Varieties of Yogic Experience and Integral Realisation - A Synoptic Note

A Synoptic Note

A Synoptic Note

Quest of Yoga

Yoga is the expression of the flame of aspiration that rises upwards in order to bum and bum steadily, constantly and ever-increasingly, to grow in leaps of fire in order to bum away all that tends towards extinction, to build our inner being and all members of the being, — body, life, and mind and all our faculties, actual and latent, — so that all of them make an ascent in all consuming zeal to unite with all that is or felt or conceived to be the highest, the best, the widest and intensest, the infinite, the limitless, all and beyond, — so that they can attain consummation and ever-living sustenance of heat and light. This flame has, in its upward movement, — it is discovered, — an inherent sense of direction and discloses progressively the needed knowledge of the means and methods that are required for its constant movement and consummation; it has the Veda — not the text — but that which is recognised in the Indian tradition as the secret knowledge that is in the heart of every thinking and living being, but uncovered by the seeker through the process of the burning of aspiration itself, — and, therefore, in need of no indispensable external agencies of guidance, — teacher, book, ethics, aesthetics, philosophy, science, occultism or religion, — even though they may be utilised as and when indicated or offered on the way, but in the end transcended by the inward force of the constant need to burn and burn luminously and immortally.

Yoga is the journey of the yogic flame of aspiration, and this journey is, as reported by the seekers, difficult and even

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A Synoptic Note

perilous, although when carried on by heroic concentration, it becomes more and more felicitous, and victories are won after victories, and even though it rises on peaks after peaks of accomplishment — yoga-siddhi, — there are still farther accomplishments that are made clearer. As an ancient record of Yoga states:

brahmāṇastvā śatakrato

ud vamśam iva yemire.

yat sānoḥ sānum āruhad

bhūri aspaṣṭa kartvam.¹

The seekers of the journey climb thee like a ladder, O hundred powered. As one ascends from peak to peak, there is made clear the much that has still to be done..

And yet in the ever-progressive movement, the individual seeker, the individual soul, discovers the stable source and foundation, the creative power of the world, and even while seated securely in that foundation, it sees luminously the progressive self-unfolding. Again, as it is stated:

abhyavasthāḥ pro jāyante

pra vavrer vavriś ciketa.

upasthe māturvi caṣṭe.²

States upon states are born; covering over covering awakens to knowledge: in the lap of the Creative Power of the Worlds, the Mother of Creation, he wholly sees.

Yoga is a quest, with its own distinctiveness of object and method, even though this distinctiveness has characters that are, in some measure or the other, shared by all the great

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quests of science, philosophy, ethics, aesthetics and religion. The yogic quest transcends all other quests by its insistence on attaining answers to the deepest questions that all other quests raise in some way or in some degree, and attempt to answer but remain unanswered but which at the same time must be answered. The central questions that impel yogic quest are: (i) if human life has any meaning, and if so, (ii) if that meaning can be consciously seized, (iii) if the relevant knowledge can be possessed with certainty, and (iv) if that knowledge can be applied in regard to the highest possible fulfilment of the individual in the cosmos. In the pursuit of these questions, Yoga aims at cultivating all human faculties, at purifying them and perfecting them so as to utilise them methodically. And taking advantage of the experiments that have been conducted over millennia in developing Yogic methods and Yogic knowledge, Yoga continues to discover and apply more and more refined means and instruments, not only to arrive at the union of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness and transcendental consciousness, but also to manifest the consequences of this union for arriving at ever increasing perfection of the individual and collective life in the physical world and even to transform earthly life into what can be called divine life.

The distinctive methods of Yoga relate to the meticulous handling of customary psychological workings based upon a knowledge developed and confirmed by regular experiments, practical analysis and constant results so as to develop out of normal functions, powers and results which are always latent but which ordinary movements do not easily or do not often manifest. These methods are based on the perception and experience that our inner elements, combinations, functions, forces can be separated or

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dissolved, can be newly combined and set to novel and formerly impossible workings or can be transformed and resolved into a new general synthesis by fixed internal processes. They also depend on the perception and experience that the vital forces and functionings to which our life is normally subjected and whose ordinary operations seem to be set and indispensable, can be mastered and the operations changed or suspended with results that would otherwise be impossible and that seem miraculous to those who have not seized the rationale of that process. These methods can some times be arranged in a certain order, in certain fixity of the developing process, and even in some mechanical procedure. But these methods tend to become less and less mechanical, less and less fixed in their order of procedure, and stages are reached where the required methodised effort is indicated by developing consciousness more and more spontaneously, more and more intuitively, more and more by psychic sense and tact and an inner spiritual guidance.

Yoga is, as stated by Sri Aurobindo, "a methodised effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the potentialities latent in the being and a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos."³

Object and States of Yogic Knowledge

Swami Vivekananda has stated:

"Yoga is really one of the grandest of sciences ... take up the study of this science as you would any other science of a material nature and remember there is no mystery and no danger in it."

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Science is a quest of knowledge, but modem science has so far tended to concentrate on the knowledge of Matter or of life and mind as embodied in Matter. It has also tended to develop those methods, which have been successful in studies where empirical observations and measurements are feasible. Yoga goes farther in its scope and investigates also the domains which are supra-physical in character. It has, indeed, been asked as to whether there can be a science of supra-physical data, the scientific character of which can be as great as that of sciences of the physical data. The difficulties lie in the long-established habit of physical sciences to apply their established methods on all processes of scientific investigation, even when the subject matter is not physical in character. A demand is, therefore, made to provide physical proof of supra-physical facts. But it is evident that the demand for physical proof of supra-physical facts is irrational and illogical. For the method of knowledge should be proper to the object of knowledge. And we have to note that yoga has developed various kinds of evidence of supra-physical facts and of the existence of other planes of beings and communication with them. They include objectivisation of the outer sense, subtle contact, mind- contact, life-contact, and contact through the subliminal consciousness exceeding our ordinary range. It is argued that these methods are liable to error. But it can be replied that error is not the prerogative of investigations into the supra- physical. Even when the physical methods are employed, there is room for error. A mere liability to error cannot be a reason for shutting out a large and important domain of experience which is explored in Yoga. As in physical sciences, so in Yoga, it is a reason for scrutinising it and finding out in it true standards and valid means of verification. The Yogic science confirms that the supra-physical

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consciousness including the subliminal consciousness, psychic consciousness, spiritual consciousness and higher domains of super consciousness, — when rightly investigated, is confirmed again and again in the physical and objective field.

