Psychology of Yoga and Meditation

1939 2 JUNE Lecture 6 Psychology and Yoga Meditation

I completely forgot to say at the beginning of this lecture that if you have any questions you’d like to ask me, please feel free to do this in the form of a letter.

Or give me a note with your “well-formulated question.” I will do my best to reply to you.

Last time we spoke about the purusha and I cited all sorts of parallels to show you in what contexts this concept occurs in Indian philosophy.

I emphasized that it is first identified with the Brahman, thus with the ultimate of all world beings, and then with the Prajâpati, the creator of

the world, who is simultaneously time, in fact he is Bergson’s durée créatrice.

He is the year; he is the womb of time, out which all being arises.

Then he is the sacrifice, the fire, that which has created himself as a likeness of himself.

You can already see there the connections with Western Christian ideas.

This purusha has parallels with the mystical ideas about Christ that evolved in the West. I mentioned to you the parallels with Neo-Platonic philosophy where the actual creator god is Chronos, or the time-god, who is simultaneously the god of fire, of creative fire, and of light.

He demonstrates the symbolic attributes that are typical of these gods.

Today we want to return to the text of the Yoga Sûtra once again.

With our hard-won ideas of purusha and sattvam, we now want to try to get closer to the meaning of the complicated words of Patañjali.

So we must consider the following factors:

Purusha: Unity

Gunas Sattvam Rajas Tamas Prakriti manifold world of phenomena

So, on the one hand, we have purusha, on the other prakriti.

This is the world of material phenomena, the manifold phenomenal world.

Purusha is the unitary, always conjoined with the prakriti, the masculine conjoined with the feminine, but never mixed.

Through the togetherness of purusha and prakriti, a living psychic being emerges that has certain characteristics, the so-called gunas:

Sattvam = all that is luminous, light, rising up Rajas = compelling, passion

Tamas = dark, darkness, heavy

This creates a type of energy.

These are opposites, between which energy manifests, that is, the living affairs of the world are an energetic process.

These are characteristics that the psyche formulated out of the presence of pairs of opposites. Out of these opposites all actions arise.

If hot and cold do not come together, no process takes place. If the world had only light, it could not exist.

Darkness on its own does not exist, and if there were only cold, the same would be true.

These are psychological facts that man has projected into things since time immemorial. That is how we conceive of the world.

This is what propels us.

A moral conflict, for example, consists of a pair of opposites that compels us to a certain ethical behavior: on the one hand is desire and on the other hand, a certain conscience.

If these contradictions did not exist, nothing would happen. One would become inactive.

All compelling moments in human life are therefore moments of conflict. Everything that moves within us arises out of these conflicts.

By dint of these characteristics, purusha and prakriti are conjoined.

However, this begs the question as to why the text mentions only sattvam, but not tamas and rajas?

I will read you both translations once again.

Deussen translates it thus: The non-differentiation between the representations of sattvam (as proponent of the prakriti) and of the purusha, which are both absolutely distinct, is pleasure [and suffering]: … [YSD 3.35, p. 532]515

Hauer translates it as: “Man-in-himself” and the “luminous world substance” which forms the organ of the mind are eternally unalloyed.

“consumption of the world” by the “man-in-himself” is made possible by the fact that “luminous world substance” and “man-in-himself” are not differentiated in the conscious mind. [YSH, 3.35, p.108]

The meanings are the same, but one cannot see this straightforwardly. Hauer translates it far more literally.

He also translates the word purusha and the concept of pleasure in a more literal way: it is in fact the devouring, the engorgement of the world, taking the world into oneself, the consumption of the world.

And he translates sattvam as luminous world substance, this is literal: the light side of world matter.

Prakriti is the material phenomenon of the world, and sattvam is its positive aspect, its light aspect.

But since these are psychic phenomena, then it says, it is simply the light part of our psyche, namely our consciousness.

The other is unconscious.

