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Chris Wallis REL272 Classical Yoga Traditions 5 May 1999

Final Examination
I. THE ORIGINS OF YOGA Looking back into the past, the beginnings of the widely variegated strands of the traditions that would later fuse into Yoga disappear in the mists of ancient times, in illo tempore as Eliade would have it. However, a certain amount of informed conjecture as to their origin is both possible and valid. Shamanism may be the oldest from of human religion, dating back more than 25,000 years (Feuerstein 1998:124). Perhaps more accurately termed magico-religion, shamanism may be defined as the sacred art of changing ones awareness through ecstatic trance and entering nonordinary realms of reality (ibid.), though it has many other components as well. Shamanism in Asia may have originated in Siberia and Central Asia, and made its way from there to South Asia. Most Asian communities probably had something like a tribal or a village shaman. The shaman seems (from texts as well as present-day examples from primitive cultures of Australia, the Americas, etc.) to be an ecstatic wild man figure, unpredictable, powerful, and other-worldly. He was a mediator between the human realm and the spirit realms which surrounded and subtlely interpenetrated the human. He had one foot in each world, and was as likely to be seen speaking to spirits as humans. The shaman certainly inspired reverence

and respect in his community, based on his charisma and the perceived efficacy of his magical rituals. These rituals included healing (the shaman was also frequently a medicine man) and rites of passage rituals (birth, coming of age, death, etc.). Mircea Eliade outlines some specific characteristics by which to identify the shaman and ancient shamanism. First, the shaman undergoes (and later guides others through) a ritual initiation that usually includes elements such as symbolic death, dismemberment, and resurrection. Second, the shaman makes ecstatic (trance) journeys as a healer and a psychopomp (guide for the dead and dying). These usually include an ascent to heaven and/or descent to hell. Third, the shaman has mastery over fire, an immensely important archetypal substance for primitive man, with the power to both save and destroy. Fourth, the shaman can assume different forms and display other magical powers, such as flight and invisibility. (Eliade 1958:320) The key phrase for the shaman is ecstasy, in the original sense of that word (the trance, frenzy, or rapture associated with mystic exaltation; a state of experience so intense that one is carried beyond rational thought and self-control.1 From Greek ekstasis or existanai, to be displaced, deranged, astonished, to stand outside of ones self). The shaman could hypnotise himself and others, possess and control spirits, be possessed by them, and go on hallucinatory trips, with or without the aid of psychotropic
1

Definition adapted from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. All rights reserved.

substances. As noted above, the shaman was a prototypical holy man who went on journeys, usually of ascent and/or descent. These journeys, in mythology and actuality (e.g., the Indian rope trick, the iva-linga, etc.) utilise the symbolism of a tree, rope, ladder, or pole as a means of ascent/descent. This object is the archetypal image of the axis mundi, the universal pillar which is both the centre pivot of the world, and more importantly that which connects the lower (infernal) realms, the earth, and the higher (heavenly) realms, since it runs through all three.2 Shamanic symbolic death imagery often consists of visionary or dream experience of the shaman being visited by a spirit, who kills him by removing his internal organs, then replaces them with sacred rocks or magical crystals, thus resurrecting the shaman.3 This kind of death and rebirth imagery is pervasive. It symbolises the replacement of a mundane, ordinary reality with a sacred, extraordinary reality. This sacralising of the person of the shaman gave him his extraordinary powers, such as power to healand to curse. A direct, developmental link between ancient shamanism and later Yoga is not provable, as there are no textual traditions that clearly attest to it. (More on this below.) However, the appearance and tenacious persistence of several shamanic elements in Yoga would seem to imply that shamanism was one of its formative bases. First, initiation (dika) is a key
2

Eliade 1959:35-37. Eliade also notes (1958:115) that the axis mundi [is] a symbol whose archaism no longer stands in need of proof, since it is found among the hunters and shepherds of central and northen Asia no less than in the primitive cultures of Oceania, Africa, and the two Americas. Cf. also his Shamanism, pp. 259ff. 3 Howitt, A.W. The Native Tribes of South-East Australia. London: Macmillan, 1904. Cited in Chidester 55.

