A- A+

Yoga as a Universal Science
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 17: Empiricality and Transcendentality

The communion sought in meditation is such that its meaning has to be properly understood before the practice is made to commence. There is a double activity which goes on at the time of meditation—one aspect being a separation of oneself from those conditions and factors which have separated the individual from the essence of the objects; the other aspect being the actual entry of the very substance of the meditator into the substance of the object. There are conditioning factors that persist in creating a difference between the meditating consciousness and its object, space and time being the foremost among them. The person who attempts to meditate is a phenomenal individual located in space and time, in the same way as the object is located. Inasmuch as the two, namely, the meditator and the object of meditation, stand on a par and belong to a similar degree of reality, inasmuch as both are involved in the complexity of space and time, there is a difficulty of an obvious nature in attempting the communion of subject and object through meditation. As was noted in the last chapter, A is A, and B is B. A cannot become B. This is the philosophy of empirical life. What one is, that alone one is, and one cannot become another. This is simple logic, and this logic is the sorrow of man, which keeps him tied to a conviction of his separatist existence, separate from everything else, each of which is also separate from all other things. There is an interference of space and time in every little thing in this world, not only outwardly, but even inwardly. Externally we perceive the isolation of objects—persons and things—on account of the space and time factors conditioning the existence of these objects, and inwardly, we are unable even to think except in terms of space and time. Even the mind operates spatially and temporally. So, there is an insistence of a very vehement type, outwardly in society, and inwardly in the mind, towards an affirmation of utter isolation and self-existence, self-affirmation, and love of one's own individual life to the dread of death. The aspect of meditation which severs oneself from the relationship with those factors which serve the individuals is known in the Bhagavad Gita as duhkha-samyoga-viyoga, a separation from contact with the causes of pain. So, it is separation from a union; it is isolation of oneself from conditions or factors which contribute to the union of everything with the limitations of space and time. This is the crux of the whole matter in meditation. The personality of the meditating consciousness does not forget its earlier placement in the context of social values. This is the reason for distraction and jumping of the mind in meditation. No one can be free from these difficulties in which the mind finds itself the moment one sits for meditation, because the meditator is a temporal individual, outwardly as well as inwardly, socially as well as psychologically, and he cannot get over these limitations. The hardship may well be compared to one's attempt at climbing on one's own shoulders, a practically impossible thing, yet something to be attempted if the intended communion or union is to be successful.

Invisible Factors that Connect Us With the Universe

Every individual, every man, everything in the world, has a double character of empiricality and transcendentality. Philosophers describe this situation as being empirically real and transcendentally ideal. We are not living only in this world even now. We are living in other worlds also. From the bottom of our feet to the top of our head, we touch the heavens and the nether regions at the same time in a very strange manner by relationships and connections which are not visible to the naked eyes. To every realm of being, we have a relationship, and that relationship obtains even now. However, only one form of it, one degree of its expression, one density of it becomes the object of our sensory perception. The world that we see with our naked eyes now is one type of density in which the whole universe manifests itself or descends in the process of evolution or creation. It does not therefore mean that other densities are not there. There are realms that are invisible to us. There are things that are invisible to us in our own internal structure. We cannot see our pranas, we cannot see our mind, we cannot see our intellect, we cannot see the five koshas, the five sheaths of the body. We cannot see our own selves as we truly are. But, we see ourselves as we appear in our external, empirical relationship of space and time. We are cosmic individuals, at every time, in any state of affairs, wherever we be, in hell or in heaven. The difference is only tentative, and not real in itself. So, when we touch the borderland of meditation, in the real sense of the term, according to the requirement prescribed by the system of Yoga in Patanjali's style, we are working upon certain features of our life which are not available to ordinary workaday existence. We begin to interfere with our own selves in a very mysterious manner, which is, at the same time, a coming in contact with invisible factors that connect us with all things outside, so that, in an act of sincere meditation, we operate upon the switchboard of the whole universe. Suddenly, all the sleeping dogs begin to wake, and we know what we can expect when dogs that are sleeping are awakened at once. From every side there is an awakening to a new system of values, and things in the world, which were related to us in a particular way, assume a new relationship.

