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To Thine Own Self Be True
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 2: The Conditioning of Personality

Our brief deliberations yesterday amounted to a necessity to know what exactly we are, and what it is that we are looking for, or wanting to contact, or attain. It was noticed that neither of these attempts on our part is an easy affair. When we tried to know what exactly is the stuff out of which we are made, we stumbled upon some inscrutable situation which was not a clear answer to our question.

Similar is the case with our endeavour to know what stuff constitutes this world of objects; what is our relationship with this world? We found that there is a difficulty on either side. We have, right from the beginning of our life, from our babyhood onwards, developed a kind of outlook of life with varieties of conditioning factors behind but we are not aware that our mind is thus conditioned. It is so because the very effort to know whether we are conditioned or not is again conditioned by that series of factors with which we are born when we came out of the mother's womb.

Even to know what has happened to us, and what our position here is, has become a difficult affair because we have come to this world with a background which influences us to such an extent that we can think only in terms of that background.

Something about our previous lives is known to everyone. We have been in the process of various linkages of births and deaths. This is not the first birth of ours; it is probably also not going to be the last. We are in the position of a link in a long chain of the developmental process of universal evolution.

In every birth that we take, we begin to operate in terms of a mind which thinks in terms of what it can behold through the sense organs. What does it behold? It sees only objects – varieties and varieties, an endless series of things, persons, objects, colours, sounds, and whatnot.

Whenever a form is presented before the mind in the process of sensory perception, it receives an impression of that object, as a film inserted in a camera receives the impression of the object that is placed before it. If you go on presenting the same object several times before this photographic film of the mind, or present several other objects continuously at different times of life, a series of impressions will be laid one over the other on the canvas of the mind. The mind will look like a coloured glass or a tainted medium and its operations will be through this cloud which has grown over it as fungus grows on walls during the rainy season.

When we think at this moment, and look at the world of persons and things through the sense organs, what exactly is it that we are seeing – only that structure, form and behaviour permitted by the layer of this cloud of impressions formed upon the mind by continuous presentation of object forms throughout the various incarnations through which we have passed. We are not seeing things as they really are.

If you put on a coloured glass and look at things, you will see objects coloured, having the same hue as is the tint of the glass. If the glass is convex or concave, you will see how the object will be presented before your eyes; or you have a broken lens, tattered in many places. If through the broken edges of the glass you see objects or persons outside, what will you see? Such is the situation in which we seem to be placed today.

When you sit for Yoga practice and meditation on whatever be your aim, who is going to think? This kind of mind, which is already born with prejudices of various types and can think like a human being only. An animal will think like an animal. A frog will think like a frog, an ant will think like an ant. Now, who is actually conducting this meditation? Is it a man or a woman, or an ant, or an elephant? Who is actually doing Yoga meditation? Who is reaching God? Is it man reaching God, or animal reaching God? Who is going towards God?

Even as human beings, we do not think as human beings ought to think. Though we appear to be human beings for all practical purposes, we seem to have also characteristics which cannot be equated with a real human being. This is so because we have passed through lower stages of evolution whose impressions also are there in the mind, which we are carrying today.

We can sleep like a rock and be not conscious of anything because we were once upon a time in the inanimate condition of evolution, which we call the lowest earth condition. We breathe and have hunger and thirst, as you can see it operating in the plant kingdom. We have qualities of a beast which can be brought out into the surface of our mind when we feel that it is called for. Do we always behave like human beings?

The individual homo sapiens, the man, the woman, is not a real human being. There is a mixture of various conditions of the lower levels, also. One can be a hundred percent tamasika like a rock when one is unconscious, or is asleep. One can be just hungry and thirsty, wanting food and drink and nothing else as a vegetable, or plant. One can roar like a lion, show one's teeth like a tiger, bite like a snake or sting like a scorpion. All these qualities human beings have.

Such people that we are, are trying to face God Almighty in our meditational process. Is it a wonder that the mind cannot concentrate? What will it concentrate on in the muddle and dustbin that the mind is, filled with all the rubbish of previous incarnations and prejudices that have gone to the very bloodstream of the personality? These do not stand outside us; they have become ourselves.