Tamas is unconscious, for it is darkness. Rajas is energy, described in modern times as libido. Mostly also unconscious.

We do not know from where an impulse, a compulsion suddenly appears.

The source of the drives resides in darkness. So one could, with Hauer, translate sattvam as consciousness.

Therefore if one does not differentiate the purusha from sattvam, then purusha is bound through the sattvam to the prakriti, to the world of phenomena.

Then he’ll eat the dust, to quote Goethe.

And this consumption of the world is the source of suffering, from which yoga promises to free man.

Yoga therefore demands that the differentiation should be made between purusha and sattvam and that one recognizes that sattvam comes from prakriti.

Psychologically, this means that one should differentiate between purusha and sattvam, in other words, between Self and I, because

otherwise a connection with prakriti, the world, enters in which also devours one, as one devours it.

For the more one eats of the world, the more the world eats one.

So the non-differentiation of sattvam and purusha means the same as the eating of the world, which is yet the source of suffering.

Now he continues (after Deussen): …—knowledge of the purusha is achieved by the application of total discipline upon one’s own interest [i.e., the purusha] which is distinct from the other’s interest [i.e., the prakriti]. [YSD 3.35, pp. 532–533]518

Hauer renders this: One acquires knowledge of the “man-in-himself” through application of total restraint for the purpose of this consumption for the “other” and one’s own distinct purpose. [YSH 3.35, p.108]519

The meaning of both translations is that one uses yoga for mastery, yoking, containment of the drives, of the kleshas, so that the other’s interest in the prakriti is separated from one’s own interest in the purusha. In other words: knowledge of the purusha arises through the containment of the energies of the drives manifesting in the world.

Here I’ll give you some parallels that demonstrate this: the contrast between tamas and sattvam is the primal pair of opposites.

The texts mostly speak only of the differentiation of the gunas, e.g., Krishna’s admonition to Arjuna from the Bhagavadgîtâ:

The Vedas speak of three Gunas: nevertheless, O Arjuna be thou indifferent concerning the three Gunas, indifferent towards the opposites (nirdvanda), ever steadfast in courage.

There is a technical term in the philosophy of yoga for describing this freedom from the opposites. This is the expression nirdvandva.

In an old text, the Book of Manu, it says that the creator of the world created the opposites in order to bring about differentiation:

Moreover, in order to distinguish actions, he separated merit from demerit, and he caused the creature to be affected by the pairs [of opposites], such as pain and pleasure.

In the Kulluka commentary, further pairs of opposites are named: desire and anger, love and hate, hunger and thirst, sorrow and delusion, honor and disgrace.

“Beneath the pairs of opposites must this world suffer without ceasing.”

Now it is an essential ethical task not to be influenced by the opposites, but to rise above them, because liberation from the opposites leads

to redemption. In the spirit of the Yoga Sûtram, it means that if one separates from the sattvam, one comes to the purusha and finds redemption in the being of the world.

I repeat this from the Book of Manu:

When by the disposition [of his heart] he becomes indifferent to all objects, he obtains eternal happiness both in this world and after death.

He who has in this manner gradually given up all attachments and is freed from all pain [of opposites], reposes in Brahman alone.

And, in a Kaushîtakî-Brâhmana-Upanishad, it is written of the one who knows about this:

… and there shakes off his good and evil deeds.

His beloved relatives obtain the good, his unbeloved relatives the evil he has done.

And as a man, driving in a chariot, might look at the two wheels (without being touched by them), thus he will look at day and night, thus at

good and evil deeds, and at all pairs. Being freed from good and freed from evil he, the knower of Brahman, moves towards Brahman.

Another passage from the Tejobindu-Upanishad reads:

Whosoever overcometh desire and anger, the cleaving to the world and the lust of the senses; whoso maketh himself free from the opposites, and relinquisheth the feeling of self (above all self-seeking), that one is released from expectation.

