The soul experiences various levels of awareness: instinctive, intellectual, psychic awareness, and the highest, spiritual awareness. Spiritual awareness is awareness of the Divine or God, the highest awareness.
Through the medium or cloak of the body, the law of evolution is being worked out, and the awareness is trying to unfold and express itself.
An animal behaves in all manners, but without awareness. A less intelligent person may behave in similar ways but is sometimes aware of his behaviour. The awareness of oneself has dawned in man and this is what separates him from the animals. The awareness that ‘I am’, which has become manifest in the human kingdom with the birth of the human being, is to be developed.
The ultimate aim of yoga is to bring enlightenment to every individual. The fundamental belief of yoga is that this does not come from the outside, but that enlightenment, the supreme awareness, is in every man.
Even as butter is drawn from milk, or oil from the mustard seeds, so man is permeated with this special quality of awareness.
This awareness within has to be studied separately by a constant method and application. Only then is it possible that everyone becomes a witness to his own self. He keeps on removing layer upon layer of consciousness and keeps unfolding the different states and dimensions of his consciousness. From consciousness, he goes down to sub consciousness, and from there still deeper to the more dynamic state of unconsciousness, and finally, he takes the jump into super consciousness.
Yoga is a method of communion, of joining two things together. The individual consciousness of today and the supreme consciousness to be attained both have to be in communion. In other words, the lower consciousness has to be taken deep down into the super consciousness. Different methods and techniques have been prescribed.
Yoga is the technique and science to behold the consciousness, tranquillize the entire personality and develop the awareness with absolute consciousness. In other words, yoga takes consciousness as its object and purpose. With the help of the mind one tries to enquire into the deeper dimensions of one’s personality.
Yoga works out the whole scheme in three stages: the first is tranquility, the second concentration or fixation, and the third meditation or awareness. When these three stages are developed the result is super consciousness.
The first stage is tranquility. When one wants to be aware of the inner self, it is necessary that the senses of the outer personality are subdued.
If one wants to understand or become aware of one’s self in a deeper dimension, it is essential that any noise, dissipation or disturbance in the mental and sensual personality be calmed. When the senses become quiet, and the thoughts become tranquil, one is able to bring before the mind one’s own mind, personality and consciousness.
What does yoga do? It formulates an image, a pattern, of one’s own consciousness, of one’s own self, in the form of an abstract or concrete symbol. That particular form or image created through imagination and feeling, tries to consume the entire stock of one’s consciousness.
If a little bit of water is put in the refrigerator and taken out after fifteen minutes, only half of it is frozen, the other half is still water. The entire quantity of water is not frozen. In the same manner, through the method of concentration, the entire mental personality, the whole of one’s psychic personality, which is otherwise dissipated and disturbed, is consumed by the awareness of one theme. When the entire consciousness is assimilated, consumed and withdrawn, the symbol of one’s choice becomes clearly seen in all its dimensions. The difference between the psychic symbol and the actual symbol completely vanishes at that time.
If one has the guru as the symbol and basis of one’s consciousness, and if in the depth of meditation, the entire consciousness is withdrawn in the form of the guru’s consciousness or image, then one will find the guru there.
People may call it hallucination or delusion, but it is not. It is real, it is concrete. The mind is more real than the body. More real than the mind is the psyche, but more real, fundamental and concrete than the psyche, is the spirit. In this way, one may see in the mental arena the guru, or any other symbol of one’s choice, as clearly as one sees with eyes wide open. That state can be attained through the practice of yoga.
Therefore, the first necessity in yoga is tranquility or pratyahara. Pratyahara is translated as the withdrawal of the individual experiences through the medium of the senses.
Seeing and listening are experiences of the mind through the senses. But if one wants to go to the spiritual realm, the external sense experiences have to cease. The extrovert consciousness has to close completely. This is the first stage to be achieved.
Tranquility means the withdrawal of sense experiences. When one’s consciousness transcends the outer space and experiences, forms are not seen, words are not heard, the skin does not feel any sensation and fragrance is not experienced. If a sweet is put on the tongue, there will be no sensation of taste.
To attain this first stage of tranquility, there are hundreds of effective techniques, including praying, gazing at a candle flame, a black dot, the nose tip, the eyebrow centre and concentration on the psychic centres, or chakras.
Swami Yogananda taught kriya yoga. Maharishi Yogi teaches Transcendental Meditation and I teach ajapa japa for this purpose. Christians pray and prostrate in absolute surrender. In Hinduism, people sing God’s names. These methods pacify the disturbed personality, and a stage of equanimity and transcendence is brought about. It is after this attainment that yoga begins.
Once calmness of mind has been achieved, the thoughts cease to function. At this time, one should immediately develop in one’s consciousness one image, form or symbol. The symbol one develops within is only subjective, not objective. It does not have qualities. If, in the calm state of mind, the image appears within, who is inside? Has the image come within, or is it the mind or consciousness which has assumed the form of that particular symbol?
Therefore, the symbol which one chooses should be such that the mind easily assumes that shape. The cross, Om, the crescent moon and the lotus are such symbols. The psychic symbols of one’s personality are the basis where the calm and quiet mind can be properly formulated. This state is known as dharana, which means to hold, to formulate consciousness in the form and shape of an image.
The consciousness or force of the conscious mind which was drifting from object to object, from thought to thought, between the conscious and subconscious minds becomes entirely focused on one form. Gradually, one tries to bring together the mental forces around this form; they flow like a river to the ocean, filling it up. In the same manner, the thought consciousness is withdrawn, from one area and then from another, from everywhere. The withdrawn sense consciousness is formulated in the form of the image to such a degree that one does not remain aware of anything external but has constant, unceasing awareness of that one form only, for one or two minutes. The time will increase with practice.
As the time increases it means that awareness is moving into a state called samadhi. It can also be called Godhood, or nirvana in the language of the Buddhists, darshan in the language of Hindus, kaivalya in the language of the Jains, or samadhi in the language of yoga. This state can be described as the divine state, the state of oneness.
—World Tour 1968