Chapter 4: The Psychology of Yoga
Today we come to the more practical side of spiritual life, a necessity that arises automatically from the structure or the nature of things. We observed that the objective and the subjective sides of things run parallelly towards the destination of their evolution; and the two lines of evolution, or processes of development, seem to have a corresponding similarity and uniformity of action underlying them and controlling them even from outside.
The world-experience, or empirical perception, is the way in which the object is envisaged and looked upon by the subject as an external something. Spiritual experience, on the contrary, is the recognition and the experience of the underlying uniformity and unity that rules supreme over the apparently bifurcated processes known as the objective and the subjective sides of experience.
When the mental mode of the subject perceives an object as an external something, a modification takes place in the mental makeup. In Sanskrit, this transformation taking place in the mind due to the presence of an object in front of it is called a vritti. A psychosis, a modification, a sensation or a reaction that spontaneously takes place in the structure of the mind, or the mind-stuff, is a vritti. Just as when butter is brought near fire a transformation takes place in the lump of butter due to the effect produced by the heat of the fire, and just as objects that are dear or objects of hatred bring about a transformation in the mind of the subject perceiving the object, likewise, every object in the world brings about a corresponding transformation in the mind. This is what we call empirical experience, brought about by sensory contact and psychological cognition.
We continuously transform ourselves due to the very presence of objects outside us. This transformation is not necessarily conscious. It does not mean that we are always aware of the mental transformations taking place within ourselves. Part of this transformation becomes a content of our conscious experience, but the major part of it is unconsciously undergone. This is the peculiarity of our psychological makeup.
We have different layers of personality, and these various levels of our being determine our total experience. Our personality, the human nature, is not merely the conscious level of our activity or experience. We do not know our own selves wholly. We are ignorant of what is taking place in the major part of our own personality. This is the reason why we have moods and passages of experience, one succeeding the other, over most of which we have neither a control nor a proper knowledge.
A part of our personality is given to us as conscious experience.�Similarly, a part of our bank balance may be in a current deposit, a part of it may be in a fixed deposit, and a part of it may be in a certificate. Whatever be the nature of the deposit, the whole of our financial resources is not in our current account, but part of it is drawn from the source for daily requirements. Likewise, a portion of our total experience is given to us as conscious activity. We draw upon the conscious level of our experience, and keep the major part in a fixed deposit because it is not necessary for daily experience. But, that fixed deposit can also be called into conscious experience when it is necessary. It can even be encashed prematurely when emergencies arise, or when we are in a difficult situation on the conscious level.
Usually, we do not draw upon the deeper resources. We get on with our conscious experience mostly, and we may even forget the existence of the major resources that we do not draw upon in day-to-day life. If we are very rich and our current account is large enough to maintain us throughout our life, we may even forget the existence of our fixed deposit. Likewise, our entire personality never comes to the surface, to our conscious activity or conscious experience. The major part of our life is buried deep, but it influences our personality even though it does not actually operate actively on the conscious level.
We have reserve forces of the army, of police, and so on. They do not come into conscious action always. Their energies or powers are not drawn upon every day. To give another example, we have the central operative force at the governmental level which determines the activities of the various departments. Their very existence and presence is enough to influence the activities of the lower departments at the day-to-day level of activity. Similarly, our mental structure can get on with the quota that is given to it for conscious activity, and we are likely to mistake our conscious level of experience as the entirety of our life, so that we are apt to make remarks about our own selves, judging ourselves from the point of view of what we are experiencing today at the conscious level. “I am well off” is a general remark that some people may make when they judge themselves from the point of view of what they are experiencing at that given moment of time.
We cannot judge ourselves merely by knowing our personality from today’s experience. There is a vast past behind us, and also an enormous future ahead of us. Both the past and the future determine our present. That which has gone past as an experience, leaving an impression in our mind, as well as what is to pull us ahead as a future – both these aspects of our experience have a say in the matter of our present experience. The quantity of desires in our mind – those desires that have been fulfilled, are yet to be fulfilled, and the consequent experiences that follow as a result of these unfulfilled desires of the future as well as the impressions left by past desires – all these tell upon our present life, so that our present experience is a complex of various factors coming from various sides, from different parts of the world, inwardly and outwardly, so that we represent in our individuality a cross section of world experience.
