Teachings of Sri Swamiji

Psychology of Yoga

Great psychologists predicted that the present technological revolution would create new psychological problems for mankind. 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 have 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, problems 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, problems of sex, and many other problems make his mind absolutely restless.

Modern man has become absolutely mechanical, because everything is done for him by mechanical means, 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 at the peak of its civilization. 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 come all kinds of vices, worries and neuroses. It was at that time that there appeared in India the sage Kapila with his system of Samkhya yoga. Kapila expounded the yoga philosophy. In his philosophy, Kapila did not discuss the topic of God. Later, during the period of Lord Buddha, Rishi Pantanjali modified Kapila’s Samkhya philosophy and presented it in the form of his Yoga Sutras. Here he defines yoga as a science of mental control, which is the complete control over all the dimensions of personality and the various patterns of behaviour.

In Sanskrit chitta means consciousness or awareness. The awareness in man is known as chitta because it is through the chitta that awareness takes place. The mental, the subconscious and unconscious 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 the 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. It 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 in lower forms of animals, vegetables and minerals. Just as butter is present in milk in unmanifest form, or fire is present in wood in unmanifest form, so also the principle of consciousness is hidden behind all forms of life.

This principle of consciousness is known as purusha and the various forms of life through which it expresses itself are termed as the effects of prakriti. This prakriti, or nature, is the vehicle, the instrument through which consciousness, purusha, is manifesting through the various doors of perception.

Prakriti, according to the Samkhya system of Kapila, is composed of twenty-four elements, or these twenty-four tattwas are the effects of prakriti. Our body consists of these twenty-four tattwas which are the five organs of perception: eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue; the five organs of action: the feet, hands, excretory organs, organ of procreation and organ of speech; the five-fold pranas: prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana; the five elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth; and the 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 ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose. The five organs of action 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 the body. The four internal equipments of mind, intellect, subconscious and ego enable us to be aware of the 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 the body, mind and intellect, and it begins to feel pain, pleasure, heat, cold, hunger and thirst, which in essence belong only to the 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 the 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 reaches us through the doors of perceptions consisting of the eyes, ears, 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 objects. 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 and 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 tratak 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 the 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 a mantra. Every mantra has two aspects: name or sound and form or symbol. The sound aspect of the mantra will withdraw your consciousness from the external world. This is the process of negation. The form aspect of the mantra will expand your inner consciousness till it merges in self-awareness. It must be borne in your mind that both the name and form aspects of mantra are to be practiced

If you repeat only the mantra but do not concentrate on a form, you will enter into the unconscious state and if you neglect the sound aspect but practice concentration on the form or symbol, you will have to struggle for lives after lives.

As such it is stated by Patanjali that in yoga, through repetition of the mantra you bring about that state where you forget everything that is taking place outside. You have transcended the outer consciousness, but now 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. Therefore through the 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 absolute 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 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 fourth dimension of consciousness manifests, one loses the sense of differentiation, and the medium which brought this expansion assumes reality and appears to occupy space and exist 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 is it the nirvana of Buddha, nor the moksha of Vedanta. This liberation is complete freedom from the tensions, agonies and 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, whatever 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 subconscious. Though the aim of yoga is liberation, it should be understood that there are many basic human urges and the key to their fulfillment lies with yoga. Therefore, you should accept yoga as a way of life. If we give half an hour or forty-five minutes in the morning to yoga, we are trying to make our life more complete, we are trying to make our life more perfect.

—Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, 1973, first published in YOGA Vol.14, No. 10 (October 1976)