element in both traditions. Yoga presumes as necessary a relationship with a teacher that begins with initiation and formal dedication to the transformative magico-religious process to be undergone. Similarly, the shamanic career began with an initiation from an elder shaman, who would then carefully guide the initiate in the ritual and magical practices of his new profession (Chidester 55). The shamanic initiation would invariably consist of a death and rebirth ritual, as described above. Initiation developed as rebirth or death/rebirth rituals in both the brhmaical and yogic traditions (Eliade 1958:110). Secondly, the yogin would also enter into ecstatic states. Although classical yoga focuses almost exclusively on enstatic states, the preclassical ascetical yogins described in the ruti are practitioners of both enstasy and ecstasy (that is, both introverted and extroverted modalities). Of greater significance, however, is the resurfacing of the axis mundi in the form of the yogic suum nd, the subtle energy pathway from the base of the spine to the crown of the crown of the head. Here we see that, through the process Eliade calls ritual interiorisation (1958:111f.), the symbolic cosmic pillar has been represented inside the yogins body, as the core and axis of his being. And just as the shamanic figure earlier ascended the axis mundi into the heavenly spirit realms, even so the yogins consciousness symbolically travels up the suum nd and reaches divine, heavenly liberation in the crown of the head (the pinnacle of human consciousness). This is a strong connection between mythic shamanic

tradition and yoga. An objection might be raised here that the suum nd and subtle body system is a later development of Tantrism, not present in classical yoga. Though the full systemisation of the subtle body homologies is a characteristic of the Tantra, the suum nd is certainly present (though under different names) as early as the Upaniads. Chandogya Upaniad 8.6.6 says of the yogin: One hundred and one, the veins of the heart. One of them runs up to the crown of the head. Going up by it, he reaches the immortal. (Olivelle 171) Again, in Bhadrayaka Upaniad 4.2.3 we learn that the vein that goes up from the heart is the path along which the gods travel (Olivelle 57). I submit that this is an early seminal form of the suum nd. The shamans involvement with fire may be reflected in later yogic practices of meditation and tapasya such as the pacgni or five-fire meditation. But a much stronger connection, perhaps the strongest of all, is between the magical powers of the shaman and the later siddhis of the Yoga tradition. It is even possible that the latter has its origins entirely in the former, whose archaism might explain the almost anachronistic tenacity of magic within the Yoga tradition. We certainly see many of the exact same abilities articulated in each tradition, such as magical flight, invisibility, the power to assume different forms, and so on. The association of these powers with one who has spiritually transcended and is seen as master of two worlds may very well derive from shamanism, where it is more or less taken for granted.

One might think from the previous discussion that shamanism is the major formative influence for yoga. Far from it. It is just one of a number of strands that are woven together to create the tapestry that is Yoga. Another strand is that of the Indus River Valley Civilisation (IVC). This ancient and mysterious civilisation is commonly dated 2500-1500 BCE (though Georg Feuerstein would like to date it 4000-1500 BCE (based on his belief in continuity between the IVC and Vedic India and other factors). Very little is known about the IVC due to the indecipherability of their script, and reasons to believe in their cultural continuity with the Vedic civilisation of the Gangetic plain are tenuous at best. However, evidence of their religion can be found in the steatite seals excavated from the Mohenjo-dro and Harapp sites. The most famous one of these is the so-called Paupati Seal which depicts a seated god-like figure who very much appears to be in a yogic posture. The posture has been variously identified as bhadrsana, goraksana, and utkaiksana, though to me it looks like siddhsana. At any rate, these are all later Hahayoga postures, so what is being implied is that elements of this autochthonous religious tradition influenced or were absorbed by later Brhmaic/Hindu religion. The god on the seal is called Paupati because he is surrounded by beasts. Additionally, he appears to be ithyphallic, and wears a three-pointed head-dress reminiscent of the later triul symbol. All this points towards the possible identification of the figure as Rudra/iva of the later Hindu tradition. This would fit with the textual evidence in the Vedas which seems to suggest that Rudra is an

indigenous god (he appears late, hes dark, the ryans fear him, etc.). Now, Rudra/iva is the God of the ascetical yogins (e.g. ve. Up.), which again fits with the fact that the proto-iva on the seal is seated in yogic sana. Furthermore, it is clear that asceticism itself was not (at least initially) a value of the Vedic ryans. All this leads one to the conclusion that the earliest forms of yoga were indigenous creations of the IVC and other Dravidian peoples. This conclusion is supported by the fact that yoga seems to slowly creep its way in to the Vedic corpus. Its not really there in the Samhita or Brhmaas, we see flickers of it in the rayakas, and it is clearly present (though seminally) in the Upaniads. This is what we would expect if it was slowly absorbed into Brhmaism due to its grass-roots popularity and efficacy. Let me emphasise, however, that I hardly think yoga existed in anything like a complete or systematised form among the indigenous populations. It was clearly elaborated and improved upon enormously by Brhma and Hindu tradition and the latter must be defined as the total collusion, assimilation, and combination of ryan and Dravidian peoples anyway. So who were these early ascetic figures, extra-orthodox, possibly aboriginal, halfway between shamans and yogins? We have some early textual evidence of them in the Vedic corpus. The earliest discussions of them seem to be in the tenth madala of the g Veda Samhita, which we might date 1500-1200 BCE. There are either several types of early ascetics, or several names for them. We hear of the munis, silent sages, the keins,

