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Yoga and Consciousness - III







Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

An object of inquiry reveals its truth in some kind of fullness only when it is examined in its outermost appearance as also in its loftiest or highest possibilities of being and manifestation. Thus, if consciousness is our object of inquiry we need to study the nature of consciousness at various levels of its appearance and reality, and we have to explore those methods by means of which various layers of consciousness can be uncovered, observed and experimented upon with a view to arrive at the true truth of consciousness.

It is in this context that the study and practice of yoga can be perceived as not only relevant but indispensable.

For the body of knowledge that we call yoga has been developed as a science and technology of consciousness and its history in India extends right from the Vedic times to the present day. If we study the Veda by penetrating through its symbolism, we shall find that the Vedic seers had already attained to the loftiest secrets of consciousness. As Sri Aurobindo points out:

"They may not have yoked the lightning to their chariots, nor weighed sun and star, nor materialised all the destructive forces in Nature to aid them in massacre and domination, but they had measured and fathomed all the heavens and earths within us, they had cast their plummet into the inconscient and the subconscient and the superconscient; they had read the riddle of death and found the secret of immortality; they had sought for and discovered the One and known and worshipped Him in the glories of His light and purity and wisdom and power."[1]

[1] Sri Aurobindo:The Secret of the Veda, Centenary Edition, Volume 10, p. 439,

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

The sea of the superconscient, the sea of the subconscient, and the sea of the conscient, of the light of the life of the living being between the two, — this is the Vedic idea of existence which consists of three oceans. Vamadeva in Rigveda IV.58.11 describes these three oceans of consciousness as follows:

dhāman te viśvam bhuvanam adhi śritam
antaḥ samudre hṛdy antar āyuṣi |[1]

This concept of threefold consciousness may be regarded as the basis of the explorations of the Vedic seers as also of the methods which they developed for effecting the journey of the search of the realisations that can be secured in the plane of the superconscient. It is these methods which constituted what may be called the technology of consciousness or the practical psychology of yoga as it developed in India throughout the ages. From the Veda to Sri Aurobindo is a long and unbroken journey and story of the development of the science of yoga.

While giving the meaning of the term "Consciousness", Sri Aurobindo states:

Ordinarily we mean by it our first obvious idea of a mental waking consciousness such as is possessed by the human being during the major part of his bodily existence, when he is not asleep, stunned or otherwise deprived of his physical and superficial methods of sensation. In this sense it is plain enough that consciousness is the exception and not the rule in the order of the material universe. We ourselves do not always possess it. But this vulgar and shallow idea of the nature of consciousness, though it still colours our ordinary thought and associations, must now definitely disappear out philosophical thinking. For we know that there is something in us which is conscious when we sleep, when we are stunned or drugged or in a swoon, in all apparently unconscious states of our physical being. Not only so, but we may now be sure that the old thinkers were right when they declared that even in our waking state what we call then our consciousness is only a small selection from our entire conscious being. It is a superficies, it is not even the whole of our mentality. Behind it, much vaster than it, there is a subliminal or subconscient mind which is the greater part of ourselves and contains heights and profundities which no man has yet measured or fathomed. This knowledge gives us a starting-point for the true science of Force and its workings; it delivers us definitely from circumscription by the material and from the illusion of the obvious."[2]

[1] The entire creation extends from Thy seat (which is in the superconscient) to the lowest sea and the interior of the heart of living beings.

[2] Sri Aurobindo: The Life Divine, Vol. 18, Centenary Edition, p.85

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

In Sri Aurobindo's writings on yoga we have a systematic and detailed statement of the realms of consciousness discovered through the yogic effort, and we may describe here the secrets of consciousness that have been found by the practice of yogic methods and which have been developed in their subtleties, profundities and applications, — again through the ancient or new methods of yoga.

One of the most important counsels that Sri Aurobindo gives us is to avoid a plunge into the subconscient when we are not sufficiently ready. He also points out that our first concern must be with all that we are conscious of, and it is only when there has been already a good deal of harmonisation of our conscious being and ascent to higher levels of consciousness that it becomes easier and safer to deal with the subconscient. An early a plunge into the subconscient, he warns us, is unsafe and it would lead us into incoherence or into sleep or dull trance or a comatose torpor. The higher we rise, he points out, the greater is the capacity that we achieve to deal with the lower. The lowest layer of the subconscient, which Sri Aurobindo calls the inconscient, can effectively be dealt with and transformed only by the highest powers of the supramental superconscient.

