The Struggle for Perfection
THE STRUGGLE FOR PERFECTION
A DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY PUBLICATION
Fifth Reprint: 1989
World Wide Web (WWW) Edition : 1998
WWW site: https://www.dlshq.org/
This WWW reprint is for free distribution
(c) The Divine Life Trust Society
THE DIVINE LIFE SOCIETY
P.O. Shivanandanagar–249 192
Distt. Tehri-Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh,
- The Structure Of Existence
- The Progress Towards The Absolute
- Personal And Social Implications
- The Bearing Of Knowledge On Social Life
Human life may be regarded as a process of successive achievements, and every movementin this process is a step taken towards the actualisation of the ideal which beckons oneto itself. All beings, whatever be in the cosmos, are comprehended by this single law,-thelaw of a striving for higher achievements. In this struggle to achieve the higher, onerealises pleasure. It is well said that man never is; he is always to be. We do notentirely live in the present. There is an element of the future in what we do, and wenever confine ourselves to the present merely. This means to say that we identifyourselves, though in a covert manner, with an ideal to be achieved in the future, which,we hope, will bring us a larger satisfaction. If the future is not ingrained in thepresent, how could there be such a thing as hope? That we cannot keep quiet, that wealways feel a duty before us, is enough indication that we are wound up with a future. Itis also not true that we wholly live in the future, because the future cannot be containedin the consciousness of the present. Time cannot take a jump beyond the present, which isits core. We might hope for the future, but we cannot live in the future. Life is always apresent.
If, then, it is impossible to have a ‘real’ satisfaction in the ‘future’, and if wecannot also live without a future, there would appear to be a tension, or contradiction,in our life. Life is a battle between the present and the future, between our affairs oftoday and our future hopes. The present and future cannot join in time, and yet thereseems to be a superhuman element, transcending human understanding which somehow connectsthe two together. With all this, still, we know that the present and the future never cometogether. All this may look like a logical untenability, but logic is not all, and scienceis not everything. What, to us, seems a possibility, need not exhaust all wisdom. Wecannot understand how it is possible to reconcile our present difficulty with our longingsof the future. We seem to be wanting something which is not within our present perception,and feel happy about what we know not. Are we not foolish in trying to achieve theimpossible? We seem to be fighting with time itself, which bifurcates the present from thefuture. And what we want is not bifurcation but union of the present and future. Our soulscry for that which cannot be given in time. There is something in us which time cannotexplain, for it is not in time. The one which ‘asks’ is not human, and so the human mindcannot understand the significance of this epic war. Where does this asking for ‘more’ and’more’ end? It does not end in time, because there is no end to time, just as there is noend to the horizon. As we proceed towards the horizon, it recedes from us. Whatever be oureffort to probe into the future, it cannot be successful, even if we are to live for athousand years. Are we then to conclude that we are bound only to hope and struggle, butachieve nothing? Is this our fate,-to suffer for no reason? Or, is there some meaning inlife? Something in us voices that life has a significance, which makes us daily work sohard. A marvel indeed is human life!
What are we hoping to achieve then? Logically argued, the effort would appear to be avain pursuit. If the life we have lived for so many years, so far, has not brought usanything worth the while, what is the guarantee that it is going to bring something in thefuture? This would be the result of an investigation of human life from the point of viewof mind, psychology and logic. Though all this may be correct as far as it goes, somethingseems to be announcing another truth altogether, something which cannot reconcile itselfwith any of the above observations. A timeless Spirit seems to speak from within us. Itdefies time and we seem to be living a timeless existence. The difficulty in reconcilingthe present with the future is there only so long as we live in time. All that is in timeis tantalising; it makes a promise which it never fulfils. The eternal seems to masqueradein time and we seem to have something in us more than what we appear to be to ourselves aswell as to others. We are not mere humans, and our relations are not merely social. Ourconnections with others, our name, age, height, weight, etc., are not a real descriptionof ourselves, because these have no relation to the eternal in us, which asks for what isnot in time at all. We make artificial adjustments in our life to bring about a falsesatisfaction that our wish has been fulfilled, and that our future has been brought to thepresent. The realisation of a hope has a meaning when it identifies itself with thepresent, which is the nature of consciousness. People generally complain: “We havemade so much sacrifice, but they have brought us no recompense. Then, what is the good ofall this?”
But, this is one side of the picture. That our outer circumstances often lookunattractive is a part of truth, and our wisdom does not consist in merely accepting thison its surface. The pains of life are due to the wrong adjustments we make between ourinner personality and outer circumstances. We do make adjustments, but not always rightly.We may go wrong even in doing a right thing. Many of us do right things wrongly.Sacrifices alone are not sufficient; they should be done with wisdom. They should beperformed not for any ulterior fruit but for that joy of the art of adjustment. Sciencemay be a means to some end, but not art. Art is an end in itself. Self-adjustment is anart, and when carried to its perfection, it is called Yoga. Even in its initial stages, anall-round adjustment becomes Yoga. Even the very first step points to an eternalperfection, and so it transcends all learning,-it is Yoga, says the Bhagavadgita.
We have to make this adjustment from the point of view of the timeless element in us.The wrong we do in life’s adjustments is in not taking into consideration the superhumanelement in us and thinking in terms only of the personality. It is not the body, thepersonality, that makes the sacrifice as this adjustment; but the ‘I’, which needs to betrained more than anything else in the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels, ina sense deeper than what the psychologists generally understand. The timeless realitycannot be grasped through the apparatus of ordinary psychology, because all theseinstruments are temporal, while that being within is spiritual. The spiritual realitywhich is the ‘I’ is indistinguishable in its ultimate essence from other entities orbeings. Though we differ from one another in bodies and in social circumstances, we have akinship of feeling from the standpoint of our essential nature. The adjustment that wehave to make, which is the art of the Yoga of the Bhagavadgita, so difficult to understandeven with all our trained understanding, is nothing but the simple act of attunement ofoneself to the universal environment, not from the standpoint of time, but the innerreality. It is an organic adjustment, not a mechanical dovetailing. While mechanicaladjustment is what we generally do in the hope of obtaining pleasure, organic adjustmentis Yoga. We often think that certain aspects of our personality can be hidden from peopleand only certain others can be projected outside and related to others, according to ourdesire. This is a mistake, and this is mechanical adjustment. There is a secret law whichwe forget,-the law which connects our inner personalities with the inner personalities ofothers, even without our consciously knowing it. This inner act of spontaneous recognitionis called ‘prehension’. Prehension is a process by which we automatically relate ourselvesto everything else in the cosmos. While apprehension is an outer act on the consciouslevel, prehension is deeper than even the subconscious function. There is no such thing ashiding things from other persons, because we are always related to others. When theprehensive activity within contradicts the apprehensive activity outside, there is apsychological tension.
We have an inner personality and also an outer one. We usually exhibit the outer andhide the inner. We make sacrifices by the outer personality. We may appear unselfish inour outer conduct, while there is selfishness in the inner attitude. We are thus at warwithin ourselves. The malady of human life is not only of outer society but also of eachone of us, individually. We are mostly busy in studying others, but not ourselves. Ourpresent-day system of education pertains to the study of outer phenomena but not the innertruth of things. We never become the subject of study; the subject always remains an’object’! Unless right education of the integral type is provided, humanity’s sufferingwill not end. There must be a sympathy between ourselves and the outer world, and betweenour inner and outer personalities.
This is Yoga,-to establish peace in our relations with others as well as in our ownselves. The system of Yoga is meant to effect this inner attunement by a graduated processof self-transcendence. There seems to be no other wrong with us than an ignorance whichhas led us to a maladjustment of values. We have to learn the art of seeking the properthing in the proper manner. Life is a process of education in the art of this properseeking, morally, psychologically, socially and spiritually. To be at peace withourselves, with society and the universe, for ever, is to realise the eternal value whichvitalises all existence. Towards this knowledge, may we proceed with diligence.
Character of Human Struggle-The Primary Problems of Life-Implications of Effort andAspiration
The Structure Of Existence
The Nature of Yoga as an Inner Practice-A Study of Consciousness-The Movement ofConsciousness towards Integration through the Fields of Politics, Sociology, Learning,Instinctive Need, Psychology, Vital Urge, Philosophical Analysis and Spiritual Experience
The Progress Towards The Absolute
The Bhagavadgita as a Science of the Rise of Consciousness to the Stages ofPerfection-‘The Dark Night of the Soul’-The Illuminating Understanding-The Battle ofLife-The World and the Individual-Incarnation of God-The State ofNon-attachment-Self-gathering and Meditation-The Gamut of the Universe-The TranscendentSpirit-God, the Friend and Saviour-The Immanence of God-God as the Universal Reality
Personal And Social Implications
The Way of Practice-Spirituality and Social Life-Consciousness and Matter-TheAbsolute-Matter as Force-Purushottama or the Superman-Above Duality-The Right Attitude toLife-Three Duties of Man-Proportion in Understanding, Judgment, Volition, Feeling andAction
The Bearing Of Knowledge On Social Life
Human Relations Characterised by Ultimate Forces Constituting Individuals-The SocialStructure-Spiritual Power, Political Power, Economic Power and Man-Power the BuildingBricks of Society-Continence, Fulfilment of Desire, Austerity and Spiritual Realisationthe Stages of Personal Evolution to the Supreme Being-Duty and Its Consummation
THE STRUGGLE FOR PERFECTION
Life is characterised by effort at existence. This inherent urge within every humanbeing is a permanent feature observable through history. Effort and struggle are directedtowards the achieving of an end which is realised as one’s ideal and which mostly remainsas a future to the reality of the present state of affairs. The all-round struggle ofhumanity through the passage of history for achievements of different kinds in the variousfields of activity is an indication that life is involved in a restlessness of the humanspirit which is eager to overcome its barriers of action and limitations of understanding.
