MATTER, MIND AND CONSCIOUSNESS

Recent trends in science and philosophy

by Rajeshwar Mukhopadhyaya

In the recent times there has been a radical change in the approach of science. Developments in relativity, quantum physics and neuro-science have changed the way people looked at the universe. The mechanistic model of mind-matter dualism of Descartes and the realism of classical physics have been put to question at the wake of relativity and quantum mechanics. The theory of relativity completely discarded the absolute description of any event of the physical universe by the methods physical sciences. The absolute description of reality started eluding the scientists who had to be contented with the relative knowledge of reality. On the other hand, the birth of quantum mechanics ushered in the concept of indeterminacy in science. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle invited subjective speculations to the domain of modern science. Consequently, the Copenhagen meet along with other subjective interpretations of quantum mechanics shook the age-long pillars of classical determinism. The Einstein-Podolosky- Rosen Paradox, the Bell’s theorem, the Schrodinger Cat paradox, the Aspect Experiment  posed serious objections against the completely objective descriptions of Reality. The indeterminacy observed in the process of measurement in quantum mechanics engendered several philosophical arguments. The collapse of wave function became a vital issue to the scientists as well as to the philosophers.  A large number of scientists accepted the relationship of the collapse of the wave function with consciousness. Thus, the study of consciousness has become a subject matter of deep interest amongst the physical scientists. 

The neuro-science, though in its infancy, has been contributing significantly to the modern researches on brain, mind and consciousness. Some scientists are now getting interested in studying the decisive role of quantum processes in understanding the activities of the brain. The main issue is whether the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics approves the role of conscious will in influencing the physiological activities of the brain. It is still very difficult to locate the area where the quantum event actually takes place. There are two different aspects of addressing the problem. On one hand the epistemological issues relating to quantum interpretations are to be studied. On the other hand, the mechanism of synaptic action and its involvement of the quantum processes which control the large scale coherent action are to be investigated. The problems of consciousness in human brain are being studied now with focus on these two vital aspects. 

Friedrich Beck and John Eccles were pioneers in this field. They further elucidated the theory of the process of the exocytosis of the transmitter substance at synapses of the neo-cortex which was propounded by Sayer, Redmen and Andersen. Basically they established through statistical analysis that exocytosis is a process which responds to a nerve impulse with a probability much lesser than one. The quantum mechanical process involved has been modelled as a set up which identifies the process as the quantum mechanical Tunnelling of quasi particle belonging to the micro site. It was also asserted that the log range interaction within the larger area of the microsite results in a coherent quantum state. In 1992 Eccles et al in their work ‘ quantum aspects of brain activity and the role of consciousness’ made a significant contribution. He showed in his paper that the consciousness manifests itself in mental intentions. However the works of Pauli-Jung and Penrose-Hameroff are also worth mentioning. On the other hand the utter impossibility of designing a machine as intelligent as a human being has brought about a serious debate in the areas of artificial intelligence.

However, regarding the nature of consciousness, scientists are clearly divided into two groups. A group of scientists thinks that consciousness is an epiphenomenon being the product of brain and neural activities. The other group of scientist holds the opinion that the Consciousness is fundamental and cannot be treated as an epiphenomenon. In the backdrop of such a controversy between two groups of thinkers, the perennial philosophies of India, namely, Samkhya, Yoga, Vedanta, Buddhism and Kashmiri Shaivism etcetera may be aptly invoked. Many modern thinkers like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Abhedananda have also contributed substantially to this field of studies by way of scientific interpretation of the philosophical concepts of Indian scriptures.  Remarkably, some of the modern scientists have now interested themselves in the philosophies of Buddhism, Yogashashtra and Vedanta to have an insight into the nature of the Reality.

