The most important element in the human personality is neither the body nor the mind, but consciousness. When consciousness ceases to function on the physical plane, the body is pronounced dead. When consciousness functions in a distorted way on the mental plane, then the mind is pronounced lunatic. When consciousness plays its part in a proper and adequate way in the body and the mind, then man fulfils the purpose of his being, that is he becomes omniscient, above all the conditions of matter, untouched by grief, by woe, by feelings of differences, and in a state of unbreakable bliss.
Is consciousness a product of the human brain cells, as some dogmatic philosophers seem to hold? Over half a century ago, Professor William James came from America and delivered two lectures in Scotland, the Gifford Lectures. If you read them you will be convinced that consciousness is not a product of the human brain but that it is a force all-pervasive and mighty, which passes through the human brain and proceeds from what is called the mind, and then expresses itself through the mind and then also it passes through the body and produces f life and the senses, and so forth.
Narrow dogmatic and destructive thoughts make a greater appeal because they are easy, but all that is easy is not true.
Alfred North Whitehead, in several of his books, particularly the one called ‘Science and Philosophy’, has left no objection on this point unanswered.
Your own experience is the final test. How can a man be unreasonable enough to know and say that consciousness is generated by the brain cells when we know for certain, a fact which is admitted by each and every biologist, that life cannot be created out of matter. There is no single biologist who contradicts this principle, and consciousness is even higher than life; then if life is irreproduceable by matter, consciousness is infinitely less a product of matter.
Consciousness is comparable to the inner light under which you differentiate between one thought and another. You evaluate your emotions, you make your resolution, and you know that faculty called consciousness or awareness. It is the inner fight and the most important element in the human personality. It is immutable, not subject to the law of cause and effect, it is all-pervasive, it is free and it is bliss.
Now I proceed to the practical side of it. Repression of primary consciousness—please note it—repression or suppression of primary consciousness opens the way to the higher consciousness. The primary consciousness is consciousness through the senses.
I give you an example: when a person is put into a state of hypnosis, what happens? His primary or sensual consciousness is suppressed and he can answer questions and do things which in his ordinary state of consciousness he cannot do and has no knowledge of. Why does this happen? Because the primary consciousness is suppressed. Therefore, to awaken in us the Infinite Consciousness, the real nature of our consciousness, we have to suppress at some time, not always, but at the time of our prayer and our meditation, our sense consciousness, and then our mental consciousness. Firstly, withdraw your mind from the outer objects; secondly, transcend your mind beyond all thoughts, and when you do that you will be conscious in you of the Presence Divine.
In his memoirs, Goethe writes that when he was a boy he used to be very afraid of standing on a height looking down, his inner being began to shrivel if he looked down from high places. How did he conquer it? He started going higher and higher until he was standing on a little raised platform several hundred feet above the ground. The first effect was giddiness, limitation of the mental functions, confusion, but he withdrew his consciousness from all that, and from that time he was never afraid of giddiness or any feeling at heights. Thus Goethe conquered this fear, and being a Mahatma, he had conquered many lower aspects of the soul.
In our daily life if we want to achieve anything by way of Yoga or any other ways, then the first thing to do is to cultivate the ability to withdraw the consciousness from sense objects and slowly learn how to concentrate the mind on one of the great virtues, and finally by meditations, which are fixed and time-honoured, to supersede the mental consciousness. Many people think they are not fit to learn mathematics or other subjects, but when they say so they are deceiving themselves. If they apply this method they can learn anything. When Hegel had his first certificate from the Gymnasium, it was remarked —“This boy has no aptitude for philosophy—he will never be able to apply his mind to philosophical contemplation.”
What is the result? Hegel superseded both Plato and Aristotle and left a ladder for generations to follow, higher than anything yet constructed.
Freedom is in the soul of man; Bliss is in the soul of man; Joy is in the soul of man; Inspiration is in the soul of man. It is a mistake to think ‘London is not warm enough!’ If you went to the South of France you would still not be satisfied. No. These things reside in the mind, they are the nature of the mind. What is to be done? By controlling the external conditions and by controlling our food and sleep, I do not say annihilate but control, we aid the opening of the inner and the higher consciousness. This consciousness I am talking of is the supra- mental consciousness. By food I mean pure food, and not to be over-filling our system with food. As for sleep, let us care for quality rather than quantity.
Sleep of good quality, say four or five hours, is better than twelve hours of restless sleep without 1 relaxation. The quality of food is determined not only by the I presence of vitamins and calories, but something more which is called Sattva, or the element of light which is found in food. So by these three means and learning to restrain our sense consciousness, we open up the higher channels of consciousness.
I knew the great Mahatma, Swami Rama Thirtha, and two : things I noticed about him: he ate so little that I think the calory value was hardly 500. I used to cook for him and wait upon him, and this fact surprised me, but the energy in him was tremendous. He could study twelve or thirteen hours at one !! stretch; he could walk miles and miles; he could hold a conversation sometimes for eighteen hours, living on that little food.
As a post-mortem examination showed, Napoleon had a body as delicate and tender as a woman, but he could ride for three days and nights on the saddle of a horse without being tired, and even in St. Helena, when the wrong way of life was telling on his health, he could dictate sometimes for sixteen hours to those who accompanied him in his exile.