A single individual, when properly studied, is in a position to give us an idea of the total cosmic situation. All the roads that lead to the various corners of the world cross at a point, which we call the individual, and this cross section is the study in the practice of yoga. Just as the main switchboard may show us the position of the various pinpoints or plug points in electricity, a cross section that is taken in the form of an individual and studied properly will give us an idea of the world situation today.
The whole of the cosmos has its impact upon every individual. The cosmic situation cannot be objectively studied, on account of the inadequacy of our instruments; but the whole cosmos can be studied through every individual because every individual, taken independently, represents a replica of the cosmic situation. The whole cosmos is reflected in each individual, and the study of the individual is, therefore, the study of the cosmos. The bondage of the individual, again, is due to a cosmic situation, and the liberation of the individual will also be an outcome of a cosmic situation, so that samsara is not merely an experience of a particular individual but a cosmic situation represented in its totality. The liberation of an individual is also a cosmic experience. There is no such thing as individual salvation. When an individual attains liberation, the whole cosmos is correspondingly affected because the individual is a reflection, as it were, of the whole cosmic setup.
The study of the psychology of yoga is, thus, a cosmic study of things. It is not a study of the psychology of a particular individual or the cooperation of the mental makeup of an individual taken independently. The practice of yoga is a cosmic science because the study of the individual is at once the study of the cosmic situation. The study of the world and the study of the individual mean one and the same thing. We can take a single leaf of a tree and study the entire makeup of the tree; the structure of the entire tree is reflected in the makeup of a single leaf. Or, to give another example, a single cell of the body will tell us what our whole body is. When our blood is medically examined, only a drop is taken, and the whole system of our body is studied from that single drop of blood. A single cell taken out of our body, when properly studied, will tell us what our whole personality is, because the entire system is organic in its structure. It is organic in the sense that everything is influenced by everything else. Every part of the body is a representation of the total body.
Every individual is thus a representative of the total cosmos. Everything that is in the pindanda is in the brahmanda. Whatever is outside, is inside. The universe is an organic structure, even as the human body is an organic structure. And just as the organic structure of the human body can be studied by studying a part of it – a cell, for example, or a drop of blood – the whole cosmos can be studied by the study of a single individual.
Even in the individual, it is the centre of the individual that matters most – the mental structure. The psychology of the human being is the whole human being. When our mind is studied, the whole of our personality is studied in all its levels of experience. The study of mind is the study of yoga. The study of human nature is the study of mind, and that again is what we know as the study of yoga in its generality and in its particularity. The control of the mind is yoga: yogaḥ cittavṛitti nirodhaḥ (YS 1.2). This is because the mind is a cross section of the whole creation. We can operate upon the entire cosmos by operating upon the factors constituting the mental structure of an individual. The study of the mind is the study of yoga, or the study of the cosmic structure, and the control of the mind is the control of the whole universe.
We are now pinpointed at the cross section that is called the psychological organ. In Sanskrit, it is called the antahkarana. The study of the antahkarana is the study of the psychological structure of the human being. What is the psychological nature of a person? It is everything that can be comprised within what may be called the experience of the individual. What we call our experience is our psychological operation. I deliberately use the word ‘experience’, and not ‘consciousness’, because consciousness is mistaken for the waking experience of our day-to-day life. But our psychological structure is not exhausted by the waking experience merely. We have other experiences than the waking. There are various levels of our psychological structure. What we are is not merely what we experience in our waking life. We have dream experiences which bring out more of our personality than the waking life. Many of our truths are revealed in our dream life rather than our waking life.
Do you know why our whole personality is not revealed in waking life? Because there is social censor – the reality, as it is called in psychoanalysis. The reality of the world censors many of our experiences. Just as our mail can be censored and those letters which are objectionable in their nature may not be delivered, objectionable desires and experiences are not delivered into conscious experience due to social censor. This is the reason why we bury many of our experiences within us, and keep ourselves locked up within a prison house created by our own selves, so that we have a private personality which is independent of our public personality. We are different in our house from what we are in our office. When we return from the office, we speak with our family members in another way altogether from how we behave in the office. This is because the office experiences are controlled by public censor, and so we do not deliver our entire personality there; otherwise, we will be regarded as misfits. So we deliver ourselves in a very controlled manner in public life, so that we are artificial personalities. Our natural personality is submerged because society does not want our entire personality to be exhibited. We may be unfit, anti-social elements if our entire personality is shown. Society has a law of its own. Not only society, but the whole universe, in its astronomical setup, has a law of its own; therefore, we try to abide by the laws operating outside by exhibiting a necessary part of our personality, and burying inside what may be called an unnecessary part of our personality from the point of view of the social law that is operating for the time being.
