Psychology defines mental illness as an altered state of mind where the idea and concept of reality changes into something different. Schizophrenia and phobias are gradually becoming part of the mental illnesses which people face in their life.
In yoga, the concept of mental illness is not new. It is as old as the knowledge of physical illness. In the Ramacharitamanas, mental illnesses have been defined as being mano rog. There are six sources of mano rog, the mental illnesses: kama, krodha, lobha, moha, mada, matsarya – passion, anger, greed, infatuation, arrogance and envy. These are the causes of distorted mental behaviour, which manifest in the form of mental illness.
The entire yogic discipline is geared to manage the six stressors. They are called stressors, for from them stress arises. The entire system of yoga, pratyahara, dharana and dhyana, are systems which are geared to harmonize the negative spikes of the six conditions in the mind. When the negative spikes of the six conditions are managed, one is free from mental illnesses, however, as long as one is not able to manage the mind, one will have to confront one’s mental problems.
Yoga has been clear. Whatever modern name is given to lunacy, psychotic behaviour, schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder, one is only creating a name to understand an existing condition. These names do not mean anything, but the causes mean much, as from there everything comes up, therefore, the six seeds have to be managed properly.
Once the six conditions are managed, one is free from one’s self-created problems. Most of the problems which human beings face are self-created based on their perception and level of understanding. People have to know their mind, deal with their mind, and stop projecting their mind on other people.
One of the main teachings of our paramguru, Sri Swami Sivananda, was the cultivation of pratipaksha bhavana. It was not the practice of mantra or meditation, asana and pranayama that he advocated. He advocated the practice of pratipaksha bhavana. It is the positive connection of mind where one disassociates with one’s tamasic nature and connects with the positive nature.
For Swami Sivananda, yoga teaching is insignificant and the practice of yoga is insignificant. For him, being the right person, doing the right thing, thinking the right thing is of primary concern. This is a quality that has to be developed by understanding the idea of pratipaksha bhavana.
For example, there cannot be loose and irresponsible speech. If there is loose talk, then there is no sanyam, restraint, there is no attainment of yoga. If there is sanyam, one is connected with positive expression, positive behaviour, positive thinking. At that time, even anger can become positive. Passion and desire can become positive, provided one is connected to the sattwic aspect of oneself and not the negative and detrimental.
What you are reflects in your speech, your behaviour, in how you hide things and project a side of yourself which is not true but which is hypocrisy. Only talking about the meaning and definition of the six friends, the six seeds, is not going to help you in any manner. Connecting with the luminous, the sattwic nature, will help you for it will help change and transform the expression of your thought and actions.
Pratipaksha bhavana leads to sadvichar, sadvyavahar and satkarma. That is the aim of cultivating the opposite thought. It leads you to the development of right thinking, sadvichar; right behaviour, sadvyavahar; and right action, satkarma. Therefore, to overcome the lower vrittis and tendencies of the mind should be your aspiration and aim.
—18 October 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger