Yoga True and False

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According to some authorities on Yoga, one very essential qualification that should be present in an aspirant is viveka (discrimination). The person must be able to make up his mind as to what is of real worth or of a permanent nature and what is unsubstantial and transitory. How necessary viveka is on the path of liberation is expressed by Sankaracarya in Viveka-Cudamani (147) in these words: "This bondage can be destroyed neither by weapons nor by wind, nor by fire, nor millions of acts (enjoined by scriptures): by nothing except the powerful sword of knowledge that comes of discrimination (viveka), sharpened by the grace of the Lord." It is easy to see that as long as the aspirant has not a correct sense of values and does not possess, in ample measure, the faculty to determine what is really beneficial for him and what is not, there is no possibility of his success in a difficult enterprise like Yoga. Viveka is thus the very foundation stone on which the subsequent efforts of an earnest seeker come to rest for the simple reason that he himself has to make the choice of and the path he would like to pursue to reach it. Study of books and scriptures or the advice of scholars and teachers can only help to bring to his mind a whole bag, full of different goals and different paths designed to reach them, advocated by different authorities, each of them as learned, as pious, and as convincing as the other. But the choosing has to be done by the seek according to his own ability and his own power of discrimination irrespective of what is suggested by others. It is here that the crux of the endeavour lies, for all the future harvest of his efforts depends on his choice.

In the search for a career, in the selection of a partner, embarking on a hazardous worldly enterprise do we not think deeply and debate within ourselves for days and weeks consulting our friends and well-wishers, before making the final decision in the light of what appears to us most appropriate under the circumstances? What then should be our attitude when we try to reach God, the Author of Creation, or when to gain entry to higher planes of consciousness which, as long as we have not found access to them, are deeper than the bed of an ocean and farther than the farthest object on earth? If we have a genuine urge for this quest, should we not then wholeheartedly devote ourselves first to a deep study of the literature on this subject, especially to a study of the lives and utterances of those who are reported to have achieved the goal, to find out what kind of men they were, what obstacles beset them on the path, and what the reward was for their efforts, sacrifices and sufferings at the end? This study, combined with a study of a few scriptures, as for instance the Bible, Quran, Bhagavad Gita, Dhammapada, or any other Buddhist testament, will probably be enough to develop sufficient insight in an earnest seeker to enable him to determine the nature of the goal he should set before him and what he might expect at the end if his sincere efforts bear any fruit. If the approach to Yoga is made in this way, after weighing all the pros and cons, the conceptions about this science, in the minds of most people in both the East and West will undergo a radical transformation leading to a more healthy and sober view about this holy enterprise. It will then cease to have magical properties with which people invest it, and emerge as an objective reality with its full share of hazards, difficulties, disappointments and distractions, as any other enterprise undertaken by man.

The rarity of a successful consummation in Yoga is mainly due to the fact that most of those who embark on it have often no clear-cut picture of the desired goal, how they themselves should be equipped for it, or what they should expect on the way. They usually accept the versions of the teachers whom they approach for guidance and who are often themselves unaware of the real goal and the path. They proceed to sit in the postures and to perform the other exercises as instructed by such teachers. In this way they bring down to the level of a mechanical, physical, or mental drill a system of discipline that is designed, in its true form, to reach down to the deepest levels of the human mind in order to effect radical changes in the whole psychological makeup of an individual. Commenting on the qualifications needed in a seeker for enlightenment, Updesa-Sahasri writes: "This is always to be taught to one who is of tranquil mind, who has subjugated his senses, who is free from faults (of character), obedient, endowed with virtues, always submissive (to the teacher), and who is constantly eager for liberation."