It does not mean that social law is the same everywhere. For example, in social circles of natives who are not up-to-date in the sense of a modern, civilized, educated culture, the laws may be different. Certain natives or aboriginals remain nude, whereas we regard that with opprobrium. Similarly, marriage laws differ from society to society. The way in which people judge each other also differs from society to society. The social customs, faith and religious background all determine the way in which we exhibit ourselves in society. Hence, we judge our personality from the point of view of various factors involved in our present setup of environment.
Our environment is, again, complex. We are not in a very simple, easy environment at any time.�We have a political and social environment of which we have to be conscious, and the social culture and etiquette must also be taken note of. We cannot go against these. And there are umpteen other factors which are woven into the very fabric of our personality from our birth itself, so that we are artificial personalities from childhood onwards. We do not know what our real personality is.
Sometimes our real personality exhibits itself when society casts us to the winds. A situation of that nature may occasionally arise in our lives. Sometimes revolutions take place in society which completely throw out the existing norms of ethics and conduct, and each person seems to be standing on his own or her own legs. When there is no control of any kind, everything is at sixes and sevens, when we do not know whether or not we are going to live, when everything is in the form of a social fever and a political upheaval, the true colour of the individual personality comes up.
But such occasions are very rare. These are only academic or theoretical possibilities that we are discussing, as they do not take place every day. They have occasionally taken place in the history of nations; but as they are not daily experiences, they cannot be taken as normalcy in our behaviour. Normally we always live an artificial life of a controlled exhibition of our personality, and the major part of it is kept in reserve for exhibition only under possible and given circumstances.
The practice of yoga is an art of bringing out to the conscious level of experience the entirety of our personality, so that we may not be artificial individuals at any time. To be artificial is a very unhappy thing, as we know very well. We do not like to be what we are not. Yet we are compelled by circumstances to exhibit an artificial personality. We speak with people in a very made-up fashion. We have to think thrice before we utter words, because every word that we speak may be weighed on a balance, especially if we are a political unit. And so we are very controlled in our expression, and do not give up the entirety of our ideas; we look in all ten directions before we speak a word. All this is because we have to take note of the consequences that follow from our actions. We cannot be normal persons in the present-day world, to mention the situation precisely. No one is one-hundred-percent normal because society controls us, political laws control us, our economic conditions control us, and even our family circumstances have a say in the matter. We are not absolutely free individuals in society. We are bound by various factors, and so we are unhappy at the core of our hearts.
We try to be happy by creating artificial conditions, which are mostly techniques of forgetting our worries rather than the solution to our problems. We go to movies, to clubs, to parties, on picnics; we have a drink, a smoke, strong tea, etc. All these are methods of forgetting the devil. They are not solutions to our problems, because these problems cannot be solved. We know these problems are so deep and complicated that they cannot be solved at all. So what do we do? If they cannot be solved and if they weigh heavy on our heads daily, they may create a complex and we may become maniacs. To avoid this possibility of going mad, we create artificial circumstances of forgetting the tense situations in life.
Hence, we live artificial lives from beginning to end, forgetting reality altogether, and never giving reality a chance to get into our lives. Reality is terrible. The world is not our friendly neighbour; it has its own laws, which we cannot abide by, so the best thing is to forget the worries rather than solve the problems. Most of us adopt this escapist attitude of forgetting reality. Most of us are escapists. Every person in the world has some form of escapism in his or her personality on account of not being able to find an ultimate solution to problems. The problems are so many; they are quantitatively large and qualitatively very annoying. Life is an utter failure in the case of most people in the world. It is not a success, because reality is different from the makeup of our psychological constitution. We can be successes in life only if our inner nature is to be in conformity with the outer reality.
