Yoga is awakening to our true nature15 min read

Yoga is not a cause which produces desirable results. It is the effect of a hidden cause—a compelling cause—the slow but inevitable revealing in man of the presence of the basic power of the supreme Truth, the power which, in the end, and through the practices of Yoga, will be found to be identical with his real Self. Secondly, Yoga is not a way of life, it is a way of training, and as such it must have its climax, just as every other training has a climax. A man should enter Yoga for one purpose only, and it is that he shall pass out of it during this life—a liberated being—for the climax of Yoga is no other than the awakening of the disciple to his true nature, which as we have said is divine, transcendent and identical with the non-dual spirit of Consciousness, Existence and Bliss Absolute.

Now these words do not belong to the vocabulary of Yoga ; they form the backbone of the Advaita philosophy, for they are its considered and final affirmations, and the function of the Yoga is to hand on certain accredited methods through which the physical, mental and subtle equipment of the learner may be rendered fit, first to test these affirmations, then to grasp their significance, and finally to accept them, not intellectually and theoretically but as the result of direct experience and recognition.

There is but one power manifesting in varying degrees in both the macrocosm and the microcosm and it is the power of Chit (Consciousness Absolute, or God) and there is a certain resemblance between its manifestations in Nature and its manifestations in man. For example, both have their winter, their spring and their summer, but in the case of man his seasons do not recur, they appear but once, and his autumn will provide but one harvest only, after gathering which he will go out no more. In Nature, the warm rain, the appearance of flower and leaf, announce the approach of another spring. They are the visible effects of oscillations produced by this divine Consciousness which, though massed and motionless in itself, yet, in a mysterious sense, when clothed in the magic of Maya or duality, forms the background and incentive for variety, for visible beauty and for quality.

But in man, the indications of growth which appear before his spring or rather before his awakening, are different. In him the inner rhythm is symbolised by unfoldment, not by recurrence, and by the slow changing of his mental reactions and perceptions from darkness to Light. In the Cosmos, the drama is played out again and again in cycles, at due times and seasons ; in man it leads to the climax of his final liberation, and not to another seed time, the preparation for a future Spring. Still, the likeness between the manifestation of growth in Nature and in man is not entirely fanciful, although it may seem to be so. For instance, that moment when the primal power, in order to manifest outward and consciously, turns in its deep hiding place within the earth, or within man’s mind, that moment is known to both, and it is called the turn of the year.

For months the dark earth feels no movement and hears no sound, and for incarnations man also, unconscious and instinctive, has been sensible of no inner activity. He has experienced joy and sorrow, it is true, but only instinctively ; he has gained and lost with a bewildered feeling of frustration, but also with a sense of inevitability. To the untrained view he is like the winter landscape—no sign of growth anywhere— then, at a given moment, his year turns, and like the earth he begins to experience the consciousness of growth, that is, he awakens to a dim self-consciousness and a sense of direction and he starts to explore, to enjoy, and to suffer, consciously.

He is testing life, as he knows it, and is perhaps finding that it is giving way in his hands, but he is, although not fully awake as yet, maturing his hidden qualities against the time when they will become essential to his progress. At last, during some blustery incarnation, the first real sign of his spring appears, for he, following a sense of direction which he has fashioned in himself while still in the dark, underground, comes to a Centre of Spiritual learning and training, and offers his loyalty and his service in exchange for the Knowledge he will receive there.

We know that the spring in Nature is luxuriant and lovely. What beauties will man’s Spring have to show, now that it is approaching ? Ah ! my friends, this luxuriance, this wealth of sound and colour, that we see around us in Nature, is not the primary melody at the root of all things. It is but an arabesque, a descant ! It is left to man alone to refine and train his senses sufficiently to catch and sing the rare and pure root melody of the Supreme Spirit, and to hear the soundless sound from which it springs. To do this, he will have to forsake manifold variety which excites, and come to recognise the limitless nature of the One, as against the appearance of richness of the many.

In this philosophy of Advaita, unity and universality are synonymous terms. The supreme Truth is held to be a unity, which expresses itself only in a consciousness of that unity. It is not to be apprehended by a mind given over to preferences and prejudices, in other words, to a mind given over to diversity, in fact it cannot be fully cognised by the empirical mind at all. Its presence can at first only be surmised, and then only when that mind has reached a certain degree of purity. The fact that the supreme Self is, will be revealed to man in the first instance through its effects in Maya and not through its own nature in himself.

