The word yoga (as most of you doubtless know) is the same as our word yoke and the Latin word iungēre: to join. Join, junction, yoke, union—all these words are basically from the same root. And so, likewise, when Jesus said, “My yoke is easy,” he was saying really: my yoga is easy. And the word therefore basically denotes the state that would be the opposite of what our psychologists call alienation, or what Buddhists call satkāyadṛṣṭi: the view of separateness, the feeling of separateness, the feeling of being cut off from being. And most civilized people do, in fact, feel that way, because they have a kind of myopic attention focused on their own boundaries and what is inside those boundaries. And they identify themselves with the inside and don’t realize that you cannot have an inside without an outside. That would seem—wouldn’t it?—to be extremely elementary logic. That we could have no sense of being ourselves, of having a personal identity, without the contrast of something that is not ourselves—that is to say, other. But the fact that we don’t realize that self and other go together is the root of an enormous and terrifying anxiety.
Because what will happen when the inside disappears? What will happen when the so-called “I” comes to an end, as it seems to? Of course, if it didn’t—I mean if things did not keep moving and changing, appearing and dissolving—the universe would be a colossal bore. And therefore you are only aware that things are alright for the moment. I mean, I hope most of the people in this gathering have a sort of genial sense inside them that, for the time being, things are going on more or less okay. Some of you may be very miserable. And then your problem may be just a little different, but it’s essentially the same one. But you must realize that that sense of life being fairly alright is inconceivable and unfeelable unless there is way, way, way in the back of your mind the glimmer of a possibility that something absolutely unspeakably awful might happen. Doesn’t have to happen—of course, you’ll die one day—but there always has to be the vague apprehension, the Hintergedanke, that the awful awfuls are possible. It gives spice to life.
Now, these observations are in line with what I’m going to talk about tonight: the intellectual approach to yoga. There are basically certain principal forms of yoga. Most people are familiar with haṭha yoga. Which is a psychophysical exercise system, and that’s the one you see demonstrated most on television because it has visual value. You can see all these exercises of lotus positions, and people curling their legs around their necks, and doing all sorts of marvelous exercises. And they’re good exercises. The most honest yoga teacher I know is a woman who teaches haṭha yoga and doesn’t pretend to be any other kind of guru. And she does it very well.
Then there is bhakti yoga. Bhakti means “devotion.” And I suppose in general you might say that Christianity is a form of bhakti yoga, because it is yoga practiced through extreme reverence for and love for some being felt more or less external to one’s self who is the representative of the divine.
Then there is karma yoga. Karma means “action”—and incidentally that’s all it means. It does not mean the law of cause and effect. When we say that something that happens to you is your karma, all it saying is: it’s your own doing. Nobody’s in charge of karma except you. Karma yoga is the way of action, of using one’s everyday life, one’s trade, or an athletic discipline like sailing or surfriding or track running, as your way of yoga, as your way of discovering who you are.
Then there’s rāja yoga. That’s the royal yoga. And that’s sometimes also called kuṇḍalinī yoga. And that involves very complicated psychic exercises having to do with awakening the serpent power that is supposed to lie at the base of one’s spiritual spine, and raising it up through certain chakras (or centers) until it enters into the brain. There’s a very profound symbolism involved in that, but I’m not going into that.
And then, finally, there are several others. There’s mantra yoga, which is the practice through chanting: of humming (either out loud or silently) certain sounds which become supports for contemplation for what is in Sanskrit called dhyāna. And dhyāna is the state in which one is clearly awake and aware of the world as it is as distinct from the world as it is described. In other words, in the state of dhyāna you stop thinking—that is to say, you stop talking to yourself and figuring to yourself and symbolizing to yourself what is going on. You simply are aware of what is. And nobody can say what it is, because as Korzybski well said: the real world is unspeakable. There’s a lovely double take in that. But that’s dhyāna. That’s zazen, where one practices to sit absolutely wide awake with eyes open, but not thinking.
That’s a very curious state, incidentally. I knew a professor of mathematics at Northwestern University who one day said, “You know, it’s amazing how many things there are that aren’t so!” You know, he was talking about old wives’ tales and scientific superstitions and so on, but when you practice dhyāna you are amazed how many things there are that aren’t so. Because when you stop talking to yourself and you are simply aware of what is—that is to say, of what you feel, what you sense; and even that’s saying too much—you suddenly find that the past and the future have completely disappeared. So also have disappeared the so-called differentiation between the knower and the known, the subject and the object, the feeler and the feeling, the thinker and the thought. They just aren’t there, because you have to talk to yourself to maintain those things. They are purely conceptual. They’re ideas. They’re phantoms, ghosts.
