THE YOGA TALKS AT YASODHARA
KARMA YOGA TALK # 3
THE ELEMENTS

We began to discuss the concept of destiny by saying that it is based on the notion of the two forces that pull in opposite directions, and also the motivated action, which gives the spiral a personality. The two forces are unequal and in the initial stages the attraction towards the center is not strong enough to counteract the attraction for more experience (the “I am this” is not as strong as the “I want that”). Since the energy misses its starting point, it can not complete the circle, it must spiral away. Had the movement of energy not spiraled off looking for more experience, the vibration would still have resonated throughout the cosmos, but the vibration would not have created any problem, since the movement of energy would have been satisfied (complete unto itself). However, the energy, having missed its own starting point, finds that it is not complete.

Recognize that no one will be able to give you the correct answer as to why this energy spiraled off in the first place. We can inquire into it, but the inquiry only begins after the thing has happened! We only ask what the meaning of life is after life has commenced. We can only ask why we are born after we are born. You can speculate on this issue of the spiral, but can’t be there to watch it happen before it happens! That is why, in all honesty, every idea offered as an explanation of why the spiral gets born must be regarded as speculation.

This is not to say that any further inquiry into the nature of the spiral won’t shed some light on the truth. However, as said previously, you must be daring in order to see the real as real, because in order to see the real as real you must first see the unreal as unreal, something which requires much courage. If you are daring, your discoveries may prove surprising.

For example, it is common to think that the spiral movement itself is the problem. However, it may not be. The Bhagavad Gita implies that all vibrations take place within the same cosmic consciousness-energy. If this is so, then the spiral itself must also be the same consciousness-energy. People call the cosmic consciousness-energy “God,” or “Isvara,” but it really doesn’t matter what you call it. It is always there, always present, no matter whether you name it or not. It is continually present, and when it moves in a certain way it, there is collision and fusion, producing (all within itself), what you know as the “diverse elements”. In the Gita, Krishna lists these diverse elements:

Sanskrit transliteration for this Gita  VII-4
earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intellect
and egoism, thus is my nature divided eightfold
 

and then, immediately after giving the list, Krishna is very quick to add:

Sanskrit transliteration for this Gita  VII-5

It is usual to translate this as:

This [the list of eight]] is my inferior nature, Oh mighty armed Arjuna; know thou as different from it, my higher nature, the very life-element by which this world is upheld.

However, the translation of “apara” as “inferior” and of “para” as “superior,” might easily lead to unnecessary confusion, which could easily be avoided if you discard the world inferior, and replace it with either “outer” or “material,” and likewise replace “higher” with “inward” or “spiritual.” Krishna’s implication is that these eight elements, earth, water, fire, air, ether (space), mind, intelligence, and ego-sense did not come into existence because you or I wanted or desired them; they are there as the material part of cosmic nature, the apara. They are there! Don’t ask why!

But, of course, you do ask why, because you think that by asking why you have found a very intelligent method of arriving at the truth. If you have not seen that in asking,

Why is this world here?

you have isolated yourself, created the division of you and the world. Later on you may try to rationalize, “water and I, we are part of the same cosmos.” But your rationalization is merely an afterthought. In deep sleep, where you do not question, you are free of division. And yet, it hasn’t occurred to you that the freedom of division might have something to do your lack of questioning, because it hasn’t occurred to you that questioning creates division.

In the human being, the first five elements correspond to the five senses. The earth element corresponds to smell, the water element corresponds to taste, the fire element corresponds to sight, the air element corresponds to touch, and the ether, or space element corresponds to hearing. That’s simple enough. Now, how do we define the remaining three?

In the Scriptures, you often find mind defined as that which names objects, or entertains them, and that which knows precepts. Those are all functions of the mind. And this thing, we call "mind" constantly keeps identifying objects, whether those objects be another human being, a carpet, or a book. The mind, in fact, is almost like a material substance. Certainly in relation to the jiva, or spirit, the mind indeed seems like solid material substance. The quality of space being sound, the quality of the mind is just one step behind, as a definitive sound. Space is the medium for the transmission of sound, and mind is just one step behind it, defining the transmission, giving it a name. The element of fire, or light, is what gives shape. But the mind gives it a definite shape, sticking its own kind of label on it, and identifying that shape. That is the function of the mind, all of which it does very nicely, even without this thing called “my mind.”

