by Swami Krishnananda
The problem of yoga practice is a single and concentrated problem, right from the beginning till the end. It is that elusive something which we call the object of our quest. The whole of life is an effort at obtaining, acquiring, possessing, enjoying, or becoming one with what we seek. Now, this is the precise foundation of not merely yoga, but every kind of effort anywhere in the world: How are we going to possess the object of our quest? Difficulties in the practice of yoga, difficulties in any kind of success in the world, arise on account of not knowing the method and the means of properly contacting the object of the quest and coming in union with it for the purpose of the satisfaction that one seeks through such a union. The object of the quest of yoga is similar to any other object of a quest in the world in secular life as far as the difficulty in acquiring it or possessing it is concerned, though the nature of the object is quite different in different cases.
How will we possess anything? We have a very unclear notion of possession, search, enjoyment, etc. We are born with an unclear notion about all things, and we die with an unclear notion about all things; therefore, all our struggle and effort throughout life is based on a misconception about things in general. A misconception about one thing is equivalent to a misconception about any other thing, because there is only one object of our quest. If there is any object of our quest other than the one which we have in front of our mind’s eye, it will present before us a similar problem, because the problem is a scientific one; it is not a social problem or even an ordinary psychological problem in the academic sense.
It is very difficult to be very precise in the understanding of things because the mind is always in a hurry to acquire its object of quest, and it is not enough if we are merely seeking an object and are in a hurry about it. It is also necessary to properly acquire a knowledge of the means thereof. This means, or the method of acquiring or possessing the object of the quest, is directly concerned with our relationship with that object; and there is nothing more difficult to understand in this world than this peculiar thing called relationship. But we may ignorantly imagine that relationship is something very clear, that there is nothing difficult about it. “I am related to this person. He is my brother.” What is the difficulty? The relationship is very clear. “This is my father, this is my sister, this is my brother-in-law, this is my boss, this is my peon.” This is the relationship. What is our problem about knowing the relationship?
But this sort of an answer to this peculiar question is no answer. That is a child’s answer to a very scientific problem. And unless this question is clearly answered in one’s own mind, the object of the quest will not come near us. It will recede like the horizon. The more we approach the horizon, the further it recedes from us. We will never touch the horizon, whatever be the effort we make in running towards it. “The object of the quest runs away from that person who does not understand it properly,” says the Upanishad. This is very strange: the object of our quest runs away from us, instead of coming near us, if we do not understand it and have a wrong notion about it. And, unfortunately, we have a wrong notion about it.
What is our notion about a thing, an object? I have attempted to give some idea about this subject sometime earlier. Our idea is that everything is disconnected. We have an ambivalent attitude, as I mentioned last time, which means to say that we have a double personality in ourselves which emphasises one thing at one time and another thing at another time. We like and dislike a thing at the same time. This is called psychological tension. We may wonder how is it possible to like and dislike a thing at the same time. But this is exactly what our attitude is towards things. That is why sometimes we look all right, and sometimes we do not look all right.
To recall to your memory what I mentioned sometime back, this double attitude of ours towards objects is born of a peculiar structure of our personality. We have two realms of being implanted in us – the eternal and the temporal. These two realms are working simultaneously in us, and there is a warfare going on, as it were, between these two values of the two realms. This is, to repeat again, the Mahabharata war taking place everywhere – inside me, inside you, inside everyone, everywhere in creation. The battle between the eternal and the temporal is called the epic war of the Mahabharata. In Puranic language, it is sometimes called the war between the gods and the titans or the demons, etc.
The pressure of diversity and the pressure of unity – these are the two aspects which work simultaneously in us, and in everyone and everything in the world. The senses – eyes, ear, nose, and all the apparatus of perception – insist on a diversity of things because unless there is diversity, there is no such thing as seeing, hearing, etc. And because the senses have an egoism of their own – they want to assert themselves and keep their position intact – they affirm a diversity of things. Otherwise, their positions will be removed; they will have no status, because they have no function to perform when there is no diversity. They will die out. But who would like to die out? Everybody would like to live as long as possible. So the senses maintain their position by hook or by crook.
Thus, the assertion of diversity is the primary activity of the senses; and we are wedded to the senses. We are living in a sensory world. We are slaves of the eyes, ears, nose, etc. We are not the masters thereof. Whatever the eyes say, we believe. The eye says, “There is a wall.” I say, “Yes, there is a wall.” What a slavish mind I have got! Merely because the eyes tell me that there is a wall, I say, “Yes, there is a wall.” That means I am a servant of the eyes. I am not a master. My finger touches something: “Oh! There is a desk. Yes, I agree with it. Yes, yes, there is a desk.” That means I am a slave of the sense of touch. Why should I believe this sense? Because my finger feels something and says there is a desk, in combination with the perception of the eyes, both of which have connived to create a conspiracy to deceive me, I agree with them and say, “Very good! There is a desk here.”
So my intelligence is only this much. Whatever be my rationality, understanding, it is a slavish rationality, very culpable, and unbecoming of the dignity of the soul of man, of which he boasts so much. We are in a sensory world throughout, root and branch, and so we assert diversity. Who can say there is no desk here? Every sensible man will say there is a desk; and if I say there is no desk, you will call me a fool, an insane person whose brain is out of order. That is what you will think because everybody lives in a sensory world, and the sensational appreciation of things is regarded as the highest of rationality. So, this is one side of our problem.
But, we do not know the consequences of this acquiescing ourselves in the reports of the senses. What is the consequence? We have taken for granted that there is diversity in the world; otherwise, we will not say that there is a desk, there is man – there is this, that, and so on. Therefore, all our philosophy has finally ended in an inviolable decree that there are sense objects, and one object has no connection with the other.
Why is it that we are pulled towards an object? Who is it that pulls us, if there is no connection between us and the object? We have already decreed that there is no connection of one thing with another thing by agreeing with our senses that everything is discrete, that there is diversity in the world. But, now we have to answer another question: Who is it that pulls us towards an object? It is not the object, because the object has no connection with us. Already we have declared that there is a discrete existence or isolated existence of one thing unconnected with the other. There cannot be a pull of one thing in respect of another if everything is disconnected. Now we have to answer this question: Why is there a pull? Why I am pulled towards you, you are pulled towards me? Why A is pulled towards B, B towards A, etc.? Why there is talk of collaboration and universal brotherhood and organisation? Why should there be any such thing as symmetry of action and methodology of approach? Why should there be anything like this in a world of absolutely disconnected things?
Hence, there is another thing speaking from within us. While the senses say, “Everything is different; therefore, we will assert the diversity of things,” something else says: “It is not so. We have a connection with things; therefore, I shall not leave you in peace.” We are caught between the devil and the deep sea. One thing is telling us, “We have a connection with other things; therefore, I shall pull you towards it,” which is called love and hatred; and another thing is telling us, “I shall assert diversity, and one thing has no connection with another thing.” We are in the middle, listening to that voice at certain times and this voice at other times.