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|Yoga, a Scientific Evaluation.
|Chapter III Purusha or Soul||Chapter IV Evolution And Its Stages||Chapter V Yoga Psychology: Ethical Preparation|
|Chapter VIII Yoga and Psychoanalysis||Chapter XII Exercises in Concentration|
|Chapter III Purusha or Soul
[BK 43] It should be borne in mind ... that yoga as a theoretical system of metaphysics is based primarily on certain mystical experiences which, in the eyes of the yogins, are as real and valid as the sense experiences of everyday life. No yogin would ever claim that intellectual arguments by themselves are sufficient to convince critics, who evaluate yoga from the outside, of the existence of the soul that transcends time and space. The final and clinching argument is the invulnerability of mystical experience.
The prototype of the variants of the doctrine of the soul in Indian philosophy was the Atman of the Upanishadic sages. In its essential aspects the samkhya-yoga soul, called purusha, is not very different from the Upanishadic Atman. Similarly, the purusha is independent of the material universe. It is beginningless and eternally unchanging. Even the highest product of prakriti, the mind, has nothing in common with purusha, which is timeless and spaceless, mere sentience and entirely passive. All the products of prakriti are variously characterized by the three gunas; but purusha is devoid of them. It is the eternal seer behind the phenomena of prakriti [BK 44] and its changes. It is without parts and attributes, all-pervasive and subtle. Whatever it may be that characterizes individuality, the empirical me is of the essence of prakriti, and purusha contributes nothing to the sum total of personality this inactive, characterless purusha may be put down on the positive side as pure consciousness (cit). On analyzing our elements of knowledge we find that it is composed of ideas and images mental pictures. These various image-patterns are the inevitable accompaniment of all thought-processes, but their constant fluctuations should teach us that they are the work of the sattva (aspect of translucence) element among the three gunas. Motion and activity are characteristic of prakriti alone. But what does this steady flow of the mental stream reveal? Only the content and form of the mind. There is another factor, the pure relating element of awareness (cit), the origin of which, like a distant source of light, remains in the faraway background, shedding luster and glow on, and giving continuity to, the operations of the mental mechanism. This is the transcendent principle of consciousness, purusha, the never-changing soul that makes the content of the mind meaningful. Samkhya-yoga admits that this factor cannot clearly be observed in introspection which reveals only the mental film-roll, but not the light (consciousness) that enables the pictures to be registered. The presence of the purusha as a theoretically necessary principle may be safely inferred from the data of knowledge. One can only wonder at this point if it is Kant or the samkhya-yoga that is speaking.
The emaciated, ghost-like purusha is, in certain respects, less colorful than the Atman; the latter was said [BK 45] to be intelligence, consciousness, and bliss (ananda); the purusha, except for the fact that it illuminates mental states, is neither pure intelligence nor bliss. Intelligence as a mental faculty, according to samkhya-yoga, is the work of prakriti and cannot have any relation whatever to the transcendental principle, purusha. Rationality is in the empirical ego. The term bliss, which was considered an attribute of Atman and later of the vedantic soul, is only a less pretentious name for pleasure, which cannot be the nature of purusha. Pleasure and pain can be traced to the instincts, desires, and cravings of the ego in the world of experience, but the purusha as a detached spectator is not circumscribed by the limitations of the three gunas. The crucial point that marks the difference between the Atman and samkhya-yoga purusha is the doctrine of the plurality of souls. According to the Upanishads as well as the vedanta, individual souls are only temporal and illusory forms of the cosmic soul, Brahman. In the final analysis individual souls are only appearances; they derive their reality from, and it is their final destiny to become absorbed in, Brahman. Not so in the samkhya-yoga. Each individual soul is here an isolated principle, eternally real and ever the same. Reality, consequently, consists of an infinite number of purushas, instead of the all-embracing Brahman of the monistic vedanta.
Some arguments have been advanced to prove the existence of purushas. The first one is very much like the design or teleological argument that has figured so prominently in Western philosophy, although the conclusion drawn is not the same. The collocation of objects and [BK 46] their modifications must exist for the sake and benefit of a principle that is sentient. It is worth pointing out that the conclusion drawn from the design argument is not the same as in Western philosophy. Whereas in the latter God is the designer, the samkhya-yoga points to the purusha which benefits from the design. Nor could this be otherwise. Prakriti, the original ground out of which the material world has evolved, is beginningless and eternal; hence a creator is entirely superfluous.
The second argument is familiar to all students of philosophy; the subject or seer must be free from the perpetual modifications and movements of the physical manifold, a simple, unitary and unchangeable substance. All the presentations and changes are due to collocations of the three gunas, sattva, rajas, and tamas. The seer, therefore, must be free from the limitations of prakriti and its gunas, for none of the products of prakriti can be simple or unitary; and so the actual seer is the purusha which as an unfailing light illuminates the mind, lending meaning and purpose to the cyclical processes of evolution and dissolution. The third argument maintains, as did Kant, that there must be a supreme background without which it would be impossible to coordinate all experiences. In spite of the reality of multiplicity in mental life, there must be a transcendent and unitary principle the purusha.
The fourth and last argument is drawn from the longing which, samkhya-yoga claims, is present, in varying degrees, in all people. This instinct to be free, the desire to escape the impermanence and futility of existence, is, of course, the heart around which the body of samkhya-yoga, as well as the other systems of Hindu [BK 47] philosophy, is built. Desires and cravings and love of life itself may crowd in on us to make living a worthwhile adventure, but a hidden voice, even in those moments when all seems well, might be heard (if we were reflective enough) uttering the language of doubt and despair. A life-tedium overtakes us. This craving for emancipation is interpreted as due to the demand of the purusha to seek release from the meshes of prakriti. That this world-weariness is a real element in our experience has been attested by many great minds. Would any man of sound understanding, says Kant, who has lived long enough, and has meditated on the worth of human existence, care to go again through lifes poor play, I do not say on the same conditions, but on any conditions whatever? A materialist or a sceptic might consider this paradox, viz., that we love to live and yet long to escape the weariness of life, as a result of, in the words of Freud, the interplay of life and death instincts. But the samkhya-yoga, believing as it does in the reality of purushas, concludes that the striving for freedom from the limitations of existence points to one that longs for and can effect the release. This is the purusha.
Against monism, which asserts that individual souls are illusory and that only the world-soul is real, samkhya-yoga adheres uncompromisingly to the doctrine of the plurality of purushas. The reasons adduced in favor of this standpoint are drawn from within the framework of the presuppositions of the system, particularly its analysis of the nature of prakriti and its evolutionary [BK 48] development. Among the various products of prakriti, like ether, mind, etc., which will form the subject of the next chapter, there is one which is the basis of the empirical ego. This, known as buddhi, is the active agent in the processes of cognition, feeling, and willing. The various senses are the individual organs of a buddhi. Each buddhi is, therefore, an isolated organism possessing an individuality of its own. We have said that the buddhi is the basis of the empirical ego and not the ego-proper, because of the role purusha plays in the production of the egosense. There is a kind of relationship, best expressed as that of reflection, between the purusha and each individual buddhi. If the purusha did not reflect the light of consciousness in buddhi, there would be no I feeling. The I sense is the temporal psychological unity produced by the reflection of purusha in the activities of buddhi.
