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Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective Of The Project

During the year 2002-03, it is proposed to hold four Seminars under the joint auspices of Indian Council of Philosophical Research and Centre for Studies in Civilizations.

The theme of these four Seminars will be as follows:

  1. Yoga and its central aims and methods;
  2. Contemporary human situation and relevance of yoga;
  3. Psychology of varieties of yogic experience; and
  4. Systems of Yoga.


Yoga And Its Central Aims and Methods:

This Seminar will aim at arriving at a comprehensive definition of Yoga in the light of its distinctive objectives and methodology. In doing so, it will address itself to the following questions:

  • How is Yoga different from ethics, dharma, religion, occultism, and philosophy?
  • What are distinguishing features of spirituality as distinguished from religious experience?
  • Is yoga a science?
  • In what sense has yoga been described as science par excellence?
  • Can yoga be described as the secret method of all evolution and can it be utilised as a conscious instrument for accelerating evolution?
  • Is yoga a technology or a biotechnology or a psychological technology?
  • What are the popular ideas about yoga and how can they be corrected in the light of true nature of yoga?
Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project

The above is a list of a few important questions that need to be answered in order to arrive at a comprehensive definition of yoga, and the first day of the Seminar could be devoted to the discussion of these questions.

The second day of the Seminar is proposed to be centred on the following theme:

Ignorance, Bondage, Liberation, and Perfection:

These may be regarded as the central themes of yoga, since it is affirmed that human bondage cannot be resolved except through the process of yoga. In the Indian systems of yoga, human bondage is traced to Ignorance, and therefore, it is necessary to determine the nature of ignorance, its origin, if any, and the relationship between supreme and infinite consciousness, if any, with ignorance. It is sometimes held that ignorance pertains only to the individual, and if so, the question is as to what is the nature of the individual and how it comes to fall into ignorance or acquire ignorance. The exact nature of the relationship between individual soul and ignorance and the nature of the individual before ignorance and the individual after acquiring ignorance, would required to be determined. Closely connected with this question is the methodology of removal of ignorance, and the claim that yoga is an effective method of removal or conquering ignorance needs to be examined. In this connection, certain central phenomena also need to be defined such as the phenomena of the ego, memory and self-experience. Relevant questions are related to reality and unreality of egoistic consciousness and the way in which the egoistic consciousness produces dualities in human experience and as also experiences of error, suffering, and falsehood and evil. Yoga as a means of annihilation of egoistic consciousness and the root of ignorance so as to attain to the state of Knowledge.

Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project

This is to be followed up with the description of Knowledge and of the experience of what is called liberation. Different concepts of liberation need to be distinguished from each other and there is a need to determine what exactly is the meaning of liberation and whether in the state of liberation the individual survives and if so, how that individual is distinguishable from the ego. If the individual does not survive, a question may be asked, then what is that which was bound earlier and which gets liberated and which enjoys liberation?

The distinction between jivanmukti and videha mukti needs to be brought out and theories regarding these two accounts of liberation need to be discussed.

A further question is whether after obtaining liberation any further yoga is required to be practised, and if so, does yoga aim at something beyond liberation?

The third day of the Seminar may be devoted to the discussion of the ideal of perfection, which is often regarded to be the highest aim of yoga and which is closely connected with the problems of the contribution that yoga can make not only to the highest welfare of the individual but also to the highest welfare of the collectivity. In this connection, questions that need to be discussed are:

  • The distinction between liberation and perfection;
  • Elements of perfection;
  • Process of attainment of perfection.

Finally, since perfection is related not only to the liberation of the individual from the imperfections of the physical, vital and mental nature (Prakriti) but also the liberation of the Nature from its own limitations, and since this involves a process of transformation of nature, it will be necessary to determine the nature and process of transformation as also the nature of transforming power that requires to be awakened and made operative by special process of yoga. Discussion on this extremely important issue would be a part of the deliberation of the third day.

Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project

It is realised that during the course of three days, it is impossible to cover all the above-mentioned issues. Participants may, therefore, like to select any one of the above issues on which they may like to write and present for discussion in the Seminar. The issues, which will be left out for consideration during this three-day Seminar, can be taken up in a subsequent Seminar. This Seminar could be held in the month of October 2002, at Delhi, and participants will be invited from different parts of the country. Each participant will be requested to write a full-length paper which can, after the Seminar, be published with necessary modifications and improvements.


Contemporary Human Situation and Relevance of Yoga:

The second Seminar on the “Contemporary Human situation and the relevance of Yoga” will address itself to the following issues:


  • What is the contemporary human situation in the context of what is often considered to be the crisis of human civilisations?
  • Is it correct to describe the present situation as a situation of crisis? In the same way, can it be considered as an unprecedented crisis?
  • What are the solutions which are suggested for the dissolution of the crisis?
  • Can yoga be regarded as an instrument of resolving this crisis?
  • Considering that contemporary humanity has overwhelming trust in science and scientific knowledge as the only legitimate means of resolving problems, how can it accept or adopt yoga for resolution of its contemporary human problems?
  • Can yoga be presented as a science and can yogic knowledge be termed as scientific knowledge?

In connection with these issues, it would seem necessary to consider the claims of religion as the right instrument of the solution of the problems of contemporary humanity. In this context, the question of conflicting claims of different religions needs to be addressed. In this connection, again, the question may be raised as to whether the conflict among religions can be resolved and whether there can be any synthesis of religions.

Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project

Finally, the following three issues need to be addressed more sharply:

  • Yoga is often viewed as renunciation of life and its responsibilities. If so, can yoga ever be an instrument of resolving human problems?
  • Yoga is often considered as a means of individual liberation, if so, can yoga be conceived as a means of resolving collective problems of humanity?
  • Yoga is often considered to be an instrument of transcendental knowledge, and by implication, it is suggested that yoga does not and cannot dabble into empirical affairs. Is this view fallacious? Is it possible to have through yoga both transcendental knowledge and empirical knowledge and can this knowledge be utilisable for dealing with the problems of humanity?

The Seminar would be focussed on dealing with the above issues and on obtaining an answer which would determine the relevance of yoga to the contemporary humanity.


Psychology of varieties of Yogic Experience:

The above two Seminars may be regarded as preparatory to lead us to the central core of yoga, which is centred on what may be called yogic experience. It has been rightly affirmed that yoga is not a process of thinking on reality or realities so as to arrive at a clear idea or conception, but its very method and its end are experiential in character.

It is necessary to examine the nature and characteristics of yogic experiences. There is also varied distinction between yogic experience and yogic realisation, since the former can be transient, while the latter is permanent and ever-abiding.

To begin with, there is what may be called a turning point in every yogic endeavour where an individual departs decisively from the ordinary preoccupations with philosophy, morality, art, religion and other normal or pressing preoccupations and fixes oneself on the concentrative pursuit of yogic methods and yogic goals. And even after this turning point is reached, there are various stages of development, various stages of purification of the ordinary consciousness and various stages of meditation, contemplation and psychological concentration; there are, again, several stages of growth of faculties of consciousness that lie beyond the ordinary ranges of emotions and rationality, and the range of supra-rational faculties has many degrees and numerous varieties.

Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project

Yoga is also riddled with a number of difficulties and obstacles, and a number of dilemmas and uncertainties; it passes through periods of darkness and light, through dawns of new awakening and periods of dwelling and sunlight of the spirit; there are revelations and inspirations; there are intuitions and automatic processes of discriminations; there are intensities and widenesses and profundities and heights; there are penalty made experiences and ultimate experiences. In brief, yoga is a vast field of exploration, and an exploration of an ocean of consciousness, and one needs to chalk out with clarities in respect of the geography of the continents of the Spirit so as to be able to identify the place and value of different experiences and to be aware of vicissitudes of the yogic endeavour.

There are elementary experiences and there are central experiences, and there are experiences at the level of the mind and at the higher levels of mental, over-mental and supra-mental consciousness. These also need to be delineated adequately.

There has been in the past a considerable study of the varieties of religious experience, and in that context some of the experiences which are distinctively yogic in character have also been studied, such as the experience of the presence of the Ineffable Reality or of communion with the Divine Personality or communion with the impersonal All or impersonal Absolute. But this study has not entered into these experiences and numerous other experiences in the context of what may be called a systematic exploration of the realms of the Spirit and its relationship with the world and its creatures.

Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project

It is, therefore, necessary to undertake or at least initiate a programme of research whereby authentic descriptions of various studies of yogic experiences could be collected and could be placed in some kind of a systematic form. Indeed, this is an extremely difficult task but if yoga is an exploration of consciousness, and if our aim is to explore the relationship between yoga and consciousness, then the psychology of consciousness which operates in varieties of yogic experiences needs to be studied and, at the minimum level, we need to delineate some of the broad and major lines of this experience.

Various systems of yoga have themselves described psychological elements in their fields of experience, and there is sufficient clarity in these descriptions so as to arrive at clear conception that distinguishes one experience from the other or one kind of experience from one another or one level of experience as distinguished from another level of experience. Some important examples of individuals who have passed through varieties of yogic experiences can also be studied. Even a comparative study is possible in this field, based upon a close study of various systems of yoga as also various systems of synthesis of yoga. Thus a brief but clear exposition of the psychology of yogic experiences can be undertaken.