Knowledge that is sought to be attained through Yoga has certain special characteristics; it is the light by which one grows into one's true being, not the knowledge by which one increases information and intellectual riches. It is true that scientific or psychological or philosophical or ethical or aesthetic or practical knowledge help us to grow, but only in the becoming, not in the being, — even though they can enter into the definition of Yogic knowledge when they are used as aids to know the highest Being. Thus scientific knowledge can get us through the veil of processes and phenomena and enable us to see one reality behind which explains them all. Psychological knowledge can be used to know ourselves and to distinguish the lower self from the higher self in order that we may renounce the lower and grow into the higher. Philosophical knowledge can be termed as a light upon the essential principles of existence so as to enable ourselves to discover and live in that which is eternal. Ethical knowledge can aid us when having distinguished the wrong from the right, we put away the one and rise above the other into the pure innocence of the divine Nature, — parā prakriti. Aesthetic knowledge, too, can be a part of Yogic knowledge when we discover by it the beauty of the Divine. Even knowledge of the world can be a part of Yogic knowledge when we see through it the way of the transcendent with his creatures and use it for the service of the Divine. Even then they are only aids; the real knowledge, —jnāna is that which is a secret to the mind, of which the mind only gets by

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reflection, but which lives in the spirit. The object distinctive af the Yogic knowledge is the union with what can be perceived, felt or conceived to be the highest truth of the being, and as the Upanishad states, when that object is attained, all becomes known, even what science as we practise it aims to know:

yasmin vijnāte sarvam

vijnātam bhavati

Records of Yoga have described three movements leading up to the yogic states of knowledge or realisation. These are three successive movements, — internal vision, complete internal experience and identity.

* Internal vision or drishti is the direct perception of psychical things and of the Self. To begin with, we may hold firmly the conception of the Self derived from our inmost aspirations or from teachers or from luminous teachings. We may fix it by an entire and exclusive concentration; we may thus use the triple operation of Jnana yoga, shravana, manana, nidhidhyāsana. It is only when after long and persistent concentration that the veil of the mind is rent or swept aside, and a flood of light breaks over the awakened mentality, and conception gives place to a knowledge — vision in which the Self is as present, real, concrete, as physical object to physical eye that we possess in knowledge.

This experience must become more frequent till it is constant.

* In due course, there are other internal experiences so that the vision of the Self is completed by experiences of it in all our members. All this knowledge and experience are

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primary means of arriving at and of possessing identity.

* One not only sees the Self or God, one even embraces Him and become that Reality. The Ishopanishad describes the great experience culminating in identity in the following terms:

yas tu sarvāṇi bhūtāni ātmanievānupaśyati

sarvabhūteṣu cātmānaṁ tato na vijiugupsate.

yasmin sarvāṇi bhūtaniātmaivābhūd vijānataḥ

tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śoka ekatvam anupaśyataḥ4

But he who sees everywhere the Self in all existences and all existences in the Self, shrinks not thereafter from anything. He in whom it is the Self-being that has become all existences that are Becomings, for he has the perfect knowledge, how shall he be deluded, whence shall he have grief who sees everywhere oneness?

Such is the foundational knowledge that Yoga promises, and from this foundational knowledge, several practical capacities of knowledge and will can be developed which should lift us from what Sri Aurobindo calls sevenfold ignorance to sevenfold integral knowledge.

Such is the object and status of the knowledge that Yoga promises, and the result for practical life that is promised is elimination of ignorance in our thought, will, sensations, actions, and prevention from returning wrong or imperfect responses to the questionings of the world, liberation from wandering in a maze of errors and desires, strivings and failures, pain and pleasure, sin and stumbling. Our crooked road of blind groping and changing goal is turned into a sunlit path.

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Religion and Yoga

In many respects Yoga may appear to be identical with religion, and yet the distinction is very vast. If Yoga is a quest, religion, too, is a quest; if yoga aims at the practice of a discipline which aims at uniting the individual and his faculties with the operation of the universal and transcendental consciousness and being, religion, too, has a similar discipline. Where then is the difference? The answer lies in the fact that although religion at its core and at its highest aspiration aims at spiritual experience and, although great religions have their origin in discipline and experience, they tend to develop systems of dogma and to prescribe belief in the dogma. Whatever spiritual discipline is proposed, it becomes encrusted and overlaid with ceremonies, rituals, and institutional prescriptions regarding conduct, both individual and collective. In this situation, religion may be seen as a first approach to yoga, but even then it may not be an indispensable gate of yoga. Yoga proceeds directly by a change of consciousness, a change from the ordinary consciousness, ignorant of true self, to a greater consciousness in which one finds one's true being and into a direct and living contact by experience and then a union with the Divine. For the yogic seeker, this change of consciousness is the one thing that matters and nothing else — belief, dogma, rituals, and ceremonies. Yoga not only aims at the total change of consciousness, but even its methods are derived from gradual increasing entry into a domain higher than body, life, and mind. In other words, Yoga is an exploration of consciousness through consciousness.

Religion is seen to be a source of moral values, and the

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absoluteness of the moral values is sought to be derived from some religious sanction. Thus religions have attempted to erect systems and declared God's commands through Avatar or the Prophet. Such systems have proved more dynamic and more powerful than the dry ethical idea. But quite often these systems conflict with what reason supports or else they are so ingrained in certain religious dogmas that they do not have an appeal to those who do not accept those dogmas. Besides, there is, too, a conflict among the dogmas. These systems are often framed that they prove unworkable and are, therefore, rejected by Nature. Or, sometimes, they are turned into a series of compromises and become obsolete in the march of Time. In the Yogic consciousness and in the knowledge and the effectivity that it produces the highest elements that morality in the deepest core seeks are fulfilled. But Yoga replaces the moral law by a progressive law of self- perfection, spontaneously expressing itself through individual nature. The spiritual law that yoga presents respects the individual nature, modifies and perfects it. And in this sense, it is flexible for each individual and can be known and made operative only by a gradual progression of consciousness and, more and more, by an entry into the real self. In its progressive movement, it may, if necessary, permit a short or a long period of governance by a moral law but always as a provisional device. It always looks forward to a time when one can arrive at a higher plane of consciousness in which the Right and the Good can find spontaneous expression. To the yogic consciousness, moral virtue is valuable as an expression of certain qualities which are for the time being necessary and useful for a given individual in an upward journey. Again, these qualities become modified and enriched as the higher consciousness develops higher

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levels of attitudes and stabilises higher states of consciousness in which the divine qualities manifest more and more spontaneously.