It is the function of the mind to label things. One step behind it is the buddhi. It is not easy to translate “buddhi” into English, and in some ways, it might be better not to try. One can only say that “buddhi” is like a discriminative intelligence, an intelligence that distinguishes. To understand this a little better, you must understand more about the function of the mind.

When the mind looks at a little boy or little girl, it does so without suggesting any real distinction, because, after all, these are merely names, merely labels. Going purely by the description I have given the mind, what is the difference between a boy and a girl? You say,

One is male, and the other is female.

Words! Spelling! Labels! The buddhi, on the other hand, says

Ah! This is male, and that’s female.

It does more than label. It distinguishes! Splitting hairs? You will be amazed to what extent these so called "philosophers" of India have attempted to differentiate, and even then, they’re dissatisfied because they feel that the results too grossly represent what they are trying to express.

Buddhi, the distinguisher. Again, be very careful here. The mind labels, the intelligence distinguishes. Do not make the dangerous assumption that we are calling the buddhi the perceiver. The perceiver is ever the one cosmic consciousness. Even the word "interpreter" can get you into trouble. Buddhi can be said to “interpret only” in the simplest sense, because judgment, which some people wrongly consider part of interpretation, is not done by the buddhi, but belongs to this stupid little thing called the self-arrogating principle of the ego-sense. By itself, the ego- sense doesn’t get mixed up in judging. It merely assembles all the material objects, the sensory experiences, the stimuli, and along with that, it assembles concepts, precepts, labels, words, and the discriminations that are made by the buddhi. It does all this without a single judgment! All the judgments:

She is a good person, he is ugly, that one is vicious ...

are made by the self-arrogating principle, none of which exist in nature. You have male in nature, and you have female. You have hair in nature, and you have skin. Yet such things called good, evil, pleasure, pain, beauty, ugliness, do they actually exist in nature? They are not even distinguishing marks. You may call them “mental attributes”, but what does that really imply? It implies that they are not facts with a substantiality, like physical realities, but exist nowhere ... but in the mind! It’s the same with happiness. You are cheerful, and you are uncheerful. Where does that exist?

On the human level, we are always dealing with the interplay of personalities. In light of what we have just said, how can one deal with this? The answer is quite simple. One gets hold of the fact, and when that happens, the fiction evaporates. If you come to me, and hit me on the head, I must get up, and go to the first aid station. I may even be able to stop you from hitting me on the head, if not the first time, then perhaps the second time. Then I go off to the first aid station. All the rest of it is utter nonsense and fiction: that you are my enemy, that I must become your enemy, that you hate me, and I must hate you; the whole lot!

What about feelings? The feeling of pain may arise, but is there a need for the feelings of psychological hurt to arise? Before going any further, I must tell you a lovely little story that was told to me by a university professor who I happen to know. I suppose I should apologize for changing the ending ever so slightly, but after all, it’s a story in any case, so why not fix it up just a little bit more?

A young man, who had just become the administrator of a district goes to an open-air performance of a play, and there witnesses a beautiful girl walk out onto the stage. From the very first sight of her, he is totally enamored with her. Unfortunately, he is a newly appointed VIP in the district, and so he feels that he cannot propose to such lowly person as an "entertainer" and so he swallows the feelings of love that are bubbling up in him, and goes home after the event is over. That night, he develops a fever, and for the next couple of days, he is confined to his bed. In the meantime, the troupe moves on, so that when the young man goes to look for her, she is gone. He continues to dream of her, day and night, for a long time, but eventually his reason prevails. He puts the memory aside, gets married, and raises a family. Ten years later, he comes to hear that the same troupe is returning to the district to perform again. He goes to the play, hoping to get a glimpse of his lost love. As the curtain rises, he is overcome by the return of the feelings that he had suppressed all these years. Like all senior administrators, he no longer is obsessed by ambition. And so, as soon as the play ends, he immediately rushes over to tell her of his love.