[BK 49] According to the samkhya-yoga view prakriti exists for the emancipation of purushas.
[BK 56] It is instructive to point out here the most important difference between the samkhya and yoga. The classical samkhya is atheistic, if by theism is meant belief in a personal God who is either the creator of the universe or the perpetual guardian of its destiny, or both. The samkhya shows a strong bias for rationalism, and anything that could not be rationalistically demonstrated is discarded. Like Kant in a later period, Kapila, the traditional author of the samkhya aphorisms, contends that it is impossible to demonstrate the existence of a personal creator. If God is perfect, then there is no conceivable reason why he should have created the world; if he is imperfect, then he is no God. To say that he is neither perfect nor imperfect is to make all rational argumentation impossible. It is customary to invoke God to reward the righteous and punish the wicked, to play the role of moral guardian over the erring ways of mankind. Kapila has no need for a God in this respect, for the law of karma automatically and justly regulates moral retribution.
Prakriti and purushas, says Kapila, are sufficient to explain the universe and its evolution and destiny. Therefore, as Laplace was to maintain later, it is meaningless to assume the existence of God who is neither demonstrable by reason nor necessary as an explanatory principle. Some of the later commentators of the samkhya [BK 57] have tried to introduce God into the system, but their attempts, instead of creating harmony, look like patchwork. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of the system, Kapilas denial of God and his fearlessness in running counter to the current orthodox philosophical opinions deserve admiration.
Although yoga accepted samkhya metaphysics, certain changes were introduced here and there. Practice and not theory is the all-important thing in yoga. So Patanjali, the author of the yoga aphorisms, contends that God as an object of devotion is an aid to the yogin, for he (God) by his kindness might make the physical and mental discipline of yoga easier to bear. [Yoga Sutras, 1. 33-26.] Speculative demonstrability or undemonstrability of God did not interfere with Patanjalis reasoning. God is therefore a solicitous creature who is interested in the salvation of souls, but he is not powerful enough to interfere either in the workings of the law of karma or in the evolution of prakriti. God is a special kind of purusha who is ever free. He is not subject to the 1aw of karma, nor has he any direct relation, like purusha, to an individual buddhi. Avidya (non-discrimination), consequently, never mars his perfect wisdom and bliss.
One gathers the impression that Patanjali introduced God into the system because he found that concept useful. He must have been an astute psychologist who knew that faith helps. His reasoning could be summarized thus: If belief in and devotion to God help you in your practice, then you may assume that he exists; if this does not help you, you may equally well assume that he does not exist. While yoga was at great pains to defend a [BK 58] metaphysic that would justify its practices and aims in the eyes of the public, it allowed for extreme deviations in the matter of philosophical beliefs. The practices were taken over by other schools because of their alleged efficacy to point a way of salvation.
The result is that the passages devoted to the discussion of God (Isvara) in the yoga aphorisms are extremely vague and irrelevant to the rest of the system. The arguments are unconvincing. According to Garbe:
The insertion of the personal God, which subsequently decisively determined the character of the Yoga system, was, to judge from the Yoga Sutras, the textbook of Patanjali, at first accomplished in a very loose and superficial manner, so that the contents and purpose of the system were not at all affected by it.... The passages which treat of the person of God are unconnected with the other parts of the book nay, even contradict the foundations of the system. [Garbe, R. Philosophy of Ancient India, 15, The Open Court Publishing Co., Chicago, 1897.]
This liberal and sometimes indifferent attitude towards metaphysical subtleties has been characteristic of yogins throughout the ages. The vedanta has dominated the Hindu mind for so long that today most yogins have grafted the vedanta metaphysics to the yoga practices Brahman alone is real. It is the adaptability of the system that makes yoga more a philosophy and a psychology than a religion.
|Chapter IV Evolution And Its Stages
[BK 63] There has come to us from very ancient times a saying, There is no knowledge equal to the samkhya, and no power equal to the yoga. One can easily see why yoga was so highly rated, for it was the only system that formulated a discipline to liberate the human soul from the bondage of worldly entanglement. The practices of yoga were accepted on the testimony of the practitioners as desirable for those who sought spiritual development. The method and the life of detachment of its followers held a distinct spiritual charm even for those who could not or would not undergo the strenuous life of a yogin. When one mentions yoga, it is not its theory that is implied, but a set of exercises that is unrivalled by any other system. At best a philosophy lays down an ethical code as the Stoics and the Epicureans did, or peremptorily demands that its adherents be good without pointing out a positive way of achieving that state as most religions do. Not so yoga. Do this and this, says the yogin, and you shall reach higher spiritual levels. In a country where emancipation was not a mere matter for philosophical hair-splitting but the goal of life, yoga, because of its insistence on effort rather than knowledge, won awe-inspiring respect from all and sundry.
[BK 64] But we feel compelled to ask why a unique place should have been assigned to the samkhya. There is sufficient historical evidence that the spirit and the doctrines of the Upanishads had greater following than other systems deviating from its mystical idealism. Absolute idealism has always held a preeminent position in India. Modern vedanta, which is the spiritual inheritor of the tradition of the Upanishads, is unexcelled in its popularity among the cultured of the present generation. In the Bhagavad gita, which is to the Hindus what the New Testament is to the Christians, various schools of philosophy are mentioned, but the dominant thesis is patterned after the idealism of the Upanishads.
The doctrine of the plurality of souls in the samkhya constitutes an uncompromising departure from the monism of the Upanishads, and hence could not have commanded sympathy in the philosophical circles. More problems, in fact, were created than solved by this doctrine. The Upanishadic notion that Brahman was the only reality and that individual souls were mere reflections that would ultimately be merged in the former had so entrenched itself in the minds of the people that no pluralistic position could have made much headway.
What about the concepts of evolution and dissolution found in the samkhya? That the universe is alternately subject to growth and decay, that creation is a myth fit to be believed in by the weak but meant to be despised by the wise, is an accepted doctrine in almost all systems. The concept of God and creation, whenever found in Indian philosophy, may be easily inferred to be a concession to the demands of the finite mind that was never taken seriously by any philosopher. There is a [BK 65] breadth and depth in Hindu philosophies that is a challenge to the unimaginative theistic conceptions of the West. While the evolutionary development of nineteenth-century science undermined to a considerable extent some of the basic doctrines of Christianity, it did not generate even a negligible ripple on the religious consciousness of India. It was subscribed to by the heterodox Buddha and the orthodox Sankara. James says:
God as intimate soul and reason of the universe has always seemed to some people a more worthy conception than God as external creator. So conceived, he appeared to unify the world more perfectly, he made it less finite and mechanical, and in comparison with such a God an external creator seemed more like the product of a childish fancy. I have been told by Hindoos that the great obstacle to the spread of Christianity in their country is the puerility of our dogma of creation. It has not sweep and infinity enough to meet the requirements of even the illiterate natives of India. [James, W. A Pluralistic Universe, 28; Longmans, Green and Co., 1912.]
In this connection it is worth pointing out, paradoxical though it may seem, that Western philosophies are more religious than philosophical, while Hindu religions are more philosophical than religious. Anthropomorphism is the product of the infancy of the human mind and the higher conception of reality should leave behind all personalistic notions, irrespective of the demands of religion so the philosophers of India have always contended.
