Continuing Excerpts from His Speech Delivered in London, 10th November 1896 To be able to use what we call Viveka (discrimination), to learn how in every moment of our lives, in every one of our actions, to discriminate between what is right and wrong, true and false, we shall have to know the test of truth, which is purity, oneness. Everything that makes for oneness is truth. Love is truth, and hatred is false, because hatred makes for multiplicity. It is hatred that separates man from man; therefore it is wrong and false. It is a disintegrating power; it separates and destroys. Love binds, love makes for that oneness. You become one, the mother with the child, families with the city, the whole world becomes one with the animals. For love is Existence, God Himself; and all this is the manifestation of that One Love, more or less expressed. The difference is only in degree, but it is the manifestation of that One Love throughout. Therefore in all our actions we have to judge whether it is making for diversity or for oneness. If for diversity we have to give it up, but if it makes for oneness we are sure it is good. So with our thoughts; we have to decide whether they make for disintegration, multiplicity, or for oneness, binding soul to soul and bringing one influence to bear. If they do this, we will take them up, and if not, we will throw them off as criminal. The whole idea of ethics is that it does not depend on anything unknowable, it does not teach anything unknown, but in the language of the Upanishad, “The God whom you worship as an unknown God, the same I preach unto thee.” It is through the Self that you know anything. I see the chair; but to see the chair, I have first to perceive myself and then the chair. It is in and through the Self that the chair is perceived. It is in and through the Self that you are known to me, that the whole world is known to me; and therefore to say this Self is unknown is sheer nonsense. Take off the Self and the whole universe vanishes. In and through the Self all knowledge comes. Therefore it is the best known of all. It is yourself, that which you call I. You may wonder how this I of me can be the I of you. You may wonder how this limited I can be the unlimited Infinite, but it is so. The limited is a mere fiction. The Infinite has been covered up, as it were, and a little of It is manifesting as the I. Limitation can never come upon the unlimited; it is a fiction. The Self is known, therefore, to every one of us — man, woman, or child — and even to animals. Without knowing Him we can neither live nor move, nor have our being; without knowing this Lord of all, we cannot breathe or live a second. The God of the Vedanta is the most known of all and is not the outcome of imagination. If this is not preaching a practical God, how else could you teach a practical God? Where is there a more practical God than He whom I see before me — a God omnipresent, in every being, more real than our senses? For you are He, the Omnipresent God Almighty, the Soul of your souls, and if I say you are not, I tell an untruth. I know it, whether at all times I realise it or not. He is the Oneness, the Unity of all, the Reality of all life and all existence. These ideas of the ethics of Vedanta have to be worked out in detail, and, therefore, you must have patience. As I have told you, we want to take the subject in detail and work it up thoroughly, to see how the ideas grow from very low ideals, and how the one great Ideal of oneness has developed and become shaped into the universal love; and we ought to study these in order to avoid dangers. The world cannot find time to work it up from the lowest steps. But what is the use of our standing on higher steps if we cannot give the truth to others coming afterwards? Therefore, it is better to study it in all its workings; and first, it is absolutely necessary to clear the intellectual portion, although we know that intellectuality is almost nothing; for it is the heart that is of most importance. It is through the heart that the Lord is seen, and not through the intellect. The intellect is only the street-cleaner, cleansing the path for us, a secondary worker, the policeman; but the policeman is not a positive necessity for the workings of society. He is only to stop disturbances, to check wrong-doing, and that is all the work required of the intellect. When you read intellectual books, you think when you have mastered them, “Bless the Lord that I am out of them”, because the intellect is blind and cannot move of itself, it has neither hands nor feet. It is feeling that works, that moves with speed infinitely superior to that of electricity or anything else. Do you feel? — that is the question. If you do, you will see the Lord: It is the feeling that you have today that will be intensified, deified, raised to the highest platform, until it feels everything, the oneness in everything, till it feels God in itself and in others. The intellect can never do that. “Different methods of speaking words, different methods of explaining the texts of books, these are for the enjoyment of the learned, not for the salvation of the soul” (Vivekachudâmani, 58). Those of you who have read Thomas à Kempis know how in every page he insists on this, and almost every holy man in the world has insisted on it. Intellect is necessary, for without it we fall into crude errors and make all sorts of mistakes. Intellect checks these; but beyond that, do not try to build anything upon it. It is an inactive, secondary help; the real help is feeling, love. Do you feel for others? If you do, you are growing in oneness. If you do not feel for others, you may be the most intellectual giant ever born, but you will be nothing; you are but dry intellect, and you will remain so. And if you feel, even if you cannot read any book and do not know any language, you are in the right way. The Lord is yours. Do you not know from the history of the world where the power of the prophets lay? Where was it? In the intellect? Did any of them write a fine book on philosophy, on the most intricate ratiocinations of logic? Not one of them. They only spoke a few words. Feel like Christ and you will be a Christ; feel like Buddha and you will be a Buddha. It is feeling that is the life, the strength, the vitality, without which no amount of intellectual activity can reach God. Intellect is like limbs without the power of locomotion. It is only when feeling enters and gives them motion that they move and work on others. That is so all over the world, and it is a thing which you must always remember. It is one of the most practical things in Vedantic morality, for it is the teaching of the Vedanta that you are all prophets, and all must be prophets. The book is not the proof of your conduct, but you are the proof of the book. How do you know that a book teaches truth? Because you are truth and feel it. That is what the Vedanta says. What is the proof of the Christs and Buddhas of the world? That you and I feel like them. That is how you and I understand that they were true. Our prophet-soul is the proof of their prophet-soul. Your godhead is the proof of God Himself. If you are not a prophet, there never has been anything true of God. If you are not God, there never was any God, and never will be. This, says the Vedanta, is the ideal to follow. Every one of us will have to become a prophet, and you are that already. Only know it. Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin — to say that you are weak, or others are weak. Our deepest gratitude to Swami Vivekananda Curated from Swamiji’s talks and writings. Formatting has been slightly altered to make reading easier.
Continuing Excerpts from His Speech Delivered in London, 10th November 1896 Take the idea of sin. I was telling you just now the Vedantic idea of it, and the other idea is that man is a sinner. They are practically the same, only the one takes the positive and the other the negative side. One shows to man his strength and the other his weakness. There may be weakness, says the Vedanta, but never mind, we want to grow. Disease was found out as soon as man was born. Everyone knows his disease; it requires no one to tell us what our diseases are. But thinking all the time that we are diseased will not cure us — medicine is necessary. We may forget anything outside, we may try to become hypocrites to the external world, but in our heart of hearts we all know our weaknesses. But, says the Vedanta, being reminded of weakness does not help much; give strength, and strength does not come by thinking of weakness all the time. The remedy for weakness is not brooding over weakness, but thinking of strength. Teach men of the strength that is already within them. Instead of telling them they are sinners, the Vedanta takes the opposite position, and says, “You are pure and perfect, and what you call sin does not belong to you.” Sins are very low degrees of Self-manifestation; manifest your Self in a high degree. That is the one thing to remember; all of us can do that. Never say, “No”, never say, “I cannot”, for you are infinite. Even time and space are as nothing compared with your nature. You can do anything and everything, you are almighty. These are the principles of ethics, but we shall now come down lower and work out the details. We shall see how this Vedanta can be carried into our everyday life, the city life, the country life, the national life, and the home life of every nation. For, if a religion cannot help man wherever he may be, wherever he stands, it is not of much use; it will remain only a theory for the chosen few. Religion, to help mankind, must be ready and able to help him in whatever condition he is, in servitude or in freedom, in the depths of degradation or on the heights of purity; everywhere, equally, it should be able to come to his aid. The principles of Vedanta, or the ideal of religion, or whatever you may call it, will be fulfilled by its capacity for performing this great function. The ideal of faith in ourselves is of the greatest help to us. If faith in ourselves had been more extensively taught and practiced, I am sure a very large portion of the evils and miseries that we have would have vanished. Throughout the history of mankind, if any motive power has been more potent than another in the lives of all great men and women, it is that of faith in themselves. Born with the consciousness that they were to be great, they became great. Let a man go down as low as possible; there must come a time when out of sheer desperation he will take an upward curve and will learn to have faith in himself. But it is better for us that we should know it from the very first. Why should we have all these bitter experiences in order to gain faith in ourselves? We can see that all the difference between man and man is owing to the existence or non-existence of faith in himself. Faith in ourselves will do everything. I have experienced it in my own life, and am still doing so; and as I grow older that faith is becoming stronger and stronger. He is an atheist who does not believe in himself. The old religions said that he was an atheist who did not believe in God. The new religion says that he is the atheist who does not believe in himself. But it is not selfish faith because the Vedanta, again, is the doctrine of oneness. It means faith in all, because you are all. Love for yourselves means love for all, love for animals, love for everything, for you are all one. It is the great faith which will make the world better. I am sure of that. He is the highest man who can say with truth, “I know all about myself.” Do you know how much energy, how many powers, how many forces are still lurking behind that frame of yours? What scientist has known all that is in man? Millions of years have passed since man first came here, and yet but one infinitesimal part of his powers has been manifested. Therefore, you must not say that you are weak. How do you know what possibilities lie behind that degradation on the surface? You know but little of that which is within you. For behind you is the ocean of infinite power and blessedness. “This Atman is first to be heard of.” Hear day and night that you are that Soul. Repeat it to yourselves day and night till it enters into your very veins, till it tingles in every drop of blood, till it is in your flesh and bone. Let the whole body be full of that one ideal, “I am the birthless, the deathless, the blissful, the omniscient, the omnipotent, ever-glorious Soul.” Think on it day and night; think on it till it becomes part and parcel of your life. Meditate upon it, and out of that will come work. “Out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh,” and out of the fullness of the heart the hand worketh also. Action will come. Fill yourselves with the ideal; whatever you do, think well on it. All your actions will be magnified, transformed, deified, by the very power of the thought. If matter is powerful, thought is omnipotent. Bring this thought to bear upon your life, fill yourselves with the thought of your almightiness, your majesty, and your glory. Would to God no superstitions had been put into your head! Would to God we had not been surrounded from our birth by all these superstitious influences and paralysing ideas of our weakness and vileness! Would to God that mankind had had an easier path through which to attain to the noblest and highest truths! But man had to pass through all this; do not make the path more difficult for those who are coming after you. These are sometimes terrible doctrines to teach. I know people who get frightened at these ideas, but for those who want to be practical, this is the first thing to learn. Never tell yourselves or others that you are weak. Do good if you can, but do not injure the world. You know in your inmost heart that many of your limited ideas, this humbling of yourself and praying and weeping to imaginary beings are superstitions. Tell me one case where these prayers have been answered. All the answers that came were from your own hearts. You know there are no ghosts, but no sooner are you in the dark than you feel a little creepy sensation. That is so because in our childhood we have had all these fearful ideas put into our heads. But do not teach these things to others through fear of society and public opinion, through fear of incurring the hatred of friends, or for fear of losing cherished superstitions. Be masters of all these. What is there to be taught more in religion than the oneness of the universe and faith in one’s self? All the works of mankind for thousands of years past have been towards this one goal, and mankind is yet working it out. It is your turn now and you already know the truth. For it has been taught on all sides. Not only philosophy and psychology, but materialistic sciences have declared it. Where is the scientific man today who fears to acknowledge the truth of this oneness of the universe? Who is there who dares talk of many worlds? All these are superstitions. There is only one life and one world, and this one life and one world is appearing to us as manifold. This manifoldness is like a dream. When you dream, one dream passes away and another comes. You do not live in your dreams. The dreams come one after another, scene after scene unfolds before you. So it is in this world of ninety per cent misery and ten per cent happiness. Perhaps after a while it will appear as ninety per cent happiness, and we shall call it heaven, but a time comes to the sage when the whole thing vanishes, and this world appears as God Himself, and his own soul as God. It is not therefore that there are many worlds, it is not that there are many lives. All this manifoldness is the manifestation of that One. That One is manifesting Himself as many, as matter, spirit, mind, thought, and everything else. It is that One, manifesting Himself as many. Therefore the first step for us to take is to teach the truth to ourselves and to others. Let the world resound with this ideal, and let superstitions vanish. Tell it to men who are weak and persist in telling it. You are the Pure One; awake and arise, O mighty one, this sleep does not become you. Awake and arise, it does not befit you. Think not that you are weak and miserable. Almighty, arise and awake, and manifest your own nature. It is not fitting that you think yourself a sinner. It is not fitting that you think yourself weak. Say that to the world, say it to yourselves, and see what a practical result comes, see how with an electric flash everything is manifested, how everything is changed. Tell that to mankind, and show them their power. Then we shall learn how to apply it in our daily lives. Our deepest gratitude to Swami Vivekananda Curated from Swamiji’s talks and writings. Formatting has been slightly altered to make reading easier.
At one time or another in life, most people begin to reflect upon whether they truly have freedom to act or whether they are just pre-destined by the past. In Yoga Vasistha, Sage Vasistha tells Rama that self-effort will lead one to Liberation and that an aspirant has infinite freedom in that direction. It is past karma that hampers your present movement. What you consider destiny is that which you have created through your self-effort of the past, and you have all the resources you need to overcome the past and create a golden future for yourself. You should not worry about the past or regret what has been. That past is already gone. In Yoga, “past” refers not only to what is past within this embodiment, but to what has occurred in your many previous lives. There is a vast karmic storehouse— called sanchita karma — that exists within the unconscious of every individual. From that sanchita, a portion, called prarabdha (fructifying karma), has given rise to your present embodiment. Prarabdha does not determine every detail of your life in this embodiment — it just gives you a general outline. Just as a story or a novel is based on a general plot outline designed by the author, so too your prarabdha has given you a general plot for the unfoldment of your life. For instance, your birth family, the general circumstances that will prevail in that family, certain important events that will occur between birth and death, and your basic physical makeup are determined by prarabdha. You should not develop the idea that you have been pressured or forced by others to become what you have become in life. It is your own actions and thoughts of the past that are bringing different situations to you now. While prarabdha karma has given you a general outline, purushartha, or self-effort, gives you the possibility to improve upon that outline. For example, suppose prarabdha puts you into a state of adversity. No matter how hard you try, you do not succeed in your business, and after many years you still have not attained a firm economic footing. Should you allow yourself to be frustrated and stop striving to make things better with the idea, “Now let me wait until an astrologer tells me that it is the right time to work. Until then, I will just relax.” That idea is not philosophical. It is based on ignorance. When, in spite of your best effort, you do not succeed, you should not blame destiny and allow yourself to just stay miserable. Rather you must learn to consider that situation of adversity as a challenge for your internal advancement. Do not be thwarted. No matter what your prarabdha might have been, you can, by adjusting your angle of vision, mold that prarabdha to your advantage. If prarabdha brings prosperity, and that prosperity makes you more humble, then you have utilized your prarabdha in an effective way. If prarabdha brings you adversity, and because of that adversity you have developed patience, endurance, and willpower, you have utilized that prarabdha well and exercised self-effort. So, no matter what might have been your prarabdha from the past, it should not worry you if you continue your self-effort. The Yogic scriptures present a general plan for effective self-effort, or purushartha. There are four objectives or purposes of life. The first is dharma, the ethical value of life. Your purushartha should be directed towards cultivating ethical qualities. Any attainment that you pursue, transgressing the laws of ethics, is shallow. Unethical attainments are like beautiful houses that have termites dwelling in them. Without dharma, the superstructure of your progress and success means very little. This applies to societies as well as to individuals. If a whole society progresses in a material way, but there is no foundation in dharma, then all that progress is just an external show. Internally the society or the individual is being eaten up by termites— termites of worry, tension, stress, and moral degeneration. So dharma must be the foundation of your self-effort. The next objective of life is called artha, or the material value. Everyone must strive to be secure materially. That does not mean you must be fabulously rich, but you must have sufficient means to make the effort that dharma requires you to make. The third objective is kama, the vital value of life. Kama motivates you to enter into family, to have friends, children, and grandchildren, and to interact with people around you and with society as a whole. If the laws of dharma are not transgressed, kama will bring a joyous and harmonious sense of fulfillment. But all these — dharma, artha and kama — are means to an end. Moksha or Liberation is your ultimate goal, and that goal must constantly be kept before your mind. If you are sincerely interested in promoting the best in life, the central task before you is the attainment of Liberation. That is the task that requires your unfailing self-effort. In striving for Liberation, you should not rely on astrologers or palmists. If a palmist tells you, “Oh, you will not attain enlightenment in this life—maybe in two lives from now,” you may unnecessarily become discouraged and develop a mental complex that, because it is not written in your destiny, no matter what you do you will not attain Liberation. Liberation, or anything related to your deeper spiritual movement, is not determined by stars. It is determined by your self-effort, and in that domain you have infinite freedom. You can mold every situation to your advantage if you constantly direct your self-effort towards self-improvement. The world exists to aid your self-improvement. In His infinite intelligence and omniscience, God presents every situation necessary for your soul to prosper in a mystical way. Directing Your Self-Effort Towards Enlightenment Keeping this in view, you must qualify yourself for the project of attaining Enlightenment. Your life should flow towards cultivating discrimination (between the Self and the not-self), dispassion, aspiration