Reaching the little wagon around which the actors are beginning to gather, the administrator sees his lovely girl, and falls at her feet, sobbing:

Please, listen. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Years ago I wanted to approach you, and tell you of my admiration, to tell you of my love. I was afraid for my reputation. I was a fool. Please, please, come with me.

Other actors who overhear this, begin to laugh. The beautiful woman tells them all to be quiet, and then says to the administrator in an astonishingly different voice:

I am sorry, my friend. I cannot go with you. I am not girl. I am not a woman. I am man!

Then and there, the bubble broke! Then and there, all his feelings of being overcome by love for her vanished. That is exactly like what self-knowledge does for you! The very moment that you come to grips with the fact, with truth, all feelings of hurt vanish. I hesitate to say that you see all emotion is an illusion, or that all emotion ceases, because emotion is a very loaded word, and we often mean many things by it.

For example, when you walk in the jungle or desert, and you suddenly see a snake jump out at you, you react to it. It’s not fear, it’s something else. Fear happens only when you begin expecting that something bad will happen, say, walking at night and starting to worry that someone may jump out from behind a bush. You are expecting something. Expecting that somebody might jump out at you, you are already paralyzed. Should a dog rustle the leaves, you might collapse straight away. If you are without expectation, one hundred percent of your energies are available for any eventuality.

So, perhaps it is better to say that after self knowledge, you may still act, and you may still react; you may do all sorts of things, apparently moved by some emotion, but all psychological hurts, grudges, hostilities, all of these things are gone, because, like the actress, the fictitious element which is assumed by the self-arrogatingness of the ego-sense, all that, is seen as fiction. It is not facing the unreal, not facing unreality; it is realizing the unreal as unreal.

He hits me. The only fact is that he hit me. I realize that all the rest is fiction. I do not have to stop any thoughts from proceeding, because there is no thought which needs to be stopped. He can tell me that he’s been planning it for weeks. What difference does that make?! Furthermore, if he has been planning to hit me for weeks, that’s his problem! This self-arrogating ‘me’ is neither the experiencer nor the doer! Even the ego-sense does nothing!

The ego-sense is like the director of the whole show. It doesn’t do anything. It directs all the doing. If you were to employ me as a caretaker on these wonderful grounds, there might come a time when I would go sit outside on the hillside. Then if someone came along, and asked me "Where can I find the yoga class, I would tell them where to go. If someone else came by looking for the kitchen, I would direct them past the guest house, and over the hill along the right path. The director performs no functions, per se, and yet has all this useful information at his fingertips. That would be ego-sense.

Mind, on the other hand, does have a unique function of its own. Mind produces and registers precepts, and uses the ego-sense only to coordinate them, and requires the buddhi to distinguish between male and female, between a tree and a building.

It’s the mind's role to perceive, and to label:

This is water.

It’s the function of the buddhi to distinguish:

This is water and that is coffee.

The ego-sense is the assembly point. The ego-sense is not non-existent. The ego-sense is not the thing we call the ‘me’. The ‘me’ is the self-arrogatingness, which is completely fictitious.

In all discussions about destiny, ultimately everyone wants to know about this phrase “being the master of your own destiny.” What chooses? In the Bhagavad Gita, the line of thought is, as we have been saying, that all these eight elements are only the outer nature of consciousness, and that only the para, or inner nature, or consciousness, can experience, and therefore, express itself, so that none of the eight, including the eighth, can have anything whatsoever to do with choice. You will find some texts saying that the ahamkara, or ego-sense is considered capable of making some kind of choice, although, such theories are best avoided.

The Kathopanishad also attempts to answer the question of who the enjoyer or experiencer is:

Jiva indriya mano-yutam
bhokta ity ahur manisinah

Who is the experiencer of all experiences? “When these three: jiva, indriya, and mind come together,” it says, “there is experience.” Jiva is like a cell in the cosmic consciousness. Indryia are the sense organs. They must all be put together along with mind for there to be experiencer and act. Otherwise, nothing happens. The Kathopanishad is one text that makes no reference to the ego-sense. This is in direct contrast the list which Krishna has given in the Gita. You will find that the yoga texts either deny the existence of ego-sense, or they define its role as that of coordinator.

