Vedic, Upanishadic and Gita’s Yoga
If you examine the history of the world, the greatest experiments in this field have been done in India. They have been done elsewhere also. But this is an objective fact, it is not that we are speaking about India because we are Indians; this is a fact of Indian history that some of the profoundest experiments and repeated experiments have occurred in India, and the earliest were found in the Veda, and having made experiments they have laid down the road. The roads have been built so that others can follow that road very easily. They have found through their experiment that first by withdrawing from the situation and by gaining a lot of experience of self consciousness you can come back on the situation and you can greatly change the situation. But this experiment has to be done in many levels. The speciality of the Vedic rishis was that this withdrawing from a situation and again coming back to the situation to change it occurs on several levels. The first is the level of the physical, where you confront only a physical situation, withdraw from the physical situation, become larger than the field, come back to the physical situation and change it. Then you come to the situation of life, not the physical but the life of emotions, sentiments, desires, attractions, repulsions; withdraw from this life situation, come back again to the life situation, change it, and they said this also can be greatly changed. Then they made experience with the mind and similarly that showed that even mind can be greatly changed. Mental situations can be greatly changed. Therefore the Vedic experience is called the experience of victory. There is a battle and there is a victory. And you ascend from plane to plane and they said that even beyond the mind there is the truth plane, the plane of satyam ritam brihat. And when you reach that plane then you find that even mental, vital, physical planes can be changed by the help of your going into the truth plane. And they have found that some of the individuals reached such a point that they could change completely their entire being. Human nature they have found can be entirely changed. They not only experienced immortality at the highest plane, they built immortality in the situation itself. This was repeated also in the Upanishads and they gave so much importance to remaining in the situation, not escaping from it but changing the situation. They said that if you do not do it while in the body then you have to come back again in the body until you really realise it while in the body itself. Merely by withdrawing do not think that you will escape it. Even if you try to escape you will have to come back again.
But this process was a long process – to withdraw and again to change. But this treasure of experience of the Veda got lost after the Upanishads particularly. This wealth of knowledge and experience was not fully transmitted, so when fresh experiments were made, there was a real question which was raised once again: can the situation really be changed? And they found that the situation cannot be changed. You can withdraw from it, you can escape from the situation but you cannot change the situation. Having come to this conclusion they found quicker methods of escape. So they found out that if you just develop the mind and induce in the mind a sense of vairagya, which in a certain sense means a sense of vanity – meaninglessness – then the mind is induced to withdraw from the situation much more quickly. Secondly you develop the mind in the field of concentration, because when you withdraw you have to withdraw truly and with sustenance for a long period and this can happen only if the mind is sufficiently trained to be concentrated for a long time, this is the second prescription. First is vairagya, second the method of sustaining for a long period a sense of concentration or a capacity of concentration to be away from the situation, in self–consciousness, and if you can remain long periods then you can very quickly come out of the snares of the situation. And ultimately you reach a point where you still find that even having withdrawn, when you come back again from there – because you cannot remain withdrawn for all the time, because the bodily calls will be there, the appetites of the body will be there, other physical discomforts will be there, so you will be called back from your withdrawal – so a point must come when you should even try to come out of the body. So they have prescribed that by long sessions of vairagya and concentration, you are able to come out ultimately from the body itself and then you can remain absorbed in the self consciousness. This method became prominent in India, particularly in Buddhistic tendency, in Jain tendency and also in the Hindu tendency to some extent, if not fully. There is a long history of India where you can see very clearly that the richness of the Vedic experience was as it were put behind, it remained only a memory, but was not practised. In practice only this kind of a method was developed and each one came out with quicker methods by which one can escape from the situation.
There were of course movements where there was a kind of an opposition to this kind of an escape such as we find in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna was bewildered. He was asking why he should not escape from there, because it was quite prominent by that time itself that you can escape from the situation and particularly a horrible situation like this. He wondered why he should not withdraw and attain to samadhi and remain completely quiet, blameless and sinless. Sri Krishna repeats the Vedic experience and he says that although it is possible for anybody to withdraw, but he does not prescribe it, it is not preferable. There are both the methods. One of escaping and the other of dealing with the situation and changing the situation and the latter is the preferred path. Sri Krishna says that this path was declared by him long ago. In the fourth chapter he says to Arjuna that he gave this knowledge to Vivasvan and then to Manu and Ikshvaku and then it was lost and now he is giving this knowledge back again to Arjuna. But even after the Bhagavad Gita's great message, the general tendency that prevailed was the quick short cut of escaping from life. Escaping from the situation became a very prevalent idea.
This is the history of what has been done so far. In the modern times, once again there is a tendency which prescribes that you should not escape but you should face the situation. This is a modern tendency and it has not come from a spiritual tradition. The modern progressivism says that you may do anything in the world, you may achieve anything for yourself but until you achieve something for the whole community, your achievements cannot be considered valuable. In the light of this new trend the question is being put: is it really possible to change the situation?