And in the Mahâbhârata, Pandu, who wishes to be a hermit, says:

Clothed with dust, housed under the open sky, I will take my lodging at the root of a tree, surrendering all things loved as well as unloved, tasting neither grief nor pleasure, forfeiting blame and praise alike, neither cherishing hope nor offering respect, free from the opposites (nirdvanda), with neither fortune nor belongings.

Hence we see the universal idea, which still exists today in India.

The question is, what does this actually mean psychologically?

Through the containment of the drives the outflow is suppressed, the eye is turned away from the world.

One differentiates oneself from one’s own desire for the world by liberating oneself from the attachment to and relationship with the world.

It is through this withdrawal that by necessity what is authentic appears, namely one’s own will and its contents, and for the Indian that is the purusha.

It is at this point that we in the West immediately fall for the delusion that by one’s own will nothing other is meant than the I.

For we imagine that whoever removes himself from the world remains in his I.

To an Indian mind, however, he does not remain in his I but he comes into the purusha and he becomes what he always has been: the purusha.

Such an assertion as is made by Indian thinkers is possible only on the basis of the specific Indian psychology, which is different from ours.

We must not imagine that we can simply grasp the nature of Indian psychology with our consciousness. Impossible.

The essential difference resides in the structure of consciousness: Western consciousness is an absolutely egoic, definite consciousness, which is different in many respects, especially as regards the intensity of Eastern consciousness.

These people do not need very much in order to pass from a quasi-conscious state into an unconscious one.

That would require a real struggle and a great effort from us.

It is much more a propensity of the East, it comes more naturally to them.

For it is a matter of daily exercise in which they retreat and go into a corner to do yoga and meditate, that is, they get into a void state of consciousness, which has an exceptionally favorable effect on their consciousness.

You find the same in China or Japan. There’s something to it.

Some Western people would benefit from this and would be better off doing this than going to the movies.

Our neurasthenia stems from the hectic hustle in which we do not come to ourselves.

This void that manifests: this is the purusha; it is the emptying out of the I.

Of course, in the West we don’t have any such parallels with this sort of phenomenon in our modern philosophy. In the East, yoga is not exactly what we would describe as a religious matter.

An Indian would laugh at us if yoga were considered a religious act.

It is completely banal and quite as ordinary as brushing our teeth is with us; it is not exaggerated or even hysterical.

With us, it is commonly rather unusual people who bother about these things, but there it is a science.

The whole mysterious fuss over yoga in the West is seen as ridiculous in the East.

These people are trained through education and habit to transport themselves into the void through corresponding education, breathing exercises, sitting exercises.

When we do these things they are simply meaningless acrobatic contortions.

One must take it like breathing exercises, as a technical matter.

It has nothing to do with religious preaching. All these hatha yoga exercises are means of achieving the state of emptiness.

It is the sinking into what we describe as an unconscious state, but which in the East is described as a higher consciousness.

Purusha is a super-consciousness. This is why it is almost impossible to translate the term “unconscious” into Hindi.

There is a term: bodhi, i.e., enlightenment, a higher or super-consciousness, an extended superhuman consciousness, namely the consciousness of purusha.

Now here in the West we have some medieval parallels with this concept, namely in Meister Eckhart.

In his meditation “On the Abandonment of Things” he says:

People say: “O Lord, how much I wish that I stood as well with God, that I had as much devotion and peace in God as others have, I wish that it were so with me!” Or, “I should like to be poor,” or else, “Things will never go right for me till I am in this place or that, or till I act one way or another. I must go and live in a strange land, or in a hermitage, or in a cloister.”

In fact, this is all about yourself, and nothing else at all.

This is just self-will, only you do not know it or it does not seem so to you.

There is never any trouble that starts in you that does not come from your own will, whether people see this or not.

One’s own will, this self-seeking to which Meister Eckhart refers, this is Western language; to be precise, this is the I, certainly not the purusha, but the self-seeking of Western consciousness.