long-haired ones, vrtyas, keepers of the vow, and later tpasikas, kplikas, paupatas, parivrjakas, ramaa-yatis, and more. The kein, described in gveda 10.136 (keskta), is a good example of a shamanic figure who may also be a proto-yogin. The keins practiced tapasya (1), were often naked or possibly smeared with sandal paste (2), experienced possession by the gods (2), and flew through the air (4). Even more interesting, these ascetics seem to have practised some kind of breath control (upon the winds we have ascended, 3) which might have resulted in out-of-body experience (Behold, you mortals, our bodies only, 3). They were God-intoxicated (or -impelled), and were said to drink with Rudra from the poison cup (i.e. their relationship with divine power enables them to conquer and control what would kill others). (Feuerstein 1998:151-2
and Eliade 1958:102) The mixture of shamanic and yogic elements seems

clear. Here, then, we see the tradition in transition. Assimilation of these groups to mainstream tradition has begun (as demonstrated by the inclusion of the hymn), and yet the ascetics still stand outside orthodoxy, which finds them strange but compelling. Another key group of early extra-orthodox ascetics are the vrtyas. Again, this might be a radical aboriginal religious group, or outcasts from Vedic society, or a mixture of these. J.W. Hauer identifies the vrtyas as precursors of the yogins, and Feuerstein writes, In some respects, the Vrtyas can be seen as the forerunners of such marginal but significant religio-spiritual groups as the Pshupatas It is even possible that the Vrtyas were primarily

responsible for the further development of Proto-Yoga in the early Post-Vedic Era. (1998:163) The vrtyas, or keepers of the vow seem to have been tapasvins and experimentalists interested in prna, sexuality, and ancient fertility magic. They dwelt in the forests and wandered the country in small groups, practising asceticism. They apparently had some discipline of the breaths, and homologised their bodies to the macrocosm (Eliade 1958:103). Their ceremonies included shamanic elements such as obscene dialogues, ritual swaying, and intercourse, but also early yogic elements (ibid.:104). The vrtyas clearly had some impact, because a special Brhmaic ceremony (the vrtyastoma) was created to convert (or reconvert) them to Vedic religion (Feuerstein 1998:161). What is most important about these extra-orthodox groups, however, is the way in which what they brought to the party was assimilated and elaborated by mainstream tradition, as we clearly see in even the earliest Upaniadic tradition. Bhadrayaka is very interested in prna (e.g., 3.4.1) and other yogic seeds pepper both it and Chandogya. All these strands start coming together in middle-period Upaniads like Kaha and vetvatara, which contains the most comprehensive early depiction of mystical yoga practice (esp. 2.8-14). By the time of the late middle-period texts like Mdkya and Maitri, yoga is already coming into its initial full flowering (around the last two centuries
BCE).

Unfortunately, space is too

limited in this discussion for a more in-depth address of the complex subject of the development of yoga in the Upaniads.

We have identified and explored in some detail most of the major strands which probably influenced and informed the later tradition of Yoga: 1. 2. ancient shamanism; the Indus River Valley civilisation and other Dravidian cults (e.g. of

Rudra and the Goddess);


3.

the early extra-orthodox ascetical groups of the Vedic period such

as the keins and vrtyas; & 4. Vedic texts, esp. the late rayaka and early Upaniadic

literature. The combination of all these resulted in Yoga, which Mircea Eliade described as an autochthonous creation of the whole of India, the product not only of the Indo-Europeans but also, and especially, of the pre-ryan populations a product he calls one of the greatest of Indian spiritual syntheses. (1958:101-2) II. DEFINITION
OF

YOGA

While I am usually egotistical enough to believe I can improve on or at least refine others arguments, I am at a loss to find a better definition of yoga than J.A.B. van Buitenens. Hence, rather than proffer my own definition, I will discuss why I think his is good. This definition assumes the context of Indian religious praxis. Yoga, then, implies 1) the process of a difficult effort; 2) a person committed to it; 3) the instrument he uses; 4) the course of action chosen; and

