by Swami Krishnananda
In the process of the descent we were referring to, the nearest cosmic principles visible to our eyes and intelligible to us are the five elements, known as mahabhutasearth, water, fire, air and ether. This body of ours is, also, made up of these five elements. Hence, we have in our body all those characteristics which belong to the five elements. That we seem to be separate from these elements as independent persons and, as a consequence, the five elements appear as objects of our senses outside, is due to the fact of a cohesive effect exercised by certain forces within usrather, forces which we ourselves are.
We independent persons are really not independent persons. This we shall realise gradually as we advance through the stages of yoga. Even this body is not an independent object belonging to us as individuals. The so-called independence of this bodythe feeling that this body is the I or the meis a misconception arisen due to some unfortunate event that has taken place in the process of the descent.
There is a power which we sometimes call desire. It is very difficult to understand what desire means, here. It has a higher than psychological significance in this particular context. There is an intensive urge to solidify matter into a localised existence, which is what we call the ego. The ego is not a substance. It is not a thing. It cannot be seen, and it is not tangible. It is only an energy that centralises itself into one pointas the eye of the hurricane, for instance, into which the power of the hurricane converges and from where it deflects its energy. There is a point which is not geometrical and not physical, but only conceptual, which is called the ego. This point is the converging centre of certain forces which go to form what is called self-affirmationthe hard feeling that I exist, or this so-called me is existing here. It is the vehemence of this force that makes us feel that we are so vehemently independent of the five elements.
This is what is also known, in certain forms of yogic language, as the knot of the heartgranthis, as they are called. A granthi is a knot. They say that there are various granthis, types of knots, the major ones being called brahma-granthi, vishnu-granthi and rudra-granthi. Whatever the names be, there seems to be a triple knot, sometimes philosophically called avidya-kama-karmaignorance, desire and action. All these mean one and the same thing.
The three knots constitute the three stages of the affirmation of individuality. First there is the total ignorance of ones connection with the cosmic existence, which is called avidya, or ignorance; and then there is the desire arising to affirm ones individuality. In the beginning there is only a forgetfulness of ones relationship with the cosmos, or God Himself. That is avidya, ignorance, mayawhatever we call it. A total obliteration of the consciousness of ones connection with the whole creation is avidya, ignorance. This is immediately followed by a strong wind of desire, as winds blow when the sun is covered and clouds hover heavy over our heads. The desire to exist independently as an individual immediately follows this ignorance of ones connection to the cosmic existence. Kama means desire. Kama simply means the desire to exist as an independent individual; and everything else that follows it is also called kama.
But, here the matter does not end. Avidya and kama, ignorance and desire, immediately ramify into activitykarma, or actionin relation to the atmosphere and the persons and things around oneself. The whole of samsara is this much. All our bondage is threefoldavidya-kama-karma. This is what is called brahma-granthi, vishnu-granthi and rudra-granthi. They are internal, as well as external.
This physical body is, therefore, a part of the five elements, and when we die, it goes back to the five elements. It disintegrates. But the so-called personality, the desire, does not die. Even if the body dies, desire cannot die, because desire is not material, as the physical elements are. Desire is a force, and nobody can destroy force.
In modern science there is a principle called the conservation of energy, which makes out that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It does not increase, and it does not decrease. It is always the same in quantum, but it is unequally distributed. This unequal distribution of energy is the cause of the appearance of individuals, persons, things, objects, etc. Where there is an equilibration of the energy by a reverting of the centres into their causes, there is dissolution of the cosmospralaya, as it is called.
Our scientists also tell us the same thing: one day the universe will cease. Scientists speak of a principle of heat called entropy, according to which the heat in the universe is now unequally distributed . For instance, there is tremendous heat in the sun, and less heat around the sun. This unequal distribution of heat is the process of creation. The heat of the universe will be equally distributed one day. Then, everything will become cold, and the whole universe will perish. It is not merely the heat that is unequally distributed; all the energy of the cosmos is unequally distributed. Consequently, we have a variety of things in the world, including persons.
This kind of thing cannot go on for a long time, because any kind of inequality is unnatural. The natural condition of things is equality, and they will revert to this equality one day or the other. The impulsion to move towards equality is the impulsion to the dissolution of things. Individually, it is called death; cosmically, it is called dissolution, or pralaya.
When this pralaya, or dissolution, takes place involuntarily, even without our wanting it, it does not lead to liberation. So, while liberation is the state of ultimate equality of being, when it is forced upon us, it does not lead to liberation. It remains like a cosmic sleep, just as entering into the state of deep sleep is not equivalent to entering into the Atman though, in a way, it is something like that. When anything is done by constraint of force from outside, it does not bring satisfaction. It has to be realised voluntarily, by ones own self. A voluntary entering into this final equality of things is moksha, or liberation, but an involuntary entering is pralaya, or dissolution.
