The Psychology of Yoga

Written by kalabin. Posted in Articles

In order to achieve the sattva state of consciousness, chitta has to overcome five different states:

  1. Kshipta – the anxious state in which there is the energetic movement of radjas in the direction of material prosperity and enjoyment, so that mind is rushing about among the objects of wishes. Having such attention (jumping from one object to another) and such concentration (upon one thing or the other) makes impossible to come to the sattva state.
  2. Mudha – the stupid, depressed state when tamas (the power of inertia) dominates in mind. Such a person doesn’t want to do anything; he is sluggish, apathetic, sleepy.
  3. Vikshipta – the sparse state in which chitta is unstable because of the mental disorders, organic defects and various life troubles. It is obvious that in these three states mind desires pleasure and avoids unpleasant things. Each of these states is burdened with cares and problems which makes the conscious state impossible.
  4. Ekarga – the state where there is a single intention directed tone object; in this state it is the sattva that dominates already. This makes attention capable to long concentration. The power of attention becomes very precise and astute. This is the concentrated attention.
  5. Niruddha – In this state chitta is absolutely cleared. The stream of material changes is stopped, and the stream of irreproachable consciousness becomes uninterrupted and constant like the powerful electric current. Here there are no transformations in chitta except spiritual ones.

Now let us pass from theory to practice. To clean chitta, Yoga uses an eight-step way. The first two steps – yama and niyama – set the basic moral principles which protect manas from indecent wishes and thoughtless actions. The third step – asana – harmonizes the chemical-biological processes in the organism directly interconnected with psychics. The fourth step – pranayama – through controlling breath, helps to achieve calmness and the balance of mind. The fifth step – pratyahara – leads to calming feelings and setting the control over them. These five steps are the outer assistants of yoga. The following three steps are the inner means as they directly deal with consciousness.

Beside the qualitative mastering these steps, a yogi has to be constantly in a conscious state which also promotes to taking consciousness out of the states of tamas and radjas and to leading it to the harmonic state of sattva.

The fact that yoga puts the purpose of braking and complete ceasing all the modifications of mind can seem strange to a sensible reader. Then how will a person think? In fact, the pure consciousness possesses all-knowledge, all-understanding and all-penetration, as it is approached to Verity, which supposes the objective and deprived of sufferings perception of the surrounding world, as well as the true self-cognition. The same is related to the desire to calm one’s feelings. Such desire doesn’t mean at all that a yogi becomes insensitive and heartless, on the contrary, a person good at Yoga starts feeling everything much deeper with the difference that now he becomes the master of his feelings.

To change and train one’s character, Yoga uses the method of substitution. That is, ceasing the unwished features is carried out by means of training in oneself the opposite features of character (for instance, fear is substituted by bravery0. It is necessary to ‘see’ and feel oneself as possessing already this quality. Further, it is necessary to train a habit of the new feature of character and fix it in thoughts and actions. When the habit is fixed, it starts to act as a stimulus. The same technique is used in the modern psychology.

As for the work with the unconsciousness, in Yoga there is a method of step-by-step passing and cleaning all the plans of subconscious. The opinions of Yoga and psychoanalysis about unconsciousness are somehow different. In Yoga, the unconscious and subconscious, as well as consciousness, consists of the eternal substance of intellect. However, in modern psychology, the ideas of intellect eternity, rebirth and reincarnation are unknown. The main feature of the Yoga theory of unconscious is in the idea that the substance of chitta keeps in itself all the past impressions, thoughts, feelings, images, talks and habits of a person like the pictures on a film.

And as far as the information is preserved, it can be worked with. But according to Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, the unconscious is something like an underground cave where different ideas are fighting for coming into consciousness. And in order to understand a patient’s thinking, the majority of logical and intuitive calculations are necessary which can easily result in false conclusions.

Generally speaking, the word ‘psychoanalysis’ literally means the analysis of soul, and self-analysis is the analysis of the Superior ‘Ego’, Purusha, Brahman. As it was said above, the purpose of Yoga is the deep self-analysis. However, the purpose of psychoanalysis is the elimination of some complexes and phobias (fears), social adaptation of a person, solving the problems of inter-personal communication. All this is surely important and useful, but it is often a partly and temporary solving of the problem.

It is evident that by means of Yoga self-analysis it is possible to achieve such a state when the psychological problems cease to appear. However, this method does not suit to everyone. Most people don’t have either wishes or possibilities to analyze themselves so deeply. They only want any appearing problem to be solved as fast as possible and not to divert from important matters. Just for that there are psychological techniques.

That is why it can be said that each direction has its undeniable advantages, and only their reasonable synthesis can bring the best results.

The centre of the philosophic system of classical Yoga is a person and neither Cosmos, nor Nature or God. All Patandjali’s philosophical reflections from ontology (doctrine about being; the philosophy section about the fundamental principles of being) to theology (systematic exposition and interpretation of some religious doctrine, dogmata of a religion) are subjected to a certain purpose – a person’s spiritual liberation. That is why Patandjali’s Yoga is the practical philosophic anthropology (the complex of scientific disciplines studying a human, its origin, existing in natural and cultural environments, together with ethics and methodology of consciousness transformation).

According to classical Yoga, a human is one of numerous living beings populating the multitude of worlds born by the interaction of cosmic Spirit and cosmic Matter. Beside the supreme World Spirit (i.e. Supreme Atman or Purisha), Yoga supposes the existence of His numerous conditionally separate elements, or ‘sparks of Spirit’. They all together represent the complex of individual souls (numerous purashas – non-superior Atmans) that become apparent and act through separate beings. As the elements of the World Spirit – the pure Universe Consciousness, they have the potential energy of consciousness, or they are the Superior spiritual ‘Egos’ of living beings.

