Chapter 18: Merging in the Bosom of the Creator
The main theme of Yoga is the ultimate communion aimed at by all the preceding processes that the seeker goes through. Even as the efforts of an agriculturist or a farmer, right from the gathering of the seeds, sowing in the field, taking care of the tendrils, protecting the harvest and gathering the harvest are all aimed at eating the produce of this hectic labour for months together, even so, whatever we have considered in all the previous chapters up until now tends towards the principal aim of Yoga, which is communion with Reality. Communion with Reality is the last step or leap into the Unknown that the known individuality takes, which is the consummation of all efforts, and the attainment par excellence. This communion, in the context of the system of Yoga as propounded by Patanjali, means attunement with the various evolutes of prakriti, or rather the evolutionary stages of the universe. Each such stage is made the object of concentration, meditation and communion, so that there is a union established between every stage of individuality with every stage of cosmic evolution. As we are concerned mainly with the system of Patanjali, we shall now touch upon the principles of samyama, samadhi or communion as conceived in the system.
Communion—The Final Aim of Yoga
Communion with Reality is samadhi, that is to say, samyama practised for the ultimate attainment. That is the goal, that is Yoga proper. But, every stage of conscious experience may be regarded as a tentative reality with which one has to establish a communion, as for instance, right from the stages of yama and niyama through the various graduated evolutionary stages in the course of the ascent of the individual soul from the lower to the higher, up until the final stage of total merger in the Unknown. Right from yama onwards, every stage is nothing but an attempt at communion. Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama and pratyahara are endeavours in Yoga to commune with different stages of the Reality, different degrees of or intensities of the Reality. But, when we come to the climax of dhyana or meditation according to Patanjali's system, we confront Reality in its true colours, not as it appeared previously to the empirical individual. The major problems of Reality present themselves when we reach the pinnacle of the meditation process. Here, we have to grapple with a very interesting process by which we seem to break through the knot of the empirical constitution of the objects, and enter into their noumenal existence. While, in the earlier stages also attempts were made to commune with the Reality as it presented itself through the environment, right from the human society upwards, when we come to the final level, we have to undertake a new technique altogether of solving the problem of existence, once and for ever. All the stages mentioned earlier are empirical in one sense, even if they are graduated ascents. They are ascents through degrees of empiricality itself. Though, when we rise up higher and higher, the empiricality becomes more and more transparent and capable of reflecting Reality in a larger and more intense measure, nevertheless, they are after all empirical stages only, because of the fact that the object somehow remains outside the subject. Even if the medium separating the subject from the object be utterly transparent, and for all practical purposes it appears that there is no difference at all between the seer and the seen, the transparent medium acts as a separating element. This happens in the earlier stages. But, in the ultimate stage, this should not happen. We do not wish to have even a transparent medium of separation between the seeing consciousness and the seen object, because utter communion is what is attempted now, and not merely an apparent coming together in a fraternal embrace. Friendliness is different from communion. Up to this time, we were all attempting to be friendly with the atmosphere in the different degrees of its manifestation. Now, our attempt is not to remain merely as friends, as brethren, but to coalesce into a single self-identical being. This is the aim of Yoga finally.
The Complex of Name and Form
Now, as per the analysis made by Patanjali, the nature of the peculiar feature which separates or distinguishes the subject from the object is name and form. He does not, of course, use these specific words. His technical terms are ‘sabda' and ‘jnana', definition and notion, or idea. When we conceive or perceive an object, three factors are involved in the apprehension of the object, factors which make it appear as an empirical something. The three factors are: the thing as such or the thing in itself, in its true essentiality (artha); the shape, the contour, the mould into which it is cast by the structural pattern of conception or perception (jnana); and the nomenclature that is attached to this form (sabda). Every object has an essential nature of its own; it stands in its own status. And every object has a form which distinguishes it from every other object. And, because it has a form, it has also a name. Now, when we conceive of an object, we mix up these three factors in the knowledge of that object. To conceive the form of an object—a mountain, a tree, or anything whatsoever—would be to mix up these three factors and create a picture of empirical isolation of the object from the seeing subject.
