Yoga – The Soul (I)
I have described two principles of the human constitution: prana and manas. Something also has been said about the nature and relations of the soul. The gross body was omitted as needing no special handling.
The five manifestations of each of the two principles (the prana and the manas), it may be mentioned, may be either fortunate or unfortunate. Those manifestations are fortunate which are consonant with our true culture, which lead us to our highest spiritual development, the summum bonum of humanity. Those that keep us chained to the sphere of recurring births and deaths may be called unfortunate. On each of the two planes of life (prana and manas) there is a possibility of double existence. We might have a fortunate and an unfortunate prana, a happy and an unhappy mind. Considering these two to be four, the number of principles of the human constitution might be raised from five to seven. The unhappy intelligences of the one plane ally themselves with the unhappy ones of the other, the happy ones with the happy, and we have in the human constitution an arrangement of principles something like the following:
- The gross body (sthula sarira),
- the unhappy prana,
- the unhappy mind,
- the happy prana,
- the happy mind,
- the soul (vijana), and
- the spirit (ananda).
The fundamental division in the fivefold division is upadhi, the particular and distinct state of matter (prakriti) in each case; in the sevenfold division it is the nature of Karma with reference to its effect upon human evolution.
Both the sets of these powers, the blessed and the unhappy, work upon the same plane, and although the blessed manifestations tend in the long run towards the state of moksha, that state is not reached unless and until the higher powers (the siddhi) are induced in the mind by the exercise of yoga. Yoga is a power of the soul. Therefore it is necessary to say something about the soul and Yoga before the higher powers of the mind can be intelligibly described. Yoga is the science of human culture in the highest sense of the word. Its purpose is the purification and strengthening of the mind. By its exercise is filled with high aspirations, and acquires divine powers, while the unhappy tendencies die out. The second and third principles are burnt up by the fire of divine knowledge, and the state of what is called salvation in life is attained. By and bye the fourth principle too becomes neutralized, and the soul passes into a state of manwantaric moksha. The soul may pass higher still according to the strength of her exercise. When the mind too is at rest, as in sound sleep (sushupti) during life, the omniscience of the vijnanais reached. There is still a higher state: the state of ananda. Such are the results of yoga. I must now describe the nature of the thing and the process of acquirement.
So far as the nature of Yoga is concerned, I may say that mankind has reached its present state of development by the exercise of this great power. Nature herself is a great Yogi, and humanity has been, and is being, purified into perfection by the exercise of her sleepless will. Man need only imitate the great teacher to shorten the road to perfection for his individual self. How are we to render ourselves fit for that great imitation? What are the steps on the great ladder of perfection? These things have been discovered for us by the great sages of yore, and Patanjali’s little book is only a short and suggestive transcript of so much of our past experiences and future potentialities as is recorded in the book of nature. This little book uses the word Yoga in a double signification. The first is a state of the mind otherwise called samadhi; the second is a set of acts and observances that induce that state in the mind. The definition given by the sage is a negative one, and is applicable only on the plane of the mind. The source of the positive power lies in the higher principle; the soul Yoga (it is said) is the keeping in check of the five manifestations of the mind. The very wording of the definition is involved in the supposition of the existence of a power that can control and keep the mental manifestations in check. This power is familiar to us as freedom of the will. Although the soul is deluded by the manifestations of egoism (asmita) on the mental plane into regarding herself as a slave of the second and third principles, that is not the fact, and the awakening takes place as soon as the chord of egoism is slackened to a certain extent. This is the first step in the initiation by nature herself of the race of man. It is a matter of necessity. The side-by-side working with each other of the second and third and the fourth and fifth principles weakens the hold of natural mental asmita upon the soul. “I am these, or of these mental manifestations”, says Egoism. Such a state of affairs, however, cannot last long. These manifestations are double in nature; the one is just the reverse of the other. Which of them is one with the ego: the unhappy or the blessed? No sooner is this question asked than the awakening takes place. It is impossible to answer any of these questions in the affirmative, and the soul naturally ends in discovering that she is a separate thing from the mind, and that although she has been the slave, she might be (what she naturally is) the Lord of the mind. Up to this time the soul has been tossed this way or that in obedience to the tatwic vibrations of the mind. Her blind sympathy with the mental manifestations gives her unison with the mind, and hence the tossing. The chord of sympathy is loosened by the waking. The stronger the nature, the greater the departure from unison. Instead of the soul being tossed by the mental vibrations, it is now time that the mind should vibrate in obedience to the vibrations of the soul. This assumption of lordship is the freedom of the will, and this obedience of the mind to the vibrations of the soul is Yoga. The manifestations evoked in the mind by the external tatwas must now give way to the stronger motion coming from the soul. By and bye the mental colors change their very nature, and the mind comes to coincide with the soul. In other words, the individual mental principle is neutralized, and the soul is free in her omniscience.