Discrimination and dispassion are two of the most essential attributes needed in a Sadhaka, and every Indian scripture has accorded the highest priority to them. "But he (that master of the chariot i.e., body)," says the Katha-Upanishad (1.3.7), "does not attain that goal, who being associated with a nondiscriminating intellect and an uncontrolled mind, is ever impure. He attains only worldly existence (involving birth and death)." During the probationary period, spent by the disciples with their teachers in India in ancient times, the latter had full occasion to frame their opinion about the merits of each disciple in the light of the injunctions contained in the sacred texts. This is clear from several passages in the Upanishads, as for instance Mundaka-Upanishad (1.13): "To that pupil who has approached him with due courtesy, whose mind has become perfectly calm and who has control over his senses, the wise teacher should truly impart that knowledge of Brahman by which one realizes the Being, imperishable and real."

The Bhagavad-Gita repeatedly draws attention to the mental qualifications of the aspirants and time after time emphasizes the fact that without the basic virtues of detachment, self-mastery, devotion, faith and intellectual discrimination, success in the search for liberation is not possible. Self-control has to be acquired first before the actual practice of Yoga is started, "Pledged to the vow of continence, fearless, keeping himself perfectly calm and with the mind thoroughly brought under control and fixed on Me" says Krishna to Arjuna (iv. 14), "the vigilant Yogi should sit absorbed in Me." Again in vi. 36, He says: "Yoga is difficult of achievement for one whose mind is not subdued, but it can be easily attained with practice by him who with his mind under control ceaselessly strives for it; such is my belief." These citations make it abundantly clear, without the least trace of ambiguity that a finely adjusted intellect, able to guide the Sadhaka in choosing his goal and his way of life and conduct is an indispensable prerequisite for the experience of Yoga. As at present Yoga is more or less an individual effort, with a great diversity in methods and innumerable exponents, each loud in the praise of his own method, the selection of a teacher needs the same fine exercise of the intellect as in all other matters. If this selection not made with proper care there is every possibility of a failure even in the case of one who, after deep study and thought, has made the choice of the goal and the path which he would like to take.

This brings us to the very heart of the problem we wish to discuss. Since the time the various kinds of disciplines used in Yoga were first practiced or prescribed, a great transformation has occurred in the way of living, mode of thinking and social environment of people. The basic qualifications demanded for Yoga need a mode of life and certain attributes of mind, as for instance renunciation, self-denial and devotion, which are incompatible with the requirements of the present highly competitive and fast-moving age. The more sophisticated teachers, therefore, instead of advising their disciples to cultivate these essential attributes, and to adopt a concordant mode of life, make futile attempts to adapt the ancient teaching to the present highly artificial and competitive social order, often with disastrous consequences. The scope of this volume does not permit us to pursue this issue in detail. It is sufficient to point out here that there is gradually occurring a growing dissonance between the fundamental concept and practice of Yoga, as it was taught at the height of its spiritual practice in India in the past, and as it is now presented to the world. The impact of this calculated distortion has been especially harmful in the West for the reason that the seekers, having often no grounding in the scriptural lore of India, lack the necessary insight to differentiate between what the revealed texts prescribe and what the modern exponents try to inculcate.

From very early times there have been three classes of religious teachers and those dealing with the occult among whom it is necessary to distinguish in order to avoid waste of effort and disillusionment. One of the classes consists of those deeply versed in the sacred lore who have made themselves fully conversant with the details of various esoteric systems and religious disciplines, even practiced them, and who possess the ability to impress others with their knowledge and discourse. The second class comprises those who have diligently practiced the disciplines, possess or cultivate needed virtues, and who, as a result of long, ceaseless effort, attain a tranquil state of mind, have visionary experiences and develop, or are naturally gifted with, psychic powers, such as mind-reading, clairvoyance, etc., which they exhibit on occasions to instill respect in their followers. The third class, extremely limited and rare, consists of those who either as the result of a short or a long course of discipline, combined with lofty mental traits, an austere mode of life and exceeding benevolence of disposition, or as a natural endowment, attain the beatific State through psychic gifts, flashes of illumination and inspira tion, and remain more in rapport with an entrancing inner rather than outer world. All systems of Yoga are designed to produce the mental state prevailing in the third category, which, because of the numerous factors involved and the radical nature of the transformation to be effected, becomes fruitful only in a few cases out of thousands who apply themselves to it.

