“When the mind is restrained from its wandering by means of breath-restraint, it is forced to give up attending to external objects. When it thus gives up attending to external objects, which are second and third persons, will not the first person alone remain shining there? Therefore by merely giving up attention to second and third persons, will not self-attention automatically result?”
This is an important doubt to clarify.
Withdrawing the attention from second and third persons is called antarmukham or introversion, whereas focusing the attention on ‘I’ is called ahamukham or facing selfward. Though ahamukham includes in itself antarmukham, antarmukham does not necessarily include ahamukham. That is, though the attention is withdrawn from external objects, it is not necessarily focused keenly on the consciousness ‘I’. The state in which the attention is thus withdrawn from external objects but not fixed keenly on self is called manolaya (temporary subsidence of the mind), and this state is experienced by everyone daily when they go to sleep. If a person practicing raja-yoga withdraws his attention from external objects by means of breath-restraint and if he does not make effort to fix his attention firmly upon the consciousness ‘I’, his mind will slip into the state of manolaya. Though the manolaya which is thus achieved by the practice of raja-yoga is glorified by the name nirvikalpa samadhi (thought-free absorption of the mind), it is in fact no more helpful to spiritual progress than is the daily sleep experienced by all people.
Why is it that self-knowledge does not arise in the state of manolaya?
The reason is that the power of maya functions in two forms, namely avarana sakti (the power of covering or concealing) and vikshepa sakti (the power of projection, diversification, tossing or confusion). Avarana sakti is the dullness of forgetfulness of one’s true nature whereas vikshepa sakti is the perception of multiplicity which arises when the body is taken to be ‘I’. In the various states of manolaya such as sleep and kashtha nirvikalpa samadhi, though the mind is temporarily freed from the hold of vikshepa sakti, it still remains enveloped by the veil of avarana sakti. Due to this veil of avarana sakti, the clear knowledge of one’s true nature is not experienced in manolaya, and hence in due course the mind will rise again and come
under the tossing sway of vikshepa sakti. By withdrawing one’s attention from external objects, one frees oneself temporarily from the sway of vikshepa sakti. But in order to pierce though the dark veil of avarana sakti, it is necessary for one to attend keenly to the consciousness ‘I’ and thereby know its true nature. That is, since self-forgetfulness is the root-cause for the rising of the veil of avarana sakti, self-attention alone is the medicine which will remove it.
This is why Sri Bhagavan says,
“Having given up external objects, the mind knowing its own form of light is alone true knowledge”.
-- Upadesa Undiyar (Verse 16)