It is in preparation of this task that this third Seminar is contemplated. Perhaps successive Seminars on this subject will be necessary. But this first Seminar on this theme could concentrate upon the following issues:

Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project
  • Distinguishing features of the yogic experience so as to distinguish that experience from philosophical reflection, moral endeavour, artistic perception, poetic expression, and experiences of piety, charity, and similar religious emotions, which may be a prelude to but not yet be what may properly be called yogic experience.
  • Psychology of conversion and the psychology of what is called in yoga, figuratively, the second birth.
  • Preliminary exercises of purification, renunciation and concentration, including exercises of yama, niyama, shravana, manana, and smarana, etc.
  • Psychology of faith in the yogic domain as distinguished from faith in the domain of credal religions.
  • Psychology of preliminary experiences of quietude, tranquillity, calm, silence, peace, submission, resignation, endurance and various states of equanimity, and experiences of the attitudes of witness consciousness and the consciousness of separation of what is called in Samkhyan terminology purusha from prakriti, etc.
  • Psychology of important stages of Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga.
  • Psychology of central experiences of the states which are named in the Indian expressive terms, Atman or Brahman, Purusha and Ishwara as distinguished from those of Maya, Prakriti and Shakti.
  • Psychology of the experiences of the inmost soul, psychic being or chaitya purusha, or the Upanishadic angustha matram, and experiences of annamaya purusha, pranamaya purusha, manomaya purusha, vijnanamaya purusha and anandamaya purusha.
  • Psychology of cosmic consciousness, of consciousness of oneness and of the Self that is both static and dynamic kshara and akshara and also of purushottama.
Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project

There are also a number of experiences, and there is also complex system of psychology that enables us to enter into the depths of varieties of yogic experiences. This relates to the psychology of chitta and ahamkara, the psychology of manas and buddhi, and the psychology that pertains to the Tantric system of experiences relating to different Chakras that determine and control various levels of consciousness that are relevant to physical, vital, mental and higher levels. There is the psychology of the surface consciousness as distinguished from the psychology of the subconscious and the unconscious as also distinguished from subliminal consciousness, psychic consciousness and superconscient levels of consciousness. There is also the psychology that distinguishes between the sense-mind and intellectual mind and also that which distinguishes between the pure intellectuality and dynamic intellectuality and externalising intellectuality; there is also the psychology that distinguishes between pure intellectuality and intellectuality that is ruled by vital desire, which can be called mental-vital, and intellectuality which is subject to the predominance of the physical senses or that which can be called mental-physical. In other words, there are psychological conditions where the physical overlaps with the vital and the vital overlaps with the mental, and each combination has its own psychological characteristics. All this large wealth of psychological knowledge which has been developed in India through out the ages beginning with the Vedic times to the present day constitutes a vast field, which needs to be studied with clarity, since it will facilitate the psychological understanding of different levels of yogic experiences and their practical applications in the outer life.

It is also to be noted that Indian psychology is quite varied and psychological functionings described in one system of classification do not necessarily correspond with the psychological functionings described in another classification. These also need to be brought out.

Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project

Moreover, new terminology has been continuously developed in Indian psychology. For example, the concept of adhyasa, although present in a certain way right from the early stages, became much more explicit and distinctive through the writings of Shakaracharya. Various concepts of the state of Nirvana can also be discerned in psychological terms and one can see that this word has been used in different senses in different epochs. The statement of psychology of sthita pragya is a distinctive contribution of the Bhagavadgita, which was not so clearly stated in earlier system of psychology. But Bhagavadgita places this concept in great relief and clarity. Similarly, when we come to the integral psychology of Sri Aurobindo, we have not only new terms but new concepts, and also more intricate and complex analyses of various states of consciousness that distinguish the levels of the inconscient, subconscient, conscient, intra-conscient, circum-conscient, the subliminal, the psychic, and the superconscient with its gradations of the Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind and Supermind. This vast psychological knowledge needs to be expounded, if we are to do justice to the theme of yoga.

In the integral psychology of Sri Aurobindo, we have new concepts of transformation and the psychology of psychic transformation, spiritual transformation and supramental transformation. This entire system of transformative yoga, when explored, brings out the wealth and the knowledge of various states of consciousness and their corresponding powers not only for individual perfection but also for collective perfection.

Larger Perspective of The Project

Larger Perspective of The Project


Systems of Yoga:

The fourth Seminar that is envisaged aims at an exposition, brief but clear and comprehensive, of all the major systems of yoga, namely, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Tantra.

It is understood that each one of these systems will require one special seminar for any adequate exposition or discussions. But still the present Seminar could be expected to present synoptic and panoramic view of different systems of yoga. Each system of yoga has its own preliminary stages of preparation, its higher stages and maturation, and its peculiar specific methods and realisations; it is also possible to compare different systems of yoga. There is also the question of justification of varieties of systems of yoga, considering that yoga is not a religion and that there is not one uniform system of yoga which is followed for individuals of different temperament and of different stages of human consciousness.

The aim in this Seminar will be to present synoptic exposition of each system of yoga or each aspect of a given system of yoga. Participants will free to decide the mode of treatment and special points of emphasis. Participants may also like to present a glossary of technical terms which are used in a given system of yoga.

It would also be opportune to take up for consideration various synthesis of yoga, which are attached with different systems of philosophy, such as those of Buddhism, Jainism, as also of Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, and different schools of Vedanta. There are also yogic aspects of Christianity, Islam and Sikkhism, just there have been various systems of yoga in Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and numerous other religious movements. This is a vast field, and participants may feel free to concentrate upon their own field of specialisation. In due course, all the important systems of yoga will have to be dealt with in a chronological order when organise Seminars on the History of Yoga in India.

Larger Perspective of The Project

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