The other two categories work with the light borrowed from the third, just named, which consists of a genuinely illuminated class of men. The reason why they sometimes come to the forefront is because the phenomenon of true spiritual efflorescence is extremely rare. "Out of thousands of men," says the Bhagavad Gita (vii. 6) "hardly one strives for perfection and out of thousands of such seekers hardly one in reality attains to Me (Krishna as the Universal Self)." How difficult is the path for which enlightened teachers of the highest calibre are needed is described by Katha-Upanishad (1.3.14) in these words: "Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the Excellent Ones. The Wise describe the Path to be as impassable as a razor's edge, which when sharpened is difficult to tread on." Because of the fact that human beings in general, are at different stages of development, both intellectual and moral, as they stand on different steps of the ladder of evolution, and have different tendencies and appetites, they have different ideas about perfection and the Ultimate as well, and are motivated by different aims in the quest for spiritual experience. Some seek worldly success and fulfillment of carnal desires with the aid of the magical gifts they hope to gain by this means. Others hanker after position and power and strive for the development of a magnetic personality, able to command the obedience of sundry people with the occult influences they will be able to radiate. Yet others are hungry for psychic gifts and supernormal faculties, clairvoyance, levitation and the like, and there are others who desire health, longevity, and a peaceful frame mind under all circumstances. Few, indeed, there are who have actual knowledge of the real goal of Yoga and who long for the supreme experience, subordinating every other consideration and directing every other effort to this lofty aim.

Magic has been an ingredient of religion from the earliest times. In fact, in the "primitive" stages religion is indistinguishable from magic so much so that some scholars, among them J. G. Frazer, trace the origin of the former to it. Magic was much in evidence in India during the Vedic period and echoes of it are found in the Upanishads also. Thus in Brhadarnyaka a magical remedy is suggested to an injured husband (6.4.12) in this way: "Now if a man's wife has a lover and he wishes to hurt him, he should feed the fire in an unbaked earthen vessel, spread tips of reed inversely (to the usual way) and offer these inversely placed tips of reed, smeared with ghee (clarified butter), in the fire, uttering the following Mantras: 'Thou has offered in my burning fire thy prana and apana, I take them away, etc.' . . . 'Thou hast offered in my burning fire thy sons and cattle, I take them away, etc.' . . . " Patanjali has devoted the third book of his Yoga-Sutras to the enumeration of the supernormal gifts and miraculous powers attainable through the practice of Yoga. The Tantras and books on Hatha-Yoga are filled with magical rites, spells, charms and exercises for the attainment of fabulous powers and supernatural gifts. These excursions into the realm of magic and the miraculous, even on the part of great adepts of Yoga, have a profound relevance to human nature, since a large proportion of humanity has an innate propensity for the miraculous and the supernatural. In many cases this propensity is so strong that no amount of argument or dissuasion, and even no amount of proof to the contrary, can convince them that the domain of the supernatural is still shrouded in the darkness of doubt and suspicion, sometimes even trickery and fraud, and that demonstration of miraculous or magical powers by a person has seldom, if ever, been beyond dispute. In any case, it has never brought to him or to those who were benefited any lasting credit or good.