for Self-realization, and all the fragrant Divine qualities that adorn an advanced spiritual personality. In this project, as well as in every project that you undertake, develop deep within yourself an understanding that you have limitless resources. Have faith in yourself. Seek the guidance of someone who is intelligent, efficient, and skilled—an authority on matters necessary for your success. If you receive proper guidance, economize your energy and time, plan your project in an effective manner, and continue striving with persistence and patience, your self-effort will lead you to success. Be rational in your efforts. Suppose you are five feet tall and have brown eyes. However, someone tells you that if you became seven feet tall and had blue eyes, life would be more exciting. If you believe them and put forth great effort to achieve that goal, your project would be irrational. It has no real meaning for your life. Further, you should not allow yourself to be under stress as you strive to attain your goals. Do not count the hours until the project is completed, or dream of how wonderful it will be when you no longer have to make any self-effort. With that attitude, even if you complete the project, you will be too mentally exhausted to gain any internal benefit from your success. Rather, when you perform any action, do it in the spirit of Karma Yoga. Do your best, but let your mind be relaxed about whether or not you succeed. Ego should not be allowed to dominate your self-effort. If ego dominates, you are always disbalanced in your work — constantly swinging from elation to depression, unable to sustain your best efforts under frustrating conditions. There are always many factors in this world that are not under your control. Suppose you did everything possible to construct a building in an excellent manner, and suddenly a plane comes hurtling down from space and just crashes right into it. Should you become drowned in a state of despair? You should not. You performed your self-effort — and that fact should give you an internal fulfillment that cannot be touched by external failure or success. The Central Project: Self-Realization When your self-effort is directed to the highest project — Self-realization — you must be vigilant and introspective about handling the moods of your mind. Watch yourself day by day. Are you breaking the chains of attachment? Are you learning not to lean upon others? Are you feeling an increasing sense of freedom? If you are not, then you are not attending upon that central project with sufficient self-effort. As time passes by, your inner spirit should feel free, unencumbered. Your mind should feel more and more relaxed. You should be able to enjoy the sweetness of surrender to God and increasing inner tranquility. If those blessings are not unfolding in your personality, but, rather, life is just giving you increasing stress, burden, and a sense of confusion, be aware that you need to make greater self-effort. All efforts you make for external success must be subservient to the demands of inner unfoldment, and must pave the way for your inner growth. If not, then you become a materialist. You can conquer the whole world, but if you lose your soul you have not made any attainment at all. On the other hand, you may have little to be proud of in the material world, and yet, like Mahatma Gandhi, you may influence an entire country, and present a great ideal to be emulated all over the world. It is not external attainment that makes you great; it is your inner unfoldment. Remember that you have eternity before you. You do not have to race for Enlightenment. What is important is that you take the first steps on the path of right self-effort and then remain relaxed as you pursue a persistent, patient movement of increasing accomplishment. You do not have to wait until something dramatic happens to be joyous. When you are making the right self-effort, every day will bring an inner joy — whether externally you succeed or not. To feel the Divine Presence, to enjoy Divine sustenance, to possess clarity of intellect, and to attain that state in which intellect blooms into intuitional Enlightenment — these are the objectives for the most fascinating project of self-effort. It is your self-effort that draws Divine grace and leads you to the ultimate goal — Self-realization. Once you become Self-realized there is no need for self-effort. You view the whole world as a Divine drama. INSIGHT INTO DIVINE GRACE In the course of spiritual movement, a person may often become confused about the relationship between self-effort and the act of Divine Grace. For people who have not yet developed a deeper understanding, the idea of Grace implies halting all self-effort. For example, an unemployed person reads a book on Divine Grace and then says, “Why should I bother to look for work? If I am meant to work, a job will just come to me. Someone will appear and say, ‘Here’s a perfect job for you.’ That is how Grace operates.” Yet when the same person sits down to eat he never says that Grace will cause the food to jump into his mouth! You never wait for Grace to bring you the things that your ego finds intensely interesting. If you discover something you like, you go after it with all your energy. But when the slightest obstacle hinders you, you start invoking Grace; and if you don’t get what you want, you assert that God’s Grace is a myth. You must understand that God exists as the indwelling reality in every person. To get God’s Grace you should never stop your effort, but rather continue to strive according to your capacity. When you gain a deeper insight into Grace you naturally start putting forth effort in your life; you don’t just sit around brooding over a task that confronts you. You remark with a smile, “Even if it appears momentous I will do my best—and God within me will do the rest.” With this kind of attitude you will find your life filled with success. But when you stop your effort, relying entirely on Divine Grace, you have misunderstood. God’s Grace operates through your intellect, through your mind, through your personality. Whenever you are exerting your effort in life, it is Divine Grace that is guiding your actions in that direction. As you do your best, it is God within who prompts you. According to the scriptures, Grace has four aspects. The first is called Ishwara Kripa, or the Grace of God. This refers to the Divine assistance that comes to your rescue when you encounter a baffling situation with which you are unable to cope. The biblical story of Moses at the Red Sea is an illustration of this. In his efforts to lead his people out of bondage, Moses encounters the Red Sea surging before him, and the horses of Pharaoh in rapid pursuit behind. Moses did not know what would happen, but he did know that God was with him; so he determined to do his best and go as far as his effort would take him. Then, by an act of Divine Grace, the Red Sea divided, dry land appeared, and the Israelites were saved. You have probably experienced the Divine Hand many times during your life. Perhaps you momentarily lost control of your car in rush hour and barely escaped with your life. It was an act of Divine Grace that saved your life. Or maybe you had an important plane to catch, but couldn’t because of a traffic accident on the way to the airport. Your bitter feelings quickly turned joyous when you learned that the plane was hijacked. It was God’s Grace again that obstructed your plans to board the plane. If your mind was highly sensitive, you would perceive that God’s Grace operates at every moment and at every place. Consider your body for a moment. Have you ever thought how your nervous system works? How is it that you live as long as you do with a brain so tender that just one blow to the head can obliterate all your attainments in a moment? It is Divine Grace that enables you to live on despite all the inimical forces that threaten the life of your body and personality. The second kind of Grace is Guru Kripa or the Grace of Guru. When an aspirant develops an eagerness to attain Liberation and approaches a Guru to serve him, he soon falls under the influence of an amazing hand that sustains his movement in whatever he does. He is able to overcome temptations, endure adversities, and keep a poised mind during difficult situations. This aspect of Divine Grace that removes impediments on your way and endows you with willpower is referred to as Guru’s Grace. The third aspect is Shastra Kripa, the Grace of scriptures. If you are deficient in this you may read the best of scriptures, but all you get from them is words, contradictions, and confusion. Instead of being relaxed, your mind is all the more confused because the scriptures say so many things. Anyone can quote scripture to justify anything. So, Shastra Kripa means that you have prepared yourself in such a way that scriptures reveal their secrets; whenever you read a stanza, the meaning and the spirit of that stanza harmonizes with your inner being, and you grasp its implications. This is a special type of spiritual development. The fourth is termed Atma Kripa, or the Grace of your own soul. If you have Atma Kripa, you will have a sustained interest in spiritual movement. If that Grace is not there, today you will assert that you would like to attain Liberation, to be free of birth and death, and to attain peace of mind—but tomorrow you will assert that you want to be a millionaire and succeed in business, by hook or by crook. If your mind fluctuates in this direction, you are lacking your own Grace. It is only when you receive the Grace of your soul that you possess true resolve; you decide to do certain things and then do them, following through with patience and perseverance. These four aspects of Grace are really one Divine Grace appearing in four ways. From a relative point of view we give them four different names—God’s Grace, Guru’s Grace, scripture’s Grace and the Grace of your own soul—but they are not really distinct from each other. At all times, Grace showers like rain pouring from the clouds in rainy season, driven by monsoon winds. Torrential rains of Grace are constantly falling upon the earth, filling the hearts of those persons who are ready to receive it. Human beings are like vessels: some are upside down, others lie on their sides; some lean to the right or left; and a few stand straight up. If you want to collect rain in a cup, you place it right side up; if you put it upside down, not a single drop will enter it. In the same way, if your personality has not been well-disciplined, then you will not experience Divine Grace to the fullest extent, though it is everywhere, sustaining you at all times. Through sadhana, or spiritual discipline, you straighten your personality, so to speak. To the extent that you recognize God within yourself by subduing your ego, to that extent Grace flows, expressing itself in these four aspects. Thus, to receive Grace, sadhana is important. Self-effort must never stop. Rather it must be done with a cheerful disposition, with the philosophical understanding that God will not put you into a task unless he has given you the strength to perform it. He will never place you in a situation for which you do not have endurance. No matter how adverse the situation may appear, there is a meaning behind it. If you have this understanding you strive with faith in your heart and tenacity in your effort. Faith is the secret of spiritual advancement as well as of wordly prosperity. But when faith is lacking, life is empty. So, with faith and effort, one begins to experience the Divine Grace that purifies one’s ego, promotes sattwa (purity of nature), and removes the subtle impurities of the mind. There is no effort on an individual’s part that can remove the subtle roots of egoism, hatred, greed and pride. You may be highly rational and reflective, but it is only when you recognize the Divine Power within you and bow down to that power with love and devotion that Divine Grace will clear your path in a mysterious way. In fact, as you direct your self-effort under the guidance of a spiritual preceptor, you turn your steps towards God within. The advanced objective of your self-effort is to attain the state of surrender to God—the Divine Self who is the intrinsic reality of your soul. In this process, as devotion develops, Grace begins to melt away the ego-created impediments. Thus you begin to experience the interdependence of self-effort and Grace, until you realize, “I am the Self. All this is nothing but the Self!” With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda
Condensed from a public talk given by S. N. Goenka in Bangkok, Thailand in September, 1989. Most Venerable Bhikkhu Sangha, friends, devotees of Lord Buddha: You have all assembled here to understand what Vipassana is and how it helps us in our day-to-day lives; how it helps us to come out of our misery, the misery of life and death. Everyone wants to come out of misery, to live a life of peace and harmony. We simply do not know how to do this. It was Siddhattha Gotama’s enlightenment that made him realize the truth: where misery lies, how it starts, and how it can be eradicated. There were many techniques of meditation prevailing in those days, as there are today. The Bodhisatta Gotama tried them all, but he was not satisfied because he found that he was not fully liberated from misery. Then he started to do his own research. Through his personal experience he discovered this technique of Vipassana, which eradicated misery from his life and made him a fully enlightened person. There are many techniques that give temporary relief. When you become miserable you divert your attention to something else. Then you feel that you have come out of your misery, but you are not totally relieved. If something undesirable has happened in life, you become agitated. You cannot bear this misery and want to run away from it. You may go to a cinema or a theater, or you may indulge in other sensual entertainments. You may go out drinking, and so on. All this is running away from misery. Escape is no solution to the problem and indeed the misery is multiplying. In Buddha’s enlightenment he realized that one must face reality. Instead of running away from the problem, one must face it. He found that all the types of meditation existing in his day consisted of merely diverting the mind from the prevailing misery to another object. He found that practicing this, actually only a small part of the mind gets diverted. Deep inside one keeps reacting, one keeps generating sankhāras (reactions) of craving, aversion or delusion, and one keeps suffering at a deep level of the mind. The object of meditation should not be an imaginary object, it should be reality—reality as it is. One has to work with whatever reality has manifested itself now, whatever one experiences within the framework of one’s own body. In the practice of Vipassana one has to explore the reality within oneself—the material structure and the mental structure, the combination of which one keeps calling “I, me, mine.” One generates a tremendous amount of attachment to this material and mental structure, and as a result becomes miserable. To practice Buddha’s path we must observe the truth of mind and matter. Their basic characteristics should be directly experienced by the meditator. This results in wisdom. Wisdom can be of three types: wisdom gained by listening to others, that which is gained by intellectual analysis, and wisdom developed from direct, personal experience. Before Buddha, and even at the time of Buddha, there were teachers who were teaching morality, were teaching concentration, and who were also talking about wisdom. But this wisdom was only received or intellectualized wisdom. It was not wisdom gained by personal experience. Buddha found that one may play any number of intellectual or devotional games, but unless he experiences the truth himself, and develops wisdom from his personal experience, he will not be liberated. Vipassana is personally experienced wisdom. One may listen to discourses or read scriptures. Or one may use the intellect and try to understand: “Yes, Buddha’s teaching is wonderful! This wisdom is wonderful!” But that is not direct experience of wisdom. The entire field of mind and matter – the six senses and their respective objects – have the basic characteristics of anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering) and anattā (egolessness). Buddha wanted us to experience this reality within ourselves. To explore the truth within the framework of the body, he designated two fields. One is the material structure: the corporeal structure, the physical structure. The other is the mental structure with four factors: consciousness; perception; the part of the mind that feels sensation; and the part of the mind that reacts. So to explore both fields he gave us kāyānupassanā (observation of the body) and cittānupassanā (observation of the mind). How can you observe the body with direct experience unless you can feel it? There must be something happening in the body which you feel, which you realize. Then you can say, “Yes, I have practiced kāyānupassanā.” One must feel the sensations on the body: this is vedanānupassanā (observation of body sensations). The same is true for cittānupassanā. Unless something arises in the mind, you cannot directly experience it. Whatever arises in the mind is dhamma (mental content). Therefore dhammānupassanā (observation of the contents of the mind) is necessary for cittānupassanā. This is how the Buddha divided these practices. Kāyānupassanā and vedanānupassanā pertain to the physical structure. Cittānupassanā and dhammānupassanā pertain to the mental structure. See from your personal experience how this mind and matter are related to each other. To believe that one understands mind and matter, without having directly experienced it, is delusion. It is only direct experience that will make us understand the reality about mind and matter. This is where Vipassana starts helping us. In brief, understand how we practice Vipassana. We start with Anapana, awareness of respiration—natural respiration. We don’t make it a breathing exercise or regulate the breath as they do in prānāyāma. We observe respiration at the entrance of the nostrils. If a meditator works continuously in a congenial atmosphere without any disturbance, within two or three days some subtle reality on this part of the body will start manifesting itself: some sensations—natural, normal bodily sensations. Maybe heat or cold, throbbing or pulsing or some other sensations. When one reaches the fourth or fifth day of practice, he or she will find that there are sensations throughout the body, from head to feet. One feels those sensations, and is asked not to react to them. Just observe; observe objectively, without identifying yourself with the sensations. When you work as Buddha wanted you to work, by the time you reach the seventh day or the eighth day, you will move towards subtler and subtler reality. The Dhamma (natural law) will start helping you. You observe this structure that initially appears to be so solid, the entire physical structure at the level of sensation. Observing, you will reach the stage when you experience that the entire physical structure is nothing but subatomic particles: throughout the body, nothing but kalāpas (subatomic particles). And even these tiniest subatomic particles are not solid. They are mere vibration, just wavelets. The Buddha’s words become clear by experience: Sabbo pajjalito loko, sabbo loko pakampito. -The entire universe is nothing but combustion and vibration. As you experience it yourself, your kāyānupassanā, your vedanānupassanā, will take you to the stage where you experience that the entire material world is nothing but vibration. Then it becomes very easy for you to practice cittānupassanā and dhammānupassanā. Buddha’s teaching is to move from the gross, apparent truth to the subtlest, ultimate truth, from olārika to sukhuma. The apparent truth always creates illusion and confusion in the mind. By dividing and dissecting apparent reality, you will come to the ultimate reality. As you experience the reality of matter to be vibration, you also start experiencing the reality of the mind: viññāna (consciousness), saññā (perception), vedanā (sensation) and sankhāra (reaction). If you experience them properly with Vipassana, it will become clear how they work. Suppose you have reached the stage where you are experiencing that the entire physical structure is just vibration. If a sound has come in contact with the ears you will notice that this sound is nothing but vibration. The first part of the mind, consciousness, has done its job: ear consciousness has recognized that something has happened at the ear sense door. Like a gong which, having been struck at one point, begins vibrating throughout its structure, so a contact with any of the senses begins a vibration which spreads throughout the body. At first this is merely a neutral vibration, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. The perception recognizes and evaluates the sound, “It is a word—what word? Praise! Oh, wonderful, very good!” The resulting sensation, the vibration, will become very pleasant. In the same way, if the words are words of abuse, the vibration will become very unpleasant. The vibration changes according to the evaluation given by the perception part of the mind. Next the third part of the mind starts feeling the sensation: pleasant or unpleasant. Then the fourth part of the mind will start working. This is reaction; its job is to react. If a pleasant sensation arises, it will react with craving. If an unpleasant sensation arises, it will react with aversion. Pleasant sensation: “I like it. Very good! I want more, I want more!” Similarly, unpleasant sensation: “I dislike it. I don’t want it.” Generating craving and aversion is the part played by the fourth factor of the mind—reaction. Understand that this process is going on constantly at one sense door or another. Every moment something or the other is happening at one of the sense doors. Every moment the respective consciousness cognizes; the perception recognizes; the feeling part of the mind feels; and the reacting part of the mind reacts, with either craving or aversion. This happens continuously in one’s life. At the apparent, surface level, it seems that I am reacting with either craving or aversion to the external stimulus. Actually this is not so. Buddha found that we are reacting to our sensations. This discovery was the enlightenment of Buddha. He said: Salāyatana-paccayā phasso; phassa-paccayā vedanā; vedanā-paccayā tanhā. -With the base of the six senses, contact arises; -with the base of contact, sensation