The Empirical Law of Isolation and the Law of Connectedness of Things

In the beginning, there is an opposition of a very stalwart type, a strong hectic opposition from everything. Nobody would like to change his relationships with anything in this world in a way quite different from the one he is used to maintaining. The world is accustomed to a particular habit of relationship, and it cannot brook any kind of interference with it. But, our relationships are empirical, which is the cause of our sorrow. Thus, the importance of making ourselves ready for this arduous task is very stringent. Nobody should attempt this difficult technique, unless one has the internal strength to confront the consequences that follow from an attitude of change in the relationship of oneself with things in the world, not merely with this world of physical frame, but with all the other realms with which also we are connected. That is why the Yoga Sastras tell us that the denizens of other realms put obstacles on our path, which they do not do when we are not openly connected with them. The test of a person is when we oppose that person. This is a law operating everywhere in the case of everything. True, in meditation, we do not try to oppose anyone; on the other hand, we try to befriend everyone and everything. But then, as a result of some meditation, it may appear as if there is a sudden increase in the intensity of our illness, as it often happens in the case of diseases that are to be cured by strong drugs or medicines. This problem arises on account of our double relationship with things. Our connection with anything in this world is not uniform, is not a straight beaten-track dealing. It is a very complicated relationship. On the one hand, we cannot commune with anything in this world. A is A, B is B. Otherwise, our logic falls. But, on the other hand, we cannot get on with this kind of complicated relationship with things where A is A and B is B; if we do that, then society cannot exist. There cannot be any such thing as social co-ordination or amity, for any sort of relationship of anything with anything, if A is always A, and B always B. Our endeavours in the different fields of activity in life, and our aspirations and loves and hopes in our own minds, tell us that A is not always A, and B is not always B, really at all times and under every circumstance, though it may appear to be such under certain given conditions. So, this peculiarity of A or B which confines them to their own framework of individuality, this peculiarity, is our obstacle which may come in the form of an angel from heaven or a so-called friend from this world itself. It can take any shape and stand before us like a hard impregnable fortress, which we cannot pierce through.

Problems arise from two sides, outwardly as well as inwardly. There is no such thing as a merely inward problem, or a merely outward problem, because the whole world is a complete whole in integrality, and therefore, everything is everything else also. So, to the world, there is no inside and outside. To us only, it appears as if there is something inside, as distinguishable from that which is outside. So, the law of connectedness of things, which does not see any distinguishing factor between the outside and the inside of things, compels us to place ourselves in this quandary of not being able to do anything either way. So, in certain places, Patanjali tells us that the sorrow of the individual is the union of the seer with the seen. But, from another angle of vision, the sorrow of the individual is the incapacity of the one to be in union with the other. Both statements are correct from two different angles of vision or two different standpoints. The attempt of the individual empirically to come in contact with another thing, which is totally different from himself, is the cause of sorrow. So, the seer trying to come in contact with the seen, is the grief of this world. To grab anything, to possess anything, to enjoy anything or to maintain any kind of true relationship with another, is impossible in this world, because the empirical law of isolation operates, and therefore, there is no such thing as one possessing another thing or holding another as one's own property. There is no property here in this world. Thus, on the one hand, there is an urge to grab, to come in contact with things. On the other hand, there is the insinuation of an incapacity to achieve success in this direction, because of the very nature of things. We are grappling with a very hard situation when we are in meditation. Many of the meditators do not realise what they are actually attempting. We merely listen to certain definitions of concentration, meditation and samadhi and get carried away by the noise of the teachings. But, any amount of adumbration, proclamation or advertisement of the need for meditation cannot touch the fringe of the problem, because the problem is hard-boiled. We have been in this circumstance of spatial and temporal empiricality since ages. We have had several incarnations. We have been born in various forms through the process of evolution; and in every stage of evolution, in every form into which we were born, we were entertaining the same notion of this empirical isolation of ourselves from the others. The impressions formed by these experiences of the past are present in our mind even today, and they persist in a repetition of these experiences and contacts. So, we become our own enemies internally when we try a complete transvaluation of values in the interest of spiritual meditation.

