by Swami Krishnananda
In order to understand the meaning of adhidaiva, we had to go into an analysis of perception. We noticed that the perceptional process implies more than what seems to be on the surface. There is a need for a conscious connecting link between the seer and the seen, without which we can have no knowledge of the world outside. It is not the light rays, the retina of the eyes, the senses or the mind that are ultimately responsible for the phenomenon of perception. All these may be there, but if something else is not there, we will not know anything. A corpse has all the features of a human being, but one essential thing is not there, and therefore it is unable to perceive anything.
Likewise would be the attempt to know things with all the necessary apparatus provided, but with the element of consciousness missing. It is therefore consciousness which supplies the soul the perceptional capability. Therefore, the link between the seer and the seen should be naturally and obviously a relation of consciousness, without which we cannot account for our knowledge of things. Hence, consciousness seems to be underlying the whole process. The process of knowledge is indwelt by the principle of consciousness.
We must carefully note as to what it means when we say that consciousness indwells the process. A process is a series of certain motions connected with one another, a complex made up of parts. This is what we mean by a process. A process is a succession of certain events or stages, and none can be aware that there is a succession unless there is someone transcending the process of succession. If there are only bits of process, one bit will not know another bit of the process, and there will be no such thing as a process. We will only have unconnected bits dislodged from each other, and each bit will be aware only of itself and not of another bit. In that case, where would be the process through which there is linkage of all these bits? Consciousness of process implies a transcendence of the processional passage of events, links or stages. It is very important to remember that the awareness of a procession is not involved in the procession. The awareness of the movement of anything is not a part of the movement itself. Hence, ‘process of knowledge’ implies something which is different from the process.
There should be a being hidden behind the process of change, transformation, succession or becoming. This rule applies to every kind of transition taking place everywhere in the world—whatever be the kind of change or vicissitude. Knowledge of vicissitude implies the existence of something that is not involved in the vicissitude. Knowledge of vicissitude implies the existence of something that is not involved in the vicissitude. That we have knowledge of the world as a process of change implies that we have in us something which does not change with the objects that change. When we say that the world is transitory, we mean that there is something within us that is not transitory. The idea of being finite and limited shows that there is something in us which is not limited or finite. It is very clear and simple to understand. The perceptional process therefore implies the existence of a consciousness which is different from the process. It is this that makes us become aware that there is an object outside, though it may be far away in space. Our sense organs need not physically come in contact with objects. The consciousness element in us, together with another psychological event, allows us to know the object outside.
There is a twofold process involved in perception—the mental and the spiritual. The mind and consciousness, which should not be confused with each other, function simultaneously in the process of perception. The mind is very, very elastic, and it is a force whose pervasive capacity is incredible. More rapid is the work of the mind than that even of the most sensitive photographic plate. Quick and rapid as the photographic film is in receiving the impressions from outside, quicker and more rapid still is the mind in its functions. Instantaneous seems to be the work of the mind. Faster than light and faster than electricity can the mind travel. We say the fastest thing is light; but the mind is faster. With such a rapidity of motion does the mind move towards the object that we cannot know that it has moved. We cannot catch up with the speed of the mind, and so we do not know that there is motion at all. It is similar to a motion picture in which the individual pictures move so rapidly that the human eye sees the scene as being in motion. This rapid movement of the mind towards the object is for a purpose. The mind pervades the form of the object by a movement.
How the mind travels is a very interesting subject, and there has been a lot of controversy among psychologists and philosophers as to the constitution and function of the mind. Many think that the mind is within the body and cannot go outside. If it were in fact locked within the body, perception should be inexplicable. If everything is within us, and nothing is outside us, how are we to come in contact with things outside? This led people to the conclusion that the mind can function within the body and yet extend its operations outside the body. It can be attached to a particular body and yet connect itself with other bodies. Just as a lamp may be located in a particular spot but it can shed its light around a larger area, the mind does not actually give up its location in the body but it can stretch its arms outside to a certain extent.
What enables the mind to perceive an object is not merely the physical proximity of the object, but also the interest that the mind has in the object. When there is absolutely no interest in an object, perception may be difficult. We may be sitting in a railway car with many people, and yet although they are so near, we may not even be fully aware of them, because we are not interested in them. Physical proximity may be necessary, but it is not the only thing necessary. More important is mental interest, because attention follows interest. Where there is no interest, there is also no attention. This also explains memory; we cannot remember a thing in which we are not interested, however much we may scratch our heads. Interest, physical proximity, the phenomenon of physical light, and a healthy constitution of the sense organs—all these factors must come together in the process of the perception of an object.
But there is a more essential element than even these, namely, consciousness. The two features of perception are—knowledge and knowledge of a form. In the perception of an object, we have knowledge, no doubt. It is not a general knowledge but a particular knowledge linked with the form of the object. A mountain in front of us, for example, is a specific type of knowledge that we have. It is called determinate perception, specifically related to a particular object or a group of objects. This limitation of perception to a particular object is the work of the mind, but the illumination behind it is the work of consciousness. So, there is a twofold feature of perception—the form and the consciousness of form.
Specification and the awareness of the specification is the twofold feature of a perception of any kind. This specification of an object is called a vritti. This is a very famous term occurring in yoga psychology. Mental vritti, manovritti is a term used in Patanjali’s yoga system. “The control of the vrittis of the mind is yoga,” says Patanjali. So, what is vritti? Vritti is nothing but the function of the mind by which it assumes a specific modification in relation to an object. This specific modification is a kind of mould into which the mind casts itself in respect of an object which is in front of it. When there is perception of a mountain, there is a vritti of a mountain, one may say. The mind has a vritti of a mountain, a vritti of a person and a vritti of this or that. A vritti is nothing but a mould into which the mind casts itself with reference to an object in which it has interest and which it cognises.
