by Swami Krishnananda
In the previous chapter, we noted that the process of perception is threefold. An objective world is involved, designated as adhibhauta; there is a perceiver of this objective world, which is called adhyatma; and we also noticed a transcendent element operating between the percipient seer and the perceived objective world, called adhidaiva.
If we confine ourselves entirely and wholly to the study of the objective world, we become physical scientists—chemists, or perhaps biologists. If we confine ourselves only to the study of the operation of the perceptive process, we become psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychopathologists, etc. If we emphasise only the element of transcendence, we become devotees—religious people who search for a creator, God, who is above this world.
These three approaches are basically the fundamentals of our experience in life. We cannot think in any other manner. Either we look outside, or we look inside, or we look above. There is no other way of looking at things. If we look outside, we are scientists. If we look inside, we are psychologists. If we look above, we are religious seekers.
But we observed a little earlier that the principle of reality is an integrated wholeness, and a consciousness of this wholeness is not supposed to be a tripartite observation, taking each item independently, as it were, with no relation to the other principles. Students of psychology should not forget that there are realities which are wholly external, physicists should not forget that there are realities which are internal, and both should not forget that there are features in this world which elude the grasp of observation through science and through analysis by psychology. There are more things in heaven and earth than philosophy dreams of, as the poet told us.
When we enter into the field of the practice of yoga, we have to have a basic knowledge of the philosophical foundations of the very practice. The concept has to be clear before we actually take a practical step. Practice is based on theory. For instance, we have theoretical physics and applied physics, pure mathematics and applied mathematics, pure physiology and applied physiology. So also we have a philosophical background of yoga and an actual implementation of it in practical life.
The philosophical foundation is that our existence in this world is inviolably involved in this threefold segregation of consciousness—though really, it is not segregated. Many people say that the world is not really there; it is a kind of illusion. Maybe it is so, considering the fact that our definition of the world as something being there in front of us, totally isolated from us, cannot be a fact, finally. If that is the case, the world as we understand it is not there. But something is there. That something is the real world.
If nothing is there, we would not be even aware that there is something external to us. The world as we conceive it and perceive it is not there. Our perceptions and conceptions have, therefore, to be thoroughly investigated, and we have to enable ourselves to delve deeper into the very fundamentals, the very degrees of reality that seem to be above and beneath our normal perceptions.
We should not enter into the field of yoga practice with preconceived ideas, with conditioned minds. We have studied something, and we have some idea about things. We should not bring these ideas into the school where we study yoga. First of all, there has to be a deconditioning of the mind. Communal, religious and philosophical prejudices should not be allowed to enter into this adventure of a totally new approach to things.
A Hindu thinks in one way, and a Christian thinks in another way. This kind of thing will not do. We may think in any way we like, but we have to develop a faculty within us which may safely be called impersonal in its structure—impersonal in the sense that it can accommodate into its framework of operation any thought, any field of activity, any outlook of life, any concept of God.
All these concepts, religious or political, have a fragmentary value which is applicable and useful under certain given conditions, but not always, in the same way as certain medicines work under certain conditions of the body. It does not mean a universal prescription can be given for all conditions of the body.
Similarly, we have certain types of religious or cultural backgrounds. In certain matters, a European thinks in one way and an Easterner thinks in another way. European thought is mostly empirical, and Eastern thought may be of a different type, but we should be able to know how these differences have arisen and what is the reason. When we go into the in-depth cause of the differences of cultural patterns and religious outlooks, we will find they arise on account of a sectional view that is taken about things in the world, ignoring certain other aspects whose existence is not taken into consideration. Certain ideas are inborn and are in the very veins and blood of our personality. Communal hatreds, of which we hear very much these days, have mostly a religious background—religion leading to clash instead of God-consciousness, all of which has to be attributed to a purely fragmentary, isolated or communally selfish outlook of life.
If religion should be defined as the longing of the human soul for God, one must know what this human soul is. Is it made of a Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or Jain framework? What kind of thing is the soul? Is it a Jain soul, a Buddhist soul, a Hindu soul, a Muslim soul? Have we such souls?
Great disciplinary training in institutions which are favourable for this practice is necessary, under competent teachers; and sufficient time also has to be given to it. These studies here are for a short time, and are not a final answer to your queries. It is a preparation for enabling you to develop a mode of thinking which is totally new and oriented entirely in a fashion that may be called comprehensive or universal in its nature, but the actual practice has to be done by you. The teaching does not mean that your program is complete. You are only shown the path, but the walking has to be done by you. Light is shed on the way, but you have to move along the line indicated by the light. This is a light that is being shed upon the path of your life; and you have to take it very seriously in the sense that you have to do something, after having learned something.
In your studies, or in any kind of study, for that matter, certain subjects are taken up for consideration. You take up particular subjects—history, geography, mathematics. What do you study in yoga? What is the subject? Easy answers will not come forth. Are you studying yourself?
Many people say it is actually a study of one’s own self. The study of man is really man. It is true; but what exactly is this ‘yourself’ when you say you will study yourself? Will you lock yourself up in a room, not seeing anybody and having no concern with society and the world, and delve inside your physical individuality to focus on what the mind is thinking and how the breath is moving? Is this what you mean by ‘study of one’s own self’?
