Rise of Consciousness


Yoga philosophy leads to a systematic approach to human health and wellbeing. The four chapters of the Yogasutras comprehensively deal with physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Yoga psychology differs radically from more recent, and especially post-Freudian schools of thought in its stress on self-emancipation rather than on self-acceptance. According to Patanjali thoughts, feelings, intentions, motives and desires (conscious and unconscious) are mental modifications (citta vrttis). Transcending the mental modifications enables the luminance of Purusa in its aloneness.The eightfold yoga is one of the significant steps Patanjali recommends for the restraint of mind-modifications. The eightfold yoga includes physical, mental, ethical and spiritual practices that will lead to total health and wellbeing. It is also interesting to note that Patanjali is able to see human mind from an inclusive context and that too situated in a sociocultural context. This is evident from his discussion on conflicts and negative attitudes of mind and how they can be removed by attitudinal changes. Patanjali’s yoga is interested in changing people’s lives and attitudes in order to gain mental refinement, and via mental refinement to spiritual realisation.

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Yoga and Wellbeing

arrowThe impediments to the restraint of mind and samadhi that follows are nine in number according to Patanjali. These could be considered as the dysfunctions of mind – antaraya. All the nine dysfunctions are accompanied by symptoms such as pain (discomfort), despair, trembling of body and heavy breathing. These symptoms are the features of a distracted mind – viksepah (YS 1.31 – dukha daurmanasya angamejayatva svasa prasvasa viksepa saha bhuvah). What are the nine dysfunctions? i. vyadhi -- physical and mental illness; ii. sthyanam --disinterest, depression; iii. samsaya -- doubt, lack of trust; iv. pramada -- carelessness; v. alasyam -- laziness; vi. avirati -- continued indulgence; inability to restraint, vii. bhranti darsanam -- delusion, hallucination; viii. alabdha bhumigatvam -- lack of progress, plateau feeling; ix. anavastitatvam -- digression.
YS 1:30 – vyadhi sthyana samsaya pramada alasya avirati bhrantidarsana alabdha bhumigatva anavasthitatva.

There is an exhaustive list of practises that Patanjali continues to suggest in the first chapter for the removal of dysfunctions.
Such as Cultivating attitudes of maitri - friendliness; karuna - compassion; muditam - cheerfulness; upeksha – forgiveness.

More in: Menon, S. 2009, The Rain clouds of Mind-Modifications and the Shower of Transcendence: Yoga and Samadhi in Patanjali Yoga Sutra, In: Yoga and Parapsychology, Ed. Ramkrishna Rao, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi

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Progress of search and Personal growth

arrowThe psychology of Self-knowledge is central to Indian philosophy. The difficult task in understanding the psychological significance of self-knowledge is avoiding cognitive reduction of something basic to our identity, and at the same time relating it to a world of experiences and responses. The usual casualty in spiritual quest or search for transcendence happens to progress in thinking and conceptualizing, and spontaneity in responding because of concluded thinking and division of experience into ‘ordinary’ and ‘transcendental’. The notion of personal growth is mostly ruled by the idea that change has to happen to states of minds in a transcendental and other-worldly manner. Transformation and evolution of consciousness imply basic attitudinal and self-identity changes and shifts. The concept of healing thus is not just a solution to a problem but a state of perfection aimed at by one and all in Indian psychology. Healing is the goal of Indian psychological traditions which is not limited to cure but which continues with therapy guided by one’s own mental disciplines and spiritual practices. Since the focus is on mental health and not necessarily mental disorder, the goal for healing is not redemption but progress recorded in a scale which marks in the order from mental health to spiritual uplift. The reason for the emphasis on healing and spiritual progress is the philosophy that spirit is the crux (with a few exceptions of schools) of mind and body and hence continued mental health is continued self-exploration. The quasi-philosophical issues about death and identity share a common platform with Indian psychology towards higher states of mental health and spiritual existence.

More in: Menon, S. 2006, What is Indian Psychology: Transcendence in and while Thinking
The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 37(5): 83-98

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Transpersonal Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita: Consciousness, Meditation, Work and Love

arrowThe narrative of the Gita is of significance as the figurative and metaphorical meanings of the physical war-field lead us to the mental war-field fuelled by conflicting emotions, unexpressed fears and the lack of a stable sense of identity. The mental conflict that humans face, since ancient times, between ‘what is right’ – dharma –  (dharmakshetra) and ‘what is duty’ –  kartavya –  (kurukshetra) is poignantly presented in the opening lines of the Gita. The representation of Arjuna carries a global flag of mental crisis that is pan-cultural. Arjuna with his loud cries, shrouded fears and hypocritical desire for renunciation, presents a contemporary personality who is successful and efficient but with fragile and conflicting sense of identity and values.Ideas of consciousness, meditation, work and love in the Gita cannot be categorized exclusively as psychological, existential, or even pragmatic.  With its penetrating style of dialogue and teaching the Gita gives a wholesome account for spiritual living. Such an account emphasizes the transpersonal nature of the Gita psychology. In Sri Aurobindo’s words, “The language of the Gita, the structure of thought, the combination and balancing of ideas belong neither to the temper of a sectarian teacher nor to the spirit of a rigorous analytical dialectics cutting off one angle of the truth to exclude all the others; but rather there is a wide, undulating, encircling movement of ideas which is the manifestation of a vast synthetic mind and a rich synthetic experience.

More in: Menon, S. 2008, Transpersonal Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita: Consciousness, Meditation, Work and Love,
In: Handbook of Indian Psychology, Cambridge University Press, Eds. K Ramakrishna Rao, Anand Paranjpe and Ajit Dalal, pp186-216

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