by Swami Krishnananda
A study of your mind is essential before starting your meditation. A study of the mind is preeminently essential in the practice of meditation, and a study of the mind is the most difficult science in this world. No laboratory is useful and no instrument is helpful, because the subject is the mind of the research worker himself. You cannot get help here. Your professor cannot help you here. You have to take strength from your own mind. The object is not visible. It is inside, and so it is very difficult. How to look at the mind? You cannot see it. Can you see it with your eyes? The mind itself is the eye to see itself. This seeing of the mind is called introspection – the seeing of the mind by itself. It is thought seeing itself. That is called introspection; and meditation commences with introspection of the mind on itself. What am I? What are my capacities, and what are my acts? To what extent can I succeed? It is like a military manoeuvre. You try to study the strength of the enemy in order to conquer him.
Here also it is a very tactful manoeuvre that we have to make because the mind itself is a chameleon which can put on various shades at different times, and when we attack it in one form, it comes in another form. It has infinite forms, and we must have infinite methods in dealing with it. In this, we are likely to get tired. That is one of the tactics of a shrewd enemy. We go on shifting our position, assume various postures, use various weapons, and the enemy gets tired and is easily caught. The mind plays various tricks. It knows how to please us and distract us from our goal.
In meditation, we do not try to please the mind, but to discipline it. We do not give it what it wants. The whole table is turned in spiritual sadhana. Instead of the world controlling us, we control the world. It is to shift the whole process of perception from the external to the internal. Up to this time, we were thinking that the phenomena controlled us. Now, we want to study how we control the phenomena. Instead of the world and its contents becoming the centre of interest, the world comes to us. We do not go from place to place in search of things. Things come to us because of our establishing of an inner contact with them.
Everything in this world shall desert us if we think that thing is outside us. In short, if we imagine that some person or some thing in the world is an instrument for our happiness, that person or thing shall desert us one day or the other. We cannot possess a thing so long as we imagine it is a means to an end. The world is the kingdom of ends, and not of means. In spiritual sadhana we visualise the world as a manifestation of God, and if we honestly feel the world is a manifestation of God, we do not take it as a means to our satisfaction. It is a dishonesty in ourselves if we take the world as a means to our satisfaction. The body itself deserts us because of our false attitude towards it.
If we do not have genuine love for things, they cannot have a genuine love for us. This world is one of cooperative activity. We cooperate with others, and they will cooperate with us. If we love others, they will love us; and they will love us in the same manner as we love them. And we can understand what sort of love we have for the world. In spiritual activity, there is no self-deceit. It is one hundred percent honest because it is spiritual, and it is unadulterated simplicity. In this simple life of spiritual activity we begin to know what attitude we have towards the world. Before starting our worship, sadhana, japa, etc., it is essential that we understand our motives and the modus operandi. We should not say, “I love you very much; you are wonderful” to a person when we do not really feel that. Most people do not feel what they say, whatever be the reason for it. It is some sort of hypocrisy in social decorum in order to get on in life.
But in spiritual life, we really have to live. It is an establishment with God. We cannot get on with God, because God understands us even before we start thinking. So, it is a more difficult and dangerous affair. We have to be very, very clear in our minds. Before we start on the spiritual path, we must be honest. We ourselves can know whether we are honest. No teacher, no Guru can come and tell us what we are. We have to be honest with ourselves, and to be honest with ourselves is to act as we feel. And we must never forget that if we feel honestly that God has manifested Himself in this world, our attitude towards this world should be our attitude towards God. If God appeared before us, what would we say to Him? We think He does not see us saying or doing things, that we can do something quietly in a corner which God will not be able to see. If we are honest and if we know that God is everywhere in the world, we cannot tell a lie, we cannot deceive people.
We start spiritual life with a misconception that God is somewhere, and then complain that there is no success. How can success come when we build our house on sand? Fixity of purpose, clarity of understanding and one hundred percent dedication of ourselves to God-realisation are all very essential qualities. With these criteria we can find out whether we are fit for meditation and to what extent we are able to practice, and not blame anyone else in this world – neither God nor creation. This psychology is applicable not only in spiritual sadhana, but also in our day to day activities. If we are sincere, honest, dedicated one hundred percent, success is bound to come.
In spiritual meditation, we begin to establish contact with God who is immanent, who is under our nose, who sees what we do and think and feel. We should know that God sees everything, and if our ideal is the realisation of God, the means which we adopt should be equally genuine. A psychological clearing up of all cobwebs in our personality is essential. We go deep into everything that is buried in our unconscious and throw it all out. When we enter a new house we sweep it, and clouds of accumulated dust rise up. This dust became visible only when we began to sweep. Likewise, when we begin to sweep our mind with the instrument of self-investigation, it appears that dust arises. It is all a haze, a confusion. We cannot see anything, and do not know where we are.
