by Swami Krishnananda
We are now on the pedestal of the great yoga of meditation, which is the sum and substance of all spiritual endeavour, finallythe end, which includes also all the means that led to the realisation of this end. In the beginning the means appears to be separate from the end, just as the destination is different from the road that leads to that destination. That which leads to a thing appears to be different from that thing which is attained, reached or obtained.
We always make a distinction between the means and the endthe modus operandi and the final achievement. All our efforts, all our activities, all our performances are means to this great end of cosmic integration of spirit. But, this great destination is, also, inclusive of every step that we took earlier. The means in every form, and in every stage and level, gets swallowed up in that great destination which does not any more remain as a distant object to be reached or a place to which we have to traverse, inasmuch as the nearer we go to this goal or destination, the further we get lifted from the notion of spatial distance and temporal succession.
The lower we are in the category of evolution, the more removed we appear to be from one another in space, and the more intense seems to be the distinction of one from the other. The grosser is the body, the greater is the vehemence of the attachment to it, and the more intense is the separation of it from anything else or everything else, due to the vigorous impact of space and time. When space and time very actively have their say upon us, we seem to be like abandoned children, completely cut off from everything else, totally thrown into the prison of self-encasement in this body, which we are told is our only property.
But this is an illusion, a type of make-believewhich is what all space-time arrangement is, in the end. The way in which space and time tell upon us is, again, a graduated knotting of our personality. The stages of yogayama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi or the stages mentioned in other systems of yoga, are only the internal efforts of the spirit within us to disentangle itself gradually, by stages, from the clutches of the space-time complex which the world is, in essence. The world does not exist, except as space-time. Though it wrongly appears to our blinded eyes that the world is inside space and time, it is not so. The world is not inside space and time.
We are accustomed to think of the world as the planet Earth, the Sun and the Moon, etc., which appear to be hanging in space. It is nothing of the kind. There is an invisible connection of the vast space-time complex with the apparent configurations in the form of matter. This invisible connection is unknown to subjective percipients like us. Inasmuch as we are involved in this concretisation into material forms, we cannot know what is above or beyond us.
In cold areas, parts of the ocean may solidify into ice and parts may remain liquid, yet the liquid and the solid parts of the ocean are not really cut off. There is a continuation of substance common to both the liquid portions and the solid portions of the ocean. If we like, we may theoretically distinguish between the solid and the liquid. But, in fact, the liquid has become the solid and the solid is going to melt into the liquid, and in bodily substance they are inseparable. Even the word they is inapplicable there. It is one mass.
Something like that is the kink which the space-time complex seems to have developed in the form of material content. What we call the hard, physical substance of this earth, or even the entire solar system, is said to be the space-time configuration getting curdled, as it were, into formations including our own bodies, abolishing at the base any distinction between these curdled forms of solidified substance and the so-called empty spacewhich to us is a nothing, but really it is everything.
Thus, the bondage of the soul is a universal bondage. We are not involved only in one place, in a single family or a house. It is a terribly unintelligible complex of involvement which we have to free ourselves from in the process of the practice of yoga. When we are sunk into bondage, we are universally sunk from every side, in every way, and it is not only in one place. Bondage and liberation are both universals. There is no individual bondage and individual salvation, but it appears to us that it is wholly individual and each one reaps his or her own isolated harvest.
Finally, it is not so. There is an internal family relation among ourselves which is deeper than family relation or organic connection. An unthinkable relation subsists among the very atoms of the cosmos, what to speak of ourselves as human beings, here. Thus, when the vista that is to be presented before us in the practice of yoga unravels, we step into the waters of the ocean of the cosmos.
We are not merely sitting in a meditation hall. These few words that I have mentioned are very important words which may try to brush aside the illusion that is before our mental eye that we are meditating on the top of a hill, or inside a room, or in our little cottage. We are not doing this meditation in a cottage. There is no such thing in this world. We belong to the whole of creation.
