The Yoga of Awareness

Lecture by Swami Satyananda Saraswati at Battersea Library, London in April 1977 – from yogamag.net

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 form 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; it 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 We have experienced, however, that when the mind, the consciousness is withdrawn from outside and becomes more aware internally, something happens.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 goes 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 dearer, 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 life in the 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.