4 November 1938 Psychology and Yoga Meditation Lecture 2

Psychology of Yoga and Meditation

4 November 1938 Psychology and Yoga Meditation Lecture 2

LAST TIME we considered the Yoga Sûtra of Patañjali. I offered you some introductory ideas.

Patañjali’s book about yoga is the classic text.

You may not know this, but yoga is principally a philosophy.

When we speak about it in Europe we always imagine something half-acrobatic: a half-naked man sitting cross-legged on a pedestal; people who are capable of remarkable physical contortions.

One sees this everywhere in India, at fairs or holy sites.

People who are remarkable in an incredibly deviant way.

Long hair, unbelievably dirty, lousy, half-naked, smeared with ash and blood if they are Kalli’s devotees, just sitting there motionless.

One stiffly holds out his arm, another more acrobatic one

stiffens something else.

This is the lowest form of popular titillation and is never taken seriously by educated Indians.

Yoga itself is India’s oldest practical philosophy; it is the mother of all philosophy, psychology, theology, etc.

You cannot be a philosopher there without practicing Yoga. Yoga is the foundation of all spiritual development.

It is a psychological method, and this is why I have planned to speak of it to you, for one must not underestimate something with such an honorable pedigree.

It is the foundation of all Eastern cultures, not only in India but also in China and Japan.

In connection with the Yoga Sûtra, I told you last time that the practice consists of overcoming and subduing the kleshas.

Klesha can be translated as compulsive urges—an instinctive type of impulse, or an inescapable mechanism, things that man is subject to, specifically understood as ignorance about the being of man and of the world.

It is (1) ignorance (ávidyâ). It is not to be confused with the unconscious—it has nothing to do with that, rather it is

a not-knowing about the causes and their identification.

The further kleshas are:

(2) egoism (asmitâ): egocentricity, a certain subjectivism, attachment to the I;

(3) attachment to sensory objects (râga);122

(4) hate (devsha);

(5) compulsion to live (abhinivesha) in the sense of an attachment to life, not being able to separate, this life anxiety, something that we all know only too well.

If a dark cloud appears somewhere, half the civilized world trembles.

Ignorance is the ground of the other kleshas.

Without this one, the others would not have an effect.

Ignorance is the principal enemy.

For this reason, yoga strives for awareness, insight, and understanding.

Ignorance is misperceiving permanence in transience, purity in  impurity, pleasure in suffering, an essential self where there is no self. [YS 2.5, p. 45]124

According to this conception, ignorance consists in the fact that one takes something noneternal as eternal, suffering as pleasure, and the non-Self as the Self.

What is this then?

This is

simply the entanglement of man in the world of the senses, or in our reality—which we consider to be absolute reality, but which in the East is illusory.

For us this is not only a world but an actuality.

For people in the East, this world is not as real as it is for us. They are not so attached to life as we are, they do not have anxiety as we do, it is much more natural for them.

For this reason, a multitude of things can be lived that we are unable to live.

This is also why everything remains so conservative.

Why should so much be improved or changed when, after all, everything is only illusory?

We criticize this, but if we were to reflect on this a bit, we would wonder whether all the many changes are really worth the effort.

We know how to build bigger ships. They don’t sink as often as they used to.

But now if this does happen, then it means the immediate death of thousands of people at a single blow, whereas formerly only around people would have lost their lives in a shipwreck.

We have marvelous cannons and really rather infrequent wars but when we do have a war, then it is the war to end all wars.

Chemical substances are used for the most unbelievable of inventions.

But if their purpose is ultimately only to murder people, then what is the use of these innovations?

A highly differentiated bomb is a splendid piece of equipment, but if it were to land on our heads then you would no doubt rather live in a bamboo hut where the worst that could happen would be that an ape can chuck a coconut at your head from above.

After all, that is less unpleasant than another sort of nut such as an aerial bomb.

Whether this wretched progress leads to anything good at all, let alone to something better, is questionable.

