Mental and Spiritual Dimension of Yoga

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Then comes the mental side of yoga, which is composed of prana and consciousness. Energy and mind, in the mental side of yoga, both have to be dealt with. Patanjali deals with mind and the classical raja yoga deals with prana. Combining both of them becomes a good tool to work with both areas of prana and consciousness.

Two ideas are important in Patanjali’s raja yoga to deal with the mind. Forget the eightfold path, forget samadhi, just think of two things, drashta and chitta vritti. Drashta, to become the observer. You can only become the observer of the mind. You cannot become the observer of shakti, energy or prana, rather you become the expresser or the experiencer of shakti, yet you can become the observer and witness of the mind.

What are we to observe in the mind? Thoughts, in reality are not worth our time, for they are totally irrational, idiotic and sometimes misguiding. So thoughts are out. What we observe as chitta vritti are the memories. Everything is decided by past memory. How you are going to interact with people is decided by past memories already filed in your brain. It is those memories which bring out a reaction, a response. Those responses are the vrittis. If you see your adversary, your enemy who you haven’t seen for many years, you will be seething inside. As long as you are aware of your enemy, you will be seething inside. That will be your reaction, your vritti.

It is the memory component, the chitta component, that we have to look into, not the manas component. If we understand drashta and chitta, then the subject of mind becomes clear. It is said that the mind is composed of manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara; manas being the reflective mind, buddhi the intellectual mind, chitta the smriti or memory mind, and ahamkara the ego mind, I-mind.

The thinking, reflective mind, manas, is superficial. Thoughts can change. Just as you change your clothes, your thoughts can change. Buddhi is generally relegated to the background as the memories are quite strong. When buddhi comes in, logic, intelligence, then viveka, discrimination comes in. Otherwise buddhi takes a back seat.

Chitta is the active principle. Behind chitta is the ahamkara, the ego principle. Chitta and ego together constitute chitta vritti: it is ego which responds to the memory. It is ego which takes the stand when memory says, ‘this has happened’. The real focus of pratyahara, dharana and dhyana is now shifting from manas and buddhi to chitta and ahamkara.

In the classical raja yoga you see everything as pranic expression. There is a question, ‘Why can’t you erase your memory?’ The answer is, ‘It is still coloured by colours of prana’. Visualize this, you take a polaroid picture. You keep it in your album. As long as that picture is not exposed to sun and light, it will retain its colours. If you expose the picture to sunlight, the colours will begin to fade and gradually after some time, the image will fade, and only the white paper will remain once again. Memory is like that. The memory which you had of your early days is still as vibrant and alive as it was then. If you remove the prana from the memory, the colours come out and it becomes sepia and black and white, it will fade away. Another way of nirodha or controlling, is to remove the prana from the memory and not give it any fuel. Once prana is removed, the memory will dissolve, dissipate, it will be gone.

Spiritual dimension

In the mental dimension of yoga, the systems lead you to the state of meditation. Meditation is complete absorption in experience. When that meditation experience happens, that absorption, then you are ready for the spiritual aspect of yoga. Until now you only had to play with your mind. When dhyana, absorption has happened, then you come to the spiritual dimension of yoga. By the time you come to dhyana, your mental attitude and awareness has become much more positive, your stressors have been managed much more efficiently and there is more peace and harmony.

You are more in control of your sensorial and mental behaviours. You are on a good path and spiritual realization becomes a living experience, not just fantasy or imagination. According to Sri Swamiji, the goal of human life is to cultivate spiritual awareness, not God realization. That spiritual awareness is the awareness of the positives.

In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (2:54), Arjuna asks Krishna, ‘How does an enlightened being live in this world? What does he eat? What does he think? What does he drink? How does he live?’ Krishna says to Arjuna, ‘Just like you and me and everyone else. They may be enlightened, but as long as they are in this world they have to live according to the rules and laws of the world, the senses, the body, nature and everything. They will feel hungry. They will feel sleepy. They will feel everything that a normal human being experiences. The only difference is that they will be seeing the luminosity in everything, while others see darkness everywhere’.

It is a simple statement. The enlightened being will see luminosity everywhere, while all others see darkness everywhere. This luminosity can mean hope, positivity, optimism, inner strength.

2 October 2019, Progressive Yoga Vidya Training, Ganga Darshan, Munger