When we enter into the path of spiritual life, everything out of which the mind was made rises and things become unclear, as unclear as they were to Arjuna in the first chapter of Bhagavadgita. The first chapter of Bhagavadgita is a psychological state of perplexity, confusion. Arjuna was quite baffled before he began to face the enemy, but when he entered the field, he found it was different altogether. Likewise, we are all good people, honourable persons, respected, and we appear to be successful, but when we are touched, we are immediately taken to task by the inner forces because we begin to meddle with them; we begin to realise what we are essentially. We cannot understand the nature of a person until we oppose him. We have only to irritate a person in order to see what he is. The real person is not seen when we treat him kindly, when we serve him. If we rub him, we will see what he is. We can also understand what we are because we too have the opportunity of being crossed by others. Sometimes the world opposes us, and we do not like it. When we do not like a thing and we are compelled to do it, then it is that we raise our hood like a cobra and begin to act in a different manner than we would normally. These are instances which give us a clue as to what our real personality is.
Tamas brings stupor, and rajas brings distraction. It makes the mind go out. As mediation is a serene activity of the universe, the highest type of sattva must predominate. Therefore, the first step is the removal of the rajasic and tamasic tendencies of the mind by the study of scriptures, by the company of learned people, and honest inquiry into one’s own mental structure.
When we sit for meditation, what happens to us? Certain factors will come to the front. A professor will see his curriculum of study; he will think of examination, and so on. What does a policeman see in meditation? He will see his duties, etc. Likewise, a lawyer, a cook, a sweeper will see their activities. The factors which are governing their lives will come to the forefront and will obstruct meditation. We should not, therefore, identify ourselves with any factors. That is why our teachers emphasise that we must be practical karma yogis in our outward life and jnanis in our inner life. We cannot completely isolate ourselves from work, and if we differentiate work from meditation, work will become an obstacle in meditation. All those things associated with activity will become hindrances in the concentration of mind.
Therefore, some sort of pact must be made between outer activity and meditation. Activity should not be opposed to meditation, because one yoga cannot be opposed to another yoga. The outer activity is meditation in action, and dhyana is action in meditation. It is a psychological activity that we call meditation, and it is the normal phenomenal activity that we call work in society. God is internal as well as external. Isvara has created this world, and if He appears in both, karma and dhyana cannot come in conflict with each other. If we see God in the world and also in meditation, we are in a position to establish harmony in our outer life and in our inner life. Social work and inner personal existence should be in conformity with each other. Then there can be social health; there can be peace and real love. We must be spiritual beings first and then social and national beings, because what we are in ourselves essentially, will tell what we are in life. We cannot do something quite contrary to our nature; and if each person is intelligent in his essential core, he will naturally express what he is. There cannot be harmony in society if harmony from our inner core does not participate in our activity.
What is the spiritual element that is seen in karma yoga? It is the recognition that God is present in things. Equally or in different proportions, His presence in all things summons our attention in our activities in social life, whatever our activities may be. It is immaterial what work we do. The important thing is the manner in which we live our life. The way in which it is executed is the important thing. It is the way we adjust ourselves with our external environment that makes work a yoga or a mere karma. The karma that binds us is that work which brings us pleasure. We do not act in this world for pleasure but because it is our duty, because the world is the property of God. The attitude that things belong to us tells upon the activity we do in life. The activity that is connected with possessions becomes a binding factor. We have no hold upon anything in this world. We have not brought anything with us, and we will not take anything when we leave. Even today, the idea that we possess things is artificial. We imagine that these things belong to us, but it is only a feeling, and the feeling gives us conceit. If we really possess it, we would take it with us when we leave this world. It is our imagination that gives us satisfaction, and this false feeling has to be put aside when we take creation as the manifestation of God. It is Isvara who is the real possessor. It is He who has control over things. We cannot have control over things. The real author is God. He alone possesses things, and our duty is to live in this world as participant. So, selfishness is the first binding chain in spiritual activity.
Spiritual meditation, which is a concentration of the mind on God's existence ultimately, is a process of dismantling our present personality, a reconstructing of ourselves in such a way that our disharmonious existence becomes a harmony, and we become real criteria of God's creation. Then meditation becomes a moment's work. We should not say that we have been meditating for a long time but have had no results. That is because the technique adopted was wrong. If we switch our existence with God's existence, then we are at peace. The success in meditation is to be measured by the peace we derive from it. How much peace do we derive from it; what is the strength that we have derived out of meditation for half an hour, one hour or two hours; and what difference has it made in our lives?
Years of meditation should make us different beings altogether. To put it concisely, spiritual meditation depends on a psychological background which implies the cleaning of our persona, and cleaning it so perfectly that it will reflect God’s existence, which is already in us.