Accepting human nature as it is, the teachers of the two lower categories adapt their teaching to suit the predispositions of those whom they teach. The desire for supernatural adventure and the acquisition, of miraculous powers, the subconscious longing in the heart of many people who take to Yoga and other occult practices, find a response in countless books, published in these days, which provide them liberally with many varieties of brightly coloured and highly embellished foods, suited to their tastes. The old Tantric and Yoga texts of India and Tibet provide the raw material from which these appetizing dishes are cooked. The outcome has been that cheap and dangerous methods are taught to the unwary, and Yoga, brought down from its high pedestal, been made a saleable commodity which anyone can purchase for a price. Hypnotism, suggestion, drugs, magic, legerdemain, Mantras and every other device known to man to excite curiosity for and to stimulate interest in the miraculous and the occult are all freely used by those who trade in the supernatural. The discriminating power of a balanced intellect, considered indispensable by the ancient masters for the right choice of the teacher and the path adopted, has been replaced by what is the most powerful incentive in this age: the possibility of gain. The aspirants seldom suspect that when a Guru breathes a Mantra into their ear and instructs them in meditation in a certain way, with the injunction that they should practice it daily in such-and-such a manner to gain such-and-such results is, without their knowledge, planting a suggestion deep into their subconscious and dealing with them in the same way as some mental healers and psychiatrists deal with the crowds of patients who throng their clinics or gather round them for treatment. The seekers after Yoga and the occult who, instead of counting on their own efforts, guided of course by a preceptor, display a weak mental attitude of utter dependence on the teacher for their spiritual regeneration, show evidence of lack of character and an unhealthy thirst for the Divine. Those who believe that they can attain to higher states of consciousness in this way, or by adopting any novel or easy method, deceive themselves and indirectly tend to cast a shadow of doubt and disrepute on this ancient science.

Hypnotism and suggestion have played a powerful role in all religious and occult practices from early times. The magic rites of the primitives and the occultists of Egypt, Chaldea, Greece, and other old civilizations made use of them in ample measure. The disciplines of Yoga contain a strong element of autohypnotism and suggestion in them. The attainment of a state of transcendent consciousness, which crowned the labours of most of the famous mystics, sages, and Yoga saints of the past, is a unique phenomenon, attended by certain well-marked attributes that can be objectively verified. In other cases, where the practitioners of spiritual disciplines including Yoga, perceive visions, have supernatural visitations, or believe they have attained a state of mental calm, without developing the other talents which will be discussed in another chapter of this volume, and without experiencing a noteworthy change in their whole personality, are not infrequently experiencing the effects of autosuggestion, or the suggestion of an instructor that has gone home into the subconscious. Commenting on this possibility in the cases of conversion in his Varieties of Religious Experience*, William James writes: "Similar occurrences abound, some with and some without luminous visions, all with a sense of astonished happiness, and of being wrought on by a higher control. If, abstracting altogether from the question of their value for the future spiritual life of the individual, we take them on the psychological side exclusively, so many peculiarities in them remind us of what we find outside of conversion that we are tempted to class them along with other automatisms, and to suspect that what makes the difference between a sudden and a gradual convert is not necessarily the presence of divine miracle in the case of one and of something less divine in that of the other, but rather a simple psychological peculiarity, the fact, namely, that in the recipient of the more instantaneous grace we have one of those subjects who are in possession of a large region in which mental work can go on subliminally, and from which invasive experiences, abruptly upsetting the equilibrium of the primary consciousness, can come."

It is undeniable that some cases of Yoga end merely in auto-

*Longmans, Green, New York, 1903.

hypnosis by causing the same condition of the brain as is deliberately induced by hypnotists in their subjects. Since some people are much more responsive to the hypnotic influence than others, follows that the same rule must be true in respect of autohypnosis also, and that the more susceptible individuals succeed in inducing the condition in themselves more easily than others. Regular practice in a secluded place, a steady unmoving posture that can persist even when the mind passes into a sleeplike state, rhythmic breathing with soporific resonance proceeding from the monotonous utterance of specially selected words, fixity of attention or vacuity of thought create the passive or fatigued condition of mind, favourable to the hypnotic trance. The idea already existing or inculcated about the Deity or the Superconscious state, acting as a suggestion, and using the now vivid imagination of the self-hypnotized Yoga practitioner, can create a hallucinatory appearance corresponding to it which has all the semblance of reality for him in the same way as a picture, evoked by the suggestion of a hypnotist, has for the moment a real existence for his subject. The vision is naturally accompanied by a state of happiness at the fulfillment of an earnest desire, which is reflected on the countenance of the Yogi.

