by Swami Krishnananda
We have been designating the point of concentration in our Yoga practices as the 'object' of meditation. Actually, the word 'object' is not a suitable description of what we are aiming at finally, because what we regard as an object stands outside us. A thing that is entirely external to us cannot become our possession, it cannot benefit us because the characteristic of what is called an object is to distance itself from that of which it is an object. Our self, which is the meditating principle, stands at a distance from that on which the meditation is being carried on and it is this distance that makes us feel that it is an object like other things in the world.
We have to remember that we shall receive no benefit from anything in the world if it is totally outside us. The outside-ness characterising the object would prevent it from giving us any blessing. Even the diet that we consume, the meal that we take every day, should not stand 'outside' in the stomach. The food has to be absorbed into the organic substance of our personality in order that it may sustain us and benefit us. If the food that we take and pour into the stomach stands isolated from the linings of the stomach, it will be thrown out as if it is a foreign matter. Nothing in this world can satisfy or benefit us if it is totally outside us. So is the case with this so-called object on which we are meditating, if it happens to be something entirely external.
In the earlier days, we considered that our satisfaction and joy increases as our object of affection comes nearer to us. The more distant is the object of our consideration, the less is the satisfaction that we can derive from the contemplation on it. It has to be very near us, under our grip and control. It should not elude our grasp; it should not go out of the jurisdiction of our own selves, but even that is not satisfying. Even if an object of affection is inside your fist, held firmly in the hand, it stands outside you because that which is here grasped has not entered the hand. If one is holding the most valuable object in the world tightly in the hand, it is still an outside object because it can alienate itself from the hold when it drops from the hand. It has not become 'mine', though it appears to be mine on account of the appearance that it is under my control.
Nothing can be under anyone's control finally unless it is inseparable from the holder. That object of love and affection alone can satisfy if it will not leave the lover and cause any anxiety of self-alienation at any time. Even the richest person in the world remains unhappy at the prospect of losing that wealth he has acquired. The possibility of losing what one has is an agony in the heart. The possession of large estates, gold and silver (naturally standing outside oneself), will be a sorrow inwardly, subconsciously gnawing into the vitals of the rich magnate. The fear of losing what one has possessed will contaminate the so-called joy of having it at all; therefore, there is no such thing as real joy in the world. Even the kingdom of the earth can be lost in the split of a second. No emperor in the world can be happy. "Sceptre and crown shall tumble down." Beggar and king will go to dust and sleep on the same ground as lifeless corpses. Such a pitiable condition is not what we are expecting in our endeavour to meditate on something which we regard as the object of our meditation.
The satisfying object, the all-consuming ideal before us which we have chosen as the proper thing on which we can pour ourselves, should not stand outside us entirely. We have to place it in ourselves; the object has to become the subject. You have to become me in order that I may really love you, and I have to become you, not merely see you, but be you in order that we may be lifelong friends without the possibility of bereavement at any time. If there is going to be a bereavement between me and the object of my meditation, how can it bestow upon me immortality? The relationship is mortal, capable of destruction and separation and hence no immortal existence is to be expected from a mortal relationship with a separated object.
In certain forms of ritualistic worship performed in temples, the person performing the worship makes certain gestures called nyasa. There are varieties of nyasas called anganyasa, karanyasa, etc. Only religious priests or a person expert in performance of ritualistic worship will know what nyasa actually means. It is a Sanskrit word which means 'placing oneself', or 'the placement of anything', in a particular location, in a given manner.
This system of 'placing' is followed in ritualistic worship of a deity in a temple by touching different parts of one's body and concentrating in the mind at the same time the corresponding part of the object, the deity, or divinity concerned. We must remember that ritualistic worship also is a kind of meditation. Worship is not a mechanical action. The mind is actively operating there; otherwise, it would become lifeless and would not bring the desired result.
In this placement of the process of nyasa the parts of the shape, contour or bodily structure of the divinity adored are correspondingly placed in the respective parts of the body or the personality of the worshipper. When I touch my forehead, or a part of my head, I utter a prayer, a word, a mantra signifying that the forehead or the head of the divinity has entered my head and is my head. So, I am not seeing the head or the forehead of the divinity with my eyes as something looking at me; rather it looks through me, through my eyes, and is 'me'. A little bit of strong imagination and feeling is necessary here, in this practice.
Suppose, instead of the idol or the murti of the divinity worshipped, we consider a person in front. You have to make that person one with you. There is a great philosophy behind this technique. It is highly beneficial and also dangerous, if the mind is not pure while attempting the technique.
I am looking at you, and when I look at you I am seeing your eyes; they are outside me. But that is not the proper way of looking at you. You have to look through my eyes and I have to look through your eyes, so that instead of myself and yourself being face to face, we stand in collaboration parallelly – one 'enters' the other. The two eyes have become one eye; the two heads have become one head and they come to a state of coalescence. Who is seeing? This question will not arise at that time. Are you seeing the object or the object is seeing you? You may say it is either way. It may be that you are seeing through the eye of the object or the object is seeing through your eyes. If this practice of nyasa in the process of worship becomes successful, divinity will enter the worshipper.
The great god, the incarnation, whoever be your ideal you are worshipping, is seeing through your eyes and you are seeing through its eyes so that it 'is' you and you 'are' it. I hope you are able to appreciate what this means. Its hands are your hands and your hands are its hands. Your heart is its heart; its heart is your heart. Your feet are its, and vice versa. Every part of your body is correspondingly the part of the body of that divinity you are adoring in meditation.
Then what happens? You have absolute control over that object in the same way as you have complete control over the limbs of your own body. I can tell my hand to lift, and it lifts; I can tell my legs to walk and they walk. But if I tell the legs of somebody else to walk, they need not, because they are not identified with my consciousness. The legs of another person have not become one with my legs; therefore, I cannot tell them to walk. They will not move. But if my legs have become another's legs, and if I tell them to move, they will move.
The whole building will move if your consciousness has identified itself with it, part by part, little by little, bit by bit, in every little detail, and you become the whole building itself. This is the secret behind the nyasa technique of worship in the ritual of daily performance in temples, or even in one's own altar at home. Such a process has to be adopted in our meditation on the object, whatever be that object which we have chosen for the purpose.
There is an interesting aphorism of sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras which refers to this kind of process: The identification of yourself with the object of meditation is somewhat like the identity seen when a coloured object is brought near a clear crystal, so that the colour has entered the crystal; the crystal becomes red if a red flower is brought near it. The objective and subjective sides enter into each other and the one is indistinguishable from the other.
The crystal may be compared to the meditating consciousness. The object of meditation may be regarded as something similar to that which is brought near the crystal. In the process of the entry of the structure of the object into the structure of the crystal, and the very substantiality of the crystal itself, the two get identified into a single mass of being, so that one will see that the object itself has become the crystal or the crystal has become the object.
The object 'flows' into the subject; the subject 'flows' into the object. Or to cite another illustration, imagine that there are two tanks filled with water up to the brim and they are on equal level (not one high and one below). There is a passage between one tank and the other tank so that water flows slowly through that passage from one tank to the other tank, and from the other tank to this tank. One will not know the water of which tank is flowing to which tank. There is a mutual commingling of the waters of two tanks. The water in between, in that passage, may be considered as the water of this tank or that tank.
In this consciousness of the identification through the placement of nyasa mentioned, the object becomes united with the consciousness of the meditator in such a way that, at that time, in that experience, one will not know whether the object is within oneself or oneself is within the object. Who is in whom? Is the object meditating upon you, or are you meditating upon the object? If the great God is in front of you, is He contemplating you when He gazes at you, or are you contemplating on Him? Either way the answer is correct.