The Psychology of Yoga

Written by kalabin. Posted in Articles

There is a false opinion that brahmacharya is exclusively a celibate; as a result, many people in India and in the West cease any sexual relations trying to follow this rule and considering that it means the forbiddance of sexual life. Here is the true understanding of this principle.

Brahma is God, and charya is an action. So, the word ‘brahmacharya’ means ‘the divine action’. Celibate doesn’t suppose the abstention from the sexual act, it supposes the inclination for perception. Brahmacharya is the divine inclination. It has nothing to do with the physical action. The more precise translation of the word ‘charya’ is ‘follower’ or ‘pupil’. In the Holy Scriptures of Yoga, a body is considered as Brahma’s palace: in this palace we venerate the inner instinct as one of the aspects of Divine ‘I (Ego)’.

Zigmund Freud discovered for the Western world what had been known to Indian Tantrists, ancient Dravids and some Buddha schools for thousands of years. He discovered that the original power in each of us is sexuality; that the basis of being lies in sexual forces. Mostly, people misunderstood Freud interpreting this discovery as reducing everything to sex.

Freud didn’t assert that sexual forces are the most important in life; he insisted that they provide the human behavior with energy.

The electrical net provides a plant with energy for production; and if it is damaged, the production stops. In the same way, the exhaustion or distortion of sexual forces spreading through the nervous system influences the whole human activity.

This is the concept of brahmacharya. At the theoretical level, it means that the worship of body not only as the Microcosm but simply a phenomenon valuable by itself, the wonderful creation of Nature, must be the rule for everyone. At the personal level, in practice, this is the task which everyone must try to solve for oneself.

Just think: you have fifteen billion cells of brain which flash like the light of stars. Your ears can receive 1,600 different frequencies: from 20,000 to 26,000 fluctuations per second.

Your eyes can differentiate a single particle of light. And 800,000 fibers in each of your optic nerves transfer more information to the brain than the most powerful optical computer system.

More than 300 million small bubbles in your lungs deliver oxygen to 100 trillion cells in the whole body. 206 bones and more than 6,500 muscles create the most various system of functional abilities among any creatures known for man.

It is impossible to enumerate all your possibilities – there are too many of them.

When you imagine your innate skill to learn, you can see your abilities to acquire knowledge as a whole, as the volumetric holographic image of the human nervous system which has no analogue in its quality and possibilities in the Universe.

This picture will be the prove of your talents making you sure of your own power and helping you understand the esoteric aspect of the brahmacharya principle: worship the body and any their demonstration as the embodiment of Cosmos. Then, the divine act of expressing love is free, making no pain and giving special joy.

The fifth yama is aparigraha which means ‘non-possession’. In classical Veda tradition, it means that when someone becomes sannyasin (monk), one refuses from all mundane things and makes a vow of non-accepting gifts; it is the refusal from any presented things because of understanding the consequences of their possession – the necessity saving them, possibility of their loss, damage or attaching to them.

What important idea is included in aparigraha in the modern world? It is obvious that you cannot survive without things. What is meant under ‘non-possession’?

This yama has nothing to do with acquiring things. It refers to the attachment to things. All things, all the material possessions exist in order to use them. But using them can be correct and non-correct. All things, all the fruit of soil and fruit of intellect – we mean the material products- exist for satisfying our needs, in order to simplify our existence, while consciousness shouldn’t concentrate on possessing.

Aparigraha is not an action but the position of intellect when a person becomes a winner of the consumption race: one stops judging about one’s own competence by the possibility to buy advertised goods or other prestigious objects symbolizing a high social status.

This is not the question about the possession of things; rather it’s the question whether the manipulators of social processes have caught your attention subordinating it to the consumption race. So, aparigraha teaches that a person is not a sum of leading-brand goods bought but Spirit embodied in Matter.

As a rule, the term ‘niyama’ is translated from Sanskrit as ‘following the religious (spiritual) instructions’. It also includes five aspects – purity, satisfaction, asceticism, self-studying and devotion to Super Origin (Ishvara).

The first of them is shaucha (purity). Purity is the removing of inner (psychic) and outer (bodily) dirt. The psychic purity is achieved by removing the affects of consciousness. The bodily purity is achieved by adequate feeding and care of the body.

For the purity of the body, which is the carrier of consciousness, it is necessary to remove toxic waste products, residue, mucus which change the human nervous system and burden consciousness, brain. Keeping the body purity relates to overcoming the ways every person is dying. We will consider tree of them now and the fourth one a bit later.

The first way we start dying physically and mentally can be called the psychosomatic influence. We kill ourselves by incorrect using the relations ‘intellect-body’; by incorrect understanding and using the principles of yamas: committing the mental acts of violence, killing our superior consciousness, refusing to accept the verity about our own ‘I(Ego)”, stealing time given to us from our birth until death, incorrectly using the nervous system in its sexual function, becoming attached to physical enjoyments and suffering from their loss.

In fact, 60 to 70 % of people visiting doctors suffer from psychosomatic diseases, i.e. diseases caused by extraordinary emotional stress.

The next way leading to death is connected with the basis of our existence – the cell poison. The Western biological science considers that the death of a single cell is programmed in chromosomes. But the practice of Yoga is able to change the program in the cell nucleus and prolong the physical act of life.

The third way of the start of dying has the direct relation to shaucha, i.e. purity. We start dying on the cell level drowning in our own excretions. The semi-permeable wall of the cell becomes obstructed by waste products and loses the ability to absorb nutrients and become free from decay products.

