by Swami Krishnananda
Before you move forward, it is necessary for you to see that your feet have been planted firmly on the ground and all things are clear to you. The advance along the line of yoga is something like a military operation. You are conscious that there is an encounter. This is the first step. As is the case with the awareness of an army general, so is the case with the yoga student. The yoga student is aware that there is going to be an encounter. What kind of encounter? Whom are you going to encounter?
From the military point of view, it is an encounter with a neighbouring country or some other country. In the case of a yoga student, it is an encounter with people outside and the world in front of you, because they have been always too much for you. You suspect the world, and suspect everybody in the world, as every country suspects every other country, basically—though the suspicion will not be manifest openly in behaviour. You do not go on declaring that you suspect everybody, but you do suspect. You are always cautious even about nature itself.
After this awareness of there being something to be faced, an assessment of the situation takes place. What kind of strength does the other party have? It takes a lot of time to understand this. Who is it that is facing you? After a lot of investigation with the application of varieties of methods, you come to a conclusion about the strength of the other party. Then comes an assessment of your own self. What is your strength? To what extent are you in a position to face this encounter? If your strength is not equal to the strength of the other side, you will not suddenly go for an onslaught. There will be peace negotiations, give-and-take policies, and for some reason or the other, the question will be dragged on for an adequate length of time.
This also happens to the yoga student. You have some idea of the world, and of people around, and about your own self; but it is not a complete knowledge. There is a fear, together with a longing. There is a longing to face the encounter, but a fear that it should not be done hastily. The world is so large and people are so many that you have to take all these factors into consideration before you take any step.
Well, you know to some extent what is the strength of the world and what is the strength of people. But you may not be fully aware of your strength because mostly you look like a fraction of this vast sea of power that is around you, and you may not be prepared to risk your life and your career in facing this world which is so large, and people who are so many. But sometimes you will gird up your loins and put on courage, saying, “I have a strength within myself which may not be the physical strength of an elephant, but it is a strength born of my thought and feeling.” Atma-shakti is the power of soul. “God will bless me.” This is what the seeker thinks, even in the beginning itself. “God will bless me” is a way of thinking that one’s own effort and energy may not be sufficient, and that some other support is necessary.
Even the powerful Pandava forces were not confident of winning victory. They had the assistance of the gods in heaven, but even then they required some collaboration from a friend and well-wisher, who was Bhagavan Sri Krishna. That is why we go on saying, “God bless! God’s grace of course is there. God will not let me down.” The Pandavas knew that Sri Krishna would not let them down. “In the hour of difficulty, He is always there to lend us succour.”
So the seeker feels, “After all, even if my efforts may not be sufficient and adequate, God is there to see that I am honest in my aspirations, and He will bless me, certainly.” You have a hope that He will bless. Afterwards, the war encounter actually begins. But what do you do? Do you know what a war means? It is not a foolhardy jumping on something. It is a tremendous arrangement of factors which moves forward, backwards, sidewards, and so on—sometimes visible, sometimes not visible. Sometimes the manoeuvres are clear, even to the other side. Sometimes it looks like you are doing nothing, you are only keeping quiet; but actually you are not keeping quiet. The Pandavas kept quiet for a very long time, but that was not actually a keeping quiet; it was a preparation for an onslaught. So even if the force of a military strength appears to be keeping quiet, it is always on guard and is ready to take the necessary step.
Likewise, as with many other similarities of this kind, there is a yoga type of military operation before the whole world that is in front you. It is very important to realise in the beginning itself that you have the required facilities, appurtenances, equipments, to face the difficulties in yoga. The equipments are your inner strength of conviction first of all, and a feeling that inasmuch as you are on the right path, success is bound to come. Many a time success does not follow, even after years of effort. But the Bhagavadgita is behind you as your philosopher and guide, and it tells you that you should never look to the end result of your effort even if it be in the form of an expectation of success, because when you have done your duty, the consequences will automatically follow. You need not have to bother about whether they will come today or tomorrow. Many are the circumstances which go to contribute to the appearance of what is called victory or success.
Adhisthanam tatha karta karanam ca prthag-vidham vividhas ca prthak cesta daivam caivatra pancamam is a verse in the Bhagavadgita which tells how many factors are involved in the production of an effect—such as success, for instance. Your physical and mental strength is one factor. Suppose you are a sickly person; you are crawling and coughing, have aches of every kind, fever, and also the mind is oscillating. You may not be considered ready for this work. The psychophysical condition is one factor—adhisthana. Adhisthana is the basis itself, which is your mental and physical condition. You must be very clear that your condition is perfectly fit for this adventure.
Then comes tatha karta, the intention behind the adventure which you are trying to embark upon. This is a very important factor. Why do you do anything? What is the intention behind it? Vague, various and multi-faceted are the answers to this question. If you ask any yoga student, “Why are you practicing yoga?” each person will give a different answer. One will say, “I want freedom.” Another will say, “I want to become a teacher of yoga.” A third will say, “I want to regulate my breathing.” A fourth will say, “I want to increase my height.” These are the answers. Or rarely, without actually knowing what they are speaking, one may say, “I want to attain God, whatever God is.” Even this good answer that you want God is not a clear answer. It is a child’s answer about something which you cannot understand. The intention behind your practice should be very, very clear. Each one of you is your own master in this respect, and do not make mistakes by having wrong motives or intentions. That is the implication of the word ‘karta’ in this verse of the Bhagavadgita. Adhisthana is the psychophysical condition; karta is the intention of the person inside—the ego, as it is called.