Yoga practice is a supernormal technique adopted by ancient adepts and masters, by which we can tune our inner personality to the reality that is outside. For this we have to make a thorough study of our personality first, and then study the nature of the reality that is outside. This is the study of philosophy. Philosophical investigations and analyses are the processes by which we study the nature of reality as well as the nature of our inner personality. Philosophy includes metaphysics and psychology. It is metaphysics in the sense that it is a study of the nature of reality as such, and it is psychology in the sense that it is a study of our own inner nature. Hence, sadhana, or spiritual practice, is philosophy and psychology combined. These combined together make spirituality.
Thus, we have a very difficult subject before us. It is a study of our own self as a psychological unit on one side, and study of the vast reality of the world and creation on the other side. Therefore a sadhaka, or a spiritual seeker, should have an acute intellect and be a very profound psychologist. A foolish person cannot be a spiritual person. It is not mere emotion that is called devotion to God; it is a philosophical efflorescence of our personality that takes the form of a spiritual aspiration. The aspiration for God-realisation, or the ultimate perfection of life, is the growth of our total personality in conformity with the reality that is outside. The whole universe grows together with us when we grow spiritually. The spiritual aspirant is not an ordinary individual. The spiritual seeker is a representative of the whole cosmos evolving towards the Absolute.
It is a wonderful thing to understand, to study, and to make an investigation of. We become very interesting individuals. The philosophical mind is a very interesting unit. Nothing can be more interesting than the study of philosophy and psychology in its true connotation. The study of psychology is the study of the total personality of the individual – conscious, subconscious, unconscious and spiritual – and at the same time, it is a philosophical study of the ultimate constitution of things. Philosophy, properly defined, is the explanation of events by their ultimate causes, not by their immediate causes.
For example, in medical science we have the study of disease by its ultimate causes as well as by its immediate causes. We have a headache. Why do we have a headache? Perhaps we slept in the open the previous night, in a misty atmosphere, and today we have a headache. This is the study of our headache by immediate cause. But the ultimate cause may not be merely our sleeping outside. Many other factors have contributed to our headache today. We may have walked in the hot sun, or we may have had a tense day due to overwork; we may have even had a small family quarrel which contributed to today’s headache, and so on. We can multiply causes which jointly contribute to the experience of the shooting pain or migraine that we have today. We cannot simply swallow an aspirin and cure our headache, because many other factors have contributed to it. We may suppress our headache by taking an aspirin. It may go today, but after few days it will again come. We have to go on swallowing pills because we have not found the ultimate cause of our illness.
Likewise, we cannot attain ultimate freedom or liberation merely by the study of immediate causes. We have to study the ultimate causes of things. Every experience, every event that takes place in the world has a cause behind it, and every cause has another cause behind it. There is a chain of causes and effects, taking us to the ultimate cause of things, the causeless Cause, which we may theologically term the Creator of the cosmos, God. The causeless cause is God, the Unmoved Mover, as we sometimes say.
Likewise, there is a corresponding study subjectively, studying the nature of mental phenomena. The causes of mental phenomena have to be studied – not only their structure, but also their antecedents. This would be the study of profound psychology. And, as I said, the study of psychology and the study of philosophy have to go together simultaneously, parallel to each other, because they are mutually related sciences.
The study of the spiritual nature of things is thus a blending together of the philosophical and psychological aspects of education. The highest form of education is, therefore, its spiritual form, which takes the entirety of experience and does not leave aside any part of it. We become dispassionate in this study. Education is a dispassionate process of ultimately moving towards Perfection. We should not have prejudices when we enter into the educational process. We should shed all our pre�conceived notions and be a clean slate, as they say, without anything written on it. This is to enter into the school of education as a fully prepared individual to receive knowledge from the school of nature and to be ready for the process of evolution in its fullness, both subjectively and objectively.
Education is not merely a subjective process. It is also not merely a study of objective phenomena. Unfortunately, today we are failures in our education because we have limited education to the study of objects. It may be physics, it may be chemistry, it may be mathematics, or it may be geography – all these are objective sciences which have nothing to do with subjective phenomena. This is why we are still unhappy even after we complete our education of these objects. We have not studied ourselves. Even the study of psychology is not exhausted these days. Psychologists are not necessarily happy persons because they have taken psychology as an objective science – as a study of the behaviour of personality rather than the inner structure of the mind.