We cannot think of an object, unless we associate a name also with it. It may be a person, it may be a thing. As every person and every thing seems to have a name attached to one's own form, the name is considered as an essential distinguishing feature characterising each particular object as different from other objects. The moment we utter the name of a particular thing, the form of that object also gets presented in the mind. No object has any name, really speaking. Names are given for purposes of convenience. We cannot distinguish between objects, unless they are defined in a particular manner. The ideological definition of an object is the cause of its being perceived as an object. For purposes of a convenient distinction to be drawn between one thing and another thing, we give names to things, though no thing, no person, has any name in itself, in himself or herself. No one is born with a name. It just does not exist. It is created for a practical purpose. But this is a minor matter, considering the other two aspects of an object which are more significant.
The form of an object is really that which distinguishes it from other objects, and this distinction calls for an identification of itself by a name or a nomenclature. The conception of an object is nothing but the conception of a form that distinguishes it from other objects with different forms. The length and the breadth, the size and the shape, the structure, the pattern, the colour and other aspects—all these go to create the form of an object, and this distinguishing form is the reason behind the name that is given to it. So, name and form and idea go together as one single complex.
Prakriti—The Basic Substantiality Behind All Objects
However, the real thing behind the object cognised need not necessarily be the form into which it is cast during the process of perception. Why this is so is a point that takes us far, far into the realms of the cosmic structure of things, which was discussed in some detail in the earlier chapters. Everything is a manifestation of the one original substance called prakriti. The three forces known as sattva, rajas and tamas that constitute prakriti, with their internal modifications, create the so-called distinction of one thing from another thing. But, it is not true that there are many objects in the world. The whole point is this. The different objects are only different shapes assumed by the one substance called prakriti, while it descends to the pattern of space and time in greater and greater densities. The lower it comes, the grosser is its form, and the greater is the distinction that is seen between one object and another. The difference subsisting between one thing and another thing gradually tapers off into a narrowness of near-identity, when we rise gradually from the lower to the higher principles. As prakriti descends from the original unity of its structure into the principles known as mahat, ahamkara, the tanmatras and the mahabhutas by the permutation and combination of its three gunas, it becomes more and more diversified, finally resulting in the individual forms of personalities and objects. This diversification process becomes worse still in the social relationships of the individual forms. Yoga practice, therefore, is an internal effort of the consciousness that has descended into such a terrible differentiation to rise up into progressively larger unifications of itself with its environment, until, at the stage of what is known as samadhi or samyama, the five elements are confronted directly, and not the ordinary forms of the individualities of persons and things.
The name or the designation, the nomenclature, the idea, and the form, are peculiar to each object. But, the substantiality of the object does not originally vary from the substantiality of another object, because all objects are constituted of the same three gunas—sattva, rajas and tamas. Prakriti is the only thing that is behind all forms, all objects, as the thing-in-itself. The thing as such is prakriti. So, in a particular form of concentration, samyama, in the lowest of its stages, an attempt is made to divest the form of all the names associated with it, and an effort is also made at the same time to see through the form into the substance out of which the form is made. And, because of the fact that the individual subject is formed of the same essential substance as the objects concentrated or meditated upon, the consciousness recognises or discovers the basic similarity of structure in itself and in the objects. It is like two rivers meeting each other or two oceans joining at a particular point in an indistinguishable mass. The five elements—earth, water, fire, air, and ether—are forms of prakriti itself. They are not really five separate or unconnected elements, but one single gross substance appearing in various degrees of descent as ether, air, fire, water and earth, of which five elements also our bodies are constituted. Therefore, it would be difficult to see how there can be a distinction between one thing and another thing.
A Description of the Savitarka Samadhi
When we are established in the samadhi state, if we open our eyes, we will not be able to see anything, in spite of the fact that our eyes are open. This is because the consciousness within has discovered the similarity of being between itself and the outside objects. The spatial distinction vanishes on account of that very same thing being inside the seeing subject and the object that is seen. Time is overcome, because space is no more there. So, arthamatra-nirbhasattvam. The status of cognising the pure substance of the object, as it is in itself, is the ultimate samyama, the so-called samadhi of Yoga. It is the equilibrated consciousness that is called samadhi. The up-and-down distinction that we usually observe between the seer and the seen is abolished, and the substance of the one enters into the substance of the other. Rather, an awareness arises within as to the similarity of structure of the substance of the one and the substance of the other. It is not that communion is created by meditation; it is only discovered as having been there already, right from eternity. This identification of the meditating consciousness with the vast structure of the physical cosmos constituted of the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether—as involved in the complexity of sabda, artha and jnana—name, form and ideation, is the lowest state of samadhi. This is called savitarka samapatti or samadhi, in the language of Patanjali. He calls it by this name, because there is an internal metaphysical argumentation taking place, when the consciousness within struggles and grapples with the vast substance of the five elements in their relationships to name and form. Together with the conception of the objects as involved in name and form, there is also the interference of space and time. As these are very difficult things to imagine in the earlier stages of samyama, space and time are dropped out altogether from consideration at this level, and only the name-form complex is considered. We have to peel out the outer vestments of the object, as we peel out an onion, stage by stage, until we enter into the substance of that thing. In this manner, the outer vestures of the object are gradually cast off by a graduated attempt made to commune one's consciousness with every vesture of the form.
