that time. You want it, but some other pressure from inside says that you are not supposed to do that. This is a conflict in the mind, a psychological conflict. These are the possibilities of action, from which you have to sever yourself gradually, and engage yourself in only one kind of action.

Now comes the last thing, the last straw on the camel's back, as it is said. Daivaṁ caivātra pañcamam: The will of the cosmos will decide your fate. You will say, “Oh, this is something very terrible. After all this which was so nice to hear, you have said something which is like a thunderbolt on the head, that finally it looks that it is not in our hands.” You do not know what the judge will say in the court, all your arguments notwithstanding. Finally, it is the whim and fancy of the judge. One sentence is sufficient, and the case is lost. You may ask, “Is it so? Is the Bhagavadgita frightening us by saying that finally the will of the Universal is the ultimate factor and if that will is not operating, nothing will work? Are we dependent on that will? Are we totally subservient to something outside us so that we are at the mercy of something? Then what is the good of any effort? Everything that has been told seems to be useless if, finally, we are helpless in the hands of a power that is beyond us and totally external to us.”

But this is not the case. You are not told that you are helpless and you are at the mercy of somebody else. The difficulty arises because you have somehow slipped into the wrong notion that the Universal will is outside you. This has been the point that we have been hammering again and again, that the object of perception, even if it is God Himself, is not external to you. So the Universal will, which is the final conditioning factor of all your victory and success in yoga, is not a frightening externality. It is not an outside judge sitting in a court, apart from you. It is a judiciary operating in your own heart. Because the will of the cosmos also operates within you, your will is not working in a fashion totally dissonant with the will of the cosmos.

These few words are only a description of the preparations that one has to make for this great, adventurous march of the soul to what you consider as the unknown—the unknown being your own higher Self. You are going to pursue your own higher Self. These things about which you have heard up to this time—such as the adhidaiva which is the intermediary consciousness between the adhibhuta and the adhyatma, the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, the tanmatras, and even space-time—are not outside you. In the previous session I had taken time to explain to you that this is the fact. Even space and time cannot be regarded as being outside you, but they look entirely outside. You cannot say that space is inside the body; you do not feel it. Even time appears to be moving outside. You can see the hands of a clock moving, though you feel that inside yourself, no time is moving. But it is not so. Your growth from babyhood to this condition of adulthood is the working of time inside you. Decay and death are also the work of time. And the dimension of your personality, of your body especially, is the work of space. You have length and breadth. You are a three-dimensional being, are you not? These three dimensions of your personality are the work of space; and growth, decay and death are the work of time. Hence, space and time are not only not outside, they are universally operating.

Even the highest liberation that we are seeking is within us, in one way. “I want moksha. I want freedom, liberation,” is the asking of a seeker. But we are asking for freedom from what? The idea of freedom is ingrained in the very existence of our being. Our own existence is asking for freedom from its own limitations. Our physical finitude in this world of nature and people is the lowest, the most initial of all the concepts that we have about ourselves and, on account of it, we cannot be totally free from this discomfort that we feel inside ourselves. To overcome it, we move earth and heaven every day by occupying high positions or amassing large wealth and so on, because to be always conscious of one's finitude and smallness is an utter misery which is intolerable. But all this effort of ours is futile finally, due to the nature of its own insubstantiality because we remain the same finite fools when we depart from this world, shedding this body and all these appurtenances that have been foisted upon us by way of position in society, wealth, land, etc. They will not come with us.

Little we were when we were born; little we are when we depart from this world. We are also little while living in this world, but it is difficult for us to be always aware that we are little because it looks worse than death; so we start whitewashing ourselves with all kinds of ideas of possession and position, etc.—all of which are mere eyewash, indeed. Friends depart, positions go, and we go from this world in the same way as we came into this world.

One cannot go on with this state of affairs for a long time. Any effort on the part of man in the manner described—empirically, sensorially, socially, etc.—will do no good because we have always been outside the structure of reality and never had an occasion to enter into our vital connection with the world of nature, whose various degrees of manifestation have been described to you earlier.