The Samkhya philosophy accounts for the universe of relativity considering the Prakriti as primal cause of the creation. The Prakriti is considered to be the ubiquitious, infinite, undecaying, uncontrolled and the ultimate ground of the manifested and united universe. According to the Samkhya philosophers, Prakriti  is a beginningless continuum of infinitesimal reals. These reals, known as gunas, are characterized by medium for the reflection of intelligence, energy and inertia known as sattva, rajas and tamas respectively. The reals remain in a condition of equipose before the creation begins. The breakdown of the equilibrium and the preponderance of one over the others results in the manifestation of various objects of different names and forms. This breakdown is accomplished by the conscious influence of purusha, as the prakriti being inert cannot bring about the disturbance by its ownself. The purushas are infinite in number. The effective contact between a purusha and the prakriti brings about the creation of the physical universe. The seers of Advaita Vedanta, though refuted the concept of prakriti being the ultimate cause of the universe, accepted the Samkhya cosmology in principle to explain the creation of the physical universe. They took up the Samkhya metaphysics with a slight modification. They considered Absolute Consciousness to be ultimate cause of the universe. It is one without a second and it animates this world-order with its cosmic power maya. This maya is sometimes equated with the prakriti of Samkhya philosophy. But in Samkhya the prakriti is devoid of consciousness where as maya is a conscious entity.

The seers of Vedanta through logical inquiry and immediate realisation arrived at the conclusion that every object can be reduced to an undeniable and irreducible substratum called the Self.  This Self is the Absolute Consciousness. It is non dual and without any attributes. Vedanta considers the Self has projected this relative world-order through its apparent modification. The apparent modification of the Self is accomplished by dint of the cosmic power, maya. This maya is the substratum of space-time and causality through which the Absolute Consciousness appears to be relative.  The seers of Vedanta through direct experience and logical inquiry discovered that the individual self is one with the cosmic self. A person having this knowledge becomes the knower of the Absolute. 

The search for consciousness in Indian philosophy and religion has been pursued in three ways:

  •  Through the study of  Cosmology
  • Through the study of  Mind or  manas
  • Through the study of consciousness as manifested in different states of existence, viz, waking state, dream state and the state of dreamless sleep.

The Vedanta philosophy has presented a cosmological model which is not only rational but matches with many theories of modern science.  This model has not been projected to stress on the nature of the origin and evolution of the universe, but has been proposed in order to establish the sole reality of the Absolute consciousness, the Self. Through logical analysis of Adhyaropa-Apavada, superimposition and de-superimposition, the seers of Vedanta establish that the changeful universe has an unchanging reality as its cause. The World is a relative reality, mithya, whereas the its cause the Absolute consciousness is the only Truth, Satya. According to the Vedanta cosmology the Prana and the Akasha are the primal evolutes. Prana is the first prominent manifestation of consciousness. The Kathopanishad says:

‘Yadidam kimcha jagat sarvam prana ejati nihsritam.’

‘Whatever there in this world is nothing but the pulsation of the Prana.’

 These Prana and Akasha manifest at all the levels of relative existence.  At the physical level it represents the sum total of all physical interactions and the sum total of all matter is the Akasha. At the beginning of the creation of the physical universe, the Prana remains as potentiality within the Akasha. The vibration of the Prana on the Akasha triggers off the process of creation in the physical level.  Vedanta upholds that the physical level emerged from the mental level. In the mental level the Prana manifests as the psychic forces whereas the Akasha represents the infra-atomic particles called tanmatra. However, the mental level has the spiritual level as its substratum. In the spiritual level the Prana and Akasha remains united as an indivisible whole. Vedanta upholds that these different levels of existence being changeful and ephemeral represent the relative reality but not the Absolute Reality. The Absolute is immutable, infinite and eternal. Being itself uncaused, It is the cause of all the relative levels of existence. 

As per the second view, mind is the medium where the consciousness shines in its highest splendour. But the mind being the product of maya is always directed outward and establishes identification with the objects which are illusory and transitory in nature. These identifications are accomplished through the mental modifications. The yoga philosophy starts with the prescription of the control of the mental modifications. When the mental modifications are tamed, the mind becomes inward and concentrates on a single object which is the replica of Reality. Through constant practice the mind ultimately loses its own identity and becomes fully absorbed in that object. But the supreme realisation is not accomplished unless the subject-object duality vanishes.  When the mind commits suicide, the individual self merges into the supreme self and becomes one with it. This is highest experience of reality, the cessation of all misery. When this supreme state is attained, the much coveted knowledge of the Absolute is obtained.

