Conditioning and unconditioning

On the subject of the control of the modifications of the mind – which is the central function in yoga – it is necessary to make abundant reference to the objects of the mind, because the restraint of the modifications of the mind is automatically a severance of mental relationships with objects. We were also trying to find out what an object is, what its nature is, and what are the various aspects of which an object can be constituted.

Keeping to this context, there is a very important verse from the Yoga Vasishtha which says: yathā rasah padārthesu yathā tailam tilādisu kusumesu yathā ‘modas tathā drastari drsyadhih (Y.V. I.3.43): The object is in the subject in the same way as fragrance is in a flower, oil is in a seed, and taste is in objects. This is a very strange definition of an object. We usually have a notion that an object is a solid, substantial something staring at us from outside – something very hard, real, and tangible – such a thing is an object. But here, the object is in the subject as fragrance is in a flower. It cannot be said that fragrance is something standing outside the flower, staring at it, or even tangible in the sense of a separate object. The object is not a substance. This is what the Yoga Vasishtha wants to convey in this verse, and it is this confusion in the mind of not being able to understand the real meaning of ‘object’ that makes it difficult for anyone to understand how to control the mind. The object is not a substance; it is not a thing. The people who are seated in front of me cannot be called my objects. That idea arises due to some confusion of thought.

From a limited angle of vision, anything that is seen by the eyes may be regarded as an object, but the Yoga Vasishtha goes into a deeper aspect of this question and tries to remove the confusion in the mind concerning the true nature of an object which binds the consciousness. You, as persons seated here in front of me, are not my objects, because that which makes you an object is only from my point of view; it is in my head, my mind, and not in you. This is very subtle and has to be carefully understood. Though you are a person seated in front of me, you are not nessesarily an object of my mind unless my mind reacts to you in a certain way.

The reaction of my mind towards you in a particular manner is what constitutes the object of the mind, and not you as persons in front of me. “What do you mean by the ‘reaction’ of the mind? Are we not objects because you see us? Am I not an object to you because you see me?” No, I am not the cause of your bondage, and you are not the cause of my bondage, taking you or me independently as self-existent somethings unrelated to external, to which reference was previously made when a distinction was drawn between Isvara srishti, the creation of God, and jiva srishti, the creation of the individual. It was pointed out that bondage does not lie in the creation of God, but lies in the creation of the individual, the individuals mind. By that is meant that the reaction of the mind in respect of something which it regards as outside it, is the source of bondage and the source of joy and sorrow, and the thing taken from its own point of view is neither a source of joy nor a source of sorrow.

Now, when it is said that the object is in the subject, something like fragrance is in a flower, it is implied that the object is inseparable from the subject. By ‘subject’, we mean the mind which cognizes anything that is external. The cognition of an external condition is the objectivity involved in the mind – this is the cause of bondage. The substance itself is not the source of bondage. It cannot give joy; it cannot give sorrow. The attitude of the mind towards that something which it is obliged to regard as an object is the source of joy, and the source of bondage. These conditions of perception, conditions of cognition, are really the objects. This is ones paradigm. Much of it is subconscious and the real practice of Yoga brings these to the awareness of the consciousness.

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