by Swami Krishnananda
Chapters four, five and six of the Bhagavadgita in a way dilate upon the discipline that is required in the practise of yoga. Some aspect of it I touched upon yesterday, and the study we made already is the foundational character of spiritual discipline, in a sense. Spiritual discipline, which may be considered to be almost the same as what you regard as self-control, is a many-sided, spiritual effort. The whole of yoga is self-restraint and a simultaneous self-recovery. It is dying to live, as Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to say many a time. The process of vairagya and abhyasa constitutes a sort of dying, for the sake of a living in a higher sense. This dying is not a loss – you will bring back to your memories what I told you yesterday – it is a gaining of the originality of things by awakening from one's involvement in the phenomenality of things. Thus, a rising of the spirit from this world involvement is not a loss of contact or relationship with the world; it is a rising to the consciousness of the true nature of things.
It is hard for the common person, common individual, the lay mind, to appreciate the meaning of this self-recovery or self-establishment, inasmuch as the human mind is so much engrossed in relational contact with objects of sense that the objects and the body of one's own personality have become more real than what you consider as the originality of things which, to our present state of understanding, appear as mere abstractions. Realities look like concepts – while, when we go deep into the matter by a thorough analysis of the circumstances of life, we will realise our experience of this world is a conceptual involvement, a phenomenal association, a contrivance, a makeshift, a tentative adjustment which cannot be regarded as a permanent state of affairs. The transitional character of the world, so much spoken of, is the outcome of a necessity felt in every corner of creation to effect moment-to-moment adjustments between subject and object, on account of it being impossible for any condition to be perpetually in that condition only. The urge of the finite in the direction of the Infinite is a perennial call from the Infinite. It is an incessant movement of the finite towards the Infinite, a flow which is continuous like the movement of waters in a river. Our life may be considered to be such a movement, a flow, an analogy with which we are not very unfamiliar. Life is like the flow of a river, or the burning of the flame of a lamp which appears to maintain a substantiality and a solidity for all perceptional purposes, but is in fact a process rather than an existence.
Thus, the reality of the world seems to be a process rather than being as such. So we are many a time told that man needs to be – he never is; we are to be yet. This is a slant given to the conditions of life in certain discourses of the Buddha, a point made out in Buddhist philosophy concerning the transient nature of things - which has been given a metaphysical touch by certain modern thinkers like the well-known Alfred North Whitehead, a physicist-turned-philosopher, who speaks like Buddha and speaks like Acharya Shankara, speaks like Hegel, speaks like Einstein, and speaks like Plato, from many angles of vision. What we learn from all these discussions and analyses is that this world we live in is not a permanent home of any person. We are located in a particular condition of a process, which is incessantly active, which never rests, and which moves without sleep because of the fact that the relationship of the finite to the Infinite is an indescribable impulse of the whole phenomenal nature in the direction of the heart of all things, the core of all existence, which is a consciousness of an infinite centre operating at the back of all phenomenal diversities.
So, when we enter into the path of yoga, we gradually discover and come to know that in this arduous adventure of ours, we are tending to become more and more non-individual in our perspective, in our needs, and in our operations, so that the practise of yoga ceases to be a purely individual affair – it has relationships with many other things and perhaps all things of which this vast universe may consist. As threads are involved in a widespread fabric, our so-called individuality is involved in this network of creational process. Though due to the hardness of the ego – the intensity of our psychophysical affirmation – we may not be cognisant of our larger involvement in the set-up of things and may grow complacent that we are merely this hard-body individuality, when we analyse our involvement psychologically and we become more philosophical in our thinking, we would be compelled to shed this complacency, and we will be face-to-face with a new vista of things wherein and whereby we discover our involvement in a larger set-up of the nature of the universe. This is a great solace which will be administered into us by the Bhagavadgita as we proceed further and further through the chapters, until we reach an apotheosis of this analysis and the truth is unveiled in a sort of apocalypse – the Vishvarupa to be described in the eleventh chapter.
I try to continue the thread from where I left yesterday concerning the relationship between the lower self and the higher self, to which a reference will been made in the fifth and the sixth chapters particularly. The essence of yoga practice may be said to be summed up in two verses towards the end of the fifth chapter, to be detailed further on in the sixth, and these two verses are concise and pithy: Sparshankritva bahirbahyanshchakshushchaivantare bhruvoh; praanapanau samau kritvaa nasabhyantaracharinau; yatendriyamanobuddhirmunirmokshaparayanah; igatechchhabhayakrodho yah sada mukta eva sah. These two verses sow the seed for the elaboration in the sixth chapter on dhyana yoga or meditation – the integration of personality.