According to the third view, an inquiry into the Absolute reality may be accomplished through the study of three states of existences, viz. waking state, dream state and the state of dreamless sleep. In the waking state, an individual gains perception through the inputs of the sense-organs and considers those perceptions as real. In the dream state, though the sense-organs remain inactive, the mind manipulates the stored sensory inputs and animates the reality in a peculiar way.  In the state of dreamless sleep the senses become inactive and the mind becomes free from all sensory impressions.  It is a very profound state where the mind becomes empty and the individual experiences a profound bliss for a finite period of time. It is to be noted that the same mind returns with different information about the reality in three different states of existences. Therefore, the notions of reality obtained in the different states of existence are relative and not the Absolute. Vedanta considers these experiences as illusory and asserts that the Absolute is beyond all these relative experiences and perceptions. When the mind ceases to be mind, the realisation of the Absolute is consummated. Thus the Vedanta prescribes the scientific praxis which enables an individual to transcend the mind and its illusory experiences and be established in the Absolute Reality- the Supreme Self.

In the present perspective the growing trends among the modern scientists towards the study of the philosophical concepts of Indian tradition religion and philosophy demands the exchange of views between the scientists, psychologists, philosophers and mystics. The Philosophico-Literary Research Department of Kaivalyadhama is untiringly endeavouring to form a conglomeration of the thoughts and views from diverse fields that will contribute to the holistic understanding of the Reality.  

 

