Towards Higher Knowledge

-11-sep-2020

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towards higher knowledge

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 [1] 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 [2]. 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 [3] 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

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