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The Philosophy and Psychology of Yoga Practice

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Chapter 16: Yoga the Effort of Consciousness to Regain its Status (Continued)

The whole universe, which appears as an object of consciousness, is pervaded by consciousness. This is an unavoidable conclusion that we have to draw when taking our stand on the possibility of the omnipresence of consciousness. Though there is an immanence, a subtle presence in the whole world, this immanent, subtle, conscious presence is inseparable from us. This is clear from the fact that consciousness does not seem capable of being divided into pieces because we have already known that no limit can be set to consciousness. It is unlimited. The unlimitedness of consciousness suggests its immanence, its omnipresence. It pervades the whole cosmos and, therefore, latently, potentially, in a hidden manner, we seem to be pervading all objects, without which, knowledge of the objects of the world would not be possible. If objects were totally cut off from us, if the world were not to be consciously, vitally connected with us, we would not be in a position to know that the world is there at all.

So, we are more than what we appear. We are immortal essences, not mortal, fragile, physical bodies merely. The omnipresence of our essential nature implies the organic structure of the universe with which we are not merely connected, but from which we are inextricable. We seem to be the universe ourselves. And what is yoga? It is the recognition of this fact, an awakening of consciousness to the fact of its being organically present in all things, a Universal being. What is yoga? Its aim is Universal Realisation. It is an actualisation of the potentiality within the human being. It is a waking up from dream, as it were or rather, a wakening from sleep. The possibility of knowing the whole world is present in the state of deep sleep also; but it is only a possibility. Practically, there is nothing; it is like a dead seed. But it can become a live force when it germinates into the active operative field of what we call waking existence. Something like that is the action of yoga.

This great objective of yoga practice, which is based on this conclusion of a great philosophy which recognises the immortality of consciousness, is the recognition of the omnipresent existence as the only Reality. So, Reality can only be one, not manifold. We cannot have many universes. What we call a universe is the totality of all existence, and we individuals, we persons, we human beings, these things, are not outside this organic structure. What does yoga tell us, then? It is the effort of consciousness to regain its status, in every level of its expression. It appears the universe has revealed itself in various levels or degrees of intensity.

This is what we study in the schools of thought the Sankhya, the Yoga, the Vedanta. These levels of being are the levels or the stages of the practice of yoga. The system of Patanjali which delineates eight limbs, the stages of knowledge which are described in such great scriptures like the Yoga Vasishtha, and the methods of meditation prescribed to us in Upanishads, etc., all mean that yoga is the return of consciousness from its present condition to that which is possible, practicable and real. The potentiality is brought to the surface of a living awareness. This is done gradually. Yoga, as far as we are concerned, should be regarded as a graduated step. It is not a sudden jump or breaking through, and no such attempt should be made. Inasmuch as we are accustomed to logical thinking and a gradational approach in everything, from the lower we go to the higher, from the effect we proceed to the cause, from the known we go to the unknown, and from the potential we reach the actual.

Our present condition is an involvement in various particulars, let alone the metaphysical involvements of space, time and cause. We have more poignant and touching involvements in human society. Our mutual behaviour, our conduct, and our obligations also seem to be a part and parcel of yoga practice. Yoga is a comprehensive science; it does not exclude any value in life. If anyone has the wrong notion that yoga is an affair not concerned with this world but with some extra-cosmic God or some immortal realisation which has no connection with the world, then that is a totally misconceived notion. All reality, in all its degrees, is taken into consideration in the gradational practice of yoga.

What is a degree of reality? Anything that is inseparable from your present state of consciousness is a reality for you. We have to be realists, and most practical. Whether a thing is ultimately real or not, is not important here. We are troubled, not by the ultimately real, but by what is real to our consciousness. Something seems to be impinging on us, and we take those things as real. The involvement of consciousness in a particular condition makes that condition a reality. We are involved in mutual behaviour.

The so-called yamas and the niyamas, and the sadhana chatushtaya of the Vedanta, are all prescriptions to consciousness, to adjust and adapt itself in a harmonious manner in regard to its outward relations. We have to be very cautious that we do not take double or triple steps in the practice of yoga. It is better to go slowly rather than to go fast and then feel a necessity to retrace our steps. Our difficulties and involvements should be made clear to our own selves by ourselves. Each yoga student should be honest to himself or herself: What are my difficulties and what are my needs? These have to be portrayed systematically in a chart, in a diary, and they have to be broken through untied, as knots are untied. We should not have conflicts of any kind, and yoga is a resolution of all conflicts. The whole yoga and the Bhagavadgita in particular may be said to be a system of breaking through conflicts of every kind. Have we any conflict? Are we opposed to any circumstance in life?