Some people say that the world is very big and its realities are actually glaring before us every day, from morning onwards. Whatever you are in your own personality, you are something; yes, of course, granted. But what about the world in front of you? Are you not hitting your head against it every day? What is the purpose of merely sitting inside and brooding over something that seems to be there inside your body? What about this world which is troubling you every day? That is another aspect of the matter. People have never been satisfied either with encountering the world outside in a business fashion—a managemental, political fashion, or whatever it is—nor have people been found to be happy inside and wholly satisfied merely because they have been sitting quietly in some distant place like Uttarkashi.
So while granting that finally it is the study of your own self that is involved in the study of yoga, a broad idea about what this selfhood can be should be entertained—about which we have studied something earlier. If you remember what I told you in previous sessions, we have considered some aspect of this self. A self is just what you consider yourself to be. You have some idea what you are; that is the self. But what is the idea that you have about yourself? What do you think you are?
There are, according to ancient traditional analysis, three aspects of this consideration of the self. This is a muddle before your mind, and mostly you do not think of these aspects. Anything that you consider as vitally connected with yourself also is a self. Something without which you cannot exist, something which is, according to you, a very essential ingredient in your very existence itself, cannot be regarded as something outside you—because that conditions your existence. You love it, hug it, want it, caress it, keep it with you to such an extent and with such intensity that, for all practical purposes, it is yourself only—like a mother clinging to her only child, or even a wealthy man clinging to his money or a politician clinging to his power. It is so very intimately connected with your existence itself that you cannot say that it is outside you. It is so because if that is not there, you will feel like crumbling. When the power goes, the man becomes like a mouse; he does not know whether he even exists. When the wealth goes, the man dies of a heart attack; when the child goes, the mother commits suicide. Why does this happen? A child cannot be the self of the mother, so why is there so much consideration for that little thing, to such an extent that one can sacrifice one’s own life? If your selfhood can be abolished for the sake of another thing which you regard as inseparable from you, there is something that has happened to you in regard to your relationship with that thing.
Your so-called self—Mr. So-and-so, Mrs. Whateveryou-are, encased within this body, as you wrongly think—has escaped the clutches of encasement in this body for certain peculiar reasons which you cannot always understand, and entered into this child, entered into power, wealth, land and property, etc. This self, which really cannot be regarded as a self because it is outside you and you have no control over it, nevertheless seems to have such hold over you that it is one kind of self. It cannot be regarded as the primary self, because it can leave you one day. All your possessions, all family relations, all wealth, all power, everything can go. Therefore, that kind of thing which appears to be inseparably connected with your existence cannot be regarded as a primary self if it can leave you at any time. It is called a secondary self. In Sanskrit, it is called a gaunatman. Gauna means secondary. All things in this world which you love intensely and consider as part of your very life are secondary selves.
You also have to handle this self properly. Do not say, “They are not connected with me. I have left my family. I am staying in Gangotri. I have abandoned my property. I have committed my pension.” Under the impression that this secondary self has gone, people sometimes say that. But it cannot easily go, because it is a psychological concept. This secondary self is also psychological. It physically appears to be there in front of you, but your involvement in it is a psychological affair, and so it can harass you even in Gangotri. “What is this? I am sitting here. I had so much. I was a judge. I was a magistrate. I had a lot of property.” The inner voice will harass you by telling you that you have lost something when you are physically somewhere, unknown to people.
Now, keep in mind there is a self called a secondary self, or gaunatman. Let us see how to handle it in the course of time. But do not say it is unimportant. Your husband, your wife, your children, your money, your property, your land, your power, your position—they are all important to you. Their absence can kill you; such sorrow can descend upon a person. You will be wondering how is it that you get involved like this, but it is so. No man is free from this. But you have to free yourself from it by the application of certain techniques which are peculiar to yoga practice. Very difficult it is, because you are touching dynamite, as it were. Severing vital relations is like death; and one may really die if such severance is attempted prematurely.
I told you that there are three aspects of this concept of self. One is this secondary aspect of self, to which we cling as an object of affection and necessity—the gaunatman. Another aspect is called the mithyatman in Sanskrit—a false self, such as this body. We very much regard this as ourselves—certainly so. How can we say it is not? But in our earlier studies we observed that there are conditions, circumstances in our daily life, where we can exist even without the consciousness of this body.
You have to remember all that we studied earlier. In dream and sleep you do exist; that is what we observed. How do you exist minus consciousness of this body which you otherwise consider as your own self? There is a falsity involved in the concept of the body as the self. Many illustrations, such as the amputation of limbs, demonstrate that physical diminution does not diminish consciousness of self.
The consciousness of selfhood is the same in a puny person as in a giant. The giant does not have a larger concept of self; the concept is the same. It is a kind of self-identity of consciousness. As I mentioned, even if all the limbs are removed, you will still have the consciousness of identity of self. All this shows that the body is not the self. Otherwise, you will feel that you have lost yourself by the amputation of limbs. You do not feel like that.
Even though this body is a false self which you consider as a real self in your daily activities, it has also to be properly taken care of. People sometimes refer to it as Brother Ass. You cannot throw it away, because it has to carry the burden. Who will carry the burden if the ass is not there? It has its purpose; yet it is a great problem for you. As handling objects of affection in the world is a problem, handling this body also is a problem, though you know very well by our philosophical analysis that this is not the true you.