In the previous chapter it was said, “To enable the spirits to enter into this process, God breathes forth His own Self as the Power from which is manifested all the realms of relative existence, from the most subtle worlds of nearly-perfected beings to the most objective worlds of atomic matter. They can then enter into relative existence by taking on coverings, or ‘bodies,’ of varying grades and patterns of vibratory energies. They descend into this material world and begin working their way up the ladder of ever-evolving forms. Beginning with forms whose scope of consciousness is vastly less than theirs, they work their way upward, entering into higher and higher levels of awareness until they can surpass their original breadth of consciousness and begin to partake of a life of awareness much beyond their own. This then culminates in their developing the ability to share in the Divine Consciousness Itself.”
How is all this done?
The Conscious Universe
First we have to realize that the ancient yogi-sages of India directly experienced the truth that the entire universe is a manifestation of Divine Consciousness–of God. All “creation” is really Spirit, not matter at all. More to the point, it is the infinitely complex and perfect Thought of God. Just as we create worlds and live in them when we dream or daydream, in the same way the Cosmic Dreamer is “dreaming” the Cosmic Dream of this evolutionary creation. Therefore it all has a meaning and a purpose, and is always absolutely perfect and consistent with itself. We must keep this in mind at all times, but especially when considering our own life within the Dream.
As yogis aspiring to return to the Infinite Being through the self-evolution produced by our yoga practice, we must understand every step of the way–and this requires a comprehension of the specific laws governing our presence within creation and our way out of relativity back into the Absolute.
The beginning–and the end
When the individual spirit-self, the atma, moves in its consciousness from the Absolute to the relative, the first step is an outward-turning of awareness and a production of the seed of dual consciousness that is necessary for its entry into–and out of–the relative state that is fundamentally dual. This is done through the slightest and subtlest of movements that produces a kind of stress-point in our awareness. This is the moment of entry into relativity. Actually, the movement is the stress-point. Further, it is the root or seed that is the beginning of all things, the Holy Breath (Holy Spirit), the Holy Light, from which all things proceed and into which all things are ultimately resolved. As a divine seed it contains all that ever shall “be” for that individual spirit. Its unfoldment and manifestation is the history or destiny that it shall experience throughout its time within relative existence.
This initial impulse is dual in nature. First, it is the force that impels the individual onto the path that leads into involution–into experience and identity with increasingly complex forms of manifestation; and it is also the impulse that moves the spirit onto the path of evolution–of growth out of relativity. Second, it is the beginning of duality: a vast chain of constant cycling between two poles–negative and positive–that makes relative existence possible, both as evolving consciousness and evolving organism. First the spirit travels along the path of involution until it reaches the experience of self-awareness and self-reflection (or analysis) within a human body sufficiently developed to permit–and even perhaps produce–that awareness. Then it begins the path of evolution back to Infinity. Of course, the two paths are really one–it is only a matter of the direction being taken. The point where involution becomes evolution is a kind of watershed or continental divide. All this is a direct production of the Original Impulse which takes place both macrocosmically and microcosmically. This has a profound yogic significance.
How it was intended to be
Originally the evolution of the universe and the conscious beings within it was meant to go smoothly and directly. None would forget their eternal origins and lose awareness of their true Self or identify in any degree with the forms and situations in which they would be evolving within the cosmos. Further, they would only spend a single embodiment in each life-form, expanding their consciousness to the full potential of that form. As soon as this was done, the spirit would consciously, effortlessly, and without pain or conflict, leave that body and just as easily enter into a more complex form that would serve as the next rung on the ladder of evolution. Finally the highest form would be perfected and left behind as the individual merged back into the Absolute, having developed the capacity to share in the Infinite Life, to be a “god” within God. There would never at any time be death in any mode, only a joyful transition from one step to another in the ladder of Return. The evolving consciousness would always be in a perfect state of Satchidananda–the Conscious Bliss of Reality–with no diminution or loss being possible.