A conditioning factor is something which is to be understood. What do you actually mean by a conditioning factor? It is not sitting outside you, pressing you down as someone external to you. It is yourself, the stuff out of which you are made. You, yourself, are a bundle of the conditions. You are not a solid person but a series of layers of structure. While we seem to be ourselves, we are really not ourselves. We are really many things inside. Anything can be brought out of us by operating upon us in a given condition. I can make you happy or unhappy, laugh or weep or rise up in rage in one second by operating upon your sentiments in a particular manner. Then what are you by yourself? Are you a revengeful animal, which characteristic can manifest itself in you in one second if conditions favourable to this manifestation are made available? Or are you like a vegetable, feeling hungry and thirsty, wanting food and drink only? Or, you are tired and go to sleep. Or, you are so egoistic and self-conscious that you regard every other person in the world as secondary, a number two, and you are number one. You may say that others are equally important as yourself. Theoretically, for the purpose of social concordance, you may accept this position. When things go bad, you will protect yourself and let the world go to dogs. As things are not so bad, even today, we think of other people, other things, protecting animals, and things like ecological considerations. When you are drowning in water, you do not know who is drowning. The self will writhe for what it is worth.

What is an Object?

What about the object? We are under the impression that an object is in one place only. This little supporting wooden pillar is here and it cannot be elsewhere. You are sitting in one place and you are not sitting in another place at the same time. Everything is in one place only and it cannot be in another place. This is our idea of a particular object: The object cannot be in two places at a time; also, it can be somewhere at some time and it cannot be necessarily in one place at all times.

Also, we have some idea of the connection of one thing with another thing as is taught to us by our study of astronomy, physics, psychology, etc. The locality spatially, the condition temporally, and the relation by way of cause and effect connection are all inbred notions in our mind. We look at everything, any person, with this background of conditioning: My father is like this and he cannot be anything else.

The father, mother, husband, wife, brother, sister, also have taken many births. This particular location, this form, this shape of this personality whom you consider your relative is also one link in a long chain of the developmental process through which they have passed. They have an infinite series of connections behind and an infinite series in the future also, so that you cannot know who it is that you are actually seeing with your eyes.

Something is pressing forward from behind as the past; another thing is pulling from the front as the future. That which you are going to be in the future also conditions what you are now, apart from the pressure exerted upon you by what you were in the past. What you are now is a mysterious organisation of a presentation – a picture, contour, form, which has been created before you by a pressure from one side and a pull from another side. It is something like one person pushing you from the back with great force, and another person pulling you from the front with an equal force. You do not know what exactly your position is at that time. It is said that every object in this world is a pressure point, rather than a solid something.

This definition of the object applies to us also as so-called subjects. When you look at me, I am in the position of an object of your perception; when I look at you, you are in the position of an object of my perception. You are the subject when you look at me, and I am the subject when I look at you, so both of us are subject as well as object, from two different standpoints. And you know well how a subject knows itself to be, as distinguished from the object. My consideration about myself differs from my consideration of you; the consciousness which is in me as the subjectivity distinguishes itself from you as an object outside. And you cannot look at me and consider me in the same way as you are considering yourself. Though many a time we have a mutual coordination among ourselves, and under special circumstances we try to give up this subjectivist attitude or the objectivist outlook, and mutually, like partners in a business or friends who never get separated, do act; yet this coming together of two people in friendship or collaboration is like two broken glasses getting joined together by a glue. There is here an artificial conjoining of differences.

The whole point is that this individuality is a big illusion before us. Inasmuch as every object, every person, every thing is a location at a particular point in space created by a pressure exerted by an infinite past of impressions of previous lives and an infinite future that is summoning from the front, things are not in one place only. They are everywhere. Since things have connection with the infinite past and connection also with the infinite future, we cannot say to which place we belong. We do not seem to be belonging even to this particular form of creation. There have been infinite types of creation, through which process we have passed so that we belong to all the realms of being at once. To all the seven planes above, seven planes below, as the Purana scriptures say – to all these we belong at the same time. Then, where are we sitting at this moment? We are sitting everywhere!

To decondition ourselves from all clogging involvements is the first step in Yoga practice. Unless we know what we are and what the world is about, how will we live in this world? We commit blunders everywhere because of not knowing what we really are and what other people also are.

In the Yoga System of the study of mind, a deep analysis has been made. The types of impressions created by objects of perception on the mind are also of different hues. It is not the same kind of cloud that is sitting on the mind, one over the other. There are different kinds of impressions. At least two types can be distinguished, about which also we have little knowledge. I mentioned to you that impressions constitute mental processes so that we are not thinking except through these clouds of pressures impressed upon the mind. What are these impressions? There are two types. Yoga psychology designates these as pain-giving and non-pain-giving. Certain impressions in our mind give trouble and sorrow, create anguish, disturbance, mental tension, emotional turmoil. There are certain other impressions which prevent us from knowing a thing as it is, but do not actually cause pain, consciously.

