Psychological dimensions of Yoga

Swami Satyananda in Musium Hall, Copenhagen

Great psychologists predicted that the present technological revolution would create new psychological problems before a person. Their predictions have come true. The modern mind is absolutely sick. Man has no peace. Electrical gadgets, computers and other automation devices have reduced the labour work and has given man much leisure time. He does not know how to utilize his time creatively, he spends his time in nerve exciting amusements through which he tries to forget himself. His psychological problems are piling up day by day. Family problems, economic problems, problem of not keeping good health, problems of not being clever, many problems and fears are constantly assailing him. Worries, anxieties, jealousies, hatreds, sorrows, problems of death, problem of sex, etc. and many other problems make his mind absolutely restless. Modern man has become absolutely mechanical, because everything is done for him by machines, he lives as if in a dream, not knowing what he is doing and why he is doing. Modern civilization has placed before man all sorts of comforts and amusements but, unfortunately, he has lost his appetite for them. His mind is in torment, in sorrow and in tension, his mental sickness prevents him from enjoying them.

There was a time in India when it was at the peak of material prosperity and it was at the peak of its civilisation and at that time mental tensions came to its citizens just as they are overtaking the countries of the West today. Where there is wealth and prosperity, the mind becomes lazy, the mind comes to a point of stagnation and in that outer mind comes all kinds of vices, worries and neuroses and it was at that time that there appeared in India the sage Kapil with his system of Samkhya Yoga. Kapil expounded the Yoga philosophy. In his philosophy Kapil did not discuss the topic of God. Later, during the period of Lord Buddha, Rishi Patanjali modified Kapila's Samkhya philosophy and presented it in the form of his Yoga Sutras, he defines Yoga as a science of mental control, which is the complete control over all the dimensions of personality and various patterns of behaviour.

There is a word in Sanskrit which is called ‘Chitta’, which means consciousness, or awareness. The awareness. The awareness in man is known as Chitta, because if is through the Chitta that awareness takes place. The mental, the unconscious, subconscious perceptions take place here. The principle element in man through which he knows everything is Chitta, known as consciousness or awareness. It is through awareness that we see, hear, understand and remember the experience of deep sleep state. This consciousness is unconditioned and pure but when it associates itself with the body, the mind and the intellect, it becomes conditioned by these limiting and confining adjuncts and considers itself in bondage.

According to Yoga, awareness is different from the body and when this awareness disassociates itself from the body, mind and intellect, it becomes free or liberated. This awareness is pure bliss. This is infinite and free from all limitations. It has neither form, nor name, yet pervades all forms of life. It is more manifested in human species than lower forms of animals, vegetables and minerals. Just as butter is present in milk in unmanifest from, or fire is present in wood in unmanifest form, so also principle of consciousness is hidden behind all forms of life. This principle of consciousness is known as 'Purusha' and the various form of life through which it expresses itself are termed as the effects of 'Prakriti'. This Prakriti or nature is the vehicle, it is the instrument, through which consciousness (Purusha) is manifesting through the various doors of perception. Prakriti or nature, according to the Samkhya system of Kapil, is composed of twenty four elements or these twenty four tattwas are the effects Prakriti.

Our body consist of these twenty four tattwas which are five organs of perception such as eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue; five organs of actions such as the feet, hands, excretory organs, organs of procreation and organ of speech; five fold pranas i.e. prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana; the five elements i.e. either, air, fire, water and earth, and four internal principles of thinking, feeling, remembering and ego. Thus in all, there are twenty four tattwas. Through the five organs of perception, we gain knowledge of the external world, sound, touch, form, taste and smell are the attributes of the ear, skin, eyes, tongue and nose. The five organs of actions are responsible for all our external physical activities such as walking, speech, procreation, excretion and physical work. The five pranas fulfil the purpose of inhalation, digestion, circulation and maintenance of body. The four internal equipments of mind, intellect, subconscious and ego enable us to be aware of internal world of thoughts feeling, emotions, reasoning, willing and desiring, etc. These are the twenty four principles which constitute matter or Prakriti in which the consciousness is lying hidden like fire in wood.

The purpose of Yoga is to withdraw our consciousness which is imprisoned in the cage of matter. Purusha or consciousness is to be withdrawn from the cage of the body through the practice of Yogic exercises and through meditation.

When the consciousness manifests itself through the body, it superimposes upon itself the attributes of body, mind and intellect and it begins to feel pains, pleasures, heat, cold, hunger and thirst, which in essence belong only to body and mind. Yoga prescribes a series of practices through which the consciousness detaches itself from the influence of the body and mind, and realizes its inherent bliss and unconditioned nature. Meditation is a systematic and organized technique for the detachment of the consciousness.