With these preliminary remarks, I now come to the point actually on hand, a continuation of what I told you in the previous session. Savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara and nirvichara are the names, designations or appellations that are given to these four stages of inner communion with the Reality of the universe. The first one is the attempt to be in a state of unison with the fact of an object, free from the name and idea associated with it—to know a thing as it is in itself minus descriptive adjuncts and ideas connected with it, etc.—and to take the whole cosmos of physicality of the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether as the very substance out of which your body is made, so that you cannot see this world as something totally alien to you, as you see a building outside. This building of the universe is not outside you, though an ordinary building looks as if it is outside you. The reason is that the very bricks of the universe are the bricks of your body. The very cells of your physical personality are made of the atoms of the universe. This thought requires deep affirmation, again and again, so that you will be able to know what samapatti, or communion, actually means.

Has any one of you, at any time in your life, tried to be in communion with something? You have always been outside—with desire, longing, hatred, and a sense of possessiveness. Is it not a tragedy of life? Have you spent five minutes in your life with a feeling of utter union with something? There has been nothing of that kind. Such hardcore egoists we seem to be, that we cannot be in a state of utter friendship and communion with even a pencil or a wristwatch because they are outside. We love a wristwatch, a pencil and a fountain pen, but they are not ‘I'; therefore, they are not as important as ‘I'; therefore, we cannot love them as much as we love ourselves; therefore, our love is futile. It comes to that, finally.

This is a very important matter, and not merely a story for you to hear and then go away, because here is your future destiny. If you cannot love anything in the sense of a communion with it—not merely love in a psychological or a psychopathological sense—then this life is certainly not lived properly. It has been wasted. You have been existing, but not living. Put a question to your own self. Make this note in your diary: “Have I felt a communion with anything in this world since my birth, or have I suspected everything from the beginning itself? Did I keep it apart, and love it with caution?” Is there any such thing as love with caution? Can you call it love at all? But is this not the way in which you treat things? And can you treat the world and God in that way?

You love God with suspicion: “If He comes, very good; if He does not come, I will manage without Him.” This is wanting God while having some suspicion. God knows it very well. He is not a fool. He understands that your mind is doubting. A very important factor which you have to underline in your diaries and notebooks is that it is essential for you to develop the faculty of feeling communion with things. If you love things with doubt, that will not work; that magic will not be of any use. You should not think that the world is a fool, that you can befool it. Even a plant knows what you think about it. You cannot fool even a plant. If you say “I will pluck you tomorrow”, it will understand what you are thinking. Every atom will vibrate in the manner that you think about it. The whole world is a total awareness, with eyes everywhere. The Bhagavadgita tells us: sarvataḥpāṇipādaṁ tat sarvato'kṣiśiromukham (B.G. 13.13). Everywhere there are eyes; there is no secret place in this world. Therefore, a doubting Thomas cannot be a yoga student.

So here is a point for you to emphasise to yourself: What is it that you are in communion with? You cannot be in communion with anything whose value you doubt. “It is a very good thing, this person is very nice, but…” You should not add ‘but'. No father, no mother, no friend, no sister, no boss, no money, no wealth will unconditionally become your servant. They are your well-wishers only under certain conditions. This kind of conditioned relationship is not to be a yoga student's relationship with people and the world outside.

Thus, these stages of samapattisavitarka, and so on, the four stages mentioned—are graduated ascents of a communion of more and more intensity as one advances further. Under ordinary conditions, it is impossible for a person to feel what consciousness will be there when one is in communion with something. If you have never felt communion, you do not know what it is. It is exceedingly delighting, enrapturing, making you lose consciousness, making you mad for it, as it were, in which condition you do not know that you are existing; you know only the existence of that which you are looking at and is enrapturing you.

Even if it is really outside you, it can rouse up the spirits of a sense of communion within you, though actual communion does not take place even in the best of artistic and aesthetic perceptions. You can be drowned in joy by beautiful classical music, you can be drowned in ecstasy by looking at a beautiful sculptural piece or an architectural edifice, or you can be drowned in joy by reading excellent literature or poetry, but even then it is not enough because you cannot call it communion. But if even these things with which you are not actually in communion—you are not one with them, they are outside you—still thrill you to such an extent that you cannot put a book down until you read it completely, and you go on gazing at the beauty of a painting, etc., if even the semblance of a psychological communion with things which are attractive can thrill you, what would be the thrill that you will feel when the soul is in communion? No word or language is adequate. That joy, which is not a joy of the mind but of your deepest recesses, will gradually manifest itself. You must read the lives of saints to understand what all this means—how they behaved, how they felt and expressed themselves.

