THE COMPLETE WORKS | VOLUME 1 | SWAMI VIVEKANANDA
|| SECTION 3 | RAJA YOGA | CHAPTER 1 | INTRODUCTION ||
All our knowledge is based upon experience . What we call inferential knowledge , in which we go from the less to the more general , or from the general to the particular , has experience as its basis .
In what are called the exact sciences , people easily find the truth , because it appeals to the particular experiences of every human being .
The scientist does not tell you to believe in anything , but has certain results which come from the scientist's own experiences , and reasoning on them when asking us to believe in the conclusions , the scientist appeals to some universal experience of humanity . In every exact science there is a basis which is common to all humanity , so that we can at once see the truth or the fallacy of the conclusions drawn therefrom .
Now , the question is : Has religion any such basis or not ? I shall have to answer the question both in the affirmative and in the negative .
Religion , as it is generally taught all over the world , is said to be based upon faith and belief , and , in most cases , consists only of different sets of theories , and that is the reason why we find all religions quarrelling with one another . These theories , again , are based upon belief .
One person says there is a great Being sitting above the clouds and governing the whole universe , and asks me to believe that solely on the authority of the assertion . In the same way , I may have my own ideas , which I am asking others to believe , and if they ask a reason , I cannot give them any . This is why religion and metaphysical philosophy have a bad name nowadays . Every educated person seems to say ,
" Oh , these religions are only bundles of theories without any standard to judge them by , each person preaching pet ideas " .
Nevertheless , there is a basis of universal belief in religion , governing all the different theories and all the varying ideas of different sects in different countries . Going to their basis we find that they also are based upon universal experiences .
In the first place , if you analyse all the various religions of the world , you will find that these are divided into two classes , those with a book and those without a book . Those with a book are the strongest , and have the largest number of followers . Those without books have mostly died out , and the few new ones have very small following .
Yet , in all of them we find one consensus of opinion , that the truths they teach are the results of the experiences of particular persons .
The Christian asks you to believe in Christianity , to believe in Christ and to believe in Christ as the incarnation of GOD , to believe in a GOD , in a soul , and in a better state of that soul . If I ask for reason , one says one believes in them . But if you go to the fountainhead of Christianity , you will find that it is based upon experience . Christ said Christ saw GOD ; the disciples said they felt GOD ; and so forth .
Similarly , in Buddhism , it is Buddha's experience . Buddha experienced certain truths , saw them , came in contact with them , and preached them to the world .
So with the Hindus . In their books the writers , who are called Rishis , or sages , declare they experienced certain truths , and these they preach .
Thus it is clear that all the religions of the world have been built upon that one universal and adamantine foundation of all our knowledge — direct experience .
The teachers all saw GOD ; they all saw their own souls , they saw their future , they saw their eternity , and what they saw they preached .
Only there is this difference that by most of these religions especially in modern times , a peculiar claim is made , namely , that these experiences are impossible at the present day ; they were only possible with a few people , who were the first founders of the religions that subsequently bore their names . At the present time these experiences have become obsolete , and , therefore , we have now to take religion on belief . This I entirely deny .
If there has been one experience in this world in any particular branch of knowledge , it absolutely follows that that experience has been possible millions of times before , and will be repeated eternally . Uniformity is the rigorous law of nature ; what once happened can happen always .
The teachers of the science of Yoga , therefore , declare that religion is not only based upon the experience of ancient times , but that no one can be religious until one has the same perceptions oneself .
Yoga is the science which teaches us how to get these perceptions . It is not much use to talk about religion until one has felt it .
Why is there so much disturbance , so much fighting and quarrelling in the name of GOD ? There has been more bloodshed in the name of GOD than for any other cause , because people never went to the fountainhead ; they were content only to give a mental assent to the customs of their predecessors , and wanted others to do the same .
What right has someone to say one has a soul if one does not feel it , or that there is a GOD if one does not see GOD ? If there is a GOD we must see GOD , if there is a soul we must perceive it ; otherwise it is better not to believe .
It is better to be an outspoken atheist than a hypocrite .
The modern idea , on the one hand , with the " learned " is that religion and metaphysics and all search after a Supreme Being are futile ; on the other hand , with the semi-educated , the idea seems to be that these things really have no basis ; their only value consists in the fact that they furnish strong motive powers for doing good to the world .
If people believe in a GOD , they may become good , and moral , and so make good citizens . We cannot blame them for holding such ideas , seeing that all the teaching these people get is simply to believe in an eternal rigmarole of words , without any substance behind them .