We have a dual opposition primarily, though we have a more difficult opposition or conflict of a different type which we may have to encounter after some time. We have a difficulty felt every day with our relationships outside, and we have a difficulty felt in our own selves. We cannot always get on with people outside and the conditions of life; the ways of the world and the course which people seem to be following do not always seem to go hand in hand with our requirements, our present ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, necessary and unnecessary, etc. So, we have a social conflict. We are always in dread of the externals. We guard ourselves, we dress ourselves, we behave in a particular manner, and we put on appearances because we are afraid of the outer atmosphere, with which we are not reconciled.

There is simultaneously an inner non-alignment of ourselves. We are not always honest even to our own selves. We have a specious argumentative logic which always justifies its own whims and fancies, and our emotions and passions often are justified by reason, which creates a conflict within our own selves. There is something in us, which may tell us that all our emotional reactions are not necessarily correct, but reason says that they have to be correct; otherwise, they cannot be fulfilled, because the necessity to fulfil even irrational instincts will call for a rational justification of these instincts.

In psychoanalysis this is called a rationalisation of instincts, which is what we do practically every day. There is a self-justifying attitude of every individual which tears our personality to shreds. We think in one way, speak in another way, and act in a third way. We are one thing today, another thing tomorrow; one thing with this person, one thing with that person, and a third thing altogether with our own selves, so that we can never have peace of mind. We are in awful fear of everything in the world. What will happen to me tomorrow? What will the world think about me? Such fears arise on account of a principle and central non-alignment of the layers of our own personality physical, vital, psychological, rational, instinctive, emotional, volitional, and all things. These are like children fighting with one another inside us, and every day we spend a lot of energy in seeing that we do not go mad; otherwise, they will tear us into pieces. Our psychological difficulties are so intense that we may not be able to live a sane life for even three days if we do not put forth great effort to see that a cementing factor is somehow or other applied to these otherwise dissenting elements in our psychological personality. This difficulty within us is projected outside into the social world and even the physical world, and whatever is wrong within us, is also seen outside. This is a twofold conflict: the social and the physical or, rather, the outward conflict the irreconcilability of ourselves with the world outside which is mainly caused by a torn personality inside.

Philosophical investigations, the foundations of yoga practice, have gone so deep into this matter that they have proclaimed the only panacea possible for all these ills. No drug, no medicine, no good word, no delicious dish, can make us all right. Something is seriously wrong at the very root; that is the isolation of ourselves as beings from the cosmic whole. This is the fall of man, as scriptures say the cutting off of consciousness, which is the true subject, into the condition of a little part which is shrouded in a physical vesture, which is the human personality.

There is, therefore, a cosmic problem before us, apart from the social and outward problems and the inner psychological tensions. These inward difficulties and outer conflicts are caused by a cosmical difficulty. There is a vaster problem before us than what we can see with our eyes or envisage with our little minds namely, our isolation from the cosmic whole. While yoga is very eager to see that we do not come in conflict with people outside and the world externally, it is also equally clear that our inner personality should also be set in tune and be streamlined into an alignment; but yoga is more particular to see that we are tuned up to the cosmos.

The procedure that yoga practice adopts in bringing about our alignment with the outer atmosphere and with our own inner constituents of personality may be considered as the outer court of yoga. The real yoga starts when we feel competent to tune ourselves with the universe itself. Here meditation becomes pre-eminently active and important. Dhyana, the yoga of meditation with which we are all familiar, is not an ordinary step that we are taking. It is, perhaps, the last plunge into the ocean of life. The other preparatory stages are not unimportant because psychological sanity is not unimportant, social harmony is not unimportant, good behaviour is not unimportant, ethical and moral conduct is not unimportant, a good sleep is not unimportant, and so all these are also to be taken into consideration in our great enthusiasm for yoga, union with the Absolute, though it is true that we are aiming at that finally.

Thus, be careful to note that yoga is not merely one of the sciences or one of the schools of thought or a philosophy; it is the philosophy of life. It is the final answer to our questions. And yoga is not something taken to by just a section of people in the human world, but it is the unavoidable need felt by every living being. Yoga is not meant only for the so-called religious people or spiritual seekers, as people wrongly think. It is the science of existence, the art of living. It is the system of living a happy life, and who does not want to be happy? Thus, yoga is a necessity for all humanity.