The Role of Dharana in Thinning Out the Vrittis

The two terms ‘vairagya' and ‘abhyasa' mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita and in the Sutras of Patanjali refer to these two aspects of our task—the empirical and the transcendental, the spatio-temporal and the spiritual. The empirical aspect of our task relates to the physical or the psycho-physical being of ours as well as of others. The transcendental aspect of our task relates to the true being of ours as well as of others. In deep concentration on any object, the mind gradually sheds the characters of rajas and tamas that also are present in it, and tends to become transparent to some extent. Normally, the mind is muddled like disturbed water. By deep concentration, we allow the mind to settle down—as turbid waters can be allowed to settle down—so that it can become gradually translucent and transparent. Concentration is to allow the mind to settle in its own self, without being pulled in the direction of other objects of sense. If we go on interfering with the turbid water in a pond, it will be shaking perpetually, and the dirt cannot settle. But, if we leave it to itself, we will find that the water settles down, and in the process, it gradually loses its turbidity and becomes transparent and capable of reflecting the light of the sun. At no time do we allow the mind to settle in itself. We give it work as if it is a labourer, a bond slave. We give it continuous work in the form of cognition of objects, and make it worse by compelling it to take interest in the cognised objects by means of the operation of the twofold vrittis, the non-painful vrittis and the painful vrittis mentioned by Patanjali. In concentration, the mind settles down to one-pointedness, and this settledness is tantamount to freedom from rajas and tamas to some extent, because, when we settle down to a particular type of thinking continuously, the distractedness that pulls us in the direction of other things ceases, and therefore, there is a diminution in the intensity of the activity of rajas. There is tamas, the dark side of things, which generally fixes itself in a state of inertia, unconsciousness being its aim finally. But, inertia is completely obviated in consciousness, inasmuch as consciousness is being maintained. Concentration is not a state of sleep, where we are oblivious of everything and know nothing. Inasmuch as there is a conscious attention of the mind on a given object, there is an avoidance of sleep, lethargy or tamas. And also, inasmuch as the mind is not allowed to think of matters other than the object on hand, there is cessation also of rajas. Inasmuch as rajas and tamas are obviated, sattva remains. And sattva is transparency of the mind in which the object reflects itself in its wholeness, as in a mirror.

We can see the object of concentration within ourselves without opening our eyes. We can visualise the nature of an object even while closing the eyelids themselves. This is made possible by what they usually term as the internal eye. The visualisation becomes possible on account of the transparency and clarity of the mind effected by the preponderance of sattva, to the exclusion of rajas and tamas, as mentioned before. The vrittis become weak. ‘Kshinavritti' is the term used by Patanjali. The vrittis become tender, as if they are going to break like a silken thread. Originally, they were very stout and very vehement, very strong, because of the contemplation of the various isolated objects. Now, that is gone. The mind is concentrating on one thing only, and therefore, the otherwise strong vrittis used to jumping up at the objects of sense are thinned out. The mind becomes clear like crystal. When it becomes clear in this manner, it can reflect the objects within itself. The gunas of prakriti which operate outwardly in the object, as well as inwardly in the mind, release their tensions and permit the coming together of the sattva element present in the subject as well as in the object. Prakriti is a Cosmic Substance which appears as the subject of concentration on one side and as the object of concentration on the other side. The tamas aspect of prakriti appears as the visible object, and another aspect of it appears in a subtle form as the mind cognising the very same object. The gunas of prakriti operate inwardly in the mind, and also outwardly in the objects. This is the reason why there is an affinity seen between the mind and the objects also. But, when there is the transparency of the mind effected in this manner through meditation, by the exclusion of rajas and tamas, there is a closer affinity established between the subject and the object, the seer and the seen. The world comes nearer to us, as it were. We touch it in a real sense, and not merely appear to touch it on its surface as heretofore.

