by Swami Krishnananda
God is Being; and the practice of yoga becomes relevant to God-being to the extent that it participates in Being, and does not continue to be merely a kind of activity on the part of the individual which is a process, a becoming rather than a being. This is a single sentence which explains the nature, as well as the difficulty, of yoga practice. All reality is being; and anything is real in proportion to its participation in being.
The human being is supposed to be, also, a being. We always say human being; we do not say human becoming. But, is man a being, or a becoming? The whole of the philosophy of Buddha, and of Heraclitus in Greece, and certain other thinkers of this kind has been that there is no being, anywhere; everything is becoming. The whole world is fire, said Heraclitus. The whole universe is becoming, said Buddha. If this is true, there is no human being. There is only a becoming, which looks like being.
It stands to reason, because we seem to be growing, moving, undergoing transformationborn, and then die. Every part of our body changes. There is metabolic activity in the system. What is being, here? There is no being; not one atom is existing, but acting. Every electron is moving, every molecule is moving, every cell is moving. Every planet is moving, and everything that constitutes an organism or a body moves with a tremendous velocity, for a purpose no one knows.
This is a world of becoming. It is phenomenon, not noumenon, said Immanuel Kant, Buddha, and others. We are living in phenomena, and not in noumena. The thing-in-itself is out of the reach of human perception, which means to say that human perception is not relevant to being as such. It is, also, involved in a process called becoming. This is something very strange indeed that there is nothing real anywhere if reality is to be defined as that which is, and not that which is yet to be.
We are reminded here of the old saying that man never is, but he is always to be. This is why no man can be happy. No man is contented, because if we are, and we are not to be, there cannot be a desire for anything. Every desire, ambition, expectation, restlessness, and sense of inadequacy and finitude is an acceptance of the fact that we are not being, but only becoming. Being is stability, rootedness, fixity, completeness, self-sufficiency; and no desire can be associated with such a thing. We are not characterised by these attributes. We are restless every moment, asking for something or other, and are never satisfied with all that the world gives us. Man is becoming. It is human becoming, not human being.
This is the reason why everything evolves or devolves. There is involution and evolution. Transiency is the character of the cosmos, which means to say it is the character of everything that is in the cosmosincluding man, and even inanimate matter. Everything is a conflagration. This is the language of Heraclitus. The whole universe is a conflagration of fire, because fire is not a being, it is a movement. So, the universe is a movement, man is a movement. Everything is a movement; and nothing that is moving can be called a reality in itself, because movement is a tendency to restlessness and a lack of adequacy in oneself. Who among us can be said to be adequate? All our endeavours, projects, enterprises and adventures in life are indications of inadequacies in our lives. Everything that we think, feel and do is an expression of our lack, want, finitude, inadequacy. Yoga is the attempt, the art, of union with Realitywith Being as such.
There is such a thing called Supreme Being, a term we hear oftentimes. It is called Supreme in contradistinction with the apparent being that we also appear to be. We never regard ourselves as becomings; we are beings, only. I am, you are, this is, that is, the building is, the world is. We never say the building becomes, this becomes, that becomes, I become, you become. Such words are never uttered. We are somehow or other made to believe that we are living in a world of being rather than a world of becoming, notwithstanding the fact that there is no adequate proof to show that this is a world of being. There is an irrational conviction within ourselves that it is being, though rationality shows that it is becoming. Again I come to the old, old point that we do not seem to be as rational as we appear to be on the surface. There is a basic irrationality within us which argues in its own way, refuting every rational argument, because we cannot prove rationally that we are being, for reasons already mentioned.
But rationality goes to the dogs where instinct is supreme. Where desire is rampant, passion is strong and instinct preponderates, the intellect does not operate and philosophy goes into a limbo. Hence, we are not living philosophy; rather, we are living instinct, a type of irrationality which looks like rationality on account of a peculiar phenomenon operating within ourselves.
The language of Vedanta calls this phenomenon adhyasa, or superimpositionthe foisting of characteristics on something which actually do not belong to it. When we begin to see characteristics in a thing which are really not there, we call this circumstance a superimpositiona rope looking like a snake, a post looking like a man, a cloud looking like a city, a mirage looking like water, the horizon appearing as if it is touching the earth. These are all illusions, but they do not look like illusions. When they are seen, they appear real.
This is the predicament of human nature. We seem to be satisfied, somehow, with our lives, though there is every proof that we are never satisfied with anything in this world. Yet, we wish to live a long life, as many years as possible. In this world of death and transformation, we live a long, long life, only to suffer for years and years. No one would like to live a long, long life in a world of becoming, destruction, transformation and sorrow; but, we have a desire to live in this world. It is a shock to hear that we have to leave this world in spite of the fact that no one can be happy in this world. What a mystery! Have you seen one person in this world who is one hundred percent contented with everything in the worldanyone ever, since the beginning of human history? Yet, how is it that we are forced to long for an endless life in this very world of inscrutable mysteries? This is adhyasa, superimposition of characteristics upon ourselves and the world which really do not belong to the world.
There is a being which is other than becoming. The fact that everything is becoming is, also, a demonstration that there is something other than becoming. If everything is phenomenon, there has to be a noumenon. The changeful character of the world is an indication that it is not all change. There must be something other than change, otherwise no one would know that there is change. If the knowledge of the fact of everything being changeful is also changeful, then the person who makes this statement is cutting the ground from under his own feet. He has no place to stand. Hence, there is a Being which is other than the apparent being of things which have a borrowed beingborrowed, because of the fact that the becoming process of the world itself appears to be a being on account of the characteristics of Being transferred to it, as characteristics of a snake are transferred to a rope and vice versa.
