Yoga Philisophy. Part 2
Sanhya and Yoga belongs to the number of orthodox directions of ancient Indian philosophy (darshanas). The other four darshanas are: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimansa, Vedanta. They all share the main visional concepts if Vedas, but are different in methods of liberation from sufferings and acquiring True knowledge. Beginning from the epoch of Upanishadas, all the main features of Indian vision can be expressed in three words: sansara, atman, moksha, or ( since some theories used other terms to express the same ideas) the circulation of living beings in the wheel of births- deaths, ‘Ego’ (selfness) and liberation.
Liberation from sansara is often identified in Indian texts to the bog, where living beings stick, or to the ocean in which they sink. It is understood differently: for non-dual Vedanta liberation is the acquire of knowing the identity of true Ego, the true human selfness (atman) and the absolute spirit (Brahman); for Sanhya it is non-identity of spirit and matter; for theistic Vedanta it is the unity with personality God like the unity of people in love. But in any case, it is the exit from the circulation of sansara, the cease of transition from one existence to another, the end of suffering and constant conditionality of one state by another, the exit from the world of enduring to the world of freedom (moksha, nirvana, kaivalya, mukti). It is absolute and transcendent freedom that forms the supreme and unconditional value of the traditional Indian culture.
Where is the way to this freedom? The answer is simple –in self-cognition. And this self-cognition is marked by the ideological thesis atman.
Atman (the reciprocal pronoun – oneself) is one of the basic terms of the religious doctrine of Brahmanism/Hinduism and Brahmanism religious philosophy which means true Ego, selfness, the absolute subject unable to be object (both individual Ego and absolute or universal one). According to Brahmanism, self-cognition, or cognition of atman, leads to liberation from sansara. The word ‘atman’ itself is usually considered as the derivative from the words meaning ‘breath’ because in the early Vedic texts it was just breath ( prana in the meaning of vital power, or vitality) that was considered as the origin of both individual and space life.
The term atman becomes central in Upanishadas where it is considered as:
- The absolute subject of all psychic states remaining the unchangeable witness, or viewer (it is “not what the eye sees, but what is seen by the eye; not what is thought in the thought but what is thought by the thought”); atman differs from body: “As they say: the body is mine, how can it be the subject?” (Shankara). In the same way it differs from emotions, senses, thinking, etc since they also can be objectified as the predicates (‘I feel’, ‘my feelings’, ‘my thoughts’, etc).
- The eternal Ego, single for all beings, identical to absolute original substance – Brahman as the supreme and perfect reality (this idea is expressed in such “great statements” of Upanishadas as “You are It”, “I am Brahman”, “One without the other”).
- The supreme divine Ego identified to personal God-Creator (Ishvara) who, as Paramatman (supreme Atman), is the source and creator of both the world and individual atmans different from him.
According Upanishadas, the cognition of atman is the highest form of cognition leading to liberation and spiritual perfection.
The orthodox doctrines of Brahman philosophy continued to develop the interpretations of atman which were formed in Upanishadas. First of all, it relates to Vedanta: the differences between its directions were just defined by the approaches to the problem of the relation atman-Brahman (Absolute). Advaita-Vedanta (“non-dual Vedanta”) stated the complete identity of atman and Brahman: “Brahman is real, the world is false. Atman doesn’t differ from Brahman, atman is the same what Brahman is”. But atman’s differences from Absolute, as well as the empiric existence of multiple individual ‘egos’ were explained by illusion (maiya) rooted in some transcendental ignorance (avidya).
Vishishtadvaita-Vedanta (restrictedly non-dual Vedanta) stated that atman and Absolute, manifesting itself as personal God and Supreme Ego (Paramatman), relate as a part and an integrity, whereas dvaita-Vedanta stated substantial difference of atman and Absolute (God); according to this doctrine atman can achieve only partial unity with God, but not the complete identification or dissolving in him. However, all the directions of Vedanta (as well as sanhya) considered atman as the origin identical to the pure substrate consciousness. In contrast to them, the doctrines of nyaya, vaishesheka and purva-mimansa consider atman as the pure substance different from consciousness which isn’t understood as the nature of this substance, but its attribute.
Experiencing the unity with impersonal Absolute, personal God or identity “ego” and absolute spirit was achieved in practice by the methods of Yoga (from Sanskrit ‘yuj’ – ‘to link, to connect’ which is related to Russian ‘иго’ and English ‘yoke’) – the common name of the Indian psychic-technical (psychic-practical) methods used to achieve trans-personal (changed) states of consciousness which are estimated by the tradition as the supreme, perfect and causing the liberation from sansara existence, — Yoga in this wide sense is inherit in all Indian religious-mystic doctrines.