So when you allow thinking to stop, all that goes away and you find you’re in an eternal here and now. And there’s no way you’re supposed to be, there’s nothing you’re supposed to do, there’s nowhere you’re supposed to go. Because in order to think you’re supposed to do something, you have to think. And so it’s incredibly important to un-think at least once a day for the very preservation of the intellectual life.
So if we stop that temporarily and get our mind clear of thoughts, we become (as Jesus said) again as children and get a direct view of the world—which is very useful once you’re an adult. There’s not much you can do with it when you’re a baby, because everybody pushes you around and, you know, they pick you up and sit you there, they sit you there, and you can’t do much except practice contemplation. Only, you can tell anyone what it’s like. But when, as an adult, you can recapture the baby’s point of view, you will know what all child psychologists have always wanted to know: how it is that a baby feels. And the baby (according to Freud, at least) has the oceanic experience. That is to say: a feeling of complete inseparability from what’s going on. The baby is unable to distinguish between the universe and his or her action upon the universe.
And most of us, if we got into that state of consciousness, might be inclined to feel extremely frightened and beginning to ask who’s in charge. I mean, who controls what happens next? We could ask that because we are used to the idea that the process of nature consists of controllers and controlees: things that do and things that are done to. This is purely mythological.
So many spiritual teachers and gurus will look at their disciples and say, “I am God. I have realized.” See? But the important thing is that you are. Whether I am or not is of no consequence to you whatsoever. I could get up and say, “I have realized,” and put on a turban and yellow robe and whatever, and say, “Come and have darśan. I’m guru. You need the grace of guru in order to realize,” and so on. And that’d be a wonderful hoax. It’d be like picking your pockets and selling you your own watch. But the point is: you are.
And what’re we saying when we say that? We’re obviously saying something very important. Alas and alack, there is no way of defining it—that is to say, going any further into words about it. See, when a philosopher hears such a statement as tát tvam ási—“you are it”—or, “there is only the eternal now,” the philosopher says, “I don’t see why you’re all so excited about it! What do you mean by that?” And he asked that question because he wants to continue in a word game. He doesn’t want to go on into an experiential dimension. He wants to go on arguing, because that’s his trip.
And all these great mystical statements mean nothing whatsoever. They’re ultimate statements. Just as, you know, the trees and the clouds and the mountains and the stars have no meaning because they’re not words. Words have meaning because they’re symbols, because they point to something other than themselves. But the stars, like music—only bad music has any meaning—classical music never has a meaning, and to understand it you must simply listen to it and observe its beautiful patterns, go into its complexity.
So when your mind—that is to say, your verbal systems—get to the end of their tether—that is to say, when they arrive at the meaningless statement—here is the critical point. And the method of dhyāna yoga is to exercise one’s intellect to its limits so that you get to the point where you have no further questions to ask. You can do this in philosophy study if you’ve got the right kind of teacher who shows you that all philosophical opinions whatsoever are false—or at least, if not false, extremely partial. And so you feel a kind of intellectual vertigo, which is called in a Zen Buddhist poem:
Above not a tile to cover the head,
Below not an inch of ground to stand on.
Well, where are you then? Of course, you’re where you always were. You’ve discovered you’re it, and that’s very uncomfortable because you can’t grab it. See, here I’ve discovered whatever it is that I am—and that’s not something inside my head, it is just as much out there as it is in here—but whatever it is, I cannot get hold of it. Well, that gives you the heebie-jeebies. You get butterflies in the stomach, anxiety, traumas, and all kinds of things. But this was all explained by Shankara, the great Hindu commentator on the Upanishads, the great master of the non-dualistic doctrine of the universe, when he said, “That which knows, which is in all beings the knower, is never an object of its own knowledge.”
So therefore, to everyone who is in quest of the supreme kick, the great experience, the vision of God—whatever you want to call it; liberation—when you think that you’re not it, any old guru can sell you on a method to find it. And that may not be a bad thing for him to do. Because, as Blake said, a fool who persists in his folly will become wise. And a clever guru is a person who leads you on: “Here kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty! I’ve got something very good to show you! Yes! You just wait! Oh, but you’ve got to go through a lot of stages yet.” And you say, “Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Ah! Can I get that? Boy, I want to get that!” You know? All the time it’s you. I was talking with a Zen master the other day and he said, “You should be my disciple.” I looked at him and said, “Who was Buddha’s teacher?” And he looked at me in a very odd way and said, “Hahahahaha!” So he burst into laughter, and he gave me a piece of clover.