If neither the doctrine of the many souls nor the general acceptance of evolution could account for the high [BK 66] esteem accorded the samkhya, then we will have to seek the real reason elsewhere. It is to be found in the samkhya speculations concerning the various stages in the evolution of prakriti. It was not enough to say that, under the teleological guidance of purushas, prakriti takes both a forward and a backward course; the various stages in the process of evolution had to be and were mapped out. Reason and logical necessity were the only criteria by which Kapila wished the merits of his speculations to be judged. His thoughts on evolution were in some respects a foreshadowing of the Lamarckian thesis that the need of the self (organism) determines function and that the function generates the organs. The realistic attitude of the samkhya toward the external world demanded more than a vague avowal that all that exists is the product of evolutionary change. Although samkhya admitted that human reason could not penetrate all the mysteries of the universe, it maintained that it should be possible for us to give a rational picture of evolution, the whys and wherefores of it.
Idealistic schools of the extreme variety had paid only very little attention to the real world. True to their central doctrine that the Brahman alone was real, in accounting for the world they explained it away. But the samkhya accepted prakriti as real in the true sense of the word, hence a knowledge of it should be possible and necessary. Herein lies the difference between the samkhya and the idealist thought which called forth the saying: There is no knowledge equal to the samkhya . . . The wisdom of the Upanishads was, of course, the highest, but the knowledge of the samkhya had no equal because it was the boldest and the most [BK 67] rational speculation in the field of natural philosophy. Very probably it is this aspect of the samkhya that made Garbe, a German scholar and life-long student of samkhya and yoga, say that in Kapilas doctrine, for the first time in the history of the world, the complete independence and freedom of the human mind, its full confidence in its own powers, were exhibited. [Garbe, R. Philosophy of Ancient India, 30; The Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago, 1897.] We can learn very little today about evolution from the ancient speculations of Kapila; we look for evidence in science. But who can deny that the philosophical problems of our age, whether those raised by evolutionism or otherwise, are very similar to those that confronted the ancients? Kapilas answer that the ego generates the function and then the organs would probably not satisfy many critical moderns; nevertheless his thoughts are not uninteresting. Distance in time, furthermore, makes his doctrine the more enticing.
But a hostile critic might ask whether we are justified in using the term evolution to describe the thoughts of men who lived twenty-five or so centuries ago. Could these men have meant the same things by that term as we do today, we who are backed by the scientific discoveries of the recent past say, from the days of Lamarck and Darwin? The most obvious answer is, No.
|Chapter V Yoga Psychology: Ethical Preparation
[BK 109] Life at every stage is an attempt to make a harmonious adjustment to the environment. This growing adaptability of the organism is what makes life possible. In the course of the struggle of man to mold the environment for his own advancement, a new factor emerges a conscious attempt to regulate conduct. Ethics, the science of conduct, presupposes the existence of a cleavage between the ideal and the natural inclinations of man. But the nature of any system of which would depend upon what [BK 110] we believe to be the purpose and meaning of life itself. If life is an accident and mere sensuous pleasure is the goal toward which we are striving, then a conscious attempt to pattern life after a transcendental ideal would be misguided heroism.
On the other hand, for those who, like yogins, take a spiritual view of life, progressive self-development is an inevitable requirement. More than any other school of spiritual interpretation of life, yoga regards the so-called joys of life as at bottom the source of our suffering. Only when each individual becomes weary of life and all its attractions will yoga become real to him. Even after one has convinced himself that worldly life will lead to greater pain and suffering, the instinctive propensities may yet continue to operate, leaving the individual at the mercy of the current of life.
If we forget metaphysical theories for a moment, we shall see that the first requisite of contemplation is a withdrawal from the hazards and responsibilities of a life of action. Superficially this may appear to be an escape from reality. But if we penetrate deeper, we shall find that the real motive that impels most men to substitute solitude and contemplation for action is the positive conviction that security and happiness may be gained only by spiritual emancipation. The life of the yogin will itself bear testimony to the fact that the path of spiritual progress is not a bed of roses. So far as our instinctive tendencies are concerned, it is very much like making the river flow backwards, or, to use Bergsons language, a remounting of the natural slope of our minds.
Yoga has recognized this need for remolding the mind and reversing the natural trend of our propensities and [BK 111] inclinations to achieve the ultimate objective by prescribing a long program of step-by-step progress towards the goal. It is a comprehensive plan beginning with moral preparation and ending with samadhi, the highest mystical state. The various stages in the yogic discipline are: [Yoga Sutras, II.129.]
1. Yamas (negative ethical code)
2. Niyamas (positive ethical code)
3. Asanas (postures)
4. Pranayamas (breathing exercises)
5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses)
6. Dharana (meditation)
7. Dhyana (contemplation)
8. Samadhi (isolation)
The first two, which we shall deal with in the present chapter, are aimed to wean the neophyte away from the social world and to reconcile him to a life of retirement and seclusion. Since what is desired is a well-rounded development, the mind and body are both taken into consideration.
Our normal life, says the yogin, is one of confused thinking; we never see clearly the motives of our actions nor the consequences of our deeds. Automatism is characteristic not only of our body but also of our mind. We follow the line of least resistance, seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. We are the victims of habits developed in early childhood which are aimed to make living more efficient and successful. But how many of us stop to ask whether these habits, which constitute our character, are desirable from a spiritual point of view? If one were to sit down at the end of a day and recapitulate all that he [BK 112] had done from morning until evening, he would find that very little was undertaken after conscious deliberation. Mental energy contains thoughts directed towards the perpetuation of worldly experiences as well as those pointing to the higher ethical ideal of liberation. In the confused rush of life the latter group of thoughts and desires, which are as few as pebbles in an ocean of sand, is lost sight of. But with the unveiling of our mental life and the motives that prompt us to action, we should be able to identify these desirable moral urges and then develop them. The plasticity of the mind and the habit-mechanism are both ethically neutral; hence by conscious redirection and effort it should be possible to destroy the old habits and build new ones in conformity with the yogic creed. Looked at from the point of view of our normal trend this may be, no doubt, a reversal of our lives but we should not therefore think it unnatural, for what is being done is to strengthen the voice of liberation which, yoga claims, is already there, only temporarily relegated to oblivion by the strangling hold of a crowded but confused life.