Yoga is not confined merely to the aspect of conduct- the conduct dealt with by ethics is only a minor aspect of the totality of works, inner no less than the external. Yogic consciousness includes all these works and strives by the method of a progressive change in consciousness in the perfect expression of all aspects of works, and in these strivings it realises also the unity of works with the highest knowledge and profoundest love.

It is true that religion too is an attempt to include all aspects of works and to arrive at some sort of unity of works with knowledge and love; but once again, its methods are largely mechanical and dogmatic, and it is only at the highest level of religion that the methods of spiritual disciplines that are prescribed are found suitable to some of the adherents, while to most adherents they remain more less mechanical. The progressive law of yogic development may approve, if necessary, a short or a long period of governance of the individual or of the race by a religion, but only as a provisional device; it always makes room for a passage beyond into the plane of a larger consciousness where distinctive religious methods melt into higher and spontaneous methods appropriate to larger consciousness. To the yogic consciousness religion is not valuable as a form, but only in so far as it may aid the ordinary consciousness of man to turn towards something that is deeper and higher and, even there, it stresses the necessity for every man to have his own distinctive spiritual discipline.

It may also be mentioned that yogic consciousness

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welcomes agnosticism, scepticism, atheism, positivism or free thinking and sees behind them a concern and a demand for authentic knowledge. It recognises that if these are rightly understood, respected and fulfilled, they would become a powerful complement to what lies in consciousness behind the commonly accepted religious qualities of faith and unquestioning acceptance of dogmatic teachings and injunctions.

Yoga always looks behind the form to the essence and to the living consciousness; and in doing so, it brings to the surface that which lies behind in its ultimate truth. Yoga transcends the forms and the methods of morality and religion and creates and recreates its own living and progressive forms.

Yogic methods are distinctive and must not be confused with either morality or religion. A mere learning about Yoga is not Yoga, and even the most catholic book cannot be a substitute for the direct yogic practice of an inner change of consciousness by which one can perceive and realise the inner and higher self and transform the workings of the outer instruments of Nature. Nor can Yoga be practised in a casual way or only as a part-time preoccupation. Yoga, to be properly practised, must be taken as a sovereign and central occupation and must govern and permeate every aspect of life and every pursuit.

Varieties of Yogic Experience

If experience is a means of knowledge, of growth, of ennoblement of character and personality, of expansion, deepening and heightening of consciousness and will-force, then yoga stands out, — considering the methods that it has

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developed for attaining objectivity and certainty, — as a human endeavour of the highest value. For, yoga is at all levels of its stages, based on experience and it develops by accumulation of experience, and its highest peaks consist of experience. To understand yoga, therefore, we need to enter into the realm of yogic experiences.

In the literature relating to this realm, two works stand out, and we may turn to them to derive from them some insights relevant to our purpose here. The first book that was published in 1902 is William James' The Varieties of Religious Experience, and the second book, that was written during 1914-21, is Sri Aurobindo's The Synthesis of Yoga. William James uses the phrase Religious Experience, but it is clear that most of the accounts of the experiences given in the book such as those of conversion, Presence of the Unseen, saintliness and mysticism, can be regarded as yogic, considering that (i) they are not related to institutional aspects of religion, (ii) they are related to individual's inner lives, and (iii) they mark important stages of the discipline of spiritual 5 practice, even though most of them are tied to Christianity, a few to other religions, and others that are independent of any religion. If we maintain that every religion has a spiritual core which is its most important component, and if yoga is primarily concerned with spirituality and with methodical and conscious effort directed towards spiritual development and realisation, then, a large number of experiences described in the book can be legitimately called yogic.

One of the major experiences that is common at a certain stage of yogic development is that of Ineffable Presence, whether we may call it God's Presence or the Presence that

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seems vibrating in Nature. If we read the poems in which Wordsworth expressed his realisation of Nature, you may acquire some distant idea of what yogic realisation is. First of all, W6 see that Wordsworth had the vision of something in the world which is the very Self of all things that it contains, a conscious force and presence other than its forms, yet cause of its forms and manifested in them. We perceive that he had not only the vision of this and the joy and peace and universality which its Presence brings but the very sense of it, mental, aesthetic, vital, physical; not only this sense and vision of it in its own being but in the nearest flower and simplest man and the immobile rock; and, finally, that he even occasionally attained to that unity, that becoming the object of his dedication, one phase of which is powerfully and profoundly expressed in the poem, "A slumber did my spirit seal” where he described himself as become one in his being with earth, "rolled round in its diurnal course with rocks and stones and trees.” If we exalt this realisation to a profounder Self than physical Nature, we shall have the elements of the yogic knowledge. It is true that a mere sense of the Presence can only be a beginning, but by entering into the superconscious and by merging all other experience into a supernal unity with the Ineffable Yoga promises that suprasensuous, supramental realisation of the Transcendent who is beyond all its aspects and the final summit of yogic knowledge which is also the source of all Divine delight and Divine living.

