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Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Yoga--Ways to the Goal

Abstract:  Yoga is viewed in the Vedanta tradition as the path which seeks to unite one's own soul with Atman.

I.  Four Ways to the Goal:  Yoga

    Yoga--specific directions for actualizing one's fullest nature; same root work for the English "yoke."

    Two basic meaning are implied:
      (1) to unite (as with the individual with the whole).
      (2) to place under discipline or training.

    Hence yoga is a method of training designed to lead to integration or union. E.g., how to become Brahman.

    A. Hatha yoga--mastery and control over the body; ideally complete control over the body's every function; hence, it's not identical with gymnastics or physical culture. "Hatha" means "violent effort."

      1. Originally Hatha yoga was practiced as a preliminary to spiritual yoga. Incredible control over autonomic nervous system and nonstriated muscles are possible.

      2. The idea is a Mircea Eliade points out in Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (p. 227) "...since liberation can be gained even in this life, the body must be preserved as long as possible, and in perfect condition, precisely as an aid to meditation."

      3. Without a perfectly healthy body, one cannot know bliss. Hatha yoga is not so much philosophy as it's physics and physiology.

      4. Hatha yoga is used to develop physical powers far beyond the normal.  Models of body centers enable understanding of the unconscious.

      5. Interestingly, much of hatha yoga as it is practiced today may well have orginated from the Scandinavian gymnastics tradition[1].

    B. The four different directions people use to approach the goal of Brahman. The direction is determined by the complex of attitudes, interests, and temperament of the individual. The unique feature of Hinduism is that there are multiple paths to the same goal.

      1. Basically there are four kinds of persons (compare to Jung's theory of temperaments).

        a. reflective (thinking)

         b. emotional (valuing or feeling)

         c. essentially active (sensation)

        d. empirical or experimental (intuitive)

      2. All four ways have the common preliminary of cultivating the habits and practices of noninjury, truthfulness, honesty, cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, and a compelling desire to reach the goal.

II. The Four Basic Forms of Yoga.
    A. Jnana Yoga (pronounced something like "gyan you") for persons with an intellectual bent; the way of knowledge; the shortest route and the most difficult.

      1. Appeals to the thinker, the philosopher, and the analyst (e.g., Siddhartha's early life in Hesse's book).

      2. Three main parts of this path

        a. Education in the scriptures and philosophic treatises, esp. the Vedanta and the Upanishads.

        b. Reflection: breathing life into the concept of Atman into a momentous reality. Active awareness.

        Look at how language is used everyday.
        "My" distinguishes what I think stands apart). 
        I am changes in personality and chemicals over time. {Personality can be seen as the masks through which others see us in accordance with the roles we play.)

          (1) The yogi corrects the false identification of our roles with ourselves. Consider the following statements:
            [Car Accident] "The guy backed into my right rear.
            [Nintendo] "Oh! I lost my tail."
            [Hesse's Siddhartha] Siddhartha referred to himself in the third person.
            Note that perception is selective.

          (2) Consider the model of playing a game (e.g., chess).

          Contestant   total person
          ----------       ==    ------------
          total person   Atman
        c. Meditation: shifting self-identification to Self-Atman. E.g., Siddhartha and the Samanas using mediation to relive the life-cycle of different animals.

        With meditation one has the detached viewpoint of an onlooker--one still feels pain, but the fear is gone.

    B. Bhakti Yoga--(pronounced something like "bhak tea") devotion, love, (the Christian way), most popular of the four ways.

      1. God is conceived as otherness; separateness (total rejection of the view that the God you love is your Self).

      2. The adoration is in passionate inwardness and is personal in character.

      3. God's personality is indispensible--the worship of God through human incarnation.

      4. Emphasis on Hinduism's myths esp.

        Mahabharata and the Ramayana

      5. Example invocation:

        O Lord forgive three sins which are due to my human limitations
        Thou are everywhere, but I worship you hers;
        Thou are without form, but I worship you in these forms:
        Thou needest no praise, yet I offer you these prayers an salutations,
        Lord, forgive three sins that are due to my human limitations.

      6. Myth, not logic, moves people. Proofs of God's existence are irrelevant in producing belief in God.

      7. Three special feature of this approach.

        a. japam (pronounced something like "jah palm") repeating the name of God as a warming presence some 12,000 times a day so that the repetition becomes unconscious.

        b. ringing the changes on love--different nuances of love in different relationships. All aspects are part of the love for God.

        c. the worship of God as one's chosen ideal as one of God's human incarnations: Christ, Rama, Krishna, or Buddha.

    C. Karma Yoga--the way through work for active persons. You can find God in the everyday world.

      1. Karma yoga is usually practiced with either jnana or bhakti yoga.

      2. The idea is that every action performed upon the external world has its imprint on the mind. Cf., the doctrine of Karma.

        a. Every deed I do for myself insulates my ego from the world.

        b. Every act done without thought of self diminishes self-centeredness and brings one closer to the divine.