We must penetrate a little deeper into the causes of the confusion of empirical life if we wish to conquer them in the long run. The main cause of all our troubles, yoga, as well as other Hindu philosophies, calls ignorance (avidya). All the other obstacles to a correct understanding of the true realities of life, however much they might appear as instinctive to all life forms, are the offspring of this all-embracing ignorance. [Yoga Sutras, II.3-4] The precise meaning of this conception is unfortunately not fully conveyed by the English translation. Ignorance is [BK 113] rectified by amassing knowledge, but not so avidya which is a general cloak operative in our whole empirical life, from the most abstract reasoning to crude, instinctive acts. It is, like prakriti, eternal and effective for souls in the flux of life. In fact, as we have already mentioned in a previous chapter, avidya is the basic cause that brought the soul into the maelstrom of evolution. But it is difficult to see how the transcendental purusha could be inveigled into the thraldom of natural existence by this magic wand of cosmic ignorance. Yoga, therefore, maintains that we shall never know the true nature of this confusion. The moral urges of empirical life can only convince us of the firm hold and reality of avidya, but not its metaphysical nature nor its raison detre. For practical purposes avidya may be thought of as that tendency which inclines us to mistake the real for the unreal and vice versa. What is meant here is the innate instinct of man to seek sensuous pleasures, and thus drive the nexus of our enslavement more deeply into the complex whirlpool of prakriti. If life itself is the cause of our suffering, then it cannot be an isolated error or confusion, but only a generalized ignorance affecting all the activities of mind, that can induce us to cling to the pleasures of life a doubtful good no better than the cooling shade of a cobras outstretched hood. Instead of making haste to retrace our steps, instead of realizing that the highest pleasure is tinged with pain, we allow ourselves to be victimized by avidya. The supreme ethical task of yoga, therefore, is the uprooting of avidya; and this is accomplished by steadying the discriminatory knowledge that arises in the beginning in scattered moments of insight. There is no guarantee that avidya can be completely [BK 114] overcome in finite life, but energetic application to yoga should enable us to reduce its hold and accelerate the progress towards liberation.
Avidya, then, is the generating cause of all misery. Again this in its turn leads to results which may be treated as the immediate sources of the confusions of life. The foremost of these is egoism or self-esteem. [Yoga Sutras, 11.6.] We have the metaphysical origin of egoism in the mistaken identity of the power of knowing (purusha) and the instrument by means of which one knows (citta or the mindsubstance). Could we but know that the citta is only a transitory unity of changing elements and that purusha is the real self, egoism and the resultant misconception would have no hold on us. Sorrow, joy, vanity, feeling of power and ambition are all tentacles by means of which egoism increases our dependence on life. Who wants to be lost in the race of life? In everything we do, consciously or unconsciously, the ego has a place. But the more we allow ourselves to be influenced by this feeling of personality, the farther away we get from the real self.
Take the development of egoism in early childhood. The child begins to identify itself with all the things that give it enjoyment: mother, playthings, etc. The ego thus slowly expands, until at last it includes a greater part of the environment. When any of the objects to which the child has become attached is taken away the result is a genuine feeling of despair and agony. While the adult may have outlived the ego-world of the child, he in turn begins to build a new one friends, ambition to outstrip others, desire to be a social success, and so forth. All these [BK 115] demand continuous effort leading to a craving for the experiences of life. It is the feeling that certain things are mine that leads to identification of the ego with them. While egoism is necessary for the successful continuance of life, yoga contends that it is an obstacle to the realization of the higher self. Egoism and yoga are mutually incompatible. For the former dulls spiritual vision, keeps the victim in a state of perpetual subservience, and helps to evaluate the values of life in wrong perspective.
The subjective element through which egoism builds an attachment between the individual and life is the desire for the perpetuation of pleasurable experiences. All our cravings, from that for food to the higher aesthetic appreciation of art, are tainted with this desire. It covers the whole realm of emotional life. Like the bird in the gilded cage, we are held captive in the net of enticing pleasurable experience. A little introspection is enough to show how imperceptibly and unconsciously, and almost as if by an unerring instinct, we seek those activities which would offer the maximum pleasure. Yoga claims that these desires can be tamed by inculcating in the mind of the neophyte the thought that they are extraneous to his true inner self. We shall show in a later chapter that the method by which this is accomplished is different from what we usually understand by the word repression. Here it may be pointed out that the chief aim is neither to ignore nor deliberately to suppress them, but to treat such experiences as external or as having nothing to do with the individuaL Everything must be consciously appraised from a detached point of view, never allowing the subject and the experience to become one. It is possible, says the yogin, to have an emotion and [BK 115] yet be neither in it nor of it. Only because we feel that we have something to gain or lose if a certain situation develops one way or the other do we become identified with the emotion; and this develops into a passion. It is a true insight that has made poets and artists depict love and anger as blind passions. A man at seventy, who had been the victim of a blinding passion in his youth, looks at his previous experience in a very different light. He is able to objectify it and even smile at himself for having taken certain things so seriously. By a conscious effort of the will we should be able to detach ourselves from emotional experiences. In the case of the yogin a long period of training is necessary before he achieves a relatively important degree of success.
Opposed to the above are aversion and the feeling of hate which, although not of the same intensity as desire, are emotions and, as such, manifestations of citta. Both desire and aversion are effective only as long as we pay unreserved homage to the ego. It is the natural instinct in all living things to withdraw from pain and to hate those who might injure them. But for a yogin who is expected to develop detached brotherliness towards the whole of creation such emotions are a serious handicap. One should learn to be unmoved and unaffected by painful situations. This can be done by conquering them and not by withdrawal.
The last undesirable quality in the list is the will to live which is so strongly embedded in life that it characterizes the stupid and the wise. [Yoga Sutras, II.9.] In the language of Western psychology this is the familiar instinct of selfpreservation. While granting that this instinct is [BK 117] necessary for the prolongation of life, yoga maintains that fear of death or clinging to life, which are two aspects of the same motive, prejudice all human thinking. However unpleasant it may be, yogins should, therefore, learn to be fearless of death which is only just another incident in the long round-of-rebirths. The more we fear death, the greater the crop of worries and anxieties we develop; hence an unruffled mind which is a prerequisite of yoga and fear of death are incompatible.
One conclusion which yoga has drawn from the universal presence of fear of death in all living creatures is interesting, for it shows an attempt to explain instinct in terms of the subconscious. Even in the case of a newborn worm there is a disposition to withdraw from pain and death. The same is true of the new-born infant. But knowledge is acquired through three sources, perception, inference, and verbal testimony, none of which can account for this fear in the infant. It would be meaningless to conclude that such a universal reaction is a mere accident. We may conclude, therefore, from this peculiar quivering the child infers the nearness to himself of the experience of death and is found to be afraid of it. This fear is not any different in the case of the wise man, i.e., one who realizes that death is only an episode in the chain of rebirths and that eternal existence is isolation of the purusha from phenomenal evolution. From all these considerations we can draw only one legitimate conclusion: that in a previous life the organism must have experienced the pain of death. The memory of this painful experience of the past life, since it persists in the subconscious, is the cause of this universal fear. By practice, the yogin should uproot even the subconscious [BK 118] impressions. One can imagine the austerity of a discipline which demands the eradication of a primary instinct like that of self-preservation.
The five modifications described above are the important obstacles in the path of successful consummation of yoga. Of these avidya or ignorance is the root-cause of the last four egoism, desire, aversion and hate, and the will to live. Certain other hindrances, though not so deep-seated or fundamental, are also mentioned. They are: sickness, languor, doubt, heedlessness, worldliness, erroneous perception, failure to attain any stage of concentration, and instability in the stage when attained. In the course of the progress toward the ultimate ideal of yoga, these might arise as sources of doubt and despair, and by guarding against these from the beginning one might be better able to overcome the obstacles of the second group.
