by Swami Krishnananda
We are in a thoroughgoing misapprehension about ourselves in all our dealings with life. We start with errors and therefore we end with errors. The whole of our lives in this world has been a contradiction and a confusion, a kind of march towards an apparently unrealised destination, because of an erroneous notion that we have about our own selves. We think we are something, and then we start acting based on this hypothesis. Unfortunately we are not these things—we are something else. That we regard ourselves as different from what we really are should be enough explanation for all our troubles in life. There is no need to go further into the details of our problem. Here is the answer to our question. We have started with the wrong premise and therefore end in a mess.
This is samsara. The tremendous entanglement in which one finds oneself is generally called samsara. A knot with which we have tied ourselves to an experience from which we are unable to extricate ourselves is samsara. A mire into which we have been sinking and from which we cannot rise up is samsara. This samsara, this earth-existence, forces the involvement of our false personality in a false set of experiences. To rise from samsara, to rise from earthly existence, therefore would be to endeavour to reach our true self and to be what we really are.
There should apparently be no difficulty in being what one truly is. The difficulty is in being what one is not. To put on a false self is difficult, but to be true to one’s own nature should not be difficult. To tell a lie in a court is difficult; to tell the truth is not so difficult. We know what it implies, but the involvement in the apparent notion of the self is so intricate and complicated that ages have been spent in trying to disentangle oneself from this complication. Today we shall try to study a little of the nature of this complication into which we seem to have entered because of this false self. This is the beginning of the psychology of yoga. Psychology is the study of the thinking apparatus of the human being. It is not so much a study of the ‘being’ of man as it is of the ‘thinking’ of man. I have given a bare outline of what the true being of man is, and we’ll have the occasion to look a little more into this mystery a little later. For the time being we shall leave this subject and try to understand what our practical problem is in spite of the logical, inferential conclusion that that was arrived at by implication that our true nature is something different from what we ordinarily think ourselves to be.
We concluded earlier, by way of inference and implication, that we exist as an unrelated something, not as a related mass of complications. We are something existing in its own right. We have something we can call our own, of which we are, apart from what we have and what the world has made of us. We are something of which we can be confident at all times, and of which we can have no doubts. Also, we realised that our being is intrinsically valid by its own right and status, and it is an indivisible unrelated awareness which extends into an almost infinitude of experience. The indivisible awareness should be another name for infinitude, because anything that is finite is divisible. All finite objects, anything that is limited, is divisible into space and time fractions. The awareness of ours is not divisible. We decided yesterday that it cannot be divided into parts. This implies again that the awareness, the Being-Consciousness-Freedom that we really are, is an unending mysterious Absolute that transcends space-time. We are taken by our own conclusions to the heights of wonder, the wonder of all wonders, a surprise in regard to our own selves. “I never imagined that I am such a thing—I thought I was something else,” would be our wonder.
In an anecdote that we are sometimes told, a lion’s cub was reared among sheep, imagined that it was also a sheep and bleated like a sheep. But when it came in contact with another lion, the cub was told, “My dear child, you are a lion’s cub, why do you bleat like a lamb? Because you have been living with the lambs, you think that you are also a lamb. Come and see your face in the reflection of the water. See, your face is like my face—a large lion. Why do you bleat like a lamb?” Then it taught the cub to roar rather than to bleat. Such would be our own surprise, like the cub realising that it belongs to the lion’s group and not the sheep’s group. When we are awakened into this light which stimulates our imagination to such an extent that we cannot believe our own thoughts, we seem to be entering in an ocean that we ourselves are. Nothing can be a wonder equal to this wonder. When this wonder catches hold of us, it will not allow us to stand on this earth anymore. We cannot control this experience. We cannot bear this feeling of being able to overstep the limits of space. “Such a being am I!” This stirs up our imagination so deeply and with such intensity that we rise into ecstasy.
This is what devotees, yogins and masters of wisdom call intuition, or at least the borderland of the higher life. This comes to us only occasionally or rarely, but these rare moments have to be made more frequent. This is the purpose of yoga. Now, this wondrous being that we truly are seems to be psychologically involved in something, but it is not really involved in anything external. It is involved in its own net. Who can bind that which is infinite? What involvement can there be for that which is not in space and time except when it chooses to be? Nobody can live with us unless we want to live with ourselves. Nobody can imprison us unless we choose to imprison ourselves. Nobody can do any harm to us unless we choose to harm ourselves. This seems to be our true status and position.
Well, this is another psychological mystery. All our difficulties are psychological involvements and not material limitations, even within the four walls of a prison. You have heard it said, “Stone walls do not a prison make.” Stone walls cannot make a prison. Even here in an ashram, we are living within stone walls, and we don’t call this a prison. A prison is something else, apart from merely the enclosure of a stone wall. Bondage is therefore something connected with a particular form of inner consciousness, and this is the interesting subject of study in yoga psychology. We should, for the time being, forget the usual psychology of the West. We have looked into its outlines in the very beginning of our lessons, and they are inadequate and are not going to help us much. Not even psychoanalysis in the present sense of the term will be of much aid to us, because it is all analysis of the waking state of the mind and partially of the subconscious levels; but we are deeper than all these manifestations of the surface mind.
