by Swami Krishnananda
We were discussing the meditational process. As it is said, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” In a similar way, we may say all our endeavours in any manner whatsoever, through any religious practice, through any type of faith or philosophical study, converge at a point where the differences—whether philosophical, psychological or sociological—melt down into a single target of attention. Until that time, we are all different.
We have many religions, and perhaps we even have many gods to worship. We have many aims before our life. We speak many languages, and belong to many countries. Everything seems to be multifaceted, multifarious. This continues until we reach the point of meditation. Just as many roads can take us to the top of a mountain and at the apex of the mountain there will not be many roads—there will be only one spot where all the roads, whatever be their number, converge at a single point—so is the case with this great effort of humanity to find its perfection through different types of activity and pursuit of various ideals.
We have in these sessions of study noticed the various aspects of human personality and the different involvements of oneself in levels of reality, facets of existence, and outlooks of life. They were designated by different kinds of nomenclature: as political involvement, social involvement, communal involvement, linguistic involvement, religious involvement—involvements of various types such as family, personality, etc. And we gathered our attention into a kind of inward endeavour and practice called yoga, which begins with the discipline of the physical body, the prana, and the sense organs, which joined together for a single concert which was called meditation.
We had also occasion to notice how meditation becomes the be-all and end-all of psychological endeavour—how meditation is everything and all things. In the earlier stages, it looks like one of the practices to which a person can get habituated. Later it becomes the only practice, and it is not just one among the many. It transcends even psychological operations. It becomes no more a mental work; it becomes an endeavour of the whole of our existence. The total being of the person wells up into the task of the communion we call the art and consummation of meditation.
I will repeat what was mentioned earlier, that here meditation ceases to be a work or a function of the mind. Rather, it becomes a rising up of all that we are—body, mind and soul put together—in a single focused activity. It is not of the mind, sense organs or of any part of our self, but our Self. Everything, every bit of what we are, inwardly and outwardly, is totalled up and brought into a focus of attention for a purpose which is the liberation of our finitude—a finitude not merely of the sense organs or the mind, but of us. Thus, we brought ourselves to the borderland of a consideration of a great step that we have to take, which is called samapatti in the language of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras—a kind of communion with That out of which our personality is constituted.
Previously our attention was to the structure of nature as a whole—nature made up of the five elements—and the attempt to see the very same structure, the very same substance, in our own personality also. Our body is made up of the same elements as nature outside. I said it is a very advanced step, a serious step, and perhaps a final step. It may look very difficult. On the one hand, it is indeed difficult because no one in the world will think like this. No one will have the need to feel the identity of the structure of one’s personality with that of nature or the world outside. The very idea looks funny because we know very well that we are inside the world and we are not a part of the world. No one thinks that he is a part of the world because if that was the case, there would be no need of doing anything in the world. There would be no work, no effort, because all effort is a confrontation of personality with the external atmosphere. Who are we going to confront when we envisage the world outside if we are basically inseparable in terms of the brick and mortar of our personality? The yoga shastra tells us that it is a very difficult thing because we have never been able to think like this. Our educational career has been totally free from this instruction that is necessary for recognising ourselves as a vital part of this cosmic structure. Therefore, it looks as if we are introduced into a new world altogether by the yoga shastra; but it is actually the simplest thing to understand.
To do work in the office, to build a house, to be an engineer—all these are very difficult things indeed. But to feel the communion of ourselves with That out of which we are made should not be so difficult. Truth is always simple and easy to understand; it is untruth that is difficult to understand. We have to struggle hard to get on with untruth. We have to pile up many types of falsehood in order to justify it. Truth is very simple. Once we utter it, the matter is closed. We do not have to go on saying it again and again. But an untruth has to be repeated several times, lest it should be discovered as a falsehood.
What is the truth of life? It is our inseparability from the substance of the world outside. This is what the yoga scripture says. There is an intense feeling of this communion of the substance of our personality with the substance of nature outside, an intense feeling commingling in actual being itself, as if we have become the entire nature in ourself—as if we are thinking and feeling through the eyes of nature, as if the very heart of nature is throbbing in our own heart, as if the sun and the moon and the stars are our own eyes, as if the rivers in the world are our own veins, as if the mountains are our bones, as if the world is our body. This feeling melts down into a deeper consciousness of one’s being of this nature. Yoga calls this savitarka samapatti, which is the first step. We may say it is a very difficult thing, that it looks like the final step; and yet yogins say that it is the first step.
