by Swami Krishnananda
The great difficulty in the fulfilment of the requirement in yoga is our inveterate belief in the substantiality and reality of things as they appear to our senses. The world is as much real in itself as a cloth is real, independent of the threads. There is a network of relations which makes the world appear as real. The world is not exactly as it appears to our eyes. We cannot discover this mystery of the structure of the universe because we, ourselves, are involved in this structure. The greatest difficulty in understanding anything in this world is that we cannot stand outside the world. Hence, we cannot know anything in this world.
The reality of things is commensurate with the reality of our own bodies and personalities. Since we, as percipients of the world, stand on par with the reality of the world outside, we cannot understand anything in this world in an impartial manner as an observer thereof. We are participants in the world; hence, we cannot understand the world. We cannot understand anything in which we participate as an integral part. We cannot impartially judge our own friend, because that person is our friend; nor can we impartially judge our enemy, because that person is our enemy.
The proper attitude for us to understand the world is that we should neither have the idea that the world is a friend, nor have the idea that the world is an enemy. But we are always partial persons, hanging on this side or that side. Either the world is beautiful and grand and it is worthwhile possessing, or it is a wretched substance which is the ugliest thing conceivable. Either we like it, or we do not like it. But, understanding is not a process of liking or not liking. It is an apprehension of things as they arewhich is outside the ken of sensory perception and operation. Here is the moot difficulty in the practice of yoga.
We cannot unite ourselves with anything, though this is the sum and substance of yoga practice. We are repelled by everything and, therefore, we cannot unite or commune with anything. The repulsion follows as a consequence of our self-assertion that we are percipients of this world. Every perception is a relation. Not only are we related to the objects which we perceive, but every object is related to every other object. Therefore, the whole world is relative; there is no absolute substantiality to anything in this world.
By a mutual pull exerted on one by another, the planets are moving along their orbits. Otherwise, one cannot understand how, unsupported, this planetary system is revolving and rotating in a mathematically precise manner. The explanation lies in the gravitational pull systematically exerted on one planet by the other, thus giving an idea of stability, whereas the stability is not independent of this relative pull exerted by one upon the other. So is the society of human beings, the organisation of things in this world. They are not substantial; they are like balloons, but they appear to be substantial, hard things on account of an illusory permanency attributed to them due to the relative interference and influence of one in relation to the other.
This is why they say the world is maya, the world is not true. But for us it is true, and it shall ever be true, because we are observers of the worldof which we are parts, and in which we are involved. No man can understand the unreality of things. It is impossible to go into these mysteries, inasmuch as we are not observers of the world. Therefore, in the end, every scientific observation of anything in this world is an inadequate, futile process. No scientist can know things in their realities, because the scientist is involved in the things that he observes which, in his enthusiasm of observation and experiment, he forgets.
No one can know the world; and, therefore, the world continues, just as an undetected thief survives and thrives because he knows that he can never be detected. No one can detect this peculiarity that is secretly hidden at the root of things, because whoever tries to understand it is also a part of it. This is maya. This is avidya. This is the inscrutable nature of things. This is the difficulty before us. No one who is caught up in this illusory network of relations, which are taken for granted as being substantials, can take to yoga earnestly, because the value that is attributed to the substantials very persistently presents itself before the minds eye of even the best seeker in the world. The value of yoga will be tarnished and adulterated to the extent that value in the objective world is also, simultaneously, accepted.
To the extent that we are prepared to accept the value of substantial existences in the world, to that extent our love for yoga is diminishedis deteriorated and weakened. Each one of us stands as a witness before our own selves as to the extent of attraction that we feel towards the values of the world which we cannot understand as unrealities, even once in our life. We talk about the values of things and the worthwhileness of our enterprises in this world. We cannot get over the meaning that we attach to our own personal existence, our individual life and all its relations, and the interrelations of things.
It is necessary to learn the art of becoming a witness of the world panorama before one honestly tries to enter into this dispassionate practice called yoga. To stand as a witness of the world would mean to also stand as a witness of everything in us which belongs to the world. It is not merely a witnessing of that which is outside our bodies, which is what we generally do in judgements and witnessing of things. The features and characteristics in our own selves belong to the world and, therefore, when we try to be witnesses of the world, we have also to be witnesses of our own selves. We should not partake of characteristics in ourselves which do not really belong to us, but belong to the world.