Yoga: Classical and Contemporary Perspective

by Dr. B. R. Sharma Principal, G. S. College of Yoga and Cultural Synthesis, Kaivalyadhama, Lonavla.Introduction and statement of the problem Yoga bases its origin upon the necessity felt by the ancient seers to rid themselves of all sorrows permanently and to attain a direct realization of the Self. These unknown ancient ones, while minutely observing the life phenomenon, have observed that so long we do not become aware of the lost link of oneness between ourselves and the Infinite, we cannot escape from suffering. To regain a true awareness of oneness and to realize our divine nature is the highest purpose of yoga.This Yogavidya is said to be as old as the human existence handed down to us from one generation to other in the form of Living Tradition, systematized around 200 BC by the Sage Patanjali in the form of Yoga Sutras commonly known as ASHTANGA YOGA. This Sutra treatise of Patanjali is considered to be the representative of Classical Yoga.However, in contemporary times, the perspective of Yoga has been shifted significantly wherein the deep and eternal patanjalixessence of yoga has been misconceived/misinterpreted and reduced to a few exercises undermining its spiritual dimension. The relative position of the postures (asanas), has been elevated, so as to lead people to believe that the term ‘Yoga’ refers to physical postures only, as well as, a few breathing exercises on the name of pranayama and that the goal of these is nothing but physical fitness. The term meditation and meditation workshops on the name of yogic dhyana is also prevalent and considered to be very powerful technique which increases all-round performance level of people in their own field. The whole and the part have been reversed, terribly misleading and confusing people about the true nature of Classical Yoga. Such groups of people claim that they give more importance to Hathayoga, as well as, to ashtangayoga but in my opinion this exclusive one sided emphasis on a few hathayogic practices (like asana & pranayama) need be re-thought because if hathayogic practices are not leading to Rajayoga then they will be considered merely a series of gymnastic exercises. Therefore, there is a need to re-define the meaning of Yoga and to clarify its purpose so that the pure and pristine message of classical yoga may be understood in its true perspective. In doing so, with the help of the etymological meaning of the term yoga, as well as, its various forms/dimensions as
understood in classical literature, here an effort has been made to understand the true import of ashtangayoga in its classical perspective simultaneously drawing the attention towards its missing part in contemporary understanding and practice of yoga. Meaning and Definition Generally the term yoga is understood as means, methods, and techniques. However, when we go through the great commentary of Sage Vyasa on Patanjala Yoga Sutras, it says “Yogena yogo jnatavya..” yoga- aiva- upaadhiyaya” i.e. Yoga should be known through yoga as yoga itself is a teacher. This statement of Sage Vyasa indicates two aspects of yoga i. Yoga as Sadhya ( i. e. End aspect to be achieved) and ii. as sadhana (i.e. Means, methods etc.). Let us examine the statement on the basis of etymological meaning of the term Yoga and different definitions thereof available in classical literature. The term Yoga has derived from the Sanskrit root “YUJ” which stands for:a. Yuj samyoge = to unite. b.Yuj Samadhau = put together or to integrate. c. Yuj Samyamane = to restrain a. Definitions of Yoga representing the import of a. (i.e. samyoge)“Samyoga yoga ityukto jivatmana parmatmanoh” i. e. unification of individual self with the Higher Self is Yoga. Here the term yoga indicates the ultimate union and thus stands for the END aspect of Yoga. (Applicable to Hatha Yoga, VasishthaSamhita. Yogi Yajnavalkya., Yoga Vasistha, Astanga Yoga of Charandas etc.)b. Definitions of Yoga representing the import of b. (i.e. Samadhau) i. Yogah samadhih” (Vyasa on P.Y.S. I/1) i.e. total Integration. Patanjali, seems to accept this meaning as he does not subscribe to the other meaning i.e. union. This is mainly because Patanjali accepts Samkhyan metaphysics wherein the purpose is separation of Purusha from that of Prakriti. Similarly Patanjali also conveys the same connotation by saying that drashta (witnessing principle) to be separated from drishya (observable principle) as the association of the both is the cause of pain and hence the meaning of yoga according to sankhya-yoga stands as separation and not as union. Bhagavad Gita makes it clear “tam vidyadduhkhasamyoga viyoga yoga samjnitam” (Gita 6.23) i.e. separation from the association of pain or suffering is yoga. It is again based on Samkhyan
philosophy that declares that all sorts’ of pain and miseries arise because of misidentification of purusha with that of prakriti. Thus separation from pain means separation from prakriti wherein purusha abides in his original nature technically called svarupaavasthaa . ii.“Samatvam yoga ucyate” (Gita II/48). According to Bhagwadgita, Yoga is the state of equanimity in which a person remains unaffected by different situations such as success and failure, attachment and aversion in life. This equanimity of mind makes the person free from the imbalances of mind and helps to make him/her stable and relaxed.On the basis of the definitions discussed above under a. & b. it becomes clear that both are representing the END aspect of Yoga either in terms of union or integration.c. Definitions of Yoga representing the import of c. (i.e. Samyamane) i. Tam yogamiti manyate sthiramindriyadharanam ( Katha.Upa 2.6. 11). i. e. Stability of senses isconsidered to be Yoga. ii. By controlling the senses concentrating the mind is Yoga ( Shveta. Upa. 2.8) iii. Yogascittavrtti Nirodhah (PYS I/2) re-channalization of afflicted modificationsof chitta to non-afflicted (i.e. towards integration & harmony) is Yoga. iv.“Yoga is integration and harmony between thoughts, words and deeds orIntegration between head, heart and hands” – Swami Satyananda .v. Manah prashamanopayah yoga ityabhidhiyate (Yoga Vasistha).Yoga is a mean for quietening the mind.vii. Yogah karmasu kaushalam (Gita 2.50) Perfection in action is Yoga. In other words when work is done like a worship without expecting any result (non-attachment) is Yoga. It is a technique of getting success in life. Here, the principle of non-attachment helps in the attainment of relaxation. Bhagavad-Gita emphasizes ‘awareness in action’ and relaxed action is the process; and efficiency and skillfulness in action is an outcome.ix. Yogah bhavati duhkhaha (Gita 6.17) Yoga is a method through which one overcomes all suffering permanently.
