Psychology of Yoga and Meditation
11 NOVEMBER 1938 Psychology of Yoga Meditation Lecture 3
We won’t meet next Friday.
Being Swiss, I am part of a national commission, and I must attend their meeting and so sadly cannot be here next time.
Last time we began to speak about the Amitâyur-Dhyâna-Sûtra.
I have already told you how, in the East, meditation within yoga has a particular orientation.
I would very much like to say quite a lot about these matters, for when you have an insight into what the East does in this regard, then it will perhaps be easier for you to understand what happens in the West in a parallel way.
In the East, many things are conscious that are completely unconscious to us.
The East gives these things a value we could not dream of, or perhaps could only dream of.
When we encounter this sort of thing, it makes a peculiar impression on us, and if one speaks of it, people often think that the examples I mention must stem from rather abnormal people.
But, as it happens, they come mostly from rather healthy people, but because this is so unfamiliar to us, one is prejudiced.
These Eastern texts give an insight into the manner in which a spontaneous process, over the course of thousands of years, gradually became a technique, a process that we, here, had long forgotten or had never known.
For before we achieved the capacity to think in a similar way to the East, an intellectual development had been initiated here in us that made this trajectory completely impossible.
In these texts, we will encounter certain symbols that we will also meet in Western material, but in the East everything has been elaborated in the finest detail.
What we encounter here in symbols we can also see in Western material, but still a very long way from the Eastern degree of perfection.
What the West produces is distinctly meager in comparison with the rich elaboration these things have enjoyed in the East.
The text in question is a tract or teaching manual from Mahâyâna Buddhism,1an ancient
Indian text that is no longer extant in Sanskrit and is known to us only in the Chinese translation of 424 CE.
It begins with the story of a crown prince who is rebelling against his father and wants to starve him to death.
But the wife of the king and mother of the crown prince feeds the old king in a cunning way by smearing her body with flour, honey and butter, and by carrying grape juice
with her in garlands of flowers.
It looks like the king is being miraculously nourished.
But the palace guards finally get wise to this and inform the crown prince who wants to kill his father.
In distress, the captured king cries out to Mahâmaudgalyâyana.
The name is an incorrect transcription of Moggallâna, an early disciple of the Buddha.
All of these followers became saints, as they did in Christianity.
They have the Buddha’s powers because they have achieved perfection.
They achieved elephant strength, the various amazing gifts I spoke of last time, and
somehow exist on the other side, in Nirvana.
This Moggallâna immediately transports himself in spirit to the king by flying like a falcon or eagle and shares with him the eight precepts, the precepts of the noble, eightfold path.
He comes to the king in this way every day.
These eight precepts are one of the foundations of Buddhism.
Regarding their origins: I must go into detail to make the meaning of the text comprehensible
So, from the English translation by the famous Pâli specialist, Rhys David, in the eleventh volume, p.146, of the Sacred Books of the East, here is an authentic speech of the Buddha embellished in the style of that time:
Reverence to the Blessed One, the Holy One, the Fully-Enlightened One.
- Thus have I heard. The Blessed One was once staying at Benares, at the hermitage
called Migadâya. And there the Blessed One addressed the company of the five
These are beggars who lead a miserable existence, silently going through the streets with their begging bowls, eyes sunken.
Silently they stop before a house, waiting for alms.
If something is donated, then good, if not, they go on in silence.
Usually people fill their bowls with rice.
The bhikkhu is not allowed to give thanks.
… and said: 2. “There are two extremes, O Bhikkhus, which the man who has given up the world ought not to follow − the habitual practice, on the one hand of those things whose attraction depends upon the passions, and especially of sensuality − a low and pagan way (of seeking satisfaction) unworthy, unprofitable, and fit only for the worldly-minded —and the habitual practice, on the other hand, of asceticism (or self-mortification), which is painful, unworthy, and unprofitable.”
- “There is a middle path, O Bhikkhus, avoiding these two extremes, discovered by the
That is the habitual title of the Buddha, even today. Tathâgata, from Tathâ, “so” and gata “goes,” meaning “to conduct oneself in this way.”
