According to the Holy Tradition, Liberation means release into normality or wholeness of being. Our present existence is not, as we are pleased to call it, ‘ normal’: it is only partial living or being. Space enclosed in a jar is circumscribed by the formation of the jar, and ‘being ‘ enclosed in personality is limited to the biases, prejudices and ignorance of that personality. To release space as limited in the jar interior, we must break the jar ; to release consciousness from the limitations of ignorance in the form of individualisation, to enjoy ‘ being ’ in its fullness, we must dissolve all the distortions that shape our particular personality. We are pinioned birds longing to fly in the empyrean of bliss and immortality and we have not found a way of escape from the world of change, where we suffer in insecurity and frustration.
Keys to open the door of our prison house are offered in Adhyatma Yoga, but although we may accept them, they are of little use, no matter how burnished or appreciated by us, if we do not insert them in the lock and turn them in order to open the door and walk out into the garden of beatitude. It is a human frailty to acknowledge and approve the higher and follow the lower : it is far easier to say, “ How dreadful are the conditions under which some human beings live “ or, “ How awful cancer is ” than to be a Florence Nightingale or a Madame Curie. Thousands of people have listened with approval to edifying lectures and sermons without being changed by them ; the key has never been inserted or turned. We apply the mind and the emotions but omit the most important function of all—the will : unless the will is brought into play, we shall never enjoy what is our birthright and spiritual heritage. We are poverty-stricken in our limited and circumscribed lives, yet we are the possessors of untold riches, the source of which most of us have never tapped and often never suspected.
Most people think that the mystic is set apart, someone specially gifted with a supernatural sense, but it is not so : we are all mystics but we do not know it and, like the king who dreams he is a beggar, we crave for this and that when it is ours already. He who proclaims the truth to those still imprisoned in not-truth is like the man who stands by the bedside of a friend crying out in a nightmare and, gently shaking him, says, “ Wake up, you are dreaming ”. This dream called relativity is not reality or wholeness of being at all. In this dream there are some who stir in their uneasy slumbers and perhaps even open their eyes for a few seconds, but prefer to fall back into sleep rather than exert themselves to awaken fully : there are others who, disturbed by some unpleasant vision, almost awaken fully ; often they are the ones who suffer in relativity and come nearer to truth in this way.
In fact, most of us have some impression of this waking in our ordinary lives but we do not recognise it for what it is. By way of illustration, here are three passages chosen at random from the writings of men and women who have laid no claim to supernatural experience or sanctity of living.
First let us take Georges Sand, a woman who lived life to the full, emotionally and mentally, unconfined by any conventional outlook. She writes :
“ There are times when I escape from myself, when I five in a plant, when I feel myself to be the grass, a bird, the horizon’s edge; times when I run or fly or swim or drink the dew or expand to the sun or sleep under the leaves or skim in the sky with the larks ; when I crawl with lizards or twinkle in the stars and the glow-worms. … I am not dreaming at all when, before the edifice of the rocks, I feel these mighty bones of nature are my own and that my spirit’s calm partakes of their apparent death.”
And now a gardener :
“ Everyone has, at times, some experiences he cannot explain. In the early morning in a garden, sometimes identity is lost and one seems to be at one with growing things—an experience perhaps akin to another aspect of being. Call it what name you will, some power beyond our usual capacities comes into action on these occasions. It does not seem possible to produce proof on demand of these flashes of insight; they are elusive and efforts to make them manifest fail, but they are experienced.”
Out of thousands of similar quotations we must content ourselves with one more—from Tennyson :
“ I have frequently had, from boyhood, when I have been all alone, a kind of waking trance. This has come to me through repeating my own name silently till, all at once as it were, out of the intensity of the consciousness of individuality, individuality itself seemed to dissolve and fade away into boundless being, and this not a confused state but the clearest, the surest of the sure, utterly beyond words, where death was an almost laughable impossibility; the loss of personality—if so it were— seeming not extinction but the only true life. This experience is no nebulous ecstasy but a state of transcendent wonder associated with absolute clarity of mind”.
