Adhyatma Yoga is not a way of life, it is a way to life16 min read

In the philosophy of Yoga, the word ‘expansion’ means the approach to a state which bestows joy, security and fearlessness on a man, which is another way of saying that it provides the outer sign of an increasing awareness in him of the supreme Consciousness or God. The seeds of expansion are in all things, manifesting as a sense of growth and direction, and the urge for fulfilment; and man’s excursions into the different spheres of activity—emotional, intellectual and mystical—are made inevitable by this urgency to expand. When it comes to man’s secret business with himself—to what he fundamentally desires—this turns out to be, that he may break away from the subservient state in which he is ordered to do this or be that by the Ego, and enter and come to rest in a positive and free state, which we know to be the state of a knower of God.

Man’s conception of freedom changes as he grows in awareness, but all along he is faintly conscious of its existence and of his desire to experience its power. Imprisonment is shunned by all; it is the punishment meted out by man to his fellow- men when they transgress the accepted code of laws, and it is the punishment which the mind itself metes out to man when he transgresses the inner code of laws and maltreats it by denying it its right to grow.

This mind, or centre of reacting awareness, is in fact the only object in man to be investigated and trained. It is composed of various levels of awareness, presided over by the ego-sense, and, in a more hidden and subtle way, by a ray of the divine Consciousness, which manifests on the highest level of the mind—the Buddhi. The different departments of learning, from the lowest to- the highest, attract through their capacity to refine the mind and prepare it for its expansion, and they are indeed the vehicles of knowledge. The so-called higher mental activities, the arts and the sciences, are only considered to be high by virtue of the fact that they bring the higher reaches of the mind into play, and through this service alone they claim their devotees and their martyrs.

To take one example, philosophy. Under the guise of an intellectual structure it presents to the mind, one by one, various facets of that Truth, which is to be revealed in its entirety in due course. But the objection arises here, if the mind can be thus moulded and expanded, if it is an object and an instrument, then it cannot be the force which will lead man to freedom. There must be some other factor, an inner power, which impels it and moulds it, which must be cognisant of the end as well as of the beginning, and which is therefore outside time. If there is such a power, it cannot be subject to natural laws; in other words, it must be timeless and changeless—a divine standard of measurement.

As we have said, this Power is held, in the Vedanta philosophy, to be a ray of the supreme Consciousness, the Atman, and by virtue of its presence it bestows an appearance of reality and existence on all phenomena.

If a ray of divine Consciousness does in fact lodge within man’s mind, how is it that he does not fly, straight as a homing bird, to his goal? The rays emanating from the sun produce the cosmic food, so to say, which sustains life in all matter, and even when the sun is obscured from view, these rays still permeate the Universe, producing this hidden food whereby everything lives. In the same way, the supreme Spirit produces the semblance of consciousness in phenomena. It is invisible and intangible, yet all subsist on it and exist by virtue of it. The ray of this Spirit, which is reflected in the mind of man, is one with the great sun of Atman or God, and it is the cause of the mind’s restlessness and also of its capacity for transcendence and joy.

But it is hidden, and if he is to know directly the supreme Consciousness from which it emanates and become identified with it, man must first pass through, and emerge from, the temporal glamour which surrounds and at present obscures it, and which is like the brilliant and blinding fight which prevents the eye from having a direct sight of the sun. This power—this glamour—is called Maya in the holy philosophy, and it is at once an emanation of the divine Lord, and the cause of man’s insufficiency of knowledge of Him, for not only does it blind him to ultimate perfection, but it distorts what he can see on this temporal plane. It is a subtle conception and worthy of deep consideration. Therefore for our present purposes we will say, that just as the luminosity surrounding the sun prevents the mortal eye from regarding it directly, so Maya prevents the divinity underlying all objects from becoming apparent, and it also invests those objects with attraction and a semblance of reality which does not rightly belong to them as objects.

Having reached thus far and having suggested that, in order to claim man’s interest and devotion, any object of his attention must guarantee an opportunity for his expansion, how do we stand with regard to this Science of Adhyatma Yoga? Every day man is discovered, by those who should know, to be more and more complex. His mind is now held to be his own only in part; his thoughts and reactions are apparently not completely his own nor what they appear to be, and it is held that his emotions are most certainly not entirely his own. What will the poor thing be left with, which IS his own, when the psychologists have done picking his bones? Well, throughout the ages the spiritual schools or religions, and the secret sciences, called ‘secret’, because they can only reveal their findings to those who are attuned to them, have made pronouncements on this apparently poor creature, which are unanimous and definite. One is, that man harbours an unknown continent within him.