He is an examplar.
It’s always translated as the perfect one, but that’s not what it means.
“…—a path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding, which leads to peace of
mind, to the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvâna!”
- “What is that middle path, O Bhikkhus, avoiding these two extremes, discovered by
the Tathâgata − that path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding, which ‘leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvâna?’ Verily! it is this noble eightfold path that is to say Right views; Right aspirations; Right speech; Right conduct; Right livelihood; Right effort; Right mindfulness; and Right contemplation.”
“This, O Bhikkhus, is that middle path, avoiding these two extremes, discovered by the
Tathâgata − that path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding, which leads to
peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvâna!”
Those are the classical precepts which Moggallâna brings to the king and teaches him. Such is the initial instruction in the principles of Buddhist doctrine.
Now when the crown prince hears of these things, he wants kill his mother, but his ministers do not agree with this, especially his wise doctor named Jivâ—the living one. He reproaches the prince, and this makes a great impression on him. All the same, he imprisons his mother in a hidden palace instead of killing her.
She calls upon the Buddha, who likewise sends her Moggallâna and Ananda.
These two appear before their very eyes, along with the Buddha himself.
He shows her the ten worlds to let her choose the one for her rebirth.
These are the eight worlds on the horizon, with the ninth and tenth worlds at the zenith and nadir.
She chooses the Western kingdom of Amitâbha, the Buddha’s land of eternal life.
He now teaches her meditation and yoga so that she can transpose herself into the
land of Amitâbha.
After all the edifying introductions: Thou and all other beings besides ought to make it their only aim, with concentrated thought, to get a perception of the western quarter. [p. 169]
Thus, a mental image is to be formed that represents the kingdom of Amitâbha.
You will ask how that perception is to be formed. I will explain it now.
All beings, if not blind from birth, are uniformly possessed of sight, and they all see the setting sun.
Thou shouldst sit down properly, looking in the western direction, and prepare thy thought
for a close meditation on the sun; cause thy mind to be firmly fixed (on it) so as to have an unwavering perception by the exclusive application (of thy thought), and gaze upon it
(more particularly) when it is about to set and looks like a suspended drum.
… After thou hast thus seen the sun, let (that image) remain clear and fixed, whether thine eyes be shut or open;—such is the perception of the sun, which is the First Meditation. [pp. 169–170]
You see, the writer takes it for granted that the reader knows what a meditation is.
The Western European has no such training, we are not raised with meditation, and what we do here in its name is usually so comically imitative as to be amazing.
Next thou shouldst form the perception of water; gaze on the water clear and pure, and let (this image) also remain clear and fixed (afterwards); never allow thy thought to be
scattered and lost.
When thou hast thus seen the water thou shouldst form the perception of ice.
As thou seest the ice shining and transparent, thou shouldst imagine the appearance of lapis lazuli.
After that has been done, thou wilt see the ground consisting of lapis lazuli, transparent
and shining both within and without. Beneath this ground of lapis lazuli there will be seen a golden banner with the seven jewels, diamonds and the rest, supporting the ground.172 [p. 170]
A remarkable notion.
Gazing at the sun, the field of vision over the horizon.
Gazing at the ground, we can also still imagine that. But now the imagination leaves the realm of conscious sight, down into the realm of the unconscious: below ground where one cannot see.
There, it should see the golden banner, i.e., of course it doesn’t see it right away, but rather with great effort, through concentration, it engenders a vision of it.
Of course, we don’t want to believe this—that one can generate a vision oneself—because we ack the training.
However, through their education, people of the East acquire the ability to
visualize, an ability we lack. We wouldn’t make the effort to imagine such an image. Although there are exceptions.
The exercitia of the Catholic church can probably engender something similar.Whoever can devote themselves totally to this can do it, but not the ordinary mortal.