How it has come to be
Things did not go as planned–at least not in this creation cycle. Exactly what took place to interrupt the original intent? Paramhansa Yogananda said that one of the seven great creators known as Prajapatis was flawed in some way and attempted to wrest that part of creation which was under his supervision away from the divine plan and rework it to his own flawed ideas, the prime one being the intention to prevent the spirits from evolving beyond his domain. This Prajapati was in charge of the material plane evolution, but somehow managed to also damage the two realms just above him and subject the spirits in those realms to return or falling back into his world for rebirth. The account of “the devil” rebelling and causing the “fall” of angels and archangels is a garbled version of the actual facts. (I have greatly simplified Yogananda’s explanation. For the complete explanation, see the Seventh Discourse of The Second Coming of Christ.)
Whether we accept any of the explanations formulated over the centuries or not (the ancient Gnostics had many of them), there is no denying that the following conditions prevail: entities are born over and over again without any realization of the why or wherefore; entities suffer throughout embodiment on the material plane; decay and death are inherent in material existence; complete confusion and delusion rules the consciousness of all sentient beings; all beings–including humans–engage in negative thought and action that blind and bind them more and more. All are helpless against the forces of Mayic delusion.
On the practical level, how did all this confusion come about? The negative force which flawed the universe also flawed the personal world of each individual consciousness, warping and distorting their lower physical and subtle levels to retard or altogether stop their evolution. All kinds of alien and poisonous vibrations began to be produced, rendering them out of touch with the higher bodies, and consequently out of touch with Spirit. Those false and negative vibrations coarsened the bodies–including the mental bodies–so they no longer responded to the upward pull of evolution. Thus evolution was impeded, being slowed, stopped, and even in some instances reversed. Negative and destructive paths of development became opened, and humanity began pouring into them, “descending to hell” and becoming trapped therein, whether in or out of physical embodiment.
As a result of the foregoing, the time spent on the path of evolution became greatly increased, seemingly impossible to end. Through the development of intuition, which includes memories of previous lives, this fact becomes intensely and painfully evident to us.
Yearning for the means to minimize or altogether eliminate those delays and reversals, the ancient yogis discovered the way to link up with their spirit-will so they could move forward without hindrance. They did this by uniting their outer and inner consciousness and will through bringing the alienated bodies back into alignment with the evolutionary vibrations emanating from the Source, putting themselves back in touch with the cosmos as well as their Self and God. This process has been handed down even until today, though often obscured and nearly lost, in the form of Yoga.
The “religion” of yoga is the way to restore the original evolutionary pattern on the individual level, enabling the yogis go from darkness to the Light of God which fills the horizon of their consciousness completely in the realization-experience that is the ever increasing awareness of God as the prime reality and our individual spirit as secondary, existing only because God exists, drawing on the Infinite Life for our finite life. Our awakening consciousness and our practice of yoga together impel us ever onward and upward. Since God is our own inmost reality we will become increasingly ourselves until we become gods within God, able to say: “I and the Father are one”–and even: “Whoever sees me sees the Father” (John 10:30; 14:9). That is the glory of yoga.
God is guru
Not only was God the first guru, He is still the guru of humanity. For as already said, He has implanted in each one of us the impulse to reunion with Him. Consequently, in the depths of our being, our spirit, the Divine Call is continually flowing or rising. Together we, the universe, and God are vibrating are seeking reunion without interruption. In this way the heart-core of God and the individual spirit are made the same in non-dual unity, the single point where the spirit and the Spirit are absolutely one.
God is eternally stimulating or “teaching” the spirit to seek Him through yoga. In this way God is the guru of each one of us. One finite spirit may reveal to another finite spirit the way to realize its oneness with God, and thereby momentarily become a spiritual teacher for that spirit, but God alone will be the Sat–true and eternal–Guru, the ultimate guru, the infallible teacher and guide from within. “He is guru even of the ancients” (Yoga Sutras 1:26), affirmed Patanjali.
The first American disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda was Dr. M. W. Lewis, who perfectly assimilated the wisdom imparted to him by Yogananda. In a talk given in San Diego, California, in 1955, he said these inspiring words:
“To me the real meaning and understanding of discipleship is that a disciple, a true disciple, is ‘one who follows God.’ Many times the Master said that. In spite of his realization and his oneness with God, which he had and does have now, he said when leaving Boston, ‘Never mind what happens to me. That Light which you see is far greater than I am. That is God Himself.’ And so, there is only one Guru, and that is God, and the greater the saint, if we can classify them that way, the surer they are to say, ‘I am nothing, God is all.’ And so, the Master said that. God alone is reality. He is with you. He is the One Great Guru. And the Master was most humble, because the more you realize there is One Reality, God Himself, the more humble you become, because the ego cannot stay. If you have realization of God, the ego has left.