We are mostly behaviourist psychologists, rather than psychologists of the true nature of the mind. The mind is not merely our behaviour or conduct. It is a deeper factor in ourselves than mere behaviour. It is the behaviour of the mind, but what is the mind? That is what we have to study now – what the mind is made of. Therefore, psychology cannot be exhausted merely by the study of the behaviour of the mind. While behaviour is a part of psychological study, we also have to study what is it that behaves in the manner that it does.
The structure of the mind and the structure of nature combined make up the studies in a real scheme of education. The whole universe is studied in its inner structure and outer makeup. This is the education of yoga. Yoga education may be regarded thus as a complete education of the personality, taking into proper consideration both the inward and outward phenomena of experience.
The study of the mind is not merely the study of subjective phenomenon, because mind is not merely inside; it is also outside. This is a startling truth that comes out when we study yoga psychology. In Western psychology, the mind of the human being is regarded purely as a subjective phenomenon and has nothing to do with the objective side of nature. But yoga psychology is a different technique altogether, which tells us that the mind is connected with external phenomena also, and it is not merely an event privately taking place in the individual. The study of the mind is the study of cosmic situations. The whole world will ultimately be realised as a phenomenon of a vaster mind than what we observe as individual thinking faculties.
We will realise the existence of a cosmic mind when we deeply study the implications of individual minds. Behind every drop there is the ocean, and we should not forget this fact. Likewise, as precedent to the individual mind working apparently within the locus of the personality of an individual, there is a vaster mind of a cosmic connotation. All the objects in the world are determined by the structure of the cosmic mind.
The study of yoga is the study of the cosmic mind, and not merely an individual mind. This is why yoga is not a private business. It is not the practice of a single individual; it is the work of the whole cosmos. Many people are under the false notion that yoga is a private individual business, taking the individual to God independently, irrespective of what happens to other people in the world outside. It is not so. Yoga is not an individual business; it is not a private practice. It is the practice of the cosmic mind, which takes into consideration the existence of other individuals also – not only the other individuals, but the whole of creation in its completeness.
Jijñāsur api yogasya śabda-brahmātivartate (Gita 6.44): One who knows what yoga is has gone beyond theoretical learning. Therefore, it is very difficult even to understand what yoga is, let alone to practise it. Most of us have a false notion about it. We think that we can practice yoga privately, independent of what happens outside in the world. What happens in the world influences us and has a say in the matter, so that our freedom has much to do with what takes place outside – not only in human society on this Earth, but in the whole of creation.
When we enter into the practice of yoga we become cosmic individuals, or citizens of the universe as a whole. We become supernormal in our activities and in our way of thinking. The yoga way of thinking is supernormal, superphysical, uncanny, and difficult to understand. We become impersonal in our attitudes. We are no longer citizens of any particular nation when we become students of yoga. We think in a manner which is incapable of understanding by ordinary people. Immediately we are open to the system of laws which seem to transcend human comprehension.
The study of mind and the study of nature become one and the same thing. Mind and nature are so intimately related to each other that the study of one thing is the study of another thing. Reality is thought and being combined. The nature of Truth is a blending together of object and subject. Truth is not only within; it is also not only without. It is not objective; it is not subjective. It is not material; it is not psychological. Therefore, neither subjective psychology nor objectivist materialism can be a study of reality as such. Truth is not materialistic, and it is not psychological. It is spiritual. Spirituality transcends materiality and psychology. It is not objectivity, and it is not subjectivity. It is not something that we can see with our eyes or in our mind. It is a cosmic experience which has the characteristic of the objectivity of nature and also the subjectivity of the mind. Reality has the characteristic of the subjectivity of consciousness and also the objectivity of nature, so that when we come to the Realisation of the Absolute, which is the Ultimate Reality, we have both the objective content of the cosmos and the subjective content of the individual combined in a blend and sublimation.
God is defined as Satchidananda: Existence, Knowledge and Bliss. The reason for this definition is that it is consciousness from the point of view of subjective experience and existence from the point of view of objectivity. We have deliberately brought the definition of existence and consciousness into the characterisation of Reality because objectivity is often regarded as bereft of consciousness. For example, a mountain, a stone or an inanimate thing outside does not seem to have consciousness in it. Consciousness is only in the mind; so to attribute reality with the character of consciousness, we have to associate with it subjectivity. But pure subjectivity is not reality because we may have subjective reveries or imaginations which may not have any kind of counterpart in the objective world, and so we also bring in the existence aspect of the objective world. The objectivity of the objective world, or the reality of nature, as well as consciousness or the subject, are brought together in Reality.