Karanam ca prthag-vidham. The third factor is the facilities that you have to do this practice. Have you adequate facilities? Have you a room to stay in, or are you in the wind outside? Have you some means of eating a single meal in a day, or are you starving? Or, is there any other opposition from anywhere? Is there any kind of hindrance, whatever it be, from inside or outside? All the facilities necessary for this practice should also be there. These are the karanas, or the instruments of action. These instruments are not necessarily physical instruments; they are conditions that are to be considered as conducive. So, adhisthana, karta and karana are the three factors mentioned.
Vividhas ca prthak cesta. The fourth factor is the possibility of your being engaged in various types of activity, while your intention is to be engaged in only one. Vividha cesta is the practice of circumstances which also are possible in your case, though your intention is to wean yourself from all these possible extraneous actions and concern yourself with only one type of action. That is, if you have the facility to do something, you may do it, though that is not your intention. For instance, even if you have no intention to commit theft and are not thinking about it, but are placed under certain circumstances where to commit that action is most easy and nothing will happen if you do it, then the possibility of stealing may manifest into action.
Actually, there should not even be the possibility. Even if gold is heaped in front of you, the idea of owning it should not arise in your mind. Even the idea should not arise. You should not have doubts in the mind. “If I get it, it’s all right, though I was told that it should not be done.” You have a dubious attitude at that time. You want it, but some other pressure from inside says that you are not supposed to do that. This is a conflict in the mind, a psychological conflict. These are the possibilities of action, from which you have to sever yourself gradually, and engage yourself only in one kind of action.
Now comes the last thing, the last straw on the camel’s back, as it is said. Daivam caivatra pancamam: The will of the cosmos will decide your fate. “Oh, this is something very terrible. You have already said something which is like a thunderbolt on the head, after all this which was so nice to hear, that finally it looks that it is not in our hands.” You do not know what the judge will say in the court, all your arguments notwithstanding. Finally, it is the whim and fancy of the judge. One sentence is sufficient, and the case is lost. Is it so? Is the Gita frightening you by saying that finally the will of the Universal is the ultimate factor and if that will is not operating, nothing will work? Are you dependent on that will? Are you totally subservient to something outside you so that you are at the mercy of something? Then what is the good of any effort? Everything that has been told seems to be useless if, finally, you are helpless in the hands of a power that is beyond you and totally external to you. But this is not the case.
You were not told that you are helpless and you are at the mercy of somebody else. The difficulty arises because you have somehow slipped into the wrong notion that the Universal Will is outside you. This has been the point that we have been hammering again and again: the object of perception, even if it is God Himself, is not external to you. So the Universal Will, which is the final conditioning factor of all your victory and success in yoga, is not a frightening externality. It is not an outside judge sitting in a court, apart from you. It is a judiciary operating in your own heart. Because the will of the cosmos operates within you also, your will is not working in a fashion totally dissonant with the will of the cosmos.
These few words are only a description of the preparation that one has to make for this great adventurous march of the soul to what you consider as the unknown—the unknown being your own higher Self. You are going to pursue your own higher Self. These things about which you have heard up to this time—such as the adhidaiva which is the intermediary consciousness between adhibhuta and adhyatma, the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, the tanmatras, and even space-time—are not outside you.
Previously, I had taken time to explain that this is the fact. Even space and time cannot be regarded as being outside you, but they look entirely outside. You cannot say that space is inside the body; you do not feel it. Even time is moving outside. You can see the hands of a clock moving, though you feel that inside yourself, no time is moving. But it is not so. Your growth from babyhood to this adult condition is a working of time inside you. Decay and death are also the work of time. And the dimension of your personality, of your body especially, is the work of space. You have length and breadth. You are a three-dimensional being, are you not? These three dimensions of your personality are the work of space; and growth, decay and death are the work of time. Hence, space and time are not only not outside, they are universally operative.
Even the highest liberation that you are seeking is within you, in one way. “I want moksha; I want freedom, liberation,” is the asking of a seeker. But you are asking for freedom from what? The idea of freedom is ingrained in the very existence of your being. Your own existence is asking for freedom from its own limitations. Your physical finitude in this world of nature and of people is the lowest, the most initial of all the concepts that you have about yourself, and you cannot be totally free from this discomfort that you feel inside yourself on account of it. To overcome it, you move earth and heaven every day by occupying high positions or amassing large wealth and so on, because to be always conscious of one’s finitude and smallness is an utter misery which is intolerable. But all this effort of yours is futile, finally, due to the nature of its own insubstantiality, because you remain the same finite fool when you depart from this world, shedding this body and all these appurtenances that have been foisted upon you by way of position in society and wealth, land, etc. They will not come with you.