by Swami Krishnananda
One thing is common among all the yogas – namely, it is necessary for every student of yoga to realise the error committed by consciousness in its involvement objectively, through names and forms. So, freedom from raga-dvesha is supposed to be the first step in the practice of yoga. Love and hatred is a psychological error, because there is no point in our loving anything individually exclusively, or hating also anything exclusively, because of the well-known fact that all forms which we love or hate are configurations of same triguna of prakriti: rajas, sattva, tamas.
This segregation of forms into the desirable and the undesirable is the work of the peculiar operation of karmic potencies in our body, in our mind, in our pancha-koshas, namely – prarabdha karma. A particular potential called prarabdha is said to be responsible for the manufacture of this body, this body-mind complex. It is so manufactured, so constituted and so formed, as to be fitted into the structure of certain objective relations only and not to all formations in the world. This is the reason why certain persons have certain likes and certain other persons have certain other likes. So there is no universal like or universal dislike known anywhere. It is totally a relative apprehension of the psyche of people.
Knowing this fact, it is essential for the yoga student to gradually learn the art of what is known as pratyahara, or the withdrawal of the powers of the sense organs, together with the mind, in order to centre it in the Self. The difficulty in the practice of this art of self-withdrawal is well known because the senses are vehement in their nature: indriyani pramathini haranti prasabham manah. Wind-like, gale-like, tempest-like, tornado-like – the senses force the consciousness to go out of itself and behold itself in something other than itself in the form of objects. The power of the action of the sense-organs is such that it is impossible ordinarily for anyone to be free from this impulse. So when we wake up in the morning, we open our eyes and we look outward. No one beholds anything inward. The eyes, which are instruments of visual perception, are made as the means of the surge of this consciousness outwardly due to the desire to see, desire to hear, desire to smell, desire to touch, and desire to taste.
The whole of our life is a bundle of this fivefold desire. We work hard for the fulfilment of these various forms, the fivefold desire, until the body mechanism gets worn out, it gets rusted, and the psyche, which is the manufacturer of the prarabdha karma, feels that this instrument is of no utility anymore; it is shed. This is what we call death. But the desire is not over. It does not mean that on the death of the body the desire also dies. It is not taking place like that. The desire potential will again erupt, like a tendril of a plant, in another form altogether, and another set of karmas, a new group of prarabdhas, will be taken out from the original sanchita – the abode of karma, the reservoir of karmas – and new birth takes place.
Hence, it is impossible to get rid of this torture of moving in this cycle of birth and death merely by getting on with the world as we generally do. A herculean effort is called for here – day in and day out – with great deliberation of reason, application of the higher reason by analysis, by power of will, by sequestration, isolation, contemplation, even fasting where it is necessary when the senses are very turbulent, and vigilance, day in and day out. 'Vigilance' is the most important, is the watchword of the yoga student – vigilance in the sense that he does not become unwary of the movement of the senses, subtly in the direction of their own particular objects, in spite of the great effort of withdrawal, concentration.
By philosophical self-analysis in the manner we have conducted now, the mind can be taught the lesson that it is futile on its part to pursue pleasure in the world – which is not going to fulfil its promises. The world can promise many things, but it can fulfil not a single promise. That is the nature of this world. So is the delusion of life. It is running after these promises which are expected to be fulfilled. Never will any object of desire extinguish the desire thereof: na jado kamah kamana upabhogye nishamyati – the desire cannot be extinguished by a fulfilment of desire. It increases, like flaming fire on which you pour molten butter. The yogi, therefore, is vigilant in the observation of the movement of the senses in the direction of their objects.
Because of the detection of the evil in the attachment to things, the evil of there being no such pleasure as expected in the objects, the evil of there being no possibility of the Self being another object outside itself, and the evil of there being no chance of the indivisible Self being divisible as the subject and the object – detecting this threefold evil, at least, the person becomes vigilant. The yoga of concentration commences with this analysis of the situation of Selfhood – the true Selfhood independent on the gaunatva and the mithyatva thereof; and when yoga commences, there is concentration automatically, spontaneously arising, on the true nature of the Self, the all-pervading nature of the Self.
This is the bhakti yoga method of pouring out love on that which is everywhere – God all-pervading, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent. It becomes bhakti, or devotion, or love, when the devout student pours out the whole of the personality on that deity which is beheld everywhere as one's own God. The devotee's God is the only God, because of the fact that there cannot be another God outside that God. Hence, it is an all-consuming object. The divine object of meditation is all-consuming, but the object of sense is not all-consuming. It is a subtle subterfuge adopted by the sense organs to deceive the Self, to defeat its purpose, and to give it nothing in the end, like a dacoit's operation. But, the true Self which is ubiquitous God Almighty, who is the all-Paramatman, all-including Paramatman, is the consuming Self. So the love of the devotee is poured upon an all-consuming, all-inclusive, all-blessing – paramatmatattva, wherein is the analytic method, the Self, or the meditator itself is beheld in the Self that is all-pervading.