This continent is not synonymous with the sub-conscious of the psychologists, because according to the Knowers of Truth man will only begin to recognise his true status, when he turns within and starts to explore it. Now this is a lure, for it promises him unknown expansion and experience; but in time he will have to pass beyond the frontiers even of this country, just as he will have to pass beyond the confines of his conscious mind. The second pronouncement made by these illumined Sages or Knowers is that the deeper he penetrates into that inner continent, the more one-pointed and homogeneous does he become, until his need, his urgency, is reduced to one single motive—to know himself—which is synonymous with knowing God through the direct experience of identity.

Many will say: “But surely this fixation on one point is a restriction; it cannot bring the joy of varied and universal experience”. Well, evidently the bee thinks it can! Buzzing anxiously about, he also is in search of one thing only—nectar—and when he finds its hiding-place, he disappears into that flower and drinks long in silence and, we imagine, in ecstasy. What man desires, cannot be confined by the world of time and space—that is true—and yet it is contained in a single point.

Now it is all very well to make the assertion that man’s highest need is to know himself or God, but can we prove this? This is a vital question, because if it cannot be met, then the Yoga will have failed, for the avenue of expansion promised will be closed. No one calls for proof that the divine Consciousness or God exists, for this does not admit of mental proof, but we do seek for proof that there does exist a state in man, in which he can know this supreme

Being directly and by experience, if in fact It DOES exist. Proof is carried out by a finite instrument—the mind. It is a mental exercise, performed on a mental concept. The supra-mental does not come within its range—that is a region where the criterion of acceptance is experience, and experience of a very subtle and pure nature. It is inspirational and intuitional, and its hall-mark is a certainty which is spontaneously subscribed to on all the levels of consciousness, and it makes itself known in the form of a remembrance, rather than a newly discovered fact.

The untrained man expects every happening and statement to be held in suspension, until it has been acknowledged by his mind to be logically watertight. In other words, he expects to understand everything, finite and infinite, through his finite mind; and this is a blunder of the first water, for minds suffer from rigidity, caused by long-held ideas and desires, from disappointments and shocks, which have assailed them over a long, long period.

Therefore, as our Teacher used to say, after a certain stage we can only progress in understanding if we open up an extension to our finite mind and bring that into play; and even that extension will have to give way to something higher, as the more subtle truths begin to reveal themselves. The progression is: mental enquiry and reason first, then the extension—inner experience, and finally the inspirational and intuitional power which interprets both.

We have now introduced two words into this description of expanding awareness—intuition and inspiration, and we have thereby introduced two very dangerous concepts into this talk. It is the universal testimony of those who have reached a high state of unfoldment, that the powers of inspiration and intuition do exist but that they only emerge as active powers when the mind and its extension have reached the limit of their influence. But unfortunately the mind takes longer to reach its limit of operation than many believe. Desires, likes, dislikes, hopes and fears lurk within it, long after it seems to have reached a quiescent and voided state, and they come out again in the guise of inspiration and can reduce any situation to a comedy, or make it appear as a tragedy. What is taken for inspiration at this stage is often egoistic invention masquerading as this high power.

When I was young, I worked in a solicitor’s office, and we had two clients who were ardent and convinced Buchmanites. At one point we had to prove their father’s will, which turned out to be more complicated than had been expected. One day the firm received a letter from these two ladies in which they said that during their silent hour, when God spoke to them and they interpreted what He had to say inspirationally, they had received the following message from Him: “My children, you must leave that firm at once. They charge too much—the Estate won’t stand it”.

Well, true inspirational power is purity itself, and it requires a pure medium through which to operate, but man’s mind —his instincts, his understanding, the mental atmosphere in which he lives, moves and has his being,—is not pure, that is, if purity means to be finally free from admixture with foreign elements—to be without qualifications. The purification, training and expansion of the mind until it only acts when under the direction of these higher powers, is the purpose of the Yogic discipline and meditation; and so we now come to rest before a positive contribution offered by the Yoga, and we will try to give it some preliminary consideration.

The Yogic training involves a voluntary and temporary restriction and direction of the mental activities, and its aim is the mastery of the mental instrument and the ultimate revelation of the great powers which lie behind it. In this it is no different from any other training. To train for a running or a hurdle race necessitates temporary physical restriction and short but progressive tests.