The eyes see. The ears hear. The tongue tastes. Skin touches. Nose smells. Mind labels. Intellect distinguishes. What then is ego-sense? Ego-sense in this context, is like a begging bowl, merely collecting, synchronizing all these things. The eyes see a certain gadget, while at the same time, the ears hear it. The sight and sound have to be put together in order that the intelligence can see that the sound comes from the object that the eyes see, and that both are not coming from two completely different and distinct things. In which case, a collecting bowl is needed.

However, be very careful here! You have heard the old expression: “A place where even angles fear to tread”. You must be cautious not to assume or take for granted that you understand the extent of the role the ego-sense plays in the actual collection process. The ego-sense is a collection box, which does collect all the bits and pieces of what you call sensations. However, for some very strange reason, the bowl seems to think that it is more than a bowl, and considers it also experiences the stimuli. Whereas, in reality, it is the consciousness, the intelligence, that really experiences the stimuli. This is our problem. It is what my guru, Swami Sivananda, called “self-arrogating nature”.

In light of this, Krishna felt that the ego-sense had a valid job to do, and its own role to play. Therefore, the word used in the Bhagavad Gita for ego-sense, “ahamkara,” is peculiar to itself, and not the same ego-sense that certain texts, such as the Yoga Vasistha declare as unreal. In the Gita, the ego-sense is very much like a sixth sense (or a seventh sense if you wish to include mind as the sixth sense). As a sense, it merely is like a collection post, or, if you will, a lounge at the airport, where all kinds of various gatherings take place.

The ego-sense is not unreal. The bowl is not unreal. The taster of that food is not unreal. Yet, somehow, and we don’t know why, the ego-sense is able to say

I see this.
I smell this.
I taste this.

The ‘I’ doesn’t see, smell, or taste anything at all. The ‘I’ merely collects all of it for the intelligence to experience. The real experiencer being cosmic consciousness, it is the self- arrogatingness of the the ego-sense which is to be seen as the unreality. In our case, the ego-sense itself says, “I experience”. That is the only unreality.

If that is seen as unreal, then the whole picture will at once become entirely clear to you. Earth, water, fire, air, space, intelligence, mind, all that is there, and millions and millions of ahamkaras, millions and millions of spirals in this universe, with the experiencer in all cases being the one cosmic consciousness. There are millions of trees, billions of blades of grass, all of them springing from the same earth. You may see them as growing differently, but is really so? There are millions of spirals springing up, existing in consciousness as manifestations of cosmic energy. And none of this creates any problem or trouble. Perhaps even individuality can be represented in all this. Yet only this much can be said for certain, ego-sense is there, but as pure collection post, not as experiencer, which alone is the consciousness, the intelligence, inherent in all.

Perhaps another analogy will help paint the picture more clearly. In the natural world, you have various kinds of storms. You have hurricanes, cyclones, and tornadoes. Though they all have their own particular characteristics, and distinct personalities, they do share one particular feature that dominates the personality of them all, whirling wind. Wind, of course, is not only a feature of these storms. Wind is everywhere. Motion is, after all, the nature of wind. But when wind assumes the special character or personality (not unlike the self arrogating ego-sense) of the whirlwind, there can be trouble.

The tornado is not unlike our spiral. The cyclone and the hurricane also have a similar personality that whirls around an area where there is no cyclone or hurricane, an area that meteorologists call the “eye”. Funny that it should be called that. Of course, it’s spelled differently than “I” but the two are really much alike. What is the eye of the hurricane? It’s nothing. And yet, you shouldn’t think of it as nothing; it can destroy a village, or lay flat an entire city.

Wind is life giving. It is everywhere. Suddenly it begins to move haphazardly, in a disorderly fashion (or in an orderly fashion in relation to the eye of the cyclone). From our point of view, as soon as it does, that movement takes on its own personality. Of course, its personality lasts only as long as the low or the high pressure (or whatever) lasts. Yet, during that time, the whirling wind can be subject of much attention. You’ve certainly read or heard such accounts, some rather vivid, where, for example a hurricane appeared to be "dying," using up all its force, only to suddenly set off over the ocean, refresh itself, and then turn to attack the coastal towns. Such are the descriptions of ghosts, evil spirits, demons and demonesses in ancient scriptures. Your meteorologists even give names, to these cyclones and tornadoes, usually female, making them seem all the more like real personalities.