Let us now trace the acquirements of the mind step by step up to samadhi.
Samadhi, or the mental state induced by the practice of Yoga, has two descriptions. As long as the mind is not perfectly absorbed in the soul the state is called samprajnata. That is the state in which the discovery of new truths follows labor in every department of nature. The second is the state of perfect mental absorption. It is called asamprajnata. In this there is no knowing, no discovering of unknown things. It is a state of intuitive omniscience. Two questions are naturally suggested at the awakening stage:
“If I am these manifestations, which of them am I? I think I am none of them. What am I then? What are these?”
The second question is solved in the samprajnata samadhi, the first in the other. Before entering further into the nature of samadhi, a word about habituation and apathy. These two are mentioned by Patanjali as the two means of checking mental manifestation, and it is very important to understand them thoroughly The manifestation of apathy is the reflection in the mind of the color of the soul when she becomes aware of her free nature and consequently is disgusted at the mastery of the passions. It is a necessary consequence of the awakening. Habituation is the repetition of the state so as to confirm it in the mind.
The confirmation of the mind in this state means a state of ordinary mental inactivity. By this I mean that the five ordinary manifestations are at rest for the first time. This being so, the mind is for the time being left free to receive any influences. Here for the first time we see the influence of the soul in the shape of curiosity (Vitarka). What is this? What is that? How is this? How is that? This is the form in which curiosity shows itself in the mind. Curiosity is a desire to know, and a question is a manifestation of such a desire. But how does man become familiar with questions? The mental shape of curiosity and question will be understood easily by paying a little attention to the remarks I have made on the genesis of desire. The process of the birth of philosophical curiosity is similar to that of the birth of desire. In the latter the impulse comes from the external world through Prana, and in the former, directly from the soul. The place of pleasure in this is supplied by the reflection into the mind of the knowledge of the soul that self and independence are better than non-self and the enslaving cords thereof. The strength of the philosophical curiosity depends upon the strength of this reflection, and as this reflection is rather faint in the beginning (as it generally is in the present state of the spiritual development), the hold of philosophical curiosity upon the mind bears almost no comparison in strength with the hold of desire.
Philosophical curiosity is then the first step of mental ascent towards Yoga. To begin with, we place before our mind every possible manifestation of nature, and try to fit in every possible phase of it with every related manifestation. In plain language, it is to apply ourselves to the investigation of all the branches of natural science one by one.
This is the natural result of curiosity. By this attempt to discover the relations already existing or possible, essential or potential, among the phenomena of nature, another power is induced in the mind. Patanjali calls this power vichara, meditation. The radical idea of the word is to go among the various relations of the portions that make up the whole subject of our contemplation. It is only a deeper hold on the mind of the philosophical curiosity noticed above. The third state of this samadhi is what is called ananda, happiness or bliss. As long as there is curiosity or meditation, the mind is only assuming the consistency of the soul. This means to say that as yet the vibrations of the soul are only making way into the mind; they have not yet entirely succeeded. When the third stage is arrived at, however, the mind is sufficiently polished to receive the full and clear image of the sixth coil. The mind is conscious of this image as bliss. Every man who has devoted himself to the study of nature has been in that coveted state for however short a time. It is very difficult to make it intelligible by description, but I am sure that the majority of my readers are not strangers to it.
But whence does this bliss come? What is it? I have called it a reflection of the soul. But first of all, what is the soul? From what I have written up to this time, the reader will no doubt surmise that I understand the soul to be only a picture of the gross body, the prana, and the mind, so far only as its constitution is concerned.