The phenomenal part in us has to go to the phenomenal part of the world; and, that which is phenomenal in us should not be the judge of the world outside. The scientist is part of the world. His eyes are phenomenal instruments and, therefore, he can never understand the world, because he is a part of the world. His eyes, his instruments, his microscope, etc.all the radar systems that he employsare part and parcel of the phenomenal world, so he can be duped by the very instruments that he employs in understanding things. And so, we are under a spell of deception in everything that we try to know in this world and everything that we try to do in this world. When we quit this world, we go totally defeated. No one has gone with satisfaction, and no one has succeeded in understanding much less conquering, possessing or enjoyingthis world.
Here is a problem which is a terrific iron curtain before us, preventing us from probing into the mysteries behind it. Ordinarily this is not an easy affair, because to stand as a witness of the world would be to stand as a witness of ones own self, as the self appears to the senses. This poor so-and-so sitting here is a part of the person seated in front, the objects visualised by the senses. They belong to the same category of things. A judge has to stand outside the defendants, the advocates and the witnesses in order to understand the nature of the case, but we have never been able to stand as a witness of the world. We are in the worldvery much in it, organically connected with it, inseparably related to itand, therefore, it is impossible to visualise the world. We visualise the world as we visualise our own personalities, and so we see in the world what we, ourselves, are.
It appears that the world before us is a reflection of our own minds. It is a mirror in which we see our own faces grinning, smiling, frowning, and so on. There is nothing in the world that we experience except what is in our own selvesthe world as such, as it is said. The thing-in-itself has never been seen, and no one can see it.
No one can see it, because no one can go outside the world. Even if we stand on the sun, we are within the world, because the sun is a part of the world. Even if we go far awaymillions and millions of miles away, light years away to the star Siriuswe are within the world, and we cannot know anything of this world. We can move to the most distant spots in space; still, we are within the world. We can dive into the nether regions, but we are still within the world. We can fly like an eagle to the topmost regions, but we are still within the worldbecause we are within our body. This is the problem.
Wherever we go, we carry our body and the mind which is enshrined within it and works through the body as an instrument. Therefore, we cannot escape this difficulty in knowing anything. We cannot understand even a sand particle on the Ganga bank. Not an insect, not an ant can be known as it is in itself. Here is the cause of our difficulties, our moods of melancholy, dissatisfaction, depression and retrogression in yoga practice, even with the earnest enterprises we enter into after years of preparation in yoga.
It is not for nothing that it is said that we require divine guidance and a supernatural assistance, which we have to summon and invoke, because yoga is a supernatural effort on the part of that which is supernatural in man. It is not man that practises yoga; it is that which is super-physical and super-individual in him which encounters this world.
The student of yoga is not a man or a woman; it is a different thing altogether. Our concepts of the human species are to be very effectively brushed aside by an inward affiliation with the true spark of light that we are. We are to dissociate ourselves from all the social and biological associations into which we were born and with which we were brainwashedand which we have become, totally, as if they are our own skin. As we cannot run away from our own skin, we cannot run away from these conceptual relations, social and biological. Where, then, can yoga come before us? It is far away.
This is the reason why we are dissatisfied. We weep and cry, as if we have lost both God and the world at the same time, and nobody wants us. This happens in an intermediary stage of yoga where we either have no proper assistance or guidance from a superior, for reasons known to each one, or there are very hard oppositions arising from our own psyche which is not yet prepared for this arduous adventure.
Primarily, and finally, it looks as if we are our own obstacles; and, our difficulties land upon our heads like a vicious circle. We cannot understand things because we have suppressed emotions, frustrated feelings and unconscious impulses. As long as these impulses remain, not brought to the surface of consciousness and not fulfilled in the manner required, an understanding of even the ideal of yoga is not possble. But, on the other side, we are in the vicious circle again, because unless we take to yoga with efforteffectively, with intensity of aspirationthese impulses cannot be brought to the surface of consciousness. We are always caught, as if by both our ears, and it looks as if we are pulled with equal power in two different directions.
The causal network of the world cannot be broken through easily. The cause determines the effect, and the effect catches hold of the cause. As the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad puts it, in its own mystical language, there are the grahas and the atigrahas. The grahas are the sense organs, and the atigrahas are their objects. The senses grab the objects, and the objects grab the senseslike the embrace of a bear. We embrace the bear, and the bear embraces us. We cannot leave the bear; and, also, the bear will not leave us. We are caught. Even a crab will catch us. If we touch a crab, it will catch us with its claws. We will not be able to get our fingers out, it will take hold of us so tightly. So is the bear-like embrace of this world. The world has embraced us because we wanted to embrace it as a delightful thing. Once we embrace the world, the world is not going to leave us.