by Swami Krishnananda
The thoughts that we would like to eliminate in the process of concentration are those that pertain to our external relationships in human society and to the objects of sense with which we established relationships earlier. This is a hard job because the pressure of external impulsiveness towards the objects of sense is motivated by aeons of experience through which we have passed in our earlier lives. It is comparable to a push exerted upon us by the whole ocean that is going to flood us.
There is a vast reservoir of energy tending toward externalisation in our unconscious being, the anandamaya kosha, which seeks expression, and which we do not wish to give vent to. Thus there is, in the earlier stages, a struggle between our pious intention in meditation and a search for pleasure caused by the impulses that are hidden, unexpressed, in the unconscious root of our being. Therefore, in the beginning stages of meditation it is all struggle, and not happy in every way. It is true that when we are in the gravitational field of the higher forces we may not feel this difficulty, just as when we cross the gravitational field of the Earth by soaring above we may not feel the pull of the Earth below. But until we reach that point, the lower pull is a pull that we have to fight against, drawing us back to the point from where we wish to move away.
These thoughts are not ordinary things. They are not just occurrences which can be explained away in a very casual and academic fashion. The thoughts that we intend to eliminate in the process of concentration are terrible energies. They are not simple thoughts in an ordinary, psychological sense; otherwise, everybody would have jumped into the Absolute within two days of thinking and meditating. That is not possible on account of great difficulties which are unimaginable.
But, as I mentioned earlier, there is another thing within us, apart from that which prevents us from going further; there are also friendly forces. And, often we are told that God is more powerful than anything else. Though the devil is strong, God is stronger. Thus, there is something of a highly mysterious nature within us which will propel us onwards, in spite of the fact that there are karmic forces which drag us down and distract us in every direction.
The power of faith is very important. Nothing can equal it. The power of reason is secondary, compared to faith. The faith that we are referring to here is the very same thing which Patanjali mentions in a very, very interesting manner in one of his sutras when he says tivrasamveganam asannah. He uses the word samvega, which cannot be translated. It is a devastating push that God exerts upon us. We cannot use any other word except devastating: a call from God which devastates our entire personality.
Can we imagine what that call can be, and what impact it can have upon us? Our whole body will shrivel into pieces because of the love for that objective or ideal towards which we intend to move, and upon which we are trying to concentrate and meditate. A love that takes possession of us, root and branch, is the samvega. It is not an ordinary love for a rose flower, or a cup of tea, or a drop of honey. These are little, distracted affections. But there is a love which is incapable of explanation, description, definition, which will flood us, which will enter into every pore of our being, and we will not be able to understand what is happening to us. This is something like what is called God-madnessa person entering into raptures of a possession which is supernatural; and that is the faith, that is the love, that is the devotion that yoga requires of us.
When we are possessed with such a devotion to the ideal of yoga, to such a faith in Gods existence and the possibility of this attainment, these extraneous and distracting pressures, whatever be their intensity, can be counteracted with a bolt from this impulse and urge for love which is superior to every other kind of love. But most of us are not possessed of this kind of love for God, or even for yoga. We have a lukewarm understanding of the implications of practice and, similarly, a lukewarm love for anything that we consider as possibly good for us. There are many, many reasons in each ones case why it should be so. Each one should know for ones own self. We cannot generalise this matter. However, the fact is there.
Are we not a few people who are perhaps awakened to the necessity of being one hundred percent occupied with this central purpose of human life? Most of us, perhaps all of us, have received a novel type of blessing from God, due to which the inconveniences that we may have in life should pale into insignificance compared to the blessings that have come upon us. These blessings will be known to each one of us if we honestly enter into our own hearts. Our problems are minor; our blessings are large and abundant. This is something that we have to take advantage of, with gratitude to God and to our Guru.
As I mentioned earlier, when we sit for concentration we are involved in a fourfold process of psychological operation which, later on, ceases to be merely psychological and becomes a conscious effort of the whole of our being. Actually, the difficulty in setting aside extraneous thoughts arises due to not being able to understand what these thoughts are and why they come at all.
We should not exert any force of will in meditation. Mere pressure exerted by the will is not enough. These extraneous thoughts impinge upon us because they have some vital connection with us; they are not totally extraneous. They are not utter foreigners. They have some connection with us. At least, they did maintain some connection, and we accepted that relationship; so, they are insisting upon that relationship once again, and though today we say no, they are not willing to accept this no. We have made mistakes in earlier days, and those mistakes have produced the effect of these repellent attitudes which we are now trying to get rid of.
There is an old analogy about a hunter who discharges an arrow at a moving object in the jungle, thinking that it is a tiger which he could not see properly, due to the absence of light. He discharges an arrow. The arrow has left the bowstring. When the arrow has left the bowstring, he realises that it is a cow. It is not a tiger. He feels great distress. Oh, it is a cow! I have discharged an arrow at this animal, thinking that it is a tiger. He repents; he grieves. But what is the use of grief? He has let the arrow off. It has to go and hit the target. He has killed the cow. Afterwards he repents, but what is the use of repentance? The deed has been done.
Something like that is what has happened to us. In our state of ignorance, we desired objects of sense. We thought they were desirable objects of sensevery, very precious, very pleasant, very necessary, very affectionate and, therefore, we discharged the arrow of love toward these objects, thinking that they were necessary things and our own possessions. When we discharged the arrow of affection or love towards these objects of sense, thinking that they are our own and are necessary, knowledge dawned. Then we realised that they are not desirable things. We had imagined that they were not tigers, but that they were cows. Now the knowledge has arisen that we have made a mistake. We ought not to have desired them, but we have desired them for ages, throughout the incarnations we passed through. The arrow has been let off; desires have been discharged in respect of those objects which we thought were good. Now we are thinking that they are not good. We have made a mistake, but those objects have their say, as the arrow will have its say when it is discharged.
