by Swami Krishnananda
Meditation is the effort of our consciousness to move toward the centre of the universe, while there is something in us vehemently working to move away from the centre to the periphery. All desire, ambition, passion, anger, greed is the centrifugal tendency in us operating as a counterbolt against the tendency to move centripetally to the centre. In yoga, we are moving against the current of the lower nature.
All forces are impersonal, finally; they are neither good nor badlike electric energy. We cannot say whether it is a good thing or a bad thing. Fire, waterthe five elementshave no ethical or moral characteristics; likewise is universal nature; likewise is anything. But, there is some inscrutable manner in which nature works. Man has never understood this mystery, up to this time.
It is recorded in the Yoga Vasishtha that when Rama put the question to Vasishtha: Why should things be as they are; why should nature work in this way? Vasishtha replied, Rama, ask not this question. Ask me how you can get out of this difficulty. I shall tell you the way. Dont ask me why it is like this; ask me how you can be free from this. Kuto jnateya vidite rama nastu vicharana. Katham imam aham hanyet evam testu vicharana,says the great master Vasishtha in the Yoga Vasishtha: How can I transcend this bondage of involvement in phenomenon? Ask this question; I shall answer you. But ask not, Why have I entered into it.
Why should nature have two facets, the higher and the lower? We do not know. We do not know, because we are in it. Perhaps we may know it when we go beyond itpossibly. At present, it is not possible. The lower nature is a tendency towards diversity and the higher nature is a tendency towards unity. We have a tendency toward diversity in our daily behaviour. The impulses of self-preservation and self-reproduction are standing demonstrations of the strength of this diversifying energy, the centrifugal force, which insists on multiplicity rather than unity.
Hunger and thirst are indications that we have to exist in this body. We should not die. We have to go on plastering this body, which is of mortar and cement, with food and drink, so that it may not perish. And, there is the fear of the ego that even with all this plastering, the body will perish. This subtle suspicion is present in everyone. Whatever be the attempt made to perpetuate our body with food and drink, with tonics and medicines, it shall end one day. But the diversifying tendency of the lower nature warns that it shall not end, so it tries to perpetuate itself by the reproduction of personality. That is why hunger and sex are the greatest urges in man. Nobody can resist them. This is the impulse of the diversifying activity of the lower nature, which cannot be easily faced by mere human effort.
Herculean effort is yoga. Api adhvipanan mahatah sumerun unmelanadapi api vanya sanat sadho vishamaschitta nigrah.This is, again, a verse from the Yoga Vasishtha. You may drink the ocean, you may empty the whole sea with a blade of grass, you may uproot Mount Meru and swallow fire itself, but the mind cannot be controlled.
What is mind? It is the symbol of outward activity, the tendency to perpetuate individuality and diversity and to enter into mortality as if it is heaven, and nectar and drink. As a moth enters into fire thinking that it will gain something, we enter into the mouth of death under the impression that the world is heaven, milk and honey. The yoga process, therefore, is a hard job. No amount of ordinary effort will suffice, because the lower nature is cosmic in its operation and is not merely working within ourselves.
Who can stand this cosmic nature? Which person has succeeded? Not one. Yet, it is a necessity. It appears that we are born with this bequeathed inheritance of attaining Nirvana in the end, attaining freedom from this mortal existence. There is something in us which is divine, though most of us feel that the divine element is totally extinct in us. The way in which we think, feel and act is more brutish than it is divine and celestial. There is very little of the divine quality manifest in our daily life. We never behave like godly beings. Terrible animals are we, mostly. Yet, and a very great and important yet, there is some good that is at the root. Behind this dark cloud there is a silver lining. There is an angel behind the devil that man is, speaking in a different languageon account of which, we are seated here. Otherwise, we would be going crazy, tearing out our hair and running in different directions. Therefore, yoga is a possibility and a must, whatever be the difficulty before us. He is a hero who is able to control this impetuosity and violence of the senses which, impelled by the lower nature, move in the direction of diversity. That is a hero, and not merely one who dies in the battlefield.
A gradual understanding of a widened forman understanding that one is not merely a single person sitting for yoga or meditation, but that one is participating in a larger network of things, as threads are in the clothis what we have to initiate ourselves into before we enter into yoga. Yoga is not a personal action. It is not my work or your work; it is the work of the whole world.
Therefore, the notion that yoga is a personal endeavour is a misconception. No one does yoga for his own or her own good. That is not possible. Yoga is a universal adventure of the universal that is present in the particular that is man. It is the principle of universality that is in us that practises yoga, not the individuality that is in us. Therefore, yoga is not an individual affair. It is not my affair, not your affair; it is everybodys affair. Hence, moksha, liberation, is not my salvation; it is an awakening of the whole cosmos. This, again, is a mystery, and we shall not be able to talk much about how it happens.
Previously I touched upon the common features that can be recognised in Western thought and Eastern thought, or any kind of thought when we go deep into its roots. The world does not appear to be the thing that it is to the senses. There are more things in heaven and earth than philosophy dreams of, as Shakespeare told us. We, also, are not exactly as we are; and, neither is anything else. There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will, said the bard. However much we may play antics like monkeys, there is a divinity superintending over us who takes care of us. Maybe this divinity has opened its eyes in the hearts of many of us. Maybe the people who are seated here are blessed onesfew in number, in quantity, but in quality we seem to be blessed ones; otherwise, even ideas of this kind will not arise in our minds. Even the desire to liberate oneself from bondage will not arise unless some divine grace is operating.