When you look at a tree in the forest, an impression of the tree is formed on your mind, but you are not in any way agitated by looking at the tree. You are not disturbed by looking at a mountain, or a river flowing. "Let them be there," because you are not concerned with them. Impressions created by objects with which you do not have an actual or direct concern at the present moment are known as aklishta-vrittis in the language of Yoga psychology. A vritti is a psychosis, a way in which the mind operates. It is aklishta – it does not create klesha in the mind.

The non-painful impressions are capable of creating conditions for rebirth, whereas the painful ones may be producing suffering for the time being. We do not bother about looking at the world as it is, but we worry very much about anything else which is pricking us like a needle from moment to moment. The aklishta-vrittis arise due to the externally oriented structure of the perceptional faculties.

When we love or hate a thing through a process called raga and dvesha, wrongly considering that the particular object is of this kind or that kind, we create a painful impression in our mind because we are here wrongly assessing the object when involved in love or hate. Objects are not so nice that they require our affection; they are also not so bad that they deserve our hatred, or rejection. Neither are things beautiful that we should go on looking at them, nor are they ugly that we should turn away from them. Both these ideas in our mind about things are erroneous psychological gestures. These vrittis are klishta, causing klesha, pain.

Inasmuch as our notion about a thing is ultimately wrong, our loves and hatreds also are prejudices, irrational, which cannot be justified in the end. As unjustifiable impressions are created in the mind through wrong notions, we look at things in two different ways, wanting to grab and also reject a thing at the same time. Every perception or thought of ours in regard to an object is a double activity of the mind wanting to acquire and reject.

We have an audience just now which is a concentrated presentation before us into which we would not like anything else to intrude. You would not like a cow just to run in and disturb everyone. We do not like a dog to howl just now in front of us here. You all would reject that possibility and welcome only that condition which is conducive to the presentation of the audience. You are not thinking of a dog or a cow just now, but subconsciously the potentiality is there. You do not wish something of that kind to take place. That you are not consciously thinking of that which is to be rejected, does not mean that its potential seed is not present in the mind. The possibility of a rejection is already in the subconscious and unconscious levels together with a conscious engagement in a cordial situation. The conscious mind is not the whole mind. What you are thinking just now through the conscious level is not what you are capable of thinking the whole day or throughout your life. Tomorrow you can think in another way when the present conscious operation ceases and subconscious impressions come up later on into operation. Love and hatred are the obverse and reverse of the same coin.

What, then, are you going to grab and reject in your meditational practice? Though during the initial stages of meditation certain things are supposed to be set aside and not allowed to enter into the mental process, afterwards they also have to be taken into consideration, since, in the end, everything is connected to everything else.

This object, this rose flower in front of me, is red in colour. The mind has grasped the redness of the object which is the rose by distinguishing the colour which is redness from other colours which also are available in the world but are not present in this particular object. If non-red things are not existing, the red object cannot be seen. Even when you see some particular thing, the very knowledge and consciousness of the existence of that thing is possible only if there is something else also, other than the object in question. One person cannot be seen unless there are other things different from this person; else, that person will be seen everywhere. The differentiating characteristic of the mind is a subtle activity taking place in us which will trouble us one day or the other because, ultimately, creation is not constituted of double-edged positive and negative forces. There is nothing to be grasped or rejected, loved or disliked, finally. Everything seems to be everywhere because the location, the characteristic, operation of anything is connected with similar processes of every other thing in various ways.

We have to bring to our memory the very same psychology of human nature as a pressure point of influences exerted by an infinite past and an infinite future so that no one exists in the present only. All persons exist in the past, present and future simultaneously. We are now in the present moment of time; that is what we are thinking. But we are in the past and future also, because what we are going to be influences us just now and is summoning us as a future possibility – "Beware, I am coming; receive me in the proper way." The past also is pressing us – "I am also here and you must pay my dues." Where is the present? It has vanished in a second. The present is an illusion, an airy juncture point of past and future.

So also is the case with all objects in the world. The location of an object is only a so-called one of a point which also is a presentation of pressure exerted by its relationships with other things to the right and to the left, above and below, everywhere.

This much of detail about what we are and what the world and objects are is the essence of the reference I made yesterday when I quoted two verses from the eighth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. For your memory, I am repeating what I told you yesterday. Firstly, there is an aksharam brahma, the Absolute. There is a descending of this Being in a cosmical fashion, which is the adhibhuta, the universe that is presented before our senses. Then the Supreme Being, brahma, appears as a divinity presiding over all things: that is adhidaiva. The individuality separates itself from the cosmical setup and becomes adhyatma, the individual. Then there comes about a necessity for the adhyatma to come in contact with the Universal Whole from which it has got separated. That relationship between adhyatma and the cosmical aksharam brahma, adhibhuta, adhidaiva, is what I designated yesterday as adhidharma – the law determining the perception of the world. Adhidharma is also the principle of righteousness.

