by Swami Krishnananda
The necessity to be in a state of accordance, assonance and harmony with the world outside is not merely a requirement on the part of yoga practice; it is essential even for a reasonably comfortable life in this world. The world is not so very unimportant as to deserve our neglect totally or to assign to it a kind of secondary importance in relation to our own self.
I mentioned previously that the world is called the secondary self, the gaunatman, in the sense that it is something that is foisted upon our personality by an involvement of our consciousness in a very specific manner. Most people cannot be sure as to how they are involved in this world. Everything is taken for granted, usually. That something is happening in the world, and we are seeing it happening, and we have to do something with it, is a crude, rustic way of interpreting things. But things do not unnecessarily or randomly happen in the world, so we should not take them lightly.
The world’s importance arises on account of our consciousness being involved in it. The content of consciousness is what is important—or rather, the very existence of a thing is conditioned by the extent of involvement of our consciousness in it. If the consciousness is withdrawn from a thing, it does not exist for consciousness.
We are told that there are realms of being above this world, of which we are totally unaware. They do exist, and perhaps they exist more significantly than this physical world; yet, they do not exist for us. In our daily considerations, we do not regard them as being there at all. Let them be there or let them not be there. Let the forces of nature be operating or not; we are not concerned with earth, water, fire. We are concerned with people, relations, and a little bit of our daily occupation.
The world’s existence, as far as any person is concerned, is to the extent of its involvement in one’s consciousness. This is why it is called a self. You will be wondering how the world is called a self, how an object is a self. Its selfhood arises on account of your self, which is consciousness, being involved in it.
If you are not involved consciously through your mind and through your affections, that particular thing does not exist for you. Therefore, the world cannot be handled very easily because it is another way of handling your own self, in a larger social extension of it. You cannot say you will renounce the world. There are people who say that they have no commitments; but you have every commitment because you are living in the world. If you are not living in the world, you have no commitments.
Now, what do you mean by saying that you are in the world or not in the world? The very consciousness of there being something outside you creates fear. The Upanishad says, dvitiyad vaibhayam bhavati: Wherever there is another beside you, there is fear. Even if there are only two people living in the whole world, there can be quarrel and war.
The position that one maintains in relation to another beside oneself is important. The world cannot be renounced in a slipshod manner, as we usually think, because it is like renouncing one’s own self in some way. A part of yourself goes when you renounce the world. If you leave a geographical location and go a thousand kilometres away to another place, it does not mean that you have renounced that place. That place will cling to you as a part of yourself as long as your mind is there in some way—either because you want it, or because you do not want it. Even if you do not want a thing and you are conscious that you do not want that particular thing, it will still cling to you. The attachment of a particular thing to consciousness is either positive or negative. It is concerned, that is all—a kind of concern that you have about things. It may be any kind of concern.
Hence, the usual religious ordinance or requirement that seems to be a part of yoga practice—that renunciation is a precondition for spiritual evolution—is to be taken in its true scientific spirit. You can renounce a thing only if it belongs to you. A thing that is not your property need not be renounced, because you have no business with that thing. What is there that can be called your property?
There are two ways of looking at this. How did you happen to own any property in the world? You did not bring it when you were born from your mother’s womb, nor will you take it when you leave this world. A thing that was not with you in the beginning and will not be there in the end—how did it become part of you in the middle? It is by a kind of psychological association.
“This is my land,” you say. That land was there even before you were born. How did it become yours? An operation of thought takes place, and you begin to imagine that it has a vital connection with you. And if you sell that land to somebody else, that vital connection is snapped because the mind says that it does not belong to you anymore.
That land has not moved from that place; it is just there. Even if it has been purchased or sold a hundred times, it will be in the same spot. Nothing has happened to it. It may not be even aware that the sale process is going on. But something is happening in the ethereal world of the mind of somebody. Do you call this an important situation to consider?
The concept of property is psychological; physically you cannot possess anything. Even if you have a valuable thing in your grip, in your hand, it cannot be called your property, because it is outside still. It can drop away. A thing that can drop from you cannot be called your property. And what is it that will not drop? There is nothing. There is nothing from which you cannot be bereaved, and there is nothing which you cannot lose. Therefore, there is nothing which you can really call your belonging.
This is one aspect of the matter. The other aspect is the involvement of consciousness. Are there things in this world in which you are involved consciously? This requires a tabulation of the items of your involvement—gradually, by calm thought. The so-called spiritual diary is nothing but a method of self-checking that people adopt by putting questions to themselves.
You cannot actually know what kind of involvement your consciousness has with things because the conscious mind operates only in one level at a particular time; it cannot operate in all levels at the same time. If a wedding ceremony in your family is going to take place after a month, for a month you will think about only that. All other things will be brushed aside from the conscious level. It does not mean that other engagements are not there, but the pressure of the immediate phenomenon will be so great that, for the time being, other involvements are suppressed. All things cannot come to the mind at the same time. There are various levels of operation of mind, and it can think only one thing at a time. Though it looks as if you can think many things at a time, it is not so.
