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    The Psychology Of Yoga

    The philosophy of Yoga and the psychology behind its practice—the two are bound up together in such a way that any consideration of the one inevitably has to simultaneously take into account the other, because the practice of Yoga is laid upon the basis of a psycho-philosophical background. The philosophy of Yoga and the psychology of Yoga are present not only as a background to this science of Yoga, but also as the basis for the practice of the Yogic processes. It is upon this basis that the different practices have been formulated and presented and this point should be borne in mind always, not only when we make a study of Yoga, but also when we actually practise the different Angas of Yoga. Only then will the practice become more meaningful to us and only then can the practice itself be done in a right way and in a rational way. If this Yoga practice is to be effective, you must know why you are engaging in this practice, what this practice is supposed to achieve for you, what you are expected to gain out of this practice, and what the effect of this practice is supposed to be upon your own nature, upon your own spiritual state. Otherwise, there would be no terms of reference by which you can ascertain whether the practice is actually proceeding in the right direction or not, whether it is bearing fruits step by step or not. Upon what hypothesis, upon what thesis will you judge whether your Yoga practice is progressive or stagnant, whether it is fruitful or sterile? How can you make out? It is only when you have a certain frame of reference with which you can tally your practice from time to time that you will be in a position to engage in your practice meaningfully, in an effective and satisfactory manner. And that is why it is necessary to bear in mind the psycho-philosophical basis of these Yoga practices even while you are engaged in them.

    Warding off Painful Experiences—The Main Motivation Behind All Human Activity

    In the last chapter we saw a broad outline of the philosophy behind Patanjali’s Yoga Darshana. An analysis of the present condition of the individual shows that he is subject to many afflictions and painful experiences, many limitations and imperfections, upon the physical level and upon the psychological level—hunger and thirst, pleasure and pain, elation and depression, what they call Harsha-Soka, Sukha-Duhkha. So, bodily and mentally, the pattern of experience of the common individual does not seem to be very, very satisfactory, very desirable even, not at all beautiful. Most human beings are constantly engaged in an endless struggle of warding off painful experiences, of keeping at bay experiences that are distressing, that cause great discomfort and inconvenience. If you analyse human activity, you find that it is inextricably interconnected and interwoven with human experiences; and most of the activities are a reaction called up or thrown forth to counter these experiences, to try to change them, to try to overcome them, to try to nullify them, to try to eliminate them. So, we cannot say that human activity is in a large measure anything creative, anything gainful. It is all negative. Nothing comes out of it, except that you try to escape from bad experiences and manage to get rid of something here and something there which you do not want. It is not that you have brought forth something wonderful. So, it is neither constructive nor creative, neither gainful nor really meaningful. But, it is seen to be petty, Alpa. The Upanishad calls it Alpa. Constantly, a vast aggregate of the human race on this earth is engaged in a never-ending process of trying to ward off painful experiences, try to get rid of suffering and pain, that which it does not want. Duhkham Ma Bhuyat: Let no sorrow befall. That is the motivation. That is the idea behind most human activity. “I do not wish sorrow; I do not wish pain; I do not wish discomfort; I do not wish to have inconvenience and suffering.” So, it is not a gainful process. It is not a creative or a constructive process. Life goes on like this in this struggle.

    When you consider this aspect of human activity and endeavour, you find that it is not so much an original activity, due to human will or human initiative, but something forced upon the human individual. Willy-nilly he is compelled to engage in these activities, not out of his own volition, but due to the force of circumstances or outer conditions. In the light of this situation, the ancient seers tried to find out what was the cause of this. They asked themselves: “Why has this situation arisen? How has this situation come about?”. And as a result of their intuitive discoveries, they came out with this knowledge that these experiences stem from an unfortunate involvement of a being who really is not subject to these experiences, who is in a pristine state, who is in his own independent native state, who is always in a state of perfect bliss, freedom and joy. So, this is an unnatural condition, an abnormal condition, resulting from an involvement in a factor which Yoga Shastras call the phenomenal nature or Prakriti. And, due to involvement in this Prakriti, the Purusha, who is a perfect being, independent, free from all afflictions, weeps and wails. So they said: “We shall try to formulate a method by which there may be brought about once again the isolation of the Purusha from this involvement, by which there may be brought about once again a separation of these two factors—Purusha and Prakriti—the coming together of which has resulted in all sorts of suffering”.