Above mentioned definitions of Yoga (under “c”) highlight the MEANS aspect of Yoga which consists of Practical and Methodical aspect of Yoga in the form of various techniques/methods/procedures etc. leading towards the accomplishment of either a. Unification or b. Integration i.e. the END aspect of Yoga. The value of yoga as a method mentioned under “c” above (here in the form of definitions) have been practiced in some form or the other by the yogis according to their own temperament throughout the history on the name of various forms/dimensions of Yoga.A broad classification of all classical approaches/dimensions of Yoga can be divided into two-
  1. Bhavana Yoga consists in developing a particular attitude in one-self and towards world. The Yoga schools coming under this group are – a. Jnana Yoga, b. Bhakti Yoga and c. Karma Yoga.
  2. Prana samyaman Yoga – consists in attainment of highest realization through control over Prana. The Yoga schools coming under this group are –a. Mantra Yoga, b. Hatha Yoga, c. Laya Yoga and d. Raja Yoga.
i. Bhavana Yoga-
  1. Jnana Yoga – is the path of knowledge and wisdom. This involves intense mental discipline. The sadhaka learns to discriminate between the real and the unreal, between finite and the infinite. Bhavana Yoga is found in Bhagavadgita with all its varieties.
  2. Bhakti Yoga – Bhakti Yoga is Yoga of devotion. This path is the way of love and devotion. It is a path of self surrender, of devoting dedicating all resources, in attaining the ultimate reality. We find this bhakti elaborated in Bhagavadgita. However, Bhakti as an independent and important method is available in Narada Bhakti Sutra and Shandilya Bhakti Sutra. Bhagavat Purana discusses about navadha ( 9 stages of) Bhakti.
  3. Karma Yoga – The path teaches us to do our own duties in life selflessly, dedicating the fruits of our action to mankind. Practicing this aspect of yoga helps us to live in the world without being distressed. The germs of Karma Yoga are available in one of the important systems of Indian philosophy known as Mimamsa Philosophy. This Karma Yoga is known as Nishkama Karma Yoga in Bhagavadgita.
In Patanjala Yoga Sutras, we get a profound combination of jnana-bhakti-karma-yogas in the practice of Kriyayoga wherein karmayoga can be counted under tapas, jnanayoga under the svadhyaya,
and bhaktiyoga under Isvarapranidhana. Tapas, svadhyaya and isvarapranidhana have been a part and parcel of one’s life right from the ancient times. But the objectives or motivations differed from one individual to another, often conditioned by the passage of time. So, when these practices are directed with the sole objective of attaining Samadhibhavana (i.e. to develop an inner ambience of Samadhi) by weakening the powerful grip of kleshas i.e. afflictions it becomes Kriyayoga. According to Patanjali the three components of kriyayoga have got equal importance emphasizing that these three have to be mutually supportive and well-integrated to get the desired end. Patanjali makes this fact clear by using the term ‘kriyayogah’ in singular form.ii. Prana Samyaman Yoga a. Mantra Yoga Mantra yoga involves meditation and the use of certain sounds called mantras which are traditionally transmitted to the students and are used as an object of concentration. Mananat trayate it Mantra – as a result of repeated recitation, mantra makes one free from evil thought, ensues good thoughts leading to no thoughts. Shiva Samhita, while explaining the eligibility says tha Mridu i.e.weak type of sadhaka should take up Mantra Yoga. Mantras are based on the theory of esoteric sounds and have esoteric relationship with the various energy centers in human body. Sharada Tilaka Tantra associates all the vowels with ida and semi vowels and consonants with that of Sushumna. For spiritual purpose it is necessary to work on Ida and Sushumna. According to Mantra Mahodadhi and Mantra Yoga Shastra- there are fifteen limbs of Mantra Yoga.b. Hatha YogaMost important Sadhana system and directly related with control over respiration therefore, a balance between Ha and Tha is called Hatha Yoga. It recognizes fundamentally asana, Kumbhaka, Mudra and Nadanusandhana as limbs of Hatha Yoga. Ha and tha balance is facilitated when one undergoes various practices such as cleansing practices and nadishodhana. Traditionally the Hatha School recognizes eight varieties of Kumbhakas. Some traditions apply recitation of Pranava or Bija Mantra in the course of controlled inhalation, retention and exhalation.c. Laya YogaEtymologically it means complete absorption. It includes the essence of Mantra Yoga, practice of Pranayama and attention of mind on one point inside the body. It can be Charkas or even Bhrumadhya, Nasagra or jihvagra. Laya proceeds with control over five sense organs – which is usually known as Pratyahara. Concentration on various Chakras result into arousal of Kundalini which passes through the seven Chakras and reaches to Sahasrara and unites with Shiva. This is called Maha laya.
d. Raja YogaFinally there is a state of Yogic attainment. Rajayoga is also known as synonym of Samadhi. Patanjali’s Yoga has been identified as Raja Yoga. It is interesting that Patanjali’s Yoga contains the germ of almost every variety of Yoga and can be practiced by a person of any faith and thus seems very much relevant to the modern society. With a view to illustrate the statement of problem let us briefly understand the classical eight-fold path of Patanjali along with the missing aspect of yoga in contemporary times.The Eight-fold Path of Patanjali –The Sutra Treatise of Patanjali, divided into four chapters, is a psychological exposition of Yoga. Its field of action is to refine the activities of chitta (the whole psyche of man) and thereby getting absolute mastery over it. The whole treatise deals with the means and ways to achieve this end. Thus, keeping this theme in mind, Patanjali defines Yoga as-“chitta – vritti – nirodha”. It does not mean that a sadhaka becomes ‘mindless’ being, rather he is left ‘conscious-full’ with a transformed mind which due to its transparent (sattvika) nature can function to actualize the Self, as well as, the not-self. This state can be achieved in and through dedicated and determined practice (abhyasa) and