arises; -with the base of sensation, craving arises. It became so clear to him: the six sense organs come in contact with objects outside. Because of the contact, a sensation starts in the body that, most of the time, is either pleasant or unpleasant. Then after a pleasant or unpleasant sensation arises, craving or aversion start — not before that. This realization was possible because Buddha went deep inside and experienced it himself. He went to the root of the problem and discovered how to eradicate the cause of suffering at the root level. Working at the intellectual level of the mind, we try to suppress craving and aversion, but deep inside, craving and aversion continue. We are constantly rolling in craving or aversion. We are not coming out of misery through suppression. Buddha discovered the way: whenever you experience any sensation, due to any reason, you simply observe it: Samudaya dhammānupassī vā kāyasmim viharati; vaya dhammānupassī vā kāyasmim viharati; samudaya-vaya-dhammānupassī vā kāyasmim viharati. -He dwells observing the phenomenon of arising in the body. -He dwells observing the phenomenon of passing away in the body. -He dwells observing the phenomenon of simultaneous arising and passing away in the body. Every sensation arises and passes away. Nothing is eternal. When you practice Vipassana, you start experiencing this. However unpleasant a sensation may be—look, it arises only to pass away. However pleasant a sensation may be, it is just a vibration—arising and passing. Pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, the characteristic of impermanence remains the same. You are now experiencing the reality of anicca. You are not believing it because Buddha said so, or some scripture or tradition says so, or even because your intellect says so. You accept the truth of anicca because you directly experience it. This is how your received wisdom and intellectual understanding turn into personally experienced wisdom. Only this experience of anicca will change the habit pattern of the mind. Feeling sensation in the body and understanding that everything is impermanent, you don’t react with craving or aversion; you are equanimous. Practicing this continually changes the habit of reacting at the deepest level. When you don’t generate any new conditioning of craving and aversion, old conditioning comes on the surface and passes away. By observing reality as it is, you become free from all your conditioning of craving and aversion. Western psychologists refer to the “conscious mind” Buddha called this part of the mind the paritta citta (a very small part of the mind). There is a big barrier between the paritta citta and the rest of the mind at deeper levels. The conscious mind does not know what is happening in the unconscious or half-conscious. Vipassana breaks this barrier, taking you from the surface level of the mind to the deepest level of the mind. The practice exposes the anusaya kilesa (latent mental defilements) that are lying at the deepest level of the mind. The so-called “unconscious” mind is not unconscious. It is always conscious of body sensations, and it keeps reacting to them. If they are unpleasant, it reacts with aversion. If they are pleasant, it reacts with craving. This is the habit pattern, the behavior pattern, of the so-called unconscious at the depth of the mind. Here is an example to explain how the so-called unconscious mind is reacting with craving and aversion. You are in deep sleep. A mosquito bites you and there is an unpleasant sensation. Your conscious mind does not know what has happened. The unconscious knows immediately that there is an unpleasant sensation, and it reacts with aversion. It drives away or kills the mosquito. But still there is an unpleasant sensation, so you scratch, though your conscious mind is in deep sleep. When you wake up, if somebody asks you how many mosquito bites you got during the night, you won’t know. Your conscious mind was unaware but the unconscious knew, and it reacted. Another example: Sitting for about half an hour, some pressure starts somewhere and the unconscious mind reacts: “There is a pressure. I don’t like it!” You change your position. The unconscious mind is always in contact with the body sensations. You make a little movement, and then after some time you move again. Just watch somebody sitting for fifteen to twenty minutes. You will find that this person is fidgeting, shifting a little here, a little there. Of course, consciously he does not know what he is doing. This is because he is not aware of the sensations. He does not know that he is reacting with aversion to these sensations. This barrier is ignorance. Vipassana breaks this ignorance. Then one starts understanding how sensations arise and how they give rise to craving or aversion. When there is a pleasant sensation, there is craving. When there is an unpleasant sensation, there is aversion, and whenever there is craving or aversion, there is misery. If one does not break this behavior pattern, there will be continual craving or aversion. At the surface level you may say that you are practicing what Buddha taught, but in fact, you are not practicing what Buddha taught! You are practicing what the other teachers at the time of Buddha taught. Buddha taught how to go to the deepest level where suffering arises. Suffering arises because of one’s reaction of craving or aversion. The source of craving and aversion must be found, and one must change one’s behavior pattern at that level. Buddha taught us to observe suffering and the arising of suffering. Without observing these two we can never know the cessation of misery. Suffering arises with the sensations. If we react to sensations, then suffering arises. If we do not react we do not suffer from them. However unpleasant a sensation may be, if you don’t react with aversion, you can smile with equanimity. You understand that this is all anicca, impermanence. The whole habit pattern of the mind changes at the deepest level. Through the practice of Vipassana, people start to come out of all kinds of impurities of the mind—anger, passion, fear, ego, and so on. Within a few months or a few years the change in people becomes very evident. This is the benefit of Vipassana, here and now. In this very life you will get the benefit. This is the land of Dhamma, a land of the teaching of Buddha, a land where you have such a large Sangha. Make use of the teaching of Buddha at the deepest level. Don’t just remain at the surface level of the teaching of Buddha. Go to the deepest level where your craving arises: Vedanā paccayā tanhā; vedanā-nirodhā tanhā-nirodho; tanhā-nirodhā dukkha-nirodho. -Sensations give rise to craving. -If sensations cease, craving ceases. -When craving ceases, suffering ceases. When one experiences the truth of nibbāna—a stage beyond the entire sensorium—all the six sense organs stop working. There can’t be any contact with objects outside, so sensation ceases. At this stage there is freedom from all suffering. First you must reach the stage where you can feel sensations. Only then can you change the habit pattern of your mind. Work on this technique, this process, at the very deepest level. If you work on the surface level of the mind you are only changing the conscious part of the mind, your intellect. You are not going to the root cause, the most unconscious level of the mind; you are not removing the anusaya kilesa—deep-rooted defilements of craving and aversion. They are like sleeping volcanoes that may erupt at any time. You continue to roll from birth to death; you are not coming out of misery. Make use of this wonderful technique and come out of your misery, come out of the bondage and enjoy real peace, real harmony, real happiness. With deep gratitude to Shri S N Goenka To read more on Vipassana
Excerpts from His Speech Delivered in London, 10th November 1896. I have been asked to say something about the practical position of the Vedanta philosophy. As I have told you, theory is very good indeed, but how are we to carry it into practice? If it be absolutely impracticable, no theory is of any value whatever, except as intellectual gymnastics. The Vedanta, therefore, as a religion must be intensely practical. We must be able to carry it out in every part of our lives. And not only this, the fictitious differentiation between religion and the life of the world must vanish, for the Vedanta teaches oneness — one life throughout. The ideals of religion must cover the whole field of life, they must enter into all our thoughts, and more and more into practice… Shvetaketu was the son of Âruni, a sage, most probably a recluse. He was brought up in the forest, but he went to the city of the Panchâlas and appeared at the court of the king, Pravâhana Jaivali. The king asked him, “Do you know how beings depart hence at death?” “No, sir.” “Do you know how they return hither?” “No, sir.” “Do you know the way of the fathers and the way of the gods?” “No, sir.” Then the king asked other questions. Shvetaketu could not answer them. So the king told him that he knew nothing. The boy went back to his father, and the father admitted that he himself could not answer these questions. It was not that he was unwilling to answer these questions. It was not that he was unwilling to teach the boy, but he did not know these things. So he went to the king and asked to be taught these secrets. The king said that these things had been hitherto known only among kings; the priests never knew them. He, however, proceeded to teach him what he desired to know. In various Upanishads we find that this Vedanta philosophy is not the outcome of meditation in the forests only, but that the very best parts of it were thought out and expressed by brains which were busiest in the everyday affairs of life. We cannot conceive any man busier than an absolute monarch, a man who is ruling over millions of people, and yet, some of these rulers were deep thinkers. Everything goes to show that this philosophy must be very practical; and later on, when we come to the Bhagavad Gita — most of you, perhaps, have read it, it is the best commentary we have on the Vedanta philosophy — curiously enough the scene is laid on the battlefield, where Krishna teaches this philosophy to Arjuna; and the doctrine which stands out luminously in every page of the Gita is intense activity, but in the midst of it, eternal calmness. This is the secret of work, to attain which is the goal of the Vedanta. Inactivity, as we understand it in the sense of passivity, certainly cannot be the goal. Were it so, then the walls around us would be the most intelligent; they are inactive. Clods of earth, stumps of trees, would be the greatest sages in the world; they are inactive. Nor does inactivity become activity when it is combined with passion. Real activity, which is the goal of Vedanta, is combined with eternal calmness, the calmness which cannot be ruffled, the balance of mind which is never disturbed, whatever happens. And we all know from our experience in life that that is the best attitude for work. I have been asked many times how we can work if we do not have the passion which we generally feel for work. I also thought in that way years ago, but as I am growing older, getting more experience, I find it is not true. The less passion there is, the better we work. The calmer we are, the better for us, and the more the amount of work we can do. When we let loose our feelings, we waste so much energy, shatter our nerves, disturb our minds, and accomplish very little work. The energy which ought to have gone out as work is spent as mere feeling, which counts for nothing. It is only when the mind is very calm and collected that the whole of its energy is spent in doing good work. And if you read the lives of the great workers which the world has produced, you will find that they were wonderfully calm men. Nothing, as it were, could throw them off their balance. That is why the man who becomes angry never does a great amount of work, and the man whom nothing can make angry accomplishes so much. The man who gives way to anger, or hatred, or any other passion, cannot work; he only breaks himself to pieces, and does nothing practical. It is the calm, forgiving, equable, well-balanced mind that does the greatest amount of work. The Vedanta preaches the ideal; and the ideal, as we know, is always far ahead of the real, of the practical, as we may call it. There are two tendencies in human nature: one to harmonise the ideal with the life, and the other to elevate the life to the ideal. It is a great thing to understand this, for the former tendency is the temptation of our lives. I think that I can only do a certain class of work. Most of it, perhaps, is bad; most of it, perhaps, has a motive power of passion behind it, anger, or greed, or selfishness. Now if any man comes to preach to me a certain ideal, the first step towards which is to give up selfishness, to give up self-enjoyment, I think that is impractical. But when a man brings an ideal which can be reconciled with my selfishness, I am glad at once and jump at it. That is the ideal for me. As the word “orthodox” has been manipulated into various forms, so has been the word “practical”. “My doxy is orthodoxy; your doxy is heterodoxy.” So with practicality. What I think is practical, is to me the only practicality in the world. If I am a shopkeeper, I think shopkeeping the only practical pursuit in the world. If I am a thief, I think stealing is the best means of being practical; others are not practical. You see how we all use this word practical for things we like and can do. Therefore I will ask you to understand that Vedanta, though it is intensely practical, is always so in the sense of the ideal. It does not preach an impossible ideal, however high it be, and it is high enough for an ideal. In one word, this ideal is that you are divine, “Thou art That”. This is the essence of Vedanta; after all its ramifications and intellectual gymnastics, you know the human soul to be pure and omniscient, you see that such superstitions as birth and death would be entire nonsense when spoken of in connection with the soul. The soul was never born and will never die, and all these ideas that we are going to die and are afraid to die are mere superstitions. And all such ideas as we can do this or cannot do that are superstitions. We can do everything. The Vedanta teaches men to have faith in themselves first. As certain religions of the world say that a man who does not believe in a Personal God outside of himself is an atheist, so the Vedanta says, a man who does not believe in himself is an atheist. Not believing in the glory of our own soul is what the Vedanta calls atheism. To many this is, no doubt, a terrible idea; and most of us think that this ideal can never be reached; but the Vedanta insists that it can be realised by every one. There is neither man nor woman or child, nor difference of race or sex, nor anything that stands as a bar to the realisation of the ideal, because Vedanta shows that it is realised already, it is already there. All the powers in the universe are already ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark. Know that there is no darkness around us. Take the hands away and there is the light which was from the beginning. Darkness never existed, weakness never existed. We who are fools cry that we are weak; we who are fools cry that we are impure. Thus Vedanta not only insists that the ideal is practical, but that it has been so all the time; and this Ideal, this Reality, is our own nature. Everything else that you see is false, untrue. As soon as you say, “I am a little mortal being,” you are saying something which is not true, you are giving the lie to yourselves, you are hypnotising yourselves into something vile and weak and wretched. The Vedanta recognises no sin, it only recognises error. And the greatest error, says the Vedanta, is to say that you are weak, that you are a sinner, a miserable creature, and that you have no power and you cannot do this and that. Every time you think in that way, you, as it were, rivet one more link in the chain that binds you down, you add one more layer of hypnotism on to your own soul. Therefore, whosoever thinks he is weak is wrong, whosoever thinks he is impure is wrong, and is throwing a bad thought into the world. This we must always bear in mind that in the Vedanta there is no attempt at reconciling the present life — the hypnotised life, this false life which we have assumed — with the ideal; but this false life must go, and the real life which is always existing must manifest itself, must shine out. No man becomes purer and purer, it is a matter of greater manifestation. The veil drops away, and the native purity of the soul begins to manifest itself. Everything is ours already — infinite purity, freedom, love, and power. Our deepest gratitude to Swami Vivekananda Curated from Swamiji’s talks and writings.
Raja Yoga literally means “Royal Yoga,” because it presents a royal road to the integration of personality and attainment of Liberation. Being universal in nature, Raja Yoga gives a deep insight into the mind and its powers, and into the mystic art of controlling the mind by the practice of concentration, meditation and samadhi (superconsciousness). According to tradition, the original exponent of Raja Yoga was Hiranyagarbha or the Deity presiding over the Cosmic Mind. It was Patanjali Maharshi who compiled and edited the Sutras of Raja Yoga, probably centuries before Christ. Sutra means “thread,” and the teachings of Raja Yoga are presented in many brief statements, or sutras, into which many thoughts are threaded. The following is a simple outline of the profound mystic system of Raja Yoga, and a sincere aspirant should firmly implant these principles in his mind as a guideline for his spiritual sadhana. An important term in Raja Yoga is chitta, which includes ego, intellect, mind (conscious mind) and the unconscious. The very second sutra defines the purpose of Raja Yoga in relation to the chitta : “Yogash chitta-vritti nirodhah” — “Yoga is the cessation of the thought-waves of the chitta.” Chitta is compared to a lake. When waves agitate the lake, you cannot see the sky reflected in it; so too, as long as thought-waves continue to agitate the mind-stuff, you cannot discover the fact that you are essentially the Purusha, the Eternal Spirit or the Self, which is ever untouched by the chitta. Further, chitta in every human being is a gateway to cosmic powers. Being a portion of the Cosmic Mind, when it is highly purified it tunes itself to the Cosmic Mind and thus begins to tap boundless energy from the cosmic source. Therefore, by adopting the techniques of Raja Yoga, an aspirant moves towards Cosmic Consciousness. Mind is like an iceberg, with only a small portion revealed to you in your daily life. Even in one lifetime you are able to use only a fragment of the vast resources of your mind. But by the practice of Raja Yoga, you are able to understand the staggering mysteries of the chitta that lie hidden from your conscious mind. The Five Vrittis of the Chitta There are five types of Vrittis or thought-waves of the mind: Pramana or right knowledge consists of those thought-waves that reveal the objects as they are from a normal point of view. In other words, a rope is seen as a rope. Viparyaya or wrong knowledge results in those thought-waves that reveal the objects in an erroneous manner. For example, you see a snake instead of a rope. Vikalpa or imagination consists of those thought-waves that create an imaginary object on the basis of mere words. For example, someone speaks about snakes, and you begin to imagine a snake even when there is no rope or any other basis. Nidra or sleep consists of those thought-waves that reveal the absence of the perceptions of the world, as in deep sleep. However, a subtle form of sleep continues to operate even in waking life and is responsible for forgetfulness. Finally, smriti or memory consists of those thought-waves that enable you to recollect past experiences (including those of sleep). These vrittis constitute the fabric of your reality in daily life and are intermingled in every experience. When you see a rose, you are experiencing it directly (pramana). You may be wearing glasses that somewhat distort the image of the rose (viparyaya), and your mind may also imagine the rose gardens of Persia (vikalpa). At the same time, certain facts about the rose—its thorns, for example—may be held back from your perception because of nidra vritti, and further, you may also remember how you once enjoyed rose-essence or rose-preserves (smriti). Further, these vrittis may be either klishta or aklishta (painful or not-painful). If the vrittis of the mind promote ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and fear of death they are called klishta. On the other hand, if they enable you to develop dispassion towards the objects of the world, leading you to the heights of spiritual evolution, they are called aklishta or not-painful. The Five Kleshas An aspirant endeavors to destroy the following five kleshas or afflictions: Avidya or ignorance implies that you are unaware of the fact that you are the Spirit, ever unaffected by Prakriti and its products (the world of matter). Asmita or egoism expresses itself through such thoughts as “I am the doer of this action.” “This object is being enjoyed by me.” “I am the possessor of objects.” “I am this body.” And so forth. Raga or attachment consists of impressions that are formed on the basis of pleasure, and Dwesha or hatred consists of impressions that are formed on the basis of pain. Backed up by the impressions of attachment and hatred, you develop karmic involvements and become so identified with the present embodiment that you begin to dread death; this is known as abhinivesha. These five basic kleshas give rise to numerous impurities such as anger, greed and violence. Samskaras and Vasanas These kleshas exist in seed form known as samskaras (subtle impressions), and when they begin to sprout they are called vasanas (subtle desires). Your project is to change the nature of your vasanas and samskaras. Instead of storing the impressions of anger, hatred, greed, and others, you begin to store impressions of cosmic love, contentment, purity, and the experiences of samadhi (superconsciousness). Then as pure samskaras and vasanas begin to fill your unconscious, you advance on the path of Yoga. Further, the samskaras (the impressions of afflictions) exist in five forms: Prasupta (dormant) as in a child. Tanu (thinned out) as in a practitioner of Yoga who has reduced the mental impurities. Vichhinna (overpowered) as in most people of the world in whom one set of impressions are overpowered by another set. For