by Swami Krishnananda
Thus, the immediate present is the object of concentration and, as I mentioned to you in the previous session, nature does not gallop like a horse. It moves smoothly like the flowing river and, therefore, little things are to be taken care of first. "Take care of the pennies; the pounds will take care of themselves," as the saying goes. Little drops make the ocean. So do not say "I am a spiritual seeker; I am thinking of God", while you are aching otherwise in your psyche, in your body or in your social relations. Let firm steps be taken gradually. Fine physical health is necessary, and a reasonably secure and comfortable life in the world is, of course, very, very important. All this has to be taken care of and should never be neglected. Do not allow the body to run riot or the mind to go hither and thither in its own way. Care has to be taken in these little, small things. Sometimes small things upset us much more than big things. One event, one occurrence, one word is enough to upset you totally, and a tornado or a whirlwind will not upset you so much. Hence, little things are big things; they have to be taken notice of in a very concentrated manner. From the physical, from the social, you rise to the sensory, the psychological, the intellectual and the spiritual. These are the grades of the ascent of yoga practice.
One of the ways to achieve concentration of the mind, the performance of upasana, is to adopt some means of loving what you consider as your aim. Finally, it is the love that you evince towards things that actually counts in life. Whatever be the aim or the thing that you are pursuing, it should not be mechanically pursued – and, also, it should be loved from the heart. A thing that you do not love will not come to you. Not even a dog will come near if you don't like it; if you dislike it, it will run away from you. The affections that you evince from your heart are, to a large extent, the thermometer which will decide the nature of the success in your concentration. The concentration of the mind on your concept of God Almighty, for instance, may be what you understand by upasana, or worship. From your own point of view of understanding, it may be perfectly right, but there must be an ardent longing for it. The Yoga Sutra tells us tivra samveganam asannah (Y.S. 1.21): "It is near only to that person who ardently longs for it." Anything that you intensely long for will come to you. This is the secret of life. You must ask for it wholly, from the bottom of your heart; and if you ask for it really – not unreally, from the lips only – and entirely, totally, and want only that and nothing else, in keeping with the law of things, it has to come. Therefore, the success in life, whether spiritual or otherwise, is in the manner of your whole-souled pouring yourself upon it, and your karma, your work, also should be a pouring of yourself upon it. If you pour yourself on the work, the work will be beautiful. All work is beauty; it is not ugly. It just looks ugly and a disastrous drudgery because it is an outside thing weighing heavily upon you. Anything that is outside you is not yours, and it is not worth attempting at all.
Therefore, the love of God must manifest itself in an appreciable measure and, as you know very well, your mind is constituted in such a way that you cannot love anything in this world wholly. You have some kind of affection for certain things, but you cannot love anything entirely, unconditionally. Here is the whole point. Unconditionally you cannot want anything. All your wants are conditional. "Under these circumstances I want it. If these conditions are fulfilled I like you. If these conditions are not fulfilled, go; I don't want you." Do you call it love? And you use the same yardstick to measure God Himself. "If these things come from Him, I like Him. If it does not come, I may even think that He does not exist."
There was a devotee in Hong Kong, a well-wisher of the ashram and a devotee of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj. He had no children. Once, twice, thrice, four times, five times he tried, but he could not beget children. He asked people to do japa and so on. When he failed the sixth time also, he wrote a letter: "I had a doubt that perhaps God does not exist; now it is clear to me that He does not exist." This is the kind of expectation that we have from God. If our bread and jam and our house and property are secure from our own point of view, God must exist. If He is pouring rain for the need of a farmer, but that rain causes a nearby building under construction to collapse, what do you call God – a kind person, or an unkind person? There is a farmer with a dry field who expects rain, and nearby somebody is building a house and he would not like heavy rain to fall on it. So, what should God do at that time? Should He send rain or should He not send rain? One person will praise God; another will curse Him.