This is a mantra that you can repeat to yourself: I belong to the whole of creation. I am a citizen of this universe. This is a very important mantra for every one of us: I am not Indian or American or British. I am not white or black. I am not a man or a woman. I am a pressure point in the cosmic continuum of space-time. What a thrilling message this would be for the heart to receive, if this could be repeated again and again, inwardly, and made the object of deep contemplation by every one of us! All our little problems would vanish like mist before the blazing sun.
When we enter into this vast field of meditation, vast field are the words to be emphasised. It is not a little act of ours. It is not a little psychological operation within the brain that is taking place in meditation. It is a ripple that we are setting up in the whole atmosphere in which we are seated, which we are occupying, which is this creation of God. But, in earlier stages, this relationship is not felt. That is why, particularly, the emphasis is made obvious in the system of yoga propounded by Patanjali that from more and more gross particularities of observations and experience, we move to larger and larger generalities of experience. It is necessary for us to tabulate our involvements in life and be totally dispassionate in this assessment of ourselves. We should not hide any of our prejudices, weaknesses, desires, longings, involvements, emotions, attachments, likes or dislikes. We are before God, the Almighty. We are in His presence, so no hiding is possible there. It is useless to hide anything where everything is clear, as in the midday sun.
Since we are the persons concerned in the practice of yoga, we have to be honest to our own selves; this is important. And while we are in our mood of deep meditation, we should open up our hearts to our own selvesand all the mud, rubbish and cobwebs are brushed aside. With great effort of psychic operation conducted vigilantly within ourselves, all our desires are melted down into liquid by methods which we have to adopt for our own selves by our own intelligence, understanding and discriminationif we have that discrimination. Otherwise, we go humbly to our master.
Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya, upadekshyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah, says the Bhagavadgita. Go to your master: This is my predicament; this is my condition inwardly. I am very much tied up in all the layers of my personality. Everything is dark before me. I do not see any ray of light on the horizon. Thus, you surrender yourself. Confess all your weaknesses. To confess a weakness before a great master is not a shame. It is like exposing ones illness before a physician. It is a necessity, and is in your own interest.
But if this is not possible, if you have not any person before you who can take care of you in every way, humbly offer your prayers to the Almighty Himself, who is the Guru of all Gurus, and light will dawn before you if your sincerity is genuine.
Thus, our outward involvements are to be taken into consideration in the beginning, and our inward involvements are to be taken into consideration afterward. Finally, our attachment to the body and the ego come like Ravana and Kumbhakarna. They are the last enemies to be faced. Our attachment to the body and the ego is terrific, and nothing can be compared to it. Everything else fades into insignificance. All problems go as if they are nobodies in comparison with this terror of our attachment to the ego and the body.
We cannot peel off our body as if it is an onion skin; it will not leave us. We have become the body, and nobody can believe that we are other than the body. Even this conviction will not arise. We cannot think, even for a moment, that we can be anything other than this body. We are heavy, many-kilo-weighted personsnothing more, nothing less. This will catch hold of us in the end.
These are the difficulties before yoga. The agonies that one feels and passes through when the body struggles to maintain itself in the name of yoga, in the teeth of all opposition, are indescribable. They are like tearing out ones own flesh, and cutting the cords of ones life. And the ego will say, I must exist. I shall exist. I have to be. Nobody would like to be annihilated.
There cannot be a greater terror to man than the idea of self-annihilation. This possessed Arjuna himself, when he witnessed the vision of the Lords Visvarupa. Great Master, Lord Supreme Almighty, subdue yourself and come down to the original form. Enough of this vision! was the exclamation of even that great disciple and devotee, incomparable as he was, as we are told. We cannot stand this vision. It is a terror, like a roaring lion before us. And we say, Come down! Enough! Tad eva me darsaya deva rupam prasida devasa jagan-nivasa. Come down! I do not want this cosmic vision always, because the cosmic vision is the death of the individual ego. Who wants it? If God exists, I cannot be. And, if I have to be, then God must die. We would wish that God dies rather than we die.