example, since impressions of attachment are overpowered by those of hatred, you hate an object not knowing that in your act of hating there lies a hidden undercurrent of love as well; it is for this reason you are oftentimes thrown into turmoil by the deceptions caused by your own mind. Udara (expanded) as in gross-minded people in whom anger, hatred, and greed continue to function in an unrestricted manner. Dagdha (burned up) as in enlightened Sages, in whom the seeds of the kleshas are as if roasted by the fire of knowledge. Their samskaras still exist in order to sustain their life, but they do not create karmic entanglements. The Three Karmas There are three types of karmas (actions): vicious, virtuous and neutral: Actions based upon anger, greed and hatred intensify the afflictions and are called vicious actions. Actions based upon non-violence, purity, absence of greed and other virtues are called virtuous actions. Actions performed by enlightened Sages are neither virtuous nor vicious, since they do not create karmic entanglements. The Three Gunas According to Raja Yoga, Prakriti is the material cause of this world, and consists of three modes: sattwa (purity and harmony), rajas (externalization and activity), tamas (dullness and inertia). These gunas constitute the basis of the unconscious, the mind, intellect, ego, senses, body and all the objects of the world. The oil in an oil-lamp exists in three stages: gross oil in the reservoir represents tamas in one’s personality (stagnant), oil travelling through the wick is symbolic of rajas (active), and the oil burning into flame is symbolic of sattva (illumination). This is also the plan of spiritual evolution: the tamas in your personality must be aroused from its dull state and converted into rajas, rajas must be sublimated into sattwa, and then, when the chitta becomes filled with sattwa, you attain the intuitional realization of the Self. The Five States of the Chitta In relation to the impressions and subtle desires (samskaras and vasanas), the chitta is subject to these five states: Mudha or dull: When the impressions of the afflictions become intense, one’s mind becomes very abnormal. It is filled with despondency, dullness and dark thoughts. There is a predominance of tamas or inertia in the mind.Kshipta or distracted: When mind continues to run in random directions, it creates many virtuous as well as sinful karmas. It is predominated by rajas.Vikshipta (partially distracted): This state develops when there is a gradual increase of sattwa in the mind and one is therefore inclined to virtuous deeds. However, under provocative conditions, the mind may slip back to kshipta or mudha states.Ekagrata or one-pointed: This state belongs to those Yogis who have developed increasing sattwa in their personalities. In this state a Yogi advances in lower samadhi.Nirodha or controlled state: This state belongs to the highly advanced Yogi who has attained the highest samadhi and is perfected in the control of chitta. The Importance of Abhyasa and Vairagya Abhyasa (repeated practice of Yogic techniques) and vairagya (dispassion) are the two most effective methods of controlling the mind and advancing on the path of Yoga. Dispassion consists of a distaste for the pleasures of the senses that gives rise to an increasing sense of mastery over the objects. In the advanced state of vairagya you find yourself the master of the senses, mind, intellect, ego, and the chitta. Success in concentration, meditation and samadhi is directly related to your degree of vairagya as well as your sustained practice. The Four Yogic Attitudes Towards Others There are four attitudes that are helpful in advancing on the spiritual path of Yoga: maitri or friendliness towards those who are equals, mudita or cheerfulness towards those who are superiors, karuna or compassion towards those who are inferiors, and upeksha or indifference towards those who are gross-minded and very backward. By adopting these attitudes when dealing with others, you do not allow your mind to be affected by anger, hatred, jealousy and other vices. Thus you are able to progress steadily on the path. Surrender to God Surrender to God is the most important method for removing various obstacles on the path and entering into samadhi. By repeating Om (or whatever mantra you have been initiated into) with proper feeling and mental attitude, you advance in divine surrender. You develop a relaxed mental disposition towards the world and its happenings knowing that you are gently being led by God. You even come to realize that your apparent adverse circumstances are in reality meant to aid your spiritual evolution. One who has attained profound surrender to God can enter into samadhi in a very short time. Those Yogis who are endowed with the impressions of Yoga from their past lives spontaneously enter meditation and samadhi. On the other hand, most practitioners must follow the eight steps of Yoga. THE EIGHT LIMBS OF RAJA YOGA In order to control, discipline and culture the thought-waves of the mind, Raja Yoga has evolved the Eightfold Discipline, also known as the Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga. They are as follows: 1. Yama (ethical restraints): ahimsa (non-violence), satyam (truthfulness), brahmacharya (celibacy or sex-restraint), asteya (non-stealing), and aparigraha (non-covetousness). 2. Niyama (ethical observances): shaucha (physical and mental purity), santosh (contentment), tapas (austerity), swadhyaya (study of scriptures and repetition of mantra), and Ishwara pranidhana (surrender to God). The above yamas and niyamas are similar to the ten commandments of the Bible. Furthermore, they exist in every religion in some form or other. 3. Asana (physical poses): This discipline is meant to give stability to the body, so that one may sit in meditation for a long duration. 4. Pranayama (control over the vital forces): This consists of various breathing exercises that are designed to harmonize and control the pranas (vital forces) of the body. The above two disciplines are the special concern of Hatha Yoga, which is considered a branch of Raja Yoga consisting of many evolved physical poses and breathing exercises geared to promote the fitness of the body and mind. 5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses): This is accomplished in two ways: Firstly, by controlling the pranas, you are able to withdraw your senses from the sense objects at will. Secondly, by controlling the mind, the senses come under the control of your reason and are spontaneously withdrawn through understanding. (This second form of pratyahara is the more mature and advanced form of pratyahara, and is the ideal toward which to strive.) Endowed with pratyahara, you can enjoy the serene atmosphere of a cave even while living in a busy city. On the other hand, if pratyahara is lacking you will always have something disturbing your mind. Even in a peaceful cave, you will find numerous causes for your mental distraction. These first five steps constitute the external or indirect means to Yoga (the final state of Liberation), while the following three steps are called the internal or direct means to Yoga. 6. Dharana (concentration or one-pointedness): Equipped with moral purity, and physical and mental stability, you enter into the advanced steps of Yoga beginning with the practice of concentration. It consists of training the mind to focus itself on any point (on any object—whether concrete, such as a rose, or abstract, such as bliss). 7. Dhyana (meditation): When the one-pointed state of the mind is maintained without any interruption, with a sense of ease and spontaneity, it is called meditation. 8. Samadhi (superconsciousness): When the mind continues to stay in the state of dhyana, you lose the consciousness of triad—“I am meditating. This is the object of meditation. This is the degree (practice) of meditation.” Consequently, there emerges a mystic consciousness in which your normal consciousness is lost for the time being, and that mystic consciousness transforms your inner nature. Ascending the various states of samadhi, you finally attain Kaivalya or freedom from the world-process. Samyama – The Key to Unlock Psychic Powers It is difficult to say where concentration stops and meditation begins, or where meditation stops and samadhi supervenes. Every time you sit to practice meditation, these three go together. Thus, these three together are given a special name, samyama. By the practice of samyama on different objects, one acquires a mystic light (prajna or the light of intuition) that enables you to explore the mysteries of objects, the gross elements, the subtle elements, the individual mind, and the Cosmic Mind. By practicing certain forms of samyama, you can acquire various psychic powers such as materialization and dematerialization of the body, levitation, thought-reading, extra-sensory perception, invisibility of the body, and many miraculous powers that are inconceivable to the normal mind. However, if you become interested in these psychic powers, or siddhis, you deviate from the path leading to Liberation. Further, if you lack vairagya or dispassion, you may become vain and deluded because of your psychic powers. And then, by the misuse of psychic powers, you fall from the lofty ideals of Yoga. Patanjali Maharshi says, “These siddhis are obstacles to the attainment of the highest samadhi, because they continue to externalize the mind.” (Raja Yoga 3/37). On the other hand, when samyama is directed towards the Self, one ascends the heights of samadhi and ultimately attains Liberation. Aids to Samadhi 1. Ishwara pranidhana: It has been already mentioned that surrender to God is the most effective aid for attaining success in samadhi. This includes meditation on the Divine Self along with repetition of Om or any mantra. 2. Control of prana: By controlling the pranas or vital forces, you bring about control of vasanas or subtle desires of the unconscious. Prana and vasanas are interdependent, and you practice meditation along with certain breathing exercises to harmonize the two. 3. Meditation on sorrow-less minds: By meditating upon Buddha, Jesus or other enlightened personalities, you lead your mind to increasing states of sattwa or purity. Ascending States of Samadhi Every object chosen for meditation has four aspects: gross (its physical form), subtle (its constituent elements), subtler (the cosmic mentation underlying the object), and subtlest (the universal Prakriti or Nature). Accordingly, from a broad point of view, samadhi is of four types: 1. Savitarka and nirvitarka: When the mind is able to commune with the gross form of the object, initially the samadhi is called savitarka (with argumentation), and in its intense state it is called nirvitarka (without argumentation). 2. Savichara and nirvichara: When the mind enters the subtle constituent elements, the samadhi is called savichara (with reflection), and when intensified, nirvichara (without reflection). 3. Sananda (blissful): When the mind enters into communion with the Cosmic Mind, you experience a unique sense of joy—as if you have thrown away the burden of your karmas and the goal of unending bliss is within your sight. 4. Sasmita (with “I-am-ness”): Gradually the mind enters into that lofty state from where you can see the origin of your ego-sense. It is the state where chitta (the mind-stuff) and Purusha (the Self) blend like the ocean and the sky during the hours of sunrise. These four stages of superconsciousness are called lower samadhi, compared to the following that is the highest state of samadhi. 5. Asamprajnata samadhi: By the perfection of lower samadhi, you attain viveka khyati, or intuitional knowledge that reveals the fact that the mind-stuff is ever detached from the Spirit or the Self. Then you begin to develop detachment towards the mind-stuff itself. This is termed as para vairagya, or supreme dispassion. In this stage, you plunge yourself in the universal expansion of your own innermost Self. You are no longer dependent upon the various layers of “matter,” and therefore, this samadhi is called niralamba, or “without support.” And since the seeds of karmas are burned up during this samadhi, it is called nirbija, or “without seed.” In this state you attain Self-Realization and become free of the world-process. Experiences in Samadhi To convey the profound experiences of samadhi, Raja Yoga uses highly poetic terms, which are as follows: Ritambhara prajna (truth-filled vision): When you advance in lower samadhi, your intellect becomes filled with the vision of truth. Prashanta vahit (peaceful flow of mind): When you begin to enter into asamprajnata and your vision of knowledge continues to be unobstructed, you experience a stream of boundless peace flowing in the depths of your heart. Dharma megha (the cloud of virtue): With the increasing impressions of your cosmic expansion during lower and higher samadhi, you develop a state of mystic saturation. These impressions (like luminous clouds of the highest virtue) gather in your heart and begin to shower the nectar of immortality (the vision of freedom). Kaivalya or Liberation A Yogi who has attained Enlightenment experiences the following: 1. The feeling that all that was to be known has been known. 2. The awareness that all that was to be abandoned (including ignorance) has been abandoned. 3. The realization that all that is to be attained (including the highest attainment—the intuitional knowledge of the Self) has been attained. 4. The experience that there is an absolute cessation of pain, and the goal of one’s existence has been realized; one is Liberated. 5. The knowledge that there is no more need for the chitta, which has accomplished its two-fold purpose of bhoga (to bring experiences of pleasure and pain) and apavarga (to bring about spiritual evolution culminating in Liberation). As long as you have not attained Liberation, you need the chitta as well as your material vehicle—the body—in order to experience the pleasure and pain through which you continue evolving until the highest state of Liberation is attained. 6. Freedom from the gunas. The gunas or modes of Nature that continue to flow on in order to nourish and sustain your mind, intellect, senses, and body, now enter into a process of involution. Like rocks falling from a mountain top, they continue to fall into the boundless ocean of Prakriti or Nature. 7. Establishment in the Self: You become a Jivanmukta or one liberated in life. Though performing your duties, you are ever rooted in the Self. In the state of ignorance, your spirit continued to experience pleasure and pain due to its identification with the various thought-waves of the mind; but now, freed of the chitta and its thought-waves, you abide in your innermost Self. Author’s Note: This has been a simple outline of the profound mystic system of Raja Yoga, and an aspirant must study the Sutras of Raja Yoga for more insight into various key points that have been presented here. With deep gratitude to, and permission from, Swami Jyotirmayananda
Only he who is thus established in the prajna will be able to make the final leap to the anamayam padam, the Sorrowless State, with any hope of success, and, in order to attain this union with the buddhi the method recommended is skill in action (karmesu kaushalam), the maintenance of a balanced attitude, the same in failure as in success. The disciple is to keep his mind perfectly indifferent to the results of his actions while yet, in a spirit of utter detachment, performing such acts as are his duty. Acting in this way the disciple’s action will be guided by the impersonal knowledge of the buddhi and he will then transcend selfish good and evil. This is the method of the Karma Yoga… its purpose is to gain control of the desire-prompted impulses of the senses and to harmonize the mind so as to render it possible for the latter to unite with the buddhi and enable the Divine knowledge to blossom forth. It is only through the buddhi that this knowledge can shine freely; below that level it is obstructed and broken up by the play of the separated individualities, and it is only when they are united with what is beyond them that the unifying Divine Wisdom can become manifest and the fetters of duality begin to fall away. It is easy to say “unite the mind with the buddhi,” but usually such words have but little meaning for the disciple, since he has as yet had no experience of the buddhi and knows not what it really is. Moreover, the mind remains obstinately separate and will not suffer itself to be united with anything. Hence the supreme importance of supplementing the theoretic technique of the Sankhya by a practice designed to harmonize and control the mind in action. In reply to Arjuna’s question about the characteristics of the man who has united himself with the buddhi, Sri Krishna describes how the disciple, uniting himself with the felt reality within, must detach himself from the desire life of the senses as a tortoise withdraws its limbs from contact with the outer world. Mere withdrawal is, however, not enough, for though the sense objects lose their power over the man who habitually practices restraint, yet the desire for them remains in his heart and dies only when something higher than the sense life is actually seen. In the last resort, nothing but the vision of the Atman itself can cause the utter dying-out of desire, and therefore the disciple is instructed not to remain content with the negative restraint but to centre his gaze upon the Atman within, unseen though yet it be. “Silence thy thoughts and fix thy whole attention on thy Master, whom yet thou dost not see, but whom thou feelest.” The slightest wavering, the slightest turning back in thought to that sense world on which the disciple has turned his back, will energize anew the desires which he is striving to abandon, and as the tension increases in his desire-nature (what some psychologists term the unconscious) they will burst out in a great flash of anger utterly devastating to his spiritual progress, shattering his inner perception and causing a loss of those “memories” by which he hoped to mount. It is not that the sense life is to be negated or outwardly discontinued, as impracticably taught by some Sankhyas. It is an inner withdrawal that is to be practiced, a withdrawal to higher levels that will in itself bring that outer harmonization which is essential if buddhi is to be attained. In the old symbol of the chariot, the horses of the senses are to be held back (nighrita) by the reins of the mind, but it is not intended that they should be unyoked from the chariot or that their movement should be stopped altogether. The aim of this practice is that the mind should, to some extent at least, be purified by the practice of selfless action and at least partially liberated from the thralldom of attachments, so that it may cease to assert its unique viewpoint at every moment. Then, as the wind of desire subsides, the disciple will feel a luminous peace and wisdom reflected in his heart, like the images of the eternal stars reflected in the depths of a lake, and he will have gained a preliminary perception of the actual nature of buddhi that will be a thousand times more useful to him than all the descriptions of the books. For the first time will the command to unite the manas with the buddhi begin to have a meaning for him, and only now will he be able to address himself to the task with any hope of success. Far overhead, Its blazing Light as yet a mere pinpoint to his vision, burns the star of the Supreme Atman, the goal of all his efforts. Dimly It shines in the darkness and seems to flicker as Its rays pierce the unsteady middle air, but once seen It can never be forgotten, and offering himself to It, in utter devotion and worship, the disciple must press on, straining his vision to the utmost to pierce through what to him are the darkly throbbing abysses of non-being though to the fully awakened eye of the Seer they are a radiant pleroma of Light, “the Light that shines beyond the broken lamps,” the glorious sunshine of the Eternal Day. “This is the Brahmic State, O Arjuna, which having attained, one is deceived no more,” and though as yet, the disciple has but a glimpse of that Farther Shore, and though the shadows will again and again return, blotting out the Light from his eyes, yet will Its memory remain with him forever, for he has “reached the stream” and the promise of final salvation has been uttered: “Whoever, even at the final hour, is established therein attains the Supreme Nirvana”. With gratitude to Sri Krishna Prem
You have stepped on to the path of integral Yoga. Try to fathom the meaning and the aim of the integral Yoga before you advance. He who has the noble aspiration of attaining the high summit of realisation should know thoroughly these two things; the aim and the path. Of the path I shall speak later on. First it is necessary to draw before your eyes, in bold outline, the complete picture of the aim. What is the meaning of integrality? Integrality is the image of the Divine being, the dharma of the Divine nature. Man is incomplete, striving after and evolving towards the fullness and moving in the flow of gradual manifestation of the Self. Integrality is his destination; man is only a half-disclosed form of the Divine, that is why he is travelling towards the Divine integrality. In this human bud hides the fullness of the Divine lotus, and it is the endeavour of Nature to bring it into blossom gradually and slowly. In the practice of the Yoga, the Yoga-shakti begins to open it at a great speed, with a lightning rapidity. That which people call full manhood — mental progress, ethical purity, beautiful development of the faculties of mind, strength of character, vital force, physical health — is not the Divine integrality. It is only the fullness of a partial dharma of Nature. The real indivisible integrality can only come from the integrality of the Self, from the integrality of the Supramental Force beyond the mind, because the indivisible Self is the real Purusha, and the Purusha in mind, life or body is only a partial outward and debased play of the Supermind. The real integrality can only come when the mind is transformed into the Supermind. By the Supramental Force, the Self has created the universe and regulated it; by the Supramental Force, it raises the part to the Whole. The Self in man is concealed behind the veil of mind. It can be seen when this veil is removed. The power of the Self can feel in the mind the half-revealed, half-hidden, diminished form and play. Only when the Supramental Force unfolds itself, can the Self fully emerge. From Sri Aurobindo’s writings in Bengali. [Formatting has been slightly modified to make reading easier— Ed.]