These four stages of savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara and nirvichara are actual communions; they are not merely meditation processes of the psyche. Identification with the thing as it is, identification with the physical universe, identification with the universe inclusive of the space-time factor, concentration on or union with the tanmatras, which is the third stage of communion, then the tanmatras, or the universe of force, being considered as also inclusive of the space-time complex, is what we have covered up to this time.

To know what remains further, you have to bring to your memories once again the process of the evolutionary stages, which was the subject of our studies at the beginning of this course. The Absolute is the only Reality. God Almighty is the only existence; only the Universal is there, and no particularity exists. Then there was a condensation, as it were, of this Universality into the potential for the manifestation of a universe, which is something like cosmic sleep. In Vedanta psychology, it is called the condition of Ishvara. The ultimate is Brahman; the potential for manifestation is Ishvara. Then, the potential manifests itself like a dream where there are faint outlines of the possibility of the actual concrete manifestation of the universe, which in Vedanta is called Hiranyagarbha. The actual, final concrete appearance is Virat.

In a famous text called the Panchadasi, the philosopher describes this process something like this. The Ultimate Reality, Brahman, is something like a pure cloth, untainted or untouched by any extraneous material. We purchase pure cloth, linen or a white sheet, from the market. This pure, uncontaminated existence, without any kind of external adjective, is comparable to the Supreme Brahman. Now, in the process of painting, after the cloth is brought, it is stiffened with starch. We cannot paint on cloth as it is because there are holes, etc. Starch is smeared over the whole cloth, and it becomes stiff. This is the potential for the further action of painting. As is this potentiality in painting, so is the potentiality of the creative process. The Universal, the uncontaminated, non-objective Absolute wills, as it were, to become something, as the painter wills to do something by means of daubing the cloth with starch. Then what happens? The painter draws an outline of the intended picture with a pencil. This outline will give us a vague idea of what he is going to paint, though the clear picture is not there. This faint idea of the outline of a future universe is the next stage, which is called Hiranyagarbha, and is like a cosmic dream. When the colour is filled in by the painter and the picture is ready, it is like Virat, the whole universe that we see. God the painter has painted Himself, as it were, with the brush of His intention to become the universe of perception.

These stages are what finally become the so-called object, if at all you can call them objects, of your communion onward, beyond savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvichara. When you cross these four stages of even the consciousness of the universe being inclusive of space-time, you are filled with bliss. This communion with bliss arises not from any possession of things, but from the inner Reality itself. Without any kind of contact with things, it arises from all sides, not only from one point. If you eat a delicious mango, the joy comes from only one side; it does not come from all sides. But here, the bliss spoken of arises from every part of existence. It floods you from all sides and all quarters: top and bottom, left and right. This inundation with bliss, this kind of communion, which is of course indescribable in ordinary language, is a samapatti, or a communion, and it goes by the name of sananda samapatti. Sananda means filled with bliss. Ananda sahita samapatti is sananda.

You may say that you understand what bliss means because you might have been happy for some reason or other. Suppose you got a double promotion and your salary was doubled, were you not very happy? So you know what happiness means. But this is not the kind of happiness that we are speaking of because these double promotions, salary, etc., are perishable things. Perishable joy is not real joy. Here is an imperishable joy which arises not from anything that you acquire from outside, but from what you really are. You cannot say anything in this condition, because what you wanted has come. You do not want anything, actually, except security and joy. If you go to the root of the matter, you will find that you do not want buildings, money, and so on. You do not want anything except a sense of perfection in yourself and a continued happiness. If all the factors that go to make you permanently happy are there, you do not want anything else. That kind of thing has come. It has come forever, and not only for a few minutes or days. What will you do afterwards? You merely become conscious of being in a state of bliss. There is nothing else to do. This state where you are just conscious of being in a state of a universal flooding of bliss is called sasmita, a last state of samapatti. Asmita means ‘sense of being', a consciousness of one's being. You are conscious of your being in a state of Universal bliss. This is sananda samapatti.

All these stages of communion mentioned—savitarka, nirvitarka, savichara, nirvichara, sananda and sasmita—are considered by yoga scriptures and yoga teachers as a communion with a seed: sabija, as it is called. The idea behind this statement is that even in this tremendous, wondrous attainment, which is actually impossible even to imagine, there is a little seed of your being conscious that you are. That seed also has to go. No one can tell you what happens when you are not even conscious that you are—when there is only Consciousness. It is not a state of consciousness of the fact of you being there. It is not a consciousness of something, but Consciousness as such. Here we are taken to giddy heights, with which we close our session.