5) the prospect of a goal. (van Buitenen 18) Clearly, this is a very general definition, and needs to be elaborated with specific contextual details to be complete. As van Buitenen comments, it is not that yoga has so many meanings, but rather that its central meaning is a complex one. All five of the above elements are at least implicitly present in any theory or practice of yoga properly undertaken. These five may be reduced further to three principles: number 2 is the subject of yoga, number 5 is the object, and numbers 1, 3, and 4 are the means. First, yoga is a prolonged, difficult and disciplined effort. It is for this reason that the great translator of the Bhagavad Gt Franklin Edgerton chose the word discipline to translate yoga. In Patajali, we find the use of the word abhysa (practice) in stras 1.12-14. We learn that yogic practice is an exertion which must be performed for a long time uninterruptedly and with zealous effort. This fits in perfectly with point 1. The fruit of yoga is obtained through challenging effort. Second, yoga as a spiritual path philosophy is meaningless without reference to a person who follows it. Specific people practice yoga, each with their own specific issues and challenges. This explains why so many methods are elaborated as a part of yoga. It is doubtful if there would be such diversity in praxis if it were not always remembered that yoga is relevant to particular individuals perusing a particular goal (more on this later). Additionally, yoga requires a practitioner to be committed, to take

the path seriously, and not give up. In stras 1.21-22, we are told Yogins with intense ardour achieve concentration and the result thereof quickly. There is clearly a direct correlation between the degree of commitment and the speed and efficiency of progress. Third, yoga requires the use of specific instruments to achieve its goal. These include, first and foremost, the buddhi, but also the manas, the body, the breath, the senses, and the mantra OM. (These are the instruments of Patajalis yoga; other forms of yoga may use other instruments.) Some of these instruments are subtle, others physical. Many of the instructions in the Yogastra have to do with how they are used: the use of the body in stras 2.46-48, the breath in stras 2.49-53, the mantra OM in 1.27-29, and so on. The senses are used to contemplate meditative objects, the manas for dhra, and the buddhi for the discriminative insight so vital on the path. Clearly, without these tools, progress in yoga would be impossible. No progress, no yoga. Fourth, yoga charts a specific course of action to reach its goal. That there are many forms of yoga is well-known: rjayoga, hahayoga, jnayoga, bhaktiyoga, karmayoga, layayoga among them. They may be practised individually or together; what is important is that a map is necessary to reach the goal (Potter 29-30). The committed practitioner possessed of her instruments must know what direction to follow and what stages she can expect to pass through. For this map to be valid, for this course of action to be identified as one which can correctly lead us to the

goal, is must be adequate, accurate, consistent and clear (Potter 53). Patajali draws his map in several different ways. The eight limbs are one map, the listing of different types of samdhi (culminating in dharmamegha-samdhi) are another. This is not to stay that one is meant to proceed through these stages in an orderly fashion one at a time. These are not linear maps, but rather maps of consciousness and the instruments used to explore consciousness. Their purpose is to help the aspirant understand what is happening, and how far she might have yet to go (determined by how much of the map seems familiar). Finally, yoga always assumes a goal, whether it be called mukti, moka, nirva, or kaivalya. Indian religion assumes that man is perfectible; that through diligent effort, using the proper means, one can ultimately break through to the level of complete self-actualisation. In absence of the goal, yoga would be no more than a few ethics mixed with a few relaxation techniques and nice stretches. Instead, it is a radical philosophy which invariably promises the ultimate goal of human life: total fulfilment coupled with total realisation of the ultimate nature of reality. In closing, one might ask how does the Patajalis definition yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of consciousness relate to all this? I would argue that Patajali begins his text with an incomplete working definition: that of item #1, the process. However, the other four elements are fully elaborated in later in the text, as noted above. One might say that the Yogastra in its entirety is a complete definition of (classical) yoga.

III.
2.17

STRA EXEGESIS The perceived correlation between the seer and the seen is the cause [of suffering, which is] to be overcome. This stra articulates the nub of the problem. Identifying the seer

with the seen, or even perceiving a connection between them, is the cause of suffering. How, why, what does this mean? The word correlation here is translating the term samyoga, a technical term which describes the situation in which the purua mistakes itself for the buddhi. Even in daily life, we find that we identify ourselves through the things we own and are close to; even more so we identify ourselves as our bodies; even more so we identify ourselves as our minds; how much more so do we identify ourselves as the subtlest perceiving faculty of our mental awareness! The situation of the buddhi and the purua is like a man and his reflection in the mirror. The man is truly alive, his reflection is not. The man is the one who sees. However, the man forgets that the image in the mirror is not him, but rather a two-dimensional, inverted reflection of him. He behaves as if it were him so he can get on in life (combing his hair or whatever). Yet he is surprised to hear that he has literally never seen his own face, and initially ready to contest the point. The fact, the mind is in front of our awareness our whole lives, but even though it is a two-dimensional reflection of the consciousness of the purua, our natural tendency is to identify ourselves with that through which we constantly perceive the world. A moments logical thought will reveal that we cannot be the mind, because the mind