Life’s struggle has been, at least at its lowest level, for the overcoming ofdifficulties in the form of hunger and thirst, heat and cold and the fear of death, allwhich ever remain as the invariable concomitants of life in general. These features oflife’s limitations have been never known to change, and they have existed always. There isno hope that they will ever change or cease. Man has also been obsessed with a curiosityto know more and more of himself and the world outside, and this urge for knowledge, too,has not reached its limit as yet. The problems of history are the problems of life, andthey are always the same, wherever one is, or whatever one be.
To avoid the turmoils incumbent upon these pressures which come upon him in spite ofhimself, man has been contemplating in various ways to find a solution and means ofencountering them with proper method and technique. From birth to death, it is a longchain of unending effort to fight the difficulties which seem to be preventing him frombeing at peace with himself and living in ease, with freedom from fear. But these effortsof his have not been of avail in the ultimate sense, for the problems that were besettinghim centuries ago are the same to him even today. By no Herculean means has man succeededin getting immune to the onslaughts and the urges of hunger and thirst, or heat and cold.He also lives in a perpetual state of anxiety and fear. The uncertainty concerning oneselfcomes from three sources: Nature; other living beings; and one’s own self. One may withinoneself develop complexes and diseases, and none can be completely free from thiscontingency. There are the fundamental facts of life weighing heavy on one’s head, inspite of the limits of education that one might have reached. There is bound to be thedread of death which can unhinge a person at any moment. The fear of death can beoccasioned by three factors; viz., errors committed by oneself; attacks from othersoutside; and calamities caused by the wrath of Nature itself. For all these things thereis no remedy anywhere, though social laws and governmental systems based on ethical andpolitical structures have been framed by the ingenuity of man. But man-made things havenever lasted for long. That which had a beginning did also have an end. He who is born hasto die.
This frightening atmosphere has not, however, deterred man from endeavouring to faceoppositions at every stage they came. Though it would appear that all his attempts werealmost akin to the effort at pushing the horizon beyond its boundaries, a futile adventurebringing no result whatsoever, the hopes of man have never ceased, and they will nevercease. There is, at the background of his personality, an inkling of his being capable ofbreaking boundaries and overstepping limitations of understanding and gaining sway overall things. Though he has never done this in all history, the passage of history itself isa testimony of human aspiration to reach unlimited suzerainty over everything. It is notmerely this much; human desire goes further into the deep longing to make the world one’sown, nay, to enjoy it. This is a profound psychological secret behind effort and activity.
Man’s longing to exercise power, possess things and enjoy pleasure is ostensibly thehidden aim behind every form of his effort both in his private and public life. But it issurprising that this goal is lost sight of in the process of the struggle, and thestruggle itself is deified, in some way or other, the means getting confused with the end.This, obviously, is a travesty of affairs, for nothing can be worse than mistaking thetoil of the journey for the delight of having reached the destination. Notwithstanding thecautious and investigative processes adopted by man with various techniques of working, hehas not been able to avoid this common mistake of humanity in general,-the mistake oftaking the process for the goal. The reason for this persisting error in all activity isthe inability on one’s part to distinguish between the form and the content ofexperience. While the form is identical with the tedium and effort involved in any kind ofadventure or activity, the content is the principle of satisfaction in the achievement,which is immanent, though invisible in the process. It is true that man struggles forbread and most of his life is spent in finding ways of earning it. Now, this need to earnone’s bread is easily mistaken for the important end to be achieved in life.Unfortunately, the purpose behind earning of bread is quite different, it being a noveltype of satisfaction of one’s being able to keep one’s body and soul together. This is theaim of the search for food, clothing and shelter and the various amenities of life thatare regarded as unavoidable essentials to everyone. But, as long as the content isnot discovered in the form, life in the world will ever remain a hopeless andunending conflict of conditions and vicissitudes. The significance of this curiousdifficulty does not come to the surface of man’s consciousness, due to which he continuesfighting against odds and suffering his life from inception to the grave. The seeking ofthe meaning implicit in life’s processes is philosophy. The working out ofphilosophy in one’s life is the practice of Yoga.
The Structure Of Existence
The path of Yoga is a journey towards the attainment of perfection. Students eager totread this inner way of life are often found to be over-enthusiastic and incapable ofjudging the pros and cons of the steps they have to take in the properdirection. An uprise of emotional fervour suddenly takes it for granted that therealisation of God is the goal of life and that the one thing that they have to be afteris to be wholly engaged in continuous meditation on God, or taking His Name, reciting Hisglories, etc., throughout the day. While this is precisely the ideal way of living thespiritual life and this is exactly what one is supposed to endeavour to achieve in one’sday-to-day life, it will be realised, on a correct assessment of values, that the notionis misty and miscalculated, and it is not so easy as it might appear on the surface. As isthe case with military operations; so with the practice of Yoga. A famous saying of the Mahabharata,that the Sannyasin engaged in Yoga and the warrior fighting in the field arethe two heroes fit for the attainment of salvation, should confirm that the practice ofYoga is as many-sided and complicated a procedure as are the operations of the army in thewar-field. Just as a soldier enters the field with an idea to win victory and not merelywith an intention to die there, the Yogi takes to his practice with a will to succeed inthe achievement and not with a diffident mood of the possibility of retrogression orfailure.
The General of an army, who is acquainted with the facts of warfare, does not at oncemake a frontal attack on the enemy, though this is his intention in the end. Thepreparations for this final confrontation are many. The General has to know the extent ofthe military equipment and the moral courage of his own men. He has also to make enoughprovisions for emergency that may arise when the battle actually breaks out. He has toassess the strength of the enemy in a similar manner. He has to know the nature of allieson his side as well as on the enemy’s side. Above all, he has to be fully up to date withthe tactics that the enemy might employ as well as those that he intends to unleash, apartfrom being awake to the physical, strategic and armamental powers. The way of Yoga ishazardous and full of dangers. It would be sheer folly on the part of an amateur in Yogato imagine that he would catch God by dint of mere will to meditate, with which he mightbe fired for the time being. For, the fire can cool down when the opposition forces raindown arrows of temptation as well as threat of many kinds. It is better to take more timeto guard oneself with precautionary measures than go headlong into the thick of the array,unprepared.
The goal which one wishes to realise is not far removed from oneself. This marvel ofbeing is everywhere and in everything, and hence the difficulty in coming to a directexperience of it. That which is everywhere seems to be almost like that which is nowhere.Errors in the operation of consciousness are mostly the gravest errors of mankind. One’sown mistakes are seen in the faces of others. One detests and criticises in others theweaknesses and evils which are enshrined in one’s own self. This is the psychologicalmalady from which no one can easily escape. A thief always suspects others and cannottrust them fully, because of his simmering conscience which keeps him restless at alltimes. The student of Yoga is not in a better plight, for human foibles cannot leave him.The mistakes of the politicians, the warriors, the rulers, the heads of states and theinstitutions are also the mistakes of individuals, whether they be scholars, teachers,traders or even seekers of Truth. The universal law working everywhere, uniformly, doesnot spare anyone from the enforcement of its principles. The mistake of consciousness istaken for the mistake of the world. Here is the seed of world-problems.
If God is one, the Absolute is the only reality, (For a philosophical proof of this principle, see author’s ‘Resurgent Culture’.) the seeker of such an experience should naturally be included within its being. Then,where does the question of seeking arise? The very idea of seeking or endeavouring toachieve is the outcome of a split in consciousness itself. The necessity to find amedicine appears to have arisen on account of the disease being already there. Else, therewould be no need for the remedy. This division of consciousness within itself is notdetectable, for consciousness is already involved in it. If it were not so involved,anyone would have easily known where the problem lies. The whole of humanity seems to beno better today than it was centuries before, because its errors cannot be detected: theerrors are, unfortunately for it, in its consciousness itself. It looks, for a moment,that there is no solution for this surprising situation. But the solution, too, comes asanother surprise, perhaps a greater one than the problem itself. The wondrous solution tothis universal problem of man is the great philosophy of life. No one can be a successfulstudent of Yoga, who is not properly instructed in this philosophy.