Many of the secret rites and hidden practices, prescribed by esoteric systems and occult creeds as well as many exercises of Yoga, are but effective methods of self-hypnosis in disguise. They cause the practitioner to fall into a state of mental passivity leading to trance. The daily repetition of the experience tends to fortify belief in the reality of the vision and to create an assurance that the practitioner has found what he had striven for. This assurance has a powerful effect in creating self-confidence in and in influencing his followers and disciples. Once the ability to induce hypnosis in himself has been gained by a Sadhaka, the next step of exhibition of psychic talents becomes possible soon afterward in a certain proportion of successful initiates. They may succeed in awakening extracerebral memories relating to the past or in exhibiting clairvoyance, prevision or other supernormal gifts.

As these extrasensory developments do not occur in all successful cases of self-hypnosis but only in a few, in the manner of hypnotized subjects, it is obvious that the condition supervenes only in such cases where a tendency already exists in the brain in a dormant form and only needs some stimulus to stir it and bring it out.

This class of Yogis and occultists, though much more numerous than the true Yoga saints and mystics, and existing from prehistoric times, has made no impact on mankind, though in their own circumscribed environment men of this category shine brilliantly for a while. The reason for this is simple. They do not possess the ever-shining light of genius nor the dynamic power of the soul to shed a lustre that could survive beyond the narrow span of their lives. Apart from the fact that they can induce the condition in themselves, and on that account possess confidence in their own ability to cause the phenomena, Yogis of this class are in other respects no better than hypnotized subjects or professional sensitives and mediums, whose demonstrations are witnessed by thousands every year. It is a mistake to suppose that they can produce these extraordinary phenomena at will and mould the occult forces of nature according to their choice. If it were so and they did possess the power of command over these forces, they could dispel the doubts of the multitudes with but one conclusive supernatural demonstration before the skeptics, whose number is alarmingly on the increase, and with but one bodily flight in the air, while the cameras are recording and thousands of eyes witnessing the feat, revive belief in the occult for at least many centuries to come. But no such demonstration has ever been ventured, nor is likely to be ventured for a long time to come. It can be readily admitted that there are hidden powers and occult forces in nature about which modern scholars are still in the dark. But, as in the case of material energies, they too must be governed by rigid and uniform laws. They await the time when man can make lawful use of them with full understanding of their nature and possibilities. Till that day the erratic exhibitions, witnessed in mediums and others, can only be treated as freakish occurrences, which in the course of time, with study and investigation, may lead to better understanding of their origin and the purpose they serve.

The material phenomena, attributed to prophets, mystics, Yogis, though counterfeited to some extent by mediums and sensitives in their séance chambers during recent times, have never been conclusively demonstrated. They have never even been uneqiv-ocally proved in the past, because if this had been done it would have shut, once and for all, the mouths of the skeptics and believers who at no time in history ceased to cast doubts on the Divine and the supernatural. To what extent the skeptical attitude was in evidence in the past is also amply illustrated in the dialogue of the Buddha in which he explicitly states that the exhibition of supernatural feats on the part of one on a spiritual path instead of enhancing his reputation is more likely to result in his classification as a mountebank and trickster. It is said that when informed by a disciple that a certain monk had flown up to that of a high pole, and thence circled the town three times, to win a sandalwood bowl, which a rich merchant had placed on the top of the pole with the proclamation that one who could take it there would possess it, Buddha ordered the bowl to be broken into pieces and distributed.

