by Swami Krishnananda
To make the mind feel itself somewhere else, apart from its being inside the body, is a hard task, and it is the crux of the meditational process. You are contemplating something which appears external – away from yourself, beyond yourself, and not necessarily confined to only your particular bodily location. However much you may struggle, you will not easily succeed in this activity because the mind is like a leech. It will stick to this body as if a cement-like paste is acting as an adhesive force to powerfully inject itself into this body and make itself feel like this body only. The mind does not think that it is a mind; it thinks it is only a body.
Great care has to be taken in releasing this attachment that the mind has got to this one body only and neglecting the presence of any other body or any other thing in this world. Some of the simple methods in achieving this purpose are stated in the Yoga Shastras. You have to listen to me very carefully. Imagine that you are somewhere far away in mid-space, and from there you look at your body which is sitting here. "Far, far away I am in a distant place – many, many kilometres away from the earth – and from there I am looking back at my own body which is sitting here and meditating." Great power of imagination is necessary to think like this.
Actually, who is meditating? Is it the body that does it? It is the consciousness – the mind, so-called, that is actually engaging itself in meditation. So let the body be here; let it do what it likes – sitting. But, that which really does the work of meditation is the mind. Place yourself in a distant place, other than the location of this body. Very intensely feel that "I am in mid-space, away from this body where I am sitting for meditation." There is a practical double-consciousness involved in this. On the one hand you feel that you are sitting here, as a little individual, meditating. On the other hand there is another aspect of this consciousness which takes you away – high, high, high, like a kite flying into space. There you are sitting. Go on telling yourself, "Where am I? I am here, in space. The planets are revolving around the sun. I am somewhere there – very far, very far, very far, very far away from the earth, away from the earth, away from that 'me' which is meditating on the ground here."
This peculiar technique is highlighted in an aphorism of Patanjali: bahih akalpita vrittih maha-videha tatah prakasha avarana ksayah (Y.S. 3.43) – a very, very beautiful sutra. The vritti of the mind is the modification that takes place whenever it thinks anything. When the mind thinks anything, a modification takes place in the form of that which it thinks. This is called kalpita vritti, a process to which the mind is habituated, and it is a psychological function. But there is another process called akalpita vritti – not a psychological movement of the mind, but what may be called metaphysical, in philosophical language. It is difficult to understand what this metaphysical mind is.
The mind of a particular individual thinks of another object, another person – of something outside. But it is not easily noticed that such a thinking or even visualisation of something other than one's own self is not possible unless there is something that connects the thinking mind with that which it thinks. What is it that connects the object with the mind that thinks the object? You can think of distant things, like the stars in the heavens. How is it possible for the mind to transfer itself to the location of a distant star, or the sun or moon, though it is a psychological act taking place within the body itself?
This very strange method of being able to consider or visualise something other than one's own self is worth studying deeply. There is a medium between you and the object of contemplation which is present not only in you, but also in that on which you are concentrating; but you cannot know its existence because of the fact that it itself is actually the metaphysical mind, as I referred to – not the psychological mind which is working inside the body.
Here is an example. There is a broadcasting station where somebody speaks or sings. There is a recorded voice. The singing or speaking voice is transmitted through vast, distant space to any other location where there is a receiver set. That which communicates the speech or song from the broadcasting station to the distant receiver set is not itself a song or speech. There is nobody singing or speaking in the sky. Yet, that speech or song is communicated even to a very far-off, distant place, and it is converted once again into a song or a speech in a receiver set. What is there between the two? To explain analogically, that is the metaphysical entity, which is neither the broadcasting medium nor the receiving medium. It is transcendent to both. That transcendent thing does not speak, does not see, does not think, does not do anything, but it has the potentiality to manifest itself as anything. You may call this the cosmic mind in terms of the meditational process.