The Divine Self can be worshipped and meditated upon in two ways—saguna and nirguna. The saguna method, which is given a greater emphasis in Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion, is to meditate upon God in the form of an avatar such as Rama, Krishna, Jesus, Buddha or others. It also includes the worshiping of God with the help of any name or form, or any concrete or abstract symbol. The nirguna method, which is highlighted in Jnana Yoga, the path of wisdom, implies meditating upon God as formless, attributeless and unqualified by any mental concepts. From ancient times the followers of mysticism have repeatedly developed confusion regarding the correct understanding of these two methods of Divine worship. Many who follow jnana or wisdom have always looked down upon the method adopted by bhaktis or devotees, seeing it as sheer sentimentality. They hold as utterly absurd the belief that the Absolute Self Who transcends time and space could be talked to, touched, loved and enshrined in one’s heart. Devotees, on the other hand, often look down upon jnanis, considering them as dry intellectuals, devoid of the nectarine taste of Divine Love. But those who truly understand these two methods do not find any contradiction in them. They are in the possession of an integral vision of Divine Worship—and such a vision needs to be promoted by an aspirant. The Necessity of Combining Saguna and Nirguna Worship The human personality has two distinct aspects: feeling and reason. The saguna method corresponds to the feeling aspect of the personality, and through it a person is led to integrate his sentiments into Divine feelings. The nirguna method corresponds to the rational aspect of the personality, and by following this method one is able to render his intellect subtle and pure. The two methods complement each other, for as the feeling aspect of the personality is integrated through saguna practices, an aspirant gains increasing purity of his intellect, and in turn, as the intellect is rendered pure through nirguna practices, his sentiments become more and more integrated and purified. Therefore, these two continue to assist each other until, in the state of Self-realization, an aspirant’s bhavana or feeling becomes transformed into anubhavana, spiritual experience of Divine Bliss, and his rational aspect becomes transformed into intuition, the revelation of Pure Consciousness. And since in this sublime state both reason and feeling reach their ultimate unfoldment, a Sage then becomes at once all “heart” as well as all “head.” He realizes Brahman, Who is at once Absolute Bliss as well as Absolute Consciousness. Those who are unable to appreciate the mystic art of worshipping the Supreme in human form should reflect deeply upon the examples of great Sages and Saints. They should ask themselves, what led Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who was a great devotee of Goddess Kali, to hold the view that the world is nothing but Brahman, which is the basic Non-dualistic tenet of Vedanta? Likewise, what led Sri Shankaracharya, one of the greatest exponents of Non-dualism, to dance in the temples of gods and goddesses and to compose verse after verse overflowing with devotion? They should further reflect upon the fact that the Upanishads, the Gita and the other texts of Vedanta are filled with instructions for adoring God in His saguna form, while they teach the nirguna form of adoration as well. And even those scriptures that are predominately devotional, such as the Ramayana of Saint Tulsidas and the Srimad Bhagavata of Sage Vyasa (where Lord Krishna is glorified), give abundant teachings pertaining to the attributeless Brahman and the illusoriness of the world-process. Contrasting Saguna and Nirguna Worship Saguna worship holds on to something tangible—Divinity symbolized in a name and form, while nirguna leads the mind to mystic expansion wherein names and forms are negated and transcended.A Saguna worshipper may worship God in an image, for example, in a Shaligrama (sacred stone), in the Ganga (the sacred river), in a Divine statue in a temple, or any Divine form. He chooses a Deity, an Ishta Devata such as Krishna, Rama, Devi, Shiva and the like, and repeats the mantra (sacred name) of the Deity. A nirguna worshipper, on the other hand, disciplines his mind by meditating upon the sky or anything that gives him a sense of transcending the limited concepts of the world. He may meditate upon the abstract attributes of God such as Non-duality, Infinity, Pure Consciousness, and others. He also may adopt the Mahavakyas or Great Utterances, or any other elevating utterances for his mantra (for constant repetition along with mental reflection). “Soham”—“I am That” and “Aham Brahmasmi”—“I am Brahman” are examples of nirguna mantras.A saguna worshipper adopts Murti Upasana (worship of God in an image) or Pratika Upasana (worship of God in a symbol). A nirguna worshipper practices Ahamgraha Upasana, which implies meditating upon an object with the attitude of being that object. It is the practice of identifying oneself with the object of meditation. This prepares the mind for the affirmation, “I am Brahman.”In the worship of the Divine Self, a saguna worshipper utilizes his senses, while a nirguna worshipper has to withdraw his senses in order to lift his intellect beyond the concepts of names and forms.A saguna worshipper believes in Divine Grace and learns the art of surrender. By surrendering to God he receives Divine Grace, which in turn overcomes all obstacles and enables him to attain the highest goal of Self-realization. A nirguna worshipper, on the other hand, believes in purushartha or self-effort, and practices disciplines in order to remove the gross and subtle impurities of his personality. He then aims at the negation of the ego by the practice of deep reflection.A saguna worshipper is like a person who views the panorama of nature through his window as he is comfortably seated in a house situated on a high cliff, while a nirguna worshipper goes out of the house and enjoys the beauty of nature by wandering freely among the mountains and valleys. However, both have their limitations. A nirguna worshipper is devoid of the comfort and stability of the saguna worshipper, and although he may have an expansive view, he may find himself lost in it. A saguna worshipper may close his windows and remain snug in the confines of his room, thereby depriving himself of the beauteous scenery around him. In other words, a nirguna worshipper can become too intellectual, while a saguna worshipper can become too enclosed in his sentiments.Saguna and nirguna forms of worship are complementary and supplementary to each other. Many aspirants begin with the saguna method, and as they advance, their intellects open to the grandeur of nirguna worship. Others who begin with nirguna worship eventually realize that the subtle impurities of the mind cannot be removed by self-effort alone, and so they then take recourse to saguna worship.Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa explained the relationship of the two methods by using the example of preparing an Indian sweet. In the preparation of this sweet there are two stages—when the wheat-cake is cooked in oil and when it is placed in syrup. The nirguna method corresponds to the first stage, while the saguna method refers to the second. Thus jnana (wisdom) is sweetened by bhakti (devotion).The saguna method of worship is like acquiring a microscope and enjoying the inherent beauty in every minute particle of creation. The nirguna method is like acquiring a telescope and looking into the vastness of the sky, thus revealing the celestial bodies. The former leads to the recognition of the inner grandeur that lies within the confines of each human personality, while the latter leads to the recognition of the transcendental glory of the Self.In the Ramayana, Lakshmana represents a saguna devotee, while Bharata represents a nirguna devotee. When Rama departed and went to live in the forest, he asked Lakshmana to remain in Ayodhya and continue serving his parents and protect the kingdom. But Lakshmana was utterly disinterested in that project; all he wanted was to follow Rama into the forest and enjoy serving Him. Bharata, on the other hand, also yearned to be with Rama, but he realized the greater responsibility of performing Rama’s will by staying at Ayodhya.This signifies that though a nirguna worshipper, Bharata is yet ever devoted to the saguna form of Rama. And similarly, Lakshmana, though a saguna worshipper, often learns from Rama the nirguna knowledge of Brahman, the Absolute without attributes. In an ideal mystical unfolding, saguna must blend with nirguna, and nirguna must be mellowed by saguna.The nirguna form can be compared to invisible water vapor that permeates the atmosphere in the form of humidity, while the saguna form is like the fall of silvery snowflakes. The same Brahman, Who is invisible and beyond the mind and senses, assumes the role of a personal God by the force of the love of His devotees.Nirguna form of meditation enables an aspirant to remove gross impurities from his mind, while the subtle seeds of egoism, pride and desire are effectively removed through saguna as the stream of devotion sweeps over the mind.A nirguna devotee promotes the wellbeing of the whole world. He attains the state of performing the maximum good to the world by his inward state of renunciation and actionlessness. Though not acting, he becomes the performer of great actions. A saguna devotee, on the other hand, keeps himself ever busy serving the Lord in people around him, while inwardly he enjoys the serenity of Divine Surrender. And so, though acting, he does not act.When Arjuna asked Krishna which of the two methods is superior or better, He replied that the saguna method is more practical and effective. At the same time, he told Arjuna that both methods lead to the same goal. Finally, he explained the characteristics of those fully developed devotees in whom both the methods of saguna and nirguna have reached their utmost perfection. (See Gita, Ch. 12) Integral Worship Therefore, although an aspirant should always have an understanding of the interdependence of these two methods, he must adopt the method that suits his psychological structure. Then, as he advances he must integrate both methods until he is rid of the gross as well as the subtle impurities of the mind. The fact is that there is no superiority of one method over the other, and both must be well harmonized in one’s spiritual journey. Let your intellect delight in the transcendental glory of the Absolute while your feelings clasp the lotus feet of the Lord deep within your heart. Let your intellect revel in the woodlands of Vedantic vichara (reflection on Brahman) while your heart enjoys the melody of Krishna’s flute by the shores of the Yamuna River. With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda
Renunciation is central to the spiritual life. One cannot live the spiritual life without renouncing — but what indeed is renunciation? Renunciation, or tyaga, carries an aura of the impossible for the common man, something reserved for the most privileged, a prerogative of the Rishis, monks and God-men. Revered are those who could renounce, for renunciation itself is the miracle. Most are fascinated by the idea of renunciation, the idea of walking away from it all to some secluded place and live in the harshest conditions. But all this is not the renunciation of Sanatan Dharma. Renunciation is imperative for all spiritual living, but what is it that is renounced? The general Indian understanding of renunciation as living the life of a recluse and of spirituality as being necessarily world-shunning seems flawed and needs to be revisited in a more integral light. The Bhagavad Gita, the standard go-to text for practical, comprehensive spirituality dismisses the idea of a world-shunning renunciation and Sri Aurobindo, India’s great seer and prophet, the modern-day exponent of the Gita, takes the idea of the Gita further, makes it all-comprehensive in his master statement — ‘All life is Yoga’. There is no question here of renouncing life in the world. In his words, The difficulty of harmonizing the Divine life with human living, of Being in God and yet living in man is the very difficulty that he is set here to solve and not to shun. Spirituality being regarded either as an after-retirement activity while awaiting death or just mastering certain texts is a major misconception — the true spirituality of the Vedas is about living the life in the world in the higher consciousness and bringing the higher consciousness into our day to day lives and activities. This statement from Sri Aurobindo makes this even clearer: If there is an opposition between the spiritual life and that of the world, it is that gulf which he is here to bridge, that opposition which he is here to change into a harmony. In explaining renunciation, Sri Aurobindo asks what is life if man were to escape the conditions he was born into, the meaninglessness of his daily existence. If a dream, he says, let us wake out of it, if a lie lets find the truth. All life becomes yoga if made a conscious existence where every movement, thought, action, and feeling is referred to the soul or the psychic present deep inside all of us, the principle of Truth guiding all life from within. Everything that obstructs this endeavor is to be identified and discarded, uprooted. This discarding and uprooting of all that contradicts and obstructs the Truth in us is the true renunciation. Therefore, it is an inner renunciation. Says Sri Aurobindo, if discipline of all the members of our being by purification and concentration may be described as the right arm of the body of the yoga, renunciation is its left arm. Yoga, therefore, is about harmonizing and integrating the different parts of our being by renouncing all that contradicts, disrupts, divides. Renunciation must be an instrument for removal of everything that stands in the way of our divine fulfillment, all that is contrary to the truth within. Renunciation has little to do with what we give up externally; what we give up internally is much more significant — all that is false and limiting in us. Sri Aurobindo beautifully explains these self-limiting falsehoods describing them as the three knots which have to be cut to liberate the spirit: The knots of attachment and craving of desires in the senses, self-will in the thought or action and the egoistic impulse. We weave these knots around us like a spider weaving a web around itself and getting all caught up in illusory, troubled living. Much of our Yoga is finding a way to dissolve these knots in our minds and hearts.
The earliest preoccupation of man in his awakened thoughts and, as it seems, his inevitable and ultimate preoccupation,—for it survives the longest periods of skepticism and returns after every banishment,—is also the highest which his thought can envisage. It manifests itself in the divination of Godhead, the impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, the sense of a secret immortality. The ancient dawns of human knowledge have left us their witness to this constant aspiration; today we see a humanity satiated but not satisfied by victorious analysis of the externalities of Nature preparing to return to its primeval longings. The earliest formula of Wisdom promises to be its last,—God, Light, Freedom, Immortality. These persistent ideals of the race are at once the contradiction of its normal experience and the affirmation of higher and deeper experiences which are abnormal to humanity and only to be attained, in their organised entirety, by a revolutionary individual effort or an evolutionary general progression. To know, possess and be the divine being in an animal and egoistic consciousness, to convert our twilit or obscure physical mentality into the plenary supramental illumination, to build peace and a self-existent bliss where there is only a stress of transitory satisfactions besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering, to establish an infinite freedom in a world which presents itself as a group of mechanical necessities, to discover and realise the immortal life in a body subjected to death and constant mutation,—this is offered to us as the manifestation of God in Matter and the goal of Nature in her terrestrial evolution. To the ordinary material intellect which takes its present organisation of consciousness for the limit of its possibilities, the direct contradiction of the unrealized ideals with the realized fact is a final argument against their validity. But if we take a more deliberate view of the world’s workings, that direct opposition appears rather as part of Nature’s profoundest method and the seal of her completest sanction. For all problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony. They arise from the perception of an unsolved discord and the instinct of an undiscovered agreement or unity. To rest content with an unsolved discord is possible for the practical and more animal part of man, but impossible for his fully awakened mind, and usually even his practical parts only escape from the general necessity either by shutting out the problem or by accepting a rough, utilitarian and unillumined compromise. For essentially, all Nature seeks a harmony, life and matter in their own sphere as much as mind in the arrangement of its perceptions. The greater the apparent disorder of the materials offered or the apparent disparateness, even to irreconcilable opposition, of the elements that have to be utilized, the stronger is the spur, and it drives towards a more subtle and puissant order than can normally be the result of a less difficult endeavour. The accordance of active Life with a material of form in which the condition of activity itself seems to be inertia, is one problem of opposites that Nature has solved and seeks always to solve better with greater complexities; for its perfect solution would be the material immortality of a fully organised mind-supporting animal body. The accordance of conscious mind and conscious will with a form and a life in themselves not overtly self-conscious and capable at best of a mechanical or subconscious will is another problem of opposites in which she has produced astonishing results and aims always at higher marvels; for there her ultimate miracle would be an animal consciousness no longer seeking but possessed of Truth and Light, with the practical omnipotence which would result from the possession of a direct and perfected knowledge. Not only, then, is the upward impulse of man towards the accordance of yet higher opposites rational in itself, but it is the only logical completion of a rule and an effort that seem to be a fundamental method of Nature and the very sense of her universal strivings. We speak of the evolution of Life in Matter, the evolution of Mind in Matter; but evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it. For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept the Vedantic solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness. And then there seems to be little objection to a farther step in the series and the admission that mental consciousness may itself be only a form and a veil of higher states which are beyond Mind. In that case, the unconquerable impulse of man towards God, Light, Bliss, Freedom, Immortality presents itself in its right place in the chain as simply the imperative impulse by which Nature is seeking to evolve beyond Mind, and appears to be as natural, true and just as the impulse towards Life which she has planted in certain forms of Matter or the impulse towards Mind which she has planted in certain forms of Life. As there, so here, the impulse exists more or less obscurely in her different vessels with an ever-ascending series in the power of its will-to-be; as there, so here, it is gradually evolving and bound fully to evolve the necessary organs and faculties. As the impulse towards Mind ranges from the more sensitive reactions of Life in the metal and the plant up to its full organisation in man, so in man himself there is the same ascending series, the preparation, if nothing more, of a higher and divine life. The animal is a living laboratory in which Nature has, it is said, worked out man. Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God? For if evolution is the progressive manifestation by Nature of that which slept or worked in her, involved, it is also the overt realisation of that which she secretly is. We cannot, then, bid her pause at a given stage of her evolution, nor have we the right to condemn with the religionist as perverse and presumptuous or with the rationalist as a disease or hallucination any intention she may evince or effort she may make to go beyond. If it be true that Spirit is involved in Matter and apparent Nature is secret God, then the manifestation of the divine in himself and the realisation of God within and without are the highest and most legitimate aim possible to man upon earth. From the opening chapter of Sri Aurobindo’s magnum opus, The Life Divine [Paragraph formatting has been slightly modified to make reading easier— Ed.]