As has been said, in the world of names and forms, every object, mental and physical is infused by the supreme Spirit, and only appears in manifestation by virtue of the unseen presence and proximity of that Spirit. These objects reflect its power in varying degrees, and the drama of existence lies in the process by which the sense of perception of the viewer is gradually refined so that all objects are seen to mirror forth the subject more and more completely, until at last their essence stands revealed as identical with it.

Man is a world in himself, but like the empirical world he also, as an object, is infused by this divine essence, but here again, the fact is hidden from him and from others at first. The Self first reveals itself to him in the form of a remembrance and a recognition—like recognises like and the Self recognises the Self—and this recognition takes place in the apex of his mind, known as the higher Buddhi, the ground of inspiration and the higher supra-mental faculties. This higher Buddhi only becomes active when the lower mind has become passive, but if the pupil believes this, and works for this end, the somewhat dry practices of mind control will take on a new and creative character.

According to the Vedanta, the composite instrument through which man acts, experiences and perceives, and through which, as has been said, he will finally make the discovery of his identity with the Supreme Spirit is called in Sanscrit the Antah- karana or inner organ. This inner organ, or the mind, is held to consist of five aspects or functions—manas (the lower mind, or the unselective recording function), chitta (the function of emotion, will and memory), the lower buddhi (the function of empirical reason, the logical and discriminative faculty), the higher buddhi, which is the home of the intuitive, inspirational quality, and which does not manifest itself until the uncontrolled lower mental activity has abated, and ahankara (the ego), the villain of the piece which is not only the power behind the throne but is often found firmly seated upon it.

In company with all other phenomena the ahankara is dual by nature, being an admixture of the sense of self-reference and fixation and a reflection of the supreme Light of Truth. There is a resemblance between the mind in the body and the moon in the sky. Both shine with a borrowed light—the moon reflecting the light of the source of all empirical light, the sun, and the mind reflecting the rays of the Light of supreme Consciousness.

During the night—that is, during the period of empirical ignorance, while the positive and direct light is still hidden— both moon and mind will furnish the best, in fact the only aid to the faculty of vision, but they both give borrowed light, only man does not know it; it is dim and uncertain, but yet he is not aware of this, for he had not yet envisaged the source of their shining—in one case the great Sun, in the other the supreme Truth. Therefore any suggestion that his mind could be superseded as a luminary fills him with alarm. It is only when the brilliant Sun of Truth has mounted in his sky, and rules his mind, that man awakens to the true meaning of the word LIGHT.

Now we know what happens to the objective moon when the sun rises. It does not need to be put out of action ; it puts itself out of action by extinguishing its candle light in the Ocean of Light which is that victorious Sun, and henceforward it hangs like a pale disc in the sky, a reminder of things past. Just such an abdication is performed by the mortal mind when the full light of divine Knowledge dawns. It ceases to be the sole source of vision, for its findings are blurred when compared with the certainty established by the light of Reality. It can therefore no longer be regarded as the true and only source of knowledge, although it is still employed by its owner on the more menial tasks.

Now I hope that I have shown that Self-revelation and the eclipse of ignorance and egoism—in other words the rising of the non-dual Sun of Truth, and the waning of the moon of duality—are the motive powers behind this Yoga.

Most of the practices given to the disciple during his training fall into one or the other of these two categories—those furthering the rise of the positive and supreme knowledge of Self, and those which bring about the breaking down of the power of the ego. The positive practices are those which promote a constant remembrance of the nature of the Self which is described in the dictum KHAM BRAHMAN (All is Brahman),

SO HUM (I am He),

or OM (the mystic syllable denoting Brahman.)

These practices are the practice of meditation and the repetition of the mantram, and in both the focus for contemplation is the basic truth of the fact of the supreme Reality or God, and the result of their long and dedicated performance is that the mind slowly loses its restlessness and preoccupation with detail, and allows the presence of the great supra-mental powers of inspiration and the sense of freedom and universality to reveal themselves within it. It must always be remembered, however, that the practice of meditation does not cease when you rise from the posture—when you ‘ break your meditation ’ as it is called. The sense of the meditation should continue in an interior form as a background for the activities throughout the day, or at any rate it should be resuscitated and contemplated at intervals during the day.