God is thinking of us, perhaps. The Lord be blessed! If God does not think of us, we will not be able to think of Him. We think of Him only after He starts thinking of us. Hence, it is not a great credit to us that we are able to sit here and think a few good things. The credit goes to Him Who is compassionate and undeservingly merciful towards us. The grace of the great Master Swami Sivananda and the blessing of the Almighty operate in a mysterious way in the little people sitting here. So, let us be grateful to the Supreme Being Who is thinking of us. He is definitely thinking of us; I am not joking. Otherwise, we would not be breathing here at this moment. Thus, when the spirit awakens itself to this consciousness of the necessity to liberate itself from bondage, it enters into the practice of yoga.
You have heard much about yoga, you have studied about it in the scriptures, and much is already known to you. But, in spite of the fact that you know a lot about yoga, every one of you must be feeling some difficulty with it. You may be having some sort of discomfiture: After all, very little has been achieved. This feeling that nothing tangible has been attained after years of effort may affect you so seriously that you may even lose interest. But, you should gird up your loins and rouse yourselves into a new spirit.
Vyadhi styana samsaya pramada alasya avirati bhrantidarsana alabdhabhumikatva anavasthitattvani chittavikshepaha te antarayah. In this sutra, Patanjali says that there are many obstacles in yoga. There are nine in the long list I mentioned just now. Physical disease will hamper us and confine us to bed. We will not be able to think; we will not sleep. When we take a positive step in the right direction, in the direction of true yoga, these difficulties will come. We will fall sick. Whether it is due to our mistake or due to the rousing of the impulses or vasanas of prarabdha karma which are sleeping inside, we do not know. In the beginning, there is a setback.
And, even if we are somehow able to recover from this melancholic mood caused by the repeated physical onslaught of illness, oftentimes a mood of dullness, torpidity and a lack of interest will come upon us, as told in one of Buddhas stories: I shall meditate tomorrow. After all, it is very cold winter. With very severely biting cold, I cannot sit anywhere. It is cloudy, and drizzling, and windy. When the sun comes, let us see how much meditation I do! Very good weather starts in April. But when April comes, it is hot. Oh God, I made a mistake! It is so hot that I cannot sit inside and I cannot sit outside. When the rain starts, the weather will be cooler. See what I will do when the rain starts! Then I will start meditation. But when the rain starts, it blows horribly and rains like cats and dogs. I made a mistake. When winter comes, see what I will do! In winter I will do deep meditation. I will confine myself only to meditation. But when winter comes, again it is cold. Oh, I made a mistake! So goes life, says Buddha. Neither we do this, nor we do that.
We go on thinking and thinking, like the bee that was caught in the lotus flower. It is an interesting anecdote. It seems that a bee was sucking honey from a lotus. The lotus opens when the sun rises and closes when the sun sets. Mad with the honey liquor which it was sucking from the lotus, the bee forgot that the sun was about to set. It was so inebriated with the taste of the honey in the lotus that it was stuck inside. Very beautiful honey, tasty; the world is grand! When it was thinking like this and drinking honey, the lotus closed at sunset. Now it could not come out. It looked up and thought, I am caught inside. I cannot go out. It does not matter. Night will pass, the sun will rise, the lotus will open and I will fly away happily. Day will come. While the bee was thinking like this, a mad elephant came to drink water from the pond and damaged all the lotuses, crushed everything to pieces, and the bee went with it.
This is what happens to unnecessarily brooding sadhakas. I will meditate in Uttarkashi. I will go to Kanyakumari. I will meditate in Kathmandu. Rishikesh is no good; I will go here or there. This Guru is no good; that Guru is no good. This scripture is no good; that scripture is no good. I shall go on experimenting with various thingsjust like the bee that says the sun will rise; and, the mad elephant of death comes and crushes us to pieces and we are no longer there. We are only brooding and brooding, and nothing happens. We are neither in Kathmandu nor in Kanyakumari; death has overtaken us.
So, make the best of the opportunity provided to you just here, at this moment. The Sivananda Ashram lacks nothing. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was immensely kind. He used to tell us, many years back, You boys lack nothing. If everything goes, the Vishvanath Mandir is there. We have enough funds to make kichari. You know what is kichari. It is a simple meal of boiled rice and lentils, which the kitchen gives to you in the evening. This much you can get every day. The funds of the Vishvanath Mandir are sufficient to maintain you on kichari. What else do you want? You have got a forest behind the Ashram, a beautiful temple, and kichari to eat. I have given you everything. Be happy! Ganga is in the front; Himalayas are there as your parents. You have got a library with the best books, books that cannot be found in ordinary libraries.
So, we are not in any way in an unfortunate condition. We have no reason to complain. God has blessed us, the Guru has blessed us, the saints and sages have blessed us. We are most fortunate people, here in the Sivananda Ashram today. Complain not. Gird up your loins to adjust your daily program so that it is conducive to intense meditation and the transformation of your daily duties and occupations into a mode of yoga itself, in the style of the Bhagavadgita, knowing that you are living in Gods creation and not in the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, Muni-ki-reti, Uttar Pradesh, India, or even on Earth.
You are not living in this world. You are not on this planet. You are not living in any particular country. You are in a wide, wide creation of the Almighty Creator. You are a citizen of this kingdom of heaven which is controlled, ruled by the omnipresent, all-knowing God Himself; and, you can put your petition to Him at any moment of time, and you shall be answered. You lack nothing. You are immediately in the presence of God. Anything that you ask will be given, and when you knock the door shall be opened, and whatever you seek shall be found in this kingdom of heaven. Do practice. Enter into yoga. Be happy!