This is to point out how difficult it is to understand things in a holistic manner. If you cannot love a human being, you cannot love God either. Saints tell you that if you cannot love what you see, how can you love what you do not see? An abstract woolgathering manner, where you build castles in the air about your love for God, cannot be regarded as affection because even when you think that you love God, there may be suspicions inside: "After all, I don't know what will happen. After all, nothing may take place. After all, I may not achieve It. After all, It may not be existing at all."
Varieties of doubts are listed in the Vedanta scriptures. "Such a Thing may not be there; even if It is there it may be not possible for me to achieve It; and even if I achieve It, what will be may fate, afterwards?" Many of you must be having this difficulty: "After reaching God, what will happen to me?" Do not say it is an unnecessary question; a very serious matter it is. After attaining God, what will you do there? Will you go on sweeping the floor of God's palace or looking at Him or receiving His commands? If you find that it is a very unpleasant existence, what will you do there? Here is the question: "What will I do there?" Purification of the mind by way of unselfish karma, or action, will set at rest all these difficulties. Because we are now thinking with a turbid mind, all these questions arise which are partly humorous and partly foolish. Such questions will arise because our concept of God is inadequate – inadequate because our mind itself is not prepared for such a concept. So, by an arduous attempt on our part to purify ourselves through worship, even by way of ritual, japa sadhana, etc., much of this dirt can be scrubbed out and we can attempt real concentration on the nature of Reality.
For your purposes as seekers of God, the object of meditation would be, of course, your own notion of the Creator of the universe. This universe must have come from some creative power. Ordinarily, you posit this creative power as a transcendent element, above the world. You cannot immediately imagine that It is just now, here, because It has created this which you are seeing before your eyes and, therefore, It must have existed prior to that which It has created. It is prior and, therefore, It is also transcendent. The aboveness, the extra-cosmic nature, the transcendent character of God is also something ingrained in our mind, however much we may go on saying that He is immanent. God is above us; He is a distant object. The idea of distance arises on account of spatiality and temporality involved in our experience, and also due to our belief that God created the world and, therefore, He must be above the world. Hence it is that we look up to the skies with open eyes when we pray to God in our own humble way.
The personality of God is also something unavoidable in the earlier stages. You may be told by people that God has no form. What is the use of saying that? You cannot conceive a formless thing. Even the concept of the formless is also a form only. Even water, which has no form by itself, will assume form when it is poured into a bucket. The bucket's nature, the shape, is the actual shape of the water. Thus, the manner of your thinking will decide the form of the object of your meditation. Concentration on a particular thing is what is insisted upon, and the point in concentration is that you should not think more than one thing. To the extent you are able to concentrate on one thing continuously for a large extent of time, to that extent you are successful in concentration. If two thoughts arise in the mind, it is not a successful concentration.
In the earlier stages, especially in the case of a novitiate, several thoughts will arise. You will be struggling hard to fix your mind on some particular thing and, at the same time, struggling to avoid thoughts which are irrelevant from your point of view. When you think of God, you would not like ungodly thoughts to enter your mind. If you think of God, you would not like the thought of the marketplace to enter your mind. This is how you will feel when you actually sit for meditation. That is, you will strive to shut out certain thoughts which you regard as disharmonious with the characteristics of that on which you are concentrating. So, there are two thoughts. Even in your attempt at concentration on one thing, two thoughts are there: the thought of avoiding unnecessary things and the thought of that which you consider as necessary.
There is also a third variety of thought – the mental placement of the ideal in front of you. God Almighty, or whatever it is, is placed in the context of your perception, through the mind. A kind of holy distance is maintained between you and the object; it is not just touching you. It is difficult to imagine such a thing. The thought that there is a little distance between you and the object of meditation is one thought; the thought that you would like to avoid is another thought; the thought of the nature of the object is the third thought; and the thought that you are contemplating and you are existing is the fourth thought. So, even when you are actually concentrating on one thing – at least attempting to concentrate on one thing – you will find that there are four thoughts automatically arising in your mind, though apparently it appears that you are concentrating on one thing only. The Yoga Sutras go into all these details.