Apart from an individual mind, there is a cosmic mind, which cannot be known, cannot be visualised, cannot be seen because it is not an object. You cannot think the cosmic mind, because it is the thinker. It thinks both you and the object that you are supposed to think externally. In philosophical language, especially in Vedanta, this consciousness which is thinking, and the object which is being thought of, are known as pramatr chaitanya and prameya chaitanya: subject-consciousness and object-consciousness. There is a chaitanya, or awareness, in the thinking individual, and there is something which connects that object of thought with the thinking mind. If the object is totally material, as we generally imagine, then there could be nothing to connect the thinking mind with the object that it thinks. Consciousness cannot come in contact with matter. Yet, it appears that our consciousness comes in contact with a wall or a mountain. How does it happen?
This is explained. If consciousness is within the mind – in the mind, within the body – and seems to be contacting an object conceptually or visually, you have to explain how this contact takes place. Consciousness is quite different from materiality. Matter is a total objectivity, whereas consciousness is total subjectivity. How did subjectivity become objectivity? It is a contradiction in terms. The subject and the object are different in their characteristics; one cannot become the other. But how do you know that there is an object outside you? Your consciousness – your mind which thinks or knows – cannot contact that which is other than itself. This analysis amounts to saying that there is something in the object akin or similar to the thinking consciousness. Unless this is accepted, you cannot explain perception, visualisation or even thinking an object. This 'something' which is in the object also, akin to the thinking mind, is the transcendental consciousness. This is what I meant by saying 'metaphysical mind', or 'cosmic mind'. When I tell you to place yourself in distant space, I am indirectly saying that you are sitting in the cosmic mind and not in the individual mind. This space which is so vast around you is a subjectivity for the cosmic mind, but an object for your individual mind. The world is an object for us, but it is a subject for the cosmic mind.
In creation, during the evolution of the universe, a wonderful situation is created, as is described in the Upanishads. The Universal Being gets concretised, as it were, in the evolutionary process, until it becomes what is called the hardened materiality of the universe. This consciousness is aware of this universal materiality, universal objectivity. Remember what I am saying. This consciousness which is aware of a universal materiality spread out everywhere, the whole universe itself, that consciousness is called Virat in the language of the Vedanta – Virat-consciousness. We may call it cosmic consciousness. This consciousness splits itself into individuals, like a ray of light becoming multiple when it passes through a prism. In a similar manner, a peculiar contextual, perceptional process takes place when this ideational, universal consciousness becomes multiple, individual centres of thinking. There is a great difference between the Virat being conscious of the multiple forms of the universe and the individual consciousness thinking itself as self-identical, as an individual.
For instance – again I come to the usual analogy – the body, assuming that it has a consciousness of itself, knows, at one stroke, the multiplicity of its limbs. It does not take time to think 'right hand', 'left hand' or any other part of the body. It is a simultaneous awareness of all its multiple parts. That kind of simultaneity is analogous to the cosmic mind thinking the whole universe at one stroke. That is the Virat Purusha thinking, we may say. But when the individual sparks of consciousness are shot off from the universal consciousness by some kind of mysterious isolation in the space-time process, what happens is, there is an upside-down thinking. There is a vertical thinking, we may say, in the Virat-consciousness, but there is a topsy-turvy thinking in the individual consciousness. The Upanishad tells us there is a fall, as if the head is below and the legs are up. And, this fallen consciousness does not see the world or the cosmos as the Virat sees it, but sees it in a topsy-turvy fashion.
For the whole – for the Virat-consciousness, cosmic mind, metaphysical mind – the universe is identical with itself, as we feel that this body is identical with our soul or our individual consciousness. We do not feel the body is sitting outside us. It is one with us. In a similar manner, this Virat-consciousness experiences the whole cosmos as its body. This is why some philosophers say that the world is the body of God. The Virat, which is the consciousness of God, feels the universe as its own body, as we feel this body as identical with our soul. But, there is a difference in the individual thinking. The topsy-turvy falling down is explained in the Aitareya Upanishad especially – namely, that the object looks like a subject, and the subject looks like an object. This happens when there is a topsy-turvy thinking – your head is below and your legs are up.