by Swami Krishnananda
The discipline of yoga culminates in meditation, dhyana, which is the subject of the sixth chapter of the Bhagavadgita. The art of yoga is principally the process of self-integration by degrees through the levels of the constitution of one's personality, such that when we reach the point of meditation proper there is a total concentration of the whole of one's being in the direction of the whole of that which one aspires for through this discipline we call 'yoga'. Last time we noted that essentially this is a technique of communing the lower self with the higher self, and I endeavoured to briefly mention the characteristics of the higher self and the way in which we have to understand what this term means. It means many things, and in every sense of the term it has to be taken into consideration when it becomes an object of meditation – gradually by stages. We can today take up the practical side of it as enunciated in the sixth chapter, since the theoretical side is already known to you, to some extent, through our studies conducted earlier.
Meditation is no doubt the fruit of the enterprise called yoga, but it is a fruit of the tree of an inner development into a state of maturity of personality which is prepared for this last attack, as it were, on the problem of truth – of reality. The scattered particularities of human thinking get gathered in this focusing of attention, and we may bring back to our memories here what we understood of the process of vairagya and abhyasa – the detachment which is a requisite in this practice, and a concentration or habituation of consciousness which is simultaneous with it. This mustering in of the forces of one's self, the focusing of them, and the attention to be paid on the object of meditation – all these processes involve a gathering up of whatever we are, in every sense of whatever we are. I am not going to repeat what we studied earlier, since we have not much time and we are to cover the entire study in a few days.
"Whatever we are" is an important sentence to be underlined, and we have to understand first of all what we are, which is another way of saying what 'self' means. We are to understand the self in every sense – in terms of the definition of it as gaunatman, mithya-atman, and mukhya-atman, to which we made reference earlier. So, our self is not merely the imagined location of our consciousness within the body, as it were, but everything that we are, even in an established relationship of ourself – spatially, temporally, socially and otherwise, together with our consciousness of this psychophysical organism – finally to culminate in the mukhya-atman or the primary Self, which is the universality of our essential being.
For the purpose of meditation, a proper place is necessary – Suchau deshe pratishthapya sthiramasanamatmanah. Suchau deshe: In a purified atmosphere, in a conducive environment we have to place ourselves comfortably in a posture for the purpose of this great adventure called meditation. This is a great spiritual worship that we are performing, an ardent invocation of divinity, a soulful devotion that we manifest within ourselves towards the Creator of the Universe, and an inward communion spiritually established between ourselves and all that God has created and God Himself is. So it is a sanctified, sacred, worshipful attitude. It is not a mechanism that we are operating – it is a spirit that gets unfolded in meditation. There is an organic growth, an advancement of personality in the process of meditation, so that we become richer and richer, wider and wider, deeper and deeper, and grow well beyond in our spirit as we advance in meditation. The place that we select for our meditation should be free from distractions. Some more details concerning this matter is available in the Swetaswatara Upanishad. There again we are told that the location for the purpose of our seatedness in meditation should be conducive in the sense that there should be no other avenue to pull our attention in any other direction than the point of concentration we have chosen; this is an important point to remember. There are loves and hatreds, prejudices and emotional tensions to which man is heir and from which no one is totally free. These are important things that we may bear in mind.
The process of meditation is not a struggle in the sense of a fighting with nature, or with what we call the odds of life; it is an establishment of a harmony rather than a conflict, with the powers that be in which we are engaging ourselves. It is more an attitude of friendship by way of communion of feeling that meditation is, than an encounter with an enemy; though in the earlier stages all the opposing forces appear to be our opponents, enemies, and intruding factors. There are stages by which the senses and the mind have to be weaned from the points of distraction, and the highest method should not be applied when one is in the lower stage of evolution. Each one has to realise where one is positioned in this world. There should not be any kind of over-estimation of one's capacities, nor is there a necessity for under-estimation. It is a need for a careful observation of one's self in the true perspective of the position or the station one occupies in this great scheme of evolution. This requires a knowledge of the vaster field of our relationship with the entire scheme of things, where we touch upon the whole story of creation – the cosmological process to which also reference has already been made. When we touch the point of meditation, we are actually coming in contact with every sleeping dog in the whole universe – they will slowly wake up and become conscious of our adventure, our activity and our intentions.
In the lowest stages, such as the one in which we are at present – the purely social, political, and physical – the forces of nature do not actually make themselves felt in our relationship to them. We are so self-centred, physically and socially, etc., that the wider involvement of ours in the larger scheme of things does not become an object of our awareness, usually. But any act of concentration, a pointed attention of consciousness, stirs the atmosphere in a particular manner and this stimulation, communicated to the whole environment of ours by the effort of our consciousness in meditation, rouses into action certain powers whose existence itself might not be known to us earlier. These are the oppositions we feel when we actually enter into the process of meditation in right earnest. In the beginning nothing may seem to happen. For days and months, and even years, it may appear that our meditation is not yielding any result at all, and we are just the same person that we were – but, this is not the truth. Every effort at concentration of consciousness is a great asset, and even if it be not tangible to our outer consciousness or our surface mind, it is there, like a little bank balance. Though it may not become cognisable because of the little quantum of it, it is nevertheless there like an incipient disease or a possible potentiality for a future development of any kind whatsoever.