The art of yoga, the science of meditation, is the endeavour on the part of that peculiarity in human nature which participates in true being and can dissociate itself from becoming, so that this apparent being that man is can enter into true being, which is Supreme Being. It is called God-realisation, attainment of moksha, salvation, Nirvana, Brahman, entering into the bosom of the Absolute, salvation of the spirit, reaching Godall these things mean our entering into the state of true Being, where becoming is naught. For this purpose, that which participates in the true Being within us has to work actively. And, our human phenomenal nature is not adequate for this purpose.
Again we come to that old, old point that meditation does not mean thinking through the mind or doing anything through the body, because both the body and the mind are parts of phenomenon, and phenomenon cannot reach noumenon. Only the noumenon can know the noumenon; God knows God. It is being that participates in being, not becoming one with being. The empirical characteristics in us have to be transcended by the effort of a non-empirical substance within usthe presence of which is the reason why we are conscious that we are finite and restless, and the longing for this thing and that thing.
The longings of man are indications enough of the fact that he is Being, essentially, though he appears to be becoming, outwardly. We belong to two worlds at the same timethe world of phenomena and the world of noumena. We are empirical; we are, also, transcendent. We are in this world; also, we are not in this world. Because of the fact that a part of our being, or nature, is in this world, we are subject to the transformations and the griefs that are concomitant with this phenomenal existence. But, inasmuch as we are not entirely engulfed in phenomenal becoming, there is, also, a transcendent spark within ourselves. We think of such things as infinitude, eternity, immortality, salvation, and perfection.
The root within us is Being; the crust of us is becoming. We have the five koshas: annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamayathe physical, the vital, the mental, the intellectual and the causal sheathsthe gross body, the subtle body, the causal body. All these investitures belong to the phenomenal realm because they are subject to change and destruction. Birth and death are not of Being, but of becoming. Actually, there is no birth and death. It is only a name that we give to certain events that take place in the series of becomings. Just as we say that we are going to sleep and we are waking up from sleep, yet we maintain a continuity of personality in spite of our having lost the consciousness of existence itself in the state of deep sleep, there is no birth and death, finally. It is a continuous movement. The cessation of the existence of the individual, which we regard as death, and the coming into being of the individual, which we call birth, is an interpretation on the part of the phenomenal intelligence of man of certain abstracted forms or features of this becoming, not being conscious of the whole process.
Look at the Ganga River flowing in front of us. We cannot see the Ganga beyond Luxman Jhula, nor can we see the Ganga after Rishikesh. We do not know from where it is coming and, also, we do not know where it is going. Only a little bit of Ganga is visible here in Muni-ki-reti. This is our little life. Similarly, we do not know from where we came and, also, we do not know where we go, because our perceptions are not profound enough to fathom the depths of the beginnings of things and the ends of things. We see only the little bit that is in front of us. The whole process is a universal cycle. We are involved in a cosmic movement, and it is not that only I die and I am born, and you die and you are born, individually, independently, isolatedly, without any connection with others. It is a total transformation taking place everywhere, like the growth of the human body, where it is not that only one cell is being born and one cell is dying. The entire growth is there, like the growth of a tree into hard timber. But, human beings are individually localised, tied up to body-consciousness and, therefore, are conscious only of the little phenomenon that is going to take place within the body. The entire linkage of this body, or personality, with other personalities is not the object of individual consciousness.
It is not true that only one person is born and one person dies, to the dissociation of oneself from everybody else. Everything changes every time, and everything is known to everything else. There is an interrelatedness of things. Every event, when it is born, is known to every other event in the world. The birth of every event is an impact communicated to every other event in the whole cosmos. Therefore, there is no such thing as individual birth. All birth is cosmic, and all death, also, is cosmic, but it appears as an individual coming and an individual going on account of the intense egoism of personality which abstracts certain features of experience into its own localised existence called the body, and segregates everything else like the colour that we see in objects. Objects have no colour, really speaking. The leaf is not green; the rose is not red. The colour of things is only that particular feature which that particular structure of the object is able to abstract from sunlight; and, it is the abstracting character of the object that is responsible for the particular reflection of the colour. Otherwise, no one knows the colour of any object.
So is everything in this world. The locality of an object, or the stability of a thing, is an abstracted perception on the part of the individualised consciousness wrenched out of the whole; and so, it appears as if everyone has an individual existence of ones own, while that is not true. There is a total movementa total coming, and a total going. Everybody is in the same boat in the cosmos. We are participants in a single family of the universe, and no one is independent. Hence, there is no single suffering, no single enjoying, no single birth, no single salvation no individual matter, whatsoever. But our minds are not able to understand this because the mind is only a handmade tool. The operation of this body is tied up to the ego-consciousness so intensely that we cannot see anything outside the body. We have to free ourselves from this entanglement by great effort, if our yoga is to be successful.
Yoga is a cosmic outlook. It is a universal activity. It is not my thinking something or your thinking something. Meditation is not some little, private adventure of ours in a corner of the room, but it is a cosmic endeavour in which we begin to connect ourselves with the forces that are in the universal environment. That is why oppositions and difficulties rise up, as if we are waking up sleeping dogs. The whole world begins to be aware that we are meditating.
The lower nature, which has a centrifugal tendency, resents any kind of attempt on the part of anyone to meditate in a centripetal fashion. This is a mystery, again. We cannot understand how things work and why things should work in this manner. There seems to be two types of nature, the higher and the lower. The Bhagavadgita makes reference to para prakriti and apara prakriti,the higher nature and the lower naturethe higher one pulling us to the centre and the lower one repelling us from the centre.