Yoga is the ascension of the mind from its present state of turpitude, passion-struggle, and final equilibrium, into the higher state of illumination. The word ‘ascension’ has no spatial connotation; it just means lifting the mind from one state to another. It is a great secret. The man who knows how to change his thought, without getting excited, from one state to another knows the secret of living and happiness.
If the mind is left to itself, then according to the psychological law of association very often it presents pictures in the imagination. Habit plays a very important part in our mind, as in the parts of our body. Habit formation is one of the most important parts of our nature. He who knows how to form good and useful habits is a wise man and a yogi.
The yogi rides his mind as a rider his horse. He controls and leads it to the desirable channels and restrains it from the useless channels. It costs exertion, just as walking and seeing cost exertion, and exertion leads to depletion of our stock of energy.
There is only one energy, which is called Prana. It expresses itself through muscles, senses and through the mind. If we make an indiscriminate and inordinate use of it physically or mentally, we are sure to suffer from exhaustion or depletion of the energy. When there is depletion of the mental energy, man becomes neurotic. He lives in a world of imagination, loses the balance of his mind, and suffers from a hundred allied complaints.
Therefore economise the mental energy. Every now and then replenish it, and be much more economical and judicious in the use of the mental energy than with money. To spend affection on a dog, which should be given to human beings who can be improved by that love, is waste. If a woman does that, she is not only making a wrong use of the faculty of affection, but depleting herself and risking neurosis.
Love is a most precious element in man’s being. The only object that deserves it, more than anything else, is truth.
Fanaticism is condemned in each and every religion. When you shut your eyes deliberately to any other truth than the one to which you have pinned your faith, you are no longer human.
Practise how to direct the mind from one point to another. Then, if you are also able to stay the mind on one point as long as you like, you are on the way to true meditation. Many people cannot at present concentrate the mind on an abstraction, such as the philosophical doctrine of the Forms of Plato, or the Non-Duality of Shankara. Then they are advised to choose their God for contemplation. But be open-minded: if you love Jesus, you love the truth in Jesus and not necessarily the body. The truth of Jesus is all living. He was and is and will always be alive, and the worship of a corpse does no good. St. Teresa was in love with the child Jesus, and so were many other saints of God. You should also see Jesus in Rama, in Krishna, and in the saints of other religions.
The morning is the best time for meditation. If you always want to sleep late, and on Sundays up to half-past eleven, you can acquire nothing whatsoever. It is all Tamas.
Study, and uproot the mind from the muddy field of passions. Avoid likes and dislikes and narrowness of vision: this is called the ground of Yoga. It is an all-time occupation. Yoga is not to be practised only on the stage. It is practised in the deep silence of the heart, in which you try to imagine the omnipotent omniscient Lord present in the form of your own consciousness.
Now I present to you a conception in the form of a house of several storeys. The first, the foundation, is what I called ‘ascension’. Then I told you just now of the ground floor, the ground of Yoga.
In the first storey you have to climb through the steps of pride, egoity and love of power. If you are a student of history you will learn valuable lessons about the consequences of excess of pride, egoity and love of power. You have to crush them under the feet.
The next storey is the practice of goodness, devotion and self-control. Self-control means practice of devotion, because control of the mind is like control of a horse, not control of a machine. You make a horse steady, and then you change its career to another direction. To be a good rider does not mean to stop the horse and remain still. But if the horse tries to get out of control, you make it quiet and stop it with a view to give another direction to it.
Control thoughts, emotions, and more than all, control the will. When you have controlled them, you give them another direction, partly ethical and partly psychological. The ethical part is: goodness, peace, forgiveness, tranquillity, harmlessness. The psychological part is: meditation, reflection and Nididhyasana.
In the final storey you come to peace, devotion, ego-negation and God-vision. When you have had God-vision, you have had all you wanted. It may appear at present meaningless. When I was a youth, I used to ask for descriptions of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas. Some said one thing and some another. From the various descriptions I got some sort of idea. But only when I saw them with my own eyes did I really understand what no picture, no talk, no conversation, had conveyed.
Take this word ‘God-vision’, and keep the meaning in reserve till you have reached it. Nothing which is high and ecstatic can be described positively. Negatively it can be described as no discontent, no strife, no duality, no suffering, no desire for anything else in the soul, because you will have achieved the highest and there is nothing higher than that.
Those who have studied the philosophy of Shri Shankara have given up their pleasures to pursue inner realisation, have given up all they held dearest. And so will even a power- fanatic if he becomes convinced of the theory of God-vision.
There is an illustration used by the Jewish Rabbis: it comes from the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, who wrote the “Guide to the Perplexed”.