What is supposed to be seen under the ground is an unfurled banner:
It extends to the eight points of the compass, and thus the eight corners (of the ground) are perfectly filled up. [p. 170]
The image should look like this:
This is the slung banner, spread out under the ground. It is unfurled at eight points:
Every side of the eight quarters consists of a hundred jewels, every jewel has a thousand
of lapis lazuli, look like a thousand million of suns, and it is difficult to see them all one by one. [p. 170]
The thought process here: first hold the image of the setting sun as a shining ball, then
imagine the water, then the water covered in ice.
The reflective surface transforms into the lapis lazuli. It is blue, stony, and, to some degree, depicts the surface of the water.
Now that’s an image of the unconscious that is commonly dreamed here in the West.
So now comes the penetration of the unconscious: namely, what is hidden under the surface, in the unconscious, is what should be seen.
And that indeed is pictured in this rich oriental fantasy.
All eight corners of the compass are decorated with jewels, radiant with supernatural light.
Over the surface of that ground of lapis lazuli there are stretched golden ropes intertwined crosswise; divisions are made by means of (strings of) seven jewels with every part clear and distinct.
Each jewel has rays of five hundred colours, which look like flowers or like the moon
Lodged high up in the open sky these rays form a tower of rays, whose storeys
and galleries are ten million in number and built of a hundred jewels.
Both sides of the tower have each a hundred million flowery banners furnished and decked with numberless musical instruments.
Eight kinds of cool breezes proceed from the brilliant rays.
When those musical instruments are played, they emit the sounds “suffering,” “non-existence,” “impermanence,” and “non-self”; … [pp. 170–171]
These are the four forms of the suffering of existence, namely: suffering, ignorance, nonbeing, impermanence (i.e., the deceitful mâyâ, the illusion of the world, which we accept instead of the Self).
These notes mnemonically unfold those four principles.
…;—such is the perception of the water, which is the Second Meditation. [p. 171]
When this perception has been formed, thou shouldst meditate on its (constituents) one by one and make (the images) as clear as possible, so that they may never be scattered and lost, whether thine eyes be shut or open.
Except only during the time of thy sleep, thou shouldst always keep this in thy mind. One who has reached this (stage of) perception is said to have dimly seen the Land of Highest Happiness (Sukhâvatî).
One who has obtained the Samâdhi (the state of supernatural calm) is able to see the
land (of that Buddha country) clearly and distinctly: (this state) is too much to be explained fully;—such is the perception of the land, and it is the Third Meditation. [p. 172]
Then follows the meditation upon the jewelled trees of Amitâbha land, and then upon the water.
In the Land of Highest Happiness there are waters in eight lakes; the water in every lake
consists of seven jewels which are soft and yielding. [p. 174]
Water of precious stones.
Deriving its source from the king of jewels that fulfils every wish.174 [p. 174]
This is Cintâmani, a gem of the highest value, a priceless, precious jewel. It is the wishing
pearl that fulfills every desire (the eight-cornered golden banner is also the wishing pearl, as we’ll see). It is really our image referring on the one hand to the Buddha’s doctrine and on the other to the perfected one.
In the midst of each lake there are sixty millions of lotus-flowers, made of seven jewels; all the flowers are perfectly round and exactly equal (in circumference), being twelve
The water of jewels flows amidst the flowers and rises and falls by the stalks (of
the lotus); the sound of the streaming water is melodious and pleasing, and propounds all the perfect virtues (Parâmitâs), “suffering,” “non-existence,” “impermanence,” and “non-Self;” … [p. 174]
I.e., the right consideration of things to be meditated upon.
Whoever meditates upon them correctly is also virtuous.
… it proclaims also the praise of the signs of perfection, and minor marks of
excellence175 of all Buddhas. [p. 174]
It is physically represented, e.g., through the long ears characterizing the Buddha.
From the king of jewels that fulfils every wish, stream forth the golden-coloured rays
excessively beautiful, the radiance of which transforms itself into birds possessing the
colours of a hundred jewels, which sing out harmonious notes, sweet and delicious, ever
praising the remembrance of Buddha, the remembrance of the Law, and the remembrance of the Church;—such is the perception of the water of eight good qualities, and it is the Fifth Meditation. [p. 174–175]
The sixth meditation consists of creating the imagined division of the Amitâbha land.