can be an object of perception. Therefore we must be that which is perceiving the mind. The purua (the Knower) cannot be an object of perception, because it is the eternal subject. If it could be an object, there would have to be a subject perceiving it, and then we immediately run into the problem of infinite regression. The purua is always the Seer, but it sees through a glass darkly, and that murk of the mind we believe is us. This identification of the seer with the seen (in this case, the mind) causes suffering because it makes us seek the self where there is no concrete or stable identity, permanence where there is only a shifting kaleidoscope of patterns, and purity in that which is doomed always to be tainted. We will always be disappointed if we search for fulfilment in the world of the body or the mind. Through correct identification with the Knower, peace is found as we rest in (though not perceive) our own true Self. Curiously, the existence of the world itself is caused by this false correlation. It is when purua comes into (apparent) contact with unmanifest prakti that prakti diversifies into the phenomena of the world. This can be explained by the so-called teleological instinct of prakti it works for the liberation of purua without knowing it (Eliade 1958:17). Prakti must manifest in order to create the tools by which purua will liberate itself from its apparent (but seemingly to us very real) bondage. But what, you may ask, caused the apparent contact in the first place? Sankhya/ Yoga wont touch that with the ten-foot pole, though the later Tantra will have a stab at it.

2.20 The seer is absolute knower. Although pure, modifications (of buddhi) are witnessed by it as an onlooker. The purua is a pure witness (sakin), untainted by what it witnesses. Nevertheless, the false identification of the purua with the buddhi causes us to misappropriate the fluctuations of the mind to ourselves, and therefore see ourselves in terms of conceptual categories. In this way, we limit ourselves with the understanding (for example) I am human, I am male, I am white, Im an American, my name is Chris, I have a certain history which defines me now, and so on. If who I really am is any of these things, it necessarily limits me, for any conceptual category has meaning only through negative reference to other categories. That is, if I am a, that means I am not b. However, none of these categories apply to the purua, which is transcendent, pure contentless consciousness, identical in each of us. The realisation that I am ultimately purua and not any of these limited categories has the effect of eliminating attachment to my particular life circumstances. I realise that I am merely playing a role, and therefore I am much more flexible and open to change and can reconfigure my self-image to fit any given situation. Thus a state of freedom is triggered in which whatever I can conceive, I can achieve, because I know I am not bound to a particular set of determinants in my experience or ability. 2.21 In its essence the phenomenal world (the seen) exists only in relation to an observer. 1,700 years ago Patajali articulated an understanding which in the West was a major scientific breakthrough in the 20th century. The revelation

of quantum physics was the discovery that reality exists in a potential form which actualises only in the presence of an observer. An event can be described as a quantum probability waveform and the waveform only collapses and resolves itself into actual data when it is observed. For example, an electron exists in an atom in the form of an electron cloud of potential locations (some more probable than others). The electron resolves itself into a particle or specific wave-packet when it is measured. Though we know where it will probably be when it is measured, it is remotely possible that it could actualise on Mars instead of in the lab (because time and space as well are (in some ways) constructs of the observer). This astounding conclusion can be brought into the real world with the thought experiment called Schrdingers Cat. In this experiment, a cat is placed in a sealed box with a radioactive isotope which has exactly a 50% chance of decaying. If it decays, it will release a poison gas and kill the cat. The extraordinary thing is, the quantum probability waveform will not collapsed until it is observed, which means that before the box is opened, somehow the cat exists in a paradoxical liminal state: neither living nor dead, but a purely potential event, between possible realities.4 What does all this have to do with Patajalis yoga? The implication of this scientific analysis is the amazing claim that we shape our reality through the manner in which we observe it. The phenomenal world exists in relation to an observer. Therefore, reality is more malleable than we ever thought possible, and the categories through which we view it help create
4

See Gribbin, John. In Search of Schrodingers Cat. Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1985.

our very experience of it. An extremely mundane example: I have found that the art, design, and packaging of a CD influences the way in which I hear the music. The design places the music in a particular category which helps determine the degree to which I appreciate it and the modality through which I interpret it. Though it is a mundane example, the implications are far-reaching. They will be explored further in the next stra.
2.22

