by Swami Krishnananda
Here is the drama of life. But the drama is a tragedy, unfortunately. It has ended in our anguish and poignant feeling; and, something is dead wrong in all things. Even in our pursuit the of pleasures in life, we are passing through endless pains. Life has been ever an intriguing, miserable, yet desirable thing. Everyone knows what an amount of misery the world can inflict upon us, and yet how pleasurable it appears. The misery and the pleasure of life that face us day in and day out, with which we collide every moment of time, this double attitude of the world in respect to us and this dual experience that we have in respect to the world, are explainable only by the fact that we are in Virat even just now because a real separation from it is unthinkable, unimaginableimpossible, totally. And yet, on the other hand, we have somehow got into the mischief of imagining that the Virat is our object of sense. This dual attitude of ours is responsible for the dual reaction that is set up by the world in respect to us, in the form of simultaneous pleasure and pain. We like the world, and dislike the world, also. There is nothing in the world which we like or dislike wholly. The reason is this, which I have just mentioned.
The analysis that we have conducted through the study of this process of perception, epistemologically, lands us in a necessity to understand what this world is made of. Whether the world is outside us or not outside us, what is it made of, finally? What is its substance? The cosmology through which we have traversed in a bare outline has revealed that the whole physical universe is constituted of the five elementsearth, water, fire, air and ether or, in Sanskrit, prithvi, apas, tejas, vayu and akasha. What do we find in this world, except these five elementsearth, water, fire, air and ether? Nothing else nothing more, nothing less. All that we see, all that we hear, all that we smell, taste and touch is nothing but these five elements in one form or the other, in different permutations and combinations. What is this world made of? These five elements; that is all.
And what are we made of, as a part of this world? Our body is nothing but an admixture of these five elements. This bone, this flesh, this skin, this marrow, these muscles, this body that we are, is composed of the five elementsearth, water, fire, air and ether. The physical, the chemical, the biological substance of our individuality is nothing but these five elements only, in a mixture of varying percentage, as in a chemical mixture.
Some people are tall, some are short, some are stout, some are thin, some are black, some are white, some are brown, some are of this colour, some are of that colour. All this is due to the quantity of the elements that have gone into the body and the percentage of each element that is present in the different bodies. However, there is nothing in us except these five elements, whatever be the percentage of their presence.
What are we made of, physically? The five elements. What is the physical world made of? The five elements. What is there between us and the world outside? Nothing except the five elements. Is there nothing between us and the world? Correct. How is it, then, that we think that the world is outside us when there is nothing to distinguish us from the world? Can anybody explain this mystery, when the space that is apparently between us and another object is also part of the constitution of the very object, and also our own bodies? Our notion that things are outside us remains a mystery to us. We, ourselves, cannot know how this has happened. It is a psychological mystery, more than a physical one. Physically, astronomically, even chemically or biologically, there seems to be no reason for us to believe that things are outside us. Even an analysis through physics will tell us this notion is unfounded. Yet it is strong, like flint, and it cannot be broken through. Hence, this distinction that we draw between ourselves and the things outside should be attributed to a psychological mix-up and not to a physically existent something.
We are non-aligned, psychologically. Something is wrong with our minds. That is why I told you the other day that, in a sense, we are abnormal persons, though we do not appear to be lunatics meant for a mental home. We can know that there is something seriously wrong with us by an in-depth analysis of what we are. If something was not basically wrong with us, we would not be in such a miserable plight, right from birth to death. In our life, it seems that we have not had a moment of real peace which is unadulterated and unmixed with pain. We have never seen unmixed joy. It has always been mixed up with some percentage of sorrow at the back or in the front.
Why should it be so? It is because this joy, this sorrow of ours, is an experience we are passing through as a necessary consequence of this mistake in our psyche. Yoga is the panacea for this illness of the individual, the ego, the personality, the I or the me, whatever it be, whatever we may be, and so on. Yoga philosophy and psychology analyse threadbare the structure of the universe and the makeup of the individual.
This world is made up of five elements. That seems to be clear to us. And our bodies are also made up of the same five elements. Yet, this psyche is playing a very important role in creating a distinction between ourselves and other things, managing to convert the whole world into an object of sensation. Hence, yoga is supposed to be the restraint of the senses from operating in this manneramounting to a total self-restraint.
Yoga is control of the selfchitta vritti nirodhathe check that we put on the various modifications of the mind which compel us to see things as if they are outside. The world is made up of the same thing that we are made of, outwardly as well as inwardly. Externally, the world is the five elements and, externally, we are also the five elements. But, we are something more than the five elements. We have inner mechanisms which cannot be identified with, or mixed with, the five elements. The sensations that we have been mentioning are not to be identified with the material stuff called the body. Matter cannot know anything. It is dead, as it were. The knowledge of the existence of the material world cannot be attributed to the existence of the world itself. Without consciousness, matter does not know matter.