As consciousness is spread out everywhere, it being universal, the problem alsopresents itself from every corner of the world, every walk of life, and every field ofactivity. However, in tackling this problem, a systematic procedure has to be adopted,with great caution and logical consistency. The usual method is to start from the externaltowards the internal, and then rise from the internal, gradually, to the universal. Thereason for this procedure is that consciousness which is essentially universal seems tohave got localised into individual centres of internality of concepts and then slowlymoved outward into percepts of objective situations in a world of physical entities. Theprocess of return to the original condition of reality has to be a systematic reversal,stage by stage, of the process of the descent of consciousness into its lowest forms. On adispassionate analysis, psychologically and scientifically, we would realise that we haveno troubles from persons or things but from certain states of consciousness involved inrelationships with persons and things. Hence, an analysis of the world-situation and ofworld-problems would ultimately be an analysis of the universal involvement ofconsciousness in long series of objectivity.
The lowest form of this involvement may be said to be what is known as the politicalconsciousness, by which we mean a network of mechanised relationships contrived to bringabout a harmony among individuals. In every stage of development, the effort is to risefrom a state of opposition to that of harmony. Thus, we have, in its crudest form, thehuman endeavour to rise from political opposition to political harmony. Even wars whichare embarked upon have at their background the intention to bring about political harmonyand stability. But this is only an extreme step which is taken when the more normalmethods fail,-methods such as promises of mutual understanding and cooperation based onhumanitarian grounds. The political consciousness does not rise above the humanitarianlevel, for its standpoint is of the visible immediacy of the needs of human beingsas individuals, or groups of individuals. But the visible is not always thereal. The real man is behind what is seen with the eyes. Hence, political relationships ofthe nations promising a possibility of international harmony do not always end in thesatisfaction of human minds, which remain still in a state of insecurity and anxiety,because political harmony can be broken up any moment, as pieces of glass glued togethercan never be said to form a real whole. The split forms of political consciousness havenot been really united: they have only been temporarily welded together with the strengthof the cement used to make them stick together. The unnaturalness of this unity isobvious.
Consciousness struggles to rise again from this state of affairs and we see peopletired of political life taking to social work or social service as a way of being nearerto the truth of human nature than political activity. This stride of consciousness is nowobserved to be tending towards an inwardisation by one stage. But, here, too,dissatisfaction does not end. As political heads, though they may be in the height oftheir power, can have a sudden fall overnight, making them get disillusioned of allpolitically manoeuvred efforts, social workers, also, do not remain happy people. Theyrealise one day, at their cost, that the society can never be satisfied, and it is like adog’s tail which cannot be straightened always. The defects seen in the field of politicsare visible here, once again, as old wine in a new bottle. People cannot be made happy byany amount of service rendered to them, and one who has dedicated himself to socialservice stands dazed at the futility of his efforts, in the end. The reason is thatpeoples’ happiness does not so much depend on what they get from outside as what theyrealise personally in their own minds and feelings. The impact of external events andobjects upon the mind has much to do with the state of the mind at the given moment.Hearts which are aggrieved with psychological rifts cannot be happy even if heaven itselfis to descend upon the earth. On the other hand, pleasures of people, within their ownconcerned circles, totally ignore even a state of chaos outside, if only it is not tointerfere with these satisfactions with which they identify their whole life. The goodthat is done is not always remembered, while a small error committed is never forgotten.Man, being what he is, has proved himself more untrustworthy at times than those whofollow the law of the jungle. It is only in one’s maturity of age that one comes face toface with the startling discovery of the irrefutable position that no one can ultimatelybe satisfied, or even made friends with, for an indefinite period.
When this wisdom dawns, man betakes himself to the purely subjective arts and sciencesas the only things worth striving after in life. People confine themselves to theiracademic circles or laboratories for the sheer satisfaction of knowledge for knowledge’ssake. Study and research in the several branches of learning engage all their attention.We have, thus, had prodigies of knowledge, both in the arts and sciences, as well asmasters in the technique of public oration. These, indeed, become highly reveredpersonalities, and the infinitude that extends beyond what they know seems to be a sourceof their personal happiness. Study and teaching are innocuous pleasures. Yet, with allthis, these geniuses of learning see a limitless expanse of the unknown yawning beforethem, and rarely does one die with a feeling of conviction that one has known what isreally worth the while, as the secret of life.
On the path of the spirit which the seeker of Truth treads, the maladies whichcharacterise these strata of human life are not really absent. One may enter the field ofspiritual life, wanting to make an honest enquiry into the nature of reality, but thehuman side that expresses itself through public relationships and private hopes as inpolitics, sociology and the academies, seeps into the interior of one’s efforts, evenwithout one’s knowing what is happening. It is this general pervasive character of humannature that makes even those who thought they heard the call of God succumb to theinvolvements and attractions of public life and assume roles of leadership in politicaland social circles, or immerse themselves in ponderous tomes, and make scholarship acareer in their lives. These are lurking foes on the path of the sincere seeker, whichappear in the front due to his not having been vigilant enough to detect the entanglementof consciousness in the artificial satisfactions of the phenomenal world. It is only withthe hard effort of thinking and experience through the passage of living that one stumblesupon the central pivot of all problems, viz., the psychological structure of man.
It is these seasoned souls who get tired of the mere outward pursuit of perfection thatturn to seek it in inward austerity known as Tapas or restraint of the totalpersonality from its external ramifications through the society and the ego-principle. Inthis effort at self-restraint, the powers within get revealed. But the powers whichinitially come out into the surface are the urges of the lower individual nature, such asthe passion for sex, the greed for wealth, the craving for name, fame and authority, and ahidden susceptibility to the sensory lure of the fine arts. While the treasure may behidden deep inside the earth, what one sees coming out on digging the surface is stonethat hurts and dust that blinds the eye. Consciousness gets identified again with thissituation and there is the fear of a fall, once more, into undesirable circles. When themind is pressurised by efforts at restraint of self, it releases energies which tendtowards the object of sense. Often, it is seen that the chances of retrogression into theolder moods and instincts are greater in those who try to control the mind than those whogive a long rope to it. A satisfied enemy is less likely to offer an attack than thedissatisfied one. The love for God can easily flow along channels of name, fame, power andmaterial gain. The majority of even sincere souls goes this way, on account ofindiscretion and overestimation of one’s capacity to understand oneself in a dispassionatemanner. The effort either ends in physical mortification continuing till one’s bodilydeath, mistaken for a genuine practice of Yoga, or in a side-tracking of one’s interestsalong the lines of sensory and egoistic gratification. One can see the world abounding inmany such instances of those who ‘know not, and know not they know not’.
But there are more fortunate ones who ‘know not, and know they know not’. These arepeople who have a hope of being saved through instruction and by example. These rigoroussouls on the path of Yoga rise up to the occasion and quickly realise where exactly thetrouble lies. They come to grasp the secret that these instincts which press themselvesforward through the senses and the ego cannot easily be overcome by mere pressure exertedon them, even as a disease cannot be cured by the use of suppressive drugs. The instinctsare only the outer symptom of an inner error of consciousness, which has all along beenthere without being diagnosed as the root-disease. Fasts and vigils, fierce penances ofthe body and starving of the senses and the mind are not remedies for the upsurge ofinstincts of the lower nature. These practices merely suppress them and make them moreviolent in their efforts to come out with a vengeance. True Yoga begins when thisessential of human psychology is known and turned towards a higher self-analysis andcontemplation of a purely spiritual character.
The pressure that objects exert on the consciousness which observes them is weightyenough to cause an organic involvement of the latter in the set-up of the former. There isa mutual determination of form and character between consciousness and its objects. Thisis almost like two contending parties influencing each other in such a way that neither ofthem can think or work independent of the other. In some such sense as this we call theworld a relative phenomenon. Due to this factor of consciousness and object operating asthe warp and woof of every kind of experience, the individual remains for ever afluctuating centre of perplexity and indecision in regard to the ultimate truth of life.Until the consciousness-aspect and the object-aspect in experience are separated from eachother and judged correctly, from their own standpoints, there would not be freedom orindependence, deathlessness or eternal life. The purpose of Yoga is to achieve thisdifficult analysis and experience and come to a definite conclusion, valid for all times.The revolutionary character of the instinctive urges in human nature is due to theinfluence of objects on consciousness and the interest which consciousness has in objects,a situation which has arisen on account of the mutually dependent character of these twofactors in experience. Here is, indeed, a hard nut to crack, and Yoga becomes reallydifficult when one comes to this stage of the effort.
A life of spiritual freedom and happiness is now realised to be beyond the scope of theordinary man. The training which one is called upon to undergo to traverse this stage ofunderstanding needs such dispassion of self-observation that the education with which themodern man is acquainted will be found to be of not much value when he begins to attackthe problem of the crux of human experience. Our ideas of other people and of the worldoutside would require a radical transformation before we embark upon this supremeendeavour to probe the mystery of life. Here, our learning will be of no help to us, formuch of our learning has concern with persons and things, but this task that is now on ourhand has nothing whatsoever to do with persons and things. The standpoint of the universaljudge of all phenomena cannot easily be contained within the mind of the human individual.Here, at this stage, the seeker usually falls back upon his routine practices ofobservances and austerities, taking them for Yoga, not knowing that he is yet toounprepared for the secret which eludes his grasp every time he tries to grapple with it.’Not by logic and argumentation is this wisdom to be attained’, says the Kathopanishad.Human understanding is inapplicable in the realm of the universal.