I mentioned last time two Sanskrit terms, adhyatma and adhibhuta. I shall now mention another Sanskrit term which is co-related to these two—adhidaiva. These three terms, adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva are mutually related to one another. To put it in simple terms, they mean the ‘within’, the ‘without’ and the ‘above’. Adhyatma is the within, adhibhuta is the without, and adhidaiva is the above. We have only these three outlooks in life. We either look above, or outside, or within, and one cannot do anything else. We have been trying to study the nature of the without—the adhibhuta—independently, as modern science does and the Samkhya philosophy did. We found that it was not very helpful to us because the purely objective analysis either lands us in a diversity of perceptions or a thick wall of indeterminability and inconnectibility, and as an agnostic attitude of reality something stands before us finally through which we cannot penetrate. An unbridgeable gulf between the subject and the object was what we confronted in the physicist’s analysis and also in the Samkhya analysis. And then we turned to the adhyatma method, and to our surprise we realised here that we seem to be something more than what physics reveals or Samkhya revealed. Our conclusion through the adhyatma analysis is that we have a basis of infinitude of existence. Taking into consideration our actual waking experience—not what we logically concluded by an analysis of deep sleep—considering only the practical experiences of our mind in the waking condition, we seem to be standing opposed to an object in front of us in the form of the world.
The adhyatma and the adhibhuta have many layers of manifestation. The deepest adhyatma is that unrelated infinitude of consciousness in us. To know this is true knowledge. It is in this sense that we are told that adhyatma-vidya, or the science of the adhyatma, is supreme among all branches of learning because when one knows it, one knows everything else. We found by an objective analysis that in space and time there are the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether—and then we are told that inside these five elements are molecules, atoms, electrons, forces, energy, relativity and many other things, one inside the other. Degrees of objective reality were revealed by way of observation and experimentation carried out through scientific methods. Just as we have these degrees of objective manifestation, there also seems to be degrees of subjective manifestation. These degrees reveal themselves through our analysis and not by the use of instruments like microscopes, etc., because we cannot study our own selves with such instruments. Scientists began to discover the inner content of matter by observation through powerful instruments, and they realised that there were smaller and smaller elements in the apparently outer material complexities. There are subtler and subtler layers of matter, all of which finally get resolved in an indeterminable universal energy of which every configuration of matter seems to be a manifestation and a form. This was the discovery through the objective analysis of instruments.
Our subjective analysis of experience also reveals a similar series of layers of personality. Our immediate perception is a physical body—heavy, lumbering and weighty. In a physical and physiological analysis, the physical body reveals that it is constituted of the elements of earth, water, fire and air, and there is also a lot of space inside. We are told by biologists that the actual solid content of our physical body, were it to be completely compressed, could be contained within one cubic centimetre of space. Though we look so big, there is so little matter in the body. We are only blown up like a balloon with space, air and water within. That is the material element of our body, and it is made up of the very same matter which constitutes the physical world outside. We are then made up of earth, water, fire, air and space, just as bodies or objects outside are constituted. But how do we know that we have a body? Tentatively, it can be said that we see the body with our eyes. Just as we see objects outside, we see this body also, and therefore this body is one of the objects of the world. Because it is seen as other objects are seen, the body is not only a subject—it is also an object. One can touch it, smell it, see it and hear sounds made by it. It has all the qualities of the elements.
The perceptional process is the way in which we come to know that we have a body. We can see, hear, touch, etc. The senses are the avenues of the perception of the body and also the perception of all objects of the world. We have in addition to the physical body certain means of knowledge called the senses. The senses are not merely the outer organs or the limbs, as will be revealed through further analysis. When I say, “I see the body,” it should not be taken to mean that the eyes are merely the eyeballs. The ear does not mean the eardrum; the nose does not mean the nostrils; taste does not mean the tongue; touch does not mean the fingers. These are all external instruments which are made use of by a sensational power within us. The sense of feeling, seeing, hearing, etc. is different from the organ which the power of sensation makes use of. So the organs are different from the senses. The organs are physical, and they belong to the body, but the senses, which carry on the sensations, seem to be certain powers. We have within us certain peculiar capacities called sensory reactions, and by means of these we are able to know things, including our own body.
How would we know that we have senses apart from the external organs? We can see that under certain conditions of our personality our attention is withdrawn, and the senses do not function. The attention accompanies the sensations. The state of dream is a great help to us in realising that we have something within us apart from the physical body. There is the eye, the ear, the nose, etc. even when we are in a state of dream, but the physical eyes cannot see in the state of dream. There are some people who sleep with open eyes, but they cannot see anything while they are sleeping. The ears are available and they are not being blocked during sleep, but nevertheless one cannot hear. One may not have any kind of sensation when asleep, although all organs are there and all are intact. If this ‘something’ is not connected with the physical ears, if it is disconnected from the organs, there is no sensation. In the same way, an electric wire will not do anything when the current is off. The wire has no capacity to do anything and cannot provide energy or move a machine. The power that passes through the wire is what gives the energy. Otherwise it is just a piece of metal and rubber which has no value other than as a physical, inorganic stuff. So are the organs. They are vehicles to convey the power of sense from within us. This power of sense is realised to be different from the vehicle itself.
That the sensations are different from the organs which belong to the physical body is one discovery, but this is not the whole truth of the matter. There seems to be another necessity behind the powers of sense, namely what we call ‘mind’ or ‘thought’. We can open our eyes, be looking at something and be thinking of something else at the same time, and we will not even see if people are passing in front of us. If we are working at a difficult mathematical problem, we will not hear sounds made near us. If we are deeply engrossed in a difficult question of any kind, we will not know events taking place outside us, though the ears and eyes are open. Sense, though healthily functioning, may not reveal knowledge of the outer world if the mind is not connected with the senses. While the organs are to be related to the senses, the senses are to be related to the mind. This is another very important thing in perception. The body is necessary as a vehicle. Yet, the body alone cannot work unless the senses vitalise the body, and the senses alone will not do, because the mind has to connect itself to the senses.