Practical Spiritual Instructions by Sri Swami Sivananda

Baba Times Digest© | 9 March 2014 13:53 EST | New York Edition

The Psychology of Yoga

Divine Life Society Publication: - True Spiritual Living by Swami Krishnananda

What is the connection between thought and reality?

As far as we are concerned, reality is the whole universe, the world outside. There is a feeling in the mind of man that the secrets of nature are outside, and to discover these secrets we require externalized instruments such as microscope, telescope, etc. There is not the least idea in anyone that these secrets are hidden in our own selves. Yoga being a discipline of the mental processes, there must be some secret relevance of this internal process called yoga to the vast reality of the external cosmos. This is a discovery of yoga psychology.

We were under the notion that all the troubles come from people outside, from the world external to us. There are no such things as problems. The ultimate cause discovered by yoga is a peculiar maladjustment of the subject with the object – the drashta with the drisya, – the seer with the seen. “I, as the seer, the observer, the subject, find it difficult to adjust myself suitably with what I see outside – the drisya, the object world, including everything, every person.

In our apparent external life of the waking consciousness we appear to be in harmony with others, but there is a conflict, if we go deep into the matter. What is maladjusted with the world outside is not merely our conscious mind, but our total personality and this has to be set right, which is the purpose of yoga.

No one can know one’s own self, because we mistake knowing for merely a conscious activity of the mind. The knowledge process is identified with what we call a conscious activity of the mind. When I am aware of an object, I am under the impression, wrongly, that my entire personality is tuned to that object in this act of knowing, but what is tuned is merely a part of the mind – the conscious mind, working through the sense organs. Consciously we repress many of our feelings and motives.

What is my present purpose?

The mind, when it is conscious of an object or deals with a particular object, takes out from its resources only those aspects and features of its structure which are necessary for the fulfilment of a chosen purpose at that given moment of time. So, while we are deep-seatedly disharmonious with everything, we openly and overtly appear to be harmonious with all things. Therefore, there seems to be a sort of satisfaction and a success in outward life, while there is an inward dissatisfaction and disharmony inside. This latency for disharmony that is within us pursues us even after death. This is the cause of rebirth. We are reborn into embodiment in successive lives because we carry with us, in spite of shedding the physical body, the potentiality of which we are made – the psychological stuff which we really are. And rebirth, the transmigratory process, cannot be put an end to as long as the deep-rooted, the deep-seated potentialities are not brought to the conscious level and made a part of our conscious nature.

Then, what is the solution?

Like psychoanalysis, yoga prescribes various methods of sublimating these deeper impulses, not by repressing or suppressing them, or even substituting something else for them, but by sublimating them by a very slow growing process.

Like the nucleus of an atom, the affirmation of the ego, this centralizing principle within us, draws sustenance from the constituents of nature outside, pulls particles of matter from the five elements towards itself, arranges them in a particular pattern into what is called this body; and this process will continue endlessly as long as this centralizing principle, the ego, continues to exist. So, the purpose of yoga is to break this fortress of ego.

The very sensation or feeling 'I am' is called the asmita or ego, in yoga psychology. Asmi in Sanskrit means 'I am', and asmita means 'I am'-ness. This is the cause, ultimately, of isolating us from all creation outside, making it falsely appear that we are disconnected from things outside and that all the problems and difficulties are in the outside world and not in us. You cannot understand the connection with others because the connection is internal rather than external, and the internal connection cannot be known because the asmita, the ego, works only through the senses, which can act only externally. But relations are really internal, and the external relationship is only a temporary shape or form taken by this internal set of relations. To solve the problems of life, therefore, we have to deal with the internal relations, and not merely the outer aspects of these.

Know Thyself

The need for control of the mind, or chittavrtti nirodhah, arises because of our entire personality being involved with everything in the world, and because of this ego principle within us being the seed form of all the future projected activities, including all thought processes, etc. Therefore, when we know ourselves, we have known everything, because the entire past, present and future is hidden inside us. Even the unimaginable past and the remotest future possibilities are all potentially present in ourselves. So, to know one's own self is, in other words, to become omniscient, to know the whole creation; and to know one's own real difficulties is to know everyone's difficulties.

Thus comes about the need for controlling the mind. As we have already observed, this psychological process of controlling ourselves, harmonizing ourselves through the yoga techniques, is not merely a so-called internal activity of ours because, though for the purpose of expressing ourselves, we may talk of yoga as an internal process, it is really a cosmic process. It is so because this so-called internality of ours, this apparent individuality of ours, is really connected with all things everywhere.

The world 'outside' and we 'within' are only ways of expression. There is neither a 'within' nor a 'without'. And so, while we speak of the subject in relation to an object 'outside', we are speaking in the language of the ego; otherwise, there is no subject and there is no object. To think a thought is to think an object simultaneously, and to think an object is to at once imply all the relations of this object with everything anywhere. Therefore, while rightly directed thoughts can bring about immediate miraculous success, wrongly directly thoughts can bring about a reverse consequence. They can create a hell or a heaven at once, with the power of our thinking. This capacity, this potentiality, this power, this latency hidden within an individual, is discovered by the psychology of yoga; and this has to be unfolded, brought to the surface of consciousness, and made a reality of day-to-day experience.

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