    The Nature of Purusha’s Involvement in Prakriti—The Interplay of the Three Gunas

    What is the form of this involvement of the Purusha in Prakriti? In what way is Purusha involved in Prakriti? What is Prakriti? In what way is it present? Advaita Vedanta uses the term Maya also with reference to this phenomenal nature and the Gita gives a certain extent of information, a certain hint that this Prakriti is made out of three Gunas—they call it qualities for want of a better term—or three states of being, namely, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. This divine cosmic illusory power called Prakriti comprises three Gunas. And Prakriti herself is present in the form of the gross physical body, the vital power that manifests as the living breath, the senses that are situated in the physical body with their natural urges towards their respective sense-objects, and the inner man, the inner being, in the form of thinking and feeling, in the form of remembering and recollecting, in the form of reasoning and willing. It is due to your involvement in this Prakriti that you are experiencing this present state of a mixture of joy and sorrow, a constantly fluctuating mixed state, like a person tasting in the mouth an equal mixture of sand and sugar. One moment you feel the sweetness; another moment the teeth grind upon the sand particles and you feel very bad about it. When it is said that the Purusha is involved in Prakriti in its variegated modes as the gross physical body, the senses, the inner Prana, mind, intellect, memory and ego, all these go to make up the sum-totality of your individual human personality. All these represent the Prakriti in its various aspects. And the involvement of the Purusha in these aspects of Prakriti necessarily affects their manifestation or expression. It affects the way in which your mind expresses itself, your feelings express themselves, your thoughts express themselves. It affects the way in which your senses manifest their nature and your body displays its dynamics in its various movements in the form of restlessness, in the form of wanting to be active, in the form of hunger, in the form of various desires to eat, drink and rest, to sleep and to move about. These manifestations constantly keep you in a state of restlessness and agitation, and also drag you out of your innermost centre and forcibly bring you out into contact with the external universe of names and forms, of temporary things. And Prakriti being a composition of the three Gunas, the manifestations and movements of these various aspects of Prakriti—inner and outer, psychological and physical—also tend to fall under one or the other of these Guna categories. All this came in for the study of the ancient seers. They observed the human individual, observed his nature, in just the same way as a modern scientist would observe an ants’ colony in a glass case, day after day, keeping the ants some food and observing them by day and by night, how they go after food, what their activities are, what their nature is, what code of conduct they have got, what their laws of behaviour are and so on. In a like manner, the ancient seers, the great scientists of the inner man, observed the human individual, his nature, his behaviour and his experience. And they studied the various manifestations of the different modes of Prakriti in the human individual within the area of framework of his nature. They made a study of how Sattva manifested in man, how Rajas manifested and how Tamas manifested.

    An urge to activity, a constant restlessness, a tendency to movement, was the effect of the Rajas in Prakriti. Everything ugly, negative, anti-social and destructive was the result of the manifestation of the Tamas in Prakriti. Everything beautiful, sublime, elevating, refined and subtle was seen to be the effect of the manifestation of the Sattva in Prakriti. When we say “Prakriti”, you should not have in your mind the picture of some goddess or some lady creating a lot of trouble. It is not like that. Prakriti is only a word to indicate a cosmic principle which is in the form of a force. It is not so much a power as a force. Power is exercised or wielded, whereas force just manifests itself, carries everything before it. Prakriti is therefore a cosmic force, a cosmic principle which is in the form of a force, manifesting upon different levels. When this force manifests upon one level, it is said to be Tamasic. When this force manifests upon another level, it is said to be Rajasic. And when this force manifests upon yet another level, a third level, it is said to be Sattvic. And, on all these three levels, it keeps on manifesting. How this goes on has been hinted at in the famous Bhagavad Gita which is both a Brahma Vidya and a Yoga Shastra. They have hinted at a cyclic manifestation of this Prakriti wherein sometimes Sattva predominates overriding Rajas and Tamas, sometimes Rajas predominates overriding Sattva and Tamas, and sometimes Tamas predominates overriding Sattva and Rajas.