The World, an Illusion; Ourselves, a Mirage

In sense perception, we do not actually come in contact with objects. We only seem to contact. Therefore, our pleasure arising out of this seeming contact is a seeming pleasure, but not a real satisfaction arising out of a real union with things. We never come in union with anything in this world at any time, even with the dearest of objects and the greatest of our possessions. We always remain outside them. There is, therefore, a perpetual anxiety in the mind of every person, under every circumstance, due to the fear of loss of possessed things. Everything that is possessed shall be also lost, because of the nature of the world as a whole. But in meditation, when the conditions that separate one thing from another thing are nullified by the exclusion of rajas and tamas, we seem to really possess things, and not appear to possess them. The originality of things reveals itself and not merely the reflections of them. Who would like to possess the reflection of an object, and be contented with its possession? The contact and the possession is of a reality, and not of an illusion. And every reflection is only an illusion of the original. The world is nothing but a reflection of an originality that is above space and time, and therefore it is that people say oftentimes that the world is an illusion. It is not there as we look at it, or as we seem to conceive it in our mind. The world, as it is in space and time, cannot be regarded as being in its true form. And we too, involved in the very same world of space and time, are in a world of illusion; when we look at our own selves, we are seeing a mirage of ourselves. No one is seeing himself. Everyone is equally deluded.

How Meditation Reveals the Hidden Reality

Meditation cuts at this knot by a piercing focus of concentration, which darts through the veil of rajas and tamas, and stands face to face in utter nakedness of spirit before the object which is truly there, and not merely appears to be there. The well-known components of the process of meditation, known as the dhyatru, dhyeya and dhyana, commingle in such a manner that it appears that there is no movement at all of the psyche, as when the waters of two adjacent lakes remaining on a common level may move from one to the other, and yet may not appear to move at all, because of the common level in which they are. Here, when the transparency of the mind enters into the true nature of the object in concentration and meditation, it would appear as if one is not meditating at all. There is no more effort of concentration at that time. The meditator seems to flow into the object spontaneously, and the object flows as spontaneously into the meditator. Neither the meditator is there, nor the object. In such a situation, no one can say who is where, which is at what place. The consciousness in the form of the vishaya chaitanya, hidden in the object so-called, reveals its new form, and as two lost friends may embrace each other by recognising each other after years of separation, the subject and the object recognise each other in their true form, casting off their masks which separated them originally in the world of sojourn and reincarnation. They see each other as birds of the same feather. The two birds sitting on the same tree, mentioned in the Veda and the Upanishad, begin to recognise each other as belonging to a single realm. Then it is that meditation ceases to be an activity on the part of the meditator. It becomes a spontaneity of existence, a character of being, which unites itself with the very same being of the object, and one cannot say at that time whether the meditator is thinking of the object or the object is thinking of the meditator. Both statements may be correct, and perhaps both activities are taking place.

Subconscious Impressions—A Great Obstacle to Progress in Meditation

This is not merely a well-advanced stage in meditation, but something incomprehensible to the ordinary mind. The struggles, the tensions and the prejudices of the human mind will not permit the entry of the mind into such a state. The person who attempts to enter this state will be pulled back again and again. However much be his effort, he is dragged back. Because we are individuals with subconscious and unconscious prejudices compelling us to remain as human beings, men and women, busy people engaged in activities of this type or that type, in spite of the fact that we are honestly attempting at this union of a higher character, the internal downward pull will not leave us so easily because, oftentimes, we may make the mistake of concentrating and meditating only through the conscious mind, ignoring the subconscious feelings. Who has the time to think of what is inside us? We are busy bodies, utterly busy every moment, and no time to sit for even a second! Therefore, nature succeeds in her manoeuvre. It is one of the tricks of nature to see that we do not find time at all to sit, that we are kept busy always, running hither and thither, so that the inner impressions remain as they are, in spite of the outward appearance of our sincerely attempting to gain a spiritual outlook of life. So, a consciously attempted outward spirituality, religion or meditation, to the exclusion of the problems lying inwardly in the subconscious and the unconscious, will not be successful. Otherwise, religion will become a business, spirituality a kind of activity, and meditation a hocus-pocus. It will not lead anyone anywhere.