This ignorance is therefore a failure to think about things and thus a failure of awareness, so that one takes something non-eternal for eternal, impure for pure.

Something that we find pleasurable in the long run becomes full of suffering because it leads to a bitter end and disappointment.

In India, the Self is the ultimate meaning, the highest good. Here we consider things that lead us away from our Self to be the highest good, but not things that lead us to our Self.

These kleshas—and ignorance most of all—must be eliminated through the practice of yoga, namely through what is called meditation, and in such a way that through meditation, causes and effects can be clearly recognized for what they are, and hence, the meaning of attachment to the world and what the facts are.

we take with us into life, which causes us to live out a certain meaning, in a certain way. Out of this awareness, compulsive attachment to the world and life is quelled.

Overcoming compulsions is thus also described as a total  restraint.

The kleshas are karma, a highly remarkable concept.

It describes the disposition that

Our entire life destiny is dependent on this karma.

It is the sum of the consequences of earlier existences, in particular the last existence before this one.

What I lived there, I take over into my new existence with me. What we call “I” is an illusion and is ended by death.

But karma remains, a complex of the consequences of life, which arises anew, being carried over into a new existence.

This is how Buddhism explains it.

It is its intention to bring karma to an end, namely by recognizing that I act in such and such a way for certain reasons and therefore that I might stop doing this in order to be free of this karma that compels me to take up a new existence over and over again.

Through the kleshas a burdensome karma is created.

But if it is possible for me to quell these kleshas through yoga so that they no longer have an effect, then I do not create karma for myself that compels me to live.

From perfect discipline of the heart, one has full consciousness of one’s thought. [YS 3.4, p. 67]

By concentration (dhâranâ), Patañjali understands the captivation of the cittam (i.e., ordinary consciousness) in a specific place, in other words concentration through meditation

(dhyâna), i.e., through contemplation of what I observe in the state of captivation and then through meditative consciousness (samâdhi), i.e., introversion, i.e., the focusing of all my interests upon this point.

Through this total restraint comes into being, i.e., in this way I can get hold of the kleshas by concentrating so that the kleshas no longer function automatically and can no longer cause me to lose myself in some sort of worldly interest.

In brief, this is the purpose of the yoga method.

Until recently every educated Indian experienced this.

Every superior Indian has his guru who instructs him in this method.

No one can be a priest, philosopher, or psychologist if they have not practiced this method.

No one would ever just settle down in a quiet corner and read a few volumes of periodicals.

This concerns one’s own body.

It has different levels and practices, e.g., Râja Yoga or Hatha Yoga.

I don’t want to comment on this—this is a matter for the indians.

I have never met a European who has really benefitted from this method.

Read Brunton’s book or the author of Bengal Lancer.

This latter has described with refreshing openness a white man’s experiences with yoga exercises.

Knowledge of the past and future comes from perfect discipline of the three transformations of thought. [YS 3.16, p. 64]

So, already we are right in the middle of the consequences and effects of Indian Yoga.

How on earth a man knows and recognizes everything in the past by undertaking certain exercises sounds to us like something completely superstitious.

That is why many Europeans are compelled to try it in the hope that they will also acquire this wonderful awareness.

And then, when one sees what they have become aware of, one does not wish to have this awareness after all.

It is also thoroughly uninteresting. Yoga promises even more:

… knowledge of the cries of all creatures comes through perfect discipline of the distinctions between them. [YS 3.17, p. 64]

For us this is, of course, outright nonsense.

We doubt whether animals have anything new to tell us at all. We are far more—or only—interested in what the wise men report.

And what about Rolf the great dog? What has he to say? And yes, what does it even mean?

From ancient mythology, one knows that animals tell heroes all sorts of things, and the birds’ voices become intelligible to them, for example (Siegfried).

These seem like long past wonders from fairytales,

and we cannot understand how educated Indians can see anything in it.