“And so, realize: who may become a disciple? Anyone; anyone who knows the Presence of God, and follows God. Master often said that someone said to him in India, ‘I hear so-and-so is your disciple in America.’ He said, ‘They say so.’ And seeing the confusion on the face of the inquirer, he said, ‘I haven’t any disciple. They’re all disciples of God.’ How wonderful that is. And so, just realize, he who knows God may be called a disciple. Now that means you must have contact with God. There must be a relationship between you and God, an understanding, a realization that God is in you, you are in God, there is one consciousness–God alone. Now if you have that, you may be called a disciple.” (Dr. Lewis himself was the “disciple” spoken of in India.)
It is commonly believed that an aspiring yogi must be empowered for yoga practice through some kind of initiation or transference of power. There are many exaggerated statements made about how it is impossible to make any progress, much less attain enlightenment, without initiation. But the truth is that Brahman has already initiated us into the evolutionary path at our entry into relativity, and the yoga rishis have revealed the way we return to that path and establish ourselves in it. Yoga is the demonstration of the eternal, single nature of God and man.
Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
When you get into an auto, turn on the ignition, press the accelerator, and guide the forward-moving vehicle by means of the steering-wheel, you are acting on a number of premises. The same is true of yoga. Yoga is not just a mechanical practice; it presupposes the vast body of metaphysical principles known as Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Dharma, that is the basis of all true religions. Intelligent practice of yoga is not possible without knowing and adhering to those principles.
The system of practical methodology we call yoga was originated and perfected in India by great sages, every one of which was an adherent of the Eternal Dharma which in turn was incalculably enriched by the subsequent teaching of the master yogis who were enlightened through the yoga system. Both yoga and the philosophy on which it is based–or rather, which stimulated the discovery and development of yoga–are truth in the purest form, exactly like mathematics. Therefore it is not amiss to speak of Sanatana Dharma and Sanatana Yoga–Eternal Dharma (Philosophy) and Eternal Yoga.
Sanatana Dharma is the presentation of the principles of existence itself–of the ultimate Facts of Life and nothing more, cultural or religious. Euclid was Greek, but Euclidian Geometry has no tint of Greek culture, philosophy, or religion. In the same way Sanatana Dharma should never be equated with what is known as modern “Hinduism,” the religion that is rooted in Sanatana Dharma but has developed into an elaborate system of beliefs and practices that are purely cultural and subjective–so much so that it can be said to conceal Sanatana Dharma more than reveal it. People can spend an entire lifetime as “Hindus” and never know Sanatana Dharma except in the most obscure and ineffectual manner.
What, then is Sanatana Dharma? Shankara put it this way: “I shall tell you in half a sloka what has been written in millions of books: Brahman is real. The world is illusory. The jiva is nothing other than Brahman.” Obviously these root facts imply a world of principles which a human being needs to know in order to realize the potential that is a living seed within every sentient being. Yoga–philosophy and practice–is that world. Sanatana Dharma and Sanatana Yoga are really the same thing. That which goes outside them is an obscuration not a clarification, a hindrance rather than a help.
Yoga and Dharma are realities, not speculations or conclusions. They are discoveries of universal, unalterable, principles that are verifiable by each individual. Through the ages each yogi has found for himself that they are true. They are not revelations given by an arbitrary deity or a representative of such a deity. They require no faith or bowing of the head to any authority. They are verifiable facts, requiring nothing more than correct practice coupled with intelligent perception. No matter how many yogis there may be, Yoga and Dharma are always purely individual–in fact nothing can spoil Yoga and Dharma more than “groupism” or “movements.” The yogi is always an individual, always a whole, never a part. And so is a Sanatana Dharmi-Yogi
Dharma and Yoga are the supreme sciences, independent of all else. It is essential that our philosophy and practice be purely an expression of eternal verities. Authentic Dharma and Yoga have nothing to do with “East” or “West” and should have no connotation of them. Again, they are like Euclidian Geometry. The seers that discovered them were from what we call “the East,” but they are universal and neither Eastern nor Western.
Read the next chapter of How to Be a Yogi: The Foundations of Yoga
Chapters in How to Be a Yogi