People feel that the moment they close their eyes, they start meditation, but it is not so. Meditation is that process which enables you to realize this consciousness in you. How can we realize this awareness in us, when our minds are so extrovert? We will have to discover some method for ourselves through which we can successfully withdraw our consciousness from the external world. The world of objects and events reach us through the doors of perception consisting of the eyes, nose, tongue and skin. Just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs at will, similarly through Yogic practices, mind and sense organs are to be withdrawn from their respective object.

When all doors of perception are closed, your mind will communicate with the consciousness inside. But the senses are so turbulent and mischievous that they do not allow us to commune with the consciousness within. The senses are very powerful and drag the mind off the track. They make it impossible to concentrate on the object.

The Bhagavad Gita very aptly explains that just as a powerful wind tosses a small boat in various directions, or prevents the boat from reaching its destiny, in the same way, the turbulent senses mislead the mind, do not allow it to get a glimpse of the divine self. Therefore, in Yoga, the emphasis is always given to the control of the body, pranas, senses and the mind. Through Hatha Yoga, the body is controlled, through pranayama, vital airs are controlled, through the practice of Japa Yoga and Trataka the consciousness is withdrawn from the external world. This is known as 'Pratyahara'.

The whole process of Yoga can be divided into two parts. The first part is the negation of the outer consciousness and the second part is expansion of inner consciousness. The first part of Yoga aims at shutting, closing the doors of perception and the second part of Yoga provides a direction to the released consciousness which expands till it becomes infinite. The second stage can be practiced when the first stage has been perfected. To make it more clear, when the withdrawal of consciousness is complete, you should take to the process of expansion of consciousness.

The withdrawal and expansion of consciousness can be brought about with the help of mantra. Every mantra has two aspects, they are name or sound and form or symbol. The name or sound aspect of the mantra will withdraw your consciousness from the external world. This is the process of negation. The form or symbol aspect of the mantra will expand your inner consciousness till it merges in Self-awareness. Thus it must be borne in your mind that both the name and form aspects of mantra are to be practiced.

Thus if you repeat only the mantra, but do not concentrate on a form, you will enter into unconscious state and if you neglect name or sound aspect, but practice concentration on the form or symbol, you will have to struggle for lives after lives. As such, in Yoga, it is stated by Patanjali that through repetition of the mantra, you bring about that state where you forget everything that is taking place outside, i.e. you transcended the outer consciousness, but then what are you going to do? You have taken a jump into the ocean, but if you do not know swimming, you are going to drown, and therefore through name or sound aspect of mantra, when you have withdrawn your consciousness to one point, unless you take the form or symbol and allow consciousness to work over it, you will surely land in unconsciousness.

There are many varieties of forms to choose from. When your mind has become completely blank and there is absolutely emptiness inside, you should take a suitable form for meditation. It is with the help of that form that the expansion of consciousness takes place.

When the expansion of consciousness occurs, the fourth dimension of consciousness is experienced and that fourth dimension of consciousness can manifest itself in any form. It may be a flower, a person, a triangle, an animal or anything. When the forth dimension of consciousness manifests, one looses the sense of differentiation and the medium which brought this expansion assumes reality and appears to occupy space and exists in time. Consciousness becomes one with the medium, giving deep insight into the nature of medium.

One becomes fully convinced that all mediums are nothing but forms of consciousness. When the person gets direct realization of this experience, the scriptures state that the man attains liberation. But this liberation is not the salvation of the Bible, nor it is the Nirvana of Buddha or Moksha of Vedanta. This liberation is complete freedom from the tensions, agonies, suffering of this life. This state can be achieved by anyone belonging to any stage of life. For the practice of this Yoga, wherever you are, you are accepted as a true student of Yoga.

There are two purposes of Yoga. The positive purpose is the experience of peace and bliss, whereas the negative purpose is the elimination of suffering from the sub-conscious. Though the aim of Yoga is liberation, it should be understood that there are many basic human urges and the key to their fulfilment lies with Yoga. Therefore, you should accept Yoga as a way of life. If we spend at least half an hour or forty five minutes in the morning, we are trying to make our life more complete, we are trying to make our life more perfect.

When we have coolers, when we have vacuum cleaners and so many things, in order to give peace, rest, comfort to the body, let us also accept Yoga as a means to peace for our soul and mind.

I have made experiments on meditation through encephalography. I have conducted researches of advanced pranayama through electric cardiograms. I can tell you definitely how meditation effects and controls the brain reflexes. At one time I used to feel that not everybody should practice meditation, it is dangerous, but now my misapprehension is removed.

According to psychologists, there is state of relaxation for the brain and that state of relaxation of the brain is achieved by the control over different glands in the body. Every expert endocrinologist will tell you that gland secretions control human behaviour, human mind, human health and the human conditions.