In these three examples it will be noticed that the writers have not connected their experiences with religion in its dogmatic form, yet they all experienced identity with the whole of being for a brief space and, in that identity, they also experienced the radiant bliss which is the very essence of that being. They came upon that which always exists, yet remains hidden while the mind is occupied with phenomena: they were, so to speak, taken unawares in the sequence of ordinary living, because the boat of their personality was, for those few moments, in a position where the wind of truth could fill the sails and bear it on the course that leads to liberation.
These experiences are not uncommon, although some may be but an instant’s feeling of exaltation and release from limitation, and they point to an undeniable fact ; they are glimpses of what might be our normal state. We find, however, that we cannot control these moments in our present condition and that if we want to make permanent what, though exquisite as an experience, is temporary, we have to apply ourselves to the methods that will bring about release or liberation, the methods offered in Adhyatma Yoga.
In The Face of Silence, a book on the life of Ramakrishna, a story is told of a merchant who came to see the Saint and begged for mystical experience.
Ramakrishna replied, “You could not sustain such an experience in your present state The man, however, persisted in his request and eventually Ramakrishna acceded to it and, according him the grace, touched him : immediately the man was writhing in agony on the ground : the Saint then lifted him up and restored him to his normal consciousness”.
The negative emotions such as fear, anger, hatred and malice with which the mind of the merchant was filled, constituted a kind of poison which the flow of consciousness had released. It is on this account that every spiritual tradition has insisted upon a period of discipline and purification of the instrument so that it may be able to receive the divine influx. ‘ You must be emptied to be filled ’ is a classical saying in this context.
Every thinker and every artist knows that to see the real significance of anything the mind and emotions must be absolutely still, just as we must wait for a sediment to settle before we can see clearly the bed of a river. Each one may bring this about by different means— Michelangelo, for example, stared at a crack in the pavement—but the results of such artistic or poetic inspirational creativity are temporary ; they cannot be called down at will or commanded to remain ; they are glimpses only of higher consciousness and not an abiding in it.
Adhyatma Yoga, however, leads the aspirant by purification and control of the personality to live in the normal habitat of the soul or spirit in man, which has been overlaid by ignorance in the form of prejudice, bias and other negative emotions. The soul of man has its natural habitat in a consciousness expanded to infinity, but through ignorance, it accepts the contracted space of a petty mental horizon as its home, until some merciful jolting apprises it of its limitations and wakes the yearning for its limitless abode.
If we want to enjoy our normal state of being, we must use the keys given us in Yoga to silence the clamour put up by the mind ; then we become aware of bliss and ‘ the peace of God which passeth all understanding. Every experience, whether objective or emotional, is energised by consciousness and when this consciousness of an object or an emotion comes up against the consciousness in the mind, the impact throws up a wave or vritti: thus, the mind which is preoccupied with objects and emotions is kept in a state of continual movement or oscillation. It is only when the mind becomes waveless that Reality is seen, and the mystic gaze is just that waveless awareness.
It is true that, like the acquisition of any other craft or technique, the process of Yoga may be uncomfortable. All discipline is uncomfortable, and the scouring of the heart and mind is not without suffering ; but to find and be at one with that which has been described as the ‘ passionless impersonality—which is discoverable by science everywhere behind the veil of phenomena and which holds the infinity of beauty, bliss and experience that no desire has ever apprehended—to find such beatitude and to abide in it, not for a moment, but forever, is surely worth a million sacrifices. We cannot expect to find the Koh-i-noor and purchase it without exertion or at the price of a Wallmart product. How strange it is that humanity, ever dissatisfied, clings to the fragment rather than seek the whole, for ‘ we have bartered diamonds for glass, our smiles for tears, eternity for now.
We want, but we do not want to pay the price ; we fear to discard the paltry rags of personality and possession in order to be attired in the transcendent robes of ineffable and immortal bliss. How the Incarnations of God and their messengers have implored us to dare ; did not Christ say, ‘ How oft would I have gathered you under my wings and ye would not!’
How are we to be persuaded ? History shows with glaring certainty where all human achievement on the plane of relativity ends. Kingdoms and crowns must tumble down and in the dust be equal made, as were Alexander, Ghengiz Khan, Caesar, Napoleon and Hitler : there is no security or satisfaction here.
Yoga invites us to build on a rock, the rock of Truth and Reality that will never be swept away.