William James, in the experiences that he has presented in his book, bring us certain vivid descriptions of certain stages and aspects of the inner yogic life and yogic state and succeeds in inviting us to some kind of proof of the spiritual reality, its mystery, its wonder, and its vividity of the reality

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of the Unseen. One experience, which is very vivid, and describes the Presence of the Unseen, is from a Swiss writer and it is being appended at Appendix I (p. Ill)

It is very well known that in every yogic practice that is to be found in religions and in that which is independent of any religion, the experience of conversion marks a radical point of departure from ordinary life to a truly spiritual life. An important example of this experience of conversion, which William James has given, is that of Saint David Brainerd. The description of this experience is appended at Appendix II (p.113)

Conversion may very often be a movement as a result of which spiritual life becomes central to the seeker. But this centrality may be only ideative in character, in the sense that what becomes central is a cluster of ideas relating to spiritual life rather than the possession of the substance of the Spirit that makes spiritual life so very distinctive and beatific. Often conversions are temporary. At higher stages, not only the mind but also the very heart of the seeker is touched by the experience that leads to conversion, and it is then that the conversion tends to become permanent and to ripen itself into mature fruits of the spirituality of religious life or of yogic life. One of these fruits is that of saintliness. William James has analysed the state of saintliness and pointed out that there are four main features:

1. A feeling of being in a wider life of the existence of an ideal power;

2. A sense of the friendly continuity of the ideal power with our own life, and a willing self-surrender to its control;

3. An immense elation and freedom, as the outlines of the confining selfhood melt down; and

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4. A shifting of the emotional centre towards loving and harmonious affections.

William James has also described the following practical consequences of the development of saintliness:

(a) Asceticism

(b) Strength of Soul

(c) Purity

(d) Charity See Appendix III (p. 116)

He has also given some concrete illustrations of saintliness. One of them is that of Saint John of the Cross. Another is that of Suso, a German mystic.

Another still is that of George Fox. See Appendix IV (p.120)

William James arrives at the summit of religious experiences in his chapter on Mysticism. He points out (See Appendix V. p. 128) that there are basically two characteristics of Mysticism, — (i) mystic experience is marked by ineffability, and (ii) it has noetic quality and the mystic states are also states of knowledge. He also points out that there are two other qualities, which are less sharply marked but are usually found. The first quality is that of transiency, since mystical states cannot be sustained for long. The second quality is that of passivity, since the mystic feels in his experience as if he were grasped and held by a superior power. He points out that this latter peculiarity connects mystical states with certain phenomena such as prophetic speech, automatic writing, or the mediumistic trance.6

William James has provided in his book extremely

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illuminating examples of mysticism. These include those of Malwida von Meysenbug, Walt Whitman, Dr. J. Trevor Dr. R.M. Bucke, of Raja Yoga as expounded by Swarai Vivekananda, AI-Ghazzali, Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa, Saint Ignatius, and some others such as Sufi Gulshan-Raz and Plotinus. See Appendix VI (p. 131)

But Yoga, as distinguished from religion, is primarily a śāstra and not a system of beliefs, ceremonies, rituals and a moral and spiritual discipline related to the system of beliefs and prescriptions. As a shastra, it is a growing body of knowledge of truths, principles, powers and processes that govern the discipline of the body, life and mind and other higher faculties in search and realisation of psychic, spiritual and supramental reality or realities that lie beyond the body, life and mind, and the consequences of that search and realisation for the individual and collective existence in the cosmos. Sri Aurobindo's book The Synthesis of Yoga is related to yogic experiences that can be attained by the application of yogic shastra, independent of any religion or any spiritual practice that is tied to any religion, even though spiritual disciplines of religions may coincide with or may adopt or recognise for their own aims some or other aspects of this shastra. It is these yogic experiences which are central to our purpose here.

Yoga has often come to be exclusively identified with physical exercises of Hatha Yoga. Actually, the entire system of Hatha Yoga, which is only one of the systems of yoga, aims at a complete mastery of the body and the life and a free and effective use of them established upon purification of their workings. The methods of this yoga are those of āsana (more than eighty in number) and prānāyāma, — the methods of stabilising the bodily condition by stabilisation

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of various postures of the body and those of breathing and breath-control by which the movements pervading all the nervous system are controlled. The gross body begins to acquire something of the nature of the subtle body and possess something of its relations with the life-energy. Life ceases to be entirely dependent on the action of the physical organs and functionings, such as the heart-beats and breathing. Hatha Yoga is an attempt by fixed scientific processes to give to the soul in the physical body the power, the light, the purity, the freedom, the ascending scales of spiritual experience which would naturally be open to it, if it dwelt in the subtle and the developed causal vehicle.

Yoga is often identified exclusively with Raja Yoga, or the Yoga, the aphoristic formulation of which has been attributed to Patanjali, although it is only one of the specialised methods of Yoga. Raja Yoga is independent of Hatha Yoga except that it admits in its method the Hatha Yogic āsana and prānāyāma in their bare minimum and simple forms. On the other hand, Hatha Yoga joins up with the psychological methods of Raja Yoga, where it begins to ascend the scales of spiritual experience.

Raja Yoga insists on moral purification of the mentality, and five yamās and five niyamās are prescribed. Yamas are rules of moral control in conduct such as truth-speaking, abstinence from injury or killing, from theft, chastity, and cultivation of minimum wants leading to renunciation of all that is not needed. Niyamas constitute self-discipline by which the rajasic egoism and its passions and desires are conquered. The object is to create a sattwic calm, purity and preparation for meditative or contemplative concentration.

Raja Yogic concentration is divided into four stages:

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(i) Pratyāhāra — drawing both the mind and the senses from outward things;

(ii) Dhāranā — Holding of the one object of concentration to the exclusion of other ideas and mental activities.

(iii) Dhyāna — Prolonged absorption of the mind in the object of concentration.

(iv) Loss of all outward mentality, cessation of all mental modifications, in the oneness of Samādhi.

Samadhi or Yogic trance retires to increasing depths as it draws farther and farther away from the normal or waking state and enters into degrees of consciousness less and less communicable to waking mind, less and less ready to receive the summons from the waking world. Beyond a certain point, the trance becomes complete, and it is then almost quite impossible to awaken or call back the soul that has receded into those profounder depths of consciousness. It has been said that if one remains too long a time in those supreme states of trance, one cannot return. As a matter of fact, the yogin acquires at a certain stage of development the power of abandoning his body definitively without the ordinary phenomena of death, by an act of will icchā mṛtyū or by a process of withdrawing the prānic life-force through the gate of the upward life current — udāna, opening for it a way through the mystic centre in the head, brahmarandhra. By departing from life in the state of Samadhi, one attains directly to that higher status of being to which one aspires.