It is one thing to point out habits that are inimical to a yogins progress and another to devise a workable method to overcome them. Without denying the possibility of achieving liberation by rational understanding, as, for example, maintained by samkhya, yoga claims that its discipline consisting of eight stages is, for those who are willing to go through with it, a satisfactory method to reach the goal. Yoga points to a difference between the distant and immediate goal of its discipline. The former is, as has been pointed out several times, isolation of purusha and escape from the bonds of rebirth. But this can be achieved only by calming the mind-stuff, that is to say, going beyond the mind. All the elaborate preparation, ethical, physical and psycho-physiological, is aimed [BK 119] to serve this one purpose: the control and then the elimination of mental processes.
The first of these eight stages, yamas, may be called abstentions or negative ethical code, corresponding to the thou shalt nots of any practical religion. The yogin is asked to refrain from causing injury to any living thing, falsehood, theft, incontinence, and acceptance of gifts. The first one, abstaining from injuring others, is considered the most important and a proper fulfilment of it will, it is said, automatically take care of the rest. Every time, for example, we tell a falsehood we are injuring some one. Interpreted thus, this moral principle, familiarly known in Indian philosophy as the doctrine of ahimsa, demands of the yogin a spirit of friendliness to all living creatures. It is not a conditional principle making allowance for exceptional situations. Not even selfdefence, nor differences of age, se+, or circumstances can justify murder. The yogin should go through life bearing malice towards none. By observing these obligations, yoga claims, it is possible to develop an attitude of mind which will remain unruffled in the face of situations both pleasant and painful.
If the first set of ethical precepts is negative, the second, known as niyamas (observances), constitutes positive directions concerning what the yogin shall do to develop a serene frame of mind. They are: cleanliness, self-discipline of body and mind, and resignation to life.
Cleanliness includes regulations concerning diet, clothes, and other requirements of the body as well as those dealing with the mind. In the matter of food, a yogin is not allowed to undergo extremes of privations. [BK 120] On the other hand, he should eat only just as much as is necessary to keep fit. In these matters a golden mean is what is desired; overeating and undernourishment are equally ruled out.
Anyone who has recognized that the development of the will goes hand in hand with the breaking up of old habits can also recognize the significance of the second precept, self-discipline of body and mind. The neophyte who takes yoga practice seriously has to give up many of his old standards of comfort and luxury. This can be done only by bodily austerities. Here, as elsewhere in yoga, extremes are prohibited. The impression most Westerners have gained that yoga means self-mortification and torturing of the body is true only of those cases in which men, despairing of insufficient spiritual progress, mistakenly lend themselves to incredible physical tortures. Such aberrations are not countenanced by yoga. In fact, the practitioners are explicitly warned against these malpractices. In our investigations we have had the privilege of coming in close contact with several who had dedicated their lives to the discipline of yoga, but at no time did we find any instance of self-mortification. What they aimed at was eradication of the desire or craving for comfort which is the curse of one who has devoted himself to a spiritual fife. This mastery is gained by deliberate effort of the will and a corresponding determination to undergo the discipline. Thus the immediate goal is self-control and not self-torture. One of the aphorisms describes perfection of the body as beauty and grace and power and the compactedness of the thunderbolt.
But the psychologist has also to face the fact that in the history of mankind a desire for spiritual perfection [BK 121] has spontaneously led in many cases, both in the East and the West, to the most tormenting kinds of self-castigation. The writer has seen men lying for hours on a bed of nails, others gazing steadily at the bright sun, others piercing the body with nails, and others rolling on dusty streets under a scorching sun for miles and miles. The West, too, has many instances to offer. The lives of Heinrich Suzo, St. Bernard, and St. Teresa are enough to convince one that self-immolation of the utmost severity was characteristic of a leading group of Western mystics also. Commenting on the severity of Suzos exercises, Leuba says the following: One could wish this tender soul might have been spared the repulsive pains of extreme asceticism. But the destruction, by torturing the body, of the evil tendencies of the flesh and of the pride of the spirit was an established tradition. By him, as by others, voluntary suffering was regarded in addition as expiation for sin and as visible token of utter devotion to God. [ Leuba, J. H. The Psychology of Religious Mysticism, 61-62; Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1925.] All that we wish to point out here is the futility of lumping together, as some writers have done, all these phenomena (steady discipline, ethical preparation of yoga, and extremes of physical torture) in one grand category and then dismissing the whole thing as manifestations of psychopathic traits.
With regard to disciplining the mind in the early period of a yogins life, it is necessary to find something that would absorb his time and attention. The previous interests, of course, have to be discarded; hence reading of books that treat of spiritual life and problems is prescribed. By developing this habit one is weaned away [BK 122] from old mental attitudes and the interest in the new life is developed.
The third prescription is directed to destroying the self-will, the feeling that I am doing things. It is desirable, therefore, to feel that whatever the yogin accomplishes or does is for the sake of and by the will of another. Most often, Isvara (God) is the being to whom the yogin succumbs his will, in some cases the teacher (guru) takes the place of God. It is a fact of religious life, even of the institutionalized kind, that one who attributes both deed and consequence to God gains a sense of relief by this act. The individual ceases to be responsible no matter what happens. The result is that those petty little worries and anxieties that haunt us as long as we remain the agent of action no longer adversely affect the mental serenity of a yogin who has resigned his will to one higher than himself. Subjection of the individual will and transference of responsibility would lead to that detachment of spirit which would make the yogin a spectator rather than a participant even of his own actions. Passionlessness (vairagya) or freedom from attachment to objects or the consequences of ones own deeds, as the yogins call this mental attitude, is a prerequisite for success in exercises of mental concentration.
We may now summarize the first two stages as the ethical code of yoga by which a moral transformation, involving important psychological changes or redirection of mental set, is brought about, marking the beginning of a veritable uphill climb in mental training. We should like to point out that this ethico-psychological preparation has been recognized and utilized by mystics as well as pietistic religious groups in the West. The central aim [BK 123] everywhere has always been to emasculate the overwhelming strength of the pull-back of instinctive life. Until this is accomplished, it is impossible to develop personality around a spiritual mental set. The process takes various forms but the target is invariably egoism or self-will. Whatever may be the academic psychologists theories about instincts, whether they can be sublimated or not, there is no doubt that by their practice mystics are able to harness all their energies and direct them along one channel towards a new life. Leuba, who has studied Western mystics very extensively, is clear on this point: According to their theory and practice, says Leuba, the fundamental psychological condition of Union is passivity. It is only when the human will ceases to strive and surrenders to the divine Will that it becomes possible for God to communicate himself. [Leuba, J. H. The Psychology of Religious Mysticism, 156; Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1925.] That psychological conditions are primary and intellectual beliefs relatively unimportant in spiritual progress has been well recognized by men who have penetrated beyond the crust of institutionalized religions. According to Underhill:
This need for the conversion or remaking of the instinctive life, rather than the achievement of mere beliefs, has always been appreciated by real spiritual teachers, who are usually some generations in advance of the psychologists. Hence they agree in finding the root of evil, the heart of the old man and best promise of the new. Here is the raw material both of vice and of virtue namely, a mass of desires and cravings which are in themselves neither moral nor immoral, but natural and self-regarding. [Underhill, E. The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today, 70; London, 1922.]
