Understanding Form and Formless

By Swami Nirmalananda Saraswati

Ever since I was a child, looking at the sky would attune me to the experience of God, inside.  You can use the form of the sky, which is almost formless, to find the formlessness within, your own Self.  I especially love the night sky!  I was delighted when I found this in the yoga texts:

Fix your gaze on the pure cloudless sky to experience the nature of Shiva.

Vijñana Bhairava 84

The point of human life is that you must know both realities: the whole of your own beingness (the formless) and the divinity of your form (your body and your mind).  You are already Consciousness-Itself; now all you have to do is know and experience yourself as you truly are, outside and inside.

If you have this experience without proper preparation, it doesn’t last long.  You can have a flash of cosmic consciousness, like being struck by lightning, but it fades away.  You can experience the peace that passeth understanding, but your inner turmoil and confusion returns.  You may feel yourself expand to fill the whole sky and beyond, but then you return to your familiar limitations so easily that you even forget that you had an experience.

Thus yoga is for the purpose to give you the experience of yourself as Consciousness-Itself, while yoga also prepares you to become established in it as a continuing experience.  Your body and your mind must be conditioned to consciousness.

The mainstream Western lifestyle conditions you to unconsciousness. The average person comes home at the end of a busy day and reaches for a beer or glass of wine, drugging themselves into unconsciousness.  Television is another drug, inducing a coma-like state within minutes — you’re barely breathing and have even lost the capacity for independent thinking.  Another favorite methodology that creates unconsciousness is stress.  You see, the experience of your own divinity is an experience of effortless beingness.  Thus, all your pushing and efforting is taking you in the wrong direction.

Still, you must work.  You must be productive.  You must get things done.  But do you have to strain so hard while you are doing it?  Instead, you could bring your yogic peace and innermost joy with you while you are busy and productive.  The key is found in understanding the form and the formless.  When you see your body, your mind, your work, your relationships and your life as Divine, even when they are challenging, then you can see your own inner Divinity as well.

This difference is finding the effortlessness in your efforting, which is built into the Svaroopa® yoga poses.  The effortlessness is obvious when you are lying on mounded blankets, but it is also there in the standing poses and the challenge of abs and backbends.  As you learn how to use your body in a new way, you are learning how to accomplish things without efforting, without strain.  You are also learning a new way of life.  Most importantly, this effortless efforting naturally inclines you to the experience of yourself as the form of the formless.