H.G. Matsyavatar Das

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

The Human Being and His Energies

By Matsyavatara Dasa
(from Psychology of the Life Cycle book)

The Vedic science of health, compiled thousands of years ago, considers the human being as a complex combination of biologic, psychic and spiritual energies. Thus it gives great therapeutic importance not only to drugs and surgery, but also to the diet, to the ethical behavior of the individual and to the influence of the mind on the body. The weakening of the immune system, the development of disease, the healing process and finally the conscious and serene acceptance of the passage we call death are the result of the constant interactions of the complex body-mind-spirit.

Our aim is to deal with the relationship of the human being with death and the process of dying so that the concept of the phenomenon becomes less tragic and the patient can re-interpret this reality from a desperate and negative vision to a positive and constructive vision.

Considering death as a necessarily and absolutely negative fact is an extremely serious prejudice. By studying the greatest philosophical, religious and spiritual traditions of the Vedas we understand that death, as it is generally intended, does not exist as such, but only as a concept and a cultural conditioning. It is the last taboo and almost certainly the most serious misconstruction of human history: a tragic fundamental mistake because, as we will see, death should rather be considered a beneficial opportunity for evolution.

Since you will be presenting this idea to your patients, you should be the first to embrace it, and we will try to offer you many reasons why this should happen.

Does death have a purpose? Who is dying? Are we sure we are dying? Are we just a physical aggregate or something more than that? These questions have been pondered by sages and not only, in the course of thousands of years. The various religious traditions and the greatest philosophical schools have answered that we are much more.

The psychological assistance of a terminal patient certainly does not exclude the duty of physical treatment, but in these cases psychological assistance is even more essential, complex and delicate. It consists in giving value to the person, stimulating him in making plans, helping him to overcome appearances and to avoid being swept away by negative emotions generated by the wrong concept that everything really ends with death.

It is very important to understand that a psychological cure is effective when it works from the inside, when it comes from a process of self improvement – rather than being given by someone who is outside.

During some lectures at universities, several students have asked if the placebo effect could be the actual agent. First of all we need to recognize that a placebo effect would be positive anyway, because it would improve the psychological condition of the patient. However, in this case it is not a placebo effect, because we are not trying to induce a superficial belief that suits our purpose. We want to attain, through adequate study and practice, the consciousness of a reality that is increasingly solid, concrete, deeply rooted in our being, and that brings us to a better understanding of our deep identity, called atman in the Bhakti-Vedanta psychology. This atman is not material, and therefore it is not conditioned by space and time.

At a deeper level, we cannot tolerate the idea of dying because intimately we know we are not dying. However, when we are not making a distinction between the deep self (ontological and inalienable) and the psycho-physical body (that is ever changing and temporary) we stubbornly try to keep the body alive, although this cannot be achieved by any means.

While atman is the real identity of the subject, of a spiritual, eternal and unchanging nature, the ahamkara or historical ego is the distorted perception we have of ourselves because of false identifications.

For centuries (since the times of Romanticism) German culture has been amply in touch with Vedic literature. In this text we will use the terms “self” and “identity”, but not in the same way they are used by the school of Jung. As “self” we will define the atman, the deep identity, the gravity center of the personality, and as “identity” or '”ego” we will intend the transitory personality, the changing identification, the false ego, which is the origin of almost all the disturbances of personality.

Vedic psychology teaches that first of all, we need to recognize conditionings, so that we may gradually come to de-structurate them. This is essential not only in order to cure and assist the patients in a terminal stage, but it is also beneficial for the doctors, the nurses, all the medical staff, and also for the relatives and friends of the patient who are involved and gravitate around the terminal patient himself.

How can we get rid of the masks and rigidity induced by psychological conditionings, by the professional habit and by the socio-professional environment? As we will see later on, there are some techniques of Yoga psychology that can expand and raise our introspective ability and meta-cognitive.

According to the rishis, the ancient Vedic sages, the identification with the psychic structure, its impressions, emotions and thoughts, is the first serious mistaken perception. This limiting consciousness that identifies solely with the psychic contents that float on it, is comparable to mistaking a river with the objects that float on its waters – whether corpses or bunches of flowers.

A very essential point we need to understand: the individual is not the mind. To most Western psychologists, especially in Germany and in the United States, the mind is the subject, while in the Vedic tradition the mind is the object. We have a mind, but we are not the mind. We have emotions, but we are not those emotions. We have a physical body, but we are not that physical body. This understanding will be extremely useful not only at the moment of death, but also in all those crisis situations that everyone should expect to happen again and again during the span of our lifetime.

When we are able to become emotionally detached from the psycho-physical perceptions we will discover that the accidents we encounter in the course of our existence can be veritable blessings in disguise rather than tragedies. We only need to interpret, elaborate and welcome these events as opportunities. Even death can turn into the extraordinary opportunity to take a leap towards a much higher quality of life and attain a fuller, happier and more luminous dimension of reality.

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