Even if the phenomenal world ceases to exist [in any ordinary way] for an observer who has realised freedom, it continues to exist because it is a common-experience with respect to other observers. This stra serves as a corrective to the previous one. As fun as it

might otherwise be, our reality is not solely our creation but rather a collective creation of all observers. One might say that the very fabric of reality itself is a construct of the human collective unconscious. Hence, a mere belief in my ability to fly, however thorough, may not enable me to do so due to the strong beliefs otherwise of those around me. In this respect, it is said that once when the modern yoga master Swami Muktnanda was on tour in California in the 70s, he heard people fearfully gossiping about the idea that an upcoming earthquake was going to make a large chunk of the state fall into the sea. His response was, Stop talking about it so much or youll make it happen. The implications of this are staggering. (Could it be that rather than the people in a city being depressed because the weather is bad, the weather is bad because people are depressed?)

But we must bring the topic back to the yoga specifically. Patajali says that for the yogin who has accomplished his goal, the phenomenal world ceases to exist in any ordinary way. That is, it ceases to impinge on his experience. Unlike for the ordinary man, the yogin is not subject to the constructs of the collective. He may reshape his reality in whatever way he sees fit. (Hence, siddhis.) Reality is malleable, but in direct proportion to the degree to which one has extricated oneself from an interdependent relationship with praktic elements. It only makes sense that by freeing pure consciousness from its perceived relationships with the praktic world (such as causal, complementary, or reciprocal relationships), it is no longer subjects to praktic determining structures. However, this liberated state of the yogin does not affect reality as it is perceived by the bound collective. 2.24 The cause of this [correlation of 2.17] is ignorance. 2.25 When there is no ignorance, there is no such correlation just the isolated freedom of [pure] seeing. From this stra it is seen that the correlation (samyoga) is not an ontological reality, but a mistaken perception. With the mistake removed, the correlation vanishes also. How could a mere perceptual error have such power in determining every facet of our experience of life? By the theory of reality suggested in 2.21 & 22, in which perception shapes reality itself, literally as well as theoretically. Without the correlation/ignorance error (from which every other problem springs as per 2.4), the isolative freedom of kaivalya is obtained. The state of kaivalya can only be characterised as true vision or pure insight into the nature of reality unimpeded by a whole

host of mistaken assumptions proceeding out of the samyoga error. But how to remove ignorance?
2.26

The way to eliminate ignorance is through the steady and focused application of discriminative knowledge. Viveka-khyti is the key. Discrimination or discernment implies many

things. Discrimination between that which helps one along the path and that which does not; between the beneficial and the pleasant; between the fulfilling and the gratifying; between the efficacious and inefficacious; between truth and falsehood; between permanent and impermanent; and above all between purua and buddhi. All these forms of discernment empower the practitioner and propel her along the path; the final discernment, when it becomes steady, results in kaivalya. And how does one obtain viveka? Through the application of yogic practice and technique but thats the rest of the book. IV. YOGA AND
THE

WEST

The process of the mediation of Yoga to the West has been a long, complex, and fascinating one. Leaving aside the contacts of India with the Mediterranean world in antiquity, the history of Indian religious and philosophical influence on the West picks up again around the turn of the 19th century, when texts like the Bhagavad Gt and the Upaniads appear in their first western translations (English and Latin respectively). The original impetus behind the investigation of Indias texts was the startling discovery (in the late 18th century) that Sanskrit was in the same language

family as the European tongues. The discovery was the unwitting result of the legal requirements of the East India Company, which commissioned the first Sanskrit to English translations (of Indian legal codes Klostermaier 21). Linguists were the driving force behind much of 19th century Indology, as they put together the pieces of the Indo-European puzzle (Klostermaier
24). However, as more and more texts were studied and translated, interest

in them branched out into many other disciplines. Probably the first people of record to seriously consider the idea that Indian religious texts held some value for our lives beyond a purely academic inquiry were the philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer, Ralph W. Emerson, and Henry David Thoreau
(Klostermaier 23). Texts like the Gt powerfully influenced the literary

writings of both of the latter two. The interest of such influential figures paved the way for the first mediator of Indian religion to the west who was himself Indian: Swami Viveknanda. At the World Parliament of Religions conference in Chicago in 1893, Viveknandas addresses had a major impact. Thus began a movement of Indian spirituality in America which has only grown stronger and more diverse into the present day. Many more mediators of Indian spirituality have visited the West in the wake of Viveknanda, and subsequently two generations of their western disciples have attempted mediation themselves. The question that confronts us is: can this mediation be successful?

