Varieties of Yogic Experience and Integral Realisation - Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience


Yogic Experience

(a) Experiences in Hatha Yoga

Yoga has often come to be exclusively identified with physical exercises of Hatha Yoga. Actually, the entire system of Hatha Yoga is only one of the systems of yoga. It 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 Prāṇāyāma, — the methods of stabilising the bodily condition by stabilisation 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 heartbeats 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.

(b) Experiences in Raja Yoga

Yoga is often identified exclusively with Raja Yoga, or

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

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 Prāṇāyāma 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. Yamās 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. Niyamās constitute self-discipline by which the rājasic egoism and its passions and desires are conquered. The object is to create a sāttwic calm, purity and preparation for meditative or contemplative concentration.

Raja Yogic concentration is divided into four stages:

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

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

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

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

Samādhi or Yogic trance retires to increasing depths as it draws farther and farther away from the normal or waking

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

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 mrṭyu 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 Samādhi, one attains directly to that higher status of being to which one aspires.

But even before one attains to the state of Samādhi, 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 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 used only when they come or when the divine within moves one to use them.

Eight Accomplishments of Yogic Discipline

These powers are not peculiar to Raja Yoga alone; they

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

are attained even by other methods, methods of Hatha Yoga, methods of Tantra and even the methods of Karma Yoga, Jnāna 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, vital, 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 siddhis of power. These three are: aishwarya, ishita and vashita. 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 as a want or a need or a sense that something ought to be 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

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

prākamyā. 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 thoughts, feelings, etc. into someone else. Prākamyā is an accomplishment to look at somebody mentally or physically and perceive what is in that person. Prākamyā 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 them by methodical processes of these siddhis.

(c) Yogic Experience of Tantra

There is a system of Yoga which is known as Tantra, 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 nādi, — the subtle

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

nervous organisation of the psychic body, — which are gathered up into six or seven centres which are technically called lotuses or circles, chakra, 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 prānic energies as they cross through the nādis.

This arrangement of psychic body is reproduced in the physical body with the spinal column as a rod and the ganglionic centres as the chakras 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 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 "self 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 Samādhi of union. Tantra has also discovered the

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

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 as a Synthesis of Yoga

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, jnāna 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 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 work begins to become more and more fruitful, the seeker learns more and more the secret of offering and

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

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.

(d) Yogic Experiences in Karma Yoga

Yoga of divine works or karma yoga, to which we can now turn our attention, is focussed on conative faculties. We notice, first, that all the ordinary principal conative activities are principally centred 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 as a result of which highest levels of action and effectivity are attained. Karma yoga is based on the perception that desire is not a 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 thread 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 centred on the enjoyment of the fruits of action. Hence, the

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

first stage of the method of karma yoga proposes the renunciation of the enjoyment of fruits for action. At this stage, guiding wisdom lies in perceiving that one has no right to the fruits of action, — karmanyevādhikāraste mā phaleśu kadācana.

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 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 independent 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 an error born of ignorance to think that I am doer of action, similar to the error that a dog commits when it thinks while running under a moving cart, that because of its own movement the cart is moving and

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

that it is the carrier of the load of the cart.

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 recognised as that of Prakriti, the Force that can be propelled into action so as to evolve the world that surrounds us. In this vision, one notices that not only the senses, sense- mind, intellectual operations of analysis, synthesis and discrimination, but even the ego-sense are all products of the universal engine of Prakriti.

The second experience is that of the presence of a conscious being, which is in Indian philosophy called Purusha, who is other than Prakriti, but who by his cast of glance causes the propulsion of Prakriti. Even this yogic experience has several stages of development. In the first place, Purusha is seen as a mere presence or as a mere witness — sākśin; 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, anumantā, that provides the first authentic experience of the freedom of Purusha, as distinguished from the erroneous sense of freedom that the ego feels. For in reality ego is a product of the energies that impel it to determine its activities, and therefore, there is no real freedom in the actions that issue from the ego. At a still mature development of experience of the Purusha, a new yogic experience can be attained. This is e perception of Purusha as a poise of the individual, where the individual itself can be experienced as a portion — anśa and a portion derived from a higher creative force, parā

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

prakriti, from a transcendental origin, Purushottama. 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 (parā prakritir jivabhutā) and a portion of Purushottama (mama eva anśah sanātanah).