So, you see, so long as you can be persuaded that there’s something more that you ought to be than you are, you’ve divided yourself from reality, from the universe, from God, or whatever you want to call that—the tát in tát tvam ási. And you will find constantly, if you’re interested in anything like this—in psychoanalysis, in Gestalt therapy, in sensitivity training, in any kind of yoga or what have you—that there will be that funny sensation of what I’ll call spiritual greed that can be aroused by somebody indicating to you, “Eh, there are still higher stages for you to attain. You should meet my guru!”
So you might say, then, now, to be truly realized you have to get to the point where you’re not seeking anymore. So then you begin to think, “Well, we will now be non-seekers.” You know, like disciples of Krishnamurti’s who, because he says he doesn’t read any spiritual books, they can’t read anything but mysteries stories. You know? Becoming spiritually un-spiritual. Well, you find that that, too, is what is called in Zen legs on a snake. It’s irrelevant. You don’t need not to seek, because you don’t need anything. I mean, it’s like crawling into a hole and pulling the hole in after you.
And the great master of this technique was a Buddhist scholar who lived about 200 AD, called Nagarjuna. He invented a whole dialectic. He had a whole school called Mādhyamaka, where the, as it were, leader of the students would simply destroy all their ideas, absolutely abolish their philosophical notions. And they’d get the heebie-jeebies. They see he didn’t have the heebie-jeebies. He seemed perfectly relaxed in not having any particular point of view. Well, they said, “Teacher, how can you stand it? We have to have something to hang on to.” Who does? Who are you?
And eventually you discover, of course, that it’s not necessary to hang on to anything, to rely on anything. There’s nothing to rely on. Because you’re it. It’s like the universe. It’s like asking the question: where is the universe? And by that I mean the whole universe—whereabouts is it in space? Everything in it is falling around everything else, but there’s no concrete floor underneath for the thing to crash. Because the space—you can think it infinite space, if you like. You don’t have to think of curved space. The space that goes out and out and out forever and ever and has no end—what is that? Of course, it’s you. What else could it be? Only, the universe is delightfully arranged so that, as it looks at itself, in order not to be one-sided and prejudiced it looks at itself from an uncountable number of points of view. We thus avoid solipsism, as if I were to have the notion that it’s only me that’s really here, and you’re all in my dream. Of course, that point of view cannot really be disputed, except by imagining a conference of solipsists arguing as to which one of them is the one that was really there.
Now, you see, if you understand what I’m saying with your intelligence, and then take the next step and say, “But I understood it now, but I didn’t feel it,” then next I raise the question: why do you want to feel it? You say, “I want something more.” Because that’s, again, that spiritual greed. And you could only say that because you didn’t understand it. There is nothing to pursue because you’re it. And if you don’t know that you always were it. And if you don’t know that—in other words, to put it in Christian terms or Jewish terms: if you don’t know that your God from the beginning, what happens is that you try to become God by force. Therefore you start being violent and obstreperous and this and that and the other. All our violence, all our competitiveness, all our terrific anxiety to survive is because we didn’t know from the beginning that we were it.
Well, then you would say, “If we did know from the beginning”—as in fact you did when you were a baby, well then everybody says, “Well, nothing would ever happen.” But it did happen, didn’t it? And some of it’s pretty messy. But what people don’t realize is: they say: well, take the Hindus. It’s basic to Hindu religion that we’re all God in disguise and that the world is an illusion. All that is a sort of half truth. But if that is the case, if Hindus and really awakened Hindus by the knowledge of their union with the godhead would simply become inert, why, then, Hindu music? The most incredibly complex marvelous technique. When they sit and play, they laugh at each other. They’re enjoying themselves enormously with these very complicated musical games. But when we come and the symphony orchestra gets up, everybody dresses in evening dress with a most serious expression, and all the audience is down, hmmm. You know, it’s like it’s in a kind of church. And there’s none of that terrific zest, where the drummer, the tabla player, laughs at the sarod player as they compete with each other in all kinds of marvelous improvisations.
So if you do find out by any chance who you really are, you—instead of becoming merely lazy—you know, you start laughing. And laughing leads to dancing. And dancing needs music. And we can play with each other for a change.