by Swami Krishnananda
To be seated in a perfect posture is the first step, as we saw already. After you are settled in the posture, which itself is an important achievement, take a deep breath, which should be a spontaneous process. The inhalation or the taking in of the deep breath should be effortless, something taking place almost automatically. The disturbance to which we are usually accustomed, either in the mind or in the nerves, causes heavy breathing, and a heaving of breath in such an unnatural manner disturbs natural thinking. The breathing becomes disturbed when the mind gets disturbed, and vice versa. Frustrated feelings, tensions of any kind, also will disturb the breathing process. Therefore, it is necessary to bring together the factors of breathing and thinking in a beautiful manner. A deep, spontaneous inhalation, and a correspondingly spontaneous exhalation, practiced for a few minutes, will prepare one for the further steps.
It is also necessary that we should have no engagements in the mind, at least for the next one or two hours while we are thus seated. It is useless to sit either for japa or meditation when there is some engagement to follow immediately, because the practice of yoga is a great spiritual worship that we are performing. It is an honour that we are bestowing upon the great divinity within us. Yoga is not a business – which means to say, it is not like the other activities of life. It is not one of the activities at all. As a matter of fact, it is something that we do when all activities have ceased on account of fulfilment. This is important to remember. Activities have to cease on account of their fulfilment, not on account of a defeatist mentality or a frustrated feeling. Whatever is to be done has been done, and whatever is yet to be done does not immediately follow – so that the mind is not in a state of engagement of any kind.
An absolutely free mind is essential. Very few of us are free in our mind. We are used to looking at our wristwatch frequently. This is a disease of modern times. Wherever we are, we look at our wristwatch. One medical man has given a very beautiful indication of possibility of heart attack by observing how many times a person looks at his watch. How many times a day does that person look at his wristwatch? From that we can determine whether a person is tensed. Such person is subject to a heart attack. Why do we go on looking at our wristwatch every now and then? What is wrong with us? It means our nerves are tense and we are uneasy inside
There should be no tension of any kind. And for that, we must know what is tension.
It is very easy to say that there should be no tension, but what do we actually mean by this word? It is a feeling in the mindhaving a connection with the nerves. The mind, the pranas and the nerves are all connected together like intimate brothers, and if one is disturbed, the other gets disturbed too. The nerves can disturb the prana, the prana can disturb the mind, and so on. The disturbed mind can disturb the prana, the prana can disturb the nerves, etc. It is a feeling – tension is a kind of feeling – which is connected with the prana and the nerves, even the muscles, which acts upon the digestive system, the respiratory tract, the circulatory system and all sorts of activities in our body. So, when we are in a state of tension, everything is in an unnatural condition. This is what is called a state of emergency – something brought about for a particular necessity that has arisen. But it will not continue, or it is not supposed to continue for a long time – and the body is ready to take action. But the practice of yoga is, as I mentioned, the beautiful flower coming out as a consequence of the fulfilment of action, and it is impossible to equate yoga with any kind of activity. We live in a world of work; but yoga is not a work.
What is yoga, then? We cannot think except in terms of action; and if yoga is not an action, what is it? Yoga is a state of being. It is not a state of working or urging oneself to activity towards an ulterior end. Is there a difference between action and being? Yes, there is a tremendous difference! An action is motivated by a feeling towards the fulfilment of an ulterior end and it is not the end by itself. We do not engage ourselves in action for the sake of the action itself but for a purpose to be fulfilled through this process called action. But being is not a means to an end. While action is a means to some end, being is an end in itself. So, yoga is an end. This is something most people do not know.
Though we use the word ‘practice’ etc. in connection with yoga, it is only a way of expressing oneself because it is not an ordinary kind of practice, like a legal practice or a medical practice, etc. This is a different kind of practice that we call yoga. Yoga is a tendency towards fulfilment of ‘being’ in larger and larger measures. Even now we are a state of being. I am a being, you are a being, because our essential nature is a sort of existence. But it is incomplete existence, unfulfilled being and, therefore, it is a restless state of being. Though we are existing, that existence of ours at present has become a sort of condition subject to transformation so that, very unfortunately indeed, our being has become almost a kind of activity.
Being cannot be an activity. It is a misnomer. But our individual being, the psychophysical individuality or personality, is so incomplete, so unfulfilled in every way, so full of craving for this fulfilment that it is lacking, that it has got involved in a state of what is called becoming, not being. So philosophers say this is a world of becoming – samsara. Samsara is the Sanskrit word for the term ‘becoming’. It is always tending towards something else – urging one for more and more of everything. As an old saying goes, man never ‘is’, he is always ‘to be’. We never ‘are’ – very strange! We never ‘are’; we are yet ‘to be’. We have not yet become what we want to become; and this mix-up of thought and feeling between the concept of ‘becoming’ and ‘being’ is the source of our tensions.
Every person is in a state of tension, because there is a tug of war going on between the unfulfilled ideal that is ahead and the present state of being. The thing that is required is the reconciliation of the character of the ideal that is not yet realised with our realistic condition at present. The reality is something, the ideal is another thing; this is our fate. We are always fond of achieving something which is not yet with us. That is why we are working. Otherwise, why should we work? Our activity is an indication that we are moving towards an ideal which we want to achieve, attain, possess, enjoy, etc.
We are restless. Why? Naturally we will be restless, because happiness is a condition of the presence. It is not a future. We cannot be happy merely on account of a concept of the future. Happiness is a present condition, and not a future condition. It is either now, or it is not at all. But our mind is always thinking of a future fulfilment. So, how can we be happy today? And inasmuch as the future ideal is always ahead, like the horizon, it is never realised. Therefore, we can never be happy; neither today nor tomorrow can we be happy. We are always unhappy. The world is a vale of tears, a reservoir of sorrows, on account of this apparent impossibility of reconciling the future ideal with the present realistic state of affairs.
I am mentioning all this to give you an idea of what tension is, of which we have to be free to an appreciable extent before we sit for yoga. This tension can be released – though not wholly, at least to an appreciable measure – through an intelligent analysis of the whole situation. It is not always necessary that the ideal should be in our possession just now. There is a student studying for obtaining a degree in a college or a university, which is, of course, an ideal before him – a future – but he need not create a tension. That would be undesirable. It is true on a psychological analysis that he will be in a state of tension, because he looks small at present in comparison with what he is aspiring for in the future, but wisdom will require that though the ideal is not yet possessed and it has not become a present, it can be reconciled with the present realism by a hope of a healthy character. The child takes ten months to come out of the womb of the mother. Does it mean that the mother should be always in a state of tension: when it will come, when it will come? That is not desirable. It is known very well that it will take ten months. We put a seed in the field and we expect a crop, but should we be in a state of tension: when will the crop come, when will the crop come? We know that it will take some time – perhaps three months. We cook our food. We light the fire, boil water and put rice into it. Should we be in a state of tension: when will it be cooked, when will it be cooked?