But even before one attains to the state of Samadhi, one is able to enter repeatedly into that state, and the Raja Yogic methods, during the processes of their repeated applications, lead to the attainment of all those higher states of consciousness

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and the powers by which the mental being rises towards superconscient as well as its ultimate and supreme possibility of union with the highest. Raja Yoga is psychic science, and it gives an account of the powers and states which are possible on the higher planes of the being. They can be acquired and fixed by certain processes and their use then becomes subject to the will; or they can be allowed to be developed of themselves and use only when they come or when the divine within moves one to use them.

These powers are not peculiar to Raja Yoga alone; they are attained even by other methods, methods of Hatha Yoga, methods of Tantra, and even the methods of Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and others. In the Indian yogic language, these powers or accomplishments are famous eight accomplishments, aṣṭa siddhi. These siddhis are, first of all, those of mahimā (including garimā), laghimā and animā. These three siddhis of being are distinguished from siddhis of knowledge and siddhis of power. Mahimā is an unhampered force in the mental being or in the physical power. In the physical, it shows itself by an abnormal strength which is not muscular and may even develop into the power of increasing the size and the weight of the body, etc. Laghimā is a similar power of lightness, that is to say, of freedom from all pressure or weighing down in the mental, body, or physical being. Laghimā is the basis of the power to overcome gravitation and thus it is the basis of utthāpana. Animā is the power of freeing the atoms of subtle or gross matter from their ordinary limitations. It is by this power that yogins are supposed to make themselves invisible and invulnerable or to free the body from decay and death.

Apart from these three powers of being, there are three

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siddhis of power. These three are: aishwarya, ishita and vashista. Aishwarya is a power by which one is able by the use of the will to make people act or to make things happen according to what is willed. Ishita is an accomplishment where one does not even need to have a will but when one has a want or a need or a sense that something ought to be and that thing comes about or happens. Vashita is a power to concentrate one's will on a person or an object so as to control him or it.

There are two other siddhis, namely, vyāpti and prākāmya. These are siddhis of knowledge. Vyāpti is obtained when the thoughts, feeling, etc., of others or another kind of knowledge of things etc., are felt rising from those things or persons. Vyāpti can also be communicative when one can send or put one's own thought, feelings, etc. into someone else's. Prākāmya is an accomplishment to look at somebody mentally or physically and perceive what is in that person. Prākāmya also relates to senses, where it is the power of perceiving smells, tastes, lights, colours and other objects of senses which are neither at all available to ordinary persons or beyond the range from one's own ordinary senses.

It is important to note that yogic science gives warning that these powers can only be entirely acquired or safely used when one has got rid of egoism and identified oneself with infinite will and infinite consciousness. It may also be mentioned that Yoga in its higher movement attains to levels of consciousness where these powers as also many others manifest spontaneously and work themselves out without the need of maintaining by methodical processes of these siddhis.

There is a system of Yoga which is known as Tantra,

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which contains many elements which are founded on the knowledge relating to Kundalini. It takes into account the psychical or mental body of which the physical is a sort of reproduction in gross form and is able to discover thereby secrets of the physical body which do not appear to a purely physical inquiry. This mental or psychical body has also a subtle prānic force in it corresponding to its own subtle nature and substance, and this force is directed through a system of numerous channels, called nadi, — the subtle nervous organisation of the psychic body, — which are gathered up into six or seven centers which are technically called lotuses or circles, chakras, and which rise in an ascending scale to the summit where there is thousand- petalled lotus from which all the mental and vital energy flows. Each of these lotuses is the centre and the storing house of its own particular system of psychological powers, energies and operations, — each system corresponding to a plane of our existence, — these flow out and return in the stream of the pranic energies as they cross through the nadis.

This arrangement of psychic body is reproduced in the physical body with the spinal column as a rod and the ganglionic centers as the charkas which rise up from the bottom of the column where the lowest is attached, to the brain and find their summit in the brahmarandhra at the top of the skull. These chakras or lotuses are in the physical man closed or only partly open, with the consequence that only such powers and only so much of them are active in him as is sufficient for his ordinary physical life, and so much mind and soul only is at play as will accord with its needs. This is the reason why the whole energy of the soul does not seem to be at play in the physical body and life, and the secret powers of the mind are not awake in it. But it is recognised

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A Synoptic Note

that all the while supreme energy is there, but asleep; it is said to be coiled up like a snake, — therefore, it is called Kundalini-shakti, — in the lowest of the chakras, in the mūlādhāra. By various processes, including those of prānāyāma, this Kundalini can be awakened. It then uncoils itself and begins to rise upwards like a fiery serpent breaking up each lotus as it ascends until the shakti meets the Conscious Being (Purusha) in the brahmarandhra in a deep trance or Samadhi of union. Tantra also has discovered the power of the mantra, sacred syllable, name or mystic- formula, and with the aid of mantra, Kundalini-shakti can be awakened and new states of consciousness which rise can be stabilised and strengthened so that they can effectuate important results which are considered to be miraculous.

Tantra is, in fact, a synthesis of yoga, which has discovered the truth and power of the highest creative energy of which the physical world and other worlds which are behind it are expressions. Tantra aims. at enabling the individual soul to unite with the supreme creative energy, the Supreme Mother, who is also in her depth one with the supreme Lord, Shiva or the highest Purusha.

The Tantric Yoga, as it rises from state to state, manifests not only aṣṭa siddhis but increases and manifests higher states of cosmic and transcendental consciousness. It manifests and stabilises states and powers which are obtained through the processes and methods of Karma yoga, Jnana yoga and Bhakti yoga. Various cosmic forces working in different levels of manifested world come to be contacted and known; multiplicities of gods and goddesses, — cosmic in character and fixed in various layers of cosmic manifestations, become active and their powers are utilised

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A Synoptic Note

for the increase, stabilisation and transformation of human life, and life of the world. The entire human body and the powers which are latent in the body, life and mind and even the superconscient are realised, and as one ascends the steps of Tantra, as the knowledge of them increases, as the effective works begins to become more and more fruitful, the seeker learns more and more the secret of offering and sacrificing oneself and effecting progressively more and more total surrender to the Supreme Mother, who is experienced as power of Grace that uplifts the seeker into the realms of ananda, of knowledge, of the Supreme Being.