In his intriguing essay, Yoga and the West, Carl Jung hypothesises that the large-scale importation of foreign religious systems was made possible by the Protestant Reformation:
By directing its main attack against the authority of the Roman Church, Protestantism largely destroyed belief in the Church as the indispensable agent of divine salvation. Thus the burden of authority fell to the individual, and with it a religious responsibility that had never existed before. (531)

Implicit in Jungs essay is the belief that for any cultural phenomenon to spread successfully, it must follow previously created ideological pathways through the collective consciousness of the given culture.5 It was the precedent set by the diversity of belief and practice in Protestantism (which split into scores of sects) that laid the ideological groundwork for later syncretisms with Eastern thought, such as Theosophy (Jung 530). But could Indian Yoga and related philosophies survive, be understood, and be applied successfully in a pure form? Jung thought not, precisely because the European mind is structured so deeply differently from the Indian that the ideological pathways are inadequate to correctly and safely receive the tradition. Well explore this in some more detail. As an outgrowth of the Renaissance, Jung argues, the western mind began to perceive a split between faith and knowledge, between hard science and philosophy, between realism and idealism. While Jung doesnt dwell on the causes of this split, it seems implicit that it was

For example, it was along the already entrenched ideological and social-structural pathways of Judaism that Christianity spread successfully throughout the Roman Empire in a relatively short time. Otherwise, its success would have been highly doubtful. A modern example of the phenomenon is Jungs assertion that psychotherapy was a natural outgrowth of the centuries-old practice of confession.

partially caused by a maturing analytical/intellectual mode of inquiry that could no longer accept the literalism and dogma of the dominant religious institutions of the day. Thus the thinking man of, say, three hundred years ago was caught in a protracted liminal state between a) a literal acceptance of religious mythology (whose archetypal imagery previously functioned on an unconscious level to bring comfort in his life); and b) a modern conscious understanding of mythology and religion as beneficial and spiritually rewarding in spite of the fact that it is not literally true. The latter perspective was pioneered by men like Jung himself. This split between religious and scientific understanding led to two simultaneous responses to the introduction of yoga to the west. One was to make it an object of scientific study, the other to welcome it as a way of salvation (and never the twain shall meet). The split in Western culture between head and heart was (and is) sufficiently profound so as to create a situation in which the western man is alienated from his whole self. It is for this reason, Jung believed, the practice of yoga is inappropriate and even dangerous for the westerner. Now we are approaching the nub of Jungs argument.
Either [the western mind] falls into the trap of faith and swallows concepts like prna, tman, chakra, samdhi, etc., without giving them a thought, or its scientific critique repudiates them one and all as pure mysticism. The split in the Western mind therefore makes it impossible at the outset for the intentions of yoga to be realized in any adequate way. It becomes either a strictly religious matter, or else a kind of [scientific] trainingand not a trace is to be found of the unity and wholeness of nature which is characteristic of yoga. (533)

Thus the first part of the argument: that yoga cannot be adequately practised by a Westerner, on account his lack of self-knowledge manifest as an un-integrated personality. It is for the same reason that Jung believes yoga should not be practised. He wrote this piece in 1936, between the wars, and articulated a concern that if yoga did what it promised, i.e. brought power and control to its practitioner, then it was dangerous for the European who a) already had too much power over his environment, and b) was estranged from his own human nature as an integrated being. Indeed, history may have proved his point, as we saw in the Third Reich the effect of philosophies of power (such as Nietzsches) unchecked by reference to other aspects of humanity. As if to further corroborate Jungs argument, Hitler was very interested in the occult, mysticism and the East, and he appropriated the sacred yogic symbol of the svastika as his symbol of domination. This is exactly what Jung feared: the danger of misunderstanding and misappropriation of the yoga tradition by Western minds whose presuppositions of reality are so radically different. Now the purvapakins argument has been thoroughly stated. It is a good argument, and indeed I believe that a search of Europe and America in 1936 for a non-Indian non-syncretist practitioner of yoga who really understood what he was about would have been unsuccessful. However, the argument is somewhat flawed by an incomplete understanding of the process of the practice of yoga. While yoga can and has been practised for the acquisition of power in the material world, the real power offered by