A man was travelling in a field, when there was a mist. He saw something like a stump of a tree and thought it was that. He came nearer and saw it was a man, then closer still and saw it was his own brother.
If you will follow and practise the holy yoga, first you will think it the stump of a tree, that is meaningless. Life was meaningless to the Romans. The whole tenor of the Stoic philosophy was to commit suicide. In Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” the last lines give this idea well. But when you come nearer, you will find the whole world is alive.
Stones, earth, trees are alive. You will find all is unity and all works for good. That is equivalent to seeing that the imagined stump of a tree was a man. When you come nearer still, through negation of the old self and devotion, you will find: “It is my brother”. You will find the whole world is my Self, the stars my expression, the mountains my manifestation, the woods and forests my consciousness.
Every object is in a state of motion. If you study the functions and structure of an atom, you will find that the electrons are in a state of motion and are sending out radiations at unimaginable speeds. The table, the objects, the walls and stones are all in a state of constant motion. Molecules are in vibration; motion takes place in space, and space has to be lit by the power of receptivity so that motion may penetrate through it. That is light-space, and that light is God. From God the atoms and molecules have come; it is all light, and light is God.
Tajjalan iti—“From Him it comes forth, by Him it is sustained, and to Him it finally returns and is dissolved.”
The reality thus found in atoms, which is the basis and support of every phenomenon, subjective and objective, in the world, is Sakshi, consciousness, one and alone and free from attributes (Kevalo nirgunashchci).
People ask: “Where is God in us?” The senses are not God because they change. Mind is not God because mind changes. Some stupid people say that fife is God. But life is in constant motion, it appears and disappears. How can an object which has these changing attributes be God, which is all-pervasive, immutable? Life, mind, senses, are not God. What is God? That element in you which witnesses motion and rest, that is God.
In Sanskrit it is called Sakshi. The element which knows that the waking and dream and dreamless sleep have passed away, he who took note of them without being identified and correlated with any of them, is God in man.
In your state of meditation try to find out: “Who is this witness element in me?” We do not say the ‘knower’, because knower is a relative term. There is no knower unless there is a known. The existence of the knower depends on the known and vice versa. If there is no knower of the rainbow, there can be no rainbow. The senses create the picture, and the mind receives the picture and says: “I see objects”. But really it sees only pictures.
The word Kevala means not one, not two, not three. There is no English word for it; only a language highly developed philosophically can find a word for this. Where there is ‘this’ and ‘not this’, there is no existence in the form of substratum or abiding, it is all words, words, words, and has no reality, as Shri Shankara says. It is a matter of realisation. After a theoretical understanding we have to practise. Yoga is study, undergoing the discipline, meditating, and keeping the Sangha life.
Contact the spirit of God. First create silence within and silence without.
Unless you know how to create silence within, you cannot create silence without.
It does not mean running to a place where there is no noise, but it means what the Japanese samurai used to do: in the thick of the battle, in the rain of arrows, he could go into a state of meditation and into a state of ecstasy, because the samurai’s training was not only to learn the art of war but at the same time the art of meditation. He was not like the soldiers who pillage and oppress. Each and every soldier was a poet, almost a holy man, because they were taught the art of poetry and the art of meditation, which go together.
Confucius said: “Teach a man philosophy twelve years and then he is fit to be a soldier, otherwise he will only be a means of destruction.”
Outer silence means that you may be in a crowd but your mind is united with the image of God in your heart and you are not bothered by that crowd. By elevating the mind to the spot Trikuti (between the eyebrows), you are able to keep silence.
Retirement is necessary occasionally to a silent spot, as a matter of practice. But the real thing is to make the mind of such a nature that nothing can move it. Meditate that God- consciousness is an infinite sea. You are a log of wood. The whole universe is like a log of wood carried in the sea. Sometimes in the middle of the current, sometimes on the peak of a great wave, sometimes in a whirlpool. But detached, unconcerned, resigned—such ultimately the man has to be. To be voluntarily and consciously a log of wood in the ocean of consciousness, in which the mind and ego (as Vidyaranya says) come and go by the wind of Maya, like the ripples and foam, but the sea is unconcerned with them—this is some proficiency in yoga, but it will never come by standing on the head, or by breathing, as in Hatha yoga.
Only God is, and you are not, and nothing else is. This state is obtainable. My studies of over fifty-five years have not made me an anti-idealist; a student of Shankara has to be a great realist. But our realism differs from that of Lucretius. But it is all the same realism, and the supreme height of realism is when you feel you are in God, God is in you. You are not, God is; God is also not, and what is it? Who can say?
Who can describe it? Neti Neti, Neti Neti, says the Upanishad:
Not this not this, not this, not this.