Again, there are here the experiences of the jiva that presides over individual evolution, and its delegate, caitya purusha, (psychic being described in the Katha Upanishad as the one not bigger than the thumb) which is directly related to and involved in the evolution and formations of the body, life and mind, which are all products of Prakriti. One gets contacts with the caitya purusha, as the dynamic evolving being and consciousness that is self-aware and that is the real controller of the development of the body, life and mind. It is the caitya purusha, which is realised more and more distinguished from manomaya purusha, prānamaya purusha, and annamaya purusha (mental being, vital being and physical being). The experience of the caitya purusha 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 prakritt and by the Purushottama.

With this guidance, the process of Karma yoga enters into a major line of yogic experience which illumines the evolving 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

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

interchange and the law of interchange between those cosmic forces and the individuals who are all involved in the cosmic work of energies, which have themselves two levels of operations, the level of Apara Prakriti, where action s are ruled by ignorance, and the level of Para Prakriti where actions are ruled by universal and transcendental knowledge. It is this knowledge issuing from Para Prakriti that provides to the method of Karma yoga that subtle process which i s 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 are purified by the individual, by the psychic being, as an offering, as an offering to Para Praktiti and as an offering to the Purushottama. The more this process of sacrifice ripens, the more one feels that element of devotion, 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 as the individual continues to offer all actions as sacrifice, he begins to experience the secrets of worker as a servant, as a divine soldier, as a mere instrument in the hands of the Divine, who is the real and original Doer of Works. Even the instrumental consciousness begins to vanish untill the individual attains such an intimate union with Para Prakriti and Purushottama that the divine worker 6 is experienced as the enjoyer of the play of Para Prakriti and Prushottama in his entire passivity, and the works that pass through him are direct actions of Para Prakriti and Purushottama. Consequent upon this experience, the seeker is thenceforward moved to higher realms of what can be called supramental experiences of supramental action. That

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

is the stage where the entire processes of Karma yoga are 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. This is the state where all circumstances, favourable or unfavourable, success or failure, gain or loss, pleasure or pain, — all received by the inner consciousness without like or dislike, unmoved and tranquil, seated high above all happenings, detached with impartial mastery. The second is the knowledge and growth of universal and transcendental consciousness as a result of which the will of the Supreme is disclosed, and adherence to that will is effected by progressive self-surrender in works. At the height of these developments, 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 ekam śarnam 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 by resignation to the Divine Will. It is here that we come to appreciate the rationale and usefulness of the Stoics, particularly, the Stoics of ancient Europe, such as Zeno, Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. The attitudes and experiences which they have described refer in varying degrees to these three stag65 of equality. In the first stage. Stoic equality is the equality that

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

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 reminded of Epictetus who had been a slave and his leg broken. In a dialogue which he imagines, he states:

I must die. But must It die groaning? I must be imprisoned. But must I whine as well? I must suffer exile. Can any one 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 v 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?7

An example of the second stage of equality, that of 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 harmonises with 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.8

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

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

the Supreme. William James quotes a passage from the Imitation of Christ to describe the 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.9

But apart from these states of equality, more and more elevating and more and more luminous experiences of equality are attained by the perception of the interplay of the transcendental consciousness, universal- consciousness, individual consciousness and also the interplay of the action of Para Prakriti and Apara Prakriti. With these experiences, 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)

It may, however, be noted that equality does not make the seeker blind to differences that are all over the world. Equality is a far deeper state of consciousness. As Sri Aurobindo explains:

"Equality does not mean a fresh ignorance or blindness; it does not call for and need not initiate a greyness of vision

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

and a blotting out of all hues. Difference is there, variation of expression is there and this variation we shall appreciate, — far more justly than we could when the eye was clouded by a partial and erring love and hate, admiration and scorn, sympathy and antipathy, attraction and repulsion. But behind the variation we shall always see the Complete and Immutable who dwells within it and we shall feel, know or at least, if it is hidden from us, trust in the wise purpose and divine necessity of the particular manifestation, whether it appear to our human standards harmonious and perfect or crude and unfinished or even false and evil."10

Indeed, as one ascends in the path of sacrifice, one need more and more imperatively the knowledge of the will that issues from the Supreme. This enhances the pressure of karma yoga towards the knowledge of the Divine Will. The pressure increases to such a degree that there bursts in the seeker a vision, even of time-vision and of the divine will and action at a given epoch of time. One such vision has been described in the Bhagavad Gita in a most powerful poetic passage. In his Essays on the Gita, Sri Aurobindo describes that vision in which the Supreme form of the World-Spirit is made visible to the inner divine eyes gifted temporarily to Arjuna, the hero of the Mahabharata, where he sees God, magnificent and beautiful and terrible, and in that vision the divine will is made manifest. Appendix X (p. 162)

(e) Yogic Experiences in Jnana Yoga

Jnana yoga is primarily centred on cognitive faculties, and its first concern is with the development of the intellect so that it can arrive at discrimination between reality and appearances. It relies, therefore, on the power of thought,

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

vicāra and on the power of discrimination, viveka. Four steps of the method of Jnana yoga are: (i) śravana, — listening to the Word which symbolises or indicates the truth that has been discovered by those who have trodden the path, (ii) manana, — reflection, discriminative conceptualisation in which the concept of reality is clarified repeatedly, contemplatively and dwelt upon by increasing concentration, (iii) nididhyāsana, — long process of dwelling on the concepts of reality in a continuous attempt to transcend the process of conceptualisation so as to grasp intuitively the object of thought and thus to prepare the ground of experience in which the subject of knowledge and the object of knowledge can be united, and (iv) sākśātkāra, state of realisation in which reality shines out self-luminously by sublation of all other lower experiences so as to attain permanent station in the Reality that is experienced.

The most important part of the process of Jnana yoga is to eliminate the error in consciousness that arises from the veil of ignorance that exists between the consciousness which is centred on shifting and confusing multiplicity, on the one hand, and the self-existent and self-luminous reality, on the other. The error consists of identification or the unreal or appearance of the phenomenal with the real. The process of Jnana yoga, therefore, proceeds to eliminate the erroneous or false identification. The process also involves a long effort of purification in which layers of confusions and impurities of the body, life, and mind are cleaned up by series of meditations, three of which are most important, namely, meditations on the formula: "I am not a body", "I am not this life" and "I am not the mind". These meditations are accompanied by the external and internal purification of the body, of the relationships with the environment and of non

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

discriminative errors, confusions and falsehoods. With increasing effort of meditation and concentration, with increasing discrimination between the real and the unreal, with increasing purification and also with increasing renunciation of the unreal, of the erroneous, of the false, there occurs a gradual liberation and also the recovery of the vastness and even the transcendence of the Self. Often in this process, works are renounced, relationships are severed, and a complete renunciation of the worldly life is effected. The important point, however, is the development of inner detachment, anāsakti, from all that is not-Self. A positive series of meditations and concentrations accompany the entire procedure and become more and more dominant which have for their object, "I am the Transcendental Self. Three great declarations of the Upanishads are proposed as formulae of meditations, viz., "I am He", "Thou art That", "All this is the Brahman: this Self is the Brahman".