      3. All tasks of daily life become a way of devotion. You view each task as a ritual. Cf., the Gita IX, 27-8:

        "Whatever you do, or eat, or offer, or give, or mortify,make it as an offering to me, and I shall undo the bonds of [karma]"  (9.26-27).

      4. Work is done without attachment. One forsakes all claims for success or failure. (No such thoughts upon finishing a job as "It could have been better" or "It turned out better than I thought it would.")

        a. Karma yogi's deeds no longer litter and increase the ego.

        b. Literally, the psychological framework is that the "I" does nothing at all.

        c. Gita:

        "To the work you have the right, but not to the fruits thereof."

        One who does the task dictated by duty
        Caring nothing for the fruit of the action
        This one is yogi.

        d. A yogi meditating on the banks of the Ganges saw a scorpion fall into the river--he scooped it out only to be stung. This happened two more times. When asked, "Why do you do this?," the yogi replied, "It is the nature of scorpions to bite; it is the nature of yogi's to help others when they can."

      5. Karma yogi will do each thing as it comes as if it were the only thing he has to do.

        a. A carpenter with a hand saw saws without effort, smoothly and gently, and finishes the cut with surprise (i.e., no forcing or pushing). Relate this procedure to Vasudeva's "letting go" and having no expectations.

        b. Having done something or forced to leave it before it is finished, the yogi goes on to another duty in the same spirit.

        c. Concentrate fully and calmly on each duty as it presents itself and all emotional hindrances disappear with the realization no task is ever completed.

        d. Since all actions are uncompleted, anything you do is the only thing you do. Pain, loss, shame, and so forth only touch the surface self.

    D. Raja Yoga--the royal road to re-integration by psychological experiment.

      1. A starting point for raja yoga is the recognition that our true selves are vastly more wonderful than science or we realize and that we have a true passion for finding this Self.

      2. The experiments consist of practicing certain prescribed mental exercises and seeing the effect on our mental condition.

      3. Hindu model of man as a layered being. Perhaps, it's more metaphorical than literally accurate--even so it's a map of the territory of great use.

      4. The positive effects are getting beyond the pitter-patter of daily existence (Samsara), but great risks are involved also.

        a. Consciousness can degenerate into neurosis or psychosis.

        b. Christmas Humphreys, Concentration and Meditation: A Manual of Mind Development:

          "Rightly used, it is the high road to perfection; abused, and it can create a hell past human imagining" (p. 3).

          "More men and women have been driven insane through a premature awakening of forces latent in these centers than most students realize" (p. 21.)

        c. The eight main steps of the experiment:

          (1) The five abstentions: from injury, lying stealing, sensuality, and greed.

          (2) The five observances: cleanliness, contentment, self-control, studiousness, contemplation of the divine.

            It's important to realize that the meditation exercises will not "put your life together." You have to have already done that to begin this method of discipline.

          (3) The postures (asana)--to minimize the effects of the body and its intrusions and distractions. E.g., the lotus position--there is no other posture in which the body can be kept alert and quiet for so long a time.

          (4) Mastering the breath--normal breath can easily disrupt consciousness.

            (a) A typical exercise is breathing so gently and evenly against goosedown that an observer cannot tell if air is moving in or out.

            (b) A kind of hibernation is obtained by a yogi who can reduce the amount of CO2 exhaled from the normal 4% to 2% with a cycle of 16 counts in, 64 holding, and 32 counts out.

          (5) By means of concentration, the external is completely shut out.

            (a) Example: you are absorbed in TV and to not hear someone call you.

            (b) A yogi can be oblivious to beating on a tin pan near him.

          (6) The mastery of concentration occurs when the mind holds unwaveringly to objects.

            (a) If you tried the simple meditation given early in the course, you know how difficult it is to still the mind.

            (b) The average time one can spend thinking about one thing is about 3.5 seconds. Thoughts begin to buggle up from the unconscious.

            (c) What you concentrate on doesn't matter--the breath, Om, the tip of your nose.

          (7) The mastery of meditation occurs when the separation of subjective and objective vanishes. You lose the transcendental unity of apperception).

            (a) You are not aware of yourself as distinct from the object.

            (b) The sense of time and the duration of time disappears.

          (8) Union with Atman--Samadhi (pronounced something like "sah mahd he).

            (a) The "experiment" is complete when Atman is Brahman (personal proof of the existence of Brahman).

            (b) Atman is realized through meditation.

    Notes: 1. The thesis that "the claims that many modern yoga schools were making about the ancient roots of their practes were not strictly true ..." is discussed by Mark Singleton, "Yoga's Greater Truth," Yoga Journal 223 (November, 2010), 107. It's interesting that asana now is used for many different body positions, whereas for Patanjali in his Yoga Sūtras, asana is used for only sitting postures.



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