The repetition of the mantram is a practice which is based on laws of sound and rhythm which are not generally known in the West as yet. These mantrams have power, and are only imparted at the discretion of a Teacher, but the rhythm established by a reiteration of the idea or the sentence, and the actual sound of it, affect and change the inner rhythm of the pupil and serve to intensify the vision of Self which is growing up, perhaps unperceived in his mind.

The result of these two practices, which should be a growing recognition of the reality of the Omnipresent and supreme Truth, will not take place if their practice is restricted to the actual time allotted to them. The disciple must train himself to make the Truth contained in the meditation a background to his life, his day and all his activities, and not merely an intermittent interest. When the words ‘ a background to his life ’ and so on are used, don’t imagine that this involves active and uninterrupted thought on the subject throughout the day, for this would obviously be impossible in a busy life. It involves a preliminary recognition of the root of all meditations—the all-pervadingness of the divine Power and then firm reliance on this fact.

Brahman (God) must be visualised as all-pervading and as being as essential to man as the air he breathes and on which he depends for life. The fact of the universal yet invisible presence of air, and one’s dependence on it, is a certainty established at the back of every mind, and all activities are carried on under the assumption that it is a fact. This assumption is the fruit of an original and an instinctive acceptance, and it does not need to be supported by a constant mental effort.

In the same way the Truth, or the fact of KHAM BRAHMAN (All is Brahman) which has already been consciously accepted during meditation, should be relied upon and not merely thought about during the day, that is, it should be visualised as the all-pervading element which forms the background for all action, and which provides the power and the knowledge through which action may be successfully carried out.

The practices which bring about the waning of the power of the ego are first and foremost worship or devotion, through which the disciple learns to forget his own self and to live intensely and selflessly in the aura of another focus. Worship should be able to obliterate the sense of ego, but often it gives rise to a more subtle form of it, born of a false sense of uniqueness, and a proprietory interest in the object of worship.

However the risk must be run, for there is no practice which attacks the ego so directly as devotion and worship.

The last practice is mind control and the directing and conserving of its energies. Here again it must be repeated that none of these practices will take root and become natural, that is, become a part of life, unless they are played out against a background of spiritual awareness. If practised by themselves they may appear to have results, but these results will only be temporary, because the mind always goes where it finds or expects to find most joy, and unless it is trained to long for the direct sight of the divine Truth, mind control is only control by force and no more, and its results will disappear if the control is withdrawn.

There is a poem by an old poet of the last century which described the passing nature of these gestures which are compelled by an outer force only. It can be used to illustrate what I have been saying, although the poet certainly never meant his poem to be thought of in this connection. He says :

I drew towards me a bough of May
That I might see and smell.
It bore it, in a sort of way,
It bore it very well.
But when I let it backward sway,
O it were hard to tell
With what a toss, with what a swing,
The lovely thing,
Resumed its proper level,
And sent me to the devil.

After that the poet goes on with his own affairs, which are not strictly relevant to our theme.

You draw the mind towards you and you think that by bringing it under direct scrutiny you are controlling it, or rather that it is willing to be controlled. But you are wrong, for it is only submitting temporarily to a superior force and it will put all that right when your concentration wavers. With a joyous bound it will resume its proper level and send you to the devil.

The only force which can control the mind is that superior force which can make it control itself, the force of a growing longing for something it is beginning to desire—greater expansion and joy through direct knowledge of the truth contained in the meditation. If that remembrance is forever being laid aside in favour of more immediate interests, the longing and the love will not spring up to direct the mind, and mind control will be a name only.

To go back for a moment. The motive power behind Yoga is the supreme Reality slowly manifesting itself within the heart of the disciple and so awakening in him the longing for its climax, Self-realisation. This longing is produced by keeping the truth at the back of the mind throughout the working day, and relying on its presence as we rely on the air we breathe and bringing it forward at intervals, or at given times, in order to intensify the certainty of its presence and its truth. Where this progression in training is followed even in part, the application of force becomes out of place, for the mind will, in the end, control itself through its intense desire to see and know.