But, when the piercing intelligence succeeds in battling with this borderland of theuniversal hidden in individual experience, certain other difficulties begin to show theirheads. The mutual interaction of consciousness and matter produces such vehement reactionsas the feelings of heat and cold, hunger and thirst, sleep and the fear of death. Thesenatural pressures, which often assume atrocious forms of intensity, prevent further effortfor progress onward. Even heroes of saintliness cannot wholly combat these demands fromthe bodily nature. The questions, ‘to do or not to do’, ‘to be or not to be’, are raisedby these physico-vital urges in the individual, and dreads of an unknown nature surroundthe seeking Yogi, some of which we are given to understand from the records of experienceof such masters as Gautama, the Buddha, of Jesus, the Christ. These are the stages throughwhich every one has to pass, and there appears to be no exception to this rule. Here,again, comes up another problem. One’s growth towards perfection remains alwaysundiscovered and unpalpable. The growth is from within, as with a fruit, and it is noteasily seen. Even a minute before we actually wake up from sleep, we cannot know that weare anywhere near wakefulness. The awakening, when it comes, is always sudden, and ittakes us by surprise. It rarely comes with previous notice. The psycho-physical urgeswhich stand on the way of the attainment are impetuous enough to threaten the greatestamong the seekers on the path. It becomes a question of life and death. One will not knowwhether it is life or death that is ahead. It is a fierce battle between the known and theunknown, on the border between the finite and the infinite.
This experience gets further accentuated by additional factors which weigh heavily onone’s experience in the form of the principles of space, time and gravitation, which havea say in everything, in all creation. Space, time and cause are the final judges of allexperience. Nothing can be thought except in terms of these determining principles. Evenour concept of perfection or of the Absolute is not free from their interference. In fact,the organic involvement of consciousness and its objects is due to the operation ofspace-time in experience. The push of consciousness towards objects and the push ofobjects towards consciousness in a kind of mutual agreement between them is on account ofthe fact that space and time, working together, act equally upon consciousness on one sideand on objects on the other. Though, logically, space and time are objects ofconsciousness and cannot be said to be inherent in it in a sense of organicinseparableness, there is a sort of inseparable unity of the two as between a crystal andthe colour that is reflected in its whole body. The entire situation seems to be a hugemuddle and mess of an organic tie of relationship between consciousness and the principleof externality, which is the space-time-cause continuum. This stage of realisation is,however, different from the usual experience of man that space and time are outside asobjects of observation, which is a far earlier condition, now stepped over in anenvironment of the universal recognised as the single content in the various vehicles ofindividuality spread out through the cosmos.
The understanding working through the media of space and time is the mathematicalintellect and the logical reason. Mathematics and logic seem to be exact sciencesincapable of reversal of rule in any period of time, due to a permanent fixation of thespace-time laws in one’s consciousness. The physical sciences which work on the basis ofthe law of causality are again offshoots of the laws of the space-time continuum. Ourconsciousness cannot go beyond phenomena. The concepts of the beyond, such as of anAbsolute God, a unified world and an immortal soul, are also tarnished by theirinvolvement in the network of space-time-cause relations. The science of physics hasattempted to dive into the secrets of Nature and grasp the mystery of the space-timeworld. But this effort has not led science to lasting success. From matter in the form ofthe five gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, scientific enquiry movedalong the discovery of electromagnetic fields behind the molecular and atomic structuresof matter, and landed itself in the doctrines of quantum particles and wave mechanics,ending finally in the theory of relativity of the universe. This is wonderful knowledge,indeed, which science has acquired at the present day, useful for constructive as well asdestructive purposes, taking man’s breath away, beyond the limitations of crassmaterialistic thinking, to the realms of a cosmic relativity of all phenomena. But,nevertheless, this relativistic discovery, though it appeared to plant human knowledge ina state of absoluteness, never really did so, for the wisdom of physical science is notoutside the ultimate reaches of the space-time, cause continuum. At this stage, modernphysics and profound metaphysics coalesce and come to almost common conclusions in regardto the mystery of creation. And, yet, there is a beyond.
It is difficult for the logical understanding to explain what is really behind thisacme which has, up to now, been reached. It looks that man is not given to know it or havean access into it. One does not know what is on the other side of this screen that hangsheavily before one’s consciousness at this level of experience. Great philosophers, saintsand sages have warned us not to be too inquisitive about it. The Buddha declined to sayanything on the question. The Bhagavadgita sings of its epic grandeur, and the Upanishadsrevel in ecstasies over its majesty and glory. Mystics have cried out that it is aravishing experience which bursts one’s soul with everlasting joy. But, apart from theseawe-inspiring intimations, making one’s hair stand on end, humanity knows next to nothingabout it. In moments of unselfish contemplation, dispassionate spirits do get a glimpse ofwhat this marvel is. The Upanishads and the Bhagavadgita, particularly, give us somesuggestions and techniques of adjusting our thoughts and feelings in such a way that wecan set ourselves en rapport with Universal Existence, which is the Truth of alltruths, and the goal towards which all beings tend in their wholeness and togetherness, inevery stage of their evolution.
It is this knowledge which becomes our guide in the directing of conduct in daily life.It is the ethics of determining and judging the particular in terms of the universal, inthe different stages of its manifestation. The higher we go, the greater is the expanse ofthe universal, and the lesser the cramping influence of the gross particulars orindividualities in the world of sense-experience. From the above analysis it will beobserved that the base and structure of political administration through the circles offamily, community, nationality and the international system of law is a proof of therebeing a need for higher and higher integrations of environment into a unity of selfhoodwhich is falsely attempted through legal disciplines and outward rules of behaviour in themedium of the space-time manifold. Politics cannot achieve what it simply points to as asignpost in the space-time mechanism which acts as a screen through which we faintlylocate what is behind. The march of history shows that life is restless and tends to amore synthesised purpose of rest by means of more integrated organisations of life. Thestudy of history without an insight into the why of its processes through the ageswould be like dissecting a corpse to know the working of the human organism, or, worsestill, an effort to catch the moon visible in the ripples of a river. Sociology, civics,economics and aesthetics are indications of the impossibility to rest merely in one’sindividuality, personality, body, senses and the legalistic intellect. These limitationsare pointed out by the need for organisation, sympathetic behaviour, dependence onmaterial goods, harmony of perception in art and wholeness of sublime thinking inliterature, all which are like ambassadors who represent, but are themselves not, thepower for which they stand. The urges for food, accumulation of wealth, sexualgratification, exercising power over others and proclaiming one’s name by popularisationare pressures felt within to immortalise one’s being, to universalise it, to be supremeabove all externality of being and to behold oneself in the objects and unite oneself withthem in spatio-temporal self-perpetuation, all which again are futile attempts to implantthe infinite in the reflected medium of the finite realm of entities isolated by the lawsof space, time and cause. The longing for knowledge is an expression of the basicinfinitude of consciousness and an indication of its restlessness until this realisationis reached in being, and not mere learning. The freshness and energy gainedfrom sleep indicates that here one enters, though unconsciously, a wholeness of reality,characterised by absence of space, time and externality. Sleep is, thus, an indicatorthrough structural similarity of an experience which totally differs from it in kind. Thefear of death proves the immortality of one’s essential nature. One cannot cease to existin one’s core; hence, there is dread of the very idea of cessation of being. As the notionof the finite proves the possibility of the infinite, the notion of change a changelesssubstratum, and the notion of difference the fact of oneness, the abhorrence of thephenomenon of dying is demonstration enough of the potential eternity of the soul.Perception through the senses and cognition through the mind of objects apparently locatedin space and time show by the fact of the ‘compresence’ of awareneness in perception andcognition that the objects are in tune with the subject in their essence. The stages ofthe development of modern physics show that the universe, inclusive of the body of thesubject observing, is a uniform energy-continuum, a space-time continuum of relativity of’prehension’ and ‘apprehension’ in differing orders of interpenetrating systems andexperience, that there is an all-round ‘ingression’ of mutually determining situations ofcosmic significance, which are mistaken for persons and things, and that the knower of allthese phenomena has to be a single consciousness, universal in its nature, which knowsitself alone, and knows no other, there being nothing outside it. The outcome of allefforts at the acquisition of knowledge by way of the educational process in the fields ofart, science, technology and the like is an attempt of consciousness to reach out to aqualitative expansion in larger dimensions characterised by more and more inwardness andtotality of comprehension. The ethical principle or the moral rule demonstrates the needto recognise a ‘kingdom of ends’, and urges that things and persons are to be regarded asa sort of selfhood rather than objects, a possibility of achievement when the barrier ofthe space-time distinction of subjects and objects is lifted. This cannot be done throughthe codes of ethics and morality, for the rule is only a hint at the existence of a moreexpanded selfhood as the true being of everything, and is not itself a solution to theproblem. The formal religion of the populace is an indication of the necessity to lookfor, adore and love the whole, rather than a part of the universe. This tendency ismanifest in the desire of the mind to give itself up completely in concentration of athing, an object, a fetish, a portrait, a symbol, a diagram, an image, or a conceptconjured up within itself in greater and greater degrees of comprehensiveness. The entirebeing of man asks for the entirety of existence in all forms of religious enthusiasm,prayer, worship and meditation. But this type of formality in religion does not meancontact with reality, which plays hide and seek through the forms.
