by Swami Krishnananda
Pratyahara leads to Dharana by a gradual self-movement of itself towards a larger expansion and an inward intensification. The stages of Yoga gradually taper off into one another, without it being possible for us to draw a hard and fast line between one stage and the next, just as we cannot know when a child becomes an adolescent, an adolescent a youth, and a youth an old man. Because, there is a slow, continuous movement without points of hard demarcation, proving thereby that the whole of Yoga is a completeness, a whole by itself, and is not like a house built of isolated bricks, which can be removed one by one, without one brick disturbing another. The Yoga process is an organism of practice, and is a greater wholeness than even our own physical body. We have bestowed sufficient consideration and thought on the nature of Pratyahara, and the way in which it enters into concentration or Dharana. The difficulties on the way, the nature of the practice, and the necessity for exercising vigilance on the part of the activity of the mind in the arduous task have also been discussed.
A fourfold psychological activity takes place when concentration or Dharana is undertaken, an activity which can best be compared to a struggle or an effort, not less difficult than the process of medical treatment or military warfare. There is a negative process and a positive one, catabolic and anabolic, we may say, both taking place at the same time, as it happens in our own body. There is a rejecting process and a constructive process taking place everywhere in nature, physically outside in the five elements, in society, in the bodies of men and animals, and even in our own psyche. Every movement in the world is a double process of rejection and absorption. And this movement of nature as a whole is also the movement of the internal psyche of man, even if it be in concentration or meditation.
The mind feels a need to reject the thoughts that are not supposed to be consistent with the requirements of concentration or meditation. Each one knows for one's own self, from the way in which one's conscience speaks, what are the ideas, thoughts. Or feelings which cannot be regarded as compatible with the character of the ideal that one places before oneself. What is to be regarded as not consistent with the ideal of Yoga is a matter to be decided in each individual case isolatedly, without any generalisation about it, because, what may be consistent with one individual may be inconsistent with another, and so on. That is why Yoga was taught individually from the earliest times, and not en masse. It is because the details of the workings of the mind of people vary from individual to individual, though in general they may appear to be practically the same in the case of all people. When we go into the internal intricacies of Dharana or Dhyana – concentration or meditation – we are not tackling merely the general processes of the mind, which are practically the same among the whole of humanity, but we are touching the details of the internal working, and there, individualities differ from one another. Hence, as we advance, we have to be more careful in the analysis of the components of the mind, as careful as the research scholar in physics or chemistry is in the analysis of scientific matters in the laboratory. In the internal mental laboratory of the Yogi or the external laboratory of the scientist, as a person advances, he becomes more concentrated, because then he enters into greater details, into more minute details involved in his observations and experiments.
Broadly speaking, without touching upon the difficulty connected with individual idiosyncrasies, we may say that any thought, feeling, or idea, which cannot be easily regarded as directly or indirectly connected with those thoughts which go to conceive the object of meditation may be regarded as irrelevant. The relevancy or the irrelevancy of a thought depends upon the kind of object or ideal which one is holding before one's mind's eye, as that on which one has to concentrate or meditate. So, we cannot say what is relevant and what is irrelevant, generally speaking. Because, it has something to do with what one has kept as one's ideal before oneself. Here again, the role of the Guru comes in, in the work of distinguishing between the positive thoughts that act as constructive forces in concentration, and the negative ones which interfere with it and create distraction in the mind. Such a distinction should be followed by a rejection of the irrelevant thoughts and ideas. A list of these possible irrelevant thoughts has to be prepared, each for oneself. A distracted mind cannot take to serious concentration or meditation. The seeker has to be prepared as a dedicated individual when he takes to spirituality or Yoga. That is his whole occupation and vocation. Nothing else is there before him. However, whatever be the nature of the thoughts that have to be abandoned, there is a stage where one feels the need to abandon certain thoughts.