The secret of the effectivity of Jnana yoga is based on the discovery that thought has a power to open up a state of consciousness which is beyond thought, a consciousness where what is thought of is also experienced, provided that thought is made pure of any confusion or error, and if thought is fixed more and more steadily without any wavering even on the long stretch of time, and if the states of quiet, tranquillity, calm, silence and peace are maintained, and if no distraction is allowed to intervene.

Yogic experiences of quiet, tranquillity, calm, silence and Peace are extremely important in the path of Jnana yoga. Quiet is a condition in which there is no restlessness or disturbance, — it is the state of acanchalatā. Calm is still an "unmoved condition in which no disturbance can affect, — it

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

is a less negative condition than that of quiet. It is a condition of sthiratā. Quiet, calm and peace can all be described as tranquillity. Peace is the still more positive condition; it carries with it a sense of settled and harmonious rest and deliverance. It is a state of śānti. Silence is a state in which either there is no movement of the mind or vital or else a great stillness in which no-surface movement can pierce or enter. It is the state of niścala nīravatā.

There are, according to yogic experiences of Jnana yoga, four states of consciousness which come to be distinguished, and one has to rise from one that is lowest to the one that is the highest. The first is the state of wakefulness, jāgrata, which is turned outward, bahiśprajna. The second is the state of dream, swapna, in which one is inward, antahprajna. The third is the state of sleep, sushupti, a state of perfect slumber where one returns to Oneness, where wisdom is gathered into itself, and where one enjoys unrelated delight. It is also the state of the Almighty, and the Omniscient, and it is also the Inner Soul and the Womb of the Universe. And there is beyond, the fourth state, turīya, which is described in the Māndukya Upanishad as follows:

He who is neither inward-wise, nor outward-wise, nor both inward and outward-wise, nor wisdom self- gathered, nor possessed of wisdom, nor unpossessed of wisdom, He who is unseen and incommunicable, unseizable, featureless, unthinkable, and unnameable, Whose essentiality is awareness of the Self in its single existence, in Whom all phenomena dissolve, Who is Calm, Who is Good, Who is the One than Whom there is no other. Him they deem the fourth: He is the Self, He is the object of Knowledge."

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

Jnana yoga leads to the attainment of the knowledge of the Self, which is manifested or reflected as the individual soul that is identified with body, life and mind and which is, therefore, to be liberated from that identification or bondage. In that state of liberation, true knowledge of the Self is attained. (See Sri Aurobindo's description of the state in his poem: 'Liberation' in Appendix XI (p. 165)

This knowledge of the Self has been described variously. One of the most important descriptions is that of what is called the experience of Adwaita, the Self as the sole Reality, one without the second, luminous, pure sustaining the world but inactive in it, without sinews of energy, without flaw of duality, without scar of division, unique, identical, free from all appearances and relations and of multiplicity, — pure Self, Atman or Brahman. (See the description of the experience in Sri Aurobindo's poems: 'Adwaita' and 'Nirvana' in Appendix XII (p. 166)

In fact, two most important experiences and realisations of Jnana yoga are those of cosmic consciousness and of the consciousness of Oneness. Sri Aurobindo has described these experiences, and we refer to them and give below the descriptions of these two yogic experiences and realisations in Sri Aurobindo's words.

Of the cosmic consciousness, Sri Aurobindo states:

'Entering into that Consciousness, we may continue to dwell, like It, upon universal existence. Then we become aware — for all our terms of consciousness and even our sensational experience begin to change, — of Matter as one existence and of bodies as its formations in which the one existence separates itself physically in the single body from

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

itself in all others and again by physical means establishes communication between these multitudinous points of its being. Mind we experience similarly, and Life also, as the same existence one in its multiplicity, separating and reuniting itself in each domain by means appropriate to that movement. And, if we choose, we can proceed farther and, after passing through many linking stages, become aware of a supermind whose universal operation is the key to all lesser activities. Nor do we become merely conscious of this cosmic existence, but likewise conscious in it, receiving it in sensation, but also entering into it in awareness. In it we live as we lived before in the ego-sense, active, more and more in contact, even unified more and more with other minds, other lives, other bodies than the organism we call ourselves, producing effects not only on our own moral and mental being and on the subjective being of others, but even on the physical world and its events by means nearer to the divine than those possible to our egoistic capacity."¹²

Cosmic Consciousness¹³

I have wrapped the wide world in my wider self

And Time and Space my spirit's seeing are.

