in the CHAPTER ELVEN One does not lose one’s zest, nor does one lose one’s interest in the activities of the world. One merely ceases to worry about things. There may be superficial worry, but internally there is perfect peace. All the preliminaries associated with preparing oneself for meditational experiences no longer seem important or necessary. In other words, all the rules laid down in the yamas and niyamas (see the chapter on raja yoga), for example, detachment, renunciation and so on, are no longer necessary. The experience of meditation stands way above these rules. The rules no longer apply. These rules are designed to eliminate the mental disturbances. But now the individual can do anything: exciting activities, be angry, be happy, all the multifarious actions in life. These actions no longer adversely affect his inner being. He goes through life as a witness. Sense enjoyments are not diminished; in fact they are heightened.
Everything unites to become one. The faculty of intuition is the medium of knowledge. Objects show their deeper and essential characteristic. Everything assumes an attitude of friendliness and the universe assumes a state of
helpfulness; opposition to one’s nature no longer exists. Every atom shimmers with life and vitality. The progress of time and immensity of space lose their fixed meaning; they are seen as nothing more than a manifestation of the universe. Time begins to stand still and the outer depths of space no longer seem so far away. The stars come within grasping distance. Infinity and eternity become almost tangible. Existence is seen as the permanent aspect of everything. One realizes that one’s being is intimately bound up with everything that is. As such, the ego no longer seems important or even a reality.
One normally sees oneself as a small, insignificant part of the universe, as a small cog in a large wheel, a small particle in unending space and time. One often feels completely isolated and often alienated from other parts of existence. One feels alone, and very mortal. One never even suspects that one can overcome this situation. Most people merely shrug their shoulders and fatalistically accept their fate. Meditation changes all this. One realizes through meditation that one is a necessary, intimate and important part of the universe. One starts to relate deeply to everything that exists. They are no longer separate entities. You are That. This is a mystical state of meditation.
There will be different descriptions of the experiences depending on the depth or height of the meditation. Also each person will use his own language, religious terms, symbolism and personal feelings in an attempt to express the inexpressible. One doesn’t suddenly experience the highest stage of meditation. It is a progressive
intensification of spiritual experience that shows itself in small ways in the beginning. It might initially show itself in visions, in various tangible and intangible ways. Most of these visions will seem strange at first, for they don’t seem to relate to everyday life. You may wonder how such weird and wonderful visions can come from your being. One may see dazzling visions of Buddha or psychedelic, multicoloured energy patterns. One may experience intensification of feelings and emotions. One may hear various sounds which come from the very depths of one’s being.
Finally, let us take an example where a transcendental experience has almost flashed into existence, given illumination of an intense form for a very short time. The following is an extract from The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James: “All at once I, without wrapping of any kind, found myself wrapped in a flame coloured cloud. For an instant I thought of fire, an immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city; the next instant I knew that that fire was in myself. Directly afterwards there came upon me a sense of exultation, immense joyousness, accompanied or immediately followed by, an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, I saw the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is on the contrary a living presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life. Then I saw that all men are immortal; that the cosmic order is such that
without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the founding principle of the world, of all the worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run certain. The vision lasted a few seconds and was gone, but the memory of it and the sense of reality of it has remained during a quarter of a century which has since elapsed. I knew that what the vision showed me was true. That view, that conviction, I may say that consciousness has never, even during periods of deepest depression, been lost.”
Large numbers of classical books have been written which attempt to show spiritual growth and experiences in symbolic or allegorical terms. The writers have realized the futility of trying to describe the spiritual experiences directly. They therefore use indirect methods which will only be understood by those people who have already started to have some kind of experiences. Other people will understand the contents of the books in a literal sense. Examples are the Ramayana and Srimad Bhagavatam giving the life stories of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Goethe’s Faust and numerous other books and poems. They all try to appeal to people on a deeper level than the rational mind. In the same line of thought we therefore ask the reader to try meditation for himself and not to get attached to reading about other people’s experiences and spiritual paths.