In short, we will characterize each of the darshanas giving the sense context for better understanding the original Yoga principles which acknowledge such Veda regulations as the spiritual starting of existence, multiple worlds (spheres of being) in the Universe, existence of supreme creatures, the cycle of births and deaths of living beings (sansara), the law of causes and sequences (karma), after-death existence of human consciousness, necessity of spiritual human liberation from sansara, karma and avidya (false knowledge, delusion relative to the most important spiritual truths of being).
The philosophic doctrine nyaya is based on “Nyaya-sutras” which were formed by Akshapada Gautama approximately in II cent B.C. The most important contribution of this doctrine into the development of Hinduism philosophy was its methodology based on the logic system which was later accepted by most Indian philosophic doctrines.
Nyaya was considered by its adherents as something much more important than simple logic. The adherents believed acquiring the true knowledge was the only way to liberate from sufferings, and they made all efforts in order to define the origins of that true knowledge while leaning to distinguish it from false suppositions and views. In nyaya, there are four origins of knowledge: perception, conclusion, comparison and the word of an authority. The knowledge acquired from one of these origins can be true and false. Nyaya defines several criteria of truth. In this sense, nyaya is the closest Indian equivalent of analytical philosophy. In response to atheistic Buddhism, the late followers of nyaya logically proved the existence of the unique Ishvara. The later valuable development of the nyaya philosophy was the system of navya-nyaya.
The doctrine vaisheshika was based by rishi Canada and is distinguished by atomic pluralism. All objects in the material Universe are reduces to certain types of atoms, and Brahman is considered as the original power giving consciousness to these atoms.
In spite of the fact that the doctrine vaisheshika was developing at first independent of nyaya, later they merged into one due to the similarity of their metaphysical concepts. However, in their classical form, vaisheshika has a significant difference from nyaya: whereas nyaya accepts four origins of true knowledge, vaisheshika accepts only two – perception and conclusion.
The main purpose of mimansa doctrine was to set the authority of Vedas. As a result of that, the most valuable contribution of this doctrine into the development of Hinduism was formulating the rules of Vedas knowledge interpretation. The mimansa adherents believe that the individual has to possess unchangeable belief in Vedas and to carry out Veda yadghnas – fire sacrificial offerings. They believe that the power of Veda mantras and fire offerings support the activity in the Universe. The adherents attach great significance to dharma which consists in carrying out Veda rituals.
The mimansa doctrine accepted the logical and philosophical concepts of other doctrines, but thought that they didn’t pay enough attention to the correct activity. The adherents of mimansa believed that the other philosophic doctrines, having moksha as their main purpose, didn’t give the possibility of full liberation from material wishes and false ‘ego’ because they aimed at the liberation basing on just one wish of its achievement. According to mimansa, moksha can be achieved by means of activity only in correspondence of Vedas regulations.
Later, the mimansa doctrine changed its views and started propagating the doctrines of Brahman and freedom. Its followers stated the possibility of soul liberation from limitations of material existence by means of pure spiritual activity. The mimansa influence is present in the practice of modern Hinduism, particularly in rituals, ceremonies and laws which experienced its significant influence.
Vedanta, or late uttara-mimansa, isn’t concentrated on ritual regulations Brahman, but on philosophy stated in Upanishadas.
Whereas the traditional Veda rituals continued to be practiced, understanding also started to develop which was more oriented to knowledge (dzhnana). Those were the mystical aspects of Veda religion which were based on meditation, self-discipline and spiritual development, not the ritual practices.
The more complicated system of Vedanta reflects the main essence of Vedas stated in Upanishadas. Vedanta is in many ways based on Veda cosmology, anthems and philosophy. One of the most ancient Upanishadas, “Brihad-aranyaka-upanishada”, dates back to about X cent. B.C. There is a canon of Upanishadas called muktika which consists of 108 Upanishadas; 11 of them form the canon mukhya and are considered as the most ancient and valuable. One of the main contributions of Veda doctrine is the idea of indistinguishability of individual consciousness from that of Supreme Brahman.
The aphorisms of ”Vedanta-sutras” are represented in the enigmatic, poetic style which made it possible to interpret them in quite different ways.