dispassionate objectivity (vairagya). Patanjali, as well as, all above mentioned schools of yoga develop a process of self- transformation wherein moral (yamas) and ethical (niyamas) purity is the foundation and considered to be indispensable for this journey. One can’t allow himself to be impure, insincere, untruthful and harmful to others and at the same time try to practice yoga. Thus one has to be rooted in goodness, purity, truthfulness, self- reliance, patience and preservation, sincerity and honesty, contentment and in selfless services. Unfortunately these virtues are ignored in the contemporary times.Asana– Patanjali defines it as ‘sthirasukhamasanam’ (PYS II/46) ‘to sit steadily and comfortably‘ came to be accepted (by the commentators) as the characteristics, as well as, the technique of ‘asana’ and as a consequence of this interpretation, it seems the next sutra (P.Y.S.II/47), which really provides the technique of ‘asana’, has lost its real significance in its practice i. e. effortlessness (prayatnashaithilya) and engrossment with infinite (anantasamapatti). Due to which ‘asana’ is generally taken to be related solely to the physical body or body positioning. This could be the reason that in contemporary times, we have lost the purpose of asana as yoganaga in which we even transcend the body and therefore, person is not overpowered by the pairs of opposites.(P.Y.S.II/48). This part is missing today in the practice of asana and asana is limited to the physiological aspects and being practiced in the health clubs as it contributes towards endurance and flexibility of the body and has become superficial only for physical
beauty . In fact, the term ‘sthira‘ should directly qualify the term ‘sukham‘ (as ‘sthira‘ seems an adjective of the term ‘sukham’) so as to get the meaning of ‘sukha-sthirata’ i.e. ‘continuous flow of comfort’, if we accept this then the meaning of ‘sthirasukhamasanam‘ would be ‘a state (of mind) wherein the continuous flow of comfort is maintained’ which could automatically lead to the manifestation of ‘asana‘ as yoganga.. Pranayama (expansion of breath) Patanjali has given emphasis on silencing the activities of chitta by way of prolonging and silencing the process of breathing activities to stand still. ‘tasminsati shvasaprashvasayor gati-vicchedah pranayamah (PYS II/49) – it shows that intense practice of ‘asana‘ automatically leads to ‘pranayama‘. The ‘shvasa-prashvasa’ which is one of the indicatives of ‘cittavikshepas’ (PYS I/31) gets ‘broken off’ ‘vicchedah’ in a specific manner in ‘pranayama. That, in turns, helps in removing all coverings of consciousness ( P.Y.S. II/52 ) and mind becomes fit instrument to enter into the field of dharana i.e. concentration ( P.Y.S. II/53 ) This aspect of pranayama, in contemporary times, is neglected and used only for overcoming a few disorders.In Hatha yoga, when nadis are purified by the regular practices of Pranayama, Prana is made to enter into the mouth of Sushmana with the help of various practices of Hathayoga (like bandhas and mudras etc.) and moves upward leading to the state of Manonmani, the highest level of Yogic Consciousness. ( H. P. II/41-42 ). Unfortunately, this aspect of pranayama ( kumbhaka) is not given any importance in contemporary times.Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses). In Kathopanishad it is said that our senses are meant extrovert (“Pranchikhani vyatrinat..”) so whenever we interact in the outer world our mind constantly go on gathering sensations of external world through senses and mind reacts to them. If one wants to remove such distractions of mind then one should develop a mental ability to let go its involvement with external sensations leading to internalized consciousness. This classical practice of making the consciousness introvert stands totally neglected in present scenario.Dharana (Concentration) in this stage, mind develops an ability to cultivate its scattered focusing power on an object of concentration through willful consistent practice. When this unbroken concentration process is continued then this concentration culminates into dhyana (yogic meditation). Dhyana is an uninterrupted flow of consciousness towards a chosen object. When consciousness expands to its still higher stages it is termed as samapatti-a complete fusion into the chosen object and then it goes beyond conscious and subconscious levels and assumes the super conscious flow and there arises a
prajna known as rtambhara (intuitive wisdom). All classical approaches/dimensions of yoga prepare the sadhaka to eventually reach to this higher stage of dhyana. In this state of dhyana, Triputi ( meditator, meditation and object to be meditated) is still maintained however, prolonged and intense dhyana ultimately leads to the state of Samadhi wherein object only shines as if meditator and the process of meditation have been dropped. Thus the sadhaka regain the true awareness of that oneness with the infinite and attains peace, perfection and tranquility. A person who has achieved this stage of Samadhi lives his life as spontaneous expression of the unhindered flow of supreme consciousness and transcends all divisions of culture, caste, creed and color. When one becomes aware of the infinite consciousness then the whole life is transformed that is what the purpose of classical yoga understood in both senses- Unification or Integration. The true import of meditation in classical terms is unfortunately, missing in contemporary times in so called meditational workshops.What we need today is to incorporate a few practices of classical yoga which can help us in re- channelizing our nature from passion to purity, from untruth to truth from hardness to kindness and shedding of our ego etc. These are the primary acts which are missing today in our practice but these virtues can be cultivated through various disciplinary methods and systematic recourse of the yogic way of life- consisting of wholesome food habits, wholesome activities, purity in thought etc. (Gita VI/17).We can achieve contentment and a serene state of mind that can help us to perform our life’s duties with utmost love and dedication.In short, the group of people who has reduced yoga to physical exercises should know that Yoga deals with body, breath and mind but is aimed at that beyond mind. Be it borne in mind that Asana, pranayama are just the part of the whole (Yoga) and that whole is considered to be science of achieving the true purpose of life and realizing our Divine nature.
 

