by Swami Krishnananda
Continued practice of even asana, and a systemised effort at methodical breathing, creates in oneself a new kind of power and energy which otherwise gets dissipated on account of the natural distracted condition of the body. A regularised practice even of simple physical posture – the meditative pose – and a normal healthy practice of breathing, will create a tendency in the powers of the body to unite themselves together into a new kind of force which attracts things towards itself. A gradual capacity to exert influence on one’s atmosphere rises automatically in oneself. Our personality becomes a centre of attraction. It is not that we dress ourselves, groom ourselves or have any kind of make-up of the body for the sake of attraction, but certain changes that take place within the body create an internal atmosphere of attraction of everything that is around oneself.
The capacity has various other aspects also, namely, the ability to withstand the pairs of opposites – such things as even heat and cold, hunger and thirst, and psychological opposites as joy and sorrow. We will not be suddenly roused to happiness on account of anything, nor will we sink into grief even if the worst thing happens. The body, in collaboration with the mind, will be able to bear everything in the world. That fortitude is a kind of strength which gets newly generated in oneself. Even if we fall sick, by chance, we will recover quickly and not be incapacitated for years in a hospital. A new kind of capacity to rejuvenate oneself also arises in the system, though there may be a sudden fall of health for various reasons and we may have fever, headache, and so on.
This strength is not ordinary strength. It is the strength of the tendency to unity of powers. It is not the power that we think of ordinarily in the world – such as social strength, political strength, or the strength of status in the public, the temporary strength that we gain by eating a good meal, and so on. This is another kind of strength altogether, which will keep us sane and stable even in an atmosphere of conflict, dissention, and tension. Even if we are placed in an atmosphere of severe conflict, we will not be affected by these conflicts. We will be able to understand, rather than react. The capacity to withstand the impulse to reaction is one of the consequences, one of the results that follow from the continuous practice of asana and pranayama. We become a little different from other people, and the difference is precisely in our being able to turn to a centrality of our being, rather than towards objects of sense.
The greater is the tendency to the acquisition of this knowledge, the greater also is the power, because real power is the same as knowledge. Knowledge is power. Where there is knowledge, power has to be. But, this knowledge is not book-learning. It is not a qualification of the academies. It is a knowledge which is identical with ‘being’, about which we were discussing a few aspects the other day. Knowledge associated with ‘being’ is also power, because power is only another name for the expression of ‘being’, while the common man’s notion is one of artificial contact with the facilities and instruments of action. The power to wield instruments of action is not real power, because when the instruments are withdrawn, the power also goes. Suppose we have a gun; we seem to have a power with us. When the gun is not there, we have no power. But the power of yoga is not of that kind. We we do not require a gun or a knife or a sword in our hand. It is power that is manifest by our own ‘being’, and that power cannot be snatched away from us.
The manifestation of this power can also be felt personally in one’s own self and not merely by others, though others may also feel it on occasions. In a beautiful aphorism, Patanjali mentions the consequences of self-control. Rupa lavanya bala vajra samhananatvani kayasampat (YS 3.47): The personality assumes a lustre. There is a new kind of light emanating from our eyes, which can influence the atmosphere outside. Even a violent person may become calm in our presence because of a new kind of vibration that we spread around us. Any kind of doubt or conflict may get cleared up in our presence because doubts and conflicts are the children of the weddedness to diversity, and wherever there is a power that is born of unity or the sense of unity, there cannot be doubt, there cannot be conflict or tension.
There is a peculiar kind of beauty – not the beauty which the senses see occasionally, when they are excited due to their selfishness, but a real beauty which is capable of acting like a magnet around its atmosphere. We will be beautiful even if we have no clothes to wear. Even if we have not taken a bath, that beauty will not vanish, whereas we are under the impression that beauty increases by dress and appearance, etc., brought about by artificial appurtenances. The beauty that is injected into the personality by the practice of yoga is a natural concomitance of the essential nature of our being, and it will be there always. Some of the yoga scriptures go to the extent of saying that even the celestials are drawn towards us due to the grandeur of our personality – celestials, not merely the people of the world!
Lavanya is another word which Patanjali uses. There is a tenderness of our personality, together with that strength our being. There is a beautiful combination of strength and tenderness combined in our personality. We are an unshakeable being. The logic of the world and the treasures of the earth cannot shake us easily, and the power of fortitude sustains us at all times. We become an indomitable figure in our thinking and in our actions. Our decisions become firm, and we need not go on scratching our head to come to a conclusion about important issues. Things become clear at once, on the very face of these appearances. But, at the same time, we become a very tender personality, with the ability to feel the feelings of others – a great virtue indeed – on account of which we do not react to atmospheres.
The virtue of the yogi is understanding, rather than retaliation or wreaking vengeance or reaction of any kind. He does not get stirred up by stimuli from the outside world. He is not a slave; he is a master. A peculiar softness of nature gets combined with the hardness of power. Vajradapi kathorani mrduni kusumadapi: Yogis are described as harder than diamond and softer than a petal of lotus. We cannot do anything to them, such strong people they are; but nobody can be as soft as they are. That is lavanya combined with bala. Rupa lavanya bala: Beauty, magnificence, a magnetic personality, strength – all these follow gradually as a necessary result of our sustained effort at bringing together the powers of our personality, which are dissipated by sensory activity, egoistic affirmation and desires of various kinds. To put them down it is that we take to the practice of yoga.
We have not come to that stage of yoga where our consciousness gets identified with the powers of the world. We are still in a very, very low stage, in the bare stage of the attempt at sitting in a single posture and breathing normally in a sustained, harmonious manner. But even these simple practices, continued for a protracted period, will bring about their own result because even the first step in yoga is yoga itself. Jijnasur api yogasya sabda-brahmativartate (Gita 6.44): Even an aspiration to know God is such a virtue that it surpasses all other charitable deeds of the world, because the desire to know God is to be regarded as the fruit of immense virtues accumulated in previous lives. Nobody can desire God, unless it is a flowering of immense past effort of many lives through which one has lived.
Thus, we are enthused by this great solacing feature that is in our life called yoga, which many of the scriptures refer to as more compassionate than a mother and dearer than a mother. The most loving person in the world is one’s own mother; and this yoga is supposed to be dearer than mother herself because it will take care of us more than a mother. Wherever we are and whenever we are in trouble, the mother keeps a kind eye upon us, but yoga will keep a kinder eye, and it will see that we do not come to a difficulty of any kind. This yoga is not a person that is taking care of us like an outside being as a mother; it is something that is happening within us, ourselves. Na deva dandam udyamya rakshanti pasupalavat: When the higher powers make up their minds to take care of us, they do not protect us like a shepherd with a stick in his hand, going after his sheep. This is because these divine powers are not persons who are wandering outside in the world, like soldiers. They are powers within ourselves, which, when they are awakened, begin to guard us because we have bestowed thought upon them.
These powers – whatever we seek, in fact – is in ourselves. One of the greatest miraculous discoveries of the philosophy of yoga is that whatever we seek is in ourselves. It is not outside, because there is no such thing as ‘outside’. The concept of ‘outside’ is an illusion that is created by a peculiar structural defect in the activity of the mind. Just as there is a false outsidedness in dream, while there is no such thing as that, there is no such thing as externality even in the waking world. Don’t we see a vast external world in dream, something disconnected from us? But is it really disconnected? We know very well how even the vast world that we see in dream is connected with us and the externality of that so-called world there is a falsity created by a peculiar movement of the mind. So is this externality that keeps us cut off from the world of nature.