Like a cinematic picture in which only one picture comes at a time but it looks as if there is a series and a living movement, the continuity of the mind in its daily operations is actually a rapid movement of little bits of thought, as a cloth is made up of little bits of thread. The mind is involved in only one particular occupation at a time. People who are so totally involved in certain things that they cannot think anything else in the world will not even be aware that they have other commitments. Each problem will start pricking you at different times.
You can adopt one method if you are students of yoga who are intent on real practice for self-development. Have a diary, and when you wake up in the morning, write down the first thought that occurs to your mind. As far as possible, write down all the thoughts that arise in your mind throughout the day until you go to bed at night. When you are busy working, you may not be able to do this always. But if you sit quietly for a few minutes in the evening, you will be able to gather a general idea of the processes of thought that occurred to your mind throughout the day.
Let there be a list of all the thoughts that arose in your mind on one particular day, from morning to night. Do this for one month. Let there be thirty pages of your diary, giving a list of thirty sets of ideas that occurred on thirty days. You can strike a common denominator of the whole process, and you can know something about yourself. “This is the kind of person that I am. For one month I have been basically thinking this kind of thing. I encountered this. I faced that. I handled this in this manner.”
When I speak of your need to make a checklist of your thoughts, I also mean the things that you faced, encountered, and had to deal with in your daily life: how many people you met, and your reaction to them; how you felt; how you handled it, etc. After a month’s practice like this, you will be able to take the cream of your thoughts from this large assemblage of various bits of thinking. The whole of yoga practice is a psychological process. A student of yoga has to be a good psychologist. It is not that you have to teach psychology to somebody; rather, you have to teach yourself how your mind is working.
It is true that we should not be attached to things and there should be an amount of renunciation spirit in ourselves. The initial step in yoga, as I mentioned previously, is to set ourselves in a state of harmony with things, which is another way of saying that we should not be attached to things.
Now, not to be attached may look like detachment. Is it identical? Is non-attachment the same as detachment? They seem to be the same, but they are slightly different. There is a positivity of meaning in ‘non-attachment’, whereas the word ‘detachment’ implies a little bit of negativity. It will look that we have to cut ourselves off from connection with certain things when we speak of detachment. But when we speak of non-attachment, it will mean a kind of conscious adjustment of being free from association with things. They look identical, but there is a slight shade of difference.
Association with things arises on account of desire for things. ‘Attachment’ and ‘non-attachment’ are words that have connection with the amount of desire that one has for certain things. This secondary self, this gaunatman, this world of objects which we like or dislike—all this is nothing but a phenomenon created by the various forms of desire arising in the mind.
There is a little bit of philosophy behind even the act of renunciation. What are these desires that seem to be pressing you so deeply into involvement in so many things in this world? What do you want from this world so that you must be concerned with it so much? It is a muddle. At present, in the beginning, it will look like chaos. “Oh, there are so many desires,” you will say. “I want many things.”
You require certain things from the world outside in order to compensate for the finitude that you feel in your own self. You feel small before the big world and, in a sense, you are little—one individual. The physical body requires its own security and sustenance. It cannot itself manufacture all the things that it requires. There are a hundred things that it needs every day. You know very well that these needs are available only in the world outside; they cannot come out from the body. The food that you eat, the water that you drink and the many other needs of the body do not crop up from the body itself. They come from a secondary source, which is the world outside.
So for physical sustenance and security—to see that the body continues to exist safely—you have to see that certain appurtenances from outside are associated with it continuously, and those associations should be made one’s own. They should not be precarious. “Tomorrow I may get; tomorrow I may not get.” The body does not want this kind of thing. It should be permanently assured that it will get what it wants. For that, there is a struggle; day in and day out you struggle to see that these associations are maintained. Otherwise, if it is only a promise of a possibility and may not actually materialise after some time, anxiety crops up: For how long will I get it? So you make investments, and so on, for the future.
Apart from that, there are other needs of your personality which require you to be concerned with the world. It is not that you are concerned only with this body; there are certain other things with which you are very much concerned and would even die for—namely, recognition in this world. Do you wish to be a non-recognised non-entity in the world—just riffraff, a man of straw? Would you like to live like that? It is like death. You have food to eat, you may have a house to live in, you have good clothes to wear, but you are a nobody in this world. You would rather starve for days and run about in search of ways and means to see that you become a recognised person. Even starvation does not matter. Therefore, you should not think that eating is the only important thing.
I mentioned that this body has to be maintained by food, clothing, etc. It is true, but there are other things for the sake of which you may even renounce the pleasures of the body for some time. You will not sleep when there is a question of name, fame, authority and power, which are mere thoughts; they cannot be seen with the eyes. They are not objects like food, clothing, shelter. They exist. Do they exist? Where do they exist? Can an unseen thing be called existent?
Many people say that to believe that something exists, it should be capable of observation; it must be visible. The greatest thing in the world, which is name, fame, power, authority—for which people can die—is not visible. That shows we have a personality in us which is not necessarily a visible phenomenon like the body. There is an invisible person inside, which is more important than the physical, visible person.