A BROAD OUTLINE OF THE YOGA PHILOSOPHY
In the context of the ancient Vedic culture of India, the knowledge that takes one forward and liberates one from the limited experience of body consciousness or the name and form consciousness, the ultimate knowledge that bestows upon one cosmic consciousness, is known as the higher knowledge or the greater knowledge, Para Vidya. This higher knowledge is clearly differentiated from the lower or the lesser knowledge, which pertains only to things that are within the confines of time, space and causation, that are limited by time, space and causation. This latter knowledge of things that are limited within time and space is therefore finite and temporary. It is non-eternal. It is the lesser knowledge, and at best it can help you to have a comfortable life of physical conveniences, sense satisfaction, and temporary, partial desire-fulfilment. It has not the power—limited, finite things have not the power—to liberate you from fear and sorrow, to liberate you from all the limitations and imperfections that pertain to this limited life bound by birth and death, hunger and thirst, joy and sorrow, and the ever-changing experiences of sense contacts. Those who seek a knowledge that is beyond this relative knowledge are, therefore, the aspirants for Para Vidya or the higher knowledge which ultimately bestows upon you freedom from bondage, fear and sorrow. This higher knowledge bestows upon you ultimately the experience of your real identity, your true Self which is beyond the apparent, limited self. It ultimately confers upon you spiritual illumination and perfection, the peace that passeth understanding, freedom from all limitations and absolute bliss.
Practice—The Keynote of the Science of Yoga
Para Vidya is not only for knowing, but also for doing. It is not simply for acquiring information, but more importantly, for putting that information to use by translating it into action, into practice. Because, Para Vidya or the science of Yoga is a practical science that is to be applied in living your life. This vital fact, this important point, in relation to the knowledge of Yoga should not be lost sight of. There should be in you the desire and the determination to start applying the instructions contained in the science of Yoga to your own life and conduct—to your mental actions and verbal actions, as well as to your outer physical actions. That is the very essence of this study that it is acquired with the specific intention and objective of simultaneously translating it into action, of simultaneously applying it to your daily life. Thus, every part of Yoga, right from the very start, is knowledge imparted for conversion into Abhyasa, because it is Abhyasa only that will ultimately bring to you the fruit of your knowledge in the form of rare experience that nothing else in this world can give. Therefore, always remember this term, this word, this concept, of Abhyasa, because Yoga is a practical science of Self-realisation and Abhyasa is the very essence of this science. You learn in order to live, to do.
The Afflictions that Beset the Human Being
The philosophy of Yoga puts forward, in non-technical or non-metaphysical terms, the thesis that you are essentially an all-perfect entity totally free from any imperfection and not subject to any undesirable, imperfect, negative experience whatsoever. What are the undesirable, 1 imperfect, negative experiences within the range of human knowledge? They are all those things which you are commonly engaged in trying to avoid by so many devious methods. Every day, from the time of your birth, you keep trying to avoid the discomfort and pain that is brought about by hunger. You do not want to remain on an empty stomach even for an hour or two beyond your usual time of breakfast or lunch. If the lunch is missed, you are very, very perturbed, very much disturbed, very much distressed. You become very morose and irritable also. Your whole mood changes. You become a different person. You are no longer a pleasant person. All the days of your life you are engaged in trying to avoid the unpleasant experience of not getting your food. If you do not get your morning breakfast or morning tea, or if you are deprived of your lunch, or if you have to miss your supper, you become a different person. You do not like that experience. So, you try to avoid that circumstance by somehow or the other trying to get something to eat. Have you ever thought about this? This is such a daily and common experience, and such a routine experience, that no one pays any attention to it from the philosophical angle, from the analytical metaphysical angle. What is it that happens to you if you have to miss your meal just once? You whole interior changes. You become a different person. You are no longer a pleasant person. You are inclined to give a sharp answer. You are displeased. Your peace is lost. You do not feel happy and you manifest your unhappiness in the form of a sharp answer or an irritated reply or aggravating conduct. This is an affliction that constantly keeps plaguing the human individual. When he wakes up in the morning, he has this affliction of the desire for taking food. One may call it hunger. Many naturopaths have a different opinion on whether this desire for food is really hunger or not. They have their own opinion. But normally, when you wake up in the morning, the desire that arises for taking something is regarded as the sign of hanger. So, this experience that bothers you, which if it is not satisfied distresses you, changes your personality for the time being, and makes you a different person to your own wife and to your brothers and sisters and even to your mother, is an affliction.
The same is the case with thirst, sleep, fatigue and other emotions also. Various sentiments and emotions bother you, disturb you, throw you out of gear and make you restless. They have the power to agitate you, to make you feel distressed. Unfulfilled desire, anger, a little failure on the part of someone to show respect to you, unkindness from someone, some sharp word from someone, or the failure on the part of someone to recognise your presence—all these immediately put you in a turmoil. Thus, physically, you are subject to the afflictions of hunger, thirst and fatigue and heat and cold. And mentally, emotionally and sentimentally, you are always subject to the affliction of varying states of mind. In this way, you are constantly falling a prey to varying states of mind, not all of which are pleasant. Some are pleasant, many are distressing. Yoga philosophy says that this is an unnatural condition, that this is not your natural condition. You are not a creature subject to such afflictions. You are not a being who has any one of these distressing experiences and symptoms. You are above them, you are beyond them, you are really free from them. They do not really form a part of your actual, true nature. This is very fine for Yoga philosophy to say! But this is not your experience. Your experience contradicts the possible validity or truth of this fine philosophy. Your experience is directly the contrary of what Yoga philosophy says about you. Every day you are in a state of distress only. Every day you suffer. The afflictions of hunger, thirst and discomfort, heat and cold, pain and pleasure are your daily experience. If a little attention is not paid to you when you ask something, your mind is thrown into a state of distress, agitation and turmoil; and it brings about physical changes also. Your blood pressure goes up, your face is flushed, you feel hot and uncomfortable all over, and you want to blurt out something. You want to express your feeling of displeasure and distress and give vent to it so that you can relieve yourself of this inner buildup. You are altogether in an upset condition if someone somehow fails to pay due attention to what you try to bring to his notice, if your request is not regarded, if your presence is not recognised, or if something which you put forward is not properly attended to. So, your experience is an ever-fluctuating, ever-changing experience of constant contraries and constant opposites swinging between hope and despair, joy and sorrow, elation and depression—not only depression, but also a great deal of agitation caused by unfulfilled desires and cravings for things, agitation caused by irritability, annoyance, anger, fear, worry, anxiety and jealousy.