The duty of man is what he is obliged to perform in recompense for the services hereceives from the world. He depends on other human beings for his food, clothing, shelterand education. He depends on the five elements for water, heat, light, air, and his veryexistence. He depends on the presiding subtler forces behind Nature for the integration ofhis personality and society, forces which regulate even the orbital motion of the planetsand the stellar systems.
The lesser the help we take from outside, the lesser is also our obligation andresponsibility in the form of duty, and the greater is our freedom, which is attainedgradually by stages of overstepping the lower and the grosser in terms of the higher andthe subtler, so that when we need nothing at all from outside, we attain supremeliberation.
First, there is a gradual independence gained over our needs from other people. Thencomes the independence over the forces of Nature, the limitations of one’s individuality.When this is achieved, absolute independence is attained, which is called God-realisation,Reality-Experience, etc., wherein one has nothing to gain or lose, nothing to know orlearn, nothing to wish or desire for, and nothing to do as a matter of duty or obligation.
From the political state of consciousness to the Absolute, it is a rise from one totalityof being to another, from one wholeness to another with greater fullness. Thistotality or wholeness is the essential characteristic of selfhood, so that it is a risefrom self to self, in higher and higher connotations, and there is nowhere, at any stageof evolution, a love evinced for anything other than some stage of selfhood. A pure objectis a sheer externality, which can never become the goal of anyone’s liking. This rise,however, is from more mechanised types of self to more organised forms of it, until boththese categories are transcended in the Absolute Self. The mechanised and organic typesare subject to disintegration and annihilation when their components get separated throughchange in the evolutionary process. The Absolute, alone, is. Everything else is a movementtowards it.
At every stage of the advancement of this ‘totality’ or ‘wholeness’ of being towardsthe Absolute, contact with elements which pull the consciousness towards externality asthe respective object-forms of any given stage is to be diligently avoided,-the forms ofconsciousness-entanglement detailed in the above analysis. Students on the path of Yogahave therefore to be extremely vigilant in assessing the correct state of consciousness inwhich they are at any moment in their life and dexterously endeavour to overstep thelimits of consciousness by a healthy growth into the next higher stage of reality, throughmeditation along the lines indicated in these paragraphs.
The Progress Towards The Absolute
The typical man faced with the conflict of life is Arjuna, the hero of the Mahabharata,and the psychological seed behind the gospel of the Bhagavadgita. His positiondescribed at the outset of the Mahabharata war is symbolic of the state of mind of everyseeker of Truth. While there is a lot of enthusiasm and tumult of courage and emotion toencounter the opposing forces on the eve of setting out for the actual hour of ‘strikedown’ (I. 13-23), there is, when this hour is really at hand, an unexpected change offeeling. The body, vitality, mind and intellect fail him miserably at the crucial hour(29-31). The argument of Arjuna is also the argument of the seeker on the path. It ismainly threefold: First, the opposing forces are not always our ill-wishers but friendsand relatives with whom we have lived for the major part of our life, and to strike themwould be a heinous sin (33-37). Second, it is doubtful if this battle with the forces isgoing to be successful, for one does not know which side will win in the struggle,-theseeker may overcome the world, or the world may overcome him and trample him down for hisaudacious attempts (II. 6). Third, any opposition to or encounter with our oldwell-wishers, friends, kith and kin, who are now regarded as foes in the battle of thespirit, may ruin the necessary social structure and one may be setting a bad example tomankind in generality (I. 39-44). For these reasons at least, the war of the spirit is anadventure of doubtful value and consequence.
This plea which was put forth by Arjuna harasses the mind of every student of Yoga, whofinds himself in the midst of well-wishers and friends, whom it would be unworthy tooppose or give up (II. 4, 5); there is the suspicion that the effort may not besuccessful, and such forces as hunger and thirst, to mention the least, may threaten hisvery existence; also, men and the world who were with us and were our benefactors cannoteasily be faced in a storm and overthrown without a feeling of compunction. This sociallogic of the sociological mind can be met only with the pointed retort of Sri Krishnastated in the second chapter of the Bhagavadgita, and expanded further on in the gospel,in graded steps, until the reach of the grand spiritual apocalypse. The immediate answerto the Arjuna in the seeker is that his understanding is not stable (11); it is biased infavour of his kith and kin with a prejudice of personal relationship, sentiment andemotion, which are the characteristics of the weaknesses of flesh. The understanding ofthe social man cannot really be regarded as stable, because its argument is alwaysone-sided, it speaks in terms of gains and losses to itself in the realm of loves andhatreds, of ‘mine and thine’. The higher understanding which the true seeker is calledupon to entertain is what is known as Sankhya in the Bhagavadgita (39). Thisunderstanding has nothing to do with man’s usual understanding of right and wrong, or ofgood and bad, for this latter is a highly affected partisan working in favour of theselfish individuality of sense and ego. What, then, is the higher understanding, on whichSri Krishna wishes us to base our Yoga of ‘skilful action’ (50)? It is that rarefied formof reason which does not stoop down to the level of a handmaid to the lower intellectoperating in the field of the senses and arguing in favour of its own personalsatisfaction (41). This higher reason is the inner spirit revealing itself occasionally insober individuals with a dispassionate heart. The war of the spirit is not for or againstanyone, for the spirit has no friends or foes (38, 45). But, when it is interpreted as astruggle for someone or something, it also, naturally, becomes at the same time againstsomeone or something else. It is this wrong interpretation of the righteous war that ledto the dispiritedness of Arjuna, and makes every seeker dejected, disconsolate andmelancholy. It is not robbing Peter to pay Paul, but a type of struggle which the humanmind cannot easily grasp, due to which reason it is that we find very few succeeding inthis inner path of the search for spirit. This is a war not against persons or things butagainst unrighteousness which tries to defeat the final purpose of things in the world,and, thus, is wholly an impersonal attitude of spirit on behalf of the spirit (II. 48,50).
This Sankhya-Buddhi, or impersonality of understanding, is, however, difficultof achievement as long as there is a world outside whose very presence makes effortpersonal, rather than impersonal. There cannot be impersonality as long as there is areality outside. Here is the great problem. But, it is rooted in a misunderstanding ofone’s relation to the world, due to a commonplace view of things held on the basis ofreports received through the senses (43, 44). The senses repeatedly affirm that the worldis outside them and is to be dealt with as some sort of an alien object, by developingtowards it attitudes of like, dislike or indifference, as a given context may demand. Thisis precisely what Sri Krishna rebutted as an entirely untenable position grounded in anerror of standpoint. The stand which man usually takes in every form of judgment ispersonal;-that sometimes he thinks in terms of family, society and the larger expanse ofmankind does not raise his view to anything more than the personal attitude, forcollections of individuals cannot be free from the characteristics of the basic unit ofindividuality, and the so-called humanitarian view can easily be detected as a camouflageof the personal viewpoint of the individual extended to a group similar to him in the wayof thinking. What is needed is a thorough change in the viewpoint itself, and not merelyan extension of the individual’s viewpoint to a larger group of individuals. It is qualityand not quantity that makes the difference between the false and the true.
On a reinterpretation of the implications of the human standpoint, and not merely itsouter set-up or form, it is seen that the ordinary man’s judgment of things is incorrect,because it is the outcome of a psychological estrangement of the perceiving consciousnessfrom the world of objects. The truth is that the structure of the senses is interwovenwith that of the external world and, hence, any special bias in favour of the perceptionthrough the senses is uncalled for. Here is the weak point in all the arguments forged byArjuna at the commencement of the battle. And this is also the weakness of every man inany walk of life, of even the learned and the student of Yoga judging and evaluatingpersons and things through the purely sensory standpoint. ‘The properties move amongproperties’ (III. 28), is the aphoristic answer of Sri Krishna to the quandary of Arjuna.The pattern of the senses is governed by the very same properties (Gunas) of theuniversal material matrix (Prakriti) as are the objects that are perceived by thesenses. In the light of this analysis of the true position of the perceptual process, ajudgment of things is inseparable from a judgment of oneself. Here is the qualitativedifference of correct judgment from the quantitative shape of erroneous judgment.