We can think what we like, that a man ought to shun one thing or pursue another—places and people and ways of life and environments and undertakings—that is not the trouble, such ways of life or such matters are not what impedes you.

It is what you are in these

things that causes the trouble, because in them you do not govern yourself as you should.

Therefore, make a start with yourself, and abandon yourself. These matters are prakriti.

The I-consciousness that one should abandon is sattvam.

Truly, if you do not begin by getting away from yourself, and abandon yourself, wherever you run to, you will find obstacles and trouble wherever it may be.

People who seek peace in external things—be it in places or ways of life or people or activities or solitude or poverty or degradation—however great such things may be or whatever it may be, still it is all nothing and gives no peace.

People who seek in that way are doing it all wrong; the further they wander, the less will they find what they are seeking.

They go around like someone who has lost his way; the further he goes, the more lost he is.

Then what ought he to do? He ought to begin by forsaking himself, because then he has forsaken everything. This is self-abandonment.

If I abandon sattvam I have also abandoned all things with it (prakriti).

If I succeed in differentiating between the egoic consciousness within me, which is naturally always bound to objects, and the objects themselves, then it is possible to reach the purusha.

Truly, if a man renounced a kingdom or the whole world but held on to himself, he would not have renounced anything.

What is more, if a man renounces himself, whatever else he retains, riches or honors or whatever it may be, he has forsaken everything.

About what Saint Peter said: “See, Lord, we have forsaken everything” (Mt. 19:27)—and all that he had forsaken was just a net and his little boat—there is a saint who says: “If anyone willingly gives up something little, that is not all which he has given up, but he has forsaken everything which worldly men can gain and what they can even long for; for whoever has renounced his own will and himself has renounced everything, as truly as if he had possessed it as his own, to dispose of as he would.”

For what you choose not to long for, you have wholly forsaken and renounced for the love of God.

One has abandoned it for God’s sake, that is, for the sake of the purusha.

That is why our Lord said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit!” (Mt. 5:3), that is, in the will.

And no one ought to be in doubt about this; if there were a better form of living, our Lord would have said so, as he also said: “Whoever wishes to come after me, let him deny himself” (Mt. 16:24), as a beginning; everything depends on that.

Take a look at yourself, deny yourself. That is the best of all.

You should know that there was never any man in this life who forsook so much that he could not still find more in himself to forsake.

There are few people who see this to be true and stick by it.

This is indeed a fair exchange and an honest deal:

By as much as you go out in forsaking all things, by so much, neither less not more, does God go in, with all that is his, as you entirely forsake everything that is yours.

Undertake this, and let it cost you everything you can afford. There you will find true peace, and nowhere else.

So this contemplation is a direct parallel with this Yoga Sûtram.

But it is in a Western sense parallel with our exceptionally egoic consciousness.

The West is combined in a way with the prakriti, which was never the case in the East.

When compared with our consciousness, Eastern consciousness is darker. We would say that of course.

An Eastern man would certainly not say that, for when compared with what he is conscious of, we are in the dark.

Meister Eckhart has another term related to this: the concept of detachment.

This is directly a differentiation between purusha and sattvam. In a very illuminating sentence, he says in his meditation about detachment:

I have read many writings of heathen philosophers and sages, of the old covenant and of the new, and have sought earnestly and with diligence which is the best and highest virtue whereby a man may knit himself most narrowly to God and wherein he is most like to his

exemplar, as he was in God, wherein was no difference between himself and God, ere God created creature.

And having approfounded all these scriptures to the best of my ability, I find it is none other than absolute detachment from all creatures.

As our Lord said to Martha, “unum est necessarium,” which is as good as saying,  He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment.

Our doctors sing love’s praises, as did St. Paul, who said, “Whatsoever things I do and have not charity I am nothing.”

But I extol detachment above any love.

First, because at best love constrains me to love God.

Now it is far better my constraining God to me than for me to be constrained to God.

