H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Friday, 13 February 2009

Health and Wellness

By Matsyavatara Dasa

Nowadays, various forms of Yoga are known the world over. In numerous cases however, Yoga has been reduced to its physical aspect (asanas or postures), with scarce knowledge of its ancient original tradition, as well as its true meaning and objective. There are actually few individuals who can apply this ancient science in its globality, aware of the physical technology it has developed in thousands of years.

Yoga is based upon the wisdom of the Vedas, which reveal the secrets of the universe and of the conscience; by its inner-self technology, one can regain a real and everlasting wellness, and ultimately realize the spiritual and immortal nature of the one’s real self.

Not an escape from the world

Traditional ancient Indian literature contains elevated teachings of philosophy and psychology, but the chore is about the art of living: learning how to move in the world and relate to the creation and its creatures in a right and harmonic way. Indian sages have indicated this attitude, encompassing the spheres of thinking, feeling and acting, by the word Yoga, from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join, unite, put in contact”. This contact or union, which becomes communion at the highest levels, is between the infinitesimal atman and the Supreme Being Paramatman. Yoga could be compared to a bridge joining the human and the divine dimension. Like all authentic spiritual paths, it is not an escape from the world, nor a contingent flattening, but utilizes all the physical and psychological instruments available to emancipate the creature from the limits and sufferings of the conditioned existence, and to re-discover its essence. In the view of ancient Indian thought, the imminent and the transcendent dimensions touch each other, they are an integrated extension of one another.

Yoga utilizes all the physical and mental instruments of the individual, to obtain emancipation from limits and existential sufferings.

Spirit and Matter

The material world is not in antithesis to the spiritual world. The universe is conscience in expansion; ultimately, matter is energy and its source transcends the physical dimension, while at the same time it sustains and pervades that same reality. In this stimulating perspective, the world appears as a gigantic, charming laboratory, in which the spiritual and therefore eternal individual experiences repeated joys and pains, successes and defeats , births and deaths, searching for his real identity. The veritable disease of the West is the unilateral concentration on what is external to the subject, the neglect for studies on the person and his vital necessities, which in reality extend much beyond psycho-physical needs. Once the individual discovers his place in the universe and his relationship to creation, creatures and Creator, he can again enter the dimension described by the Vedas as "overflowing with light and bliss", already during his earthly experience. Yoga is a term mentioned numerous times in the main Indian books (Veda, Bhagavad-Gita, Bhagavata Purana, and Upanishads) and in many other important works of classic Indian literature. Through the science of Yoga, the individual can participate in his real immortal nature and again draw from that inexhaustible reserve of knowledge, consciousness, and bliss which belongs to him. This realization mitigates or eliminates existential ailments, not only related to the physical body, but mostly to mental and moral sufferings.

The techniques

The most ancient forms of Yoga are found in the Veda Samhitas,specifically in the Rigveda, conventionally considered the most ancient book that humanity has knowledge of. For instance, mentions are made of mantrayoga, based on the inner and outer recitation of mantras (mantra meditation), which illuminates the deep areas of the unconscious and allows entrance to a higher level of consciousness. Among the Upanishads, 11 are explicitly dedicated to Yoga, and are in fact called Yoga Upanishads. They explain the postures or asanas, the respiration techniques or pranayama, and the ultimate goal of these ancient practices: re-establishing the forgotten relationship with the Supreme Being. They also analyze the various phases of yoga and emphasize the importance of the active process of concentration, which gives the possibility to eliminate false identifications and breaks the chains that tie to samsara, the cycle of repeated births and deaths. A relevant treatise on Yoga is found in the Bhagavata Purana, where Krishna describes to his devotee and friend Uddhava the logic meditation, by which it is possible to develop awareness of the self and of the cosmic Being, and to restore the harmony between the self and the universe, man and God.

Spiritual realization

In the Bhagavad git,a Krishna utilizes the term Yoga to indicate the perfect action, illuminated and illuminating, the one leading to a secure result, in respect of the law and support to the cosmos. The same term is used to define equanimity and balance, among the main characteristics of the evolved spiritual person. In chapter 6 of the Bhagavad-gita, which can be rightly considered a psychology treaty by itself, Krishna enounces a series of Yoga doctrines that correspond to the ones described by Patanjali in his Yogasutras. The requirements for those who are seriously interested in developing a complete knowledge of Yoga are basically two:

  • Jijnasa, the intense wish for knowledge. The ideal student focuses his attention only on the Supreme objective, on the solution to existential problems, and abandons the superficial research and dispersion on thousands of different objects.

  • Abhyasa, dedication, constant practice; the attitude that reserves the necessary resources and energy to the study of the self.

The Brahmasutras, another text referring to Yoga, says: Icchami Brahman, “I’m longing for Brahman”, I wish for spiritual realization: the yearning, the will, are fundamental, because to obtain good results in Yoga, it is necessary to exercise control on the senses, to dominate the mind and at the same time receive its petitions and demands without denying them. This teaching was already stated by Patanjali, thousands of years before the repression theory elaborated by Western psychological science.

Naturally, the major reference to Yoga remains Patanjali’s Sutras; they explain that the preliminary preparation to yoga practice is the ethic aspect, which cannot be disregarded. Yoga consists of three interacting phases: rigorous consistency, study of one’s self from the psychological and spiritual perspectives, and finally the rejoining with the cosmic divine order and with God. This will first reduce and then completely eliminate the sufferings from the so called material existence, allowing the person to find its perfect balance and original harmony.

A true psychological auto-analysis

Sufferings (klesha) are of four origins: ignorance of one’s spiritual nature, identification with the ego and its multiple manifestations , the fatal and inseparable pair of attraction and repulsion, and the phobic terror of death, resulting from the attachments to certain life conditions and from the conviction that the individual will die with the body.

Becoming conscious of the origin of suffering through an in-depth psychological auto-analysis is the first step to reduce its manifestations, but its trails, the seeds at the bottom of conscience, can disappear only at the end of a serious and constant work done by the individual on himself, with the help of verified elaboration and meditation techniques. Our present experience, the circumstances and situations we live in, are the consequences of our past actions, pertaining to this life or to previous existential vicissitudes. In this context, conflicts arise mostly from the error of identifying the inner witness, the self, with the object of perception, which belongs to the external world and, in varying degrees, carries the imprint of the three qualities of nature, called gunas: harmony, energy, inertia. This wrong identification is a serious obstacle, because it hinders the perception of truth. The error comes from the witness ignoring its ontological nature, therefore the person is invited to take a route towards mental decontamination and conscience evolution through the famous 8 Yoga phases, which are: abstentions, observances, postures, breath control, introspection, concentration, meditation and samadhi or absorption in Reality.

The starting point is obviously the condition of our ordinary conscience, where the mind is restless and agitated by mental dynamics which are hard to eradicate; but the science of Yoga, if practiced seriously and with the assistance of an expert, allows you to take over the helm of your life and eliminate emotional blocks and complexes. We can thus regain height towards the enlightened peaks of conscience since, as Durkheim says, the real success in mental activity is to surpass ourselves.

The constant practice of yoga techniques allows you to take over the helm of your life and eliminate emotional blocks and complexes.

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