The training of Yoga is more subtle than that for it deals with a more subtle instrument than the body, but the point to remember is that, like all other training, it is only of temporary interest and duration. It has, or should have, a term and it works towards a result, and that result is complete and unbroken freedom through knowledge and inner experience. If this idea is kept before the mind, it will create a more positive attitude towards training and will prevent the erroneous idea from arising that

Yoga is NOT a way of life, it is a way TO life, and the one who practises it must always envisage his emergence from its training rules into the life of a free being. There have been many examples of this culmination of the Yogic training even in modern times, but these illumined Ones are not easily discovered, and certainly not easily recognised for what they are even when found.

To return to the discipline. Just as in physical training you look on the body as the instrument which has to be manipulated and directed, so in the mental training the mind must be objectively considered. Before the investigator has studied the Teachings of Vedanta, he may think that, although he can detach himself from the body, it is not possible for him to detach himself from the mind, in fact that he must BE the mind. Even his way of speech encourages him in this view: “I am happy, I am angry, I am miserable, but not so miserable as I was yesterday”. But these pronouncements obviously come from some inner and detached onlooker, present both today and yesterday, and therefore in a position to arbitrate independently and with judgment between the strength of the two emotions.

Here you will remember that it was said that the mind could be moulded. Well, it is certainly not moulded by its ego, its complexes, its memories or its emotions. They can push it about and have it under duress, but they cannot mould and develop it. The moulder is that ray of the divine Spirit which dwells within the mind. You may say: “But what about my heart and my emotions, what about them? Won’t I become as dry as dust if I fix my attention on the mind alone?” Mind and heart, or rather their conscious reactions, emanate from and comprise one centre. When the emotional mode of the mind, called the Chitta in Sanskrit, is awakened, we call it the ‘heart’, and where the scientific, critical and investigating mental mode is in the ascendant, it is called the ‘mind’.

But the power which trains and transforms both levels will ultimately resolve everything into its own likeness—no—not into its likeness, but into itself— perfection; and its power lies in the fact that it is the only living—that means, the only conscious—element in man’s organism.

Now it is certain that no one will automatically accept this statement as truth, just because they have heard it. In order to satisfy himself whether it is truth or not, the hearer must seek out a Centre—a Source of information—which he feels he can trust to give him the traditional teachings in a pure and classical form, and he should remain there and receive the Truth as given there for some time, during which period he should learn to exercise the spiritual quality which is known in the philosophy as “ENQUIRY” or VICHARA.

Enquiry and investigation are not two names for the same mental activity. Investigation calls up the critical faculty and already acquired knowledge, but Enquiry starts with no preconceived ideas. It receives, one might almost say, through the ear and not through the mind, and it listens with unbiassed attention to whatever is offered. At first it receives, and that is all. It does not analyse what it receives, but takes it in as a whole, opening the mind to its impact. This is not the stage at which questions such as “Is this true? Is it workable?” arise. At first the enquirer must be like stout Cortez the explorer in Keat’s Sonnet, who with eagle eyes stared at the Pacific, while his men stood round him, gazing at it in silence.

He did not immediately consult his chart and compass, or argue with his crew as to whether this could be what they were seeking; together they stared at it in silence—taking it in. This is what is meant by enquiry, because ideas, like people, have an atmosphere which surrounds them and is individual to them, and it can only be transmitted to those who approach them unarmed. Later what goes to make up this atmosphere will be better known and assessed, but then its influence will not be sensed so strongly. Now is the time to savour what it really has to offer as its gift, and to be subtly changed by it.

To effect this change you must first find some place where the Truth is still presented without compromise, and as nearly as possible as it was first given by the illumined Sages. Then you must feed your mind’s hunger by receiving what is offered in a spirit of acceptance. After this the concepts are presented for critical consideration by your mind, and thus for their final acceptance or rejection. All the time the attention of the enquirer will be playing round the subject as a whole, and if it is not discarded as unworthy of further investigation, his preoccupation with it will deepen, until he gets his first experience of meditation. Now he will cease to wonder whether it be true, he will affirm that it is so, and the power of his affirmation will lead him deeper and deeper into the flower of Truth, like the bee, until at last he knows its perfection by the direct experience of tasting its nectar.

You may think: “I shall never find time to attempt study, what to say of meditation”. But a Zen Master has said: “If you really mean to do it, you can. You can always find five minutes for quiet even in the midst of affairs. By this five minutes’ margin nearly everything can be solved.” And again he says: “The real rest is not rest in rest, but rest in activity. Likewise meditation in activity is a hundred, a thousand, a million times superior to meditation in repose”. Here he affirms, as did our Teacher, that in the end all spiritual activities must be able to be carried out in the midst of the worldly activities.