The practices of Hatha Yoga – the inner purification, inner massage with the help of poses, diet and fasting – support the healthy state of cells by preventing from their depreciation. Shaucha is the constant extraction of different wastes from the organism which prolongs life and cleans the nervous system preparing it for superior states.

The second niyama, santosha, means satisfaction or lack of the wish to have more than really necessary. What does it mean? It means to live paying attention to the present, to forget the past offences, to forgive oneself for the mistakes made, to cease dreaming about the future, to keep energy for the attention to things happening at the present moment.

Being satisfied and in harmony with oneself during the transitional period between wakefulness and falling asleep, as well as between sleeping and full awakening, you can inspire your unconscious wit with positive, creative guidelines.

It is just santosha that the Yoga definition as ‘ceasing the fluctuations (modifications) of consciousness’ is connected – any walking of mind, stresses, emotional jumping. Those who practise Yoga can unite their intellect as a whole and avoid any fluctuations; they can penetrate into themselves and use energies whatever happens in the outer world.

The third niyama is called tapas, or asceticism. Asceticism is the patient experiencing extremities (hunger, thirst, cold, hot, etc), reticence, impertubality and other vows including the practice of asanas (poses) of Hatha Yoga.

The fourth niyama is called svadhyaya – self-development or self-studying, leaning spiritualpapers about Liberation, repeating the mystical formulas – mantras. The inner essence of svadhyaya relates to overcoming the fourth way of dying. Self-development means that life is the continuous process of studying. If you stop studying, you will start approaching to death. Psychologists know that at least 50% signs of getting old have the psychological nature. They are the loss of interest to life, the loss of wish to get the further life experience. In this sense, Yoga is the method of re-education from the spiritual and physical degradation to the transformation into the superior spiritual creature.

The last direction, ishvara-pranidhana, in an approximate interpretation, means dedication to God. In the sanhya tems, it means dedication to Supreme ‘I (Ego)’ as the essence of God. But what is God? This is the life process itself. It is not some creature, not a personality, it is the whole process of life as it is, and the understanding of life. Those who practise ishvara-pranidhana dedicate themselves to the endless process of life and evolution of ‘I (ego)’.

‘Yoga-Sutra’ notices a close link between the purification of consciousness and the development of ethic principles. The purification of consciousness as a spiritual process is performed by cultivating the following ethically oriented psychic states of consciousness: friendliness, sympathy, joy, disaffection (to happiness-unhappiness, enjoyment-suffering, etc). It is obvious that all these items point to the value of ethic perfecting consciousness for the possession of superior Yoga and achievement of its spiritual purposes.

It is also characteristic that in Yoga all the five affects (false fillers) of consciousness have got an ethic aspect, too. These affects appear to be not just unwished psychic states of neutral moral type, but having a negative ethic assessment in Yoga philosophy, and some of them – in everyday moral too. These main affects are:

ignorance (avidya – lack of knowledge, wrong belief concerning the most important spiritual verities, about that what is eternal and what is temporary; what is true and what is false; what is reality and what is illusion);

  • egoism (asmita – egoism, false identity of one’s true ‘I’ (i.e. spirit) to the body, feelings and mind);
  • inclination (raga – wish to get pleasure, attachment to enjoyments);
  • hostility (dvesha – repulsion, reluctance to face the unpleasant events, fear and hatred concerning them);
  • thirst for life (abhinivesha – unconscious fear, reluctance of death, attachment, love, thirst for life).

Overcoming these affects is none other than the ethic and psycho-technical practice. Its base is the ethic philosophy of Yoga, self-control, performing the spiritual directions and sanyama, i.e. psychic concentration on the positive images of consciousness (Spiritual Teacher, friendliness, sympathy, joy, impartiality, self-identity to Spirit, spiritual knowledge, reasons of karma and sufferings, moral duty, real happiness, superior Good, etc).

So, classical Yoga understands liberation as the achievement of full isolation of Superior spiritual ‘I’ from the consciousness of personal Ego, i.e. Lower ‘I’. The Superior ‘I’ is the Universal Consciousness. Understanding the difference between it and the personal consciousness gives the isolation of Spirit from the world of material forms and personal egos. The personal consciousness, as Patandjali claims, exists not for oneself, but for the Universal Consciousness – for His life experience and His liberation.

When, as a result of Yoga practice and spiritual considerations, a pupil begins to realize this verity, he stops thinking about himself as an isolated material creature possessing the body, feelings, thoughts and personal consciousness. He understands that the subject of experience and liberation is the World Spirit – Universal Consciousness, and his personal consciousness is only the means or an intermediate link in the great cosmic being of the World Spirit.

The seed of liberation, as Vyasa writes, is the knowledge of the difference between the personal consciousness and Purusha (Universal Consciousness). Then, as Patandjali continues, consciousness is solved in the differentiating and inclines to absolute liberation. The liberated Superior ‘I’ (individual spiritual substances) remain absolutely unchanged. They exist in themselves, i.e. in their subjectivity. The ‘eternity of changes’ term does not exist for them.

Thus, in classical Indian Yoga, the absolute liberation means the absolute existence of consciousness energy being in itself.

In Yoga philosophy, the personal consciousness of a living being possesses the subject-object nature – the dialectic duality, a wonderful, phenomenal feature of a dual mirror which doesn’t let the Universal Super-consciousness form the connection with the natural reality and, at the same time, not to be solved in it.

When a reasonable creature understands the mystery of consciousness and, with great spiritual efforts, separates the super-personal aspect of consciousness from the personal one, the chains of material dependence become weaker, and the human spirit rushes to absolute other-being of Universal Super-consciousness.

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