by Swami Krishnananda
I would like to pause here and give some answers to questions that have arisen. The gist of one question is whether love for people is compatible with yoga practice. The doubt also arises as to whether love for people is itself a way of contacting Reality. I do not think that a detailed answer to this question is necessary, because this subject has been touched on in an adequate manner in our classes. There is no such thing as contacting Reality with another, because Reality is not ‘another’. That which is other than us is not Reality. That which is real can never be ‘another’, and this is very important to remember. That which is outside us and other than us shall always remain alien to our nature. It is also a psychological fact that anything that is totally different from us cannot become a true object of our love. There is no such thing as ‘loving another’. It is just a misnomer. Wherever there is an apparent affection or love for another, it arises on account of a misapprehension of one’s relation to another.
There are two aspects of the factor of love. One is internal, another is external. That which is the rational cause behind the very possibility of affection is different from its outer form or shape. The confusion between the inner cause and the outer form is the reason behind the failure of all loves in the world. We have seen that lovers have not succeeded in the end. They always ended in some kind of sorrow. The reason was that they could not reconcile the outer form of love with the inner makeup of it. Its constituents are never visible to the eyes, and we see only the shapes that it takes outside. In all our affections and loves, we imagine that our heart goes to an object outside. We are concerned with the form, the shape and the object-ness of the object in all forms of affection. But we do not have time enough to think as to why we should love at all. What is the harm if we do not love? Who is the loser? Is it true that we love another for the sake of another?
There have been many people who have held the opinion that we love others for their own good. “I love that person or that thing for its own benefit.” Is it true that we are looking for its benefit and its good? If that had been the case, it is really wonderful, and it should be so. If our love for another is for the benefit of another, nothing could be more praiseworthy than that attitude. But is it a fact? Are we honest in holding this opinion? On a careful analysis we will find that this is not the fact and we are only masquerading our selfishness in the form of a so-called interest in the good of others, because we will find that when love is not received back in an equal measure, when there is no reciprocation of love, our love vanishes into the winds.
Just imagine a circumstance where nobody loves us, rather everybody positively hates us. Will we have as much affection for people as we professed to have? It is impossible to love where love is not reciprocated, and such a love which is not reciprocated takes the form of hatred. Sometimes the best friend becomes the greatest enemy. It is difficult to tackle such an enemy, because of his having once been a friend. In our epic stories we have the instance of Vibhishana against Ravana. Nobody could have been a greater friend to Ravana than Vibhishana, but he became the biggest foe because he knew thoroughly all the tactics of Ravana.
When love becomes hatred, nothing can be more dangerous—not even an atom bomb can devastate us so vehemently as love turned to hatred. The wonder is, why should love become hatred? It is a contradiction. Can love become hatred? If love can become hatred, it cannot be called love. If today it is not love, it was not love even earlier. Love that has become hatred today could not have been love yesterday. Yesterday also this ‘love’ was a hidden hatred, and it was outwardly taking the shape of affection. It is political affection, we may say. In one sense, all our affections are political—they are not genuine. They are political in the sense that they will be withdrawn when they are not reciprocated.
This is the psychological truth about our affections and loves in the world. But there is a greater truth hidden behind it. Why do we love? The reason behind it is that we do not recognise Reality as being expressed in the object of our love. The question earlier was whether Reality can be contacted through love for people. Reality cannot be contacted through love for people, though Reality is the reason behind our love for people. The reason is that our own Self is immanently present in the object, so it summons us. “I am here!” We are calling ourselves in another form. The Infinite is summoning the Infinite in all affections. It is we who summon ourselves in the object or through the form of the object when we love an object; otherwise, love would be impossible. Where we are not present, love is absent—remember this. Love is present only where we are present. If we are not there, love is also not there.
This is the philosophical or metaphysical, as well as the selfish analysis of love. Individually, when we are present, it is selfishness. Universally, when we are present, it becomes divine affection. Both these are true as a form of affection. So, is Reality involved in our love? Yes, because our true nature as a universal consciousness is the ultimate reason behind our being attracted towards objects of the world. Otherwise, attraction would be impossible. This is not only true about human affection. Even the cohesive force of chemical elements and the gravitational pull of the planets are explicable only on account of this universal force of attraction existing in things. In the material realm it is called cohesive force or gravitational pull, chemical reaction, etc., but at the psychological level it is called love. In a spiritual realm it is called Self-realisation. All mean the same thing, ultimately. In that sense we may say we are contacting Reality in love.
This is feasible from the theoretical and metaphysical point of view. In practice though, the fact is different, because in practice what happens is that we do not contact Reality—we contact only the outer form of it. One form of it as the subject comes in contact with another form of it in the object. Two forms collide in love. Though the collision may be occasioned by an internal reality, which is the common substratum of both, the reason is something and the effect that it produces is something else. The forms which come in contact with each other in affection are under a misapprehension when their loves unite with each other, as they may not recognise the uniting Reality that stands as the basis of that affection.
If we are in a position to recognise the immanent cause behind this love, we can contact Reality. This is called universal love which is what one sees in the saint’s love for humanity. This is wonderful, but this is only a possibility and not a practicability for all human beings in a general sense. This is because generally, when we love a person or an object, we forget the immanent reality in it and we go after only the form outside. If name and form are to be cast aside, and if love is to be recognised as it is in itself, then love becomes experience—it is no more called love. It is God’s love for the universe, of Spirit loving Itself—the Universal recognising Itself. The saint’s love for mankind and for the whole world is love of the Self as universality. In that sense, contact with other people, communication with others and affection for things are another form of universal divine love. Only if we are saints or sages can we love at this level, and in all ordinary conditions we are misguided and forget the immanence of Truth. We go only for the forms, in which case we will be failures in life.