|Chapter VIII Yoga and Psychoanalysis
[BK 144] How can there be any similarity between the materialistic psychoanalysis and the spiritual yoga; disciplines which were born in different ages and bear the marks of different cultures? Underlying a multitude of differences of both theory and practice, there lies a therapeutic thread that is manifested in both. As Jung has pointed out, psychoanalysis is not only an achievement but a psychical symptom of our times. Man seeks relief from the ever-mounting problems of civilized life. He is like a reed wafted by every passing breeze, assailed by [BK 145] doubts, victimized by his own uncontrollable passions, often lived by urges and strivings that do nor add credit to the crust of rationality with which we are supposed to be endowed. How often it is heard If only I could understand myself. The scientist, from his Olympian heights, might prefer to look with disdain on the petty worries and fears of the layman. But this does not alter the fact that to the layman himself the illness is acutely real, ignorant though he may be of its origin and true nature. What he is looking for is a soul-cure and psychoanalysis fills the need. What we have said so far about yoga will, we hope, convince the reader that it too is a way of life, a prescription for mental ills. Both these approaches, divested of theoretical formulations, are in the final analysis therapeutic systems. To be sure, yoga goes much further than psychoanalysis, for even fear of death, which is an underlying cause of a mild neurosis in many people, does not assail the yogin. Psychoanalysis, on the other hand, makes its appeal to those whose concern is with a successful adjustment to social life. Analysis enables them to evaluate their own motives, to know themselves.
The psyche may be one thing according to some. and another according to others, but in every case neuroses arise out of the complications of the psyche and a cure is possible only through it. Theosophy, Christian Science, and the varieties of occultisms, which have only to be mentioned to find followers, offer a way of life to their respective adherents. But the intellectual crudities of these movements are too glaring for the modern man, educated as he is in the spirit of science. He wants something in keeping with his intellectual [BK 146] selfrespect and capable of deepening his psychological understanding. This purpose is admirably served by psychoanalysis.
We have mentioned the psychotherapeutic value of yoga and psychoanalysis to explain their wide popularity. But the fact that both systems are not only therapeutic but psychological gives justification enough to the examination of a few of the basic theories that are common to both. After this we shall turn our attention to points of similarity in practice.
It is not that mental life may be divided into what is conscious and what is unconscious that makes psychoanalysis unique, but rather that the unconscious is the determining factor in life. The conscious is a thin superstructure definitely at the mercy of the deep cravings and urges originating in the unconscious. Several psychologists and philosophers before Freud had used the concept of the unconscious, but none of them had made it the pivot of psychology as Freud has done. Consequently, one may rightly say that Freuds point of view is a novel departure in Western thought.
The unconscious is 1ikewise the basic proposition of yoga. Its practice from beginning to end is a long-range plan to get at the unconscious by various methods and to destroy its generating power. As long as the unconscious retains its potency, the yogin does not consider himself to have made any progress. The essential part of mental life in both psychoanalysis and yoga is, therefore, the unconscious.
The role of the conscious in both systems is also the same. Its content is transitory and changing, like the flame that bends in all directions. Freud compares [BK 147] the conscious to a sense developed to meet the demands of the external world. We have already pointed out in a previous chapter how yoga also treats the conscious part of the mind as the sixth sense, assigning to it an assimilative function. Consciousness or awareness is not the whole of mind; it is only a quality or property an insignificant one at that of mental life which in its totality includes all the past experiences of the individual.
[BK 150] Yoga has also been confronted with the same difficulty in formulating the unconscious. The speculative schemes of the evolution of prakriti and the underlying thought of the same basic energy manifesting itself in different forms, as mind and body, have enabled yoga to conceive of the mind (citta) as a subtle material entity which is the depository of thought life. The unconscious ideas are said to exist in the citta as traces, potencies or impressions (vasanas). They are active and ever able to influence the conscious. The important point in connection with the yogic theory is that the mind, being a substance, can retain all the past ideas as traces. [BK 152] The theory of transmigration made necessary the continuity of a material individual mind that could pass from one organism to another.
[BK 155] Among other things, Jung diverges from Freud on this point and places only little emphasis on the infantile origin of the unconscious. Nor has he much use for Freuds concepts of repression, se+uality, and several others. He has broadened the unconscious to include a superpersonal or collective inheritance phylogenetically acquired. In every individual, in addition to the personal memories, there are also . . . the great primordial images, the inherited potentialities of human imagination. They have always been potentially latent in the brain structure. [Jung, C. G. Collected Papers on Analytical Psychology, 2d ed., 410; Moffat Yard and Company, 1917.] These dominants and archetypes which are projected on the analyst in the form of divinities, saviours, and magical demons are explicable on the basis of a racial level in the unconscious. To the question, whether these ideas are inherited as representations, Jung answers: I do not hereby assert the transmission of representations, but only the possibility of such representations, which is a very different thing. [Ibid.]
We need emphasize here only one fact: both Freud and Jung believe the unconscious contains something more than the personal experiences which, whatever be the difficulties in explaining, could be possible only through inheritance. Here again, yoga would agree with the psychoanalytic belief in the superpersonal content of the unconscious, but the emphasis placed upon it and the way of accounting for it are quite different.
Yoga believes that the unconscious contains the individual experiences of all the past lives and will continue to be effective until the passion for life has been [BK 156] forcefully conquered by burning the seeds of the latent deposits. The primal phantasies, dominants, and archetypes attributed by Jung to a collective unconscious and by Freud to phylogenetic inheritance can equally well be explained on an individual basis if the yogic theory of a subtle mental substance, which might constitute the principle of individuality, is accepted. Freud has pointed out that a childhood experience after having been long forgotten, might manifest its effect in later life. Why should not the same apply to the experiences of earlier lives? Theory of rebirth and a subtle mental substance in which the latent experiences could inhere are fundamental to the yogic concept of the unconscious. Not so in psychoanalysis because it lays particular emphasis on the ontogenetic unconscious, recognizing the superpersonal element of this unconscious just enough to admit a phylogenetic basis for it.
Just as psychoanalysis shows a bias for polarities and antitheses, as for example, pleasure-pain, life-death, love-hate, activity-passivity, etc., yoga too has shown a predilection for dualities. The most important of these linked opposites are love-hate, the seer and the seen (purusha-prakriti), passion-aversion (pleasure-pain), and life-liberation. The last duality, life-liberation, is not very different from the Freudian life-death antithesis, except that what yoga interprets as the urge for emancipation, cessation from life, Freud calls the instinct of death.
[BK 162] Freud has insisted from the very beginning that the analyst should not assume the role of a director or guide. He should refrain from imposing his own view on the patient as to what the latter should or should not do. Many of his adherents, on the other hand, think that there are patients who even after a successful analysis would need guidance. Such schools of analysis actively interfere with the life of the patient. To keep him from lapsing into the old ways, the patient is made to take up some study or occupation of absorbing interest, painting, clay-modelling, etc. This is a well-recognized device, found in all systems of psychotherapy, to break up the old habits and automatisms and initiate new ones. As far as yoga is concerned, every disciple is made to apply himself intensely to some one thing, usually the study of the Scriptures. During the first few years of yoga practice this is an absolute necessity.