We are supposed to be moral and good in our behaviour, and we have to establish a harmonious relationship as individuals with the Cosmic Whole out of which we have come, from which we have been separated, and with which we have to maintain a proper relationship always. Dharma, righteousness, is the manner in which we have to conduct ourselves in relationship to that to which we belong; it may be this world or the whole range of all the planes. Then there is the adhiyajna, which is the field of activity, the world through which we are working, in which we are stationed and operating.

There is death of the individual taking place one day or the other. The conditioning factors of finitude call for the dissolution of the human personality because it is untrue to the Universal Integration of Being, as it maintains an egoistic individuality. This necessity, this dread before every individual living, is adhimrityu, the principle of death. But there is a saving factor which also I mentioned: adhimoksha, the law of freedom.

The forces of creation, evolution, involution, all these activities (mental, psychological, intellectual, educational, social, industrial, political, etc.), are a virtual groping in the dark, searching for that which one cannot see with the eyes. What is that which we are seeking? Freedom. All things in the world, from the lowest atom to the highest creative process, tend to ultimate freedom and none wishes to be restrained by an external power. Ultimate freedom is called moksha.

Whose moksha? Who is attaining liberation – the impressions created on the mind, or the objects outside? These names I mentioned just now, aksharam brahma, etc., the whole set of these operative principles, have to rise up to moksha at once. Moksha is not anyone's individual prerogative. Salvation is a universal attainment which passes understanding. When we wake up from dream, the entire phenomenon wakes up. We will never be able to understand how it is that the whole world rises to moksha and no finite thing goes. "I find that many people must have attained moksha by this time; the world is still continuing and if I attain moksha, the same thing will be there, the world will be there, my brothers will be here. They are not going to moksha when I go." This feeling is an idiocy in the brain. The mind will not allow one to think correctly. When one attains moksha, the whole cosmos rises up together. We may be wondering how it is possible that the whole cosmos comes up in our moksha. Here is the reason.

We are connected to all things; we cannot disconnect ourselves from anything. So when we rise up, the total that we are comes up. Otherwise, if we maintain the prejudice that the world has to be there even after moksha, then even if we attain liberation, we would be seeing this world once again from there as an object of perception. When we wake up from dream we are not thinking of our brothers that we saw in the dream – we might have had a family in dream, for instance, but when we woke up, what happened to them? Are we saying now: "Why did I leave everything? My children are all crying in the other world, from where I have come now. I have to take care of them and it is a great trouble. I have woken up leaving below all my property and relations."

The point is that they have entered into the very mind that is thinking in that way. This subtlety is difficult to grasp. The dreaming individual, together with the things that were seen in dream by the individual, got totalled up into the mind that is waking and all the world of dream entered into the waking mind. Likewise, this whole cosmos will be rolled up into the Cosmic Mind which we enter in moksha, the universal liberation of consciousness.

Sometimes a stupid idea arises in the mind of people: "What is the good of my going to moksha when others are all suffering here? Let me wait until others also go." There are really no such things as 'others'. They are there and are as important as our brothers in the dream process. The whole thing ascends, a single sea of being. For, if the whole thing cannot go, no one also can go. There is no 'part – moksha'; it is entire, or it is not there.

Now, inasmuch as this is the situation in which we are placed, and we have taken time to know honestly and dispassionately something about our own selves in a manner different from what we have been thinking about ourselves and the world, we may feel confident we have purged ourselves a little bit of the dross of our wrong thinking and we are on the way to correct thinking.

Neither am I as I appear to be, nor are you as you are appearing. I am something quite different from what I am looking like here before your eyes, and you are also quite different from what you appear to ordinary perception. The world also is quite different from what it looks like. It is a totally different thing, other than what it appears to be before our eyes. The camouflage has to be lifted. The masquerading veil has to be torn asunder and we have to see the object 'as such' in meditation, and not as it appears to the senses and the mind.

The appearance of the object as distinguished from the real object is also a study which we have to make when we take to meditation proper. Meditation on an object is not a meditation on the object as it appears to the sense organs; that would be meditation on an illusion. We have to catch the object in its root, as it is. We have to become truly friendly with the object, since we seek union with it. How can I be friendly with you unless I understand you as you really are? If I know you only superficially, my understanding of you also would be superficial and my friendship with you also would be inadequate to that extent.