Another question that arises in the mind is this doubt: “Is brahmacharya really essential for yoga, or can we get on without it?” The question arises perhaps on account of a subtle longing in the mind to continue enjoying the pleasures of life, although yoga promises many more wonderful things. “Why not have the pleasures of the world also, together with the pleasures of Truth?” That may be the subtle desire. Desires are very subtle, and it is difficult to understand them. We cannot know what is happening to our own minds when we think certain things. Is brahmacharya necessary for yoga, or can yoga be practised without brahmacharya? We cannot be a yogin without being a brahmacharin. It may be pointed out that brahmacharya is different from one’s living a married life or not. It is quite different and has a different connotation altogether. A married person also may be in the position to live a life of brahmacharya under certain given conditions, and an unmarried person may not be able to live a life of brahmacharya under certain given circumstances. Brahmacharya is not ‘marriage or not marriage’. It is an inner attitude of the mind and a discipline of desire. We may be wondering why it is that brahmacharya is emphasised in yoga—what is the purpose behind it, and why is there so much emphasis?
The reason is that brahmacharya means the conservation of the energy of our personality. In yoga, especially in its aspect as meditation, our mind is supposed to be tremendously powerful. A weak mind cannot concentrate—we know it very well. The subject of brahmacharya has to do with the energy of the system. We have a vital energy in our whole personality, pervading every pore and every cell. It is difficult to distinguish this from mental power. The power of the mind and the power of brahmacharya are indistinguishable. We may say even that one is the expression of the other.
Energy is supposed to be incapable of being lost. We know the law of the conservation of energy—our physicists say that the sum total of the energy in the cosmos is the same, and it neither increases nor decreases. So also is the sum total of energy in our personality. This is true, but what happens to the wealth of a country, for example? The sum total of the wealth of a country may be said to be the same—it never increases, it never decreases. My money may go to you, your money may come to me, and it may go to a third person, but the money never goes out of the country. Wherever it may be, it remains within the land. The country neither becomes rich nor poor—it is the same. But people may be suffering due to lack of money, while others are enjoying the benefits of great wealth. We know the unequal distribution of wealth that may take place in the same country, but the nation as a whole is neither poorer nor richer.
Likewise, we may say, something happens to the energy in the body. The sum total may be the same, like the sum total of the wealth of the nation, but individually, in the practical manipulation of affairs, we find that the energy gets channelled in certain directions, like the channelisation of economic power. If my wealth goes to you, I will be sad and you will be happy, but it makes no difference to the country whether I gain or you gain as the country is neither richer nor poorer. But even though the general, theoretical sum total may be the same, practically it affects us. The wrong channelisation of energy is what is to be prevented by the practice of brahmacharya. The different senses—the powers of sense—which work through the sense organs are the avenues of the channelisation of force. Just as there are individuals in a country among whom wealth can be distributed equally or unequally, the energy of the system may be distributed equally or unequally among the sense organs. Sometimes it gets centralised in one sense or two or three senses. If this is so, then we feel a lopsided development in our personality. There is an unequal distribution of energy in the system when there is a lack of brahmacharya, just as there is unequal distribution of economic power in a country.
The yoga system emphasises brahmacharya for the sake of the maintenance of balance in the system. There should not be an unequal distribution of any kind of force in the body. Otherwise, the mind will lean in the direction where there is an excess of the distribution of energy. The mind will think in the direction of that centre to which the energy has been directed in a larger proportion. The energy gets concentrated in a particular direction when the mind drives it in that direction for its own purpose, and its purpose is the satisfaction of an immediate need or an urge.
Yoga is not very much concerned merely with immediate needs—it is concerned with ultimate needs. If we concern ourselves too much with immediate needs alone, we may lose sight of the ultimate need. A good governmental system cannot close its eyes to its ultimate needs and look only to the particular interests of people. The general good of the whole nation is the concern of the government—not merely your needs or my needs individually. However, many a time the truth of this gets lost, and the mind gets lodged in certain objects due to its immediate desires and longings. Wherever the mind is, there the energy also is. This fact can be amply demonstrated in certain practices of meditation.
For example, people who meditate on the centre of the eyebrows or any part of the body above the neck too much may feel a kind of headache. If one concentrates too much on the ajnachakra or the point between the two eyebrows, one will find a kind of headache slowly creeping in. The reason is because the mind is there. When the mind is there, the blood also rushes to that spot. Where the blood rushes, the energy increases, and one will have a headache. The very same thing happens when we love an object outside. We so much get identified with that thing, and we pour out our energy and affection along with everything else, so that the object becomes our temporary self. We cease to be ourselves—we become something else. The practice of brahmacharya, therefore, is a scientific and a psychological necessity and not merely an ethical question.
Sometimes it seems that social ethics torture people unnecessarily. It is not so. Brahmacharya is not an ethical principle merely; it is a scientific necessity, based on a psychological truth. Brahmacharya enables people to defend themselves from harm, to protect their energy and to integrate their personality rather than to allow these to be disintegrated. We know how immensely necessary it is to integrate our personality rather than disintegrate it. The forces that keep our limbs intact are the forces of brahmacharya. The forces which keep us healthy are the forces of brahmacharya. The forces which enable us to concentrate our minds, retain memory and have good attention are the forces of brahmacharya. The forces that give strength to the body are those of brahmacharya. Finally, of course, it goes without saying that these energies combine to establish such a balance and harmony in our system that rajas and tamas cease and sattva reveals itself. Sattva is another name for balance of force, and it is in this state of balanced forces that Truth gets reflected.