The Metaphysical Foundation of Modern Psychology

The great master Patanjali is very honest in disclosing before us the essential ingredients of proper meditation in the true sense of the term. True meditation, according to him, is when we become the object, as it were, because we cannot distinguish between ourselves and the object at that time. ‘Arthamatru-nirbhasa' is the term used. It will be that state where the meditator will not be clearly conscious of the object of his meditation, but he himself would have become the object, resulting in the object meditating on itself, rather than a subject concentrating or meditating on it. When we are concentrating our mind on a tree, for instance, by the act of samyama, a fixing of the attention of consciousness, it is as if the tree is itself thinking, and not as if we are thinking that there is a tree outside. This is the philosophical or the metaphysical foundation of the so-called technique of modern psychology known as telecommunication, telepathic establishment of relationship, and distant healing, and so on. Mesmerism, hypnotism—all these are comprehended within this technique. The success of mesmerism and telepathy lies in this fact of an inward communion eternally being there between the contemplating mind and the object whose distance is maintained by space and time. A person in India may be spatially distant from one in London. It will be difficult to imagine how we could have any kind of influence on that person in London, he being some thousands of miles away. But, that person is not thousands of miles away really. It is an illusion created by the interference of space and time. There is no distance between things, really speaking. One thing is not thousands of miles away from another thing. This is a delusion and a master-stroke which nature strikes upon our mind so that we may not attempt anything worthwhile. Nothing is far away from us, not even the heaven itself, what to talk of London and America.

Abolition of Space and Time in the Last Stage of Meditation

The abolition of the spatial distance between the seer and the seen is the master-stroke in meditation. The meditator must be convinced hundred per cent that it is so. What prevents us from succeeding in this attempt is lack of faith itself. No one has this faith that distance does not obtain between things. We always feel that distance is there. Who can deny distance? We all travel, go places. In spite of that, it has to be conceded that finally distance does not exist between things. As distance does not exist, space is not there. Because space is not there, time also is not there. This is a great revelation before us. We cannot believe this. Our mind will not accept this. The mind will revolt against any kind of driving of conviction in this manner, so that it manages to retain us in this condition of disbelief always. Thus, we are what we are, and we remain as always. But, Yoga is swallowing fire; it is not a mere ordinary word or statement. It is so, really. If this sort of conviction is necessary before we succeed in true meditation, veritably Yoga is swallowing fire. And, are we to forget that we are here for this attainment or achievement? Or, are we here only to erect buildings and maintain papers, files and run to office in the name of a great good that is being done to the world? Are we not in an illusion? Are we not deceived by the trick of Nature? If we are going to acquiesce in this trickstress “Nature” working so dexterously, inwardly as well as outwardly, so much the worse for us. Doubly and trebly we have to guard ourselves against this trick that is played upon us by the ace sorceress, this Nature as a whole, who has succeeded in drowning everybody and throwing them down with the force of her will. Great people there may be in this world, but whatever be their greatness, no greatness will work before Nature. Her greatness is more than that of the greatest people who have lived in this world. She does not care for saints and sages, or even their grandfathers! She is a greater saint. She knows Herself.

So, here is a terrible fact before us, which is Yoga proper. And, Yoga is not an international activity or any kind of activity whatsoever. It is an opening of the bud of the flower of our own heart before the blazing sun of God's Being, and here, the sincerity of our heart will be our guide. Tivra-samveganam asannah, says Patanjali. The intensity within us, our honesty of purpose, will be the guideline here, and we should not be under the impression that everything is in our favour, while we are unable to lift our feet even one inch above the usual outlook of life that we have been maintaining in terms of our bodies and its relations.

So, in the attempt at communion, at meditation proper, there is this transparency of sattva working in the mind, which reflects the nature of the objects by which the apparent differences and distances obtaining between the seer and the seen are broken through and completely extenuated. One enters the other. This state of inter-related reflection of the true being of all people is the Brahma-Loka that is described in the scriptures, the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God that we hear of in the scriptures, the Brahma-Loka, is this very realm of values, where everyone is reflected in everyone else. There is this mutual reflection brought about by the entry of the true being of one thing into the true being of another. This is the last point in meditation, which commingles with what Patanjali calls the final aim of samyama or samadhi, whose objects are the evolutes of prakriti.