Here, one may be faced with a tremendous difficulty. In this world, it is difficult to reject anything that has been accompanying one for a long time. Thoughts that were our friends and inseparable from us in our daily life are now to be rejected, which is not easy. Because, the rejection becomes possible only when their valuelessness is recognised. Anything that has a value for us cannot be subjected to this vivisection in the psyche. That which we consider as necessary in one way or the other in our daily life cannot become an object of our abandonment. It has to lose all sense of value, every meaning and connotation, much as a dream object becomes irrelevant to us in the waking state. Only then can we reject it. But, no thought which is of the waking life can be shunned easily. Because, that which we consider as irrelevant is also a part of the waking consciousness, and so, we will find it a painful process.
Here, we may recollect our earlier observations regarding the errors in our very perceptional process, and the division of the thought-process into Klishta Vrittis and Aklishta Vrittis by Patanjali. The Klishta Vrittis are obviously irrelevant to the practice of concentration and meditation. There is no need to explain how they are irrelevant. But, the more difficult thing would be to realise the inconsistency of the Aklishta Vrittis, or the non-painful operations of the mind, which are part and parcel of our daily life. And, therefore, to regard them as irrelevant would be a hard job. So, we should not suddenly jump into the higher stage of abandonment, when we are still in the lower stage. We have to bring back to our memory our earlier observations regarding the nature of the creation as a whole, the universe in its internality of structure, in whose light we cannot say that it is permissible on the part of the mind to regard objects as external to the perceiver. The whole point about the Aklishta Vrittis of Patanjali is that the world is not an external object, even if we name it Prakriti in the language of the Samkhya. It cannot be regarded as an object. Because, the so-called subject who considers Prakriti as an object is a part of Prakriti itself. The individuality of the Purusha, the percipient character of the individual, has been brought about by the workings of the Gunas of Prakriti, but for which there would be no individuality of the Purusha. Therefore, the individual percipient who considers the Prakriti or the world as an external object, is himself a part of that object. Therefore, there is some mistake in the operation of even the Aklishta Vrittis, what to speak of the Klishta Vrittis! Thus, it will be known what is irrelevant and what is relevant if we go into the philosophical implications of the very nature of existence.
In principle, therefore, it follows, and it should follow, that the ideas, thoughts and feelings which are inconsistent with concentration or meditation are those which insist on the externality of the objects and the location of things in space and time. Together with this effort on the part of the mind to reject these ideas of externality, spatiality and temporality, there is the positive, constructive activity taking place at the same time, towards collecting those ideas which focus themselves towards that conception of the object of meditation which has been considered as the proper one for the aspirant. So, there is a double activity – an activity of the abandonment of those Vrittis or activities of the psyche which insist on the externality of things, and the insistence or the taking in of those ideas which are contributory to the higher idea of the total indivisible structure of the object of meditation. So, one aspect among the four mentioned, is the activity of the mind to abandon thoughts and ideas which are irrelevant to the purpose. The other one is the thought of the object itself. While we are conscious of the nature of those ideas and thoughts that are to be abandoned, we are also conscious of the ideas and thoughts which are to be maintained in regard to the nature of the object. There is a third set of ideas which maintain the consciousness of the existence of the meditator himself. We are aware that we are seated there as a meditating principle and that there is the object also before us on which we have to concentrate. Also, there is a fourth process, which is the knowledge process, which connects the meditator or the concentrator with the object. This is the Pramana Chaitanya, as they call it, in the technical language of Pramana Sastra, epistemology.
We are aware that we are, we are aware that we are thinking something, we are aware of the nature of the object on which we are concentrating, and we are also aware of those thoughts which have to be abandoned. So, these four sets of ideas commingle with one another, all appearing to be there at the same time. That is why it looks like a struggle on the part of the mind to create a sort of a system in the activities of these four aspects that impinge upon it simultaneously. This is the difficulty. We have to think all the four aspects at the same time. Though we cannot be deliberately exercising any effort to maintain these fourfold thoughts, they will present themselves there subconsciously, or in a spontaneous manner.