And every samyama on a particular vesture of an object is, at the same time, an achievement of union with that vesture to such an extent that the vesture ceases to be there as a distinguishing mark of that object, or a differentiating feature of that object, it having become one with the meditating consciousness itself. Such is to be the achievement of the meditating consciousness in respect of the other stages or vestures of the object also. The savitarka samapatti is the lowest state of attainment because, here, the gross form of the universal object is the thing that is concentrated upon as related to its name and ideational form, sabda and jnana, in addition to the substantiality of it, the artha, as it is called. Normally, no one can go beyond this stage. To say anything beyond it is a waste of time. But, intellectually and theoretically at least, we can take a peep into the further stages, in consideration of both the attainments that lie ahead, and the necessity to guard ourselves against any kind of distraction of our mind, contrary to the requirements of the meditational process. We can look into the bare outlines of what we can expect, though we cannot expect these for years to come or, perhaps, for some ages to come. Normally, these distant goals remain only as theoretical ideas. These are not easy things even to imagine, much less to come in contact with actually. Even the so-called lowest samapatti is far from the reach of anyone. One cannot hope to have even a glimpse of what it is. Who can rise to the status of the permeation of one's consciousness into the entire physical structure of the cosmos? Can we even dream of this state? However, this is regarded as the lowest of the samadhi stages, the savitarka samapatti.
Higher and Ever Higher Samadhi States
When we succeed in dropping out the association of the object with empirical name and form altogether, and in gaining contact with the object vitally, in its essential substantiality, where our substance becomes one with it—perhaps, this is the true transubstantiation we hear of, we are in a higher state of attainment which is known as nirvitarka samapatti, where a grappling with, or an argumentation about, the relationship of name and form with the substance does not any more arise. Consciousness becomes giddy, unable to stand on its own legs, and feels as if it is melting away into nothing or, perhaps, everything. This is the height of religious consciousness that one can imagine, the pinnacle of spiritual attainments, and the last point in Yoga. But even this is not enough, says Patanjali.
Patanjali wants to make us mad by saying that even the nirvitarka samapatti is not enough, because the stages of prakriti are not exhausted by these considerations of our attunement with the grosser forms of prakriti as the five elements, known through the samapattis as savitarka and nirvitarka, because higher than the physical elements are the tanmatras—sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa and gandha—the forces which are the essential constituent principles of the five gross elements, something like the electric energy that is behind the formation of things. An energy of vibrations is there behind the forms and substances of things. We can only say this much, because we cannot see these energies. We cannot imagine what this electricity is or what this vibration is. But there is something, a vital permeating vibration. This is the principle behind the concrete forms of objects, and the principles are called the tanmatras. The tanmatra is the principle of any particular substance, the ‘that' as such, ‘Tat' as it is called in Sanskrit. The ‘that' is not the same as the ‘what' mentioned by philosophers sometimes. The ‘that' is invisible to the eyes and inconceivable to the mind. But, the ‘what' is the descriptive form, the analytical feature of a particular object. Or rather, the ‘that' is the noumenon and the ‘what' is the empirical form. So, the ‘that' or ‘that-ness', apart from the ‘what-ness' of an object, is the tanmatra which is there again to be confronted in another stage of samapatti which is known as the savichara, when it is associated with the relationship of it with space and time. The last thing that will leave us is the notion of space and time. With all one's effort, we cannot get out of it, because we ourselves will cease to be, the moment there is a cessation of space and time. Our existence is nothing but space-time existence. If space-time is not there, none of us can be. So, the conception by the internal meditating consciousness, of these higher principles of prakriti, beyond the five gross elements, in relation to space and time, at the time of communion, is known as savichara samapatti. It is savichara, because a kind of internal analysis is still taking place—in a very high sense, of course—as to the proper relationship of the tanmatras with space and time. We cannot overcome the limitations, or the distinguishing characteristics, of space and time, as long as we remain as a perceiving, cognising, meditating consciousness outside that on which we meditate or which we conceive in our mind.
