Yoga

The word yoga is from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to yoke.”  In yoga, we attempt to yoke our consciousness to the source of consciousness – at least that is the theory. 

The first aphorism stated in the (Yoga) sutras is as follows: yoga is the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activity of the mind substance.  MoL 26

Now the opening aphorism of the Yoga Sutra, which is attributed to a legendary sage named Patanjali, is the classic definition of yoga: “Yoga is the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activity of the mind stuff.”  TMTT 132

Within what is called the gross matter of the mind, there functions what we now call electricity.  In the Indian tradition, this is called subtle matter energy as form – which is seen to be in continuous activity.  The goal of yoga is to make it stop being active. 

The notion is that this substance takes the forms of the things that we see.  The reason we see each other is that something in our mind takes the form of what’s out there – an internal model of perceived reality.  The difficulty is that you can’t stop it from changing.

The notion is that you yourself are identical with that form of forms, Brahman¸but you identify yourself wrongly with the broken images that flicker on the surface.  Just think: there are those wonderful forms there; here are these reflections always changing, and you identify yourself with the reflection instead of with the true, underlying form.  As the wave ripples along, you think, Oh, here I come; oh, there I go.  Yet all the time you are the substantial thing that is being reflected here in broken images.

So when we engage in yoga, we are trying to make the pond stand still.  During the later medieval period in India that is known as the Gupta period … a great system of what is known as raja, or kingly, yoga developed that visualizes the idea of the energy of the spirit as a coiled serpent.  This is, by analogy, a feminine serpent named the kundalini, which means “the coiled-up one.”  It is thought of as being coiled up at the base of the spine, in the bones of the coccyx, the tailbone.  The idea is that we spend most of our lives in a kind of spiritual slumber, with the kundalini coiled up at the base of our spines, lacking the animation of this spiritual power.  The goal of this yoga is to bring this serpent power up the spine to the head so that our whole being will be animated by the serpent power, so that our psyche is dawn up to full flowering.  MoL 27

It fascinated me long, long ago to realize how close yoga experiences were to those described by Freud, Adler, and Jung in their discussions of the deeper regions of the psyche into which people fall.  MoL 28

   I had a rather elaborate discussion once with an important and highly respected psychiatrist on this subject of mysticism, yoga, and psychosis, and his point if I understand correctly was that the two are just about the same, that the yogi is somehow experiencing a psychotic breakup but is not drowned in this subconscious sea that swamps the ordinary psychotic.  What we are describing when we describe psychosis and the yogic experiences is the same sea, the same ocean, the same crises.  The psychotic is drowning in these waters, while the yogi is swimming – and there is a difference between drowning and swimming.  MoL 29

At this point the serpent is like a dragon.  We all know the character of dragons – at least, Western dragons: they live in caves, and they have a gold hoard in the cave, and they have a beautiful girl whom they have captured in the cave.  They can’t do anything with either treasure or maiden, but they simply want to hold on.  Dragons, like people whose lives are centered around the first cakra, are based around gripping, holding on to power, holding on to a life that is no life at all because there is no animation in it, no joy in it, no vitality in it, but just grim, dogged existence.  The nature of the kundalini at muladhara is that of Ebenezer Scrooge before he undergoes that grand journey and transformation at the hands of the three ghosts (…)  MoL 30

The aim of the yogi is to encourage the kundalini to rise from its lair at the base of the spine to unite with the lord of the world, who is waiting at the crown of the head in the seventh cakra, sahasrara.  MoL 30

Wake, Mother, Wake!

   How long hast thou been asleep

   In the lotus of the muladhara!

Fulfill thy secret function:

   Rise to the sahasrara,

   Where mighty Siva dwells!

Swiftly pierce the six lotuses,

   O thou Essence of Consciousness,

   And take away my grief!  MoL 30

(2nd)     The second cakra is at the level of the genitalia and is called svadhisththana, which means “her favorite resort.” This is the cakra that centers itself entirely around the experience of pleasure, or kama.  When one’s spirutal energy is operating on this level, one’s psychology is completely Freudian.  Sex is the only aim; sex is the great frustration.  MoL 30

(3rd )  When the kundalini (reaches) manipura, which means “the city of the shining jewel.”  Here the interest is in consuming everything, being master of everything, eating everything, turning it into your own substance; this is, after all, the cakra of the belly.  When the energy is at this level, one’s psychology is completely Nietzschean or Adlerian.  One wants to consume and gain power for oneself over everything; one is driven by a will to power.  This is the level at which the artha principle, the drive to succeed, is centered.  MoL 30

The Indians say … kama and artha – are primary urges.  These are both inflections of that still deeper, dragonish will simply to be alive, but on these two higher levels, at the second and third lotuses, there is a vitality, an activity, a joy and pain in life.  People on these levels are outward directed.  Their individual satisfaction must come from a relationship to something outside, to an outer object.  In the first case, in the case of the second cakra, with an erotic emphasis; in the third cakra, the emphasis is on conquest and defeat, whether military, financial, or erotic.  Jung referred to such people as extroverted, turned outward.  MoL 31

The name of the heart cakra is very interesting: it is called anahata, which means “not hit.”  The full translation of its sense is this: the sound that is not made by two things striking together. 

Perhaps you have heard that Japanese Zen koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”  Well, this is it: the sound that is not made by two things striking together.  Every sound that we hear is made by two things striking together: the sound of my voice is made by the wind striking the vocal cords, the sound of the violin is made by the bow rubbing on the string, the sound of a wave is made by the water splashing against the beach and so it goes.  What would the sound be that is not made by two things striking together?  It is the sound of Brahman, the energy of which the world itself is a precipitation.  As Einstein has told us, energy and mass are the same.  The mass is a projection, so to say, of energy in space, or, if you will, a precipitation of energy into matter.  The sound of that energy before it becomes mass is the sound that is not made by two things striking together.  MoL 32

Yoga teaching rejects all fantasy contents and we do the same, but the East does it on quite different grounds.  In the East, conceptions and teachings prevail which express the creative fantasy in richest measure; in fact, protection is required against the excess of fantasy.  We, on the other hand, look upon fantasy as valueless, subjective day-dreaming.  SotGF 120