I am the god and demon, ghost and elf,

I am the wind's speed and the blazing star.

All Nature is the nursling of my care,

I am the struggle and the eternal rest;

The world's joy thrilling runs through me, I bear

The sorrow of millions in my lonely breast.

I have learned a close identity with all,

Yet am by nothing bound that I become;

Carrying in me the universe's call

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

I mount to my imperishable home.

I pass beyond Time and life on measureless wings,

Yet still am one with born and unborn things.

Of the experience and realisation of Oneness, Sri Aurobindo states:

"When, then, by the withdrawal of the centre of consciousness from identification with the mind, life and body, one has discovered one's true self, discovered the oneness of that self with the pure, silent, immutable Brahman, discovered in the immutable, in the Akshara Brahman, that by which the individual being escapes from his own personality into the impersonal, the first movement of the Path of Knowledge has been completed. It is the sole that is absolutely necessary for the traditional aim of the Yoga of Knowledge, for immergence, for escape from cosmic existence, for release into the absolute and ineffable Parabrahman who is beyond all cosmic being. The seeker of this ultimate release may take other realisations on his way, may realise the Lord of the universe, the Purusha who manifests Himself in all creatures, may arrive at the cosmic consciousness, may know and feel his unity with all beings; but these are only stages or circumstances of his journey, results of the unfolding of his soul as it approaches nearer the ineffable goal. To pass beyond them all is his supreme object. When on the other hand, having attained to the "freedom and the silence and the peace, we resume possession by the cosmic consciousness of the active as well as the silent "Brahman and can securely live in the divine freedom as well as rest in it, we have completed the second movement of the path by which the integrality of self-knowledge becomes the station of the liberated soul.

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

"The soul thus possesses itself in the unity of Sachchidananda upon all the manifest planes of its own being. This is the characteristic of the integral knowledge that it unifies all in Sachchidananda because not only is Being one in itself, but it is one everywhere, in all its poises and in every aspect, in its utmost appearance of multiplicity as in its utmost appearance of oneness. The traditional knowledge while it admits this truth in theory, yet reasons practically as if the oneness were not equal everywhere or could not be equally realised in all. It finds it in the unmanifest Absolute, but not so much in the manifestation, finds it purer in the Impersonal than in the Personal, complete in the Nirguna, not so complete in the Saguna, satisfyingly present in the silent and inactive Brahman, not so satisfyingly present in the active. Therefore it places all these other terms of the Absolute below their opposites in the scale of ascent and urges their final rejection as if it were indispensable to the utter realisation. The integral knowledge makes no such division; it arrives at a different kind of absoluteness in its vision of the unity. It finds the same oneness in the Unmanifest and the Manifest, in the Impersonal and the Personal, in Nirguna and Saguna, in the infinite depths of the universal silence and the infinite largeness of the universal action. It finds the same absolute oneness in the Purusha and the Prakriti; in the divine Presence and the works of the divine Power and Knowledge; in the eternal manifestness of the one Purusha and the constant manifestation of the many Purushas; in the inalienable unity of Sachchidananda keeping constantly real to itself its own manifold oneness and in the apparent divisions of mind, life and body in which oneness is constantly, if secretly real and constantly seeks to be realised.