To find the Divine is indeed the first reason for seeking the spiritual Truth and the spiritual life, it is the one thing indispensable and all the rest is nothing without it. We must find the self, the Divine, then only can we know what is the work the self or the Divine demands from us. Until then our life and action can only be a help or means towards finding the Divine and it ought not to have any other purpose. You have asked what is the discipline to be followed in order to convert the mental seeking into a living spiritual experience. The first necessity is the practice of concentration of your consciousness within yourself. The ordinary human mind has an activity on the surface, which veils the real self. But there is another, a hidden consciousness within, behind the surface one, in which we can become aware of the real self and of a larger, deeper truth of nature, can realise the self and liberate and transform the nature. To quiet the surface mind and begin to live within is the object of this concentration. Of this true consciousness other than the superficial there are two main centers, one in the heart (not the physical heart, but the cardiac centre in the middle of the chest), one in the head. The concentration in the heart opens within and by following this inward opening and going deep one becomes aware of the soul or psychic being, the divine element in the individual. This, being unveiled, begins to come forward, to govern the nature, to turn it and all its movements towards the Truth, towards the Divine, and to call down into it all that is above. It brings the consciousness of the Presence, the dedication of the being to the Highest and invites the descent into our nature of a greater Force and Consciousness, which is waiting above us. To concentrate in the heart centre with the offering of oneself to the Divine and the aspiration for this inward opening and for the Presence in the heart is the first way and, if it can be done, the natural beginning; for its result once obtained makes the spiritual path far more easy and safe than if one begins the other way. That other way is the concentration in the head, in the mental centre. This, if it brings about the silence of the surface mind, opens up an inner, larger, deeper mind within which is more capable of receiving spiritual experience and spiritual knowledge. But once concentrated here one must open the silent mental consciousness upward to all that is above mind. After a time one feels the consciousness rising upward and in the end it rises beyond the lid which has so long kept it tied in the body and finds a centre above the head where it is liberated into the Infinite. There it begins to come into contact with the universal Self, the Divine Peace, Light, Power, Knowledge, Bliss, to enter into that and become that, to feel the descent of these things into the nature. To concentrate in the head with the aspiration for quietude in the mind and the realisation of the Self and Divine above is the second way of concentration. It is important, however, to remember that the concentration of the consciousness in the head is only a preparation for its rising to the centre above; otherwise one may get shut up in one’s own mind and its experiences or at best attain only to a reflection of the Truth above instead of rising into the spiritual transcendence to live there. For some the mental concentration is easier, for some the concentration in the heart centre; some are capable of doing both alternately – but to begin with the heart centre, if one can do it, is the more desirable. The other side of discipline is with regard to the activities of the nature, of the mind, of the life-self or vital, of the physical being. Here the principle is to accord the nature with the inner realisation so that one may not be divided into two discordant parts. There are here several disciplines or processes possible. One is to offer all the activities to the Divine and call for the inner guidance and the taking up of one’s nature by a Higher Power. If there is the inward soul-opening, if the psychic being comes forward, then there is no great difficulty – there comes with it a psychic discrimination, a constant intimation, finally a governance which discloses and quietly and patiently removes all imperfections, brings the right mental and vital movements and reshapes the physical consciousness also. Another method is to stand back detached from the movements of the mind, life, physical being, to regard their activities as only a habitual formation of general Nature in the individual imposed on us by past workings, not as any part of our real being; in proportion as one succeeds in this, becomes detached, sees mind and its activities as not oneself, life and its activities as not oneself, the body and its activities as not oneself, one becomes aware of a Being within – mental, vital, physical – silent, calm, unbound and unattached which reflects the true Self above and be its representative; from this inner silent Being proceeds a rejection of all that is to be rejected, an acceptance only of what can be kept and transformed, an inmost Will to perfection or a call to the Divine Power to do at each step what is necessary for the change of the Nature. From the Letters of Sri Aurobindo written to his disciples as practical guidance in the Integral Yoga
Health is the basis of all forms of human self-effort. The scriptures declare, Dharmaartha kaama mokshaanam aarogyamoolam uttamam, which means arogya or health is the basis of dharma (ethical value in life), artha (material achievements in life), kama (satisfaction of desires, or the vital value of life) and moksha (spiritual release, the infinite value of life). Without health, no self-effort can be possible. Further, in Sanskrit the term for health is swasthya, which literally means the quality of being established in the Self. This gives you a broad insight into health. True health implies being established in the Reality of the Self within yourself. True health is, therefore, the state of Self-realization. In a restricted sense, however, health is normally defined by the expression Sound mind in a sound body. The general concept is that a person should have a healthy physical body and a clear strong mind as a requirement for promoting any form of self-effort in life. In the perspective of Yoga this is true also. However it is to be understood that it is not the body that fashions the mind; it is the mind that fashions the body. In order to understand how health is promoted and how diseases are warded off, you must first understand the general analysis of health according to Yoga. Defining Disease Avidya or ignorance is considered to be the root disease. Avidya refers to an unconscious obscurity which does not allow you to discover your essential nature as Brahman, or the Divine Self. As long as you do not discover your essential nature, you cannot possess a mind that is free from complexes and the burden of frustrations. All Yogic process are designed to eventually heal this root disease which overcomes your casual body. So, ignorance or avidya is the mula adhi or root disease. It is the basis not only of the personality of the present life, but of countless embodiments you have already experienced, and the many personalities that you may have to live through in future. This process of birth and death will continue until you are freed of this disease by attaining Self-realization. From mula adhi (root disease) there arises adhi (mental disease). From a broad point of view, egoism, attachment, hatred, fear, greed, lust, anger, pride, jealousy, craving, discontent, and other negative qualities are expressions of adhi or mental disease. Adhi or mental disease sets forth discordant vibrations causing abnormal functions of the pranas (vital forces). The nadis or subtle channels through which the pranas flow become misbalanced in their operation: some nadis become extraordinarily active, while others become sluggish. Consequently, the humors of the body are disturbed. According to the ancient view, the health of the body depends upon the balance of the three humors: wind, bile and phlegm. When these humors are disturbed, there develop physical diseases. From the popular point of view, physical diseases refer to diseases such as fever, cough, cold, pneumonia, typhoid, rheumatism, and numerous others known to modern science. However, in the Yogic perspective, diseases include your circumstantial developments as well. If you have diseased circumstances, then in your family life there is constant quarrel among friends and neighbors; there is constant jealousy and hatred; in business there is loss, tension and pressure. Your circumstances are shadows of your personality. The conditions of adversity that you encounter in your life are like diseases which result from the karma of your past. This however, does not mean that you are destined to experience adverse situations. If you study the law of karma profoundly you will realize that you have the innate freedom of self-effort; you have the power of spirit within you that can overcome all impediments and lead you to the supreme health of the spirit: the state of Self-realization. What is Health? To be truly healthy implies to be free from discomfort within yourself. The English term ‘disease’ refers to dis-comfort or dis-ease. To be healthy implies having a physical body that is fit to work out a process of spiritual evolution, as well as being able to promote circumstances that are congenial to your spiritual growth. As you deepen your understanding of spiritual growth, you gain further insight into what we mean by health. Your circumstances may not be comfortable in the way your ego would like them to be, but if they are such that they help you to think deeply in spiritual matters, then they are healthy. Similarly, if your physical body is able to promote in your mind a process of spiritual reflection, if you are able to use your physical body for mental advancement, then you are healthier than a person who is physically very healthy, but whose mind is weak and filled with negative qualities. Such a person, one who is physically fit but unable to grasp the higher purpose of life, may be, both medically and scientifically, considered at the top of physical vitality. But, from the Yogic point of view, he is like a person who possesses a wonderful palace, but that palace is filled with monkeys, horses and uncontrolled servants. It can hardly be used for his joy and prosperity. Therefore, even though he possesses a healthy body, he is not healthy. To be healthy is to utilize your resources for your mental advancement. On the other hand, due to hereditary reasons, you may be born with a serious defect in your body. If, however, through that feeble body you continue to combat what you already have developed from your childhood, and in spite of the obstacle you have, you continue to advance with your mind and transcend the physical limitation, then you are Yogically healthy. Even though you may possess an ordinary house with a thatched roof that leaks slightly here and there, if you are able to live in it with great joy and harmony, it is much better than having a great palace filled with disharmony and lack of understanding. One must understand, therefore, that the physical body is a tool, and your real health does not depend entirely on the quality of the tool. Rather, if the quality of the tool is there, it shows that you can work out your evolution better. Simply because a mechanic has in his hands wonderful and advanced tools, he may not be able to set things right. You cannot judge the skill of a mechanic on the basis of the tools he possesses. However, if you have a mechanic who is an expert as well as in the possession of tools which are wonderful, that is the ideal. Just as you cannot judge the mechanic on the basis of his tools, in the same way, you cannot judge the true health of a person on the basis of his body. The Flow of Prana Vitality flows from the plane of mind through numerous nadis or subtle astral channels. That vitality is known as prana. In Yogic perspective, insight into health can be gained by understanding the flow of prana into your physical body through those subtle channels or nadis. The pranas are divided into five categories: prana, apana, udana, samana and vyana. The study of these is particularly important in Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. Hatha Yoga specializes in the balancing and harmonization of these Pranas in your body. The very terms ‘ha’ and ‘tha’ refer to prana and apana, the two important pranic functions. Prana assimilates and nourishes your body by operating through the lungs and heart. Apana removes the waste product from the body. Therefore, a balance of the two sustains your physical health. When the root disease of ignorance afflicts your unconscious, keeping you from discovering your real identity, mind builds within itself an ego center and clings to it. That ego begins to obstruct the flow of vitality into your body. Further, whenever the mind is upset and confused, or in the process of exhausting or working out a negative karma, that mind develops a basis for restricting the flow of prana in your physical body. When there is a strong mental reaction to something, the prana that flows into your physical body reels like a deer that has been shot by an arrow. Instead of flowing through the right channels, there arises an imbalance of the flow of prana through your physical body and certain pranas become overactive and some under-active. When mind sets up restrictions on the flow of prana due to Karma, ignorance or misunderstanding and dullness, the pranas do not flow in harmony. Therefore, various diseases develop in the physical body. Physical diseases arise due to abrupt flow of prana in your physical body, causing the chemistry of your body to become disturbed. Toxic developments begin to take place. Things that should be rejected are not. Certain body parts that should work become lazy and say, ‘We will do it tomorrow’. If the liver says, ‘I will secrete tomorrow,’ while gastric fluids secrete in abundance, you have heartburn, nausea, restlessness. There must be synchronization in different parts of your body in order for you to be healthy. Effect of Mind on Body We can thus see, with Yogic insight, that every disease is the result of a negative karma. By that we imply it is the result of a negative pattern of the mind. Reinforcing this idea, doctors and psychologists have pinpointed many psychosomatic cases of disease, where a disease has no scientific basis in the physical plain yet the patient creates it due to psychological reasons. From a wider point of view, it is reasonable and understandable that different mental afflictions cause different physical diseases. If you are constantly subjected to fear, you will have heart trouble and low blood pressure because fear chills. On the other hand, if you are subjected to anger, violence and hatred, you will have high blood pressure. You will be hypersensitive, and you will not be able to breathe deeply because you are too restless. Your lungs may become affected. Therefore, although different mental afflictions and negative thoughts of the mind do not result in physical diseases immediately, they are the basis of future physical illness. Overcoming Disease In order to overcome diseases, you must understand that prevention is better than cure. This proverb is very important. Do not wait until a disease has developed and taken root in your physical body. Try to prevent it. Bring Rhythm and Joy into Your Life ‘Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’: This simple saying encourages a pattern of life that keeps you in harmony — no excess in entertainment, no excess in sleeping, no excess in eating, no excess in keeping awake, but a life characterized by moderation and rhythm. In addition, there must be joy and good humor. Your personality must develop a taste for humor. When there is an occasion to be joyous, do not let it slip by. Do not stay in gloom. To this effect, we might evolve our own proverb: “One humor a day keeps brain-fog away!” And do not forget the other proverb as well: ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ In a society of great economic complexity, it may not be too wise to keep the doctors away. However, in Yogic understanding an aspirant must be his own doctor. You must develop an insight into how you can adjust your diet, your exercises, your method of concentration and your association. Develop Insight into Karma At the same time, you must have insight into karma: in spite of all your efforts, at times, disease may persist. Your negative karma of the past may seem to void your efforts of today. However, you should persist with patience. By sustained self-effort, by generating good karmas in your daily life, and by adopting rational methods you may triumph over the disease and regain perfect health. Diet and Exercise If you are suffering from a disease, controlling diet becomes a meaningful and necessary austerity. Adjust to a diet which is scientifically sound even if it is not too tasty for you. Since the problem may be due to simple weakness or stress, then try to combat it with Yoga exercises and relaxation. Doctors and Medicine? And what about the question of whether or not a Yogi should take medicine? Many people are confused about this matter. There are Yogis who will not have doctors coming in through their front door but will have them come through the back door because they do not want their devotees to see that they are depending on doctors. In their minds, they think that taking recourse to any medicine is a violation of Yogic principles. That is completely wrong. Yoga does not oppose research in matters of practical health. With Yogic insight, you must accept any research that science has presented and take advantage of it. In the scientific study of health, research has shown the value of vitamins and of various things pertaining to the physical body. All these things must be taken into consideration. Philosophy does not oppose science. Rather, philosophy is like a tree that has its roots deep within the Self, but its branches can continue to grow wider and more extensive in the world of matter. As scientific research grows and further understanding of disease is gained, you must utilize the understanding. However, you must maintain the constant awareness that medical science is not the ultimate. There is something more. God – The Master Physician You must seek the roots of disease and destroy them by the practice of mantra. Even ayurveda, which was written in ancient times by great physicians, concludes that ultimately it is by the grace of Narayana that a person can be cured when all medicines have failed. If a person has the possibility and capacity to love God with such intensity, there isn’t any disease that Narayana cannot cure, because he is the master physician. The Self within you can cure anything, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual disease. Therefore, the purpose for being healthy, the attainment of Self-realization, must be understood. Do not wait to be ideally healthy to do ideal things, but continue to do ideal things in your day to day life. Dedicate Your Energies to True Healthiness Since diseases have their roots in the mind, do not rely on external treatments alone. It is unwise to go on running from one system of treatment to another: a month of homeopathic treatment, followed by a month of naturopathic treatment, and then by allopathic treatment and so forth. Be close to nature. Prevention is better than cure. Observe the laws of health. Take recourse to a healthy vegetarian diet. Perform your duties in the spirit of worship of God. Take recourse to Hatha Yoga asanas and pranayamas. In addition do walking, swimming, and similar outdoor exercises. In the case of a physical problem, adopt any system of treatment and follow it through. At the same time adopt techniques such as meditation, repetition of mantra, study of scriptures, and others to remedy the mind of its subtle diseases. The ideal a Yogi should work for is a healthy body and a healthy mind for attaining Self-realization, which is the only true health. When in spite of your best efforts, you are unable to ward off a disease, you should learn to transcend it. Continue to enlighten your mind with the understanding that you are not the body, you are essentially the Absolute Self. No matter what the impediments in your daily life, continue to utilize your energy in the right direction, towards the good of humanity. As you serve humanity, as you put your energy to use and develop higher qualities, you begin to see many defects drop away from your personality like a miracle. Diseases will evaporate as if they didn’t exist. Nothing is impossible for you; you can develop ideal health, abundant vitality, and your presence will be like a breeze: soft and sublime to humanity and to yourself. With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda
The Fundamentals of Yoga All existence is a single fabric of being. You touch one strand of this fabric and the whole fabric moves. This fabric of existence is not you or me, not a person, nor even a world. This fabric is all of us, everything, everywhere, all that is or was. This fabric is all-Consciousness, sarvam chaitanyam. Everything and everyone is at once this. The ten year old that you used to be, in some imaginary time in your mind, and the fifty years old that you now are, again in an imaginary time in your mind, both are happening at once, if you look carefully, in a bottomless now of consciousness. When you enter this now of consciousness, everything and everyone is seamlessly one. You and I, the passers-by on the street, the birds flying across the evening sky, the animals, the insects, the fish and the plants, the sand and the waters, the sky and all the limitless space, far out into the distant galaxies and right down to the quarks in the heart of matter — everything of which we are directly or indirectly aware, vaster and profounder than mind can fathom, a shoreless sea of existence in all directions and dimensions, without any discernible beginning or end, is this oneness, this now, this here. There is nothing outside this oneness, the sublimest loves as much as the murders, wars and genocides, the noblest saints as well as the most despicable sinners, the asuras as well as the devas, the living, the dead and the unborn, everything and everyone is within. Going into this shoreless sea is going into a dimensionless within. It is this dimensionless within that the mystics and seers of old have called God. Or Brahman. And relative to this dimensionless within, there is no outside. Another way of expressing this is that there is none or nothing outside God, or Brahman. Brahman is the all-enveloping and all-permeating reality, infinite because there is no objective measurement possible of this reality. What seems to our minds to be finite is but a portioning of the infinite. To understand this point, think of the sea and its waves: a particular wave seems finite in space and time, it can be measured in terms of wavelength, height, velocity, volume and length of duration; but the moment it falls back into the sea, it becomes the relatively immeasurable sea. Relatively immeasurable because relative to the particular wave, the sea is immeasurable but relative to the much vaster cosmos, it too can be measured; the universe, compared to the sea, would be immeasurable but compared to that within in which the universe itself occurs, the universe too would be measurable. That within which the universe (and perhaps universes) occur is known to the seers simply as the Vast, brihat. This Vast is truly beyond measure, for who or what can be there outside of this Vast to measure it? Thus, this Vast is known as the infinite, the unknowable and immeasurable Brahman. It may be natural for our minds to think that this Brahman is outside of our existence, somewhere out there in the vast immeasurable. But in doing so, we miss the whole point — that this universe, this vastness, including ourselves, is within Brahman, there is no outside at all. We are all living in a vast and infinite within, antaram antarasya, as our seers cryptically declare — inside of an infinite within. This infinite within, ananta antaram, is Brahman. You and I are waves that rise within the sea of Brahman’s consciousness and fall back into it. As a particular wave, I may look upon the sea as “outside” of myself but that would be illusion of the senses: the wave of the sea is completely the sea, and at no point can it be different from the sea. Does the wave have an existence of its own, an innate reality? Yes, as long as the wave identifies itself as a wave, it has an existence of its own, but it is an existence arising out of the sea and returning to it, it is not an independent existence. This is of great significance in Yoga — we are self-existent within the vast sea of existence but there is no independent existence. In the language of Yoga, innate self-existence or self-nature is known as swabhava (literally, state of being oneself). So there is swabhava as long as there is identification with the particular form and name — namarupa sayūjya in the language of Yoga. But once the namarupa identification (as particular wave amongst other waves) is replaced with the identification with the sea (as the all-consciousness), swabhava dissolves and one becomes niswabhava, free of all self-identification, or identified only with Brahman — brahmasāyujya. This is the profound objective of all Yogic effort, to become free of self-identification and self-nature, swabhava, and rest in union, Yoga, with the All-consciousness. This freedom from essential selfhood, swabhava, is the indispensable condition for the higher knowledge, vijnana, of Yoga. The journey of Yoga, in many ways, is the ascent from the lower and relative knowledge of self and cosmos to the higher knowledge of Brahman or the Divine. The lower relative knowledge, vyavharika  jnana, works through the buddhi, the practical intelligence of the sense-based intellect; vijnana, the higher knowledge, works through intuition and the ranges of mind and intelligence above the sense-based practical and the mundane. The vyavharika or relative knowledge may serve, for some time and for some aspirants as an intellectual approach to vijnana but, by itself, is not of much use in the quest for Self-realization, and must, sooner or later, be renounced or replaced by the higher. The transition to the higher knowledge or vijnana begins with an initial detachment and separation of the inner consciousness, which we have earlier called Purusha, from the outer play of the world which we have called prakriti . The separation of Purusha and prakriti is an important marker in the progress of Yoga towards the Self. A separation or dissociation of Purusha and prakriti does not imply a physical or even psychological abandonment of prakriti but a temporary withdrawal from it, a steadfast refusal to identify with the namarupa  of prakriti in order to turn to something deeper and truer than the incessant play of prakriti. Stepping Back & Witnessing In the ordinary life, we are wholly immersed in prakriti and oblivious of any inner or truer self. Most of our life in prakriti we spend reacting to external events, situations and people. Rarely, if ever, do we get to turn inward and become conscious of an inner being or an inner life. We live, in other words, in a strong and persistent identification with prakriti. Yoga begins in all earnest with the breaking or the dissolving of this identification; and it is not easy to do this as prakriti sticks stubbornly to the inmost membranes of our being. To break the identification, we need to step back from the incessant play of prakriti in ourselves and in the world around us, and from deep personal involvement become detached witnesses, disinterested observers. This stepping back is essentially a dissociation from our own internal processes and a wide disinterestedness in what is happening, or not happening, to us and around us. In the language of Yoga, this is called vairagya. Vairagya is not an aversion for the world or an escape from it, as many believe, but, at its deepest, it is a turning away from the superficial dualities of nature and impermanences of the world to the infinitely profounder and immutable ananda of the true Self. Vairagya, in its true sense, comes only to the discriminating, to those who have developed the subtle perception of reality and can see things for what they are and not get caught up in the play of mithya. Stepping back and dissociating from prakriti creates a progressive psychological distance between the event or the action in prakriti and the inner consciousness — instead of reacting to what is happening, or getting involved with the forces and movements of the play of nature, one becomes an observer of the play of forces and events and learns, more and more, to allow all things and events to pass, unquestioned and unobstructed, increasingly passive to the play of universal nature but active in all that is behind the play of forces and events. As one continues to observe the play of prakriti from the position of the inner witness, one begins to discern with growing clarity that there is a wide field of general, universal nature, prakriti, and an inner witnessing self, Purusha, that constitute the entire human experience. In fact, what one refers to as “experience” is the interplay between universal nature and the inner witnessing self. What one identifies as the personal self is only a dynamic interface between universal nature and the inner witnessing, a device for ordering and organizing the experiences of universal nature. Once this is seen inwardly, the “personal self” becomes relegated in significance and is used as a device, an instrument, and not a real and permanent entity in itself. This psychological relegation of the so-called personal self leads to an essential liberation from compulsive personality to a calmer and wider impersonality that sees and is aware of personality but is no longer compelled or led by it. As observation further deepens, and personality dissolves in that deepening observation, one becomes more and more clearly aware that one is neither the formations, movements and actions of Prakriti, nor the personal self reflecting Prakriti and interacting with it. The true self, Purusha, is neither this nor that but a consciousness transcending both but capable of acting through both. It is when one realizes through this growing inner awareness that one is the transcendent higher self, Purusha, that one passes irreversibly beyond prakriti and its effects. This is the threshold experience of the higher knowledge, the opening to vijnana. 1Vyavharika refers to the practical, mundane, relative 2Refer to this 3Refer to this