The senses are to be withdrawn from their contact with the objects. The objects are to be shut-out from their relationship with the senses: Sparshankritva bahirbahya. Here, there is something interesting for us to know. The necessity to sever sensory contact with external objects arises on account of a basic error involved in this contact. All contacts are wombs of pain, says the Gita in another place: Ye hi samsaparsaja bhoga dukhayonaya eva te advantah. The desire of the mind to come in contact with objects through the senses arises on account of the mistaken notion that pleasure rises from the objects. As milk is oozed out from the udder of the cow, it appears that objects ooze out satisfaction, joy - nectar seems to be milked-out of the objects by the senses through their contact. This is a gross mistake; there is no such thing taking place. The joys of life arise on account of a circumstance quite different from what we imagine in our minds, out of point altogether from the connection of the senses with physical objects.
Firstly, a real contact with objects is not possible, due to the operation of a differentiating factor which cuts off the subjects from the objects – space and time. This screen, which is hanging in front of our eyes, space-time as you call it, prevents a real communion of the subject with the object; and all contact is finally a desire for such a communion which is never attained. Thus the desire is never fulfilled, finally, because the contact, which is the objective behind the manifestation of a desire, is never really attained. There is only a tantalising phenomenon taking place, misleading the mind and completely defeating the senses of their purpose. The objects repel the senses because of the impossibility of coming in contact with the objects.
The desire for an object, as I mentioned, is a desire for union with the object, possession of the object, enjoyment of the object – by an entry into it, if it were possible, and the bringing the object so close to one's self that the distinction between one's self and the object is abolished in a space-transcending experience; but this is not possible in this world of space and time. We can never really come in contact with anything in this world; we cannot possess anything in this world because of this difficulty. The externality principle which is space-time, or you may call it by any other name – is so vehemently active that it will not permit the coming in contact of one thing with another in the manner of a communion or an entry of one thing into another. 'A' can never become 'B'. 'A' is 'A', 'B' is 'B', subject is subject, and object is object. Thus everyone gets defeated in this world, and no one goes from here with the satisfaction that the objectives of life craved for have been really fulfilled or attained. This is one of the reasons why the desire for contact with objects of senses is futile, finally. Parinama tapa samskara – are some of the points mentioned in a sutra of Patanjali as factors which should dissuade anyone from enshrining in one's heart an inordinate longing for anything in this world. The consequence of the fulfilment of a desire is an increase of the desire, and not a fulfilment of the desire. Na jado kamah kamana upabhogye nishamyati havisha krishnavartye na bhuye eva bhi vartati – Desire flames up like raging fire which is fed with clarified butter when it is attempted to be fulfilled, and desire is never extinguished by its being fed with the fuel of sense objects. The reason is that every enjoyment, every sensory contact effecting this imagined satisfaction, acts as a medium to confirm this error – that joy arises from the objects. There is a reinforcement of the error – that joy is embedded in the objects – so one goes more and more towards the objects, and does not learn a lesson that a mistake had been involved in this craving of the senses for objects. Thus the consequence of the fulfilment of a desire is an increased impetuosity of the desire, not the fulfilment. A desire is never fulfilled; it only gets increased.
Secondly, there is anxiety attending upon the desire to enjoy or possess the objects of sense. There is restlessness of mind before one comes in contact with the object of one's longing, distress regarding the possibility or otherwise of one's success in obtaining one's objective: "Will I succeed, or will I not succeed?" This is the agony and the anguish that attends upon the desire to come in contact with an object. But once the contact is established and there is a conviction that the object is under one's possession, there is another anxiety – namely, "How long will it be with me? I may be dispossessed of it." Because subconsciously we know that no object can be possessed by us for a long time, much less forever, there is a subtle, distressing feeling at the root of our personality, even during the process of the so-called enjoyment of the object of sense. So there is no unadulterated happiness even when we are apparently enjoying the so-called imagined happiness by contact of the sense of sensory objects. There is sorrow at the root of all things, even at the base of this apparent, momentary satisfaction. Such a joy is compared sometimes in our scriptures to the cool shadow that we may enjoy under the hood of the cobra. It is cool no doubt, and we also know many other things about it; such is this world. There is anxiety before, and anxiety during the so-called possession of the object, and we need not mention our condition after we are dispossessed of the object; we are in hell. "Oh, there is bereavement, there is loss and there is destruction. I am done for!" So, we were not happy earlier, we are not happy in the middle, and we are not happy afterwards. So in past, in present and future, desire keeps us in tender-hooks, though there is no joy in this world. Ye hi sparshaja bhogah dukhayonaya, parinama tapa.