So remember, those estimates of calories and vitamins are true only up to a certain point; when your mind becomes ; refined you derive nourishment more from the soul within than from outer sources.
Consciousness is expressed in thought; by thought I mean the mental life, memory, emotions, and so on. Consciousness expresses itself in the form of thoughts, but if you can eliminate all the contents of your mind by forgetting them, then you open up the great Consciousness, and then you have a feeling of appreciation of Truth. It is not a brilliant mind that is necessary, , what we need is a refined mind, a mind which can act on outer objects and also act on its own self. The secret of Yoga is, when the mind acts upon itself, it opens up the channels of countless hidden powers—virtues, freedom and bliss.
What is the first stratum of the meditative consciousness? The mind emptied of all its contents working upon itself. When you are taught to concentrate on an outer object it is merely a desideratum, it is not an ultimatum. The ultimatum is that you may learn how to fix your mind on itself. Just as by rubbing two soft pieces of wood you can generate sparks of fire, so your mind, when acting on itself, when it has been rendered completely content-less, it generates the fire of Truth, it is then that you have the feeling called love and not before.
Now I can give you a few more practical hints on what we call the life of contemplation.
A fife of action is important I do agree, but the Truth lies not in the life of action, but in the life of contemplation. This is the dictum of Aristotle. Aristotle ends his philosophy on this note —“Contemplation of the Highest within,” and he was a contemplative.
What aids the life of contemplation? I think ] many of you have heard the Sanskrit word ‘Vairagya.’ I do not j know how to translate it, and therefore I can only give you the meaning. It consists of a prefix and a root: ‘Vi’ is the prefix, which means negation, and ‘rag’ means the pleasurable association, contact or thought of an object. That is to say, negation of the habit of thinking the outer objects to be the source of real pleasure.
In English it has been translated as ‘Indifference,’ but the word does not give the real meaning, whereas the word ‘Vairagya’ is a most beautiful word in the holy vocabulary. A man of Vairagya is he who goes out and whatever he sees or whatever is reflected in his consciousness he tries to evaluate it, first that it is all passing, second that it has some lessons to teach, as the Chinese do, and third he is also conscious of what he should let linger in his mind and what he should expel.
What the Freudians and the philosophy of Adler call complexes is all due to this—that we do not analyse the impressions we receive from the outer world and that we do not evaluate them, and the one word which shows their evaluation is Vairagya. We must live the life of Vairagya. No object, no person, no concept, no amusement should be able to have its hold on your soul. This was a condition of the contract between Faust and Mephistopholes.
The terms of the contract of Faust were: “If I say to any event ‘Stay!’ I lose the wager.”
That is to say, “I will remain in such a state of detachment that whatever comes it is not so important as to live as a permanent guest in my mind.” This sums up the real secret of living well. If this secret had been taught to men like Hitler and the Nazis and those who oppress others in order to get certain satisfaction, they would have realised that satisfaction lies in the repression of hate and in the contemplation of subjective things. But they forgot this, and hence the chaos of the world.
Let us live in our mind as we live in a temple. Everything is in order in a temple; there is a symbol of the Supreme Being in it, and that Supreme Being is Consciousness reflected in our mind as our ‘I,’ the real ‘I,’ and he who lives in this temple hardly needs an outer temple.
The Ultimate Truth, call it Ultimate Reality, call it God, call it Kingdom of Heaven, all these words are synonymous, is a soul vision. Now the English word ‘vision’ I consider is an important word. Vision is not something which you see in the outer world.
Men of vision are the men who are called prophets, sages and poets. The Sanskrit word for a poet, like the Hebrew word, is translated as a man high, wise, who sees the essence of things. These are the results of vision. Vision is an external picture flashed into our controlled and purified intellect to give us a hint, a symbol of God, the Substratum of the universe. So our duty is to obtain vision.
In one of his Dialogues, Plato shows very little patience with men of opinion, and he says—“I want men of vision, not men of opinion.”
As many men, so many opinions; as many prophets, one vision. Therefore, let us try to be men of vision. We read an opinion of this and that; I have been a student all my life, but I do not study opinions at all—I study visions.
Let all reading of nonsensical literature go, read The Imitation of Christ, the Fourth Gospel, the Holy Gita, the works of Hafiz and others, the works of Aristotle and Goethe.
You may have a vision one day. What is vision? Vision is the consciousness in which the subject-object relationship is completely negated. The objective consciousness is negated by dwelling on the truth which Buddha has given—‘All is passing, it is not worth while.’
When the subject is negated, the object is negated of itself. If you withdraw food from a man, he is no longer an eater—he is only an eater as long as he is eating. We must negate the objective consciousness, and the objective consciousness springs from that phase of ignorance which is called desire, particularly pleasure desire, and if this is conquered by devotion to God, by deep study, by meditation, by service of the Teacher, then we become men of vision.
What is that vision? There is a term in Sanskrit for it; Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat means Truth, Chit means Consciousness, Ananda means Bliss. That is to say a new phase of consciousness delights the human mind. This is called Reality Consciousness, this is called true Consciousness, and to realise this is the goal of Yoga.