Yoga-siddhi, the perfection that comes from the practice of Yoga, can be best attained by the combined working of four great instruments. There is, first, the knowledge of the truths, principles, powers and processes that govern the realisation – shastra. Next comes a patient and persistent action on the lines laid down by the knowledge, the force of our personal effort – utsaha. There intervenes, third, uplifting our knowledge and effort into the domain of spiritual experience, the direct suggestion, example and influence of the Teacher – guru. Last comes the instrumentality of Time – kala; for in all things there is a cycle of their action and a period of the divine movement. The supreme Shastra of the integral Yoga is the eternal Veda secret in the heart of every thinking and living being. The lotus of the eternal knowledge and the eternal perfection is a bud closed and folded up within us. It opens swiftly or gradually, petal by petal, through successive realisations, once the mind of man begins to turn towards the Eternal, once his heart, no longer compressed and confined by attachment to finite appearances, becomes enamoured, in whatever degree, of the Infinite. All life, all thought, all energising of the faculties, all experiences passive or active, become thenceforward so many shocks which disintegrate the teguments of the soul and remove the obstacles to the inevitable efflorescence. He who chooses the Infinite has been chosen by the Infinite. He has received the divine touch without which there is no awakening, no opening of the spirit; but once it is received, attainment is sure, whether conquered swiftly in the course of one human life or pursued patiently through many stadia of the cycle of existence in the manifested universe. Nothing can be taught to the mind which is not already concealed as potential knowledge in the unfolding soul of the creature. So also all perfection of which the outer man is capable, is only a realising of the eternal perfection of the Spirit within him. We know the Divine and become the Divine, because we are That already in our secret nature. All teaching is a revealing, all becoming is an unfolding. Self-attainment is the secret; self-knowledge and an increasing consciousness are the means and the process. The usual agency of this revealing is the Word, the thing heard (shruta). The Word may come to us from within; it may come to us from without. But in either case, it is only an agency for setting the hidden knowledge to work. The word within may be the utterance of the inmost soul in us which is always open to the Divine or it may be the word of the secret and universal Teacher who is seated in the hearts of all. There are rare cases in which none other is needed, for all the rest of the Yoga is an unfolding under that constant touch and guidance; the lotus of the knowledge discloses itself from within by the power of irradiating effulgence which proceeds from the Dweller in the lotus of the heart. Great indeed, but few are those to whom self-knowledge from within is thus sufficient and who do not need to pass under the dominant influence of a written book or a living teacher. Ordinarily, the Word from without, representative of the Divine, is needed as an aid in the work of self-unfolding; and it may be either a word from the past or the more powerful word of the living Guru. In some cases this representative word is only taken as a sort of excuse for the inner power to awaken and manifest; it is, as it were, a concession of the omnipotent and omniscient Divine to the generality of a law that governs Nature. Thus it is said in the Upanishads of Krishna, son of Devaki, that he received a word of the Rishi Ghora and had the knowledge. So Ramakrishna, having attained by his own internal effort the central illumination, accepted several teachers in the different paths of Yoga, but always showed in the manner and swiftness of his realisation that this acceptance was a concession to the general rule by which effective knowledge must be received as by a disciple from a Guru. But usually the representative influence occupies a much larger place in the life of the Sadhaka. If the Yoga is guided by a received written Shastra, – some Word from the past which embodies the experience of former Yogins, – it may be practised either by personal effort alone or with the aid of a Guru. The spiritual knowledge is then gained through meditation on the truths that are taught and it is made living and conscious by their realisation in the personal experience; the Yoga proceeds by the results of prescribed methods taught in a Scripture or a tradition and reinforced and illumined by the instructions of the Master. This is a narrower practice, but safe and effective within its limits, because it follows a well-beaten track to a long familiar goal. For the Sadhaka of the Integral Yoga it is necessary to remember that no written Shastra, however great its authority or however large its spirit, can be more than a partial expression of the eternal Knowledge. He will use, but never bind himself even by the greatest Scripture. Where the Scripture is profound, wide, catholic, it may exercise upon him an influence for the highest good and of incalculable importance. It may be associated in his experience with his awakening to crowning verities and his realisation of the highest experiences. His Yoga may be governed for a long time by one Scripture or by several successively, – if it is in the line of the great Hindu tradition, by the Gita, for example, the Upanishads, the Veda. Or it may be a good part of his development to include in its material a richly varied experience of the truths of many Scriptures and make the future opulent with all that is best in the past. But in the end he must take his station, or better still, if he can, always and from the beginning he must live in his own soul beyond the written Truth, -sabdabrahmativartate – beyond all that he has heard and all that he has yet to hear, – srotaryasya shrutasya ca. For he is not the Sadhaka of a book or of many books; he is a Sadhaka of the Infinite. Another kind of Shastra is not Scripture, but a statement of the science and methods, the effective principles and way of working of the path of Yoga which the Sadhaka elects to follow. Each path has its Shastra, either written or traditional, passing from mouth to mouth through a long line of Teachers. In India a great authority, a high reverence even is ordinarily attached to the written or traditional teaching. All the lines of the Yoga are supposed to be fixed and the Teacher who has received the Shastra by tradition and realised it in practice guides the disciple along the immemorial tracks. One often even hears the objection urged against a new practice, a new Yogic teaching, the adoption of a new formula, “It is not according to the Shastra.” But neither in fact nor in the actual practice of the Yogins is there really any such entire rigidity of an iron door shut against new truth, fresh revelation, widened experience. The written or traditional teaching expresses the knowledge and experiences of many centuries systematised, organised, made attainable to the beginner. Its importance and utility are therefore immense. But a great freedom of variation and development is always practicable. Even so highly scientific a system as Rajayoga can be practised on other lines than the organised method of Patanjali. Each of the three paths, trimarga [= the triple path of Knowledge, Devotion and Works], breaks into many bypaths which meet again at the goal. The general knowledge on which the Yoga depends is fixed, but the order, the succession, the devices, the forms must be allowed to vary, for the needs and particular impulsions of the individual nature have to be satisfied even while the general truths remain firm and constant. An integral and synthetic Yoga needs especially not to be bound by any written or traditional Shastra; for while it embraces the knowledge received from the past, it seeks to organise it anew for the present and the future. An absolute liberty of experience and of the restatement of knowledge in new terms and new combinations is the condition of its self-formation. Seeking to embrace all life in itself, it is in the position not of a pilgrim following the highroad to his destination, but, to that extent at least, of a path-finder hewing his way through a virgin forest. For Yoga has long diverged from life and the ancient systems which sought to embrace it, such as those of our Vedic forefathers, are far away from us, expressed in terms which are no longer accessible, thrown into forms which are no longer applicable. Since then mankind has moved forward on the current of eternal Time and the same problem has to be approached from a new starting-point. By this Yoga we not only seek the Infinite, but we call upon the Infinite to unfold himself in human life. Therefore the Shastra of our Yoga must provide for an infinite liberty in the receptive human soul. A free adaptability in the manner and type of the individual’s acceptance of the Universal and Transcendent into himself is the right condition for the full spiritual life in man. Vivekananda, pointing out that the unity of all religions must necessarily express itself by an increasing richness of variety in its forms, said once that the perfect state of that essential unity would come when each man had his own religion, when not bound by sect or traditional form he followed the free self-adaptation of his nature in its relations with the Supreme. So also one may say that the perfection of the integral Yoga will come when each man is able to follow his own path of Yoga, pursuing the development of his own nature in its upsurging towards that which transcends the nature. For freedom is the final law and the last consummation. Meanwhile certain general lines have to be formed which may help to guide the thought and practice of the Sadhaka. But these must take, as much as possible, forms of general truths, general statements of principle, the most powerful broad directions of effort and development rather than a fixed system which has to be followed as a routine. All Shastra is the outcome of past experience and a help to future experience. It is an aid and a partial guide. It puts up signposts, gives the names of the main roads and the already explored directions, so that the traveller may know whither and by what paths he is proceeding. The rest depends on personal effort and experience and upon the power of the Guide. From Synthesis of Yoga, The Yoga of Divine Works, by Sri Aurobindo
Fundamentals of Yoga The Yogic journey to Self-realization begins with seeing clearly the self, or the selves, that we are not. To see the false as the false. The seeker or the sadhaka (the Sanskrit word for the disciple of Yoga; literally, one who practices sadhana, spiritual discipline) must pass through several layers of not-self before s-he can begin to discern a real self behind it all. There are two words the Yogi often uses — Satyam and Mithya, two fundamental terms of Yogic knowledge. Satyam (from the root sat) means that which is true and abiding, that which does not continually change or cease to be; mithya is that which continually changes from one form to another, is impermanent, does not abide and does not possess an intrinsic reality. However, mithya seems to be real, it has an apparent reality, like a mirage in the desert, or like the horizon. When you look upon a mithya, you are convinced that it is there; but when you get closer to it, you see it is not, or it is something entirely other than what it appeared to be. Such is the nature of the self as we know it — it appears very real and stable, but when we look carefully and deeply at it, it begins to lose its stable shape and becomes increasingly amorphous, till it just disappears, often like the grin of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland. As the Buddha often used to say, the self that one usually identifies with is just a bundle of habitual thoughts and tendencies that hang together creating an illusion of continuity and disintegrates upon analysis. When one looks deep into the nature of the self, one finds no real or stable self at all. Deep in the heart of the consciousness, there is no real self but void. And this indeed is the starting point in the Yoga: to look into the nature of the self, to carefully take apart, strand by strand, layer by layer, all that appears to be the self, the roots of our identity, and to peer into those inner depths to see what is and what is not. This very process is one of intense purification. The sadhaka first discovers three distinct layers wrapped around his identity, almost like a cocoon: a very sticky layer of all that his mind has been conditioned to believe since childhood; a second somewhat less sticky layer of all that his mind has learnt and acquired through experiences and education; and a third layer of all that his mind has been persistently projecting to be real because of its deepest desires, fears and prejudices. And all these layers are intricately interwoven and must be separated. The Aim The separating takes time for this is a process of de-conditioning and deconstruction that the sadhaka must pass through; the old edifice has to be torn down, the ground has to be cleared. Through focused and persistent contemplation and self-enquiry, all that is not true, not real, not abiding must be eliminated, till all that remains is the very faculty that is eliminating and cannot itself be eliminated. It is like having peeled off the layers of a fruit till the fruit is gone and only the peeler remains. The sadhaka has then reached the bottom, the substratum of being. This substratum, known as adhara in Sanskrit, is what the Yoga considers to be the ground upon which all psychological identity rests, ground zero, if you will. In other words, the many selves that we grow up believing ourselves to be are multiple layers of conditioned and acquired beliefs built on ground zero, this adhara, that become, over time, hard crusts of identification enormously difficult to break out of, the almost unbreakable tethers of the ego. But the first aim of Yoga is to break free of these encrustations, these tethers out of ego, and realize oneself as essentially free of all selves, identities and identifications. This is the indispensable step towards the higher and the deeper realizations of the Yoga. For, finally, when freed of all the conditionings and the layers of ignorance and falsehood, the sadhaka will begin to realize himself as the true Self, the Purusha in the language of Yoga, behind all the false and apparent selves. The realization of oneself as Purusha is the beginning of the higher Yoga, the launching pad, as it were, into the blissful vastnesses of Consciousness, possessed of the Truth of being and things, master of all existence, Ishwara. This is the high and wondrously uplifting aim of Yoga, more enticing than all the treasures of earth and the promises of heavens; and to strive for this is the highest purpose and dharma of human existence. The journey is long and arduous and needs enormous patience and fortitude. The sadhaka must be prepared in mind and heart for undertaking this journey of journeys, and must be willing to sacrifice all the lower strivings, pleasures and satisfactions of human life. The journey to the Real is spiritual and supramental, and way beyond the intellect and its mental knowledge; a higher faculty of knowledge or a deeper intuition is needed for this journey, and the sadhaka must discover and awaken these in the silent depths of his or her being. Even the mind’s so-called spiritual knowledge falls apart on this journey because all our knowledge is merely aerial mapping of unknown territory and the map, however brilliantly drawn, is not the territory. No matter how many have walked the paths of Yoga before us, and how many have come to the realization of Self, when we walk this path ourselves, we walk alone and we walk for the first time. Non-knowing or the Beginner’s Mind The quest for the Self then begins with the Self: What or who am I? This is atma-vichara, a methodical and sustained investigation into the nature of the Self, and this investigation is as exacting as any scientific one, except that it is directed inward, into one’s own consciousness. And as any intelligent scientific investigation, it is an open-ended attempt, without agenda or goal. The point is not to reach a conclusion. The quest for the Self is subtle and vast, and there can be no conclusions. The point is to arrive at understanding, wisdom, prajna. And understanding is a continuous process; the moment one believes that one has understood, the learning ceases, and whatever one has understood, or believes one has understood, becomes fossilized as knowledge. This is the reason that the masters of Vedanta would reject knowledge as useless and insist on anubhava, which can mean direct understanding as well as living experience. In Yoga, knowledge (especially of the spiritual kind) has only marginal utility, like a map indicating a certain terrain. The sadhaka must begin with a clear understanding of the difference between knowledge and anubhava: knowledge is all outside, made up of facts and figures, ideas and theories, but anubhava arises from within, and blossoms into prajna or spiritual wisdom. One cannot come to prajna without coming to oneself. The outer knowledge is all available in books, from teachings and teachers, but prajna flowers into being when one sinks deeper into oneself and begins to find those spaces of inner awareness where one is most completely and integrally oneself. The end of all knowing is knowing the Self: and this knowing of Self is the paramarthika jnana or transcendental knowledge of the Yogi. It is this knowing that one must come to. Compared to this knowing, all outer knowledge is useless. All the knowledge in the universe will not bring the seeker an inch closer to the Self. When the seeker understands this simple truth, all her distractions fall from her, and she is freed of the constant need to seek truth outside of herself, in the world of people, things and experiences. To enter the spirit of Yoga, one must first turn inward, become introverts in the true sense of the word, cease to be seekers of the outside world, seekers of experiences, relationships, objects. It is when one turns within that one realizes just how compelling the outside world is, for it is the outside world that shapes the inner and makes us what we are. Yet, when we close our eyes to sleep, drift into those inner spaces made of dreams and void, we lose all of the outside world, there is nothing anymore, no possessions, no relations, no things to occupy ourselves with. But few grasp the significance of this. Sleep is routine for most of us, we must sleep as we must eat. But for the Yogi, sleep is the precursor of dying. As one sleeps, so shall one die. If one carries nothing of the outside world into sleep, one will carry nothing of it into dying. This realization is often the beginning of a gradual detachment from the clamors of the external. Where does the world go in our sleep? Where do all the relationships go — where is the wife, husband, child or friend once we are asleep? Where is the sky or earth, where the objects of desire? The Yogis say that all these are mental constructs and when mind gets absorbed in deep sleep, all its activities and constructs dissolve into the void of sleep. In the state of deep sleep, which the Yogis know by direct experience, there is neither the self nor the world, neither time nor space, neither waking nor dreaming. When the sadhaka understands this clearly through his own experience, he is freed from the great spell of the outside world — he then sees the thousand and one things of the world outside as futile, like a child’s toys. What then is real? Do bear in mind, at this point, that an illusory outside world does not mean that everything is unreal, like a dream or a magician’s trick. It isn’t that at all. There is a reality of world and self, but veiled by multiple layers of distractions and non-realities, shadows and untruths, veil upon veil of mithya that must be patiently and painstakingly removed. This is the work, the labor, of finding oneself, finding the truth of being and the truth of things. Truth does not come easy, it cannot be found in books, sacred or otherwise; it cannot be found in words or teachings; for it is hidden in the core of being, a dimensionless point of infinite density, the very heart of creation, and it has to be dug up, pulled out into the light of consciousness. Then, and then alone, shall we know, and come to the understanding of Yoga. So this is the first lesson of Yoga —that no external knowledge or learning can yield truth; truth has to be recovered from one’s inmost depths of being. And often, what stands in the way of this recovery is knowledge itself. There is nothing more destructive to the spirit of enquiry than the thought or belief that one knows. To be open in non-knowing is to be in the spirit of self-enquiry. Therefore, Yoga insists on humility. Humility is acknowledgment of the fact that one knows nothing of true spiritual worth. Most of the mind’s knowledge is labeling and naming, merely describing in word and labels what we see from the outside. We look up into the night sky and say to ourselves that I know that is the sky, and the moon and stars; if we have more information, then we say that I know that the moon is a satellite of the earth, and that the earth is a planet, and that star up there is Sirius. But think of it, all this that I tell myself is a fiction. There is no Sirius up there; it’s just ‘star’. But there is no star up there either; it is a sphere of fiery incredibly hot gases, or at least that is what my sciences tell me; but what gases? Hydrogen, the mind quickly says, for one. But what is hydrogen? There is no such thing as hydrogen at all; there are just molecules and atoms to which a name is given for convenience; but wait a minute, there are no molecules or atoms either; there are only gravity fields, quantum states, probabilities; and these too we do not really know. So where does it all end? When one is ready to renounce all mental knowledge and learning in a spirit of utter humility, one is deemed ready for Yoga. When one has come to the Unknowing, one has come to the threshold of the silence of Yoga, a silence that naturally arises when one has nothing to say anymore, for what can one say once one has seen through the play of names and labels? Having seen that all knowledge only describes the progressive stages of ignorance, the seeker is done with his romance with knowledge and is ready for real exploration, for self-enquiry. He starts then with a clean slate, what the Zen masters call the beginner’s mind. Atma-vichara Atma-vichara is not uncovering of knowledge but seeing through the veils of ignorance and apparent or false knowledge — the seeing of the false as false; it is the process of peeling away, one by one, the many layers of nomenclature and descriptions, mental constructs and approximations, conjectures, hearsay, beliefs and biases, conditionings and superstitions, unexamined ideas and conceptual projections, and so on, till the whole knowledge apparatus of the mind is stripped clean and laid bare. Atma, in Sanskrit, means self; vichara means enquiry through analytical thought and contemplation. So atma-vichara is the process of looking into one’s own psychological structure and trying to see what lies beneath — Who am I, or who do I believe myself to be? Is my identity real? Does it consist of my name and biography? Or my physical characteristics? Or my psychological habits? Or my behavior patterns? My character or personality? What is my real identity? Who is the “me” in the first place? Name is just a tag, a convenience. Being man or woman is just a description of form seen from the outside and means nothing from the inside. So is age. Would you see yourself as man or woman from inside yourself? Would you see yourself as thirty, fifty, or sixty years old from the inside? Do you ever see yourself as so many years old from the inside? In fact, have you ever seen age, or time, from the inside? Ask yourself these questions. They may not be easy to answer, but they will bring you to the heart of the matter. What does it mean to be Indian or American? Does India or America even exist outside of one’s mind? Beyond the label, does even earth exist? What is it that we really see? Do we see earth at all? Or do we see and experience all that is known to us as Cosmos? Just by calling a part of that cosmos earth, does it really signify anything? Call this portion ‘earth’ or that portion ‘sun’, it is still all cosmos. And ‘cosmos’ too is a word, a label, a description from the outside. What ‘cosmos’ is from the inside is something we do not know. Just as we do not know what a ‘star’ really is; just as I do not know what I really am once I start deconstructing myself in my own consciousness. From the inside of my own consciousness, I do not see or know myself at all the way I do when I am oriented outwardly: I am no longer a name or an identity, not even a form or a personality from the inside. All I am then is self-awareness: I am aware of being something or someone, but beyond that, nothing is definite. As I peer deeper inside my own head as it were, I see certain memories, remembered experiences, certain associations, patterns of thoughts, images and sounds floating in a stream of consciousness that I recognize as myself, a distinct personality. But is it really so? Is that who or what I am? As I focus even more carefully on this stream of consciousness that I identify as myself, with all its swirling and bubbling patterns of memories, thoughts, images and sounds, I find the whole swirling and bubbling stream just evaporating into an inner void, a silence. Then, for a while, there seems to be nothing, no one inside. To go on looking at this void becomes very difficult. The mind is always used to looking at objects—something or the other, but looking at nothing is a totally new experience, if one can still call it an experience. But if one manages to hold the attention in that inner void, that whole swirling and bubbling stream of consciousness falls silent, and one becomes aware of a perception that has no name or form; an intense inner perception that looks at nothing in particular but is aware, simply and totally aware. It is then that the realization dawns that this very perception, this awareness without name and form is what one really is. This is the threshold of self-awareness: atma-bodh in the language of Yoga.
