by Swami Krishnananda
There are three stages of feeling for God, as sage Patanjali puts it – the mild, the middling, and the intense; and it is only the intense feeling for God that finally succeeds, not the middling or the mild. Almost every religious person has a mild feeling for God, and this feeling accepts the existence of God as the supreme reality, but it also accepts the reality of the world and of people around. When an equal reality is accorded to the world and to human society – and to things, in general – as much as to God, that love for God becomes very mild. This is because a fraction of the mind believes in the existence of God and feels that it is proper to love God, but another fraction goes to the world, which feels that it is also proper to love the world and that there is something valuable in the world. There is also a fraction working for the values that are human, personal, social, etc. Like a stream of water which is moving in different directions by a channelisation of its content, the mind channelises itself into various streams of movement – one stream alone touching the concept or feeling of God, the other streams going somewhere else. This means the whole of the personality is not feeling for God, though some part of it feels for God. We have given one-third of the mind to God, sometimes even less than that – but this will not succeed, says the discipline of yoga.
Sometimes we have different kinds of experience in the world which awakens us into a different kind of feeling altogether – that things are not what they appear to be. There seems to be something peculiar about things, different from what they are taken to be by us in our daily activities. Though it looks that the world is alright and people are alright, they seem to be alright only for some time, and not for all times. This fact enters our mind rarely, occasionally, on certain conditions of experience – when we are frustrated, defeated, or done a bad turn, as we say, which makes us feel a kind of resentment towards everything which we originally felt to be worthwhile. We may resent even a friend whom we regarded as an alter ego up to this time. This resentment, which must come to the mind of everyone one day or the other, will shake up the feelings that one has for the world and for people, and then it is that those feelings, which were externally diverted, withdraw themselves and prepare themselves for a different movement altogether. Then, the stuff of feeling gets intensified.
This is a very strange state of affairs in our mind, namely, that the feelings can hibernate like frogs sitting inside a hole, not doing anything – not coming out, and not acting inside either. When we are frustrated, defeated in our purposes, disillusioned about things in the world, the feelings for the world withdraw themselves. We cannot love the world afterwards, because it has given us a kick. Then what happens to those feelings which were regarding the world as of great value? These feelings come back to their source, as if the waters of a stream are pushed back to the main current of the river. This pushing back of the force of the main current, which was channelising itself in different directions, only increases the potentiality within, but it does not move in the required direction. Here the feelings get intensified, no doubt. They become more powerful than they were earlier, and they seek for an expression. They must find an outlet. Not finding an outlet, they struggle inside and begin to search for an outlet. In this condition, our feeling for something that is not visible – though one may not be quite clear as to what it is – becomes strong; and if the pressure which has brought the feeling back to its source continues for a long time, it can break its barriers, and perhaps move in the direction of God.
How love of God arises in the mind is difficult to explain. It has hundreds and hundreds of ways. Not even the great philosophers can explain satisfactorily how love of God arises in the mind of a person. Sometimes, these divine feelings arise by silly occurrences in life – apparently silly and meaningless. A word that is uttered against our will or wish is sufficient to turn us away from everything in the world. Though it may look a small affair, that is the last straw on the camel’s back; it was all that was needed. A camel can bear a lot of load. Its back will not break easily. But when it has been loaded to the maximum, they say that even a straw added to it will break its back. How can a straw break the back of a camel? It was the last thing; that is why it breaks. Similarly, even a small thing that occurs – even the tiniest event in the world, one word that is spoken – can put us out completely because that was the last thing that we expected, and it has come. We were prepared for it inwardly, though consciously we were not prepared for it, because nobody is prepared for unhappy things in the world.
Even frustrations can sometimes drive people to God. Though that is not the normal way, it is not quite impossible. Loss, bereavement, destruction, and a sense of hopelessness in regard to everything may drive a person to God. And when God calls us, He will bring about such a catastrophic situation. It is not that He will always call us very smilingly. In a wrathful mood, He can crush us down and then force us back to Himself. That is one of the ways in which God works.
Many a time, we need such methods of turning back. A word of good advice will not be listened to by us. “My dear friend! What is there in this world? You must meditate on God. Love God, and meditate on God throughout the day.” This is good advice, but who will listen to it? They will say, “This man is chattering something stupid. We have heard this so many times.” Then, rod comes. “You will not listen to this advice?” The rod of God gives such a blow that it breaks down everything that is worthwhile in this world. Everything goes – father, mother, brother, sister, husband, wife, whatever it is. God does not care for what we hug as dear to us. The wrath of God can come like a flood of the Atlantic – which devastates everything, if it comes – and He does not care what our feelings are. He cares a hoot for our feelings.
But very rarely does God take such action. If anyone can give a long rope, it is God; and perhaps He gives the longest rope. Sama, dana, bheda, danda are the four methods of action – action in every field of life. A very polite, sweet and gentle advice which is perfectly positive in nature is given first. This is what the world does to us, good people do to us, God does to us. “This is the proper thing for you,” say people, says the world, and so does God advise. If our mind is not prepared to listen to this advice – such as the advice given in the Vedas and the Upanishads or the Bhagavadgita, for instance – which is wholly constructive, positive, and complete, there are what are known as arthavadas or eulogic statements of scriptures, which say, “If you go to God, you will get everything.” So there is a temptation behind it: “All the wonders, all the beauties, all the joys, all the powers, omnipotence, etc. will be at your beck and call if you go to God. You will not lose anything; you will gain everything. So why do you cling to these things of the Earth when more things are there, ready to receive you with open arms?” This is dana – temptation. We are told something wonderful is coming, so do not go to this. If we do not listen to this, the eyes of nature’s anger open themselves: “You will not listen to me? Do you know what I can do to you?” A threat comes occasionally. Nothing happens, of course, but a warning is given. If we do not learn by good advice, we will learn by pain. This is only a word of warning that is conveyed.
But man is made of such stuff that nothing will work. He cares not even for warnings. “Oh, this warning has come so many times.” Then, when everything fails, there is danda. Danda is punishment. God punishes by bringing about a total revolution of conditions, which can mean anything, and we do not know what sort of a revolution He will bring about. It can be personal, physical, psychological, social, political – anything. It can be even an earthquake, a thunderstorm, or a flood or cataclysm – whatever it is. Then, the mind turns to God merely because of pressure forcefully exerted from every corner. If we read the lives of saints – whether of the east or of the west – we will learn how people’s minds turn to God.
Anything and everything can be a cause of the mind turning to God. Even a cat, even a rat, can be a cause. A wisp of wind, the mildest stroke of misfortune, can turn us to God. But the point of all these illustrations is that yoga requires a whole-souled direction of the mind to God. Tivra samveganam asannah (Y.S. 1.21) says the sutra of Patanjali. Realisation of God becomes possible only when the feeling for God becomes most intense. If it is mild or middling, it will not be a success.