The most important question is related to the methods by which one can rise into the higher levels of consciousness. Right from the Vedic times, it was discovered that the path of ascent lies in the utilisation of the normal functionings of our normal psychological faculties, namely, those of cognition, affection, and conation. The experimentations and discoveries made by the yogins have also revealed that even the functionings of our physical being, and the postures of the body and processes of breathing, if properly purified, combined, strengthened and heightened in their capacities, can produce results which might seem to us extraordinary and even miraculous. The entire system of Hatha yoga and the system of Raja yoga are based on the basis of these discoveries. That there can be life-process without heartbeats and there can be thoughts independent of the operation of the brain have been demonstrated by the Hatha yogic and Raja yogic practices. The realisations, which are grouped under the concept of ashta siddhi are verifiable and can be attained by the methodised effort that we call yoga.

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Just as by the dexterous and scientific handling, the natural forces of electricity or of steam can be enhanced in their powers and in their possibilities of utilisations, similarly, the customary psychological workings can be scientifically and dexterously handled through the yogic methods, and their powers can be enhanced and their utilisation can be facilitated in various ways. Yogic methods depend on the perception and experience that our inner elements, combinations, functions, forces, can be supported or dissolved, can be combined and set to novel and formerly the impossible workings, can be transformed and resolved into a new general synthesis by fixed internal processes. The discovery of the power of concentration or contemplation or the power of witnessing of the movements of prakriti in the state of purusha consciousness are extraordinary achievements of the yogic science. Rajayoga, yoga of devotion, yoga of knowledge, and yoga of divine works, start from use of some faculty in us by ways and for ends not contemplated in their everyday spontaneous workings. It can be said that all methods grouped under the common name yoga are special psychological processes founded on a fixed truth of Nature and developing out of normal functions, powers and results which were always latent to which her ordinary movements do not easily or do not often manifest.

In one of the statements on ashta siddhi, Sri Aurobindo states:

"All siddhis exist already in nature. They exist in you. Only owing to habitual limitedness, you make a use of them which is mechanical and limited. By breaking this limitation, one is able to get the conscious and voluntary use of them."[1]

The eight siddhis of which yogic science speaks are obtained in varying degrees as one begins to utilise various yogic methods of concentration.
These siddhis are, first of all, those of mahima (including garima), laghima and anima. These three siddhis are siddhis of being as distinguished from siddhis of knowledge and siddhis and power. Mahima is unhampered force in the mental power or in the physical power. In the physical it shows itself by an abnormal strength which is not muscular and may even develop into the power of increasing the size and the weight of the body, etc.

[1] Sri Aurobindo: Archives and Research, Volume 10, Number I, pp. 10-12

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Laghima is a similar power of lightness, that is to say, of freedom from all pressure or weighing down in the mental, vital or physical being. Laghima is the basis of the power to overcome gravitation, and thus it is the basis of utthāpanā.

Anima is the power of freeing the atoms of subtle or gross matter from their ordinary limitations. It by this power that yogins were supposed to make themselves invisible and invulnerable or to free the body from decay and death. Apart from these three powers, there are three siddhis of the powers in the consciousness of acting upon other conscious being or even upon things without physical means or persuasive compulsion. Great men are said to make others do their will by a sort of magnetism, by a force in their words, in their action, or even in their silent will or mere presence. These three powers are aishwarya, ishita, and vashita. Aishwarya is when one merely uses the will and things happen or people act according what is willed. Ishita is when one does not even need to have a will but when one has a want or need or a sense that something ought to be and that thing comes about or happens. Vashita is when one concentrates one's will on a person or object so as to control it. The yogic science gives warning that these powers can only be entirely acquired or safely used when we have got rid of egoism and identified ourselves with infinite will and infinite consciousness.

There are other two other siddhis, namely vyapti and prakamya. These are siddhis of knowledge. Vyapti is obtained when the thoughts, feelings, etc. of others or another kind of knowledge of things, etc, are felt rising from those things or persons. There is also a power of communicative vyapti when one can send or put one's own thoughts, feelings, etc., into someone else. Prakamya is when one looks mentally or physically at somebody or something and perceives what is in that person or things. There is also another kind of prakamya which is not of the mind but of the senses. It is the power of perceiving smells, sounds, contacts, tastes, lights, colours, and other objects of sense which are either not at all perceptible to ordinary persons or beyond the range of one's own ordinary senses.