The all-pervading nature of the Self precludes a separate existence of the meditating principle. The will comes in as an active force of operation to assist the reason in the meditational practice. So reason, will and emotion or feeling come together as an insight. An intense longing arises in the whole personality at the time of the concentration of consciousness on that great ideal of yoga.
Intense longing is usually not a common feature in our daily life. We long for things, no doubt, but we do not so intensely long for one thing independently of other things. We always exclude certain other things. There is a parochial attachment even in our so-called longing for the worthwhile things of life. But, this longing is not parochial, it is not one-sided, it is not exclusive. Here is an inclusive awakening of the whole of oneself in the totality of one's being. All the koshas rise up in their cooperative activity with the surge of the Self in the direction of what it actually seeks. It is the Atman seeking Brahman, we may say in one sentence.
The yoga student, in a seated posture, collects the energies which are physical, neural, muscular, sensory, psychic and rational, as well as emotional, together into a menstruum, as it were, converting them into a liquid of operation, and he stands there as a 'total person' – strong in will, strong in understanding, strong in feeling and strong in aspiration. The practice has to be continued. How long is it to be continued? – is a question that is raised in some place in the Brahma Sutras. Humorous is the answer: you continue it it till death, or continue it until you attain your attain your goal, whichever is earlier. Anyway, this is to say that sadhana is to be continued forever and ever.
In most cases, the realisation does not come in one birth. Maybe it is possible in one birth – if the ardour is so very genuine, burning is the longing, and insatiable is the desire for God, no other thing distracts the mind, you want nothing else, flaming is the aspiration. If that is the case – so genuine is the longing – the realisation of God, the Self, can occur in this very life. But mostly, the difficulties being manifold: manushyanam sahasreshu kaschidyatati siddhaye – very few in this world will actually feel the need for God, and even among those who feel the need, some one will really succeed in this great attainment; this is a well-known caution exercised to us in the words of the Bhagavad Gita. But tasya ham sulabaha also it is said in one place: "I am easy of approach." But, to whom is He sulabha? Who is nityayukta, who is perpetually united with that ideal, to that perpetually united spirit, this attainment is easy, simple, and possible in this very life. Because it is our own Self, it has to be not a very difficult affair. It is our Self, it is me that I am pursuing finally. It is not somebody that I am pursuing and I am asking for. How is it difficult for me to know my Self? But, that is exactly the difficulty of it.
The nearer an object is, the more difficult it becomes to understand; and, the most difficult object is myself. I can investigate scientifically the structure and pattern of everything in the world, but I cannot know myself – because there is no means of knowing myself. There are instruments of perception and observation and experiment in scientific fields. Where is the instrument for observation and experimentation of my Self? The higher Self has to act here as the means, if at all you call it a means, to withdraw this lower self into Itself: uddhared atman atmanam. The absence of any external medium or instrument in the operation here becomes the actual difficulty. The Self is the knower, the Self is the seeker, and it is also the sought; here is the difficulty. Most difficult indeed, because the subject and the object are identical here – the one who seeks is also the one that is sought. But it should be easy also, because it is so near. It is an ascharaya, great wonder: ascharyavat pasyati kaschid enam ascharyavad vadati tathaiva canyah. Ascharya – a wonder, this is a great wonder indeed; very difficult because it is very near, it is me only, but very easy because it is me only.
This is the intriguing situation of the true selfhood of a person. Yet, the glory that is ahead of us, the magnificence of it, and the necessity for it, and it being the only Truth of existence, should preclude the possibility of any hindrance on the path, and should enable us to gird up our loins for this purpose. Yoga is 'all-life' in one sense. Every form of life is capable of transmutation into the true yoga of the Self. God is pervading everywhere – in every particle of sand, in every nucleus of an atom. That being the case, it should be possible to visualise God in anything and convert any form into the true substance thereof, and transmute our perceptions into an insight of the Self.
Thus is the glory thereof, the difficulty mentioned, and also the quickness of the achievement made practicable because of its imperative necessity in one's life. Glorious is yoga, and that is perhaps going to be, and it ought to be, the principle occupation of every person in life. Yoga is all-life.
Om purnamadah purnamidam purnat purnamudacyate
purnasya purnamadaya purnameva 'vasishyate
Om santih santih santih.