Lecture II 4th November, 1938
We spoke in the last lecture of the classical Indian book on Yoga, the Patanjali Yoga-Sutra.
We are inclined in Europe to think of Yoga as a kind of acrobatics but it is really principally philosophy.
There are Fakirs at fairs, it is true, wearing the signs of their caste, smeared with ashes or the blood of Kali, who sit rigidly still with a stiff outstretched arm and practice various other kinds of stunts, but these are not taken seriously by educated Indians.
Yoga is the oldest practical philosophy of India, it is the mother of psychology and philosophy which are one and the same thing in India. It is impossible for anyone to b e a philosopher there, till he has undergone the spiritual development of Yoga.
Yoga must on no account be under-estimated, if only because of its antiquity and the number of its adherents.
It is the oldest cult of the East and is the foundation of everything spiritual, not only in India but also in China and Japan.
I was telling you at the end of the last lecture that the immediate practical goal of Yoga is to overcome the klesas, that is, the instinctive urges and oppressions.
These are compulsive mechanisms which lie at the base of the human being.
The worst of these, on which all the others are founded, is avidya, not-knowing.
This must not be confused with unconsciousness, for it is ignorance of the essence and being of man and the world.
The other klesas are ego centricity, being imprisoned by the ego, sensuality, hatred and compulsive life; that is, clinging to life or fearing it, not being able to separate oneself from it.
This last klesa is particularly obvious just now, a small cloud app on the international horizon and half mankind trembles!
Not-knowing our true being is the foundation of all the other klesas, the goal of Yoga is to strive after perception and insight, and not-knowing is the chief enemy on the path.
Patanjali says in the Yoga Sutra that:
“Not-knowing is understanding the temporal, impure, suffering and the non-self as eternal, pure, joy and as the Self.”
The three dimensional world is not nearly as important in India as it is in the West, the Indian is not entangled in it as we are.
He regards it as a semblance, and he does not fear death as we do.
So the East remains very conservative and is little concerned with modern “improvements”.
We criticize them for this but what about the improvements we are so proud of, are they such an unmixed blessing?
We have reduced the number of our shipwrecks, it is true, but when there is one it is a huge disaster, involving perhaps hundreds of lives.
There are fewer wars but what wars!
We have indeed improved war, it is impossible to imagine anything more efficient, more perfected, than modern warfare!
We have concentrated on technical and chemical knowledge, we have multiplied it beyond our wildest dreams and the result is poison gas.
A highly differentiated bomb is no doubt a great achievement, but, when there is a question of it falling on your head, you find yourself wishing for a South Sea island where the worst that is to be expected is a monkey with a coconut!
Avidya, not-knowing, is due to a lack of reflection, we just assume that temporal knowledge is eternal knowledge.
Temporal things are full of pleasures, but they are never satisfactory because they always lead to disappointment.
We chase eagerly after such things but they lead further and further away from ourselves, from the highest value, from the Self.
The worst sin is to take things which are not the Self for the Self but we will speak of this later.
This chasing after temporal things is the klesas in their aspect of not-knowing.
Through Yoga meditation it is possible to abolish not-knowing and to find out what clinging to the world leads to.
It can be overcome and wholly checked.
Karma, according to the eastern conception, is the disposition which we bring into the world.
Everything depends on our karma and everything which happens to us is a consequence of it. Karma is the sum total of results from earlier existences, our debit and credit account.
What we have lived in one existence, we take over into the next.
The ego is an illusion which ends with death but the karma remains, it is given another ego in the next existence.
While there is any karma left it forces you into one existence after the other, so the aim of Buddhist Yoga is to bring karma to an end.
Our karma is our personal problem but while we are caught in the klesas, we are naturally caught in the karma of other people as well and so we burden our karma more and more; but it is possible to stop the spontaneous working of the klesas by concentration, by fettering our ordinary consciousness, by dhyana, meditation, pondering on the images we see, and by Samadhi, introversion, ecstasy.
If I succeed in suppressing or dominating the klesas, so that they lose their reality, I stop producing karma to involve me in further existence.
Every educated Indian knows this, for this is the main idea of Yoga. He has his Guru to teach him these things a s a matter of course.
It is a matter of your own body and cannot be learnt intellectually.
There are many different kinds of Yoga and Europeans often become hypnotized by it, but it is essentially eastern, no European has the necessary patience and it is not the right method for him.
The writings of Paul Brunton and Yeats Brown show this very clearly.
It is impossible to grasp it with the intellect. The more we study Yoga, the more we realize how far it is from us; a European can only imitate it and what he acquires by this is of no r e al interest.
One of the aims of some kinds of Yoga is to understand the voice of all animals, but we are not convinced in the West that horses and dogs have such important thoughts.
We know from mythology that the motif of the helpful animal appears in Europe also, but the idea just has the charm of a fairy story for us and we cannot really
understand how educated people can be serious about such nonsense.
And it is much the same with earlier existences, we are often intrigue d by the idea and get all kinds of hunches but they are never really convincing.
And we are told that through Yoga we can read the thoughts of other people.
It might be useful, of course, to get to know their plots but it would make us feel very insecure.