As we turn to three major systems of yoga and yogic experiences that attend upon these systems of yoga, namely, Karma yoga, Jnana yoga and Bhakti yoga we need to underline a very important experience that normally precedes one's entry into the practice of the disciplines of these systems of yoga. This kind of precedent experience may also be precedent to the entry of other systems of yoga. There occurs major upheaval in the life of the seeker, which is often decisive and which brings forth a call for the pursuit of yoga with such an overwhelming force that the seeker becomes a new person, and thereafter is called twice-born (dwija). We notice this kind of upheaval in the life of Prince Siddhartha when he saw the four great scenes of the sick, dead, the old man and the hermit, and this sight caused what is called mahābhiniśkramana. We see a similar upheaval in the life of Arjuna when he underwent a sudden crisis where in search of the right at the commencement of the great war of the Mahabharata, he found all standards of conduct which were so far his staff of the journey crashing down so as to cast him into a deep depression (vishāda) from which he felt he could come out only by escaping from the very root of

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A Synoptic Note

responsible action. The decisiveness by which he entered into his quest through his dialogue with Sri Krishna, and his pursuit of Karma yoga is another illumination in the same category. There are many other illustrations such as those of Tulasidasa and Surdasa and many others. A remarkable illustration is provided by William James where Tolstoy, at the height of the glory of his literary career, began to feel that something had broken within him and that he had nothing left to hold on to, and that morally his life had stopped. The questions, Why? Wherefore? What for? could not be answered. See Appendix VII (p. 152)

In many cases, this upheaval is resolved by what is called conversion in books on psychology of religion. But often this conversion is psychologically a shift of religious ideas and beliefs from the periphery of consciousness to the centre of consciousness, and although this shift brings about a remarkable departure of the seeker from his past mode of life to a new mode of life, still the new mode of life is governed by ideas and beliefs. In the conversion that is a prelude to the life of yoga, the centre of being is moved, not merely by ideas and beliefs, but by a thirst which can be quenched only by a process that leads to the transcendence of ideas and beliefs and by knowing, and possessing in concrete experience of the delivering light.

In the following passage, Sri Aurobindo describes a number of circumstances under which the call to Yoga comes to the seeker:

"All Yoga is in its nature a new birth; it is a birth out of the ordinary, the mentalised material life of man into a higher spiritual consciousness and a greater and diviner being. No yoga can be successfully undertaken and followed unless

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there is a strong awakening to the necessity of that larger spiritual existence. The soul that is called to this deep and vast change, may arrive in different ways to the initial departure. It may come to it by its own natural development which has been leading it unconsciously towards the awakening; it may reach it through the influence of a religion or the attraction of a philosophy; it may approach it by a slow illumination or leap to it by a sudden touch or shock; it may be pushed or led to it by the pressure of outward circumstances or by an inward necessity, by a single word that breaks the seals of the mind or by long reflection, by the distant example of one who has trod the path or by contact and daily influence. According to the nature and the circumstances the call will come.

"But in whatever way it comes, there must be a decision of the mind and the will and, as its result, a complete and effective self-consecration."7

The central question of Yoga is by what means can the seeker be enabled to know that which as yet the seeker does not know. Indeed, the means must have their root in our own instruments and their present functionings, and there are three instruments in our consciousness with which the yogic processes are connected. These three instruments are our cognitive faculties, affective faculties, and conative faculties. The processes of Jnana yoga are more easily woven into cognitive faculties, those of the yoga of Bhakti or divine love are more easily woven into our affective faculties, and those of Karma yoga or yoga of divine works are woven more easily into our conative faculties. This weaving is done, first, by some kind of strengthening of the concerned faculties, and secondly, by methodical efforts by which these

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A Synoptic Note

faculties are turned with steady concentration on the highest that can be conceived by cognitive faculties, the highest that can be loved and admired and worshiped by our affective faculties and the highest from which all source of action can be seen to be proceeding. Every yoga, therefore, consists of the various processes of concentration. It may be said that in a certain sense, the entire process of yoga is fundamentally a process of concentration, the courses of which have been explored and affirmed in the yogic sciences.

The process of concentration is aided by the process of purification of all that is operating in the normal modes of the concerned faculty. This is, indeed, a long process, and a number of yogic experiences have been related to the processes of the purification. Again, purification is greatly aided by a process of renunciation of all that tends to obstruct purification, tends to disturb or pollute or curb or refuse the process of purification.

These processes, — concentration, purification and renunciation, — and their corresponding experiences constitute a larger part of perfection in any system or path of yoga.

At a deeper level, the secret of yoga lies in fact that the limitations of our ordinary functioning of faculties and of our life are due to exclusive dwelling of our mind and heart, of our faculties of cognition, affectation, and conation on the superficial layer or layers of our being of which alone we normally are aware. We are as it were caged into the prison of our outer being which constantly acts and reacts and which with difficulty happens to be pushed to be turned more and more inward. The more one turns inwards, the more one discovers potentialities and secrets of development. Yoga is nothing but a more radical shift from the outer to the inner,

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A Synoptic Note

and the methods of yoga are primarily the methods by which our consciousness can be turned more and more inward. It is a reversal of our present exclusive concentration of consciousness which is normally centered on the outward; in yoga, the process is reversed, and we employ exclusive concentration of consciousness on the inward. A passage is then made in the inner realm of consciousness, and light that is inherent in consciousness discloses realities which lie hidden in our inner being. Inner realities are to be discovered, they are visited repeatedly, and thus they become permanently disclosed; they are then said to be realised. The simple miracle of this discovery and realisation is that these inner realities are found to be luminous and vibrating energetically and they are capable of pouring into our layers of being their own light and powers and thus transforming them.

In a more philosophical language, yoga is, first, the process to become conscious of the fact that there is in us a veil of ignorance; secondly, it is a process of the employment of methods by which this veil of ignorance can be torn and destroyed. And thirdly, yoga is a process by which one can be stabilised in the states of consciousness which have been unveiled, so that they radiate unobstructed permanently.