I have mentioned that in the macrocosm the sun is in the center, the prana the atmosphere of the second principle, and that the ecliptic marks the shape of this principle. I have also mentioned that the individual human principle is only a picture of this macrocosmic whole. I have mentioned again that in the macrocosm virat is the center and manu the atmosphere of second principle. This atmosphere is made of the five universal tatwas, just like prana, the only difference being that the mental tatwas undergo a greater number of vibrations per second than the tatwas of prana. I have also said that the individual mind is an exact picture of the macrocosmic mind, the aspect differing with the surroundings of time, just as in the case of prana.
Now I have to say the same with regard to the soul. In the macrocosm there is Brahma for the center, and vijana for the atmosphere of this principle. As the earth moves in prana, as the sun moves in manu, as the manu (or virat) breathes in vijana, so the soul breathes in the highest atmosphere of ananda. Brahma is the center of spiritual life, as the sun is the center of prana, and virat the center of mental life. These centers are similar in luminosity to the sun, but ordinary senses cannot perceive them because the number of tatwic vibrations per second is beyond their power.
The soul of the universe (the vijana maya kosha), with Brahma for its center, is our psychic ideal.
The tatwic wires of this sphere extend over what we call a Brahmanda. This they do in a way similar to the tatwic rays of prana with which we are familiar through the medium of gross matter. This center with this universe forms the self-conscious universe. All the lower centers exist within the bosom of this atmosphere.
Under the influence of gross matter the mental macrocosm registers the external pictures; that is to say, it gains the power of manifesting itself in the five ways I have described in the essay on mind. Under the Brahma, however, the mental macrocosm (Manu) attains the higher powers under discussion. This double influence changes, after a time, the nature of Manu itself. The universe has, as it were, a new mind after every manwantara. This change is always for the better. The mind is ever spiritualizing. The later the Manu the more spiritual. A time will come when the present macrocosmic mind will be entirely absorbed into the soul. The same is the case with the microcosm of man. Thus Brahma is by nature omniscient. He is conscious of a self. The types of everything that was or is to be in the process of time are but so many varying compositions of his tatwas. Every phase of the universe, with its antecedents and consequents, is in him. It is himself, his own self-consciousness. One mind is absorbed in him in the space of fourteen manwantara. The motion of the mental tatwas is so much accelerated that they become spiritual. By the time that this takes place in the Universe the vibrations of the tatwas of prana too are being accelerated under the influence of Manu until the prana itself is turned into the Manu of the next period. And again, while this is being done, the gross matter is similarly developing itself into prana.
This is the process of involution, but for the present let us leave it here and resume the subject.
The human soul is an exact picture of this macrocosmic principle. It is omniscient like its prototype, and has the same constitution. But the omniscience of the human soul is yet latent on account of her forgetfulness. The sixth principle (absolute) has developed only a little. Humanity in general has only a very dim notion of infinity, of Godhead, and of all such subjects. This means that the rays of the infinite are only just evoking our sixth principle into active life at this stage of our progress. When in the process of time the rays of the infinite gather sufficient strength, our soul will come out in her true light. We might accelerate this process by vairagya (apathy), which gives strength to Yoga, as we have seen.
The means of strengthening Yoga deserve separate consideration. Some of them help to remove those influences and forces that are antagonistic to progress; others, such as the contemplation of the divine principle, accelerate the process of development of the human soul, and the consequent absorption of the mind in the soul. At present I have simply to discover the nature of the blissful samadhi, which I spoke of as being caused by the reflection of the soul in the mind.
This reflection simply means the assumption by the mind of the state of the soul. The mind passes from its own ordinary state to the state of the higher energy of the soul. The greater number of tatwic vibrations per second make their way in the matter of a lower number of tatwic vibrations per second. The English language recognizes this rising up of the mind, this passing out of itself, as elation, and this is the meaning of the word ananda as qualifying the third state of the samprajnata samadhi. The ananda maya kosha takes its name from its being the state of the highest upheaval. Every moment of ananda is a step towards the absorption of the mind as it changes its nature, passing forever into a higher state of consistency. That state which in ananda only appeared in the moment of triumph now becomes part and parcel of the mind. This confirmation of the higher energy is known by the name of Asmita, which may be translated by the word egoism, but means making part and parcel of self.