Voluntarily entering into the deepest core of ones being is Self-realisation. Involuntarily entering into the core of ones own being is deep sleep. This is the difference. There is no point in entering into deep sleep, or getting dissolved in pralaya, the cosmic end of things. There should be an activity of consciousness inwardly towards Self-realisationentering into ones own beingand outwardly in the direction of Cosmic-realisation. Hence, Self-realisation means the same as God-realisation. This is why it is said that, in a very ultimate sense, Atman is Brahman.
Inasmuch as this physical body is a part of the five elements, the Yoga System takes into consideration this very, very important fact. The practice of yoga asana towards meditation is, finally, a tendency towards the dissolution of this cohesive, self-affirming principle within us and coordinating it with the five elements. This is the beginning of samadhi, or samapattithe entering into the substance of all things.
Yoga tells us that one gains mastery over the five elements in the same way as one has mastery over the limbs of ones own body. We have no difficulty in lifting our legs or raising our hands, because we are identical in consciousness with these limbs of the body. We cannot lift an elephant, it is too heavy; but an elephant can lift itself because its consciousness pervades its whole body and it is identified with its limbs. We cannot lift even one leg of the elephant, it is so heavy, but the elephant moves its tremendous weight. Even a larger animal like a mammoth could move, because the weight is felt only when it is outside ones consciousness. We do not feel the weight of our own body; however heavy we are, we can move. But somebody else cannot come and lift us, because we are outside the consciousness, or the mind, of that person.
Thus, we cannot do anything in this world. We have no control over anything. Everything is outside us. We are helplessly situated here because we are independent of the five elements. We have no control over the earth, or the water, or the fire, or the air, or anything else. But, when by deep meditation we enter into the reality of our body, which is nothing but an edifice constructed out of the building bricks of the five elements, we slowly gain control over the physical elements.
This is very easily said, but cannot easily be achieved, because our egoism is very hard. It cannot melt by any amount of meditation, just as flint cannot melt by a little bit of heat. The heat that we apply by means of meditation is inadequate for the melting of this ego. The sense of I and the struggle for the existence of this I is so indescribably strong that it cannot easily melt unless proper meditational techniques are employed.
Everyone knows how hard each one is, how much self-love is there, and how much effort is exercised by every one of us to maintain our individual existence in every walk of our life. Such tendencies cannot be avoided by a little scratching of inadequate meditations.
Dirgakala nairantarya satkara asevitah dridhabhumih, says Patanjali in one of his sutras. Many, many years of practice are necessary. With great love, as we love our own mother, this practice has to be conductedunremittingly, without break even for a single day. Just as we have an appointed time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sleep, etc., and we have a regular routine for our daily occupations, so should the disciplined routine be maintained by every seeker in regard to meditation practice.
Meditation should not be considered as a hobby. Spiritual practice is not a diversion, like hockey or cricket. It is the very purpose for which we exist. Everything else is secondary to it. We are somehow tolerating other things. The main thing is meditation. It should not be the other way roundthat we are somehow tolerating meditation, and other things are important.
In the beginning, a certain amount of discipline is necessary. And, as we cannot impose discipline on our own selves, we require somebody else to impose this discipline upon us. That is the Guru. That is why people live in ashrams, monasteries and sequestered areas where the normal functions of the senses are curtailed to a large extent by the very nature of the atmosphere. If we go to a lofty mountain in the Himalayas, we may not get milk, and so on. Certain needs are cut off by the very nature of the circumstances there. We will not have a television or a radio. Nothing of the kind is possible in Nanda Devi or Badrinath, etc.
But, that is not enough. These are only initial steps that we are taking. We require, also, positive solace. It is not enough if we merely cry that we do not have anything. We should also have the satisfaction that we have something. This can come only from a divine sourcesecondarily from a scripture, primarily from a Guru and, ultimately, from God Himself.
Thus, a disciplined series of sessions in meditation conducted along the lines prescribed in the yoga scriptures will gradually end the cord which connects this body with other bodies by way of affection, love and hatred, and we will be centralised in our true relation to the very original cosmic substance from which everything has come. Our physical body is a part of the five elements. Our mind is a part of the cosmic mind. Our intellect is a part of the cosmic intellect. Our consciousness, the Atman within, is identical with the Universal Atman, Paramatma, the Supreme Self, the Absolute.