THE SUPREME SCIENCE OF
KNOWING GOD (2)
Excerpts from God Talks with Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita
by Paramahansa Yogananda
Part 2 — The Bhagavad Gita IV:1-2
Kriya Yoga — the Esoteric Essence
Esoterically interpreted these two stanzas of the Gita explain the genesis of yoga. The first manifestation of Spirit is Cosmic Light. God vibrated His cosmic consciousness as intelligent creative Cosmic Energy, or Cosmic Light, referred to in these verses as Vivasvat, "one who shines forth or diffuses light" (the illumined rishi of ancient times who came to be known as the sun god). This omnipresent Cosmic Energy or Light exists in man as the microcosmic sun of the spiritual eye, which becomes visible during meditation when the devotee's consciousness and the dual current of the two physical eyes is concentrated at the point between the eyebrows. "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light" (Matthew 6:22) is not an idle promise, but refers to this resplendent manifestation. All the intelligent creative power of omnipresent Cosmic Energy is present microcosmically in the spiritual eye. It is through the spiritual eye—the various states experienced therein, correlating to the activities of the cerebrospinal centers of life and consciousness in the physical, astral, and causal bodies—that the soul descends into embodiment and ultimately reascends to Spirit.
Every soul emerges from Cosmic Consciousness. It experiences a slightly lower vibratory state of Cosmic Light, or, symbolically, Vivasvat. After that, the soul loses the awareness of being Spirit clothed in Cosmic Light; it becomes individualized consciousness or spiritual ego, a causal being of pure consciousness encased in an astral body. This encasement comes about as follows:
The outward projecting creative power of God that is imposed upon the soul creates feeling (chitta), that consciousness by which the soul knows or experiences its existence. The activities of feeling excite the "thinking" or cognitive processes. When this God-sent feeling becomes distorted by delusion, the ego (ahamkara) evolves. Ego's consciousness is, "I am the experiencer." Along with the ego evolves its guiding intelligence (buddhi). Intelligence manifests its nature in thinking, egoity, and discrimination. When afflicted by delusion, the intelligence gives rise to the blind mind (manas). The mind is a coordinating instrument, the outward-inclined mediary between the sensory world and the ego with its discerning intelligence.
There are four phases of the nature of the mind:
(1) sensory impressions,
(2) assertive discrimination (the activation of the organs of action by the will at the command of intelligence),
(3) wish (excitement or desire arising from contact with objects of the senses), and
(4) imagination (the delusion of believing that phenomena are reality).
Through these quadruple channels, the dual (attractive and repulsive) desires of the heart (feeling or chitta) and of the ego are consummated. These activities of the mind are the cause of human consciousness.
When the descending soul comes under the influence of mind, it becomes limited by identification with human consciousness in general. This is termed the Manu state of the descending soul.
The omnipresent Cosmic Energy (Vivasvat) becomes manifest as life force in man through the influence of mind, referred to here as passing the knowledge (the power of yoga) to Manu. Manu means man, the possessor of the thinking principle, from the Sanskrit manas, mind, Vyasa, the writer of the Gita, has therefore used the name of Manu to indicate the part played by the mind in the descension of consciousness and life into embodiment. Manu's name is additionally significant in that this illumined rishi of old—epitome of the highest in human beings, a representative father of the human race—possessed full knowledge about the mind (manas) and its role in creating the human consciousness.
Omnipresent Cosmic Energy (Vivasvat) is the source of the life force that becomes manifest in the astral body of man through the instrumentality of the mind (Manu). Thus life force and mind are intimately associated, for in the body of man one cannot exist without the other. When they descend from Cosmic Consciousness and Cosmic Energy, their pristine manifestation is through the eye of intuition (causal phase of the spiritual eye relating to the causal "spinal" channel of consciousness) and thence into the astral eye (the astral phase of the spiritual eye, corresponding to the three spinal channels of the astral body). (See I:4-6.) The astral eye, through which life and consciousness come into astral embodiment, is symbolically referred to in these verses as Ikshvaku (son of Manu and first king of a great solar dynasty of Kshatriyas). Vyasa thus uses the name Ikshvaku to signify the birth of the astral eye—astral life force and consciousness—through the instrumentality of the mind, or Manu. Ikshvaku is derived from iksh, "to discern" or "to see."
Thus, from the Manu state, the soul flows down into a specific channel of the intuitive sense (the causal intuitive eye), and thence into the astral channels of life force and consciousness (the astral eye). In this Ikshvaku state, the soul is identified with the intuitive state of ego perception; that is, it experiences its individualized existence as limited by confinement in the astral body in which the astral ego's power of knowing and perception comes not from sensory experience but through the sixth sense, intuition. The astral ego perceives the forces at work in the astral body as the true components of matter.
From the intuitive astral Ikshvaku state, the soul then further descends to the various powerful sense-perceptive states, manifesting first as the more subtle astral sensory powers (jnanendriyas) and then flowing into the gross physical manifestation of the senses. This is spoken of as the Rajarishi, or sense-identified, state. When the dual currents of mind and life force flow into the nervous system and into the optical, auditory, olfactory, gustatory, and tactual nerves of the five instruments of knowledge (the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), five sense specializations occur. By contrast, the astral powers, being pure life force or prana, are not so circumscribed; the intellection being intuitive, the astral being can experience any or all sensations through any singular sensory instrument.
The five instruments of intellection are described as "royal sages" (Rajarishis) because all wisdom from outside sources (scriptures or saints) has to reach the mind and intelligence through the sense channels. These are "royal" or glorious instruments for perceiving and enjoying the Lord's entertaining phenomenal universe when they are well-educated and guided by the discriminative intelligence of the soul's wisdom. But when soul meditation is forgotten, the senses of knowledge become dulled and un-receptive to spiritual teachings because of constant identification with material desires and sense objects. Man's consciousness, having thereby descended to the plane of materialistic attachments, loses the memory of its union with Spirit; during the long dark period of material consciousness, man's knowledge of yoga or divine union thus declines and is forgotten.
Union of Spirit and Soul
In summary, yoga signifies union of Spirit and soul. The Spirit, as Cosmic Consciousness, is united to omnipresent Cosmic Energy, which is linked to the microcosmic spiritual eye of life and consciousness in man. Life and consciousness are linked to the mind. The mind is linked to the astral eye and the intuitive mind of the astral body. And astral life and mind are linked with the five sensory instruments of knowledge.
Man, descending from Cosmic Consciousness into the body, becomes immersed in many incarnations of material living and forgets yoga (the points of union of his senses [Rajarishis] with life force [Ikshvaku], of his life with mind [Manu], of his mind with Cosmic Energy [Vivasvat], and of Cosmic Energy with Cosmic Consciousness [Krishna]). Nevertheless, the laws by which man can recall the forgotten links (of his ego with the senses, life force, mind, soul, and Spirit) exist eternally within him, ready to be used and demonstrated.
These two instructive stanzas give eternal hope to man. In spite of his long forgetfulness, he must some day realize that the links of union (yoga) with Spirit are indestructibly present within him. Man does not remember how the Spirit vibrated into different states; the soul is forgotten after having descended into the senses. However, any time he wishes, by practicing Kriya Yoga man can remember the eternal links between soul and Spirit. This yoga or divine science is revived again whenever a devotee detaches his true Self from the senses by practising Kriya Yoga, and thus reunites the soul with Spirit.