The important event in the Yoga is the awakening that comes by the removal of the veil of ignorance. A consequence of this major event is the dissolution of the consciousness which kept one within the boundaries of a small unifying centre that we call the ego. And with the removal of the ego comes about the liberation from dualities of pain and pleasure, honour and dishonour, success and failure and host of other dualities.

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A Synoptic Note

We can see this secret truth in all the yogic processes Yoga of divine works or Karma yoga to which we can now turn our attention, is focused on conative faculties. We notice first that all principal conative activities are principally centered on a motive that is ruled by desire. Karma yoga is a process by which this motive force is eliminated from the threads of our action. Karma yoga is based on the perception that desire is not necessary element in action, that ego is not a necessary element in action, and that dualities need not encourage or disappoint us in the performance of action. It is further perceived that there is a difference between desire and will and that there can be desireless will, a will that does not seek what is already not possessed but that manifests effortlessly what is already possessed within itself. Karma yoga is, therefore, not a process of cessation of works, but utilisation of works themselves as a method, so that even while the works continue, in the very threads of works, desire is eliminated. Not renunciation of works but renunciation of desire, — this is the central principle of the method of Karma yoga.

The first stage of the method of Karma yoga consists of making a distinction between action, results of action, and enjoyment of the results of action or fruits of action, karmaphala. The strongest element of desire is normally centered on the enjoyment of the fruits of action. Hence, the first stage of the method of Karma yoga proposes the renunciation of the enjoyment of fruits of action. At this stage, guiding wisdom lies in perceiving that one has no right to the fruits of action.

In the second stage of Karma yoga, a further discipline is added. This discipline consists of perceiving the entire mechanism of the action and of discovering that the entire

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world is a network of interconnected movements of energy , and no action is independent of any other action, and that the egoistic belief which is normally dominant in the psychology of the agent of action that he is the doer of action does not correspond to the truth of the world of action. The practice of this truth, according to the Karma yoga leads to the practice of repeated perception and experience that one is not the doer of action but that one's action is a part of the totality of world action. At this stage, therefore, the method consists in the withdrawal or renunciation of the sense of egoistic doership of action.

The practice of the method of Karma yoga at this stage can be greatly strengthened if the knowledge of the world movement, of the place of ego in the world and of the real originator of action is sought to be attained. This is the point at which two important yogic experiences can be glimpsed and developed. The first is the experience, which can be summarised in the words of the famous Indian saint, Narsi Mehta:

It is ignorance to think or to feel that I am doer of action, similar to the ignorance that a dog has when it moves under a moving cart, that cart is moving because of its own movement (dog's movement).

The yogic experience one can attain is that of the vision of the vast universe and principles which are involved in the vast world movement. In Indian philosophy, this experience is that of the vast and universal movement of Prakriti, a force can be propelled into action. In this vision, one notices a not only the senses, sense-mind, intellectual operations of analysis, synthesis and discrimination, but even the ego- sense are all products of the engine of Prakriti.

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A Synoptic Note

The second experience is that of the presence of a conscious being, which is in Indian philosophy called Purusha, is at the root of the propulsion of Prakriti. Even this yogic experience has several stages of development. In the first place, Purusha is seer as a mere presence or as a mere witness — sākṣin; at a more developed stage, Purusha is experienced as the giver of sanction, such that Prakriti can function only if Purusha provides a sanction for its movement and that the movement of Prakriti can cease to function, if the Purusha withdraws its sanction. It is the experience of Purusha as a giver of sanction, anumantah, that provides the first authentic experience of the freedom of Purusha, as distinguished form the erroneous sense of freedom that the ego feels in regard to the energies that impel it to determine its activities. At a still mature development of experience of the Purusha, a new yogic experience can be attained. This is the perception of Purusha as a poise of the individual, where the individual itself can be experienced as a portion - anśa and a formation derived from a higher engine of action and of a transcendental source of that higher knowledge of action. In the philosophical language of India, this experience of the individual is that of a jiva, which has been described as a formation of Para Prakriti and a portion of Purushottama. Again, the experience of Jiva is preceded by the experience of its delegate, which is directly related to the formations of the body, life and mind, which are all products of Prakriti, and which the dynamic evolving consciousness that is self-aware and that is the real controller of the development of the body, life and mind. It is chaitya purusha, as distinguished from manomaya purusha, prānamaya purusha, and annamaya purusha. The experience of the chaitya purusha or what has been called the

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psychic being is a major experience of Karma yoga, since through that experience the entire process of Karma yoga begins to be guided by direct intuition that distinguishes not only between Purusha and Prakriti but also distinguishes between the good and the evil, in the sense that it distinguishes between that which is determined by the engine of lower Prakriti and that which is demanded by the higher Prakriti or Para Prakriti. With this guidance, the process of Karma yoga enters into a major line of yogic experience which illumines the consciousness and enables it to discover that there is in this world a law of interchange, a law of the action of cosmic forces, which are interrelated through their mutual interchange and the law of interchange between those cosmic forces and the individuals which are all involved in the cosmic network of energies, which has itself two levels of operations, the level of Apara Prakriti, where actions are ruled by ignorance and the level of Para Prakriti where actions are ruled by universal transcendental knowledge. It is this knowledge that provides to the method of Karma yoga that subtle process which is the heart of that sacred movement, which is called sacrifice or yajna. At this stage, the entire process of karma yoga is elevated to a process of offering and sacrifice and surrender. All actions thenceforth is purified by the individual, by the psychic being, as an offering, as an offering to Para Prakriti and as an offering to the Purushottama. The more this process of sacrifice ripens, the more one feels that element of division, which can be strengthened by the practice of Bhakti yoga, and it is here that Karma yoga and Bhakti yoga converge upon each other.

At this level, the third stage of Karma yoga begins to develop, and that psychology of the individual, continues to offer all actions as sacrifice, begins to experience himself the

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secrets of a worker who is a servant, of a worker who is divine soldier, and of a worker who is a mere instrument in the hands of the divine. Even the instrumentality begins to vanish until the individual attains such a intimate union with Para Prakriti and Purushottama that a divine worker is a mere enjoyer of the play of Para Prakriti and Purushottama in its entire passivity, and that passes through him is the action of Para Prakriti and Purushottama. Consequent upon this experience, the seeker thenceforward is moved to higher realms of what can be called supramental experiences of supramental action. That is the stage where the entire process of Karma yoga is fulfilled.