The seer becomes the seen, consciousness becomes matter, the meditating principle becomes the very thing on which it meditates. It becomes the ‘other' thing, and does not merely conceive, or have an idea, of the other thing. “To know is to be” is the point we arrive at in direct cognition and realisation, when we come face to face with the structure of the space-time process which conditions even the subtle vibratory principles known as the tanmatras. When even space and time are overcome, and we are one with the tanmatras, we become an omnipresent something; we are then in nirvichara samapatti. We become practically omnipresent. We permeate the cosmos. We do not remain any more as a ‘you' or an ‘I'; that has gone forever. It has gone forever, never to come back. A great joy surges forth within the omnipresent consciousness. Unthinkable, incomprehensible, undetectable, indefinable, ungraspable—such is the bliss that bursts forth within oneself on account of having perceived, grasped, possessed and enjoyed all things at one stroke. A joy which cannot even be dreamt of by even the richest man in the world, or the greatest emperor of the universe, enters into the being of the meditating principle, not on account of being in possession of the universe, but on account of having become one with it. The universe rises above its relationship with its own contents, which earlier appeared to be outside itself, and gazes at its own self as a completeness, as a mass of being which has gathered its corns into a granary of its totality. And Self-realisation of the universe takes place, not the individual self-realisation, of a he or a she, but the universal Self-realisation, where the cosmos recognises itself as it really is. This joy is an experience which is designated by Patanjali as sananda samapatti, an attainment attended with great joy, bliss. All the words in the dictionary cannot exhaust the content of the significance of this joy. A bare universal Self-consciousness remains as ‘I-am-What-I-am', or as one is sometimes told, ‘I-am-That-I-am', or simply ‘I am', or even more simply ‘I'. All words are useless in the end. No word is capable of conveying any sense here. The richest literature and the brightest word that one can think of in any language pales into an airy nothing before the requirement of this mighty experience of the universal ‘I', which is God-Consciousness or God-Experience. There can be nothing more than this. How can there be anything more than God-Experience? This is the Cosmic ‘I' asserting Itself, the sasmita samapatti, an attainment where ‘I' alone remains, but an ‘I' which is divested of the ‘you' and the ‘he' or ‘what' aspect, freed from space and time itself, what to speak of objects of perception and knowledge. The ‘I' that one becomes in this stage excludes everything that can be designated or conceived as the ‘you' or the ‘what', a Total Subject which has no object outside it, and therefore cannot be called a ‘subject' at all. It is not even an ‘I'. It is nothing that one can ever hope to think in one's mind. This is sasmita samapatti, the lofty samadhi.
An Utter Death for an Utter Eternity
And, as a tyrannous creditor will not go without extracting the last drop of blood from our body, and ruthless he shall be in extracting this from us, so Patanjali does not leave us even at this. Like a leech, he catches us again, and wants to tell us that there is something more than this. Patanjali is more than a Shylock, and will not be satisfied with even all the blood that we have, so he extracts the last quintessence of our being itself and sees to it that it is not there. We are abolished totally, root and branch, and we are no more to be retained in the memory of anyone. Our memory even should not be there. Such a tyrant, such a despot, it is hard to imagine. But, such is Yoga. The despotic, tyrannical attitude of Yoga is such that it will not permit even the memory of our existence, even after cutting off all our existence totally. That ultimate self-annihilation in the attainment of an ultimate Self-gathering and experience, a dying to live, a total relinquishment for a total fulfilment, an utter death far an utter eternity, is known as nirbija samapatti, the final samadhi. We do not know what it is, and the less that is said about it the better.
So goes Yoga. And all shades of Yoga come together here in their last requirements. Whatever the path that the seeker may pursue, he will find that he is here on this point ultimately. Whatever be the religion that he may be practising or may belong to, whatever the spiritual technique that he may be adopting in his practices, whatever be the aims that he holds in life, all these come together here, in this last point of attainment, which, faintly, the teacher Patanjali attempts to describe in his sutras, taking us stage by stage, step by step, from all the lower categories of cosmic evolution, raising us to the very point at which evolution started, merging us in the bosom of the Creator Himself—call him Purusha, if you like—and seeing that we live the Life Eternal. Here the exposition of Yoga is over.