Leaving aside the psychics and mediums, some of whose exhibitions, especially of the material kind, lack coherence and consistency and need further investigation for their verification eliminating every possibility of fraud and trickery, we have only two classes of men to deal with. One class is the prophets, Yoga saints and mystics, and the other class those Yogis and men, who as a result of autosuggestion or self-hypnosis develop conviction that they have attained a state of illumination and the visions and appearances they perceive in trance or semitrance states, are real manifestations of the Divine and not mere figments of their own voluntarily excited imaginations. These two classes have been mentioned to demonstrate the main compart-

ments into which Yogis and those who strive for God-realization can be roughly divided.

Dehydration and deprivation of water for some time in a desert, the rarity of air on a high mountain peak, prolonged starvation or numbness by exposure to extreme cold can cause hallucinations in which the victim ceases to experience the agony which torments him. From this analogy it is safe to infer that prolonged fasting, extreme austerity, and self-mortification as well as too little sleep, a state of excessive preoccupation with the supernatural and the numinous, in utter silence and solitude, cannot but predispose the mind toward obsessions and delusions that may even take the form of hallucinatory manifestations. The morbid effects of unnatural modes of life and repression of natural tendencies are now too well known to require mention. In the light of this knowledge it should not be difficult to understand the state of mind of an anchorite, whose life is a bundle of inhibitions, fastings, self-denials, and mortifications of the flesh with excessive attention given to the unseen and the unknowable. Is it then to be wondered that after a time the mind loses its grip on reality and lives in a world of fantasies and dreams?

It is a fact well known to hypnotists that, after a subject has been once subjected to a hypnotic trance, it becomes much easier on subsequent occasions to induce the sleep by means of a single gesture, a word of command, a look, or a suggestion. In rare cases, where the subject is responsive to telepathy, even a mental command from a distance is sometimes sufficient to bring about the hypnosis. This also holds true in the case of autohypnosis. Once a Sadhaka succeeds in inducing in himself the hypnotic trance, it becomes easier for him on subsequent attempts to induce this alluring state when the ideas present in his mind materialize in self-caused visions of extraordinary vividness, appearing much more real and substantial than the most vivid experiences in dreams. No wonder then that some of them exude an atmosphere of such poise and calm, and are so confident of the reality of their own visionary experiences that they often exercise a power ful effect on those who sit in their company contrasting their serene bearing with the agitated minds of other people.

Those of them who gain access to the deeper regions of the mind and succeed in developing dormant psychic faculties command even greater homage and excite greater wonder among the people who witness these extraordinary feats. Since most of us are not yet fully informed about the identity of the factors that work in a hypnotized subject and a self-hypnotizing Yogi causing the trance and the psychic phenomena, we fail to recognize the similarity between the two. Although this form of Yoga has its benefits it has its disadvantages as well. The initiate, it is true can voluntarily dive into the depths of his subconscious, but that only means descending into a dream-state, not as one does in sleep, but with deliberation plunging into a hallucinatory condition, transported to a world of being where thoughts take on a visionary aspect and fancies assume vivid appearances somewhat akin to the illusory states induced by drugs. At best it can only signify volitional excursions into the dream territory, often with some therapeutic results, but nothing more. There is at present general ignorance about the fact that the practice of Yoga, or that matter of any form of religious discipline, can lead to two fundamentally different mental states. One is brought about by autohypnosis, creating a hallucinatory inner world of visions, with or without psychic powers. The other is a state of transformed consciousness, leading to glorious supersensory planes of being attended always by genius and psychic powers in one form or another characteristic of all great seers, prophets, mystics, and Yogis of the past.

The following extract from Aldous Huxley's work, Heaven and Hell,* can help to illustrate our meaning: "Some people never consciously discover their antipodes. Others make an occasional landing. Yet others (but they are few) find it easy to go and come as they please. For the naturalist of the mind, the collector of psychological specimens, the primary need is some safe, easy and

YOGA, TRUE AND FALSE

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Yoga For Beginners

Yoga For Beginners

Yoga is an important part of many lives today. Although it is considered a type of exercise, it has the potential to affect the emotional and psychological health of the individual, not just the physical state.

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