During the entire process of Karma yoga, there are two major developments that take place in the yogic development of the seeker. The first is the development of the state of equality or samattvam. The second is the knowledge and growth of universal and transcendental consciousness in heart of which the will of the Supreme is disclosed and adherence to that will is effected by' progressive self- surrendering in works, in which the culminating message of Karma yoga is realised, namely, "abandon all rules of conduct and take total refuge in the supreme" — sarva dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śarṇaṁ vraja.

In the development of attitude and experience of equality, three stages can be discerned, at the end of which the truths of the great dictum of yoga is realised, namely, samattvam yoga ucyate, "it is equality that is yoga".

The three stages of equality can be described in psychological terms, first, as the stage of Stoic equality, philosophic equality, and equality that comes with resignation. It is here that we come to appreciate the rationale

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and usefulness of the stoics, particularly the Stoics of ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome, such as Zeno, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. The attitudes and experiences which they have described refer in varying degrees to these three stages. In the first stage, Stoic equality is the equality of that comes by the discipline of endurance. At this stage, what is realised is that emotions manifest judgements and that these judgements are often erroneous and that consequently, they should be subordinated or eliminated by the attitude and practice of endurance. One is the reminded of Epictetus who had been a slave and his leg broken. In a dialogue which he imagines, he states:

"I will fetter you?" "What did you say man?"

"Fetter me?"

"You fetter my leg, but my will not even Zeus can conquer."8

This sense of endurance is expressed even more explicitly in one writings of the Stoics:

I must die. But must I die groaning? I must be imprisoned. But must I whine as well? I must suffer exile. Can anyone then hinder me, from going with a smile, and good courage, and at peace? 'Tell the secret.' I refuse to tell, for this is in my power. 'But I will chain you.' What say you, fellow? Chain me? My leg you will chain - yes, but my will - no, not even Zeus can conquer that. 'I will behead you.' Why? When did I ever tell you that I was the only man in the world that could not be beheaded?9

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A similar philosophical Stoicism is to be found in a passage of Marcus Aurelius, which has been quoted by William James in his Varieties of Religious Experience:

"Everything harmonizes wit me which is harmonious to thee, O Universe. Nothing for me is too early nor too late, which is in due time for thee. Everything is fruit to me which thy seasons bring, O Nature: from thee are all things, in thee are all things, to thee all things return. The poet says, Dear City of Cecrops; and wilt thou not say, Dear City of Zeus?" 10

This philosophical Stoicism, in its psychological depth and fervour, stands at a lower level than the state in which equality arises through resignation or surrender of the will to the Supreme. William James quotes a passage from the Imitation of Christ to describe their special fervour and intensity which are inherent in the attitude of surrender:

"Lord, thou knowest what is best; let this or that be according as thou wilt. Give what thou wilt, so much as thou wilt, when thou wilt. Do with me as thou knowest best, and as shall be most to thine honour. Place me where thou wilt, and freely work thy will with me in all things. ...When could it be evil when thou wert near? I had rather be poor for thy sake than rich without thee. I choose rather to be a pilgrim upon the earth with thee, than without thee to possess heaven. Where thou art, there is heaven; and where thou art not, behold there death and hell." ¹¹

But apart from these states of equality, more and more elevating and more and more luminous experiences of equality is attained by the perception of the interplay of the

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transcendental consciousness, universal consciousness, individual consciousness and also the interplay of the action of Para Prakriti and Apara Prakriti. With the increasing experience of Karma yoga, there comes about the annihilation of desire and also of ego. Sri Aurobindo in his The Synthesis of Yoga, has presented a brief but illuminating description of these higher levels of experience of equality. Appendix IX (p. 158)

Indeed, as one ascends in the path of sacrifice, and as one needs more and more imperatively the knowledge of the will that issues from the Supreme, the pressure of Karma yoga towards the divine knowledge increases to such a degree that one bursts into a vision, even of time-vision and of the divine action at a given epoch of time. One such vision has been described in the Bhagavad Gita in one of its most powerful poetic passages, in his Essays on the Gita, Sri Aurobindo describes the Supreme form of the world spirit in which Arjuna, the hero of the Mahabharata sees God magnificence and beautiful and terrible, and in that vision the divine will is made manifest. Appendix X (p. 162)


1 Rig Veda. l. 10.1,2

2 Rig Veda, V. 15

3 Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library (SABCL), 1971, Pondicherry, Vol.20, p.2

4 Isha Upanishad, 6,7

5 Distinguishing features of spirituality are the following:

(a) awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, Self, Soul, which is other than our mind, life and body; (b) an inner aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, (c) a quest for entering into the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our being, to be in communion with It and union with It, (d) a turning, a conversion,

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a transformation of our whole being into a new becoming, or being, a new Self, a new nature.

6 In the strict path of yogic experience, a distinction is made between subliminal experience and spiritual experience, — a distinction which William James does not offer in his book. Strictly speaking, experience of automatic writing, or mediumistic trance are experiences related the subliminal consciousness consisting of the inner mind, inner vital force and certain physical consciousness. Spiritual experiences relate to the realm of super-consciousness or of psychic consciousness which is the consciousness of the inmost being which governs body, life and mind and which has the power of integrating body, life and mind under its own integrating power. Superconsciousness refers to the realm of the transcendental Spirits which, in its universal aspects, provides an entry into cosmic consciousness and increasing unity of diversity which culminates in what is called in Yoga, supramental consciousness or consciousness of Vijnānamaya. Again, it is true. as William James points out, mystical states are transient. But in Yoga proper, this transiency can be gradually removed, and higher states of mysticism can be made permanent. In the yogic language, the state of permanency of the higher and higher states of Yoga is called realisation.

7 Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, SABCL, 1971, Pondicherry, Vol.20, pp.63

8 Epictetus 1.1.23

9 Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy, paperback edition, 1996, p.270

10 William James: Varieties of Religious Experience, Barnes & Noble Books, New York, paperback edition, 2004, p.49

" Ibid., p.50

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