The Yoga of Awareness

Lecture by Swami Satyananda Saraswati at Battersea Library, London in April 1977

Spiritual evolution and transformation of consciousness are very important for the whole of humanity. Those who are not prepared to accept this will have to do so some time in the future. The purpose of human life is transformation of consciousness which is achieved through the practices of yoga in general and meditation in particular. When we use the word yoga, we mean it in a very great sense. Yoga is not merely asanas, pranayamas, mudras, bandhas, yoga nidra and so on; it is the science by which an internal change, an internal evolution takes place in the very depths of our being. This transformation is not so apparent from outside, although, of course, we can see that some people become more healthy by the practice of yogasanas. Even as milk is transformed into butter, curd and whey, and cotton into cloth, all matter undergoes a state of transformation. When its ultimate substance and purpose are achieved. In the same manner, thought, emotion, desire, passion and aspiration can also be transformed. This process of transformation is the Main purpose of yoga.

In physics, matter undergoes a transformation without which it can never manifest itself as energy. As we all know, energy is inherent in matter but to release that energy, matter has to undergo a state of transformation. If matter cannot undergo a state of transformation, then it remains matter and energy remains unmanifested. In the same manner, the mind has to undergo a state of transformation. As the ultimate firm of matter is energy, so the ultimate form of mind is shakti. In order to evolve, the mind has to manifest the shakti aspect, and this transformation is automatically achieved through the practice of dhyana yoga. Dhyana is the yoga of awareness; if is the process of expanding the awareness, not merely of withdrawing the mind from the objective experience.

Some people feel that when we close the eyes and withdraw the mind from objective, mundane, sensual awareness, we are escaping from reality, Thus a lot of misunderstanding has cropped up. We have experienced, however, that when the mind, the consciousness is withdrawn from outside and becomes more aware internally, something happens. What? This must be experienced for oneself. There are many ways to turn in - by practicing mantra, ajapa japa, kriya yoga, meditation - but when we turn inward, what happens to us? Is it just a withdrawal of consciousness, a superficial mental state, or is it an active conversion, a transformation that is going on? What happens to matter when it undergoes a process of fission? The same thing happens to the mind when it fees through the process of pratyahara, dharana, dhyana to samadhi.

Samadhi is not a state of inertness, of no-knowledge, but a state of total awareness. I tell you this from personal experience, not from what the books say. When I use the term total awareness, I mean awareness of the cosmos inside and knowledge of the cosmos outside. In Sanskrit we call this brahmanda, the world out side and the world inside. On the material plane there is the cosmos which we are aware of while we are awake, but the moment we enter meditation we enter a different realm, another universe.

When we start withdrawing our self from the external objective field to the field of self awareness, that is called pratyahara, retreat. As soon as we are able to disassociate our self from external objective awareness for a particular period of time, then we are asked to focus our attention on one point, the symbol. When we can focus the mind on one given symbol or a symbol of our choice, it maybe aum, Ram, a cross, a flower or anything of strong significance - for a specific period of time, meditation begins. To make it clearer, in order to concentrate on the guru we must first be able to overcome our mental distractions, not think of the guru with a lot of thoughts hovering over our mind. If the mind is very active, we must follow other yogic practices to minimize the distractions. When the distractions are considerably reduced, then we can focus the mind, limit the area of consciousness. At the point of focusing the mind, meditation begins; this is the process of fission on the yogic plane. So transformation of matter releases infinite, tremendous energy; the transformation of mind releases shakti and finally gyana releases spiritual knowledge. With this understanding, everybody should follow a definite path of meditation.

It does not matter if we are not able to concentrate for thirty years; what is important is that we continue the practice. Modern man flirts with life; he flirts with truth. He is always changing his mantra and his path of meditation, saying, 'Oh, this doesn't work for me'. How can spiritual practice work on him? It takes time.

If we want to saw wood, it takes half a minute, but if we want to saw steel, it takes longer. In the same way, spiritual experiences depend upon clarity of mind, purity of consciousness, and how much sadhana has been done earlier. When people first start meditation, their expectations are too high and that is a fact steadiness of mind, resolute will, conviction about what we are doing, and knowing the path which we follow, that is what is needed in yoga.

There is nothing too difficult; everything is a matter of time. But more than time, it is a matter of conviction and self confidence. If a particular mantra comes to us, we can make it powerful and influential by our conviction and faith. Persistent practice of the mantra or any spiritual practice will bring ample reward in due time.