They are asked to live upon words ; can they do it ? If they could , I should not have the least regard for human nature .
One wants truth , wants to experience truth for oneself ; when one has grasped it , realised it , felt it within one's heart of hearts , then alone , declare the Vedas , would all doubts vanish , all darkness be scattered , and all crookedness be made straight .
" Ye children of immortality , even those who live in the highest sphere , the way is found ; there is a way out of all this darkness , and that is by perceiving the One who is beyond all darkness ; there is no other way . "
The science of Raja Yoga proposes to put before humanity a practical and scientifically worked out method of reaching this truth . In the first place , every science must have its own method of investigation .
If you want to become an astronomer and sit down and cry " Astronomy ! Astronomy ! " it will never come to you . The same with chemistry . A certain method must be followed . You must go to a laboratory , take different substances , mix them up , compound them , experiment with them , and out of that will come a knowledge of chemistry . If you want to be an astronomer , you must go to an observatory , take a telescope , study the stars and planets , and then you will become an astronomer . Each science must have its own methods .
I could preach you thousands of sermons , but they would not make you religious , until you practiced the method .
These are the truths of the sages of all countries , of all ages , of people pure and unselfish , who had no motive but to do good to the world . They all declare that they have found some truth higher than what the senses can bring to us , and they invite verification .
They ask us to take up the method and practice honestly , and then , if we do not find this higher truth , we will have the right to say there is no truth in the claim , but before we have done that , we are not rational in denying the truth of their assertions . So we must work faithfully using the prescribed methods , and light will come .
In acquiring knowledge we make use of generalisations , and generalisation is based upon observation . We first observe facts , then generalise , and then draw conclusions or principles .
The knowledge of the mind , of the internal nature of the human , of thought , can never be had until we have first the power of observing the facts that are going on within . It is comparatively easy to observe facts in the external world , for many instruments have been invented for the purpose , but in the internal world we have no instrument to help us .
Yet we know we must observe in order to have a real science . Without a proper analysis , any science will be hopeless — mere theorising .
And that is why all the psychologists have been quarrelling among themselves since the beginning of time , except those few who found out the means of observation .
The science of Raja Yoga , in the first place , proposes to give us such a means of observing the internal states .
The instrument is the mind itself . The power of attention , when properly guided , and directed towards the internal world , will analyse the mind , and illumine facts for us . The powers of the mind are like rays of light dissipated ; when they are concentrated , they illumine . This is our only means of knowledge .
Everyone is using it , both in the external and the internal world ; but , for the psychologist , the same minute observation has to be directed to the internal world , which the scientific person directs to the external ; and this requires a great deal of practice .
From our childhood upwards we have been taught only to pay attention to things external , but never to things internal ; hence most of us have nearly lost the faculty of observing the internal mechanism .
To turn the mind as it were , inside , stop it from going outside , and then to concentrate all its powers , and throw them upon the mind itself , in order that it may know its own nature , analyse itself , is very hard work . Yet that is the only way to anything which will be a scientific approach to the subject .
What is the use of such knowledge ? In the first place , knowledge itself is the highest reward of knowledge , and secondly , there is also utility in it .
It will take away all our misery . When by analysing one's own mind , one comes face to face , as it were , with something which is never destroyed , something which is , by its own nature , eternally pure and perfect , one will no more be miserable , no more unhappy . All misery comes from fear , from unsatisfied desire . One will find that one never dies , and then one will have no more fear of death . When one knows that one is perfect , one will have no more vain desires , and both these causes being absent , there will be no more misery — there will be perfect bliss , even while in this body .
There is only one method by which to attain this knowledge , that which is called concentration .
The chemist in the laboratory concentrates all the energies of the mind into one focus , and throws them upon the materials being analysed , and so finds out their secrets . The astronomer concentrates all the energies of the mind and projects them through the telescope upon the skies ; and the stars , the sun , and the moon , give up their secrets .
The more I can concentrate my thoughts on the matter on which I am talking to you , the more light I can throw upon you . You are listening to me , and the more you concentrate your thoughts , the more clearly you will grasp what I have to say .
How has all the knowledge in the world been gained but by the concentration of the powers of the mind ? The world is ready to give up its secrets if we only know how to knock , how to give it the necessary blow . The strength and force of the blow come through concentration .
There is no limit to the power of the human mind . The more concentrated it is , the more power is brought to bear on one point ; that is the secret .