Things invisible and unfelt are not necessarily non-existent. But, at a particular stage, when this concentration attains some maturity – gets fructified, becomes ripe – it calls, invokes or elicits the attention of everything in the world with which we are connected in our personality. The so-called obstacles in meditation are not inimical forces attacking us. In fact, there are no enemies in this universe. But, certain operations in the universe may look antagonistic to us due to our inability to reconcile ourselves to the modes of their working and the purpose for which they are operating; the defect is not in them but in ourselves. The forces of nature are also manifest in different degrees of density and, if you recall to your memories the earlier studies, you will realise that the forces around us are manifold in nature. In a way we may say it is a single force manifesting itself as manifold presentations or expressing itself in various forms. We are related to other people in the world. This relationship that is social will also evoke the sort of reaction in a particular manner, when we go deep into this technique we are adopting for awakening our spirit that is asleep now. There are other associations, which are purely empirical, also will get stimulated by the act of our concentration if it is accentuated enough.
But these are minor things compared to the more powerful ones – namely, the elemental forces, which cannot easily be roused by a little of meditation. A huge lion, very strong and confident of his strength, will not wake up even if we pelt a stone at it. Only a little puppy will wake up; it will bark at us even if we look at it. But a mighty lion or even an elephant, which knows its own strength, will not in any way be affected by our gazing at it or even with our interfering with it in a mild manner. So our little meditations may not even be felt by this mighty lion of the physical universe. It may be like scratching a rock with a little needle; the effect is so little and imperceptible that it is practically not there. But if it is strong enough, if we are attacking it with sufficient force and it is aware that it is facing a power almost equal to itself, then it wakes up. This is the waking up of the powers which constitute what we may call, in ordinary language, the five elements – earth, water, fire, air, ether. If the powers of the elements wake up, then we are really in a state where we have to reinforce our energies to effectively take up this task on hand.
We are mostly in a state of irreconcilability with the powers of nature. The elements are not in harmony with the structure of our individuality. We can be seriously affected by physical forces – we can be drowned by water, burned by fire, blown by wind, and become destroyed by anything that is material or physical. Hunger and thirst, to mention only the least among them, are some of the consequences that follow from the weakness of the physical personality in its relation to the five elements. These energies do not make themselves felt ordinarily; most of us will not feel this difficulty at all. For us, all is a theory only, because our meditation may not be so strong as to wake up the five elements. But, until we are able to touch the borderland of this novel experience where we are able to face the five elements and become cognisant of their existence as vital elements involving our own lives, until this state is reached, we may be said to be a little novice only in meditation, just a 'kindergarten meditator'. But, according to great teachers of yoga such as Patanjali, for instance, true meditation begins only when we contact reality, at least in one of its degrees.
The grossest manifestation of reality may be said to be the five elements in the cosmological process; and until we reach this stage of vital contact with the five elements, we are cut off from reality in a very significant manner. At present, we are out of touch with reality. That explains our misery in life, our sorrows, and our difficulties even in understanding what the world is made of. Scientific analysis, even logical approaches, will not serve any purpose finally when the world of five elements, or the world as such, is considered to be a total alien to us from the way in which we are encountering the world at present. To us, all people around us are aliens – the world is a foreigner, and it is an object of the senses. It is an object in such a way that it bears no organic connection with ourselves; and we study it, try to understand it, experiment upon it and observe it as something totally different from us, which is the error of pure, classical approach of science. There is a vital, basic organic connection between ourselves and the world of nature which is not available to us when we live in the world of pure sensory operations or are cut off totally from this contact with reality due to our involvement in this extreme, externalising feature called space-time.
Thus, when we are seated for the purpose of this great objective of human life – encounter with Reality – in the earlier stages we guard ourselves, as we put up a fence around our field when we want to grow a harvest, or tend a garden, or grow fruits or vegetables, a fencing, a protection is necessary. We put up a protective fencing around ourselves by means of a dual action on our part – namely, the withdrawal of consciousness from sensory contact with distracting objects, and, at the same time, a focusing of this enriched consciousness upon the chosen ideal of meditation, which perhaps is the essence of vairagya and abhyasa.
In the process of pratyahara, the earlier or earliest stage of meditation, there is a need, first of all, to be conscious of what things there are which will distract your attention. What are your loves and hatreds? What are your inner tensions or frustrations, longings? They have to be dealt with very carefully, as we deal with wild beasts when they are tamed in a circus, or as carefully as a physician will diagnose a chronic illness. Here you should not be in a hurry; it is better to go slow - slow and steady wins the race. You should not be too anxious and emotional or enthusiastic about it. Every step has to be a firm step, a reinforced step, such that you need not have to retrace your steps due to any over-enthusiastic movement in this direction. You have to know your strengths and you have to know your weaknesses also. Here you have to be your own judge, unless of course you have a very competent Guru who may be your judge. Where such a Guru is not easily available you have to be your own intelligent judge; and here you should not be, in any way, over-compassionate in regard to your own self. You should be a physician of your own soul, a judge of your own self, and no hypocrisy is permitted where it is a question of your own welfare and it is not a demonstration before others.