The relation of the patient to the analyst and of the disciple to his guru (teacher) brings us to an element common in both systems. The phenomenon known as transference is well attested to by the experience of all analysts. As the hidden complexes are unearthed and as [BK 163] the analyst penetrates deeper into the hidden experiences of the psyche, the patient begins to objectify his emotions on the physician. He is sometimes loved and at other times hated, a phenomenon which has no parallel in yoga. This may be due to the difference in the approach to the patient. The yogic disciple, while not in intimate bond with the guru, is always under his watchful eye. But in analysis a session lasts for not more than an hour during which period the analyst makes a concentrated effort to get at the psychic complexes either by letting the patient relate his own story or by interpreting his dreams.
It is apparent, however, that the analyst and the guru are in a very real sense confessors. Whatever may be the law underlying this phenomenon, a psychic tension is at least partially relieved when related to an understanding soul. It has the effect of a mental purge a fact well recognized by the Catholic Church. The dependence on and devotion to the guru are vastly more important in yoga than in any other system of psychotherapy.
In conclusion it might be pointed out that therapeutic similarities exist between psychoanalysis and only the earlier phases of yoga. The higher stages of yoga are reached by psychophysical and mental exercises for which psychoanalysis has no parallel. [We are not to be understood to imply that there are no fundamental conceptual differences between psychoanalysis and yoga. On the contrary, such differences are many. The concept of repression, for example, which is central to the dynamics of psychoanalytic conflict is conspicuous by its absence in yoga.] Freuds depthpsychology would not be considered deep enough by yoga. The repressions of childhood and their uprooting by psychoanalysis may equip a man to meet [BK 164] successfully the problems of life. The method may be sufficient for the goal. But the spiritual objective of yoga, a release from the chain of existence, is attained only by a contrary procedure, the extinction of life-instinct itself. Can there be any two ideals more mutually opposed?
|Chapter XII Exercises in Concentration
[BK 213] It is our task in this chapter to explain the last stage of yoga, a stage which involves mental exercises or exercises in concentration. They are meant to influence directly the mind as against the gymnastic and breathing practices designed to control the body. The four stages comprise: sense-withdrawal (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), contemplation (dhyana), and trance (samadhi). Anyone who seeks precise theoretical distinctions between these four stages will be disappointed, for there is considerable overlapping and gradual but distinguishable development from one stage to another. For practical purposes, however, it is possible to differentiate each stage from the others.
It would be useful at this point to clarify the technical meaning of the word concentration in yogic terminology. In popular language the process implied by the word is one of intense application to a particular subject, to the exclusion of extraneous thoughts that have no relevance to the subject on hand. But within the circumscribed area, attention is allowed to range over innumerable ideas before a decision or solution is arrived at. One might characterize this as the intensification of the process of discursive reasoning within a [BK 214] narrow field. The mind, by an effort of the will, is made to limit its range, but within the chosen circle the stream of consciousness knows no cessation, passing from idea to idea and thought to thought. Reason and intellect function at their highest level of efficiency. If the attention is directed to an external happening, then the appropriate sense would also participate in the process.
How different is all this from the yogic idea of concentration may be easily grasped by the following consideration. The objective that the yogin lays before himself in practising the exercises is the complete elimination of thoughts, or, rather that of getting behind ~ activities and fluctuations of the citta or mind-stuff. The ideal is not reached until all thoughts are suppressed. To the mind as such, yoga attaches no importance, regarding it as an obstacle or veil, so to say, that hides the true self. When the yogin succeeds in suppressing the activities of the mind by means of his mental exercises, then he is said to have realized himself. This is the pure consciousness, untarnished by the modifications of the mind-stuff which usually result in sense-perception, reasoning, intellectual activities, etc.
To reach such a goal, the mind has to take a different turn and concentration has to be of an entirely different order. The yogin is advised, therefore, not to place a premium on discursive faculties, to ignore the primary as well as the secondary qualities of the object of concentration, and to retain just the bare idea of the object in the mind. Attention is to be narrowed down to a vague, qualityless point a kind of monoideism claimed to be essential for autohypnosis. The reader may gain [BK 215] some idea of this kind of concentration by gazing steadily at a minute object or by thinking continuously of the meaning of a word. This would result first in a cloudiness leading sometimes to a mental vacuum. The distinction in the use of the word concentration should convince us that as practised by yogins the process is one of regression, i.e., he begins with the fluctuating mindstuff with its propensity to fly from thought to thought; he then steadies the mind-stuff by practice and effort of the will, until at last by intense concentration even the steady mind and its single thought are surpassed.
After this digression we may turn now to the practical, if not the theoretical, differentiation of the four stages in the development of yogic mental practice. The exercises in concentration usually come after a few rounds of deep breathing (pranayama) and it is needless to reiterate that the practitioner continues to sit in one of the meditative postures described in a previous chapter. In pratyahara or the sense-withdrawal stage, a deliberate effort is made to diminish the impulses streaming in through the sense organs. The student attempts to establish a control over the senses which restrains the communication of external impressions to the mind. This is only the negative aspect. On the positive side, the physical exhilaration and mental passivity induced by the heavy breathing facilitate the sense-withdrawal.
The state of the mind in this condition may be thought of as one of detachment from the world, but in no way does it approach a rigid immobility. The yogin, for example, is alive, and advised to be so, to certain sensations in the body that are produced by the [BK 216] pranayamic breathing. It is claimed that certain vibrations are generated in the lower part of the spine. The impulses [BK 217] thus initiated are in some indirect way responsible for inducing those higher experiences that are yet to come. As one advances in his practices, these sensations are not confined to the 1ower part of the spine alone, but slowly ascend along the spine, step by step, until they reach the head. No doubt individual difference plays a part. It is claimed, for example, that in some people these vibrations may originate anywhere along the spine. Instead of vibrations, one may experience a sensation of throbbing.
To summarize: in pratyahara or the stage of sensewithdrawal one is responsive only to those stimuli that have a spiritual value. When the yogin finds that his mind is able to detach itself from those stimuli that are unnecessary and useless for his spiritual progress, he is ready for the next stage, dharana.
The word dharana means restricting the mind to one point. In practice, however, this stage is more comprehensive and connotes more than the literal meaning of the word would indicate. What is known as introversion of the mind, for example, plays a conspicuous role in dharana. While introversion and one-pointed concentration are both included in this stage, the former is only a step or aid in achieving the latter condition.
The practitioner is asked to let the continuous procession of thoughts, a kind of reverie which inevitably becomes real when relaxation follows upon pranayamic [BK 218] breathing, take its own course. The mind may observe the thoughts in this stream as they come and go without attempting to restrict or control them. The mind is turned on itself, becoming a disinterested spectator of its own processes. The precept has been well described thus:
Seat yourself for a while and allow your thoughts to take their own course freely. It behaves like a frisky monkey. Let the monkey jump about; wait and take note. Your thoughts will entertain ugly ideas, so ugly that you will be surprised. But day by day, these errings will become less numerous and less extensive. During the first months you will have a thousand thoughts; then you will have no more than seven hundred; and the number will progressively diminish. [Baudouin, C. Suggestion and Autosuggestion, 178; Dodd, Mead and Company, 1922.