The philosophic Yoga system is closely linked with sanhya doctrine. Sanhya is usually considered to be the most ancient orthodox philosophic system in Hinduism. Sanhya states that in fact everything is originated due to the interaction of Purusha (spirit or soul) and Praktiti (matter, creative potential, energy). There is an infinite number of souls possessing individual consciousness. Praktiti, or matter, has three main qualities: stability (sattva), action (radjas) and non-action (tamas) which are known as three gunas of material nature. The interaction of souls and natural gunas is the reasonof activity in the material wirld. Liberation (moksha) is achieved after the soul is free from the influence of the gunas of material nature. Although sanhya is dual philosophy, there are certain differences between sanhya and the other forms of dualism. In the West, dualism exists between mind and body, whereas in sanhya – between ‘Ego’ and matter. In sanhya, the term ‘Ego’ is somehow similar to the Western concept of mind. It is common to believe that originally sanhya was atheistic philosophy which later was influenced by Yoga and developed into the theistic direction of Indian philosophy.
Accepting the psychology and metaphysics of sanhya, Yoga is the theistic doctrine which as evidenced by adding Devine Essence to the 25 elements of sanhya. Yoga and sanhya are very close to each other. Both of them are considered as twins in India, various aspects of one discipline, which commonly are called “sanhya with God” and “sanhya without God”. Sanhya provides the main theoretical explanation of human nature by enumerating and defining its elements, analyzing the ways of their interaction in the conditional state (bandha) and describing their state in the liberated state of moksha, while Yoga is specifically devoted to defining the driving force of the liberation process, describing the practical methods to achieve this liberation.
As it was noticed above, the original ontological (ontology is the doctrine of being as it is; the philosophic part which studies the fundamental principles of being, its general essences and categories, principles, structures and laws) principles both in sanhya-darshana and in Yoga are Purusha and Praktiti. In a general sense, they can be understood as the primary Spiritual substance (Purusha) and the primary Material substance (Prakriti).
In Yoga, Purusha is considered as the principle of pure Universal Consciousness or supreme abstract Energy of Consciousness. It differs from specific fillings or contains of consciousness (Buddha) which appear later as a result of interaction of Purusha and Prakriti. Without Prakriti, the pure, empty, continuous consciousness Purusha exists in itself, it doesn’t have reflections and specific images. There can be given a simple analogy: Purusha is similar to the computer informational space (the program framework or operational system) deprived of specific files or information array. Besides, Purusha can be related with the World Spirit (Atman) or the integral aggregate of souls.
Before the beginning of the development process, Prakriti, the material substance or material Nature, is in an unrevealed state. It is the state of dynamic balance of its forces and qualities (gunnas) which is broken with the beginning of space evolution. Gunnas start moving, while interacting with Energy of Consciousness, they create the objective world in all the variety of its forms. In this sense, Prakriti (its qualities are gunnas) manifests itself as the material reason (pradhana) of the objective material being.
The first result of interacting Purusha and Prakriti (developing space evolution) is buddhi-mahat. Mahat is the Great Prototype of the Universe, i.e. the ideal informational model of the Universe. Mahatnis contained in the space mind (Cosmic Intellect) – buddhi.
In Yoga, buddhi means psychics, psychic world or sphere, as the concentration of all possible contains of consciousness and mental-psychic experience. So, buddhi is the reflection of pure consciousness (purusha) in the Universe Prototype (mahat). When it comes to living beings, buddhi is the reflection of Purusha filled with the set of specific contains of consciousness and experience.
Attention: here we deal with the key point of understanding the purpose and spiritual method of Yoga. Yoga states that the true subject of experience is only Purusha which comprehends buddhi, i.e. the objects of experience. The objects of experience are personal consciousness of various living creatures representing the psychic spheres-concentrations ofmental experience (buddhi). Every living creature has its own buddhi, but all of them are the fragments of the single Universal Buddhi.
The Pure Universal Consciousness (Purusha) only watches and comprehends the outer experience of world evolution, but doesn’t participate in it. This regulation is fixed by the special term “Spectator” (“Witness”) which is the synonym of Purusha. Purusha is the transcendental space Spectator, who watches the performance called “The Birth, development and dissolve of the Universe”. But the Spectator shouldn’t be understood in the role of a certain creature. Rather it is some principle of the world order deprived of any personal attributes.
The Spectator possesses the potential ability of Absolute Knowledge which is realized through buddhi. Through buddhi, Pure Consciousness perceives the world and experience. It is just the experience of being that is the purpose of Spirit-Purusha. But since experience is impossible outside the link with buddhi, individual purushas (the spiritual nuclear of living beings) fall under the influence of space illusion (maya) and start identifying themselves with personal consciousness (individual buddhi) and its mental-psychic experience.
Yoga is called upon to help the spiritual nuclear of living beings (individual purushas) to disconnect Spirit — Pure Consciousness – and the sphere of personal consciousness of a mortal living being. It is the liberation from illusion, karma and material existence. It is the returning of a part of Pure Consciousness (i.e. individual spirit) to its original Source – World Spirit – supreme abstract Energy of Consciousness.