Bookmark to Stumbleupon. Give it a thumb StumbleUpon



Introduction to Yoga Philosophy and Psychology

Yoga, as it is generally taught and practiced in Europe, is commonly regarded as a regime of physical exercises and postures. That is Hatha Yoga one of the great branches of yoga, which deals with the physical body and its control, its health, its development and its preservation. Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning to yoke or to join in union. It describes the process of joining your physical, mental and spiritual aspects with the Absolute. Yoga teaches that the end of all human endeavour and life is union with Spirit and as Spirit is the divine part of man, this union will result in what is known as Union with God.

In addition to Hatha Yoga, there are other branches which assist this process of union. Each branch of Yoga is a path leading toward the one end - unfoldment, development and growth. What is known as Raja Yoga or Samkhya Yoga deals with the mind, its development, its control, its health, etc. (I prefer the term Samkhya and will use it but the labels Raja and Samkhya are basically interchangeable.) Samkhya Yoga is the psychological link between the physical and the metaphysical. What is known as Karma Yoga deals with action or work. What is known as Bhakti Yoga deals with the love or adoration of the Absolute and what is known as Gnanni Yoga deals with scientific and intellectual knowledge of the Absolute. Tantra yoga utilises sexual energy, through ritual.

Very few yogis, or students, who wish to follow the path of union with the Absolute, practice within only one branch. One, who wishes to develop, control and strengthen the physical body to render it a fit instrument of the Higher Self, follows the path of Hatha Yoga. One, who wishes to develop his will power and mental faculties, unfolding the inner senses and latent powers, follows the path of Samkhya Yoga. One, who wishes to develop by knowing the fundamental truths, which underlie life, follow the path of Gnanni Yoga. One who wishes to grow into this union with the Absolute through the influence of love, follows the path of Bhakti Yoga. The majority of yogis, or students, acquaint themselves with the principles of the various branches, learning something of each, giving preference to the branches that appeal to them more. This attraction is considered an indication of need and is thus considered the hand pointing out the individual's path.

In my own case, Samkhya Yoga and Gnanni Yoga have greater appeal to me than Hatha or Bhakti Yoga. Karma Yoga is natural to me. I do not practice Hatha Yoga but I do know enough to use it for my own well-being, when I feel by physically out of balance. Bhakti Yoga is beyond me, though I feel that the practice of Samkhya and Gnanni Yoga are expressions of love and can only result in love of the Absolute.

In the course of these writings, I wish to introduce the branches of Samkhya and Gnanni Yoga. There are very few truly expert teachers of these two branches and I certainly do not propose to be one. However, I have the unique good fortune of having been the student of two exceptional masters. Yogis have a saying, "When the student is ready, the teacher appears". I do not understand how I could have been ready for these two teachers but I continue to learn their lessons years after their deaths, as I am ready to understand. It is from a sense of gratitude not of competence that I present these introductions.

For me the philosophy of Gnanni Yoga and the psychology of Samkhya Yoga are mutually supportive. Without the wisdom that is developed through Gnanni Yoga, a student can easily become distracted or diverted by some of the mental powers, called siddhis, that result from the study of Samkhya Yoga. Without the mental discipline which is developed in the practice of Samkhya Yoga, one can easily miss some of the more subtle bits of wisdom which is available through Gnanni Yoga. I feel that I should begin with an introduction to Gnanni Yoga and follow with an introduction to Samkhya.

'Gnani' is derived from the Sanskrit verb 'gna', meaning 'to know'. There is always various interpretations in spelling, between the Sanskrit and the Roman alphabet, so it can also be written, 'Jnana', or, 'Gnyana'. However it is written, Gnani Yoga is known as the yoga of wisdom. The Gnani yogi's eternal question is, "Why?". I feel that most people stop asking 'Why?' six to ten layers too early, probably as a result of childhood experiences. But as people begin to see the unreality of the material, phenomenal world around them, they begin to ask the question. Eventually, this quest for an answer results in errors or frustrations because we tend to look for answers externally, outside of ourselves. Some begin to look inward and there they begin to find answers. This inner wisdom is the subject of Gnanni Yoga.

Since the path to Gnani yoga usually begins with a sense of unreality in the material, phenomenal world. I will begin with the question of questions - "What is reality?" To understand the question, one must look around and view the visible. One sees great masses of something that science has called matter. One can sense in operation something that science calls force or energy. One can see things called life forms, varying from one celled creature to man. If one looks closely enough, using science, one finds that matter dissolves into force or energy, which resolves itself into something else and the secret of life continues to elude us. By letting go of appearance and manifestation, one finds oneself looking at or for something else. That something else, we call reality, because it is real, permanent and enduring. Though people can differ about their views of reality, they do agree on one point and that is that "Reality is One" - meaning that underlying all forms and manifestations of reality there must be a One Reality from which all things flow. This inquiry into the One Reality is the practice of Gnanni Yoga.

Man's reason and intuition have always recognized that this reality was one, of which everything was a varying degree of manifestation, emanation or expression. All have recognized that life flows from the same source, the nature and name of which is unknown and some say unknowable. There are many differing opinions on the nature of this one but all agree that it can be only one. It is when men begin to argue about the nature and name of this one that confusion results.

The materialist claims that this one is something called matter, self-existent, eternal, infinite, containing within itself the potentiiality of matter, energy and mind. Another school of thought, claims that this one is something called energy, of which matter and mind are modes of motion. The Idealist claim that this one is something called mind and that matter and energy are ideas of the one mind. Theologians claim that this one is something called a personal God, to whom they attribute various characteristics, according to or varying with their creeds and dogmas. The naturists claim that this one is something called nature, which is constantly manifesting itself in countless forms. The occultists teach that the one is a being, whose life constitutes the life of all living forms.

All philosophies tell us that only one reality exists behind this phenomenal and noumenal world of images and names. This one reality permeates all apparent forms of life, matter and energy and that all apparent forms of life, matter, energy must be emanations of the one reality. Some religions teach that their god created the universe, but this is not an objection to the previous statement. These religionists are merely identifying god with the one reality. I will not use the word god when referring to the one reality, only because it causes so much confusion with theological attributes. Likewise, the word 'principle' seems cold, unfeeling and abstract and the word 'nature' seems too materialistic. For this essay, I will use the word 'Absolute' to name this one reality.

The real nature of the Absolute transcends human experience and defies definition. To define a thing is to identify it with something else and there is no something else to identify the Absolute, which can not be described in terms of the relative. Something can not contain within itself the underlying reality of everything! The Absolute is beyond matter, energy, or mind but these things must be within its nature, for they emanate from it. What is manifested must be in the manifestor.

It is difficult for the mind, at least it is for mine, to understand that which is beyond its experience. We must think of the absolute manifestor in terms of its higher manifestations. If mind is higher on the scale of things than matter or energy, we can think of the Absolute in terms of an infinite mind, whose powers and capacities are raised to an infinite degree. Consider it a mind with "a mode of being as much transcending intelligence and will, as these transcend mere mechanical motion", as Herbert Spencer has described it.

Philosophers, theologians, occultists and materialists all agree that the Absolute must have existed forever and must continue forever. The Absolute can not have come from nothing and there is no other cause, outside of itself, from which it could have come. There can be no cause outside of the Absolute which can terminate its existence, nor can we conceive of it dying. The Absolute can only be eternal.

This concept of the eternal is almost unthinkable, though our intellect informs us that it must be a quality of the Absolute. The intellectual difficulty results from the intellectual habit of perceiving everything through the filters of time and the law of cause and effect, which are all phenomena of the relative world. We, also, have difficulty with the idea of a causeless cause because everything which we have experienced in this relative world of the senses has had a cause. Our intellect assumes that nothing can be uncaused. Nothing can be without a preceding cause. As far as things are concerned, our intellect is correct, for all things are relative and therefore caused. Behind all of the caused things there must be an Absolute causer of things, which can not be a thing, nor have been caused. Our minds have no experience of such an Absolute and can not form the mental picture.

A similar mental difficulty exists for conceptualizing eternity, which is above and outside of time. In reality, time only exists in our minds. Time is only an expression of our conciousness of the change in things. A day is the conciousness of the passing of the sun. Hours, minutes and seconds are subdivisions of the day. Time is a construct of the mind, to organize the changes in things. In a universe without changes in things, there would be no such thing as time.

Philosophers, theologians, occultists and materialists all agree that the Absolute must exist as infinite in space, omnipresent. It can not be limited, because there is nothing outside itself to limit it. We find it impossible to think of an omnipresent. Space, like time, has no real existence outside of our conciousness of the relative position of things. This omnipresence of that which occupies infinite space is almost impossible to understand because everything which our minds have experienced has had dimensions and limits. The infinitely minute is as difficult for our minds as the infinitely immense.

Next, is the agreement by the intellect that the Absolute contains within itself all the power that is, because there can be no other source of power and there can be no power outside of the Absolute power. Every manifestation of energy, force, or power must be a manifestation of the power of the Absolute, following laws made by the Absolute.

Similarly, our intellect informs us that the Absolute contains within itself all knowledge or wisdom, because there can be no knowledge or wisdom outside of it. Mind, knowledge and wisdom are manifested by relative forms of life, but must emanate from the Absolute. Otherwise, there would be no mind, knowledge, or wisdom. There is nowhere outside of the Absolute from which it could possibly come.

The Absolute possesses a nature which so transcends human experience that we have no concepts, words or symbols to describe it. However, our intellect postulates its existence, even though we have nothing but human attributes, with which we can describe it. Our human attributes and our words can describe things only in the relative world. We are not equipped to explain , think, or speak of that which transcends our experience.

Philosophy is unable to describe the Absolute, for it is a process of negation, which ultimately can do little but point out huge paradoxes. Science can do no better; as it seeks the Absolute, it enters into agreement with the philosophers. Both reach a point of neti, neti", a Sanskrit term, meaning "not this, not that". According to Gnanni Yoga, this is how the Absolute wants it, because the answer lies within. Man is compelled to look for the Absolute within himself. Once the mind understands that the Absolute is, the mind sees countless bits of evidence of the presence of the Absolute in every part of relative existence. Going within is the most effective way of discerning the Absolute.

To the yogi, all life is one. The universe is a living unity, pulsating with the will of the Absolute. Behind all apparent shapes, forms, names, forces, elements, things, principles and substances, there is the Absolute, which is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. All individual lives are centers of conciousness in the underlying Absolute, depending on the Absolute for unfoldment, expression and manifestation.

A Test

Over the past several centuries, many people have examined and tested the above descriptions attributed to the Absolute. The descriptions of the Absolute are difficult to understand fully, for all verbal descriptions are from the relative and though not adequate, relative descriptions are all we have. Nevertheless, they are testable and if any one of them fails the test, the entire theory can be assumed to be false. No chain is stronger than its weakest link. If any link in this chain of reasoning fails the test, the entire chain is suspect. I will describe some of the intellectual testing which has been used to test the attributes. It is not possible in a brief introduction to go over all the tests of the past centuries but I present an example.

If there is anything in the universe that is non-living, or dead, the theory is false. We speak of non-living things, inert matter and death, but are such descriptions accurate? This is important because if anything can be non-living, the Absolute can not be in it. The 'non-living' thing must be foriegn to the Absolute. If a thing could be foriegn to the Absolute, it would be outside of it. If a thing was outside, by definition, the Absolute would not be Absolute.

The question can be asked two ways: Is there any thing in organic or inorganic matter that is non-living?, or, Is there such a thing as death? Gnanni Yoga proposes that the universe is alive, there is life in everything. What is called death is simply a change in form of the material body. Life exists in varios degrees of manifestation, in every thing, including the most basic atoms and molecules.

Scientists agree. Many scientists, such as Luther Burbank and Albert Einstein, become initiated in yoga because it agrees with thier scientific thought. Burbank, who was initiated into yoga by Parmahansa Yogananda, was a plant geneticist, who is generally credited with being the first genetic engineer. He says, " All my investigations have led me away from the idea of a dead material universe tossed about by various forces, to that of a universe which is absolutely all force, life,soul, thought, or whatever name we choose to call it. Every atom, molecule, plant animal, or planet is only an aggregation of organized unit forces, held in place by stronger forces, thus holding them for a time latent, though teeming with inconcievable power. All life on our planet, is so to speak, just on the outer fringe of this infinite ocean of force. The universe is not half dead, but alive." Over the years, I have questioned countless scientists, from many diverse fields, about Burbank's statement. Not one disagreed, even slightly.

In the biological, or life, sciences, the principle of universal life is most obvious. Man is the highest expression of life known to us and as we pass down the scale of living things, through the animal kingdom and the vegetal kingdom, we see life in full operation. That which we call death is also present, but is is obvious that the so called dead matter is providing nutrients for other life forms. Every meal we have ever eaten coforms to the process of changing form, from 'dead matter' to life. We also know that plants sicken and die, becoming nutrients for all things living in the soil. Every member of the animal and vegetal kingdoms also mainfest thier own particular form of intelligence. This applies from the highest, man, to the lowest, the diatoms.

The diatoms are sometimes described as living crystals. They are microscopic geometrical forms, composed of a bit of glue-like plasm covered by a thin shell of sandy material. They are so similar to chemical crystal that they are regarded as the link between the vegetal and the chemical. Chemical crystals also display life. Crystals are born, grow, live, reproduce and may be killed by other chemicals or electricity. The birth, growth and reproduction of crystals follow a well defined pattern. The principal difference between the life of the vegetal and the life of the crystal is the process of nourishment. The vegetal takes nourishment inside and grows from within. The crystal takes nourishment from the outside and grows from the outer. I mention this because it is the very fine dividing line between the vegetal and the chemical. If the diatom took its nourisment from the outside and grew from the outer, it would be chemical. If the crystal took its nourishment inside and grew from within, it would be vegetal.

This very fine dividing line between vegetal and chemical is important to proving the principle of universal life in the Absolute. The hardest rocks and metals are composed of crystals, as is the Earth upon which we live. Chemicals are alive and there is a continuous change in shape and form of living matter. But the search for life does not end with the mineral or chemical forms. If there is life in the form, there must be life in the minute particles or molecules of that form.

All forms of matter are composed of minute particles called molecules, which are the smallest forms of matter. The molecules, however, are formed by atoms, which manifest a vital characteristic in their atractions and repulsions. When the atoms of a molecule are separated by an outside force, they quickly form new molecules, of a different molecule....they take on a new life! Of course, the atoms are composed of electrons, protons, neutrons, etc. and these all exhibit tne same vital characteristics of atrraction, repulsion and reaction to outside stimuli. There is no such thing as non-vital attraction or repulsion. All inclinations for or against another object or thing is an evidence of life. Each thing has sufficient life energy and intelligence to enable it to exist.

Knowledge of the Absolute, by necessity, goes beyond the capacity of our intellect and easily goes beyond my capacity for simplification. The basis of Gnani yoga is this, All existence, concious or unconcious, is an emanation of One. The key is in the Latin root of the word emanation. The Latin root is 'manare', meaning 'to flow'. An emanation is that which flows forth from a source. A favorite example of Gnani teachers is the sun. The sun as the sun itself is the center and source of the vibrations which pour forth from it. The vibrations manifest themselves as different forms, light and heat, for example under certain conditions. Nothing outside of the sun is the sun, yet each bit of light and heat is of the sun and may be percieved by our senses as being sun. The heat and light may be sun but the sun is not heat and light. A similar illustration is the scent of a flower being of the flower but not being the flower.

Samkhya Yoga

It is at this point that I should introduce Samkhya Yoga. If the key to Gnani yoga is, "Why?", the key to Samkhya is "How?". The Sanskrit term, 'samkhya' means 'correct enumeration' or, 'perfect clasification'. It is a classification system resulting from an intense study of the emanations of the Absolute, both in the physical and metaphysical. It is a process of understanding the Absolute by studying the relationships between and among its manifestations. The study of theese relationships so trains and disciplines the mind of the yogi that often many 'supernatural powers', called 'siddhis', develop. Though siddhis develop naturally as a result of the study, they are not the goal but are traps which can often distract the student. Do not expect to develop siddhis as a result of reading this introduction. They result only after decades of study and practice.

In technical fact, what I study and practice is a combination of Samkhya and Raja Yoga, which I choose to call Samkhya. Samkhya was assembled or enunciated around 700 B.C., by Kapila; Raja, about 300B.C., by Patanjali. Patanjali used the entire Samkhya system and added his own concept of a personal God, Ishwara. He also included various methods, which had been evolved during the intervening 400 years. The methods being various tools, which one could use to experience or realize thr Absolute. One of those methods being what is now called hatha yoga, other methods leading to the development of various psychic powers. I label what I study Samkhya because I choose to omit the factor of a personal God. I feel it is less confusing, this way. I also choose to include many of Patanjali's methods, for I find some of them useful and comfortable. For an introduction to Patanjali, read this.

The basic proposition of the Samkhya system is that there exists in the universe two active principles, the interaction of which produces the activities of the universe. The actions and inter-actions of the two principles manifest in countless forms of infinite variety. The two principles are known as Prakriti, the primordial substance or primordial energy, from which all material forms and energies evolve; and Purusha, the spirit principle, which ensouls or seeks embodiment in Prakriti. Both Purusha and Prakriti are emanations from the Absolute. They have equal substance and degree of reality and both are finite and destined to pass in time.

Gnanni yoga

Return in a week... I am working on this page.

Any questions??

If you found this essay useful, please give it a thumb, on