Inside the body we have the vital breaththe energy, also called the pranaoperating in many ways as the pressure exerted on inhalation, exhalation, deglutition, digestion, movement, circulation of blood, and so on. There is an unceasing activity going on inside us in the form of the movement of the prana. The moment we are alive in any sense of the term, the prana operates. Even before we come out of the mothers womb, the prana acts. We are living beings even inside the womb; we do not become alive only after coming out. So, we can imagine from when the prana is with us; and it is with us until it departs by severing its connections with the physical body. The prana is the dynamo, the powerhouse, as it were, which pumps energy to the senses and makes them active. The power of the senses is really the power of the prana. If the dynamo stops working, the senses will wither completely and become inactive.
The senses are connected with both the prana and the mind. The senses are certain intermediary operations between the vital sheath and the mental sheath. Inside the physical body there is the prana, and there is a set of sensesthe senses of knowledge and the senses of action. There are ten senses, which are urged by the mind with an intention to fulfil a certain purpose. The impulsion from the mind is the directive force behind the activity of the senses. Therefore, the senses are affiliated to the prana as well as to the mind. The prana supplies the energy necessary for the movement of the senses, and the mind tells the senses where to go and what to dojust as a soldier receives energy by the food that he eats and the exercise that he undergoes, but his movements are directed by the order of a general who is his commander. The senses are like soldiers who receive sustenance from the prana, but get directed by the mind in the way they have to act.
Thus, inside the body we have the vital sheath, the senses and the mind. The mind is a general term that we use to indicate the process of thinking, determinately as well as indeterminately, particularly as well as generally. Thinking, as well as doubting, are the functions of the mindmanas, as it is known in Sanskrit. Thinking is an activity of the mind, by which it becomes aware of the presence of something. When we think, we are thinking something. That something is the object of the mind, of which it is awareaware either specifically or generally, determinately or indeterminately. For instance, sometimes we are aware of something outside us but we do not know what it is, though we know that something is there in front of us. When we definitely know what it is that is in front of us, it is definite knowledge, determinate awareness. In twilight or when there is a mist in the atmosphere, we may not be able to discern what is in front of us. We do not know whether it is a human being or an electrical pole; yet, we know that something is there: I can see that there is something which is visible to my eyes. This consciousness of the presence of something in an indefinite way, in an indeterminate manner, is generalised thinking. And when it is clear, it is determinate thinking: It is a man, not a pole.
The intellect is superior to the mind and is more interior than the mental sheath. It is a purified form of knowing, whereas the mind is characterised by the impurity of a little bit of rajas and tamas, distraction and torpidity. The intellect decides as to what action is to be taken or what relationship is to be established with that which has now been seen as a determinate something. When we have a definite knowledge of the object that is in front of us, the intellect comes to a conclusion and decides: This has to be done now in respect of this thing that I see in front of me.
An attitude is developed by the charging of the feelings and the emotions, together with the decision taken logically by the intellect. When we look at an object and come to a conclusion about it logically, intellectually, rationally, we begin to have a simultaneous emotional reaction in respect of itunless it is something in which we are totally not interested, like a brick that is on the road. Our emotions may not function when we see a brick, because we are not interested in its presence or absence. But, if it is a nugget of gold and not merely a brick that we see there, we know how the emotions react together with the perception of that objectand so on, with respect to various things in the world with which we have relationships.
So, what is a human being made of? Not merely the physical body; there are other things inside: the prana, the senses, the mind, the intellect. But, remember what these things all make. Finally, they are the stuff and the nonsense of this ignorance. We have the causal body inside us, called the anandamaya kosha, through which the Universal consciousness passes reflected and deflected, contorted, making things appear the other way around, like the cart before the horse. The object is seen as the subject, and the subject as the object.
We think that we are the subjects and the universe is the object, whereas the truth is the other way around. Hence, a real fall has taken place. It is not merely a fall as a fall from a tree, where we maintain the integrity of our body. We do not start seeing things topsy-turvy because we have fallen from a tree. Here the fall is much worse than falling from the top of a mountain or from a tree. It is much worse because this fall includes not merely a descent into a lower degree of manifestation of reality, but a complete overturning of the mind itself. There is a sirsasana of our consciousness. It is seeing things upside-down, yet we think that this is a great knowledge that we have acquired.
We are proud of our knowledge. We are highly cultured, educated, degree holderswhereas all our knowledge is nothing but this sirsasana knowledge of the world. This would explain how we look so foolish when we are put to the test by the vicissitudes through which the world passes in the course of history.