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

The most important aim of the yoga is to arrive at higher states of consciousness and the powers of union, unity or identity with universality and transcendence. These states are basically the states of wideness, or friendliness, of intense will power or askesis and of inner delight. In the Veda,, these four powers were symbolically called the powers of Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, and Bhaga, and it was laid down that without the attainment of these combined powers, one cannot attain to the state of Truth-Consciousness or what Sri Aurobindo calls the supermind which lies above the states of the higher mind, illumined mind, intuitive mind and overmind.

The yogic science recognises four faculties which begin to develop when by the processes of meditation or by renunciation of desire or by the utter purification of emotions or by the combination of all these three, one is able to transcend the limitations of the mental consciousness. These four faculties are those of revelation, inspiration, intuition, and spontaneous discrimination, the four faculties which were known to the Vedic seers as the powers of Ila, Saraswati, Sarama and Daksha.

What is meditation and how the process of meditation can lead to the states of silence in which higher faculties begin to operate is a vast field of exploration and long and arduous practice in Jñāna Yoga. Similarly, how desire can be eliminated from our psychological complex and how by that elimination, the universal and transcendental will can begin to operate in us is also a field of vast askesis, control and mastery. Again, how various stages of the elimination of desire and along with the elimination or annihilation or egoism can occur is a field of difficult process of Karma Yoga. In the same way, how emotions in our consciousness which are attached to small and narrow aims and which are related to immediate and binding relationships can be purified and transformed so as to become a huge reservoir of universal love and transcendental compassion is also a vast field in Bhakti Yoga of untiring process of purification and of generation of secret delight in everything and perception of beauty and joy in all contacts of consciousness, and it is a field also that takes us into the supreme mysteries of consciousness and existence.

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

These are only introductory perceptions and conceptions, and can only faintly indicate the wonder of consciousness and the object that lies beyond consciousness, although seizeable by consciousness. All these attainments and processes by which our entire physical life can be transformed into divine life on the earth — all this and much more is the subject matter of the theme of yoga and consciousness.

An extremely important concept that has been developed in the yogic science of consciousness is that of the human bondage and liberation. And underlying this concept is the concept of Ignorance, which is symbolically described as rātri in the aghamarshana mantra of the Rigveda.

A central knot of ignorance is the knot of the ego, ahamkara. The analysis of the ego is one of the profoundest in the yogic science. The ego presents itself as though it is an entity, separate, distinct and independent of everything else. As a result, the egoistic consciousness is constantly engaged in the processes of divisions, divisions between self and others, divisions between oneself and the world, and divisions even within oneself. This egoistic consciousness is also found to be at the root of what yogic science calls dualities or dvandvas, — dualities of joy and sorrow, of success and failure, of the superior and the inferior, and the dualities which whirl round in cycles and circles of fluctuating and unequal rotations that stifle and afflict the individual consciousness imprisoning it constantly within narrow bounds from which escape or liberation is found to be extremely difficult.

At a deeper level of analysis, it is found that there is really no such thing as an entity which can be called the entity of the ego. It is found, on the other hand, that ego is simply a construction, a sense or a mere idea corresponding to which there is really nothing excepting a narrow construction, a sense of "I-ness" that prevents the larger perception of a true entity within, which is not egoistic in character.

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

That entity is variously understood and realised in the different disciplines of yoga. In the jñāna yoga, that larger entity is the Substance, the Self, the Atman which is same and the only universal and even transcendental Reality, which is termed the Brahman, and which when experienced is found to be ever free Sachchidananda, the pure Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. In the discipline of karma yoga, that which is behind the egoistic consciousness reveals itself as the Instrument that is inalienably related to the supreme Master, who is also experienced as Sachchidananda. In the Yoga of Divine Love, the entity experienced behind egoistic consciousness is the entity that can be called the Child of the divine Lord or divine Mother, who is also Sacchidananda. And, in several other synthetic systems of Yoga, these three states are experienced in some kind of combination or integrality. And in all these experiences, the identification of the inner entity with the outer body, life, mind and ego through the process of adhyāsa is lost; it disappears and there is annihilation of the ego. It is this annihilation of this ego which marks a momentous stage in yoga, and which is known as mukti or moksha.

Indian tradition makes a distinction between three states of mukti, — salokya mukti, sayujya mukti and sadharmya mukti. In salokya mukti, the state of consciousness that is attained is the same as the state of transcendental reality; in sayujya mukti there is a union of the individual with the supreme a reality, and there is a relationship between the individual and the supreme reality — a relationship of constant nearness and constant self-giving on the part of the individual to the supreme reality. In sadharmya mukti, not only is the individual liberated from the limitation of the prakriti but even the nature, prakriti, becomes transformed and manifests the divine nature. This transformation of the lower nature or apara prakriti into the higher nature, divine nature, para prakriti, is conceived to be a state not only of liberation but also of perfection.