Before this wind became such a famous personality, it was merely a gentle breeze, or almost totally calm, like the so called eye of the storm. Journey into this “eye” and you will find no gales, no violent winds, no signs of any storm, nothing. In the same way, you will also find that there is nothing to this thing called I. Our trouble begins when the ego-sense oversteps its own role. Mysteriously, on account of this self-arrogatingness of the ego-sense, a personality seems to get formed. From that point onwards, the personality gives rise to motivation, and this continues to drive this whirlwind called ‘I’, until, as with the storm, the pressure generated around the ‘I’ mysteriously dissipates. That is called moksha.

The self-arrogatingness of the ego arises in between the ego-sense (the bowl), and the experiencer of all experiences, the intelligence. This intelligence, which others have called “the mind”, operates around the ego-sense. How does this intelligence reach out on a cosmic level?

To begin with, let’s return to Krishna’s statement in the Gita:

Sanskrit transliteration Gita VII-5 pt2

Krishna has told us that all the elements of this universe have both an inner and outer nature. The inner experiencer of all the eight outer elements is regarded as the jiva, or “living soul.” What is a soul? The soul has been wrapped in all kinds of romantic imagery, but the soul is nothing more than a cell, a cell in cosmic being, of which, it is said there are an infinite number. The coming together of the outer nature of the cosmic being (which is material) with the inner nature of the cosmic being (which is the cell), happens at an infinite number of points. Each cell becomes the experiencer, and that cell is surrounded, as it were, by this material nature, which becomes its own experience, and there is whirling, and whirling, and whirling, etc., etc., etc. The soul, which as a cell of cosmic being is also non- different from the experiencer of all experiences (cosmic consciousness), is in constant contact with matter, its own outer nature. This cell in the cosmic body is what experiences all experiences.

Unlike the tornado or hurricane, which can be studied, and understood, the mystery of why the self-arrogatingness arises in between the ego-sense and the cell of cosmic being may never be explained. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only dissimilarity in that analogy. The tornado or hurricane is very destructive, but its life history is very brief when compared to the so-called living personality of individualized mind known as the ‘me’, or ‘I’, In this regard, we need to cite a more appropriate example.

This individualized mind called “I” is like a computer, or more exactly, the habit of the self-arrogatingness of the ego-sense becomes like a computer. In the center of the cell, as in the center of the cyclone, there is only stillness, pure emptiness. Suddenly, the self-arrogatingness of the ego-sense comes into being, and around that begins a whirling motion, which gathers and stores, much like a computer would, data that otherwise would have passed directly through the cell without creating any trouble. Unlike the trees, which don’t get excited when their leaves fall, the self-arrogatiness of the ego-sense, when experiences pass through, gets very hot and bothered indeed.

The aspect that goes on recording data and preserving it is known as

the chitta

Whereas all the experiences would have otherwise simply come and gone without leaving a trace, the chitta registers all experiences and expressions, not making any distinction between what is gets fed in (or passes through) and what spews out of it. The computer doesn’t see the difference between these two.

The chitta becomes so heavily loaded with memories that it acquires almost a real personality. Every time something is experienced, the computer is loaded with vasana and samskara. Every time a habit or tendency is expressed, a deeper grove is cut in the storehouse of recordings. The chitta continues with this, operating like a personality, gathering around itself matter suited to its own functioning. Once the computer has been fed some experience, it craves repetition of that experience. The chitta is, therefore, like a living computer. And in order for it to "live," to function, it must continue to acquire.