Although yoga is more concerned with practice than with theory, a basic idea of the philosophical aspects will help the practitioner to know what he is trying to do and achieve in yoga and how he will attain meditational states. The reader will find that the yogic philosophy, though containing great insight, is always relating to how the practitioner can proceed to his own self-realization. Many philosophies, especially western varieties, tend to lose themselves in their own words. They tend to make their conceptions fit the facts around them, to make a nice word picture of reality. The philosophers become so attached to their words that they eventually assume that their picture is an exact representation of the truth. They don’t seem to realize that their conception is no more than a model, just as a plan of a house is only a plan, it is not the house itself. Eastern philosophies, particularly yogic, Zen and so on, accept the inadequacy of their ideas and try to show the aspirant how he can realize the truth by his own efforts. They acknowledge that understanding of a verbal or written picture of reality does not and is probably unlikely to express the truth itself. Yogic philosophy applies to and is for everyone; it is not reserved for the few people who like to play with words. It is practical.
The first necessity of a useful philosophy is that it should try to relate to human life. It should formulate or at least throw some light on the human condition and how to raise mankind above suffering and pain. Buddha realized
this, for he refused to answer questions on the existence of God, not because he didn’t have any opinion, but because he didn’t consider the question relevant to man’s condition. He could have answered, “Yes, there is a God” or “No, there isn’t”. In either case people would not have gained anything from the answer. It would have been mere words to them, without any change in their being or happiness. Buddha’s main aim was to help people to raise themselves above unhappiness; when they had raised themselves above their existing condition, the answer they were seeking would come of itself. They wouldn’t need to ask the question.
This is also the aim of yoga, to alleviate man’s suffering so that the spiritual aspects in man can spontaneously reveal themselves. Yoga specifies that there are definite causes of human suffering and pain. These can be classified into five groups and are known as kleshas in Sanskrit. These are not based on obscure theories, but on a careful and practical study of man, his life and actions. These five kleshas were postulated by sages who had experienced them personally and transcended them; therefore, they were able to see the overall picture and not just a fragmented picture. Most of us are so bound up in the causes of our unhappiness that we cannot recognize them. Human suffering is caused by:
- ignorance, or unawareness of reality
- the ego
- likes or attraction towards objects dislikes or repulsions towards objects
the strong aversion or fear of death.
Actually these kleshas are not separate; one leads to the next. Ignorance of the true reality is the root cause. Because of this, each individual thinks only of himself. He becomes aware of his identity, his ego, and automatically feels different from the other people and objects around him. He becomes the ego moving among other things. In gross or subtle ways everything outside himself becomes subservient to him, to be used to bring more happiness, comfort, etc., to him. In this way likes and dislikes arise. Things or people who make him feel good, happy, who inflate his ego, attract him. Things that tend to make him feel unhappy, uncomfortable, etc., become things of repulsion or dislike. Of course it is not always as clear cut as this; some objects or people might bring about both feeling of dislike and like at different times, some might appear to be neutral, causing no like or dislike; given the right conditions, however, these neutral things can easily turn into objects of like and dislike. From one’s attachment to objects and people and one’s feeling of egoism comes the deep attachment to life and the aversion to death. One doesn’t want to lose one’s identity and the things or people who make the ego happy.
Kleshas cause suffering by making the individual identify with things that are transient. The individual identifies himself with his body, mind and ego and as such he is always consciously or unconsciously unhappy because he knows these things will eventually disappear at death.
He doesn’t identify with the eternal self. It is the same with objects that give rise to like; they are not permanent and will eventually disappear. They will cease to give satisfaction. What about dislikes? Well, of course they cause unhappiness superficially by not feeding the ego in a way that gives man pleasure. But actually dislikes are not very different to likes, they are merely different sides of the same coin. We are bound equally to both likes and dislikes. There is a lot of truth in the saying, “One’s greatest love is also one’s greatest hate”. A person we hate can easily, under the right circumstances, turn into someone we love.
Kleshas continually cause unhappiness because we are trying to protect their present condition. We are very attached to a new car. Someone steals it and we become unhappy and depressed. Someone tells you that your work is not very satisfactory. You become unhappy because the work is an extension of yourself, it is part of your ego. And so on in all the things we do in life. If the reader carefully thinks about everything he does in life and why he is unhappy, either permanently or temporarily, he should come to the conclusion that in fact the five kleshas cover every aspect of suffering in life.