Consciousness as revealed through various processes of yoga can be viewed in three distinct but interrelated standpoints. In the first place, higher states of consciousness are developed through a gradual process of widening of consciousness, deepening of consciousness and heightening of consciousness. In different systems of yoga, these three processes are aided by certain specific prescriptions regarding the development of attitudes, moral and spiritual control and mastery over impulses, desires, preferences and inclinations of will, action, and rational or aesthetic perceptions and tastes. One of the highest attainments is that of equality, samattvam, — equality of both inner states of quietude, silence and peace as also equality in dynamic states of will and action.

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

In the second place, highest states of consciousness are sought to be attained by a conscious application of the secret knowledge in regard to the relationship between two statuses of consciousness, the status of purusha and the status of prakriti. In the ordinary movement of consciousness in which human beings find themselves, there is normally predominance or rule of movements of prakriti, of dynamic nature, analysed in Indian psychology as a triple thread, of tamas, rajas and sattva, and purusha which is secretly present behind the movement of prakriti is found to be normally dormant or under constant subjection of prakriti. According to the secret knowledge of the relationship between purusha and prakriti, purusha is the originator of the movement of prakriti, and prakriti works out or executes the will of the purusha. From this point of view, if purusha is found to be subject to prakriti, it can be traced only to an inner consent on the part of the purusha to become so subjected. In the same way, it is up to the purusha to withdraw its consent so as to become a ruler of prakriti. Yoga reveals that this secret knowledge is verifiable, and if one begins to will freedom from subjection to prakriti's movements, prakriti itself will collaborate and create conditions, under which purusha can recover its position as the originator and therefore the ruler of the movements of prakriti. It is in this process that one experiences the status of the witness, sakshi bhava, the state of the giver of consent or withholder of the consent, the state of anumanta, the state of bharta, the state of the master in which the prakriti obeys the will of the purusha, and even the state of ishwara in which purusha experiences the lordship over prakriti. And on the same line on this process, purusha can bring about a radical change in the ordinary nature and transmuted into divine nature. This is the process that we find elaborated in the last six chapters of Bhagavadgita, where Sri Krishna speaks of trigunatita and envisages the transmutation of ordinary nature into higher nature, para prakriti, particularly by the processes of transcending of the norms of ordinary nature, sarva dharman partyajya, so as to attain oneness with the nature of the divine consciousness.

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Yoga and Consciousness - III

Thirdly, the process of development of consciousness can be seen as a gradual rising of states of consciousness which are normally fixed in physicality and which can be raised by various processes of the awakening of kundalini, which has been discovered by the yogic science to be coiled at the lowest physical base or the centre of chakra called muladhara. On this line of development, there are elaborate means whereby kundalini can be raised upwards through a series of centres or charkas until it is raised up to sahasrara, thousand petalled lotus, on the top of skull or beyond. Here, consciousness, as it rises upwards, opens up centres of vital desire, emotions, and will-power, power of vision and power of thought and light. It is with the development of power of consciousness that ultimately one is enabled to rise to control and mastery of all that is lower so as to attain a permanent station in the higher states of consciousness. The entire shastra of Tantra is based upon the discovery of this yogic science, and we have in this exposition, revelations of various states of consciousness which ultimately can be used for attaining a complete mastery and extraordinary siddhis of consciousness and power.

These three basic lines of development are, in a sense, interrelated. The higher is the state of consciousness, the greater is the predominance of purusha over prakriti, and the greater is also the rise of kundalini in the scale of centres of charkas. And this is true also vice-versa. In the ultimate analysis, one can combine all the three processes, and one can attain to more accelerated process of development of consciousness. The result, too, could also be more rich and more fruitful.

The entire process of yogic development of consciousness is intricate and it requires, on the part of the individual, not only a steady and unfailing aspiration, utsaha, but also uplifting guidance of the teacher, guru, who has the true knowledge of the principles and states of consciousness attainable by the process of yoga. And, finally, the entire process requires the combination of patience as though one has the entire eternity to arrive at realisation and yet a constant effort which insists on the development of capacities which ultimately at their heights can bring about instantaneous realisation.

Yoga and Consciousness - III

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