It is easy to concentrate the mind on external things , the mind naturally goes outwards ; but not so in the case of religion , or psychology , or metaphysics , where the subject and the object , are one .
The object is internal , the mind itself is the object , and it is necessary to study the mind itself — mind studying mind . We know that there is the power of the mind called reflection .
I am talking to you . At the same time I am standing aside , as it were , a second person , and knowing and hearing what I am talking . You work and think at the same time , while a portion of your mind stands by and sees what you are thinking .
The powers of the mind should be concentrated and turned back upon itself , and as the darkest places reveal their secrets before the penetrating rays of the sun , so will this concentrated mind penetrate its own innermost secrets .
Thus will we come to the basis of belief , the real genuine religion . We will perceive for ourselves whether we have souls , whether life is of five minutes or of eternity , whether there is a GOD in the universe or more . It will all be revealed to us .
This is what Raja Yoga proposes to teach . The goal of all its teaching is how to concentrate the minds , then , how to discover the innermost recesses of our own minds , then , how to generalise their contents and form our own conclusions from them .
It , therefore , never asks the question what our religion is , whether we are Deists or Atheists , whether Christians , Jews , or Buddhists . We are human beings ; that is sufficient . Every human being has the right and the power to seek for religion . Every human being has the right to ask the reason , why , and to have one's question answered by oneself , if one only takes the trouble .
So far , then , we see that in the study of this Raja Yoga no faith or belief is necessary . Believe nothing until you find it out for yourself ; that is what it teaches us .
Truth requires no prop to make it stand . Do you mean to say that the facts of our awakened state require any dreams or imaginings to prove them ? Certainly not .
This study of Raja Yoga takes a long time and constant practice . A part of this practice is physical , but in the main it is mental . As we proceed we shall find how intimately the mind is connected with the body . If we believe that the mind is simply a finer part of the body , and that mind acts upon the body , then it stands to reason that the body must react upon the mind .
If the body is sick , the mind becomes sick also . If the body is healthy , the mind remains healthy and strong . When one is angry , the mind becomes disturbed . Similarly when the mind is disturbed , the body also becomes disturbed .
With the majority of humankind the mind is greatly under the control of the body , their mind being very little developed . The vast mass of humanity is very little removed from the animals . Not only so , but in many instances , the power of control in them is little higher than that of the lower animals .
We have very little command of our minds . Therefore to bring that command about , to get that control over body and mind , we must take certain physical helps .
When the body is sufficiently controlled , we can attempt the manipulation of the mind . By manipulating the mind , we shall be able to bring it under our control , make it work as we like , and compel it to concentrate its powers as we desire .
According to the Raja Yogi , the external world is but the gross form of the internal , or subtle . The finer is always the cause , the grosser the effect . So the external world is the effect , the internal the cause . In the same way external forces are simply the grosser parts , of which the internal forces are the finer .
The one who has discovered and learned how to manipulate the internal forces will get the whole of nature under one's control . The Yogi proposes no less a task than to master the whole universe , to control the whole of nature . One wants to arrive at the point where what we call " nature's laws " will have no influence over one , where one will be able to get beyond them all . One will be master of the whole of nature , internal and external . The progress and civilisation of the human race simply mean controlling this nature .
Different races take to different processes of controlling nature . Just as in the same society some individuals want to control the external nature , and others the internal , so , among races , some want to control the external nature , and others the internal .
Some say that by controlling internal nature we control everything . Others that by controlling external nature we control everything . Carried to the extreme both are right , because in nature there is no such division as internal or external . These are fictitious limitations that never existed .
The externalists and the internalists are destined to meet at the same point , when both reach the extreme of their knowledge .
Just as a physicist , when pushing knowledge to its limits , finds it melting away into metaphysics , so a metaphysician will find that what is called mind and matter are but apparent distinctions , the reality being One .
The end and aim of all science is to find the unity , the One out of which the manifold is being manufactured , that One existing as many .
Raja Yoga proposes to start from the internal world , to study internal nature , and through that , control the whole — both internal and external .
It is a very old attempt . India has been its special stronghold , but it was also attempted by other nations . In Western countries it was regarded as mysticism and people who wanted to practice it were either burned or killed as witches and sorcerers . In India , for various reasons , it fell into the hands of persons who destroyed ninety per cent of the knowledge , and tried to make a great secret of the remainder .
In modern times many so-called teachers have arisen in the West worse than those of India , because the latter knew something , while these modern exponents know nothing .