This knowledge may frighten off anyone from making any effort in a world of such amysterious make. But, says Sri Krishna, ‘No one can rest without action even for a moment'(5), and ‘One shall be dragged to action by the very structure of Nature’ (XVIII. 59).Complexity of arrangement in the process of perception should not deter a person fromdoing his duty. This wisdom-action is known as Karma-Yoga, a term which applies to anyeffort in the world, whether personal or impersonal, material or spiritual. Thus, no onecan get out of the law of Karma-Yoga. It comprehends all actions and all processes,whether they are visible or are carried on only invisibly. It is to fight the battle whileit is there and not to avoid the battle itself, and this with the mature understanding (Sankhya-Buddhi) of the internal relevance mutually existing between the world outside and thepercipient thereof. The endeavour in this direction, however, gets thwarted by theinterference of the passions; ‘desire and lust (Kama) and hatred and anger (Krodha),born of the character of distraction (Rajas), insatiable, sin-impelling, theone great enemy of man’ (III. 37). But there is no cause for fear. The seat of thispassion is the network of the operation of the senses, mind and intellect in acollaboration (40), due to which the individual is confounded and does not realise histrue relation to the world outside and engages himself in likes and dislikes for things.This knot of collaboration can be broken by the sublimation of sense-energy into the mind,the mind into the intellect and the intellect into the supreme universality ofconsciousness (Atman) within oneself. Resort to the Atman is the solutionfor all problems and tensions of life in the world (42, 43).
This is the Sankhya and the Yoga of the Bhagavadgita, explained in anutshell. The knowledge provided to a seeking soul in this revelation, no doubt, sufficesto an extent, for here one comes to know of there being a new meaning hidden beneath thedaily processes of life. While this is a powerful aid in living wisely in the worldwithout the blunders attending upon sense-perception, this knowledge alone will not beenough to face problems of a different kind altogether. Who is to teach the senses thatthis is the fact beneath their perception? The perceiver himself is involved in thelimitations of the senses and, as such, he cannot be expected to admonish the senses orexercise a restraining influence over their fumbling activities. A superior hand has towork in relieving the perceiving consciousness from the tangle and tension of sensoryoperation. This is the divine hand which moves as the incarnation (Avatara) ofthe Supreme Being. Its presence is felt everywhere and there is nothing which it does nottouch, nothing to which it does not render succour in every crucial moment, juncture orcrisis (Yuge, Yuge) (IV. 8). The purpose of this divine intervention is theestablishing of the righteousness of the law (Dharma) which sustains theuniverse, and the complete overcoming and transformation of forces which go counter tothis law (Adharma) (7). An insight into this subtle mystery of God workingin the world, without the ordinary man usually knowing it, is a great advance in the wayof Yoga. The common attachments to objects and the strings of affection get graduallysnapped on the advent of this new light of knowledge in one’s progress to perfection. TheBhagavadgita points out that at this stage a student of Yoga achieves three mightyresults; viz., a balanced attitude of consciousness (Samatva) and a specialdexterity in executing functions (Kausala), which is known as Yoga; aknowledge that the perceiver and the perceived are not independent entities as the subjectand the object but form an interconnected organism as a single whole (24, 35), which iscalled Jnana; and a vision by which is beheld the totality of the universe as a unitaryself in which the universality of objects is undividedly present (Atmavattva) (41).
A further movement of consciousness, by an intensification of meditation, causes itstotal detachment from all objective sensations, spontaneously, an achievement for whichone had to put forth hard effort in the earlier stages of the application of Sankhya andYoga. Here, all activity becomes a dispassioned sport of free choice andeffortlessness. One who is united with the true self (Yogayukta), of anentirely purified nature (Visuddhatma), having subdued the urges of theindividuality (Vijitatma), with the senses under a perfect control (Jitendriya),and beholding oneself in all beings (Sarvabhutatmabhutatma),-such a oneis not attached even by doing everything (V. 7). But, for this fruit, one has to pay aheavy price in the form of restraint over the passions of love and hatred for persons andthings (23). There is no other way of gaining this sublime end. And, once this stage ofsupreme renunciation is reached, one becomes fit for the higher attainment ofself-integration by concentration and meditation (Dhyana Yoga) (27, 28). Itis here that the disintegrated personality of the first stage gets gathered into a focusof force and energy, plumbs abysmal depths and soars into the empyrean of the unknown.
The law of this ascent of consciousness vertically towards a direct grasp of reality,as different from its horizontal movement heretofore, is the subjugation and determinationof the lower self by the principle of working of the higher Self (Uddharedatmanatmanam) (VI. 5). God as the higher Self becomes the friend of man as the lower self, when thelatter is determined by the law of the former; else, it would look that God disposeseverything that man proposes (Varteta atmaiva satruvat) (6). When Godbefriends man, the light of the higher Self floods every nook and corner of the lowerself; then supervenes the Yoga supreme. Herein the mind and the intellect stand together,and the senses return to their source. The Self delights in the Self, beholding the Selfby the Self (18, 20). The world of objects gets reflected in the Self and seen asinseparable from it, bringing about a thoroughgoing equal vision in regard to all things(29). This is the highest Yoga which any man can hope to reach by the effort of hisconsciousness.
The soul now becomes confident of its powers and, like Hanuman, the epic hero, crossingthe ocean, takes a leap into the expanse of existence, to reach the Absolute, finally,which, still, remains an ‘other’ to the meditative consciousness. The visible is not thewhole universe, for it extends also into invisible realms. The five elements of earth,water, fire, air and ether form the outer crust of the cosmos and these alone are visibleto the senses (VII. 4). But, internal to this region of physical objects are other subtlerlayers of the cosmos,-the cosmos of energy, mind and intelligence. All this is beyond thereach of the senses and the individual’s understanding. Transcendent to even these subtleplanes of creation, hails God, the Almighty, as the dispenser of justice and the redeemerand saviour of all created beings (5-7). The illusion of sense-perception as the physicalworld of diversity is hard to pierce through except by resort to the grace of God; thereis no other remedy for one’s ailment in the form of stark ignorance of truth (13, 14).
With all this, and even in this stage of supernal experience, God retains Histranscendence, and seems to be capable of attainment, not in this lifetime of the seeker,but after he quits his body and reaches the other world. Both the individual and the worldappear to be so severed from the transcendent Being that He can be reached only afterdeath, beyond this world, by traversing the path of the sun in his northern sojourn (VIII.5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 24). There is maintained a distinction between the individual (Adhyatma),the world (Adhibhuta) and the presiding principle over these (Adhidaiva) (3,4). The thought at the time of death, and the Yoga of meditation practised at thattime, determines the nature of the attainment, which remains a futurity to the seekingsoul. This ‘other-ness’ of the goal which remains a theoretical possibility of the futurecannot ultimately be satisfying, for satisfaction is a ‘present’ and not a ‘future’ to theconsciousness. The future is a source of anxiety, as the past is mostly a source of regretand worry. It is the present that brings hope of the materialisation of values and theactualisation of principles.
The hope is rewarded. God now, at yet a higher stage, does not merely remaintranscendent but is at the same time related to the world and the individuals as theirprotector and saviour by His immanence (IX. 4). He is the parent of all beings, looking tothe needs of everyone, with great concern. He is the destination, the Lord supreme, theresort and the friend of all beings. He is the beginning, the middle as well as the end ofthings. He is not only existence but also non-existence and what is beyond both;immortality as well as death, and what can never be conceivable (16-19). The intimacybetween man and God is vital and real. God pervades the universe as a whole, as itsimmanent sustaining force. All beings are stationed in Him, and He is in all beings. He isreached not merely after the death of the seeker; nay, He rushes to save and provide theneeds of those who undividedly meditate on Him in their consciousness, here and now (22).This is a great solace to the soul which was upto this time frightened at the transcendentdistance of God from itself. In fact, nothing can be nearer than God. This is therealisation and the satisfaction that comes at this hightened level of spiritualexperience. As this experience deepens, a newer light brightens up the truth to a greaterextent and the presence of God as the supreme immanence in everything becomes more andmore a matter of day-to-day perception. He is present in things not merely in a generalsense as fire hidden in all substances, but He is seen to be particularly active andspecially manifest in all beings of exalted knowledge, power and splendour (Vibhuti) (X. 41). He is the Soul of the universe, the origin, sustenance and dissolution ofeverything, and the magnificence visible in all things of glory ((20, 21).
But the grand apotheosis is yet to descend and inundate the very substance and being ofthe soul. For, till this stage, the presence of God was either of a general character orconfined to things of special exaltation and heightened capacity. But this is not whollytrue. The truth is that God is really present in His supreme majesty and glory in allthings equally, at all times, and everywhere. This is His essential nature and cosmic form(Visvarupa) (XI. 5-13). God is not merely in all things, butHe is, verily, all things (38). This is the revelation which stuns and swallows uppersonality, individuality and isolated percipience of soulhood, and reigns supreme as theonly reality. This experience is not to be had by mere human effort;-not by sacrifices,studies, charities, austerities, or activities of any kind (48). Action cannottouch the being of anything, and God is Absolute Being. The process of knowing (Jnatum),beholding (Drashtum), and entering into (Praveshtum) thisBeing of all beings is whole-souled devotion to it, by which the very self of the seekeris burnt, burnished and consumed in the fire of divine omniscience (54). This greatreality is not perceived but experienced (8). It is the real and the onlydoer, enjoyer, seer and experiencer of everything (32-34). This is the goal of life.