We have seen already that the tying of the mind to a particular concept is concentration – Desa-bandhas chittasya dharana. And, a continuity of the very process of concentration is supposed to be meditation or Dhyana – Tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam. We cannot easily understand the relation between concentration and meditation, just as, to give a very homely analogy, we cannot know the relation between threads and the cloth which they constitute. It appears often that the cloth is the same as the threads. We cannot see, in the cloth, anything but the threads. Yet, something tells us that the cloth has some characteristics that are different from the qualities present in the threads. Hence, often, no distinction is drawn between concentration and meditation, Dharana and Dhyana, and Patanjali himself does not seem to suggest any distinction qualitatively between concentration and meditation, when he says that a continuity of the process of concentration itself is meditation – Tatra pratyayaikatanata dhyanam. But, we may say that there is some distinction in the qualitative make-up between the two, just as we can wear on our body a cloth but not a bundle of threads, though they are virtually the same thing, and not two different things.
Meditation distinguishes itself qualitatively by an intensity, which is characteristic of its own self, apart from the activity known as concentration. In meditation, in Dhyana, some novelty takes place. We do not any more feel a necessity to reject thoughts. There is nothing to abandon. The idea that certain thoughts and feelings are inconsistent is dropped. One has already accommodated within oneself all sets of thoughts which arise in the mind, and the so-called irrelevant thoughts and feelings have been so co-ordinated with the existing system of thinking, that they have ceased to be irrelevant any more. Even that which appeared very ugly, inconsistent and evil has lost its ugly character, and has undergone a transformation in the process of meditation. It has not been rejected as it was thought earlier. It has been absorbed by a transfiguration of its inner constituents. Thoughts are incapable of rejection finally, in the end. They cannot be abandoned, because they are our thoughts, and not somebody's thoughts. That which we have to reject is not the thoughts themselves, but the way in which the thoughts function. Here is a subtle distinction in psychological operation. For instance, we do not reject a person when we hate a person, but only dislike the way in which the person himself or herself acts in the context of things. It is a peculiar, subtle distinction that we have to draw between the sinner and the sin, as they say, the person and his conduct and behaviour and the way he manipulates relationships. Such is the case with thoughts. Thoughts are like things; they are like persons. They are substances, perhaps more concrete than the so-called objects which feel as tangible. The undesirableness of any particular thought in the mind is in the way in which it is conducted in respect of things in the world, but not in the thought itself. So, in meditation, the way in which the thought erroneously conducts itself in respect of things is harnessed in the proper manner. The restive horse that tries to move in its own way, in any direction it pleases, is put to the yoke and made to move in the required direction. The horse has not been thrown away or rejected, but its movement is regulated. So, in meditation, in Dhyana, rising above Dharna or concentration, the irrelevancy of things itself becomes irrelevant. The very idea of evil itself becomes evil. Such a thing as the idea of evil does not exist any more.
All this is a very advanced stage, and one is not supposed to go on haranguing on these things, since they are matters for personal experience, and no amount of explanation will mean anything at all to the people who read or listen, because it is like a taste of sugar and cannot be known by reading a textbook on it. What all this means will be known only when a person enters that stage himself. And any amount of reading or hearing will not help much. Whatever has been stated above is only to project the mathematical structure or the logical pattern of the way in which ideas have to be brought round in harmony with, or in tune with, those thoughts which may be considered necessary for the purpose of meditation on the great ideal that one has placed before oneself. When thoughts become harmonious, everything else also becomes so. Because, the jarring noise and the ugly scene which we see in the world, which we come in contact with through our senses, are due to a peculiar working of our minds which is what makes them appear as inconsistent with our meditation. This situation has now ceased to exist, on account of a new way in which we have begun to view things, in co-ordination with the system of our total thinking. Dhyana is total thinking. It is not partial thinking. It does not mean that some thoughts have been thrown away as irrelevant, and some thoughts have been kept as our friends, as relevant to meditation. All thoughts have been brought together into a completeness as a focus. We meditate as a whole, and not only as some thoughts which we have kept within ourselves as necessary. At this advanced stage, the meditator becomes a whole man, and ceases to be a schizophrenic individual, which one usually is in the workaday world. We have a double personality, even a treble or quadruple personality, when we live in this world. But that double, treble, quadruple personality coalesces into a single individuality in meditation. Very few can be said to be fit for meditation in this light. We are all poor nothings, considering the difficulty in actually making ourselves fit for this great attainment called the meditation of the mind on the ideal of Yoga.