Exploration of Indian Yoga Psychology

A blog on the Transpersonal Psychology of Indian Yoga and the Spiritual Genius of India (another blog of the same author – http://integralmusings.aurosociety.org)

About the Blog

Objectives of the Blog

There is at present a growing interest among scholars, in India and in the West, on the achievements of ancient Indian sciences. But whatever may be the position of ancient India in physical sciences, her unparalleled pre-eminence in the field of psychological sciences as revealed in Indian Yoga is an irrefutable fact. Great savants of Indian culture like Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda repeatedly pointed out this unsurpassed excellence of ancient India in psychology. And it is now slowly getting recognized in the West. For example a Belgian scholar, Koenard Elst, writing on the ancient India’s achievements in science, says:

“In order to instill a proper and well-rounded pride in the Indian, it is (once more) most important to restore the truth about Indian history, especially about Indian society’s glorious achievements. In technology it cannot match China, which was the world leader until mere three, four centuries ago. But in abstract sciences like linguistics, logic, mathematics, Indian culture has been the chief pioneer. In psychology it is still unsurpassed though this is not yet fully recognized in the West, the part of the world that still arbitrates on what can count as rational and scientific”.

But Indian psychology is not an empirical study of our ordinary human nature or personality; it is a deeper, practical psychology for transcending our average mental nature and rising towards our higher spiritual nature beyond our ego-personality or in modern terminology, a transpersonal psychology.  Indian yoga is nothing but applied transpersonal psychology.  This great science of yoga, and not software, is the true Indian genius.  The main objective of this blog is to explore the evolution of this great Indian science in the light of yogic vision and insights of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Thus, in precise, scientific sense, divested of all its philosophical, religious, mystical and esoteric trappings, yoga is a form of applied psychology.   “Yoga” says Sri Aurobindo “is nothing but practical psychology.”  But practical for what? For the psychological and spiritual evolution of the Individual, Yoga is the process or discipline by which the psychological and spiritual evolution of the individual can be accelerated.  There is a slow evolutionary process of Nature which works in the mass of humanity through the normal experiences of life, mental education, thought, culture and other methods. But Yoga speeds-up this slow natural evolution in the individual through an intensive concentration of his psychological energies. This does not mean yoga is something unnatural or supernatural. Yoga is also a method or process of Nature, but employed by her in the higher stage of human evolution and for the realisation of her higher evolutionary aims.

However, there are two problems related to the study of yogic psychology.  The first one is that most of the discussions on yogic psychology is based on or confined to Rajayoga of Patanjali.  But Patanjali’s yoga is only one form of Indian yoga.  In India, yoga is as ancient as the Indian civilisation itself.  In fact, Patanjali’s yogasutra is only a systematized compilation of some of the yogic practices of earlier eras, going back to the Vedic age or even before.  So a comprehensive study of yogic psychology has to begin with Vedic yoga and include the yogas of Upanishads, Gita, Tantra and Buddhism.

The second problem in the study of ancient Indian yogic psychology is that the psychological insights are either indistinguishably mixed with metaphysical concepts or hidden behind the forms of practice. The yogic texts of ancient India focus most of their attention on the practical discipline and not much effort is made to bring out clearly and precisely the psychological principles and insights behind the discipline. For each yogic system of practice evolved in ancient India is based on a system of psychological and spiritual insights, intuitions and experiences and designed to achieve a clearly defined spiritual aim. But the same system of insights can be applied or put into practice in many different ways to achieve the same aim. For example Raja Yoga of Patanjali is based on certain verifiable psychological and spiritual experiences and insights. But the method of discipline evolved by Patanjali is not the only way these insights can be put into practice. As Sri Aurobindo has pointed out, the system of Rajayoga can be practised in a very different way than the one developed by Patanjali. This fact applies to every system of Yoga.

If we are able to disengage the essential psychological and spiritual insights behind the various systems and practices of Yoga, then we acquire a certain freedom and flexibility in its application. This will also help in eliminating the rigidity and religious formalism, which has crept into many of the ancient yogic disciplines and will bring the much needed plasticity to yogic sciences. For more than any other science, it is in the field of applied psychology and yoga we need the capacity for infinite flexibility in the application of universal psychological principles, truths and laws to the needs of an infinite variety of individual temperaments, capacities, conditions, difficulties, situations and aims.

Structure of the Blog

This blog at present contains the following categories:

1. The Foundations

2. Vedic Yoga

3. Vedanthic Yoga

4. RajaYoga

5. Buddhist Yoga

6. Tantra Yoga

7. New Horizons of Yoga

8. Integral Yoga

In this blog yoga psychology is presented along with its spiritual vision and metaphysical foundation.  This is because Indian yoga psychology is not an empirical science of the intellect but an intuitive science derived from the spiritual vision and experience of Indian yogis.  The first category in this blog, “The Foundations”  examines this spiritual foundations of Indian yoga.  In  other categories also, the spiritual, cultural and historical context is discussed in some detail, wherever it is needed for  a better understanding of the subject.

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