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The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali - Book 2 - The Steps to Union
27. The knowledge (or illumination) achieved is sevenfold, and is attained progressively.

The Hindu teaching holds that the states of mind-consciousness are seven in number. The [173] sixth sense and its use bring about seven modes of thought, or - to put it more technically - there are seven major modifications of the thinking principle. These are:

  1. Desire for knowledge. It is this which drives forth the Prodigal Son, the soul into the three worlds of illusion, or (to carry the metaphor further back still) it is this which sends forth the Monad or Spirit into incarnation. This basic desire is what causes all experience.
  2. Desire for freedom. The result of experience and of the investigations which the soul carries on in its manifold lifecycles is to cause a great longing for a different condition and a great desire for liberation and for freedom from the wheel of rebirth.
  3. Desire for happiness. This is a basic quality of all human beings, though it shows itself in many different ways. It is based upon an inherent faculty of discrimination and upon a deep seated capacity to contrast the "Father's" home and the Prodigal's present condition. It is this inherent capacity for "bliss" or happiness which produces that restlessness and urge to change which lies back of the evolutionary urge itself. It is the cause of activity and progress. Dissatisfaction with the present condition is based upon a dim memory of a time of satisfaction and of bliss. This has to be regained before peace can be known.
  4. Desire to do one's duty. The first three modifications of the thinking principle eventually bring evolving humanity to the state where the [174] motive for life comes to be simply the fulfilment of one's dharma. The longing for knowledge, for freedom, and for happiness has brought the man to a state of utter dissatisfaction. Nothing brings him any true joy or peace. He has exhausted himself in the search for joy for himself. Now he begins to widen his horizon and to search where (in the group and in his environment), what he seeks may lie. He awakens to a sense of responsibility to others and begins to seek for happiness in the fulfilment of his obligations to his dependents, his family, friends and all whom he contacts. This new tendency is the beginning of the life of service which leads eventually to a full realization of the significance of group consciousness. H.P.B. has said that a sense of responsibility is the first indication of the awakening of the ego or the Christ principle.
  5. Sorrow. The greater the refinement of the human vehicle, the greater the response of the nervous system to the pairs of opposites, pain and pleasure. As a man progresses and rises on the ladder of evolution in the human family it becomes apparent that his capacity to appreciate sorrow or joy is greatly increased. This becomes terribly true in the case of an aspirant and of a disciple. His sense of values becomes so acute and his physical vehicle so sensitized that he suffers more than the average man. This serves to drive him forward with increasing activity in his search. His response to outer contacts is ever more rapid and his capacity for pain, physical and emotional, becomes greatly increased [175]. This is apparent in the fifth race and particularly in the fifth subrace in the increasing frequency of suicide. The capacity of the race to suffer is due to the development and refinement of the physical vehicle and to the evolution of the body of feeling, the astral.
  6. Fear. As the mental body develops and the modifications of the thinking principle become more rapid, fear and that which it produces begin to demonstrate. This is not the instinctual fear of animals and of the savage races, which is based upon the response of the physical body to physical plane conditions, but the fears of the mind, based upon memory, imagination and anticipation, and the power to visualize. These are difficult to overcome and can only be dominated by the ego or soul itself.
  7. Doubt. This is one of the most interesting of the modifications for it concerns causes more than effects. The man who doubts can be described perhaps as doubting himself as an arbiter of his fate, his fellowmen as to their nature and reactions, God, or the first cause as witnessed by the controversies built up around religion and its exponents, nature itself, which doubt urges him on to constant scientific investigation and finally, the mind itself. When he begins to question the capacity of the mind to explain, interpret and comprehend, he has practically exhausted the sum total of his resources in the three worlds.

The tendency of these seven states of mind, produced through the experience of the man upon the Wheel of Life is to bring him to the point [176] where he feels that physical plane living, sentiency and mental processes have nothing to give and utterly fail to satisfy him. He reaches the stage which Paul refers to when he says "I count all things but loss that I may win Christ."

The seven stages of illumination have been described by a Hindu teacher as follows:

  1. The stage wherein the chela realizes that he has run the whole gamut of life experience in the three worlds and can say "I have known all that was to be known. Nothing further remains to know!' His place on the ladder is revealed to him. He knows what he has to do. This relates to the first modification of the thinking principle, desire for knowledge.
  2. The stage wherein he frees himself from every known limitation, and can say "I have freed myself from my fetters." This stage is long but results in the attainment of freedom and relates to the second of the modifications dealt with above.
  3. The stage wherein the consciousness shifts completely out of the lower personality and becomes the true spiritual consciousness, centered in the real man, the ego or soul. This brings in the consciousness of the Christ nature which is love, peace and truth. He can say now "I have reached my goal. Nothing remains to attract me in the three worlds." Desire for happiness is satisfied. The third modification is transcended.
  4. The stage wherein he can say with truth "I have fulfiled my dharma, and accomplished my whole duty." He has worked off karma, and [177] fulfiled the law. Thus he becomes a Master and a wielder of the law. This stage has relation to the fourth modification.
  5. The stage wherein complete control of the mind is achieved and the seer can say "My mind is at rest." Then and only then, when complete rest is known can the true contemplation and samadhi of the highest kind be known. Sorrow, the fifth modification, is dispelled by the glory of the illumination received. The pairs of opposites are no longer at war.
  6. The stage wherein the chela realizes that matter or form have no longer any power over him. He can then say "The gunas or qualities of matter in the three worlds no longer attract me; they call forth no response from me." Fear therefore is eliminated for there is nothing in the disciple which can attract to him evil, death or pain. Thus equally the sixth modification is overcome and realization of the true nature of divinity and utter bliss takes its place.
  7. Full self-realization is the next and final stage. The initiate can now say, with full conscious knowledge, "I am that I am" and he knows himself as one with the All-Self. Doubt no longer controls. The full light of day or completed illumination takes place and floods the whole being of the seer.

These are the seven stages upon the Path, the seven stations of the cross as the Christian puts it, the seven great initiations and the seven ways to bliss. Now the "Path of the just shineth ever more and more until the perfect day." [178]

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