Therefore, God-experience is not the experience of any particular individual, and is also not the study of objective nature, but is a transcendence of both the subject and the object. Yogaḥ cittavṛitti nirodhaḥ, or the control of mind in yoga, is not a study and control merely of our individual mind, but is a study of every mind. It is a general, impersonal science. The control of the mind in yoga does not try to control our individual mind merely, to the exclusion of what happens in the minds of other people. It is a study of all minds. That is why yoga is to be considered as an objective and impersonal science, valid for all times, for all human beings, and for every religion, cast, creed, cult and faith.
Yoga is not a science which is applicable only to Hindu society. It has no Hinduism or any kind of ‘ism’ associated with it. It is the science of humanity because it is the impersonal science of psychology and physics combined. As I told you, it is spirituality; and spirituality is not merely the study of a religion. Yoga and spirituality are not religious sciences, and do not belong to any cult, creed or faith. They are pure objective sciences capable of being applied to every individual of every creed and cult, whether of the East or the West, and whatever the belief of the individual. Yoga is a matter-of-fact science. Hence, it is impossible for a person to get on ultimately in one’s life without a study and practice of yoga. The study of yoga is the study of the minds of all people for the sake of exercising a control over the phenomenon of mind in general.
A beautiful definition of yoga has been given by Patanjali in his sutra, yogaḥ cittavṛitti nirodhaḥ: The vrittis or modifications of the mind in general, whatever be their nature, should be controlled. It is not the study of one mind, but the study of all minds in general in their entirety of phenomena, in the conscious, subconscious and unconscious levels. This study is yoga. How vast and universal is yoga! How necessary is yoga, we will come to know by a little probe into its inner structure and makeup.
The control of the mind in yoga is brought about by universal methods applicable to all individuals. The science of yoga, the technique of controlling the mind, is not applicable merely to us as an individual. It is applicable to all, like medical science, astronomy, physics, which are all universal sciences applicable to every individual. We do not have different kinds of physics for different students in different universities; the science of physics is the same. Likewise is the study of yoga. It is a universal science applicable to all minds, at all places, at all times. When we control the mind in yoga, we study the vrittis of the mind in general. As I began by saying, the vritti, or the psychosis of the mind, is a modification that takes place in any mind, not merely my mind or your mind, when an object is brought before it. Therefore, we have to study the impersonal�mental reaction that is generated by the presence of any object, whatever be its character.
According to Patanjali at least, these reactions created in the mind of any individual by the presence of any object is twofold. There are two kinds of vrittis in our mind, and these two kinds of vrittis are to be studied in yoga. As a matter of fact, the control of these two vrittis is yoga. When we study the nature of these two modifications of the mind, we acquire a sort of control over the mental makeup of the individual in general – the mind-stuff, the chitta, as we call it: yogaḥ cittavṛitti nirodhaḥ. Chitta is the term used by Patanjali for the stuff of the mind, and not merely the conscious activity of the mind. Here in yoga when we use the word ‘mind’, we do not mean merely the functions of the conscious mind. The stuff of which it is made is to be controlled; the root of the tree of the mind is to be dug out and brought into conscious experience.
In this process of the study of yoga in its generality and the study of the twofold vrittis, or the psychoses of the mind, we exhaust the study of every individual phenomenon. What are these two kinds of vrittis? What are these twofold psychoses? These are the emotional and the non-emotional phenomena of the mind. We think emotionally and also non-emotionally, and these two aspects of the mind have to be separated because to study the non-emotional phenomena of mind is a little more difficult than to study the emotional phenomena.
Mostly we are in emotional states, and these emotional conditions are controlled by non-emotional vrittis behind them. An emotion is a direct impact of the object on the mind. A non-emotional mental phenomenon is an indirect influence of the object upon the mind. The surface experience is emotional; the deeper experience is non-emotional. Mostly we are in states of love and hatred. Almost, in every moment of our life, we are in a state of either like or dislike. The like or dislike for things has become so natural to us that we are not always aware that we are in that state. We are always in that state; therefore, it has become natural to us. We are perpetually in a state of like or dislike. These are more acute forms of human psychological illness, and are to be remedied first.