Further: … one has knowledge of former births. [YS 3.18, p. 64]

In the Pali canon you can find places where Buddha says that he can recall his hundred thousand births and that he remembered when he did this or that.

He also claimed to know this about his pupils.

These are incredibly attractive marvels for the superstitious European.

Such remarkable things happen to him that he takes them as prodigies.

This is exhilarating for sure, but not convincing.

Further: Through direct perception of the cognitive process, one has knowledge of the thoughts of others. [YS 3.19, p. 64]

I.e., one can penetrate into others so effectively that one can read their innermost thoughts.

Buddha knows the thoughts of men.

So along comes so and so and knows what someone else is


That would be very handy for us.

Further: From perfect discipline of the body’s form, one can become invisible by paralyzing the

power to perceive one’s body and blocking the contact of light from one’s eyes. [YS 3.21, p. 66]

Here we are immersing ourselves in the childish fantasy of having an invisible body.

How nice it would be to have one.

A favorite puerile fantasy. It would be amazing if this were so.

H.G. Wells relates what happened to someone who could make himself invisible and how unfortunately this turned out.

Further: From perfect discipline of the strength of an animal such as an elephant, one gains that strength. [YS 3.24, p.66]

There is a whole further series of similarly amazing wonders.

There are many such texts that have been circulated today by the Ramakrishna order. Sri Ramakrishna136—Sri means “his eminence,” “the great,” even “the holy one”—you may know him from Romain Rolland and Annie Besant.

In Bengal there is a large monastery where the order has its headquarters.

The order is well-provided for with American money and distributes all sorts of texts about yoga in Europe.

Here in Europe there are countless missionaries, some of whom have quite substantial followings.

In America these followers have three temples.

Hinduistic syncretism with Hindu-Buddhist religious services.

You can read these things there also.

One of these prophets, Vivekananda, says, among other things, that the practitioner would look beautiful, would find the right words, etc.

There is always this shameless advertising for the splendid power of yoga.

I don’t want to say the same about this ancient text.

For all these things that are naively said of the effect of yoga are simply symbolic statements, and people who are really familiar with yoga are completely aware of that.

But they say to themselves: Let’s make allowance for these ways of expressing things.

It’s good for people. Through this they will be enticed and thus live out their karma.

The Indian does not share our morality.

He used to have his temple decorated with the most horrific obscenities. Just think of the Black Pagoda.

Terrible sexual perversions.

Why the terrible representations? Do they still speak of the spirit?

The answer resounds: yes, of course, you see how fascinated people are with this.

People simply get their heads full of erotic fantasies which they already have anyway.

Right they are, then, the adepts, people are simply living their karma and in a later existence they will gradually develop to be spiritual.

Yes, at this point they are living their flesh, then in the next existence they can live a spiritually higher life, otherwise

they must die without having once gotten a taste of it, gobbled up by the death god Rhama.

That’s the rationale for the coarse representation.

This also applies to these texts.

Therefore, great benefits are promised—hidden treasures, flying through the air, elevation to the gods.

Obviously shameless advertising, seduction for the stupid.

It seems to be particularly crafted for the weak-minded. Such is their karma.

In this way they achieve perfection.

I invite you to meditate on this point sometime.

On the practice of yoga: Above all it is (1.) Yama. This is moral self-control, ethical conduct.

Not in the sense of a certain morality, but an ethos. We always confuse these.

Then comes (2.) Niyama This applies especially to the individual who is subject to egoism.

Yoga is also practiced externally in the (3.)

Asanas (postures). For example, among these is the traditional position of the Buddhist monk in the lotus seat on the gazelle skin.

The position of the body plays a great role in Buddhism.

So, for example, there is the sign language called mudra.

One sees these mudras in statues of Buddha; and also in the South Indian kathakali where classical Indian plays are portrayed by two actors only through the play of hands.

The meaning of the text is interpreted by the actors in this way.

An upwards hand gesture means roughly that a thought is arising.

Sometimes the arising of a thought is announced by drumming. These hand gestures have been stereotyped in the mudras.