A human is able to achieve the spiritual liberation thanks to one’s consciousness (reason, will, self-consciousness). It is just liberation of individual spirit that is considered by classical Yoga as the spiritual purpose and sense of human life. Liberation gives absolute spiritual existence outside any material forms and limitations. All the rest, which are the non-liberated beings, continuously rotate in the rings of sansara. It means that they are included into the endless wheel of life (rotation of regenerations) in various forms and kinds.

Sansara is non-original, that is, no living being had any absolutely original life – it exists in sansara eternally. Consequently, sansara existence is fraught with the repetition of situations and roles, poignant monotony of cyclic repeatability of the same contents. The idea of evolution is completely alien to Buddhism and other Indian religions – in contrast to non-traditional forms of occultism like theosophy; in Indian religions the transition from one life to another is not a stairs of perfection and ascending to Absolute, but the poignant rotation and transition from one form of suffering to another.

So, while a person of materialistic or just non-religious Western education can find something attractive in the idea of regenerations, for an Indian this idea is connected with the feeling of non-freedom and poignant enslavement causing the necessity to be liberated from it (“Oh God! When will the deliverance from the bonds of sansara come?! That thought is called the wish of freedom”, — wrote Shankara, Veda-philosopher).

Accepting the idea of sansara, Yoga anthropology accepts the supremacy of the spiritual beginning in a human and his autonomy from his body, both in his life time and after death. It accepts the life after death and the reincarnation of the spiritual beginning from one body to another under the influence of karma.

The main reason of the sansara wheel rotation, i.e. constant reincarnations of soul, is the ignorance (avidya) which is the source of affects (the false fillers of consciousness). In their turn, they give birth to karma acting both in visible and non-visible worlds and various forms of birth. In such a way, the circle of dependence closes up, and a human is drawn into the endless circles if births, lives in suffering and deaths. They replace each other like days and nights, and it is an endless process until the chain of dependence is torn due to the method of Yoga.

Patandjali understands karma as a natural law which is not even within power of God Ishvara – the special spiritual manifestation of Purusha provided with the attributes of Absolute Personality. Patandjali wrote: “Karma stipulates the form of existence, duration of life and life experience”. There are three main kinds of karama: mental, verbal and corporal which are connected with a thought, word and action. By the way, this triad itself (body, speech, thought) is very ancient and is fixed not only in Indian texts, but in early Iranian texts of ‘Avesta’, the sacred Zoroastrian text, which points to its deep Indo-European roots.

The word ‘karma’ itself can be translated as ‘deed’, ‘action’, and by no means as ‘destiny’ or ‘fate’ as it is sometimes interpreted. At Veda times, karma was only understood as a ritually important action (e.g. performing some rite) giving a wanted result or ‘bearing a fruit’ (phala). Step by step, the meaning of this term got wider and it got the widest meaning of any act – physical (deed, act), verbal (word, statement), mental and voluntary (thought, intention, wish).

The deep reason of any karma is the unconscious impressions hidden in a person’s psychic world (psychic prints) born by the past experience, or (more precisely) by the affects which appear originally (according to Patandjali) from “the eternal thirsty of life”.

According to the ethical coloring of reasons and consequences, karma is divided into:

  • Black (the result of bad deeds);
  • White (the result of good deeds);
  • White-and-black (the result of good and bad deeds);
  • Non-white and non-black (neutral, the result of eliminating affects).

The black karma chases villains. The white karma chases spiritual ascetics. The white-black one chases ordinary people. The neutral karma is the greatest achievement of yogis who eliminated all the reasons of karma and exist in their last corporal birth before the infinity of spiritual being in pure Universe Consciousness. Vyasa (Patandjali’s commentator) explains yogis’ karma is not black because they aren’t attached to outer objects and got rid of affects. At the same time, he continues, yogis’ karma is not white because they reject even the fruits of good deeds.

Along with karma, another important philosophic-religious term of Indian culture is dharma. In one of the aspects dharma can be described as the complex of norms and rules the following of which is necessary for supporting the cosmic order. The word ‘dharma’ is literally translated as ‘something that keeps or supports’. In another aspect, ‘dharma’ means the undivided units of being (e.g. in Buddhism). Depending on the context, dharma can mean ‘the moral principles’, ‘religious duty’, ‘universal law of being’.

Dharma plays a paramount role in the doctrines of Indian religions each of which follows and practices dharma principles. In Indian religious traditions, it is accepted to consider that people who follow dharma principles are able to achieve moksha (spiritual liberation). In Hinduist society, dharma represents the religious-moral doctrine about the rights and duties of every person.

While interpreting the conception of dharma nowadays in the modern society, it can be said that giving passports to one and all is a simple smoke-screen, consciousness manipulation or a skillfully aimed maya. A citizen is not the person who has a passport, but the person who considers his vital task to be personally concerned about what country, state and laws he leaves to his children as inheritance. The antonym of dharma is adharma. The symbol of dharma – dharmachakra – is the central motif in the national flag of India.

In the sacred text of Hinduism – ‘Rigveda’ – the word is used in the variant of dfharman and has a number of meanings, including ‘something set or fixed’, or in the meaning ‘supporter’, ‘follower’, ‘worshipper’ of God, as well as in the abstract meaning having the semantic analogy with the Greek ‘ethos’ (established status or law).

In the modern Indian languages and dialects, the word is often used as dharma. It is applied in all dharma religions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. In the context of most modern Indian languages like Hindi or Bengali, ‘dharma’ means simply ‘religion’. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are called ‘Sanatana-dharma’, ‘Buddha-dharma’, ‘Jain- dharma’ and ‘Sikh-dharma’ respectively.

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