These difficulties are indescribable, even to ones own self. To avoid a sudden boomerang coming upon us, or a thunderbolt descending on our heads, or a bomb being thrown at us in the form of these difficulties, physical as well as egoistic, we should proceed slowlyby untying knots, by pulling out our hair one by one and not pulling out all our hair at one stroke, which is more difficult.
We can remove all our hair by pulling out only one strand every day. We will not feel that all our hair has gone. But if we pull out all our hair at once, we know what a pain, what a terrible terror it is. So, do not pull out all your hair in one stroke. Pull it out strand by strand, and you will not feel that it has gone. We have to be very cautious in dealing with these problems, which are part and parcel of our own existence.
Every step in meditation is a meditation itself. It is not merely a step to something else. It is, itself, a meditation, and every conscious effort towards meditation is, also, a meditation. Anything that we do for the purpose of attaining the state of meditation is, also, a meditation. Even if it be the least step that we are taking, even if it be a little relaxation that we are having in preparation for further meditation, it is a part of meditation because it is necessary for the purpose of the next onslaught.
In fact, when we are conscious, really, of what we are doing in the light of the great purpose of life, every act becomes yoga. Only when we are not conscious of the connection of our daily occupations with the purpose of life do we seem to be miserable. So it is necessary, first of all, to awaken within ourselves a consciousness of the relation of everything that we do with the purpose of existence.
We are not manufacturing this purpose and our relation to this purpose. It is already there. We have only to awaken ourselves to this fact, and then we shall be enabled to adjust ourselves to every circumstancegood or bad, beautiful or ugly. All circumstances are within the circumstance of life. Inasmuch as every circumstance is connected to the greatest circumstance, which is the aim of the cosmos, we will be able to find ourselves accommodated to any circumstance, without a word of grumbling or complaint.
Thus, life becomes yoga. Every activity becomes karma yoga, as we have been told again and again. All actions become karma yoga when actions are related to the purpose of the universe. Dissociated from this purpose, they become our bondage. Teachers of yoga generally prescribe karma, upasana and jnana as the traditional steps that have to be taken in the direction of this fulfilment. Karma, upasana and jnana are supposed to be aids in getting rid of the three troubles called mala, vikshepa and avarana.
Mala is the dirt of the mind. Vikshepa, vacillation, is the distraction of the mind.Avarana is the veil of darkness over the mind. Dirt, mala, is that which tarnishes the transparency of the mindon account of which it is having a blurred and distorted vision. A long list of what this dirt means is given in a very famous Vedanta text called Vasudeva Manana. The list in Sanskrit is: raga, dvesha, kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matsarya, irsya, asuya, dambha, darpa and ahamkara, all which finally mean likes and dislikes manifested in various formslikes in a chain of their details, and dislikes in a chain of their details. Desire, anger and greed sum up this long chain mentioned. This is the dirt of the mind.
Desire, anger and greed cannot be removed except by unselfish service, dedicated sacrificekarma yoga, which may begin with actual religious rituals like worship, performance of mass in a church, puja in a temple, namaz in a mosquewhatever we may call it. The religious rituals of puja, worship, chanting and satsangas all come under this category of karma intended to purify the mind of all the dross with which it is infested.
In certain systems of thought, particularly a system known as the Saiva Siddhanta, which is famous in southern India, there is a beautiful categorisation of this process of moving from outward ritual to inward contemplation by processes known as chariya, kriya, yoga and jnana.
These are all technical epithets. Humble external service in the name of God, service to God Himself, service to the saints and devotees of God, including service in the temple such as cleaning the temple, washing the vessels, lighting the lamps, bringing bilva patra, tulsi and flowers, all come under the category of divine service known as chariya. Kriya is the internal service, particularly in the temple, where one might see an assistant lighting the lamp and helping the pujari, etc. He does not go to the tree and bring bilva leaves; that is done by another person who is doing external service. The internal assistant is the devotee who is performing kriya.