Actually the main aim of yoga as a science is to root out the cause of mental conflicts. It is these problems that act as blocks that prevent the influx of higher awareness, as well as happiness in life. It is during periods of perfect mental balance that one has his realizations, intuitive flashes and revelations, and lives in a state of increased awareness. These higher experiences don't shine through when the mind is in a state of turmoil; and by turmoil we include the deeper levels of the subconscious mind. Many people feel relaxed on a conscious level and wonder why they don't have higher experiences. The answer is simple - while they may consciously feel relaxed, the subconscious levels are certainly not relaxed. Also, one must be alert and awake. The whole system must be tuned to a high degree of sensitivity and receptivity. Most people when they feel relaxed become sleepy and drowsy. This is not the perfect condition under which the influx of higher awareness occurs.
To live in a continual state of higher awareness, one must always remain in a relaxed and receptive state. All the conscious and subconscious problems must be eradicated. So, you see. the removal of mental problems is an essential part of yoga. If yoga failed to clean out the mind, then it would fail to give the many benefits that it does, especially in higher spheres. Of course, one would still get some physical benefits from asanas etc., but these are an elementary though very fundamental and essential part of yogic life.
Yoga realizes that one must pass through the unhappiness associated with mental conflicts etc. before one can see the rainbow on the other side. This is beautifully summed up by a Zen quotation which goes as follows:
Under the sword raised high
Is hell making you tremble.
But walk on
The meaning is obvious; no matter what terrible traumatic experiences you face in life, there is always something beyond which now seems impossible but is more likely to be unthinkable. Some people call it joy, others bliss, still others spiritual knowledge and so many other insufficient names. So you too should walk through the haze of meaningless-ness, persevere, and transcend the problems that make life, as it seems now, hell on earth. Actually, many people come to yoga because they have some deep-rooted problem that they want to remove. If they did not know that they had problems, or that something was lacking in their life, they would never have started yoga; there would be no incentive. From this initial introduction come many other things that they did not dream of, beyond their present comprehension. So, in fact, mental problems, though they may be the block to higher awareness, are also the stimulus that make people want to remove them and which eventually lead many people to spiritual life. Without some form of mental problems, no one would start to tread the yogic path. So in this sense, you can consider mental problems as a positive asset that help you to do something worthwhile in life, instead of wallowing in the mire of self-complacency, self-pity and laziness. You can look at mental problems from this point of view. But needless to say, they must be removed in order to gain happiness, meaning mental health, peace and most important of all, increased awareness in life.
There is a further point also. Most people have very little idea of the function of an ashram. Of course there are many functions, but as far as the ashram is concerned, the main purpose is to allow the inmates to clean out the mind by removing their mental problems. It doesn't empty the mind of common sense, but of the complexes, blocks, phobias and neuroses that clutter it. This further emphasizes the importance that yoga always aims to removing mental blocks. Without this concern, yoga would be a very limited system to say the least. Furthermore, while yoga aims at emptying the mind of problems, it does not at the same time try to fill the mind with new dogmas, as do various other systems. All conditioning has to be removed and certainly not replaced by new conditioning. The mind must be emptied of all problems so that it can spontaneously reflect that which is already existent, but normally unknown. There is no nee d to fill the mind - only to empty it. This is the essence of yoga and all other productive mind cleaning systems.
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