’Vritti’ is a very important term to remember. It will occur many times in yoga psychology. There are so many vrittis of the mind, because there can be many cognitions by the mind of objects. It can go on cognising many things, because there are many forms in the world. Therefore there can be many vrittis, and these many vrittis get piled up in the lower layers of the mind. The mind has many layers; we shall study these sometime later. Just as honeybees have two stomachs, one for actual digestion and the other merely to store, the mind seems to have at least three ‘stomachs’. One is for receiving, one for storing and another for digesting, one may say. This is what the psychologists call the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels. The mind rarely digests anything—it only stores.
The situation is comparable to a retail shop and a wholesale shop. The subconscious is the retail shop, and the unconscious is the wholesale shop. Many things are there deep in this unconscious, but a little of it is stored for daily purposes in the subconscious, and the things immediately needed are kept just in front. That is the conscious level. The shopkeeper also has many things inside, but one cannot see them. These are the stored-up vrittis of the mind. Our personality is made up of vrittis—nothing but vrittis. The whole of psychology is nothing but the study of the vrittis of the mind.
These vrittis are illumined by the consciousness inside. Life is given to the vrittis by consciousness, just as seeds germinate in the earth when there is rainfall, proper temperature, manure, etc. Vrittis activate themselves when consciousness enlivens them; otherwise they lie buried like dead seeds. In the act of perception, a vritti, or a form of the mind, functions in respect of an object and the consciousness underlying it. This consciousness in relation to the perception of an object may be said to be the adhidaiva of that object, while the object is the adhibhuta. This consciousness immanent in the vritti, which is necessary for the perception of the object, may be said to be the adhidaiva of that object. It is the presiding deity in oneself, without which one cannot know the object. The location of this consciousness in the perceiving subject is the adhyatma.
The adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva ultimately are not separated from one another—they are interrelated. Like the three angles of a triangle connected by three sides, one will find this structure of adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva is a mentally related construction. One is not independent from the other, and when one takes up any item for consideration, the other two will also come up automatically. When we walk, we walk with two legs, and if there is a three-wheeled vehicle, when it moves we will find that all the three wheels move simultaneously. It does not mean that only one wheel moves. This adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva complexity is a three-wheeled vehicle, as it were, which takes all the three wheels together when it moves.
When this psychological fact is extended to the universe as a whole it becomes God, world and soul. Adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhidaiva are nothing but the seeds of the development of thought in the concept of soul, world and God—individual, universe and Creator. These are the further reaches of this simple analysis of perception. There is a consciousness underlying both the seer and the seen, on account of which there is perception of an object. We have to be aware of ourselves, and we have to be aware of the object. The link between these two is consciousness, which should transcend the subject and the object. It has to be simultaneously present in the seer, the seen object and the seeing process as well; otherwise there would be no knowledge of objects at all. If we are bereft of consciousness, there is no perception. If there is no connection of consciousness with the object, there is no perception, and unless there is a movement of consciousness through a vritti towards an object, there is no perception.
We may also ask whether there really a movement of consciousness towards the object. Movement is another name for a process. Does consciousness also undergo a process or is it a part of the process? It cannot be, because a process can only be known by a processless being. If consciousness is a process, there should be another processless consciousness behind it. The process is not of consciousness—it is rather of the vritti. Vritti is a process, but not consciousness itself. The consciousness that is behind the seer, the seen and the process of seeing is ‘being’ rather than a process. It is existence as such. Adhidaiva, by which we may understand the presiding consciousness above the tripod of seer, seeing and seen, is not subject to change as the phenomenon of the object or the process of perception are. This presiding deity of the subject-object relationship is called adhidaiva.
Why are there so many gods in religion? I just mentioned this previously without saying anything in detail, but something interesting is there underlying this: how the religious idea of many gods arose, and that there are some who are loath to the idea of many gods. We should not make hasty statements in regard to things transcending mental perception. We should not say yes or no in regard to these things immediately. We are not in a position to pass judgment on these super-physical matters. We are here to be very humble in such things. There can be many gods from one point of view, though there is only one God ultimately. Hence religious consciousness has a great value and meaning.
Who are these many gods? Let us go, step by step, with a careful analysis of the consciousness situation. Earlier I mentioned that there are stages or degrees of objective reality. This is covered by the Samkhya and corroborated even by our modern scientists. There are degrees of the manifestation of the objective reality, and there are also degrees of our personality. There are layers of our personality—one under the other like the peels of an onion. There is the first peel, then another peel, and a third, and so on. Many peels constitute an onion. Likewise, we have peel after peel constituting our vestures which are the layers of our personality. In Sanskrit they are called the koshas. Panchakoshas translates as the five koshas. Kosha means vesture—a kind of shirt, you may say.
Just as there are degrees of manifestation of objective reality, we noticed that there are also layers of the subjective personality of the adhyatma. The vital sheath is constituted of the pranic energy, the organs of action, the senses of perception or knowledge, the mind, the ego, the intellect and the other layers of the mind including the subconscious and the unconscious. The physical sheath is constituted of the elements—earth, fire, water, air and ether. These layers are animated by the Being-Consciousness simultaneously. Like the rays of the sun which simultaneously travel millions of miles through very many layers of space to reach the Earth, the sun of consciousness inside the deepest recesses of our being lights up all these layers of personality, including the lowliest vesture which is the physical body. We are at once aware that we are a total personality, with body, prana, senses, mind, intellect, ahamkara (ego) and many other things. We are in a position to know that we are a total complex of personality at one and the same time, on account of this sudden illumination of the entire personality by this consciousness within us.