    Svabhava—The Individual’s Pre-acquired Pattern of Samskaras and Vasanas

    Quite apart from this aspect of the movement of the three Gunas of Prakriti, there is another even more important aspect of the presence of these three Gunas of Prakriti in human nature, and that more important aspect is also to be grasped only upon the basis of philosophy. Philosophy behind and beyond Yoga has expounded the presence of recurring embodiments for the Purusha as long as the Purusha has not succeeded in dissociating himself from Prakriti and regaining his splendid isolation, his pristine independent condition. As long as that is not achieved, there is ever-recurring embodiment for the Purusha, and in each new embodiment the Purusha comes with a pre-acquired background condition. What is this pre-acquired background condition? When you have completed one page in an accounts book and you have to start upon a fresh page, you bring forward to the beginning of the fresh page the last entry that is at the end of the previous page. That will be the basis of commencement of fresh entries upon the new page. Thus, the fresh page is not a blank page. It already commences with a starting background condition. It is already there. Whether it is a credit or a debit or whatever it is, it is there. In a similar manner, at the time of each embodiment, you come into this world with a certain pre-acquired pattern of Samskaras and Vasanas, of impressions and innate tendencies, latent tendencies, which already have set the pattern of your nature in this fresh embodiment. So, this condition in which you start your life, commence your career, human career, with a certain set pattern, with an intermixture of Rajas, Tamas and Sattva in a certain ratio, is the state of Prakriti in you, is your inborn Prakriti, your built-in Prakriti state. And this is an even more important aspect of the presence of Prakriti in you than the cyclic manifestation of the three Gunas in Prakriti continuing in a sort of an ever-recurring movement within you. This condition in which you come into the world with a certain set pattern of the Prakriti with its three Gunas is indeed a very vital factor, because this decides the exact form in which the cyclic manifestation of the three Gunas will take place in you.

    Will Prakriti keep on manifesting in you as the truthfulness of Harischandra or Yudhishthira or George Washington who, as the story goes, cut down an apple tree in the garden and confessed it to his father? Or, will the three Gunas manifest in you as a compromising attitude—an attitude where if it is not too inconvenient, you will stick to truth, but if it is likely to bring suffering to you, you will not mind uttering a falsehood? Or, will Rajas and Tamas manifest in you as a downright lying habit, so much as to say that you are born with a tendency to speak only false, never to utter truth? What decides the nature of manifestation of the three Gunas of Prakriti in you? The deciding factor is the background nature which you have already acquired and brought along with you when you have come into this present embodiment, into this fresh page of your account book. It is your background nature that decides the exact form, the exact Rupa-Rekha, the exact blueprint, of the dynamics of the recurring manifestation of the three Gunas in you—the precise form in which Prakriti will manifest in your particular character, in your particular individuality. And this background nature brought forward from previous births will differ from person to person. In a family there may be seven children, say, two daughters and five sons. In each one, the cyclical manifestation of the three Gunas will be there, the ever-changing pattern of their manifestation will be there. But the exact form in which this changing pattern will express itself in actuality may be completely different in each one of the children, though they are born of the same parents, brought up in the same home and environment, fed with the same food. It will be completely different, because of this other aspect of each one’s involvement in Prakriti, namely, the ratio in which the three Gunas of Prakriti happen to be present in the background nature, in the foundation, in the pre-acquired built-in born nature. We call this foundation nature by the name “Svabhava”. Svabhava will never change. The foundation will never change. One can go on altering the building, the superstructure, demolishing and remodelling and all that, but the foundation is unalterably there, and upon that foundation only all the remodelling will have to be done. So, the foundational aspect of your involvement in Prakriti is a very important factor.

    The Animal in Man—The Problem of the Unregenerate Human Individual

    The ancient Rishis, having known both these aspects of Purusha’s involvement in Prakriti, namely, the presence of Prakriti in man and the manifestation of Prakriti in his nature, went on studying the two aspects. For the purpose of this study, they went deep within themselves, directed the attention of their concentrated mind upon each subject, and performed a certain very, very unique spiritual exercise upon that subject to know all the ins and outs about that subject. That spiritual exercise was called Samyama. As you proceed in Raja Yoga, you will come across this Samyama, which is an inner spiritual process made up of concentration and meditation and an intense superconscious state of cognition, of perception. A simultaneous practice of all these three put together, namely, concentration, meditation and Samadhi, directed upon a particular subject, is Samyama. Through such Samyama upon human nature, upon human behaviour, upon the inner man, the Yogis of old discovered various truths. Through such Samyama, through intuitive experiences, through a direct vision of man and things, they studied and learnt about the manifestations of the different aspects of Prakriti in different subjects. In man they discovered that the manifestations of Prakriti were sublime in some cases, neutral in some, and very degenerate and very ugly in others. Upon the very lowest end of the scale, they found that the involvement of Purusha in Prakriti resulted in Tamasic manifestations like cruelty, violence, a tendency to cause suffering, to injure, to hurt, to destroy, a dire propensity of inhuman nature. And they said that this was also a part of human nature. In common terminology, we say, “He is a very devil, he has got the devil in him, he is a devilish person”. So, there is a devil in man. But, in metaphysical terminology, they call it the animal in man, because this propensity to attack, injure, hurt, destroy, cause pain and suffering, this violence is the law of the jungle. It is a common feature of the animal state of existence. So, within the human being, the involvement of Purusha with Prakriti, upon the lowest gross level, resulted in the unfortunate expression of animal propensities.