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

All unity is to it an intense, pure and infinite realisation, all difference an abundant, rich and boundless realisation of the same divine and eternal Being."14

Nature of Jnāna in Jnāna Yoga

Knowledge that is sought to be attained through Jnana 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, — Para 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, – Jnana is that which is a secret to the mind, of which the

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

mind only gets by reflection, but which lives in the spirit. The object distinctive of 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 vijnate sarvam

vijnātam bhavati

Knowing it is That knowing which everything becomes known.

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.

(i) 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 Jnāna 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.

(ii) In due course, there are other internal experiences so

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

that the vision of the Self is completed by experiences of it in all our members. All this knowledge and experience are primary means of arriving at and of possessing identity.

(iii) 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 cātmānam tato na vijiugupsate.

yasmin sarvāṇi bhūtaniātmaivābhūd vijānataḥ

tatra ko mohaḥ kaḥ śoka ekatvam anupaśyataḥ.15

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?

(f) Experiences in Bhakti Yoga

We may now turn to yogic experiences in Bhakti yoga. This Yoga is as simple and straightforward as love moves straight towards its object. It cannot, therefore, be fixed down to any systematic methods. Bhakti yoga may employ various means of support, but since there is a human tendency towards order, process, and system, there have been attempts to methodise the movement of Bhakti or Divine love.

In a sense, numberless religions in their inmost core,

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

have provided numberless means and methods to approach the Reality which has been viewed as worthy of worship and devotion.

There are various ways in which the path of Bhakti yoga is divided into stages of its development. There are, according to one classification, six stages of Bhakti:

(i) The first stage is known as bhaktasthala. This stage is marked by devotion inspired by faith.

(ii) The next stage is called maheshwarasthala, where the state of consciousness is that of nisthā bhakti, the state of bhakti where the seeker decides that he would be worshipping the Divine and the Divine alone.

(iii) The next stage is known as prasādasthala, where the seeker begins to feel that everything that he attains in life and every experience that he enjoys or suffers is given to him through the grace of the Divine.

(iv) The next stage is known as prāṇalingasthala, where the devotee begins to worship the Divine in any form whatsoever. At this stage, the yogic practice reaches a remarkable stage which is called anubhava bhakti, and this stage is marked with numerous mystic experiences.

(v) The next stage is known as samarpana stage, where one is able to surrender oneself totally to the Divine and the Bhakti of this stage is known as ananda bhakti.

(vi) Finally, one arrives at the aikya stage which leads to union and even identity. This stage of Bhakti is known as samarasa bhakti, where one leaves behind all ideas of differences and merges with the Supreme consciousness.

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

However, if we study the Yoga of Bhakti as an intimate process of the heart-yearning of the soul for the Divine, this Yoga resorts itself into four stages:

1. There is the desire of the soul when it turns to God and the straining its emotions towards Him;

2. The pain of love and the Divine return of love;

3. The delight of love possessed and the play of that delight;


4. The eternal enjoyment of the Divine Lover which is the heart of celestial bliss.

The Yoga of devotion concentrates on the affective aspects of human psychology. It recognises that emotions constitute a great force for the growth of human personality, and the more are the emotions refined, the more does the human personality get elevated into the scale of inner culture. Love, joy and beauty, — when they are refined and purified from their inner contradictions and from their gross seekings of satisfaction in terms of physical enjoyment, and vital play of unending demands in human relationships, there arise in human nature higher levels of sensitivity and subtlety and joy that prohibit the exploitation of the objects of love and beauty for any gross satisfaction or crude mishandling or unjust profit. The natural consequence of this purification results in the sentiments of reverence, admiration, worship, service, obedience, holiness, joy of companionship and love that does not demand but is earnest to offer, to sacrifice and even to be melted in the object of love. Based on this psychological movement of human nature. Yoga of devotion aims at refining all emotions and proposes the various methods by which emotions can be turned and concentrated

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

on the Divine Being.