The correct sitting position is essential for the Indian because he must keep his body in top condition.

(4.) Prana-yama also ranks among this restraint of body. It is the art of breathing.

This involves the Sometimes the arising of a thought is announced by drumming.

These hand gestures have been stereotyped in the mudras.

The correct sitting position is essential for the Indian because he must keep his body in top condition.

(4.) Prana-yama also ranks among this restraint of body. It is the art of breathing.

This involves the rhythm of the breath of which we are mainly unconscious.

There are many people among us who cannot really breathe.

There is even a book: Das Hohelied vom Atem [The Song of Songs of the Breath].

This is written by a German.

if one could breathe better overall one would not see so many people with breathing difficulties.

It is simply that people breathe so little from above, so a lack of oxygen occurs and one sighs.

Then one has a spasm, which even leads to TB, because the apex of the lungs is not ventilated enough.

This can lead to very far-reaching health consequences.

It is, of course, the same in India, and this is the reason for this exercise of making conscious the rhythm of the breath by greatly speeding it up or greatly slowing it down or stopping it.

This training naturally takes years.

A further condition: (5) Pratyahara or the retracting of the senses, by which is meant that, through concentration, one sets aside every interest, every attachment to objects, curiosity, the compulsion to look.

We know from our own experience: when you are on your way somewhere, someone makes a bad joke, and though you’ve not even heard it you laugh along crazily.

One can do nothing about it.

Or if someone looks up at the sky, everyone else does it too. Running after every visual and auditory sense—the practice interrupts that.

For these are the kleshas.

Then (6) dhâranâ,i.e., concentration, (7) dhyâna, i.e., Meditation, and (8) samâdhi, i.e.,enlightenment.

These are the eight limbs of yoga.

Of course, they are not unconnected to the eightfold path

of the Buddha, although they are not precisely the same.

In a nutshell, these are the exercises that every educated Indian once experienced for himself.

They form the foundation of all spiritual development.

You see, the entire person is involved in such an exercise, not only the intellect in a one-sided way as with us.

So, we are only specialists, but everything else is uncultivated.

From another angle, man cannot even be a barbarian, only a primitive.

That’s is why the educated Indian makes an infinitely more  well-cultivated impression than a European.

He has developed on all sides, has fully rounded ways of behaving.

Unlike the European: on the one hand immense intellectualism, on the other hand immense inhibition.

For example, the genteel Englishman, outwardly extremely self-conscious, a medical specialist, or engineer, or god knows what, but in every other respect a zero.

Perhaps a specialist in bombs. With the continentals, it’s even worse.

The Englishman at least doesn’t show it, he still has so much politeness.

Now I’d like to give you an insight into the nature of developed yoga, i.e., how it developed within Buddhism and how it has throwbacks to the purely philosophical Hinduistic yoga.

Here certain texts come into consideration which are perhaps hard to locate, for the classical books about yoga do not mention this.

Perhaps not so much with the Yoga Sûtra, but it is difficult to

understand and not much commented upon.

You will hear very little about the later texts because

they play host to a kind of symbolism which only the specialist treats in some journal or other, but which doesn’t see the light of day for the ordinary mortal.

For this purpose, I have selected one text which has not survived even in Sanskrit.

It was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in 424 CE, for at that time Mahâyâna Buddhism migrated to China.

It can be found in an English translation in The Sacred books of the East in the 49th volume.

The title for this Sutram reads Amitayur-Dhyâna-Sûtra. Buddha Amitayur is a Bodhisattva.

He is the Buddha of immeasurable life who has his kingdom in the Western realm of the world, thus The Book of the Meditation about the Amitabha.

The text begins with a history of a crown prince who has taken his father, the king, prisoner. ~Carl Jung, Psychology of Yoga Meditations, Page 60-69

This content was originally published here.

Can't Get enough Freebie, Subscribe

We will send you the latest digital Marketing technology and methods that should help you grow your business.

More Articles