In the study of medicine, for example, acute diseases are taken first and chronic diseases are studied afterwards. Suppose we have a high temperature, and we also have eczema. The eczema aspect of our illness is not treated just now, as the temperature has to be brought down first. The doctor is more concerned with bringing down the temperature than treating the eczema, though it is also an illness. Similarly, emotion is a disease in us of a more acute character and has to be remedied primarily, and the general disease of a chronic character can be studied later on. We have two illnesses of mind: the chronic and the acute. The acute disease is the emotional and the chronic disease is the non-emotional. Patanjali, in his psychology, takes us directly to the study of these two sides of psychological phenomena, called vrittis, which have to be studied first in order that they may be controlled and properly directed in a given manner.
Now, our emotions are primarily of like and dislike. But why do we like or dislike things? This is to go deep into the psychology of the human being. It is because of our like and dislike for things that we are happy or unhappy in life. But why should we like a thing or dislike a thing? Our immediate answer would be that we like a particular person or object because it brings us satisfaction, and the contrary is the case when we dislike a person or object. But the deep psychologists’ answer, such as Patanjali for example, is different. We like or dislike a person or thing not because that person or thing brings us pleasure or pain, but because we have not understood that person or object. Our likes or dislikes are not dependent upon the pleasure or pain that comes thereof or there-through, but are because of our ignorance of the person or object in front of us. We are not fully aware of our relation to that person outside us and, therefore, we like or dislike that person.
As I told you, the psychology of yoga is deeper than ordinary psychology studied in colleges. It has nothing to do with the hedonistic attitude of pleasure and pain, though it may be the immediate answer of an ordinary person. We do not know our proper underlying relationship with that person or object, which is avidya, says Patanjali. Ignorance of the true nature of things is responsible for our likes and dislikes of them.
What is this ignorance? We do not know our situation itself, where we are stationed. The location of our personality in the structure of the cosmos is not properly known to us. We are ignorant of the cosmic location of our personality. Why should we immediately pass judgement on the things of the world, taking them for granted? “Oh, I don’t like this,” is the remark of many people regarding other persons and other objects. Why should we make such a remark? Are we so important as to pass judgement on things? Have we understood them properly?
When we have a high fever, our likes and dislikes have no meaning, especially in regard to articles of diet. Only a medical man can judge us properly; a patient cannot judge himself. And from the point of view of yogic psychology, everyone is a patient, metaphysically speaking. There is what is called the metaphysical evil in creation as a whole, which has to be averted; and we require a proper doctor to treat it. Our judgements have no meaning. They are silly and are based on ignorance and prejudice. Suppose a defendant in a court is made a judge; what judgement will he pass? He will pass judgement on his own behalf. The judge has to be sure that he does not belong to any side in the case; he has to be impersonal. If the patient becomes the judge of his own condition, his judgements are very prejudiced. We require an impersonal teacher of yoga who is not partial to our individual experiences. Our yoga teacher should not be a member of our family, such as a brother who is very fond of us. He must be an impersonal Guru who takes note of the impersonal facts underlying the personal experiences in our private life.
Thus, in yoga psychology and the study of yogic science we come face to face with the facts of mental experience – emotional and non-emotional, likes and dislikes primarily – which are based on an ignorance of the fact of the reality of things. Avidya, or ignorance, is the cause of likes and dislikes. Hence, first of all our ignorance has to be remedied. When the cause is removed, the effect is also removed. The cause of the illness has to be dug out in order that the disease in its outer expression may cease as an effect.
Yoga psychology takes us to yoga philosophy. They are intimately related because the study of yoga philosophy is the study of the causes of mental phenomena, the study of which again is called yoga psychology. Emotional experiences have to be studied before we study general mental phenomena in yoga.