These four thoughts are not actually distracting media; they are necessary processes of overcoming the distractions of the mind. Later on, after some time, having attained success in your concentration, you will find there would be no necessity for you to avoid certain thoughts. It is only in the earliest stages that you feel certain thoughts are unnecessary. "I should not think of the jungle; I should not think of an animal; I should not think of a railway station or a marketplace or something which is unpleasant." This is what you think. But later on you will find there is nothing unpleasant anywhere. The unpleasantness is only the wrong placement of your personality in the context of that particular reference. You are disharmoniously placed with that thing which you consider as evil, unholy, unnecessary, etc. If you are harmoniously placed with an event that is taking place or a thing that is there outside you, you will find that it ceases to be something unnecessary or interfering; it will never interfere with you. Your considering that it is unnecessary is the reason why it starts interfering. When you have decided that you do not want a thing, naturally you cannot expect any cooperation from that thing. But why should you consider that a thing is unwanted and should be rejected? It is because you have not understood it properly. The context of its existence in relation to the context of your existence has not been properly grasped. Therefore, in a certain advanced stage you will find that unnecessary thoughts will not exist, because there is nothing totally unnecessary in this world. This is a little advanced stage; in the early stages you will not be able to realise this. Thus, with this precaution, take to concentration, and take for granted that you have now achieved some success in making yourself acquainted with the truth that there is nothing that you have to avoid in this world. Thus, the world becomes friendly with you. A cool breeze will blow and everything will be fragrant to you.
Then comes your difficulty with the object itself. How will you adjust yourself with the presence of that object in front of you which does not seem to be touching you, which is a little distant from you? Let the object be at a distance; it does not matter. You can glory in the beauty and the grandeur of that object for the time being. Inasmuch as you have concluded that this object is ultimately real – if it had been not for that fact, you would not be concentrating on it – it is the final thing for you, and all things that you expect from anything will also be there in that thing, and it will bestow upon you all that you expect. The Ishta Devata, the object of your meditation, is capable of bestowing upon you all things that are anywhere; it can give you anything. All the world's blessings will come from that one thing, as it is a concentrated point of the whole cosmos.
The idea of the object, the concept of the ideal before you, the Ishta Devata so-called, is a concentrated spot of cosmic power. You can touch it, and you will be touching the switchboard of the cosmos. It is not some isolated dot or a thing that you are concentrating upon. The idea of isolatedness must be removed. It is touching one part of your body, as it were. When you touch a part of the body, even a little spot, you are touching the whole body. You know very well how it is, because the entire body is concentrated on every part of the body. That is why you feel an entire occurrence taking place even if only a little touch is made. Such a concept has to be introduced into the object of meditation. It is not sitting somewhere. "My God is somewhere; his God is somewhere else." It is not like that. Actually, no object is in one place only. There is an interconnection, vitally, of every object with every other object, as the limbs of the body are connected integrally and internally. So you will feel happy to realise that this object of your meditation is the touchstone of the success of your meditation. It is the root of the whole cosmos; it is the vitality which you are concentrating upon, by which you can evoke the powers of the entire creation. It is something like an incarnation. An incarnation of God may look like a particular individual, but it is the focussing point of the entire power. The whole thing is concentrated there – all the world, all creation. Then you will feel a joy inside. "I am not wasting my time in concentration, because I am actually at one with that Force, which is gazing at me with eyes that are multifaceted as if the whole cosmos is looking at me." Great joy it is to realise this.
Thus, concentration will become an art of feeling joy. Concentration and meditation are happy processes. You will never be tired, you will never be exhausted by sitting for meditation. You will feel greater and greater satisfaction, and every session of meditation will make you healthier, stronger, more wholesome in your outlook, and you will be able to convince yourself you have actually achieved something substantial. Today you have become better than yesterday.