Personal And Social Implications
This grand achievement is the precious fruit of personal spiritual practice (Sadhana).The effort is fourfold: The wisdom of God as the Absolute (Brahman), contemplationon God as Creator, Preserver and Destroyer (Paramatman), love of God as thebenefactor of all beings (Bhagavan), and service of God as manifest increation in an attitude of unselfishness (Karmaphalatyaga). These fourapproaches to God are technically known as Jnana, Yoga, Bhakti and Karma, whichmean knowledge, meditation, devotion and dedicated action, respectively (XII. 8-11). It isby this practice that the grand vision of God as the Supreme Being is to be transformedinto a permanent experience of day-to-day life and not merely had as a flash or a glimpsethat comes and goes in moments of ecstasy. Continued practice of a synthesis of the fourmethods of attunement of oneself to God ensures a life of divinity on earth by a perpetualestablishment in God-consciousness (13-19). This is the personal side of spiritualpractice. Its social aspect is explained further on, in relation to the world.
It is commonly believed that there is a contradiction between God and the world, andwhat obtains in God cannot hold good in the world. There has been a distinctionunwittingly introduced between eternity and temporality, a situation which has led also toa bifurcation of spiritual life from social and political life, for instance. Thespiritual hero is not regarded as being fit enough to be a political hero or a statesman,and vice versa. The Bhagavadgita is a standing refutation of this misconception regardingthe relation between God and the world, which it does not only with its superbly activegospel of spirituality, reason and commonsense, but also by pointedly making its venue afrightful battle-field. Sri Krishna Himself is before us as an immortal example of how theBhagavadgita is to be lived in one’s personal life. What a perfected blending ofknowledge, spiritual power, statesmanship, political insight, and personal grandeur! Sucha personality was Sri Krishna whose life is a perennial commentary on the gospel he taughtto mankind, with Arjuna as its occasion. This fact of life, which is the perfected life,being mostly stifled by the sensory view of things, is hidden from the vision of thecommon man who takes the world for one thing and God for another thing. The teachingscommencing from the thirteenth chapter and concluding with the eighteenth, in theBhagavadgita, are a detailed enunciation of how the vision of the Supreme Being, whichopened up in the eleventh chapter and in which an establishment was sought in the twelfth,is to be the sole guide in one’s daily life in the world. Here, the realisation of God,instead of abolishing the law of the world, transforms it into a reign of divine wisdomwhich plants the eternal meaning of the Spirit in the temporal succession of the earth.God and the world do not deny each other but coalesce into a single fact of existence,which is demonstrated in the life of synthesis and perfection lived by the liberated soul(Jivanmukta).
Towards the achievement of this end, we are initiated into the nature of the knower (Kshetrajna)and the field of knowledge (Kshetra). Matter is the field of the activity ofthe Spirit (XIII. 1). Consciousness is different from the body, as it is also theimpartial witness of all other objects. This consciousness is also the universal observerof all things and, thus, omnipresent (2). The field of the activity of consciousnessincludes both the external universe as the physical objects and ourselves as thepsychological subjects (5,6). Though this knowledge was already given in an earlier stagewhen it was known that the qualities of Prakriti move among the very same qualitiesas the senses and mind on one side and the objects on another side (Ch. III), it now comeswith a new significance that consciousness is here realised as not merely a witnessisolated from its objects but as one organically entwined with the latter, transcendingand including both the subjects and the objects. How such an organic connection betweenthe subjects and the objects bearing distinct characters is possible can be evident onlywhen these two related terms are visualised from the standpoint of the Absolute, which isincapable of being designated either as being or non-being, since it is spread outeverywhere, not only in all things but as all things, moving and unmoving,living and non-living, active and inactive, visible and invisible (XIII. 12-17). Theseeing of all things, within as well as without, by consciousness, is possible because theAbsolute as consciousness is a blend of all things within and without, covering everythingequally, seeing, hearing, knowing, grasping and being everything, all at once. Here isgiven, in this stupendous realisation, a more practical touch to the grand cosmic visionprovided at the stage of the eleventh chapter. The inner effort, however, needed toperpetuate this realisation consists in the practice of the ethico-metaphysical virtues ofhumility born of knowledge, unpretentiousness, unprejudiced regard for all beings,straightforwardness, self-control, equanimity of attitude, love for solitude, pursuit ofthe higher enlightenment which substantiates a grounding of oneself in Truth (7-11).
There is, again, a fresh light thrown on this enlightenment. The universe as Prakritiis not constituted of material substances or tangible objects but is essentially amovement of forces or energies (Gunas). These forces, again, are not anything whichcan be equated with forms perceptible to the senses. They are supersensible, and, from thepoint of view of the senses, virtually ‘unsubstantial’; only, they act in certain ways,and it is the action of these forces which appears as the universe of sensory perception.These ways of the universal energy are three: dynamic, inert, and equilibrated, knownrespectively as Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva (XIV. 5). The threefold energybinds consciousness to individual experience of passion, delusion and understanding. Thejunction and disjunction of the forces is the union and separation of beings (6-8). Whenknowledge rises to this occasion, it enables one to look upon the world not as an objectto be dealt with in any manner, but as a sea of forces which has not within it thedistinction of inside and outside. The coming and going of the forces, their union andseparation, makes no difference now to the enlightened person. There is no material worldobstructing or contending with consciousness. The knower operates upon the cosmic forcesand becomes one who has transcended their operative jurisdiction (Gunatita). The knowing principle (Kshetrajna) assumes universal sway and the field ofaction (Kshetra) becomes only a name that is given to the way in whichconsciousness manifests itself as forces of Nature. The universal knower, not any more anindividual perceiver, is the supreme master of the destiny not only of himself but allthat there is anywhere; neither elated nor depressed at anything, not taking any personalinitiative but cooperating with the cosmos (22-26).
Such a master or adept is the true representative of God in the world,-Purushottama(XV. 18). Sri Krishna was a specimen of this type of superman who ranged beyond thelimitations of individual nature, overcoming the forms of externality, whether as theseeing subject or the seen object. He is, verily, Man-God moving in the world. Here wehave the complete picture of the Gita’s teaching, enthroning humanity in the status ofdivinity and leaving man wholly free in all the worlds. All-knowledge and all-power areHis special endowments. Here the principle of duality, of the divine and undivine forces (Daiviand Asuri Sampat) is confronted directly and resolved for ever. Thedivine and the undivine are not merely ethical opposites as the good and the bad, withwhich we are usually familiar in our life, but the first fluctuation of the point ofcreativity into the positive and negative poles, which gains suzerainty in all the realmsof being,-physical, vital, mental, intellectual, moral and social. This polarity offorces, known as the divine and the undivine elements in creation, is totally overcome andresolved into an absolute form of perfection, wherein the conflict between subjectivityand objectivity melts into a unity of positivity of character (XVI. 6, 1-5). Here thepsychological distinction of ‘I’ and ‘you’ is transmuted into a limitless selfhood ofexperience.
There are really no positive and negative forces, from the point of view of a stillhigher vision. These poles appear to be warring with each other when consciousness remainsas a witness of creation. But it has to rise beyond this state of even a witness and enterinto the very field and make this field a part of its own being. God has to regard theuniverse as His very body, for it is not outside Him any more. In that integratedUniversal Individual, there cannot be a conflict of the Daiva and Asura forces.They are overcome, and there comes the universal attitude of pure perception which iscalled ‘Faith’ in an intensely supernormal connotation, as a general spontaneous communionwith life, and not the ordinary tendency to ‘belief’ in what one cannot understand. Thisrarefied attitude of Sattva is contradistinguished from that of the unregeneratenature of Rajas and Tamas at the lower levels. The exalted attitude of thehighest synthesis in life is symbolised in the mystic phrase ‘Om Tat Sat’ (XVII.23). The Absolute as the transcendent is ‘Tat’, as immanent it is ‘Sat’, andas a fusion of the two aspects in its all-comprehensiveness it is ‘Om’. There is agreater and greater tendency to unification, universality and non-externalised selfhood asconsciousness advances in its march towards perfection. In the state of the cosmicequilibrium of Sattva, the tripartite force of matter as Prakriti enters into thebody of God as the Supreme Being. Consciousness here, having attained perfection, beholdsperfection in the fundamental essence of being.
The perfection of an all-round symmetrical living, with due proportion of emphasisamong understanding, determination, feeling and action while living one’s life in theworld with this supreme enlightenment makes spirituality commensurate with theworld-process in its personal, social, natural and supernatural levels. One’s duty towardsone’s own self is austerity (Tapas); one’s duty towards the world and otherpeople is charitable service (Dana); and one’s duty towards God is a divinededication (Yajna). These three obligations are inviolable (XVIII.5). Proportion inthe practice of one’s duty is to introduce perfection into life. The beholding of a commonessence of reality as the imperishable basis of all beings, indivisible though present ineverything divided in the world, is the perfection of understanding (20). To see variety,though connected in external relationships, would be imperfect understanding (21). But totake any particular object exclusively, as if it is everything in itself, is the lowestform of understanding, for it is farthest removed from truth, causing attachment anddelusion in the mind (22). This is the final analysis of the philosophical foundation ofhuman understanding. In its ethical application, that form of understanding is regarded asperfect, which knows correctly the pros and cons of things, what is properand improper at any given situation, and what truly constitutes bondage and freedom ofoneself as well as others (30). Imperfect understanding confuses standpoints betweenrighteousness and unrighteousness and regards them in their improper significance (31).That type of understanding, however, which mistakes vice for virtue and misconstrues everycontext and situation in life, is of the worst type (32).