Anything that is secret and mysterious in these systems of Yoga should be at once rejected .
The best guide in life is strength . In religion , as in all other matters , discard everything that weakens you , have nothing to do with it .
Mystery-mongering weakens the human brain . It has well-nigh destroyed Yoga — one of the grandest of sciences .
From the time it was discovered , more than four thousand years ago , Yoga was perfectly delineated , formulated , and preached in India . It is a striking fact that the more modern the commentator the greater the mistakes made , while the more ancient the writer the more rational .
Most of the modern writers talk of all sorts of mystery . Thus Yoga fell into the hands of a few persons who made it a secret , instead of letting the full blaze of daylight and reason fall upon it . They did so that they might have the powers to themselves .
In the first place , there is no mystery in what I teach . What little I know I will tell you . So far as I can reason it out I will do so , but as to what I do not know I will simply tell you what the books say .
It is wrong to believe blindly . You must exercise your own reason and judgment ; you must practice , and see whether these things happen or not . Just as you would take up any other science , exactly in the same manner you should take up this science for study .
There is neither mystery nor danger in it . So far as it is true , it ought to be preached in the public streets , in broad daylight . Any attempt to mystify these things is productive of great danger .
Before proceeding further , I will tell you a little of the Sankhya philosophy , upon which the whole of Raja Yoga is based .
According to the Sankhya philosophy , the genesis of perception is as follows :
The affections of external objects are carried by the outer instruments to their respective brain centres or organs , the organs carry the affections to the mind , the mind to the determinative faculty , from this the Purusha ( the soul ) receives them , when perception results . Next the Purusha gives the order back , as it were , to the motor centres to do the needful . With the exception of the Purusha all of these are material , but the mind is much finer matter than the external instruments .
That material of which the mind is composed goes also to form the subtle matter called the Tanmatras . These become gross and make the external matter .
That is the psychology of the Sankhya .
So that between the intellect and the grosser matter outside there is only a difference in degree . The Purusha is the only thing which is immaterial . The mind is an instrument , as it were , in the hands of the soul , through which the soul catches external objects .
The mind is constantly changing and vacillating , and can , when perfected , either attach itself to several organs , to one , or to none .
For instance , if I hear the clock with great attention , I will not , perhaps , see anything although my eyes may be open , showing that the mind was not attached to the seeing organ , while it was to the hearing organ .
But the perfected mind can be attached to all the organs simultaneously . It has the reflexive power of looking back into its own depths . This reflexive power is what the Yogi wants to attain ; by concentrating the powers of the mind , and turning them inward , the Yogi seeks to know what is happening inside .
There is in this no question of mere belief ; it is the analysis arrived at by certain philosophers .
Modern physiologists tell us that the eyes are not the organ of vision , but that the organ is in one of the nerve centres of the brain , and so with all the senses ; they also tell us that these centres are formed of the same material as the brain itself . The Sankhyas also tell us the same thing . The former is a statement on the physical side , and the latter on the psychological side ; yet both are the same . Our field of research lies beyond this .
The Yogi proposes to attain that fine state of perception in which can be perceived all the different mental states . There must be mental perception of all of them . One can perceive how the sensation is travelling , how the mind is receiving it , how it is going to the determinative faculty , and how this gives it to the Purusha .
As each science requires certain preparations and has its own method , which must be followed before it could be understood , even so in Raja Yoga .
Certain regulations as to food are necessary ; we must use that food which brings us the purest mind .
If you go into a menagerie , you will find this demonstrated at once . You see the elephants , huge animals , but calm and gentle ; and if you go towards the cages of the lions and tigers , you find them restless , showing how much difference has been made by food .
All the forces that are working in this body have been produced out of food ; we see that every day . If you begin to fast , first your body will get weak , the physical forces will suffer ; then after a few days , the mental forces will suffer also . First , memory will fail . Then comes a point , when you are not able to think , much less to pursue any course of reasoning .
We have , therefore , to take care what sort of food we eat at the beginning , and when we have got strength enough , when our practice is well advanced , we need not be so careful in this respect .
While the plant is growing it must be hedged round , lest it be injured ; but when it becomes a tree , the hedges are taken away . It is strong enough to withstand all assaults .
A Yogi must avoid the two extremes of luxury and austerity . One must not fast , nor torture the flesh . One who does so , says the Gita , cannot be a Yogi :
One who fasts , one who keeps awake , one who sleeps much , one who works too much , one who does no work , none of these can be a Yogi . ( Gita , VI , 16 )
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