yoga is contingent on self-knowledge. Jung is rightly concerned about learning yoga with a methodology of outside-in in which the student learns mimetically and doesnt grasp the practice with his whole being. This may lead to a situation in which one can use the tools of yoga without the inner transformation of yoga a situation at best fruitless and at worst dangerous. On the other hand, a methodology of inside-out in which the student uses yoga as a process of self-inquiry and self-transformation, and then develops tools of power over inner and outer realities which are based on self-knowledge, is wholly beneficial. Why? Because one who has selfknowledge will not be so foolish as to commit acts that will inevitably lead to his own downfall. Hitler had immense power (in several ways) but an inadequate understanding of his own humanity to realise his project must inevitably fail. Jung correctly points out that this self-knowledge must penetrate into the unconscious self as well as the conscious to be successful. How can subject/object duality be transcended if the subject is not thoroughly known? (535) Here again he reveals his incomplete knowledge. He contrasts yoga, which he claims applies itself exclusively to the conscious mind and will (535) with his own practice, which emphasizes the purposiveness of unconscious tendencies with respect to personality development. (537) He obviously hasnt studied Patajali! The whole theory of samskras and vsans emphasises the exact same thing, even extending the theory to include action. Thus yoga is an adequate means for

self-knowledge. I am sure that, given more comprehensive study, Carl Gustav would have revised his conclusions somewhat. Finally, Jungs argument is not as valid today as when he wrote it because of two historical developments. The first is the emergence of modern yoga masters who address some of his very concerns. Here we see the remarkable upya of the enlightened meditation masters in responding the difficulties and impediments of their time. The one I am thinking of is of course Ramana Maharshi, who stressed that the spiritual path must began with the persistent and sustained inquiry Who am I?6 Indeed, nearly all of the 20th century masters have stressed attainment of self-knowledge over power and control as the goal of yoga, though the latter is frequently attested in the classical tradition. The second development is the impact of the scholarship of Carl J. himself, and that of scholarly heirs to his legacy like Joseph Campbell.7 These great men have charted a course away from the shackles of positivism, with its narrow and black & white vision of truth. They have shown us how to recapture the meaning in mythology, and appreciate the power of religious metaphor without having to take it literally. They have indicated the first steps towards the absolutely vital integration of heart and head in Western culture. Significantly (and fortunately), it is precisely in the

Ironically, eight years later Jung wrote an introduction to a book of r Ramanas words, translated by H. Zimmer. His admiration of the Maharshis writing is understandable, given the issues here discussed. 7 I would mention Heinrich Zimmer as well in this respect, as his achievements are just as great, but he doesnt share the popularity of the two mentioned.

same cultural circles that practice yoga in America today that the work of Jung and Campbell and others like them is most appreciated. It was extraordinary and radical of Jung to say in 1936: There are no grounds whatsoever for any conflict between these two things [i.e. religion and science]. This difficulty is still at the heart of our cultures conflicted feelings about religion today. However, the groundwork for resolution of the conflict and re-integration of apprehension through the mind and apprehension through the heart has been laid. There is a long way to go, but I believe it is possible, because I myself am an example. I have gone (and am still going) through a challenging process of integration of my scientific/rational side and my faithful/devoted believer side. The process is unquestionably of the highest benefit. I conclude, then, with the assertion that yoga can be practised adequately and successfully by a Westerner if the following conditions are fulfilled:
1)

study under an acknowledged Indian8 master of yoga;

2) a sustained process of self-inquiry, including into the subconscious mind; 3) a conscious effort to reconcile the dual sides of ones personality (visceral and intellectual); 4) a careful and comprehensive study of the texts and traditions of yoga, either without syncretistic elements or with a clear understanding of the syncretism.
8

The master must be Indian or brought up with a thoroughly Indian worldview in order to preserve ontological and metaphysical presuppositions of Indian thought, which must be taught to the Westerner in order for her practice of yoga (which itself is informed by those presuppositions) to be successful.

I think old Carl would agree. Finis.

WORKS CITED
Chidester, David. Patterns of Transcendence. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1998. Eliade, Mircea (1958). Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. Bollingen Series LVI. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. Eliade, Mircea (1959). The Sacred and the Profane. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Feuerstein, Georg (1998). The Yoga Tradition. Prescott, Arizona: Hohm Press. Jung, C.G. Yoga and the West in Psychology and Religion: West and East. (Collected Works vol. 11, Bollingen Series XX). 2nd ed. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1969. Klostermaier, Klaus K. A Survey of Hinduism. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1994. Olivelle, Patrick. Upaniads. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Potter, Karl H. Presuppositions of Indias Philosophies. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991. van Buitenen, J.A.B. The Bhagavadgt in the Mahbhrata. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

WORKS CONSULTED
Feuerstein, Georg. The Yoga-Stra of Patajali. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions, 1989. Hariharnanda raya, Swami. Yoga Philosophy of Patajali. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1983. Miller, Barbara Stoler. Yoga: Discipline of Freedom. New York, NY: Bantam, 1998.