 The Goal and the Way

Siddhartha was a happy prince and was very happy indeed.

He was in his early youth and had enough wealth to indulge in a life of luxury and abundance. He was married to the beautiful princess Yashodhara and the life was in flying colours to him. He never came across the grim realities of life since his early childhood and his youth too was full of joy and happiness.

Once he set out on a chariot to tour around his kingdom. On his way he came across an old man, a sick person and a corpse in succession and was severely shocked to discover these unavoidable pangs of life. He realized at heart that the life is full of sufferings. Yet there was a ray of hope as he also happened to meet an ascetic who was striving to set himself free from the clutch of worldly woes and grief. He became aware of the sufferings of life and, at the same time, realized that there are a few, who are diligently in search of the eternal happiness gaining which one can overcome mundane miseries. Thus in his attempt to overcome the worldly sufferings Siddhartha renounced his royal luxury and loving family. Finally, Siddhartha could permanently ward off the worldly afflictions, being transformed into Buddha, to live in a condition of joy eternal.  

Most of the people in this world, like Siddhartha, recognize the sufferings of life and are plagued with panic and pessimism. Till the early youth when vigour of life is in its peak, people choose to fulfill their passion for material pleasure and lead the life in a hedonistic way. But sooner or later he understands that every moment of joy is the reminder of woe, every youth matures into an old -age, every wellness is destined to attain infirmity and every birth is followed by death. Moreover the worldly conflicts, struggles and disaster precipitate bleak eventuality. However the basic instinct of humankind is to evade these miseries and lead a life of perfect joyfulness. But somehow the cherished goal of attaining everlasting happiness often eludes human being. The much coveted goal of attaining perfect happiness always appears to be intangible and unattainable.