The terminology of the ascent along these lines of samapattis is, of course, well known to students of yoga. The earliest, the lowest, the first step is called savitarka, where there is a mingling of the object with its form and the idea that one has about it. I am repeating what I said earlier. Anything that we conceive or perceive has a threefold character blended into it. It is just what it is. Apart from that, we are associating it with a name, a designation. We call it by some name, and we have some notion about it. In the second stage, which is nirvitarka, the object as such is entered into. I begin to see you as you are and not as I think you are, and do not call you by a name which is generally associated with you. I shall divest you of the name that is associated with you. I shall not think anything about you. I shall try to see you as you would like to see your own self.
There is a difference between how you see yourself and how another sees you—a great difference indeed. The way you see yourself now may often, in some respects at least, be similar to the manner in which other people see you. You are an official, working in some office. Others know that you are such, and you may also confirm that you are such and such an official. You will not forget it. On a surface parlance of looking at things on a purely social level of human concourse, your knowledge and idea of yourself may not be correct. You may be correct in saying that you are an official working in some office, in some category of performance; and this is also what people think about you. But you are something really different from this function that has been associated with you or foisted upon you, temporarily, for a social purpose.
Are you not something when you are free from that office? That something which you are when you are divested of your office function is a greater reality of yours than the assumed reality of your office job. Even if retirement gives you a better idea of your own self than while you were in an office, even as a retired person you will have some misconceptions about yourself. You may feel that you are a wealthy person, well-to-do, with many relations and friends, a lot of land and property, many bungalows, etc. This idea about yourself may continue even if you are divested of the authority of an office. But this idea is also not correct because it is not true that you always possessed wealth or that you had relations, friends, land and property, buildings, etc. Look at the manner of the different layers of misconception which you have about yourself, let alone what others think about you. You may not like many of the opinions that people hold about you, but have you a good opinion about yourself? There also you are mistaken.
Suppose you are divested of all your belongings. Will you call yourself a wealthy person? That designation of wealth will vanish. Suppose you have no land, no buildings, no relations; no friends talk to you. Are you still something, or are you nothing? Now you will have a different idea about yourself. “What am I? I cannot be regarded as an official; that has gone. I am not even a wealthy man. I have no property, I have nothing to call my own. All has gone.” You will not designate yourself with these qualities or adjuncts which you connect with yourself. Nevertheless, you are there, existing. What is your opinion about yourself at that time? You will feel you are a person totally undressed of all associations, both social and psychological. You will stand naked, as it were, before nature’s reality. You will begin to feel, “I am nothing. Everything has gone.” Everything has gone, but you have not gone. That is the whole point.
When everything has gone, still you are persisting. That ‘you’ which continues to exist even when everything has gone is your reality. There you will find that you are inseparable from nature. You do not require any kind of clothing or dress at that time. Nature does not wear clothes, it does not own property, and is not a friend of anybody. No kind of association can be there with nature. This is a new type of analytical approach I am presenting before you to show the outlook that you have to develop for communing yourself with nature as it is in itself in savitarka samapatti. You do not commune yourself as a rich man, as if a rich man is going to nature, a wealthy man is encountering the cosmos, an official is standing before the world. It is nothing of the kind. It is very hard for you to understand why such a difficult thing is considered as the first step. All these things look beyond your head. You have never heard these things, you have never thought like this, and even now you find it very hard to hold on to these ideas for a long time. It is a total impossibility for you, yet it is the first step in yoga.
The second step, which can be called nirvitarka, is, to mention again, the real you getting united with the reality of the cosmos, minus association with space and time. The first step—all this interesting detail which we have been discussing—is associated with the concept of space and time. Whatever be the notion that you have about yourself, even correctly, whatever be the idea that you have about nature, though it may be very appreciable and correct to a large extent, still you find that you are locating nature in space and time. This is Newton’s concept of the physical universe, that it is something contained in a cup of space and time. Do you not feel that you are inside space and time? This is a defect in thinking. You are not inside space and time, really speaking. Space and time are part and parcel of the structure of physical nature, as we are learning these days. This physical universe of the five elements, including our own body, is a manifestation of space-time itself.