My eternal happiness depends on God and me becoming one; …537

This the union with the purusha.

[…] but God is apter to adapt himself to me and can easier communicate with me than I can communicate with God.

Detachment forces God to come to me, and this is shown as follows. Everything is fain to be in its natural state.

But God’s own natural state is unity and purity and these come from detachment.

Hence God is bound to give himself to a heart detached.—Secondly, I rank detachment above love because love constrains me to suffer

all things for God’s sake: detachment constrains me to admit nothing but God.

Now it is far better to tolerate nothing but God than to suffer all things for God’s sake.

For in suffering one has regard to creatures, …

This is the prakriti. … whence the suffering comes, but detachment is immune from creature.

Further, that detachment admits of none but God I demonstrate in this wise: anything received must be received in aught.

But detachment is so nearly naught that there is nothing rare enough to stay in this detachment, except God.

He is so simple, so ethereal, that he can sojourn in the solitary heart. Detachment then admits of God alone.

That which is received is received and grasped by its receiver according to the mode of the receiver; and so anything conceived is known and understood according to the mind of him who understands and not according to its innate conceivability.

And humility the masters laud beyond most other virtues.

I rank detachment before any meekness and for the following reasons.

Meekness can be without detachment but complete detachment is impossible without humility.

Perfect humility is a matter of selfnaughting; but detachment so narrowly approximates to naught that no room remains for aught betwixt zero and absolute detachment.

This is the void or shûnyatâ. Wherefore without humility is no complete detachment.

Withal two virtues are always better than one.—Another reason why I put detachment higher than humility is this: humility means abasing self before all creatures and in that same abasement one goes out of oneself to creatures.

But then man is trapped once again in the prakriti through humility. But detachment abideth in itself.

Now no going out however excellent, but staying in is better still.

As the prophet hath it, “omnis gloria filiae regis ab intus,” the king’s daughter is all glorious within.

Perfect detachment is without regard, without either lowliness or                                                                                                   loftiness to creatures: it has no mind to be below nor yet to be above; it is minded to be master of itself, loving none and hating none, having neither likeness or unlikeness, neither this nor that, to any creature; the only thing it fain would be is same.

But to be either this or that it does not want at all. He who is this or that is aught; […]541

So as you see this is prakriti. […] but detachment is altogether naught. It leaves things unmolested.

Here someone may object, But surely in our Lady all the virtues flourished in perfection and among them absolute detachment.

Now granting that detachment is better than humility, why did our Lady glory in her lowliness instead of her detachment, saying, “quia

respexit dominus humilitatem ancillae suae”: “He regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden?”

I answer that, in God there is detachment and humility as well, so far as virtues can be attributed to God.

Know, it was his loving meekness that made God stoop to enter human nature while it remained within itself as motionless, what time he was made man, as it was while he created the heavens and the earth, as I shall show you later.

This describes the mixing and at the same time the detachment from the purusha, the droplet on the lotus leaf.

In this way God entered into creation without being affected by it in his innermost.

And seeing that Our Lord when he chose to be made man did persist in his motionless detachment, by the same token did our Lady know that he expected her to do the same, albeit for the nonce he had regarded expressly to her lowliness and not to her detachment.

So remaining unmoved in her detachment she yet gloried in her lowliness and not in her detachment.

Had she but once remembered her detachment to say, “He regarded my detachment,” her detachment would by that have been disturbed and would not have been absolute and perfect since a going forth has taken place.

Any event, however insignificant, will always cause some troubling of detachment.

There you have the explanation of our Lady’s glorying in her lowliness instead of her detachment. Quoth the prophet, “audiam, quid loquatur in me dominus deus,” “I will be still and listen to what my God may be saying within me,” as though to say, if God would parley with me then he must come in for I will not go out. It is Boëthius who exclaims, “Ye men, why do ye look without for that which is within you?” ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Yoga Meditation, Page 229-240