by Swami Krishnananda
Yoga tries to straighten this crooked way of thinking into a straightened operation of consciousness by the elimination of the entanglements that are at the back of this kind of thinking. And this it does by what is called concentration of the mind. Yoga is concentration. It is meditation.
The earlier stages of concentration consist in, as I mentioned a few minutes before, delimiting the circumference of the objects in which one has to get engaged. Consider your position in society, in your ashram, in your temple, in your office. In the circumstance of your placement in that particular type of society, what are the unavoidables? Concern yourself with only those things, and totally abrogate connection with avoidables. A thing with which you have to exist, and without which you cannot exist at all, is a necessity and an unavoidable. A thing without which you can be comfortably living, and no problem will arise, is an avoidable.
So, a yoga student has to be very intelligent, especially in psychology: Is it possible for me to reasonably exist comfortably without it? That which is not necessary for me, I shall have no connection with it. That which is actually essential for my survival is permitted. After that, the mind gets concentrated on the lessening of the number of these items into basic needs which concern just the existence of a person.
Life is very sacred. It cannot be destroyed. We have to live somehow or the other. Under no circumstance can one annihilate life, because what we call life, whether in the body or in the mind, is a necessary result that has followed from the pressures exerted by certain karmas of the past which hunger for expression, fulfilment and satisfaction; and as long as the hunger of those impulses is not appeased, this body cannot be given up.
If by any kind of mistaken thinking one neglects to give sufficient attention to the existence of this body and mind, the impulses that caused the birth of this body will revolt and wreak revenge in the next birth and, as the scriptures say, the condition of life will then be worse. Incidentally, suicide is a sin and it cannot be permitted. Nobody can kill oneself, as no one can kill another person. No killing is permitted, either of oneself or others. Otherwise, the natural forces will react in such a violent manner that one can hang as a ghost or a preta in the astral regions. This should not be allowed.
The physical body is a hindrance. It is well known. But it is also a vehicle through which we have to move onward. The vehicle is not ourselves, but it is an essential. The yoga student limits himself to the basic necessities of the survival of the body for the purpose of the concentration that is required to be performed in the manner prescribed in the sections of yoga.
The main question is how, with the aid of this body and with the facilities provided by the mind, we can go ahead. Desires are, here again, obstacles before us. There are desires which pull the mind in different directions. The reason for the pull in different directions is that the mind is not aware that finally no desires can be fulfilled in this world, and any attempt to fulfil desires would only be sowing seeds for further desire. No desire can be extinguished by the fulfilment of it, because the fulfilment of a particular sensory desire will only fan up the desire for further ingratiation, as ghee poured over flames will only increase the might of the flames.
Desires cannot be overcome by the fulfilment of desires. They can be controlled only by the analysis of the very root itself. Desire is a disease, and we cannot perpetuate a disease by pampering it. The origin of it has to be found out and its digressions should become the precondition for its cure. All desires are the seeking of the mind to find freedom, perfection, unlimited happiness and eternal existence. Wrong is the way it adopts for the achievement of this purpose.
Desires arise on account of the perception of varieties of things in the world through the sense organs, and the insufficiency that one feels in one's own self becomes the proportion in which the desire darts upon other objects. The more is the insufficiency that we feel in ourselves, the stronger is the desire that we have for things, so that a person who is hunting for hundreds of things in the world for material comfort is the poorest of persons psychologically, intellectually, spiritually. The more adequate we feel in ourselves, the lesser is the need to contact things outside. The contact of the sense organs in terms of objects is a way attempted by the mind and the sense organs in this way or that way to patch up the lacuna that is felt in oneself.
Desires vary. It does not mean that everybody has the same desire, because the vacuum that one feels in oneself is of a different category in different persons. Each person has some kind of peculiar want, and the peculiarity of the want is the reason behind the peculiarity of the desire that is manifested by that person. And because of the variety of these peculiarities, there is clash of purposes. Wars take place in the world because the individual is uniquely constituted psychophysically. Yoga goes into the depths of this psychophysical predicament and proclaims once and for all that the obstacle to the achievement of spiritual freedom is the projection of consciousness in terms of objects outside. Freedom is attained in consciousness.
Where is the freedom that we are asking for? It is in us. It is an experience. Freedom is an experience an experience in a state of consciousness. So finally, freedom is a condition attained by consciousness, which is our essential nature. We are essentially consciousness. The body is not us. The consciousness that is permeating the body makes us feel that we are the body; and the consciousness that projects itself outside in terms of pleasurable objects also sometimes makes us feel that we are connected with those things.
We love objects. We hug things, and feel it is impossible to live without certain things on account of the consciousness projecting itself outside through the sense organs in terms of those things which are wrongly felt to be a part of one's own self. So it is necessary for the yoga student to see that consciousness does not leak out through the apertures of the sense organs. Conservation of energy is the basic condition of yoga.
Shakti we have to develop shakti. Strength has to be generated inside. The strength is already there. As the possibility of attaining utter ultimate freedom is in us, all the necessary appurtenances for the achievement of that is also inside us. We have the hope of attaining it. We have the assurance of it, and we also have the instruments necessary for it. We don't require any help from outside. No material object is required in the practice of yoga. We don't require anything except our own selves. We are the medium that is required for the practice of yoga; and we are nothing but our mind and consciousness.