The realization of the Yoga of Knowledge is when one feels that one lives in the wideness of something silent, featureless and universal (called the Self) and all else is seen as only forms and names; the Self is real, nothing else. — Sri Aurobindo Fundamentals of Yoga Namarupa is often used in explaining Yogic philosophy and practice. The phrase all else is seen as only forms and names in Sri Aurobindo’s quote above refers to this concept of namarupa. Namarupa is the Sanskrit phrase for name or description (nama) and form or shape (rupa). This whole perceived universe is name and form, namarupa. All that we see, feel, are conscious of, and experience, is namarupa. Namarupa is not merely the name and form cognized by the physical senses but the whole complex of nomenclature, quality, shape, movement, force, character and personality: these are the elements or aspects of description. That which is described in any or all of these terms is namarupa. In some contexts, you will also find namarupa combined with guna, which means qualities or attributes. But for all practical purposes, namarupa includes guna. This namarupa is neither real nor unreal: it merely appears out of the vast potentiality of Prakriti, the cosmic matrix, and subsides into it, even as waves rise out of the sea and subside in it. The psychological consciousness in which we live is wholly absorbed in this matrix or prakriti and is identified with it. The true understanding comes when we are able to perceive the universe as an object (or myriad objects) reflected in our consciousness. The universe as an object (or objects) is real only as long as it is reflected in consciousness: once the consciousness is withdrawn, it ceases to be real. Thus this manifest universe is known to be unreal in the sense that it has no intrinsic existence — it does not exist on its own but has only a reflected or inferred existence. This is one of the fundamental concepts of Yoga. The namarupa or the external construct that we know to be our ‘real’ world is like a complex composite of a million simultaneously moving and living pictures: a fantastic cosmic cinema in four dimensions of space and time, and it is this “cinema” that so wholly absorbs the consciousness in us, even as a motion picture can wholly absorb a viewer’s attention for hours. Behind this whole complex play, the only reality, according to Yoga, is Consciousness, for consciousness alone exists independent of all objects reflected in it, including the universe itself. In other words, if we are to follow Yogic reasoning, consciousness can and does exist independent of the universe while the universe cannot and does not exist independent of consciousness. Thus, the content of consciousness does not determine the existence of consciousness, consciousness abides in itself, and this self-abiding consciousness is the substratum on which the whole manifest universe, this cosmic prakriti, rests. It is the background or the screen on which the whole play of prakriti is projected and reflected. But how does all this come about? How does consciousness become so absorbed in the cinema that it forgets itself so totally? The key to this mystery is the stupendous power of identification. Every one of us knows this power intimately; and we also know how utterly helpless we are in the grip of this power. This power of identification is what convinces us that we are the body and mind when the intelligence or buddhi in us knows well that we are neither the body nor the mind. In the Vedanta, this power is known as Maya. Maya is inscrutable, unfathomable, formidable and utterly unknowable. And this is so because this force of Maya is not externally imposed upon the consciousness but arises from the consciousness itself; Maya is Divine in its origin. Yet, however powerful and wonderful be this Maya, it is finally a veil in our own self-consciousness and can be dissolved as one progresses in self-enquiry, contemplation and meditation. Through ever deepening self-enquiry, atma vichara, and silencing of the mind through meditation, one begins to discern the truth behind the play of prakriti and its myriad namarupa. As self-enquiry and inner silence grow, one begins to see with growing clarity that our consciousness is really unmoving and unchanging and it is prakriti that is ever in motion; in the language of Yoga, consciousness is sthiti and prakriti is gati . Because consciousness is sthiti, unchanging and unmoving, we are aware of the perpetual changes and transformations of prakriti. If consciousness too were to be moving, we would never know movement and change. Therefore it is said in the Yoga that we possess two statuses of being, two aspects of ourselves (there is also a third, but that does not yet concern us): One is the self identified with prakriti, with namarupa; and the other is the self identified with consciousness, independent of prakriti and its namarupa projections. The former is known as apara or the “lower” self absorbed in the Maya of namarupa; and the latter is known as the para or the “higher” self; this is the Purusha consciousness of Yoga, the calm and detached witness of the play of prakriti. Purusha, this witnessing consciousness, and prakriti, the cosmic play, are the two initial categorizations of all Yogic experience. To know and identify oneself as Purusha and not prakriti is regarded as the first fundamental liberation of Yoga. There is no exact English translation of ‘Purusha’ as used in the Yoga: the closest English word would be Self. Purusha, in Yoga, denotes the witnessing self, the pure consciousness behind all phenomena, the noumenal self of Kantian philosophy. There is a compelling story in the Upanishads of a pair of birds perched on two different branches of a tree: the bird on the lower branch represents the self absorbed in prakriti, riding its waves and playing with its dualities, knowing itself only in the passing; and the bird on the higher branch represents the self settled in the Purusha consciousness, calm and conscious, wise and free, gently beckoning the bird of the lower branch to come up to its heights. And when the bird of the lower branch does come up to the higher bough, it sees only itself, but transformed into the likeness of the other bird. This is indeed the purport of the Gita’s statement, Raise thyself by thyself. The two selves that we are, are only statuses or aspects, and not real entities. In reality, there are no two or three selves at all: there is only the Self, known to Yogis as the One without a second, ekam evadvitiyam. So, what is to be done, asks the aspirant playing in the lower branches of life, to climb to that higher bough and become one with Purusha — how do I climb? And this is the deep mystery of our self-finding: that, really, there is nothing to be done; one simply has to quieten the surface mental consciousness and deepen into what may be called the silence of Yoga — an inner state free of thought, free of the last ripples of mental activity. As one deepens into this silence of Yoga, one begins to intuit and understand the deeper nature of reality. This is the beginning of the ascent of consciousness. 1Sthiti is position, stability, firmness; gati is movement.
The meaning of the word ahankāra (ego) has become so distorted in our language that often a confusion arises when we try to explain the main principles of the Aryan Dharma. Pride is only a particular effect of the rajasic ego, yet this is the meaning generally attributed to the word Ahankara; any talk of giving up ahankāra brings to the mind the idea of giving up pride or the rajasic ego. In fact, any awareness of ‘I’ is ahankāra. The awareness of ‘I’ is created in the higher knowledge Self and in the play of the three principles of Nature, its three modes are revealed: the sattwic ego, the rajasic ego and the tamasic ego. The sattwic ego brings knowledge and happiness. ‘I am receiving knowledge, I am full of delight’— these feelings are actions of the sattwic ego. The ego of the sadhak, the devotee, the man of knowledge, the disinterested worker is the sattwic ego which brings knowledge and delight. The rajasic ego stands for action. ‘I am doing the work, I am winning, I am losing, I am making effort, the success in work is mine, the failure is mine, I am strong, I am fortunate, I am happy, I am unhappy’— all these feelings are predominantly rajasic, dynamic and generate desire. The tamasic ego is full of ignorance and inertia. ‘I am wretched, I am helpless, I am lazy, incapable and good for nothing, I have no hope, I am sinking into the lower nature, my only salvation is to sink into the lower nature’— all these feelings are predominantly tamasic and produce inertia and obscurity. Those afflicted with the tamasic ego have no pride though they have the ego in full measure but that ego has a downward movement and leads to death and extinction in the void of the Brahman. Just as pride has ego, in the same way humility also has ego; just as strength has ego, in the same way weakness also has ego. Those who have no pride because of their tamasic nature are mean, feeble and servile out of fear and despair. Tamasic humility, tamasic forgiveness, tamasic endurance have no value whatsoever and do not produce any good result. Blessed indeed is he who perceiving Narayana (Divine) everywhere is humble, tolerant and full of forgiveness. Delivered from all these impulsions coming from the ego, one who has gone beyond the spell of the three modes of Nature has neither pride nor humility. Satisfied with whatever feeling is given to his instrumental being of life and mind by the universal Shakti (Energy) of the Divine and free from all attachment, he enjoys invariable peace and felicity. The tamasic ego must be avoided in every way. To destroy it completely by awakening the rajasic ego with the help of knowledge coming from ‘sattwa’ is the first step towards progress. Growth of knowledge, faith and devotion are the means of liberating oneself from the grip of the rajasic ego. A person predominantly sattwic does not say, ‘I am happy’; he says, ‘Happiness is flowing in my heart’; he , does not say, ‘I am wise’ he says ‘Knowledge is growing in me.’ He knows that this happiness and this knowledge do not belong to him but to the Mother of the Universe. Yet when in all kinds of feelings there is bondage to the enjoyment of delight, then the feeling of the man of knowledge or the devotee is still proceeding from the ego. Simply by saying ‘It is happening in me’ one cannot abolish the ego-sense. Only the person who has gone beyond the modes of Nature has completely triumphed over the ego. He knows that the ‘Jiva‘, the embodied being, is the witness and enjoyer, the Supreme is the giver of sanction, and that Nature is the doer of works, and that there is no ‘I’, all being a play in knowledge and ignorance of the Shakti of the sole Brahman without a second. The sense of ego is only a feeling born of illusion in the nature established in the ‘Jiva’, the embodied being. In the final stage this feeling of egolessness merges into Sachchidananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. But having gone beyond the modes of Nature one who still stays in the divine play by the will of the Lord respects the separate existence of the Lord and the ‘Jiva‘, the embodied being, and, considering himself a portion of the Divine in Nature, he accomplishes his work in the Lila, the divine play. This feeling cannot be called the ego. Even the Supreme has this feeling. There is no ignorance or attachment in Him, but His state of beatitude instead of being self-absorbed is turned towards the world. One who possesses this consciousness is indeed a soul liberated in life. Liberation by dissolution can be gained only after the fall of the body. The state of liberation in life can be realized in the body itself. From Sri Aurobindo’s writings in Bengali.
Yoga is in its essence a passage from the ordinary consciousness in which we are aware only of appearances into a higher wider deeper consciousness in which we become aware of realities and of the one Reality. Not only do we become aware of it, but we can live in it and act from it and according to it instead of living in and according to the appearance of things. Yoga is a passage from ignorance to self-knowledge, from our apparent to our true being, from an outer phenomenal mental vital material life-existence to an inner spiritual existence and a spiritualised nature. By Yoga we pass from the phenomenal to the real Man, from the consciousness of our own apparent outer nature to the consciousness of our real self, Atman, an inner and inmost man, Purusha, that which we truly and eternally are. This self or true being remains constant through all the changes of our phenomenal being, changes of the mind, life or body or changes of our apparent personality; it is permanent, perpetual and immortal, a portion or manifestation of the Eternal. By Yoga we pass also from our consciousness of the phenomenal appearance or appearances of the cosmos or world around us to a consciousness of its truth and reality. We become aware of the world as a manifestation of or in universal being who is the true truth of all that we see, hear, experience. We become aware of a cosmic Consciousness which is the secret of the cosmic Energy, a cosmic Self or Spirit, the cosmic Divine, the universal Godhead. But by Yoga we become aware also that our own Self or true being is one with the cosmic Self and Spirit, our nature a play of the cosmic Nature; the wall between ourselves and the universe begins to disappear and vanishes altogether. We realise the selfsame Pantheos in ourselves, in others and in all universal existence. But also by Yoga we become aware of something that is more than our individual being and more than the cosmic being, a transcendent Being or Existence which is not dependent on ours or the existence of the universe. Our existence is a manifestation of and in that Being, the cosmos also is a manifestation of and in that one Supreme Existence. This then is the Truth or Reality to which we arrive by Yoga, a one and supreme Being or Existence and Power of Being which manifests as a cosmic Self or Spirit and a cosmic Energy or Nature and in that again as our own self or spirit which becomes aware of itself as an individual being and nature. From: Essays Divine and Human
Since the dawn of history, various extraordinary phenomena have been recorded as happening amongst human beings. Witnesses are not wanting in modern times to attest to the fact of such events, even in societies living under the full blaze of modern science. The vast mass of such evidence is unreliable, as coming from ignorant, superstitious, or fraudulent persons. In many instances the so-called miracles are imitations. But what do they imitate? It is not the sign of a candid and scientific mind to throw overboard anything without proper investigation. Surface scientists, unable to explain the various extraordinary mental phenomena, strive to ignore their very existence. They are, therefore, more culpable than those who think that their prayers are answered by a being, or beings, above the clouds, or than those who believe that their petitions will make such beings change the course of the universe. The latter have the excuse of ignorance, or at least of a defective system of education, which has taught them dependence upon such beings, a dependence which has become a part of their degenerate nature. The former have no such excuse. For thousands of years such phenomena have been studied, investigated, and generalized, the whole ground of the religious faculties of man has been analyzed, and the practical result is the science of Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga does not, after the unpardonable manner of some modern scientists, deny the existence of facts which are difficult to explain; on the other hand, it gently yet in no uncertain terms tells the superstitious that miracles, and answers to prayers, and powers of faith, though true as facts, are not rendered comprehensible through the superstitious explanation of attributing them to the agency of a being, or beings, above the clouds. It declares that each man is only a conduit for the infinite ocean of knowledge and power that lies behind mankind. It teaches that desires and wants are in man, that the power of supply is also in man; and that wherever and whenever a desire, a want, a prayer has been fulfilled, it was out of this infinite magazine that the supply came, and not from any supernatural being. The idea of supernatural beings may rouse to a certain extent the power of action in man, but it also brings spiritual decay. It brings dependence; it brings fear; it brings superstition. It degenerates into a horrible belief in the natural weakness of man. There is no supernatural, says the Yogi, but there are in nature gross manifestations and subtle manifestations. The subtle are the causes, the gross the effects. The gross can be easily perceived by the senses; not so the subtle. The practice of Raja Yoga will lead to the acquisition of the more subtle perceptions. All the orthodox systems of Indian philosophy have one goal in view, the liberation of the soul through perfection. The method is by Yoga. The word Yoga covers an immense ground, but both the Sankhya and the Vedanta Schools point to Yoga in some form or other. The subject [here] is that form of Yoga known as Raja Yoga. The aphorisms of Patanjali are the highest authority on Raja Yoga, and form its textbook. The other philosophers, though occasionally differing from Patanjali in some philosophical points, have, as a rule, acceded to his method of practice a decided consent. The first part of this book comprises several lectures to classes delivered by the present writer in New York. The second part is a rather free translation of the aphorisms (Sutras) of Patanjali, with a running commentary. Effort has been made to avoid technicalities as far as possible, and to keep to the free and easy style of conversation. In the first part some simple and specific directions are given for the student who wants to practice, but all such are especially and earnestly reminded that, with few exceptions, Yoga can only be safely learnt by direct contact with a teacher. If these conversations succeed in awakening a desire for further information on the subject, the teacher will not be wanting. The system of Patanjali is based upon the system of the Sankhyas, the points of difference being very few. The two most important differences are, first, that Patanjali admits a Personal God in the form of a first teacher, while the only God the Sankhyas admit is a nearly perfected being, temporarily in charge of a cycle of creation. Second, the Yogis hold the mind to be equally all-pervading with the soul, or Purusha, and the Sankhyas do not.