    Also, an animal leads, through the whole of its life, a gross body-bound existence; its life is confined to the satisfaction of hunger, thirst, sex and sleep. That is animal life. Sex is there, because the law of biological evolution requires that the species should not become extinct. Therefore, for the continuity of the species, reproduction is indispensable, and for the process of reproduction, sex activity becomes an inevitable part of the biological, physical animal. It is because of sex that over millions of years different species have continued to exist. They are still there, and in spite of so much in nature that tries to destroy them, they continue to be there, thanks to this in-built sex mechanism, this reproductive process in the biological, evolutionary scheme of things for life on earth ordained by some mysterious superconscious being. So, these characteristics of sex, hunger, thirst and sleep form the root nature of life on earth. The whole life is nothing but a constant effort to satisfy hunger, thirst, sex and sleep and this is present in the animal man. So far, it is all right. Its presence is no dire calamity or disaster. But, if it becomes the more dominant part of your life-style, then it becomes a dangerous predicament, because you have reached a level where the biological evolution has brought you to the peak point, where quite another aspect of evolution is supposed to commence. From the peak point of the biological evolution, ethical and spiritual evolution is about to start, and as long as you allow the brute nature in you to become the dominant factor in your life-style, this will never commence, this will never be launched—this other evolution at the commencement of which you have arrived, from where you have to ascend higher and higher ultimately to become God. You are, after all, the Purusha, divine, eternal, all-perfect. But, as long as your whole nature is only a manifestation of violence, destruction, sex satisfaction, cunningness and devious dishonesty, the necessary process of ascent will never start. That will never start. So, it becomes a great calamity.

    So, what happens? The human personality becomes the unfortunate playground for the qualities of violence, carnal passion, untruth, falsehood, deception, dishonesty, acquisition and an ever-expanding process of sense satisfaction. No satiation. The more you have, the more you want, and in more ways you want to satisfy your senses, in more ways you want to give satisfaction to the animal in you. You want to go on satisfying the senses of sight, taste, sound, touch and smell. There is no end to this ever-progressive, ever-expanding sensuality, to this unsatisfied desire to grab and accumulate and acquire by hook or by crook, to this type of dishonest life-style. So, this is the problem of the unregenerate human individual and the science of Yoga sets about tackling this basic problem of the unregenerate human individual personality dominated by the animal level of his nature. And the first liberation of man from Prakriti has to be from this direct manifestation of Tamo-Guna, the grossest state of Prakriti’s threefold nature. And so, Patanjali commences the Yoga discipline by saying that the first and foremost task is to come to grips with the animal in you, to get involved in a tussle with the animal in you and try to overcome it. Refuse to give in to the urge for violence, for injury, for hurting others, the urge for causing destruction either by thought, word or deed, by any movement of your personality. Refuse. Make a strong determination that from you nothing but humanity will manifest, never the animal. Tell yourself: “Now I have awakened to the fact that there is the animal in me. I am no more going to be a stage for the manifestation of the animal in me. I have determined that the stage will be cleared of the animal in me and only the human will manifest”. This is the first Yogic determination, the first Yogic vow. You take a vow in order to make a strong determination. You take a Pratijna. In this manner, in Yoga, where philosophy and psychology form the basis of practice, the commencement of practice is to counter man’s involvement in Prakriti in its grossest aspect. This is the Abhyasa of Yama, the first Anga of Yoga.

    Philosophy, Phychology and Practice of Yoga -- | Preface | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 |17 | 18 | 19

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