That volitional power by which one restrains the outgoing tendencies of the vitalforces, the senses and the mind, by resort to unshaking meditation on Reality, isperfected determination (33). The will which works for personal gains and engages itselfin the fulfilment of desires, the acquisition of material benefits and seemingly goodefforts for the achievement of these ends, is imperfect determination (34). The will whichfinds itself incapable of freedom from sloth, fear, grief, despondency and pride is thelowest form of determination (35). The feeling of satisfaction of the perfect kindgenerally comes in the end, while the effort towards it seems painful and unpleasant; butthis is the nature of all pure happiness which stabilises one’s personality, fully (37).The satisfaction which looks enchanting in the beginning, due to the restless activity ofcontact of the senses with objects, is born of an imperfect kind of feeling (38). But thefeeling which is of a delusive character, intoxicating due to the operation of the baseinstincts, attended with fatigue and stupor, leading to blunderous deeds, is brutesatisfaction (39).
The process of conduct which takes into consideration all the five factors determininga course in any direction,-physical fitness, psychological ability, fineness ofinstruments, various alternatives of procedure and, above all, the presiding principle ofdivinity over everything,-and does not blind itself to a regard only for the visibleaspects of effort in the world, is perfected action (14). When the divine principlesuperintending over all courses of action, though invisible to the senses, is overlooked,and only the temporal factors are emphasised, action becomes imperfect and leads one to afeeling of egoism born of the ignorance that oneself as an individual and a personality isthe real doer of actions (16). The action which is not rooted in the background of likeand dislike for things and whereby the intellect does not get deluded into the falsenotion of agency in action is the purified one; it does not bind the doer thereof. Suchaction is born of Sattva or knowledge (17, 23). An action involving much labour andeffort, causing fatigue and anxiety born of desire and self-regard, is the effect of Rajasor distraction and lack of composure (24). That which disregards the pros and consand relevance of factors involved in a situation, regardless of the inconvenience andpain caused to others thereby, inconsiderate also of one’s fitness to perform it, merelyviewing it from a selfish end born of thorough misconception, is action engendered by Tamasor inertia, or stupidity (25).
The Bearing Of Knowledge On Social Life
The properties of the creative force (Prakriti),-Sattva, Rajas and Tamas,-work,in various proportions, not only in the individual, but also in society. They work notonly in particular bodies, but also in groups of bodies or social formations. In societythese properties work as public relations, while in the individual they operate as psychologicalincentives, motive power and conditions of experience. Society is primarily a set-upof relations established among individuals. Even these relations connectingindividuals in a social bond are constituted of the properties. Everything perceptible orconceivable, whether on earth or in heaven, is under the clutches of the properties(XVIII. 40). The multitudinous variety that we see in creation is the work of theproperties, which are the basic building bricks of the cosmos. Human society is made up ofa community of individuals who come together for a purpose they have in view. Theattitudes people develop towards one another are in accordance with the operation of theproperties. An attitude may be characterised by Sattva, Rajas or Tamas,-calm,disturbing or violent,-in various proportions. The properties dash upon the propertiesin perception as well as activity. It is not the subject perceiving the object, rather itis the properties beholding themselves externally in space-time.
Any definite manifestation of knowledge, capacity or conduct in life is an expressionof the preponderance of a particular property of Prakriti. It is this predominanceof the properties that is responsible for the formation of groups, communities and evennations. Individuals form themselves into societies to fulfil a particular aim orinterest. Birds of the same feather flock together. No one is born as a social being, forat birth no one belongs to anyone else. The relationships start later on due to theworking of the properties through the bodies, senses and mind, in an active manner. Theinborn inadequacies and weaknesses of the human individual make it impossible to livewithout cooperation from others. The primary weakness of human nature is selfishness,which takes many forms such as desire to subjugate others, exploiting others, dishonestbehaviour with others and, in the end, battle with others. Conflict is essentially bornout of non-regard for the value and existence of other persons and things. Even whengroups of individuals join together in a large proportion for a common purpose, theselfish root of individuality does not get obviated; it only gets strengthened byassociation with sympathetic yearnings. This is especially the case with groups formedmainly for political purposes and practical convenience of interested communities. But thehigher purpose of the grouping of human beings into social categories is different: it isto check one another in the expression of selfish attitudes and thereby cooperate with andhelp one another for a purpose beyond the form either of the individual or group.
The capacity for such cooperation depends upon one’s knowledge and power to executeaction. This consideration of human characteristics coagulates into the system known as Varnashrama-Dharmaor the righteousness underlying the logical gradation of the categories of people sociallyas well as individually. The social categorisation of people into spiritual power,political power, economic power and man-power is what is known as Varna-Dharma. Thegradation of individual duties in relation to one’s internal development and growth in theprocess of evolution through the stages of a life of continence, normal fulfilment ofdesires, non-attachment and spiritual integration, is Ashrama-Dharma. Theseprinciples operate for the reconstruction of society. Man-power provides the necessarymaterial for an enterprise. Economic power provides the means of work and of theutilisation of man-power. Political power provides the organisational structure to protectand stabilise the value that is produced through economic power and man-power. Suchprotection includes not only defence against outside attacks but also internal securityand promoting of cultural growth in its various levels. All this is the function of theadministrative, governmental or political constitutions. And yet, with all these, therecan be a serious handicap if there is no restraint exercised over the methodical operationof the systems of administration, material economy and the working forces. Thisrestraining power and directive intelligence is provided by the spiritual regeneration andknowledge with which people are endowed. It is clear that these four classes of humanunderstanding and effort are really the four facets of the single crystal of organicfunctioning in consolidated human society (41-46).
The concept of society in this context should not get restricted merely to the notionof mankind we have usually in our minds. Creation as a whole is a single society, and ourduties, according to Varna and Ashrama, have reference not only to thethings of this earth but of the whole universe. In the light of this vision, the necessityfor the performance of each one’s duty to the best of one’s knowledge and capacity, forthe highest good of the whole, directed through stages, and the mutual obligation thatshould obtain among one another in this vast set-up of the universal environment, isobvious. It is by this vision of universal action that the Supreme Being is adored inone’s life (46). The perfection attained is, thus, to be manifested in social life. Inthis magnificent concept of social duty, the individual, community, nation, world and theentire universe get integrated in the Absolute which is seen in and through all thesedegrees of reality. This is the performance of the cosmic sacrifice in its supremeinter-relatedness; which is duty par excellence, in its comprehensiveness (III.9-16).
In the eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavadgita, which is its final teaching, there is asummation of the individual’s duties (XVIII. 5, 14, 20, 30, 33, 37), social duties (41-46,78), the constitution of Nature (40) and the spiritual discipline necessary forGod-realisation (49-55, 61, 62). Thus, the synthesis of the approach to life hinted hereinpoints to the vast gospel of the subject of Yoga in eighteen steps of the movement ofconsciousness to perfection. The call for renunciation of all relativistic duties in one’sresort to the supreme duty of attaining universal integration (66), and the beautifulblend of the characters of the universal and the individual in the daily life of the world(78), bring into relief the high water-mark of this stupendous teaching. As therelinquishment of every function, relationship and value of dream in the waking awarenessis only a growth into a higher reality and not an abandonment of anything substantial ormeaningful, the surrender of empirical values, connections and duties in a transcendentuniversality of attitude is an entry into reality rather than the forsaking of what istrue and is of any significance. This core of man’s supreme heritage, duty and goal inlife is the eternal message of the 66th verse of the last chapter. And the divine gospelconcludes with its parting advice, which shines as a pendant in the garland of the Lord’sSong, that, wherever is a conscious and voluntary confluence of the Absolute and therelative, knowledge and action, grace and effort, there do excel in their gloriousascension, without doubt, all values of life,-prosperity, victory, happiness andestablished polity.
All endeavour, of any kind, involves three stages: theory, practice and attainment. TheUpanishads and the Bhagavadgita are systematic treatises on these three processes ofconsciousness, the latter particularly being designated under this scheme as the scienceof reality (Brahmavidya), the practice of self-discipline and meditation (Yogasastra) and the union of the individual and temporal with the universal and eternal (Krishna-Arjuna-samvada).The seeker of Truth should not be in a haste. He has, first of all, to conceive andarrange his ideas of the principles on which the efforts are to be built up. Secondly, hehas to plant these systematised principles in his own personal life as the centralconstituents of his very existence and activity, thereby transforming his day-to-day lifeinto an embodiment of the fundamental principles contemplated earlier and established inconsciousness. Thirdly, there should be a patient waiting for the result to follow,whatever be the time this fructification of effort may take. Care, however, has to betaken to see that the practice is flawless, dispassionate, free from all ulterior motivesunconnected with the aim, and that the principles underlying the practical process havereally got soaked into one’s being. With these conditions fulfilled, the goal is certainto be attained, like the ripening of the fruit in a tree that has slowly grown intomaturity.