The next development in introspective observation is one of singling out the thoughts. Up to this point the thoughts have been observed as a continuous stream, but now they are separated as distinct from one another. This is found, of course, to introduce a certain amount of artificial interference with the free flow of thoughts. In trying to observe each thought, one should make sure that the vague beginning, the rise, the highest peak, the fall, and the vague disappearance of each thought are well observed. Similarly, the next thought is taken as a separate entity and the student likewise follows its course. This procedure, according to yoga, reveals the fact that, although our thoughts appear to be continuous, in reality they are discrete.
Next, attention is to be directed to the interval between succeeding thoughts. One can understand the [BK 219] yogic contention that the most important part of this stage begins with the observation of the vacuous gap between successive thoughts, when one realizes that their immediate aim is to make the citta (mind) calm and still. Since thoughts are the fluctuations or modifications of the mind-stuff, it is impossible to reach this goal until they are eliminated. The interval, however, is free from fluctuations and consequently it is to the yogins a good handle, as it were, for the prolongation of the vacuous state and the suppression of the rising thought. He who succeeds in this endeavor may be said to be well on his way to succeed in yoga. The idea that the pure self lies hidden behind the thoughts is conveyed by a metaphor in which the mind is compared to a necklace of beads where every bead is a thought. The thread runs through all the beads, but its existence, because it is covered by the beads, is not obvious. By separating two beads the hidden thread is bared. Likewise, when the gap between two thoughts is prolonged, one gets a taste of what the pure self is like. All the studied introspective efforts of yoga, therefore, are only attempts to bring the mind to a thoughtless state which is then prolonged.
Another road open to the yogin to achieve his special goal is that of concentration, where attention is focussed on a point. If a flower is chosen as the object of concentration, there is no consideration of its size, weight, or any other qualities whatsoever; it is mentally reduced to a point and kept before the mind as a mere idea. Any thought about the qualities or relations of objects only leads to a perpetual succession of ideas and this is precisely what the yogin wants to avoid. However barren this kind of focussing of the attention may seem, yogins [BK 220] claim that one-pointed concentration is dynamic enough to reach deeper levels of consciousness.
The object chosen for concentration may be mental or physical, the latter being either external to the body or within it. It is a usual practice of yogins to concentrate on certain spots in the body the tip of the nose, the point between the eyebrows, the navel, etc. Imaginary objects also are sometimes employed.
Another method of creating a mental vacuum is by repeating innumerable times some sacred word like OM. The two letters in the word are separated and uttered distinctly at a pitch that is kept more or less uniform throughout the period of repetition.
Whatever the means, the goal is the same: to have before the mental eye nothing more than a bare idea. Attention remains spontaneously immobilized. An important point, the role of the will, should receive careful attention here. Does the yogin, in this state, have any sense of effort? In the initial stage of practice, before one gets used to holding the object for any considerable time, it may be necessary to exercise the will. But the [BK 221] yogins claim that until one is able to induce this as a matter of habit and without any feeling of effort, one cannot be considered to have advanced very far. Whatever the will may be in philosophic language, it is, to the psychologist, nothing more than a muscular adjustment, with the accompanying feeling of effort.
One of the tangible results of relaxation is the diminution of effort and progressive disappearance of the will. The greatest contribution of the Nancy school of Coué is the demonstration that autosuggestion, to be effective, must be practised in that somnolent state just before sleep and after waking. To relax is passively to withdraw into ourselves a condition contrary to the activities of the waking hours where the will is more or less an important determinant.
It would seem, therefore, that in the mental exercises of yoga a progressive relaxation is also accompanied by the diminution of the will until at last in the highest stage, that of samadhi, a complete paralysis of the will is reached. The will may intervene in the early stages to give a general twist to the mind in the direction of introversion and also to bring the wandering one-pointed object or idea again and again before the mental eye. But once the habit is developed, effort is replaced by spontaneity and, instead of having the attention hold the object, the object holds the attention.
The next stage, dhyana (meditation), in spite of its many points of likeness to the previous one, is technically considered a step beyond concentration (dharana). In actual fact both are merely stages of concentration. Even those who are not given to yogic practices may sometimes legitimately claim that they, too, can [BK 222] concentrate though only for a short period; hence the question arises whether this can be classed as dharana or dhyana. To make a practical distinction, yogins have introduced the time factor. In pranayamic breathing, a holding period of a 12-second duration is usually considered the lower limit. The upper limit is 108 seconds. A dharana would then be twelve times pranayama, i.e., lower limit 144 seconds and the upper limit 1296 seconds, and a dhyana twelve times dharana.
There is, in addition to the quantitative factor, a qualitative difference between dharana and dhyana. The nature of the object of concentration in the dharana stage is invariably gross; during dhyana, on the contrary, the gross matter disappears and leaves in its place the subtle infra-atomic constituents which make up the ultimate elements of matter. The gross objects begin to give way to their subtle form. The ability to perceive these subtle things depends on the purity of the concentrating mind. Some minds do not advance beyond the gross matter, but those that do are able to penetrate deeper levels. By passing through varying degrees of subtlety the yogin finally reaches the last state, trance-contemplation (samadhi).
Since samadhi is the last of the eight stages and the goal towards which all efforts are directed, it is important to understand the nature of the yogins experiences in this condition. Even here several grades are said to exist and the one quality which characterizes them all is the relative or total loss of subject-object awareness. That state in which the mind is one with the object (artha), together with the concept (jnana) and the name (sabda), called savitarka, is the lowest kind of [BK 223] samadhi. The object remains gross because it is identified with concept and name. In short, the associations formed in our waking life still persist.
The next stage of samadhi, nirvitarka, is a grade higher than the above, in that the associations of name and concept are dropped off. The object is just the object without predicate relations. In the savicara prajna, the grossness of the object is no longer felt; its place is taken by the subtle constituents of matter (tanmatras). Perception, if one may call it such, is determinate because the tanmatras are subject to time, space, and causality. In the fourth kind of samadhi, nirvicara, the tanmatras are finally dispossessed of the conceptual notions of time, etc.
These four stages are also called conscious-samadhi (samprajnata-samadhi), because there is, though only vaguely, a union between the subject and the object; the object is, so to say, still there. The buddhi continues to function as long as the object remains and the feeling of personality, accompanied by deliberation (vitarka), reflection (vicara), and joy (ananda), persists.
But the yogins aim is to surpass the citta stage entirely. This condition is reached in the superconscious-samadhi (asamprajnata-samadhi). Prakriti (nature), through citta, does not bind the purusha any more, the sense of personality and the resultant joy are no longer experienced. The ultimate truth dawns on the yogin and the purusha abides in itself. Inasmuch as it is not possible to remain in this condition indefinitely, complete deliverance is attained only after death.
Yoga claims, as we have mentioned before, that our ordinary knowledge is vitiated by concepts dealing with the general characteristics of things. This artificial cloak [BK 224] a veritable symbolic structure keeps us from knowing things as they are. Consequently, the superconscious perception is the door that leads to a new insight, an insight which is considered superior to the knowledge derived through perception, inference, and valid testimony. If our language is not an effective vehicle for conveying this experience, it is because it deals with a different order of reality. Frequently, however, the yogin warns us that his negative description should not mislead us into thinking that it is a state of nescience. Consciousness in its purest form, with the potentiality for ideation, remains. It is not a negative state of absolute silence and darkness, but one of pure consciousness free from thoughts a mill that does not grind.
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