So, these things which we do not want now are the things which we wanted, once upon a time. This is a difficulty before us which we have to swallow somehow or other, like a bitter pill. The consequences of karma cannot be escaped by any amount of learning. Every effect of every karma has to be enjoyed, experienced as a pleasure or a pain, and it can exhaust itself only by producing its effect; it cannot be suppressed. Hence it is that we are undergoing this peculiar stress and strain of life which sometimes looks pleasant, and sometimes looks unpleasant.
The extraneous thoughts, therefore, are forces which have a larger significance than purely the psychological operations, as we understand the mind. In meditation, dhyana, which is a deeper and more intensive process, this difficulty ceases. We do not have to struggle hard to set aside undesirable thoughts.
Then, what happens in meditation? What is dhyana? Tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam: Meditation, dhyana, is a continuous flow of consciousnessundistracted, unadulteratedtowards the great ideal. Whatever be the object of meditation, towards that the whole being moves.
In the earlier stages of concentration, the whole being was not moving. It is like the government of a country which, while thinking intently on a constructive process for the rejuvenation of internal culture is, at the same time, attacked by a foreign force, and it has to work in a double manner. It has to defend itself against the onslaught of foreign forces and, also, work constructively for the welfare of its own citizens. Likewise, in the earlier stages we had to defend ourselves against the onslaught of these extraneous thoughts and, at the same time, we had to work positively towards the internal occupation of the mind, which was direct meditation.
But now, the foreign forces have gone. We have won victory in the war. Now we can work wholly for the internal constructive processwhich is cultural, educational, economic, social, spiritual, and so on. When the country is strong, and it has no inimical forces threatening it from outside, it can work for its internal welfare. Otherwise, it is distracted and its attention is divided.
So now we are free in the process of meditation. The struggle which was of a war-like type in the process of concentration is over. What happens in dhyana, meditation? There is the consciousness of the fact that we are meditating. We cannot escape this. There is an intense awareness, of course, that there is an object, or objective, of meditation, and there is a flow of this consciousness. In meditation, dhyana, the object is somehowin some form, in some way, in some mysterious mannerset outside the meditator. Now we are discussing dhyana, meditation, not dharana, or concentration. We have passed through that stage.
The object of meditation is something which requires our careful attention. In meditation, what is it that we have to concentrate upon, meditate upon, think upon? What is it? Many people have a difficulty here because they do not know what to choose. The psychology of meditation will suggest that any object can be taken for this purpose, as a point on which the consciousness can be fixed. There is a religious aspect as well as a psychological and purely logical or scientific aspect.The religious side tells us that God pervades the whole universe, and therefore any pointanything in creationcan be regarded as a way to God.
The universe is the face of God. His fingers move in every act and event of creation. There is no place, no time where God is not, so a religiously inspired student would do well to feel the presence of God in all things in creation, and take anything for the purpose of his meditation. Through any branch we can reach the trunk of the tree, because all the branches are connected to the very same trunk and to the root. Through any river, we can reach the ocean. Through any limb of the body, we can touch the whole body. Thus, as God indwells in everything in creation and God is embodied as this universe, anything can be advantageous to us for the purpose of meditation.
But there is, also, another aspect here which tells us the same thingthat anything can be an object of meditationbecause the purpose of meditation is to break the knot of isolation of oneself from the total structural pattern of the universe. There is an egoistic knot, which is the centre of our individuality, affirming its isolation from everything and standing independently, by itself. This knot of the ego is to be broken through, bombarded by the activity of meditation, just as an atom can be split by bombardment and its energy released. The process of meditation is a kind of bombardment by which we hit upon the mind again and again, just as we drive a nail into the wall, so that it bursts. The universal energy that is hidden in this little atom of the mind is released, and it becomes a very potent force.
Secondly, the purpose of meditation is to open up the Universal Consciousness that is at the back of the mind. Just as the ocean is at the back of every water drop in the ocean, so too the Universal Being is at the back of every mind, every centre of individuality. But, the drop resists even being conscious that it has the ocean at the back. It wants to maintain its independence.
We do not like to be told that we are one with the universe. This is very uncomfortable for us who seek pleasure in the objects of sense; and, anyone who likes to be totally independent would not like to be told that he is one with everybody. To be one with everybody is not to assert independence, but to lose independence. One feels very, very unhappy when one is asked to do any kind of sacrifice of oneself, especially a total sacrifice by way of an alienation of ones existence itself in the interest of a larger beingwhich we do not want. But, meditation is an endeavour in this direction.
Everything in this world, every atom of creation, is such a centralised individuallike a knot. We can break through any knot, anywhere, and we will enter the cosmos. Thus, any object of meditation is as good as any other object of meditation. This is a point which has no direct religious connotation but is a philosophical and a psychological way of understanding the very same point.
The candle flame on which we are concentrating, or the dot on the wall that we are thinking of, or the rose flower that we are meditating upon, is not important. What is important is what that is happening in the mind. The external object, or even the concept, is only an agent in arousing certain spiritual powers within us. They act only as agents, like proper medicine injected into the body. The body does not receive any direct sustenance from the medicine. The medicine only acts as an agent in relieving the body by preventing the entry of toxic matter, and helps the forces of health to awaken into action. Similarly, we do not create anything positively divine in ourselves. It is already there, within us. We only help the revelation of it, or the awakening of it into the conscious level and not merely remaining in the background.