by Swami Krishnananda
The main theme of Yoga is the ultimate communion aimed at by all the preceding processes that the seeker goes through. Even as the efforts of an agriculturist or a farmer, right from the gathering of the seeds, sowing in the field, taking care of the tendrils, protecting the harvest and gathering the harvest are all aimed at eating the produce of this hectic labour for months together, even so, whatever we have considered in all the previous chapters up until now tends towards the principal aim of Yoga, which is communion with Reality. Communion with Reality is the last step or leap into the Unknown that the known individuality takes, which is the consummation of all efforts, and the attainment par excellence. This communion, in the context of the system of Yoga as propounded by Patanjali, means attunement with the various evolutes of Prakriti, or rather the evolutionary stages of the universe. Each such stage is made the object of concentration, meditation and communion, so that there is a union established between every stage of individuality with every stage of cosmic evolution. As we are concerned mainly with the system of Patanjali, we shall now touch upon the principles of Samyama, Samadhi or communion as conceived in the system.
Communion with Reality is Samadhi, that is to say, Samyama practised for the ultimate attainment. That is the goal, that is Yoga proper. But, every stage of conscious experience may be regarded as a tentative reality with which one has to establish a communion, as for instance, right from the stages of Yama and Niyama through the various graduated evolutionary stages in the course of the ascent of the individual soul from the lower to the higher, up untill the final stage of total merger in the Unknown. Right from Yama onwards, every stage is nothing but an attempt at communion. Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara are endeavours in Yoga to commune with different stages of the Reality, different degrees of or intensities of the Reality. But, when we come to the climax of Dhyana or meditation according to Patanjali's system, we confront Reality in its true colours, not as it appeared previously to the empirical individual. The major problems of Reality present themselves when we reach the pinnacle of the meditation process. Here, we have to grapple with a very interesting process by which we seem to break through the knot of the empirical constitution of the objects, and enter into their noumenal existence. While, in the earlier stages also attempts were made to commune with the Reality as it presented itself through the environment, right from the human society upwards, when we come to the final level, we have to undertake a new technique altogether of solving the problem of existence, once and for ever. All the stages mentioned earlier are empirical in one sense, even if they are graduated ascents. They are ascents through degrees of empiricality itself. Though, when we rise up higher and higher, the empiricality becomes more and more transparent and capable of reflecting Reality in a larger and more intense measure, nevertheless, they are after all empirical stages only, because of the fact that the object somehow remains outside the subject. Even if the medium separating the subject from the object be utterly transparent, and for all practical purposes it appears that there is no difference at all between the seer and the seen, the transparent medium acts as a separating element. This happens in the earlier stages. But, in the ultimate stage, this should not happen. We do not wish to have even a transparent medium of separation between the seeing consciousness and the seen object. Because, utter communion is what is attempted now, and not merely an apparent coming together in a fraternal embrace. Friendliness is different from communion. Up to this time, we were all attempting to be friendly with the atmosphere in the different degrees of its manifestation. Now, our attempt is not to remain merely as friends, as brethren, but to coalesce into a single self-identical being. This is the aim of Yoga finally.
Now, as per the analysis made by Patanjali, the nature of the peculiar feature which separates or distinguishes the subject from the object is name and form. He does not, of course, use these specific words. His technical terms are 'Sabda' and 'Jnana', definition and notion, or idea. When we conceive or perceive an object, three factors are involved in the apprehension of the object, factors which make it appear as an empirical something. The three factors are: the thing as such or the thing in itself, in its true essentiality (Artha); the shape, the contour, the mould into which it is cast by the structural pattern of conception or perception (Jnana); and the nomenclature that is attached to this form (Sabda). Every object has an essential nature of its own; it stands in its own status. And every object has a form which distinguishes it from every other object. And, because it has a form, it has also a name. Now, when we conceive of an object, we mix up these three factors in the knowledge of that object. To conceive the form of an object – a mountain, a tree, or anything whatsoever – would be to mix up these three factors and create a picture of empirical isolation of the object from the seeing subject.
We cannot think of an object, unless we associate a name also with it. It may be a person, it may be a thing. As every person and every thing seems to have a name attached to one's own form, the name is considered as an essential distinguishing feature characterising each particular object as different from other objects. The moment we utter the name of a particular thing, the form of that object also gets presented in the mind. No object has any name, really speaking. Names are given for purposes of convenience. We cannot distinguish between objects, unless they are defined in a particular manner. The ideological definition of an object is the cause of its being perceived as an object. For purposes of a convenient distinction to be drawn between one thing and another thing, we give names to things, though no thing, no person, has any name in itself, in himself or herself. No one is born with a name. It just does not exist. It is created for a practical purpose. But this is a minor matter, considering the other two aspects of an object which are more significant.
The form of an object is really that which distinguishes it from other objects, and this distinction calls for an identification of itself by a name or a nomenclature. The conception of an object is nothing but the conception of a form that distinguishes it from other objects with different forms. The length and the breadth, the size and the shape, the structure, the pattern, the colour and other aspects – all these go to create the form of an object, and this distinguishing form is the reason behind the name that is given to it. So, name and form and idea go together as one single complex.
However, the real thing behind the object cognised need not necessarily be the form into which it is cast during the process of perception. Why this is so is a point that takes us far, far into the realms of the cosmic structure of things, which was discussed in some detail in the earlier chapters. Everything is a manifestation of the one original substance called Prakriti. The three forces known as Sattva, Rajas and Tamas that constitute Prakriti, with their internal modifications, create the so-called distinction of one thing from another thing. But, it is not true that there are many objects in the world. The whole point is this. The different objects are only different shapes assumed by the one substance called Prakriti, while it descends to the pattern of space and time in greater and greater densities. The lower it comes, the grosser is its form, and the greater is the distinction that is seen between one object and another. The difference subsisting between one thing and another thing gradually tapers off into a narrowness of near-identity, when we rise gradually from the lower to the higher principles. As Prakriti descends from the original unity of its structure into the principles known as Mahat, Ahamkara, the Tanmatras and the Mahabhutas by the permutation and combination of its three Gunas, it becomes more and more diversified, finally resulting in the individual forms of personalities and objects. This diversification process becomes worse still in the social relationships of the individual forms. Yoga practice, therefore, is an internal effort of the consciousness that has descended into such a terrible differentiation to rise up into progressively larger unifications of itself with its environment, until, at the stage of what is known as Samadhi or Samyama, the five elements are confronted directly, and not the ordinary forms of the individualities of persons and things.
The name or the designation, the nomenclature, the idea, and the form, are peculiar to each object. But, the substantiality of the object does not originally vary from the substantiality of another object, because all objects are constituted of the same three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Prakriti is the only thing that is behind all forms, all objects, as the thing-in-itself. The thing as such is Prakriti. So, in a particular form of concentration, Samyama, in the lowest of its stages, an attempt is made to divest the form of all the names associated with it, and an effort is also made at the same time to see through the form into the substance out of which the form is made. And, because of the fact that the individual subject is formed of the same essential substance as the objects concentrated or meditated upon, the consciousness recognises or discovers the basic similarity of structure in itself and in the objects. It is like two rivers meeting each other or two oceans joining at a particular point in an indistinguishable mass. The five elements – earth, water, fire, air, and ether – are forms of Prakriti itself. They are not really five separate or unconnected elements, but one single gross substance appearing in various degrees of descent as ether, air, fire, water and earth, of which five elements also our bodies are constituted. Therefore, it would be difficult to see how there can be a distinction between one thing and another thing.