Human life is marked by pain and wants, and in search of alleviation and cure of pain and wants, a point is reached where one is drawn more and more imperatively to a Power or Being, even though they may be supraphysical, and one may have to cultivate faith. This is how many turn to God for the removal of pain and wants. But these are not the only two motives for turning towards the Divine Being. A higher motive is to be found, when the seeker, in search of the highest knowledge, discovers philosophically or spiritually, that there is in the universe and above the universe a Reality, who deserves to be known more and more perfectly and that the perfect knowledge of the Reality is accessible only when one opens one's heart and cognitive faculties to the Divine Reality. Aspiration to know the Supreme has thus been considered to be a higher motive of Devotion and for entry into the path of Bhakti yoga.

But even higher than this motive is the motive of the seeker who has reached the stage in the development of Karma yoga or Jnana yoga, or even in the pursuit of the Divine merely for the cure of pain or fulfilment of wants, where there bursts in the heart that motiveless love for the Divine which irresistibly wants to be consumed in that love. This ahaituki bhakti, the highest form of bhakti, bhakti for the sake of bhakti, the beginning of which is bhakti, the middle of which is bhakti and the end of which is also bhakti.

Even here there are two types of seekers. There are those who love the Divine and seek the Divine out of the irresistible attraction because they have heard the enchanting flute of the Divine call or have on some occasions seen with the inner eye the irresistible Form of the Divine and have

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

fallen in the love of the Divine. But there are those who have known the Divine and known the Divine as the One Wonderful and who with this knowledge seek nothing but the Divine love for its own sake and who want to be with the Divine where he is to be found, whether in hell or heaven or on the earth, and who want to offer themselves absolutely, undeservedly and to offer every drop of blood of the body as an offering to the Divine Lover, — those seekers are of the highest category in the path of Bhakti yoga. As Sri Krishna points out in the Bhagavad Gita, all devotees are dear to the Divine, but devotees who also possess the knowledge of the Divine are dearer to the Divine.

In view of this nature of Bhakti yoga, there is one emotion which is inconsistent and which is to be dropped altogether in the path of Bhakti yoga. This is the emotion of fear. It is true that the sentiment of fear is perfectly consistent with devotion of a certain kind and up to a certain point. In the path of Karma yoga, the seeker seeks to regard God as the King and does not approach too near the glory of his throne, unless justified by righteousness or led there by a mediator who will turn away the divine wrath for sin. Even when he draws nearest, he keeps an awed distance between himself and his high object of worship. But he cannot embrace the Divine with all the fearless confidence of the child in his mother or of the lover in his beloved or with that intimate sense of oneness which perfect love brings with it. Therefore, the Yoga of Divine love has for its object not Merely the God of purity and truth and wisdom but also God as the father of all who extends his wings of benignant Protection and love over all his creatures, and from that concept of the object, the relation that is indispensable for he Yoga of the Divine love emerges, namely, the relation of

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

father and child, a relation of love, and as a result, the relation of brotherhood with our fellow beings. Love is the real key and perfect love is inconsistent with the admission of the motive of fear. Closeness of the human soul to the Divine is the object, and gradually all other emotions disappear in the intimacy of the union of love.

It may even be said that even prayer, which is an extremely important part of the methods and experiences of Bhakti yoga, is ultimately justified not as a process by which what is asked for is granted but because prayer is an intimate expression of the relationship that the seeker seeks to build with God. In the end, prayer either ceases or remains only for the joy of the relation.

Love is a passion and it seeks for two things, eternity and intensity, and it is through Bhakti yoga that the seeker arrives at the discovery and the possession of the Divine Being in whom alone eternity and intensity of love are fulfilled. In the following passage, Sri Aurobindo describes that love for the Divine which suffuses the steps of Bhakti yoga and leads the seeker to inexpressible fulfilment, not only in knowing and possessing the Divine but also in divinising totality of our entire being and nature:

"Love is a passion and it seeks for two things, eternity and intensity, and in the relation of the Lover and Beloved the seeking for eternity and for intensity is instinctive and self-born. Love is a seeking for mutual possession, and it is here that the demand for mutual possession become absolute. Passing beyond desire of possession which means a difference, it is a seeking for oneness, and it is here that the idea of oneness, of two souls merging into each other an becoming one finds the acme of its longing and the utterness

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

of its satisfaction. Love, too, is a yearning for beauty, and it is here that the yearning is eternally satisfied in the vision and the touch and the joy of the All-beautiful. Love is a child and a seeker of Delight, and it is here that it finds the highest possible ecstasy both of the heart-consciousness and of every fibre of the being. Moreover, this relation is that which as between human being and human being demands the most and, even while reaching the greatest intensities, is still the least-satisfied, because only in the Divine can it find its real and its utter satisfaction. Therefore it is here most that the turning of human emotion Godwards finds its full meaning and discovers all the truth of which love is the human symbol, all its essential instincts divinised, raised, satisfied in the bliss from which our life was born and towards which by oneness it returns in the Ananda of the divine existence where love is absolute, eternal and unalloyed."16

At the highest stage of Bhakti yoga, one becomes universalised and the way of the Divine love and delight is raised to its intensities, and it gives the supreme liberation. Its highest crest is a supra-cosmic union. But for love, complete union is mukti: it includes all kinds of mukti together. In the end, these different kinds of mukti are not successive to each other or mutually exclusive. In the words of Sri Aurobindo:

We have the absolute union of the divine with the human spirit, sāyujya; in that reveals itself a content of all that depends here upon difference, — but there the difference is only a form of oneness' — Ananda too of nearness and contact and mutual presence, sāmīpya, sālokya, Ananda of and mutual reflection' the thing that we call likeness, sādṛśya, and other wonderful things too for which language has as

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

yet no name. There is nothing which is beyond the reach of the God-lover or denied to him; for he is the favourite of the divine Lover and the self of the Beloved."17

A Note

Literature of Bhakti yoga. Eastern and Western, literature pertaining to religions, and literature pertaining to yogic path of Divine love, has provided voluminous descriptions of yogic experiences relating to the path of Divine love. In India, there has been a long line of saints who have described their yearnings for the Divine, their struggle with the lower nature so as to surmount it and to devote themselves exclusively to union with the Divine. Thousands of poems and songs describe their sādhanā, their prayers, their glimpses of the Divine Presence and their experiences of the pain of separation from the Divine, even their ecstasy in union with the Divine, and indeed it can be said that it is not possible for the tongue of human speech to tell of the utter unity and all the eternal varieties of the ānanda of Divine love.

We have appended in the Appendix XIII (p. 168) a few poems which relate to different stages of the yogic experiences of the Bhakti yoga.

One of the Tamil Alwars describes the condition of the mother of a love-stricken girl (symbolising the human soul yearning to merge into the Godhead). She complains to her friend of the sad plight of her child whom love for Krishna has rendered "mad", the ultimate spirit of the universe. (See the poem entitled, 'Love-mad' composed by Nammalwar)

Two poems are from the famous saint-poetess, Andal. They are entitled, 'I dreamed a dream' and 'Ye Others'.

Yogic Experience

Yogic Experience

Another poem is from Horu Thakur, a Bengali saint where he describes the longing of the soul for reunion with God, without whom the sweetnesses of love and life are vain. Another poem is from Vidyapati where he describes the beauty of the God whom he has seen. Another poem is from Jnanadas which describes the condition of the soul as yet divided from the Eternal, yet having caught a glimpse of his intoxicating beauty grows passionate in his remembrance and swoons with the sensuous expectation of union. Another poem, again, from Jnanadas which describes the human soul, in a moment of rapt excitement when robe of sense has fallen from it, is surprised and seized by the vision of the Eternal. A poem of Chandidas describes ocean-deep yearning of the soul for the Divine.

All the poems presented in this Appendix are translations from the original in Tamil or Bengali by Sri Aurobindo.

Yogic Experience

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