Nowadays the world, the universal mind, all is changing. It seems that mankind is under the compulsion of a new consciousness which has transcended religions, political isms' and linguistic barriers. This has been my experience. I started the work of yoga in 1964 with my first class on the 19th of January, and since that time I found that everywhere people have started thinking differently. There is more awareness of the necessity of spiritual lift lathe hearts of the people. The last generation did not understand the place of spiritual life or of yoga; a yogi was a misfit in society and yoga was a crazy philosophy. But this generation knows that the yogi is a blissful man and that yoga is definitely a compatible way of life. Perhaps the next generation will say that yoga is a must.

I hope that yoga will become the culture of every family, of every nation. As we can now get so many things easily in the supermarket, so we shall soon be able to get information and instruction on yoga.


How does meditation begin after focusing the mind?

In dharana the symbol, called murti in Sanskrit and mandala in tantra as wall as in modem psychology, is the basis of function for the mind. During concentration, the symbol stays inside and you should be able to visualize it vividly.

There are two paths of meditation. One is the path of darkness where the practitioner withdraws and enters the state of shoonya. Here, there is no awareness of inside or outside, no awareness of name and form, no awareness of awareness. This is called the laya state; it is a lower samadhi, a state of suspended consciousness. To avoid staying in this state you should have a symbol. Never say that God is formless, so we should only worship the formless. God is formless, nameless and beyond dimension, bat here it is not a question of God. Here it is a question of integration, focusing, realization and transformation of consciousness. Maybe, ultimately, this will lead to God, but that will come later on.

The second path is the way of awareness, of fight. Here you concentrate on your symbol but from time to time, especially at the beginning, you lose it. The mind runs round and round like a monkey, returning like a pendulum. The mind continually loses awareness of that particular object and you have a lot of visions and funny dreams. You have to keep bringing the mind back again so that your awareness of the object becomes continuous. There should be no interception, no obstruction, no curves, no difference and as variation; the consciousness should be like a straight line. Patanjali says that when consciousness is stretched as one, without any interception, without any break, this state is called dhyana, meditation. Now, what happens if I think of a flower, and there is a sound from somewhere which intercepts my thought and then another thought comes and another. The straight line is being intercepted by many other lines, and this is what has to be avoided in meditation. Gradually, there must be no second thought no second awareness, only one awareness called advaita anubhuti, non-dual awareness. The form or symbol remains but the consciousness is transformed; the experience and dimension of awareness change.

There comes a moment when I forget that I am Swami Satyananda; awareness of time and space are lost, but then for some time I remember my name again. Slight awareness is there, or if this awareness of name and form is not continuous, it comes off and on.... Swami Satyananda.... a man.... awareness of time.... awareness of space.... awareness of name and form.... They alternate; it is like waves coming, sometimes there is shoonyata, for a moment one blinks, for a moment one thinks.

Inner awareness has to be maintained on some form - awareness of your symbol is your inner awareness. If you lose this inner awareness, then you slide into a state of inertia. Samadhi is a state of absolute knowledge, param gyanam, not no-knowledge, agyanam. In samadhi you are aware of awareness, but of nothing else. Names and forms die; time dwindles into nothing; space is annihilated, but there is total awareness. That is the existence of atman, the self, and when that has been reached, you have obtained the fruits of dhyana and samadhi.

Could you describe the process of fission which one undergoes in concentration?

I can, but not exactly in scientific terms. The mind is not just a bundle of habits, not just gross matter, but comparatively subtle matter. It is composed of various vrittis, tendencies or patterns. What is mind? You can enumerate hundreds of components. Just as matter can be broken into elements, so the mind can be split into many items. The main division is the three gunas - rajas (dynamism), tamas (inertia) and sattwa (equilibrium). After that, it has to be experienced in different forms: jealousy, love, anger, pride, phobia, anxiety, suspicion, doubt, apprehension, fear, revenge and many more. These are the vrittis, the tendencies or samskaras, not the mind itself, not the consciousness. For instance, if I have a gold ring and the ring is round, does that make gold round? The roundness is only a shape, a pattern. Similarly anger, jealousy, passion, etc. of which we are aware and unaware art the vrittis. They are the superimposed habits or conditions in the mind. Now, if you wish to realize the true form of the mind, you must remove these. If you want to know what gold is, what do you do? If you melt it you can see that gold is neither horizontal, vertical, round nor oval - gold is a quality not a form, In the same way the mind has to be freed from associations, habits and tendencies which it has either accumulated or which have followed it through the process of evolution. How are you going to do this?

In the process of meditation, especially in antar mouna or inner silence, the vrittis come and go. Passion, hatred, anger, all thoughts come, sometimes just a little, sometimes plenty, sometimes too much and sometimes nothing. We continue observing without opposing them. We don't criticize, like or dislike them; we just see them as an impartial spectator as far as possible. In the course of this witnessing of the tendencies of the mind, they start to fall away. The spiritual aspirant gradually drops the tendencies of the mind through various practices until the mind alone remains in its pristine glory, in its original form, which is the self, the atman. Some call it God, some Allah, some Brahma, some spirit.