We have, says Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, a mistaken notion of pleasure. We are in pursuit of pleasure always. That is why we are selfish in our activities. Wherever there is observed a centre of satisfaction or pleasure, we cling to that centre. Patanjali takes us deeper into the phenomena of pleasure itself. What is pleasure? Do we really derive pleasure from an object? Patanjali tells us that we do not really derive pleasure from objects. The objects do not give us pleasure, in the same way as scratching eczema does not bring us real happiness. Suppose we have itching all over our body, and we scratch it. Scratching gives us some pleasure, but can we call that scratching real pleasure? It is a nervous phenomenon brought about by a morbid condition of the body.
Because the mind is in a morbid state, we seem to derive happiness from objects. Patanjali gives us a sutra: pariṇāma tāpa saṁskāraduḥkaiḥ guṇavṛtti virodhāt ca duḥkham eva sarvaṁ vivekinaḥ (2.15). On account of various factors, which he mentions in this aphorism, all experiences ultimately give us pain and do not give us pleasure. When we fulfil a desire, we have a further desire. Well, if the fulfilment of a particular desire is to bring about a complete cessation of that desire and we are not going to have further desires, all right, we fulfil our desire. But what is our experience in daily life? Every fulfilment of a desire brings about a further desire as a consequence, so that the more is the fulfilment of our desire, the more is the painful consequence that follows. Desires have no end. There will never come a day when we can say that we have fulfilled all our desires and we want nothing. We always want something. Hence parinama, or the consequence of fulfilling a desire, is a further desire.
Tapa is another experience that comes upon us in the wake of the fulfilment of a desire. Tapa is anxiety. When we are in the presence of an object which is capable of fulfilling our desire, we are anxious. Will we be able to get it? Will somebody obstruct our fulfilment of this desire? And when we possess that desired object, how long will we keep it? Somebody may intrude on us, and we may be robbed of our property. The rich man is unhappy, and the poor man is unhappy. The rich man is afraid of the government, taxation and robbers, and the poor man is unhappy because he has nothing. Anyhow, we are unhappy. Labhe dukham, jaye dukham: When there is gain, there is unhappiness of one kind; when there is loss, there is unhappiness of another kind. So there is always a perpetual anxiety both before the fulfilment of a desire and after its fulfilment. After the fulfilment of a desire, a depression is brought about in the whole system. Those who have had sensory indulgence will know what it is. We are exhausted, depleted; we become melancholy, moody and we become sick, so that we go for further enjoyment to forget the pain of the sickness.
Therefore Patanjali says that when we fulfil a desire there is the consequence of a further rise of desires, parinama, and there is tapa or anxiety, which attends upon the fulfilment of a desire both before and after. There is a samskara or an impression created in the mind when a desire is fulfilled, like a groove on a gramophone record. Once the music is played upon a gramophone record, a groove is formed on it, so that we can go on playing the record again and again and produce the same music. In the same manner, on account of a particular experience of satisfaction or pleasure due to the fulfilment of a desire, an impression, or samskara, or groove is formed on the mind. And this groove is permanently formed. The mind brings up to the conscious level the groove that is already formed, and it begins to sing the same tune that was sung once before. The same desire is created once again. Desire is endless, and so we have repeated processes of births and deaths due to the grooves formed in the mental gramophone record, and we are born and die perpetually in the process of transmigration on account of the impressions formed due to the desires fulfilled in a so-called pleasurable experience.
Also, guṇavṛtti virodhāt ca: the gunas are the properties of matter – sattva, rajas and tamas. Sattva is equilibrium, rajas is distraction, and tamas is inertia or the stability of a body. When equilibrium is brought about in the mental structure, we seem to be happy, but this condition will not last long. We will never be in a state of equilibrium perpetually. After the temporary state of equilibrium is brought about by the fulfilment of a desire, we are once again in a state of distraction of mind and a mood of melancholy, which is tamas. Like the spokes of a wheel that go on rotating perpetually, bringing the spokes up and down due to the motion of the wheel, the gunas of prakriti – sattva, rajas and tamas – are perpetually in motion, so that we are not always in a state of sattva; we cannot always be happy.
For all these reasons, says Patanjali, the world is full of misery, unhappiness. It is not really a source of satisfaction. Therefore, give up hunting after pleasure in this world of objects, which only tempt you but do not give real satisfaction. The world is a temptation; it is not an object of satisfaction. Knowing this, let vairagya or renunciation, or an attitude of dispassion, be developed in the mind for abhyasa, or the practice of yoga, about which I shall tell you something as an outline.