The adjustment of consciousness in a harmonious manner is yoga, finally. The harmony is disturbed by its moving outward in terms of external objects. An imbalance is created at once as long as the consciousness is thinking of external things, and the imbalance increases and the weight sometimes is more on the other side when the desire is very intense. People who love intensely become the objects of their love. They do not anymore exist, and sometimes they would like to perish for the sake of that which they love. This is a tragedy to which a person can reach when concentration on objects becomes very extreme.
The more we love things outside, the less are we alive spiritually. In order to be alive in terms of objects of affection, we have to die inside to that extent. A part of ourselves, or a part of the soul, has to die in order that we may live in the objects of sense.
Thus, love is not a good thing, nor is hatred, because love and hatred mean one and the same thing. They are not two different things. They are only two shapes taken by a single impulse to tear the personality into pieces in terms of objects and subjects. By the methods of pratyahara, dharana, dhyana these prescribed, well-known terms in yoga practice the consciousness is withdrawn and centred in itself. The centring of consciousness itself is called yoga, and the centring of consciousness in objects is called bhoga. The result is rhoga, and disease will result.
All this sounds very good. But we will find that it is very difficult to prevent the mind from contemplating on desirable objects, and from concentrating on objects which it hates. Never will it permit us to have it centred in its own self. The power of the sense organs is so overwhelming, like the waves of the ocean. Terrible is the impulse of the sense organs. Even the waves of the ocean may sometimes subside, but the waves of sense impulses will not subside. It is a perpetual anguish of consciousness to run out of itself and become another.
It is said that in creation, consciousness attempted to become other than itself in a cosmical way. God became another, as it were, in creation; this is what we hear. This so-called anotherness of consciousness originally felt cosmically now becomes the great sorrow of all mortals, where the impulse to become another to become other than one's own self has become the very meaning of existence itself.
Originally, during the creative process of the Almighty, it is supposed to be a great joy. An abundance of the bliss of God manifested itself as this variety of creation; so the scriptures tell us. As long as one is conscious of having become many, it is a great bliss indeed. But if the consciousness of the One having become many is absent, and the concentration of this manifoldness becomes intense, it takes possession of the consciousness. The cart is put before the horse. The object controls the subject. Matter buries consciousness inside. And this has happened to us. Our mind and consciousness are practically dead under the pressure of the heavy body which is lumbering in the form of this personality, Mr. So and so, and so on. It has to be gradually brought out of this shackle of the physical encasement.
Pratyahara is the withdrawal of consciousness from entwinement, entanglement in objects of sense. Dharana is concentration on one given object only. The one given object later, in a highly advanced stage, becomes a universal object. In the beginning, it is many things. Later, it becomes only certain things. Afterward, certain things also vanish and only one thing remains.
The area of the operation of the mind should get gradually delimited in circumference until its object is fully achieved in concentration on one thing. You may be wondering how it is possible for a person to achieve all things by concentrating on one thing. The reason is that the whole universe is one single object.
It is not true that there are many things in this world. As many organs constitute only one person a multitude of anatomical parts do not make many persons the many things apparently visible in the world are not actually many things. They are the fingers and the noses and the ears and the eyes and the limbs of one single entity which is the object proper. The object that God perhaps created, the universe as we call it, is one single thing. Therefore, to concentrate on any part of this universe would be to concentrate on the universe itself, just as to touch any part of the body of a person is to touch the whole body due to the organic connection of the parts.
We do not usually realise that it is so because of the harassment caused by the sense organs which multiply these desires in terms of the ramification of consciousness in a fivefold manner. Fortunately, we have only five organs. Otherwise, if we had more organs, we would have been thinking in a hundred ways.
The world is only one object; it is not a bundle of many things. Hence, yoga succeeds in achieving contact with the whole world by concentrating on even one aspect of it. Any form that we conceive in our mind in this creation may be adequate for the purpose of our consciousness entering through it into the very substance of what it is made of. This is the secret of concentration. Any object can be taken as an object of concentration, provided it pleases us, satisfies us, and we consider it adequate enough to satisfy us emotionally, and not merely intellectually. The object of meditation should be emotionally attractive, intellectually very clear. This is the Ishta Devata usually spoken of in yoga practice. An Istha Devata is the god that we have created before us.
The god is any part of the cosmos. Anything is a god. As I mentioned, any part of the body is that person. So we need not go on hunting after gods or searching for too many things in the world for the purpose of concentration. Anything is good enough, provided the concentration is wholehearted and entire. The entirety of the concentration on the object is most important, and there should be no dual fractioning or partitioning of mind in terms of anything else.
Concentration becomes complete when it precludes even the consciousness of there being space and time outside. There should not only be no consciousness of objects outside, but not even spatial distinction should be allowed in that act of concentration. The pouring of consciousness wholly into that chosen object becomes so complete that one becomes that itself. Yoga tells us in that state of complete absorption the subject and the object coalesce in such a manner that we cannot say which is the object and which is the subject, whether the object is meditating on the subject or the subject is meditating on the object. They become united. And because of the fact that all objects are part and parcel of one single organic structure called the universe, we can enter into the very soul of creation by concentrating on anything in this world.
This practice is greatly described in wonderful detail in the Yoga Shastras like Patanjali Maharaj's Sutras, the Bhagavadgita and also the Upanishads, all which you must read at the feet of a great Guru.