In Eastern philosophy, you find various theories regarding reincarnation. You will more fully appreciate the complexity of some of these theories if you take into account the fact that some mystics regarded this "living computer" as the driving force behind reincarnation. Their explanation was that when the physical body died, the chitta, wishing only to repeat its own life’s experiences, gathered that to itself which would enable it to experience more of the same; that the chitta would search for the kind of body, the kind of office, the kind of environment that was suitable to the kind of experience and expression that the chitta was seeking. They never suggested that the individual chitta ended up making the actual choice. Rather it was suggested that the actual determination was made by cosmic intelligence. That makes more sense, because, otherwise one would be at a loss to explain why the chitta would choose, for example, to be born blind.

Even without the ability to take a new body, the power of the chitta would still present enormous difficulties. Much like the old proverb,

As you sow, so you shall reap.

the chitta places one at the mercy of all the groves that have already been cut into the memory. But if the chitta does have the ability to perpetuate its own existence, to acquire a new body when its old one becomes useless, then our situation becomes considerably more complicated than the old proverb implies. And, the mystics argued that our situation is further complicated by the fact that when new experience is fed into this living computer it is completely assimilated and so, resides unobtrusively with all the previously assimilated experience. Each absorbed experience becomes part of field of knowledge, no longer recognizable as a single experience, similar to assimilation of language. Your “living” language, which you now speak with great fluency, is not recognizable as all the multitudes of rules which were learned one by one over the course of time that it took you to speak it. All those individual rules are completely integrated and become a unified knowledge. [You are no longer aware of them as you speak and think in that language.] Likewise, in the case of the chitta, your own particular unified body of knowledge creates its own "personality," and of that, you are also unaware.

Thus, when these mystics spoke of something which survived death, and that lived on birth after birth, it was chittas “personality” of which they were speaking. Contrary to the usual perception of reincarnation, which sees death followed by a rebirth, these mystics argued that there was really no death at all! They argued that the ‘I’ went right on living. To them, the occupant merely went off in search of new molecules with which to build a new house in which live out and express new experiences.

As part of the mechanism which this chitta has set in motion, three classifications of action [karma]:

sanchitta, prarabha, agami

All the subtle residue of the actions that are stored in the chitta are called the sanchita, which, in Sanskrit, literally means “collection”. It is this collection which goes looking for a suitable environment in which the reactions of those actions can be worked out. This sanchitta, therefore, attracts to itself those conditions, events, and happenings that are conducive to its present life. This is an enormous thing. We don’t even know how much is there in it. Out of it comes the prarabha, the inevitable reaction. The prarabha is just that little part which has become operative now, in this birth. The agami is what is being fed in now and which will lead to future complications.

Strangely enough, if you go back and examine Krishna’s statements regarding all the elements of nature, you will find that in the context that we have been discussing it, chitta is not mentioned. Why? In actuality, there is no such thing as chitta at all! That which is called “chitta” is born of a confusion in which the self-arrogating principle regards a certain field of consciousness-intelligence which sits around it as “its own private property”, whereas, no such thing as “private property” really exists! There is nothing called “my mind” to be found anywhere! Neither is there anything to be found called “my intelligence”! The “my” itself being like the eye of the cyclone, nonexistent. This “my mind” is merely a limitation, a vasana, born of a foolish assumption of the self arrogating principle called “ego”. The ‘I’ gets born, and therefore entertains: “This is my mind.” The ‘I’ itself being empty, how can there be something called “my”? If the ‘I’ itself is absent, how can it acquire a thing called “my mind”, also known as “chitta”?

Yes. There are cells, what you like to call souls, billions and billions, an infinite number of them in the macrocosm. These are a part of cosmic consciousness, the ninth element of nature. Cosmic being is one and indivisible, and all the other eight elements, which you like to think of as microcosm, are also macrocosm! And the cell, which you also like to regard as microcosm, that too is macrocosm! That cell is the jiva, non-different from cosmic being. It only assumes a limitation, which only appears to limit all the eight elements. What you call the “ego” is born of that limitation.

Words, words, words! In reality, there are no limitations. Yes, of course, there are cells, just like there are cells in the physical body. But the cells are non-different and indivisible from the totality. And so, as a cell in the totality, it's not truly a cell at all! It is the totality! That’s the puzzle. And if the mind boggles at this, and collapses there, you will have enlightenment.

THE YASODHARA YOGA TALKS

H-OM-E

Copyright 1997