We are also told that you can make yours elf invisible, which might be a great pleasure but which also opens the door to childish ambitions.
H. G. Wells’ book: “The Invisible Man ” shows what disagreeable results it could have.
Another promise is obtaining the super-human strength of an elephant, universal knowledge and a string of other delights.
We know of many of these things through Rama Krishna and Vivekananda.
You will have heard of them probably through the books written about them by Romain Rolland and also through Annie Besant.
The latter regarded Rama Krishna as a saint, even a Savior; and some Americans went so far as to build a temple for him in America.
We find shameless advertisements for Yoga in later Buddhism, they promise you that you will become beautiful, that you will speak the right word at the right moment, etc. etc.
You find nothing of all this in the old texts.
Everything that is naive in these is symbolic, but these symbols are only understood by the wise.
But the wise Indian has not our moral point of view, he says: Let the foolish believe in all those promises, they will be fascinated by these things, and then they will become entangled in life and live out their karma.
I asked an Indian about the obscenities on the walls of the Black Pagoda at Konarak.
He replied: “But see how interested the people are.”
I objected that they were probably already far too much interested in sex.
But the Indian answered : ” That is how it should be, otherwise they keep out of life and then how can they live their karma right through?
Let them be stupid, promise them every kind of treat, that is how they are meant to be.”
This point of view repays meditation.
The eight limbs of Yoga are :
1 . Yama = discipline. This does not refer to morality but to Ethos (custom) , and is collective. The Yogin’s standpoint towards the world.
2. Ni-yama = self-discipline of the individual.
3. Asana = the right position of the body , that is, sitting upright in the traditional posture of the Buddhist monk.
Asana is self-control practiced outwardly during the Yoga meditation and is indispensable o the Indian who is practicing Yoga.
The position of the body plays a great role in Buddhism, there is, for instance , a language of the hands called the Mudras.
We find these Mudras in the statues of the Buddha ; and also in the kathakali, Indian classical plays, where the actors do not speak but express the meaning of the play through their hand gestures .
The hand is frequently raised, perhaps from the level of the abdomen to the breasts; the idea is that a thought lying in the lowest regions of the body, is rising up .
The drumming, which accompanies the play, also sometimes interprets the rising of the thought. The s e hand gestures have become stereotyped into the Mudras.
4. Prana-yama = belongs to the same idea as Asana, but is discipline of the breathing. Breathing in and breathing out and holding the breath.
There are many people in Europe who cannot even breathe.
A German wrote a book called the “Hohe Lied vom Atem ” and it was exceedingly popular because there are so many people who have forgotten how to breathe.
If you watch people you will see that many of them breathe only in their throats and suddenly they have to sigh deeply because they were not really breathing at all.
This is very common but it frequently results in tuberculosis, because the lungs get no air.
It is a neurotic and unconscious symptom with far reaching consequences to health.
This is also the case in India, and so the rhythm of breathing is made conscious in Yoga.
They learn to be able to interrupt and regulate their breathing, and through this to breathe faster and slower, and to hold the breath for long periods.
It is a so-called training and takes a long time to perfect.
5 . Pratya-hara = withdrawing from the senses.
This is introversion and means breaking away from one’s outer senses.
These bind us in every kind of way, we laugh, for instance, because other people are doing so, although we have not heard the joke. Or we see everyone else staring at the sky and we do so automatically.
The pratya-hara exercise is to break such habits, such impulses : this kind of aimless curiosity is interrupted because it belongs to the klesas.
6. – Dharana = concentration.
7. Dhyana = meditation, submersion.
8 . Samadhi = introversion, ecstasy.
Every educated Indian has been trained in these eight limbs of Yoga, for they are the foundation of their whole spiritual development.
The whole man is involved, not just the intellect as is the case with our education.
The Indian receives a better all-round education than we do and gives a more educated impression.
Just the intellect is develop e d with us, we are specialists but we have little real culture for our other side is a barbarian or even a primitive.
This is very visible in the English who are noted for their stiffness .
One meets a man who is a wonderful engineer, for instance , but all the rest of the human being is nonexistent.
I speak of the English because the contrast is so obvious in India, but I do not mean that they are worse in this respect than the other western nations.
As a matter of fact, however, the barbarian, primitive side is more obvious in other nations because they have less form than the English, and good form “covers a multitude of sins.”
I hope that I have given you some insight into the substance and development of Yoga .
In order to continue on this path we should consider some old texts which are not at all easy to obtain.
There is one, however, that is very suitable to our purpose, which was translated from the original Sanskrit into Chinese in 424 A.D.
It has now been translated into English and is in the Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 49, and is called the Amitayur-Dhyana-Sutra.
A Meditation on Buddha Amitavus, and is a Mahayana Buddhist text.
The text begins with the story of a Crown Prince, who has taken his father, the King, prisoner.
The Crown Prince intends to starve his father to death, but his mother, Vaidehi, the King’s wife, nourishes him when she goes to visit him.
She does this by rubbing her body with corn flour, honey and “ghee” (a sort of butter), and she conceals grape juice in the garlands of flowers that she wears round her
As no one notices this, the King is apparently nourished by miraculous means. ~Carl Jung, ETH Lectures, Volume II, Pages 16-19.