Each division of that (Buddha) country, which consists of several jewels, has also jewelled storeys and galleries to the number of five hundred million; within each storey and gallery there are innumerable Devas engaged in playing heavenly music.
If one has experienced this, one has expiated the greatest sinful deeds which would (otherwise lead one) to transmigration for numberless millions of kalpas;176 … [p. 175]
A kalpa is an infinitely long series of world ages, each one being 2000 mahâyugas.
A mahâyuga is 360 normal yugas. Every few hundred years at the beginning, and a few hundred years at the end of such a period, comes what we would call the twilight of the gods.
At present, we are in the Kâli yuga. We have a bad prognosis.
Now the majority of people lie, there remain only a few who can bear the truth. In the first yuga, everyone spoke the truth, in the second and the third ever fewer.
A yuga consists of 4800, 3600, 2400, and 1200 years.
These 12,000 years179 × 360 are 1
mahâyuga and that is already 4.3 million years.180 A kalpa however is 2000 × 4.32 million.
That is 8.64 million years.
And now one must work off his sinful deeds over the course of many million kalpas.
… after his death, he will assuredly be born in that land. [p. 175]
It is therefore the purpose of yoga practice to create this land with this aspect; and by thinking it, it is created in actuality. India imagines the psychic much less hazily than we do; in fact, it somehow has substance.
When Indians think something, they have created a being.
If they have an idea, then a being has entered into them.
When they imagine something in fantasy, and flesh it out, in that way they have in fact created just such a being of thought.
And the more it is possible for them to force their entire psychic strength into it, the more this form is also actuality and, in the end, identical with the Amitâbha land. They have created it for themselves and inhabit it.
Now the text continues: Those who wish to meditate on that Buddha ought first to direct their thought as follows: form the perception of a lotus-flower on a ground of seven jewels, each leaf of that lotus exhibits the colours of a hundred jewels, and has eighty-four thousand veins, just like heavenly pictures; each vein possesses eighty-four thousand rays, of which each can be clearly seen. [p. 176]
These precepts pursue a technical purpose.
Whoever wishes to create this land must create all these details.
He must take the utmost care with them.
In that way, his entire imagination is engaged.
We must not imagine that this is mere nonsense. For them this is serious.
They work all day to elaborate such an image.
I spoke to a lama who had studied for some years at the universities in Lhasa.
He gave me certain insights, telling me that such an image, or mandala, could not in the
least be created by someone uneducated. Only an initiate can do that. Anyone else would be wasting their time.
It is impossible.
There are monasteries in Tibet where these exercises are undertaken with the greatest tenacity and endurance.
There are supposed to be three monasteries in Tibet where this text is meditated upon. David-Néel reports about this in her books.
There they claim are the great mahatmas who enchant the world and penetrate into everything.
I could tell you even more juicy things.
These forms are purely psychic in nature.
We simply cannot imagine what sort of psychology has you meditating upon such images with terrific concentration for days, weeks, or months at a time.
There is a tower built of the gems which are like those that are fastened on Sakra’s head.
… On that tower there are miraculously found four posts with jewelled banners; … such is the perception of the flowery throne, and it is the Seventh Meditation. [pp. 176–177]
When you have perceived this, you should next perceive Buddha himself.
Do you ask how?
Every Buddha Tathâgata is one whose (spiritual) body is the principle of nature
(Darmadhâtu-kâya), so that he may enter into the mind of any beings. [pp. 177–178]
The expression used here is rather difficult to understand. Darmadhâtu-kâya, i.e., a subtle body corresponding to the principle of nature, is identical with it, and for this reason is able to penetrate into the consciousness of all beings, such that the Buddha’s full identity with the body is present, which accords with the principle of all beings and for this reason can penetrate into all beings. ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Yoga Meditations, Page 26-37