The Yoga is the only answer to all the sorrows of life. The Bhagavad Gita, the most authentic compendium of Yogashashtra, defines yoga as the ‘destroyer of all sorrow’. But miserably enough almost the majority of people bear a misconception regarding this Yoga. Some treat is as mere practices leading to physical wellness and some use it as the techniques of metal relaxation without getting into the very core of this wonderful science.  The Yoga is the science of being and becoming. It is the ultimate goal. It has a message for the body, it has a message for the mind and also it has a message for the soul. The message is to go beyond all the bondages to rest in the limitless expanse of the blissful self. 

Patanjali in hisYoga Sutra defines Yoga precisely with the help of two aphorisms:

yogaścittavṛtti  nirodhah |

tadā draṣṭu svarūpe avasthānam |

According to these two aphorisms of Patanjali, Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications which leads an individual to abide in his Real Nature. The cessation of all sorrow is accomplished when an individual discovers and abides in his own real nature.  The ultimate goal is to know our real nature by which we experience perpetual joyfulness. Indian philosophy asserts that we are not the body, but actually we are the soul residing in the body. The soul is ever existent, pure, aware and free. It is of the nature of absolute bliss. Indian seers realised through spiritual praxis that our soul is the only reality which is one without a second. This singular principle manifests as the manifold existence through its association with ignorance. The aim of yoga is to lift the veil of ignorance enabling an individual to discover its own transcendental nature. As soon as the nescience is annihilated, the Reality shines forth with an exuberance of bliss. The bliss thus obtained is of the nature of eternity. One who experiences it experiences perpetual freedom from the miseries of worldliness. This is a perfect freedom. The worldly turbulence subsides into the infinitude of homogeneous bliss. That is what Buddha experienced in his life. He identified the worldliness as the source of misery and experienced the negation of worldliness as the Ultimate Reality. Beyond this negation there is the absolute affirmation of joy and the Yoga is bridge to this affirmation.

In the backdrop of this, the question arises as to whether the idea of Self is scientifically tenable. In the past, the scientific theories advocated for the mechanistic realism. But with the discovery of quantum mechanics materialistic realism died hard and the subtle connectivity between mind and matter has been established. Consequently the scientists turned their attention from experiments to experience. The later works of the physicist Pauli and psychologist Jung in the areas of the interface of psychology and matter is a giant leap towards the validation of Yoga psychology. However, the great   philosopher Acarya Shankara in his works has furnished the ontological proof of the existence of transcendental reality on the basis of logical reasoning. His scholarly work of logic established that these mystical experiences are not only rational but could be verified and tested like all other fundamental sciences. The journey to the Absolute begins from the training of body-mind complex which is ultimately transcended to reach the ultimate goal, the Self- Realisation. Apart from Rajayoga of Patanjali, there are different paths and praxis, namely Jnanayoga, Karmayoga, Bhaktiyoga etcetera, which consummates to the highest realisation. But the Rajayoga is a scientifically worked out path which not only addresses the physical level, mental level and spiritual level but also helps in transcending all the relative levels of existence to reach the Absolute level. When an individual attains this state he becomes absolutely free from the all bondage leading to the experience of pain and misery. Being absolutely free from the clutch of ignorance he comes face to face with his own divine self.  The divinity which is inherent within him manifests with its undimmed splendor. The quintessence of this unique science of Rajayoga has been expressed by Swami Vivekananda in beautiful way. He says:

‘According to yoga philosophy, it is through ignorance that the soul has been joined with nature. The aim is to get rid of nature’s control over us. That is the goal of all religions. Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this Divinity within, by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy — by one or more or all of these — and be free.’

 Absolute freedom from the shackles of worldly miseries is the ultimate goal of humankind. The science of yoga leads to a state of eternal freedom where one can live happily forever relishing the elixir of infinite existence. 

Written by Rajeshwar Mukhopadhyay – Research Officer, KaivalyaDhama.