When this atman is associated with karma, with the samskaras, it is known as mind. Mind minus the elements is equal to atman; that is the first equation. Atman plus all the elements is equal to the mind; that is the second equation.

When should we practice this form of meditation?

When you are unable to maintain proper awareness of the symbol end you find that the mind has become restless and indifferent, lost in fantasies, at that time you should withdraw and change to the practice of antar mouna, inner silence, rather than concentration on the symbol. In inner silence, you let the mind function, giving it spontaneous freedom while you remain a witness to the thoughts. If you do not do this, then the mind will oppose itself, and a personality split can take place. This practice is for those people whose minds are not under their control and who have not attained the pure state of consciousness. The moment they sit for meditation, they become drowsy or they blink and oscillate. So they should practice inner silence in which they do not oppose the mind, stop thoughts, or come into direct conflict with their personality. Rather, they give direct spontaneous expression to all behaviour of the mind by remaining the witness. Once you have gained control over the mental dissipations, antar mouna is no longer necessary. The practice of inner silence is for people with restless minds; the practice of concentration is for people with steady minds.

Can you explain more about the methods of meditation for people of different temperaments?

In fact, all those who tread the path of yoga are threefold. Some are sattvic by temperament, others are rajasic and others are tamasic. In tamas the mind is very dull. In rajas the mind is very active. In sattva the mind is balanced and moves very little. The tamasic temperament is such that the consciousness evolves very slowly like a python. When it sees its prey, the python does not bite; it opens its eyes, says whhhhh and goes back to sleep again. The consciousness is a little bit awake but mostly inactive. The mind of a rajasic person is always jumping like a monkey which has consumed a bottle of whisky and has a pin stuck into it. The sattvic mind can be compared to a tree in the middle of winter, when the snow is falling and the leaves are quiet with just an occasional stirring, that's all.

For the sattvic person, concentration and meditation have to be straight and direct. When concentrating on a point and a thought comes into his mind, he immediately controls it by saying 'No!'

The concentration for a rajasic person has to be different. When thoughts enter his mind, he should say, 'Come on!' He should not try to subjugate the thoughts nor subdue the mind. Whether good thoughts come or bad ones, whether wanted or unwanted, he must let them come, but he must see them. He should not think about or analyse them; he must only see them. When he is practicing his mantra or concentrating on his symbol and he suddenly remembers his friends, some episode of the past or some personal problem, he should make no attempt to control such thoughts. He should not try to stop them or be unhappy or sorry about them. He should only see them with complete impartiality, and let them come and go. What then happens? In one hour of practice, he will remember his mantra or symbol for perhaps ten minutes end no longer. But gradually after many weeks and months of practice, the mind will become quieter and quieter.

For the tamasic person, the meditation has to be very dynamic, otherwise he sits down quietly and after a few minutes he nods off, he forgets everything at that time - all his problems, worries and fears - so he feels that he has had a very good meditation when actually he was asleep. This can be dangerous, so for a tamasic person the meditation has to be dynamic. Therefore, he should be taught meditation through pranayama and the techniques of kriya yoga. He should be taught to concentrate his mind by singing in kirtan. He should not be allowed to introvert himself.

Now the point is clear. When a tamasic person is allowed to introvert, he becomes dull and sleeps and sleeps. When a rajasic person is allowed to introvert he becomes abnormal. When a sattvic parson is allowed to introvert he attains samadhi. Therefore, the scheme of sadhana for ail three categories of people has to be different. Thus the tantras say that sadhana should always be allocated according to the evolution and capacity of a man.

What is the basic aim of meditation?

In meditation, you go from realization to realization, and you come to understand things more and more. When you come nearer to the self, the atman, truth or reality is revealed to you. Universal truth has to be realized through the incessant process of self purification and enlightenment. With the eyes and vision that we now have, we are limited. Unless we enlarge the scope of our vision and broaden our horizon, it is not possible to have this deeper understanding of truth, in order to have a deeper understanding about truth, vision must be expanded through meditation and other yogic techniques. When the vision is expanded, truth is before you, and you know that there is truth.

There is a story about a blind man who went to an optician to see if he had anything to help him see. The optician tried many different kinds of glasses and nothing worked. Then he discovered that the man had no eyes at all. What can an optician do with a man who does not have eyes? Similarly, as long as we have a narrow vision it is not possible to understand the full import of reality and truth. It is better to first make a departure from our total limitations and for this meditation is the way. Then only will truth, which is self effulgent, reveal itself.