Purpose in yoga

The yoga is very little physical, very much psychological.
Self must be freed from the world and its attractions, pleasures and illusions
Nivrtti or inner renunciation of the world as unreal, not outer renunciation by who are given to raga acquire defects of character even in their sojourn in forests.
Live under a symbolic illusion which will one day disappear as does (it is a )key? we … to the reality to which it is a pointer.
To be a realist, overcome realism.
Freedom of the soul from all conditions, joy, merit, political freedom, goodness, evil, – all the conditions: conditions are a cloud , of the eclipse that rob the sun of radiance. The spirit must be freed from all conditions.
To be realized by the performance of one’s moral and spiritual duty without desire. If desire is associated with duty , it is not dharma. It is something from your own mind.
Grow wings and shut your eyes while flying, and then dash yourself against a mountain peak.
It will happen; it is a moral law.
A strenuous cultivation of a dispassionate serenity of the mind under all circumstances.
To stand free in one’s subjective being.
Toleration. ‘Those who came before me were thieves and robbers’- Buddha, Socrates, Plato, Rama …! It is only in Europe a man is allowed to be killed for expressing an opinion which is not the orthodox opinion.
It is our duty to relieve distress, to revere the faith of others is as much a duty as to revere one’s own.

The physical purpose in yoga is to harmonize and pacify the elements of the body-consciousness, with a view to transcending it. There is to be a withdrawal from the sensory inputs, but this cannot normally be done while there is a constant barrage of changing stimuli from outside, and from inner disharmonies and adhesions. There are programmes of exercises for making the prana currents flow smoothly; they consist mostly in withdrawing the attention to the inner sensation-feeling, and then slowly stretching the limbs, and then the body, meditating that a current of prana-vitality is spreading out through the stretched part to the periphery. Students can get an idea of this in the natural movements of a cat when it wakes up.
The yogin is asked to study and rationalize his diet, avoiding stimulants and strong pungent herbs such as garlic.
When the body is in good condition, and calm, it no longer demands attention. The yogin is to give just so much attention to it so that it runs smoothly and efficiently, but the purpose is not effectiveness in worldly activity. The aim is to have a body that can settle itself without any unnecessary tension, so that it can be forgotten. Experience shows that mastery of one of the formal postures of meditation is a big help. Young people should make an attempt at sitting cross-legged on a cushion on the ground, with one foot resting on the opposite thigh. Those with a normal physique can master this in a few months. As an indication, there is the experience of hundreds of years in Zen monasteries, where young aspirants \re required to do so. There are a few who have always sat in chairs, for them the posture is painful. Still, they have to continue with it. Sometimes it requires great efforts of will to go on sitting without moving. But the experience is that in the first few weeks, these youngsters’ faces are grimly set, and even a few cry silently. After a few weeks, their faces become serene, and after a few more weeks, they are having to make equal efforts of will to stay awake. The posture has become so comfortable that they tend to doze. They have been told at the beginning that this will happen; they found it almost incredible then. The head monks say that when this incredible is finally confirmed in experience, it is valuable in giving them a strong faith that the later stages of the training, perhaps equally incredible (‘I am Life Universal’), can and will be confirmed also, however they may seem at the outset.
Yoga practice to acquire a posture would be a abit different from the grin-and-bear-it of such a monastery. Yoga is practised in lay life, and a good way is to sit on the floor when listening to a tape, or a radio talk, of an edifying and interesting kind. Put one foot up on the opposite thigh, and after a few minutes, when it gets painful, take it off and put the other one up. The tape will prevent focusing on discomfort, and the legs can be alternated for half an hour. Be careful not to strain the joints. If this is done twice a day, after a couple of months someone under thirty will begin to find the posture comfortable. Still, he must not triumphantly try to sit for long periods yet. Treat the body as a plant: changes have to be persistent and gradual. Austerity – termed tapas (literally, burning) – in yoga is not to be so extreme that the mind cannot yet be kept serene. But it must be sufficient to make a substantial demand on the inhibitory power of the will. One must not, says S’ankara, avoid all austerity on the ground that this or that disturbs the mind. The principle is the same in building up a good physique: the exercises must be enough to tire, and make the muscles ache, but not so extreme that the body cannot yet meet them and tends to collapse.
For a good time the yogic student avoids places where the atmosphere, and peer pressure perhaps, tempts to enervating distractions. It is not a question of simply saying, No, No; the distractions must be displaced by energizing ones. There is far more pleasure in the relaxation after strenuous endeavour that in mindlessness of drinking alcohol.

Normally the practice of Karma Yoga is a slow purification and clarification, a good deal of which concerns physical activity as well as psychological. Nevertheless, it is rightly said that the yoga is very little physical. Why? Because the refractoriness of the material, and the material itself, are in the end known to have been unreal.

The classical elements of Karma Yoga – independence of opposites such as heat and cold, pleasure and pain, efficient action with calm independence of success or failure, samadhi-meditation on God – will be mentioned, but here in the classical Indian style, the goal is stated first:

The Self is universal, but in individuals has limited itself, so that it feels entangled in the individuality and personality. Yoga is the process of shaking itself free. It shakes itself free, as in the Upanishads a horse is described as shaking off the loose hairs. It shakes vigorously And yet …..
At an awards ceremony, two of the candidates were waiting in line for their turn, having inspected themselves in the mirror in the ante-room. They knew their appearance was satisfactory, but just before he went forward, the first one turned round, and then said to the other: ‘Oh, you’ve got a little smudge of dirt on your left cheek – I can’t stop now, rub it off yourself’ and went forward. The other took out a clean handkerchief and rubbed at the spot the other had indicated, looking at the handkerchief to see if he had got it off. But he could not find it; the handkerchief remained pure white. Still, he thought he must surely have got it off. His name was called, and he had to go forward, sweating slightly, in front of the cameras. He received his decoration, and joined his friend on the far side, where as it happened there was a wall mirror. He anxiously examined his face, but the friend took his arm and said: ‘There wasn’t anything there, it’s all right. You remember that time yo made me look such a fool in front of those girls? Well, I just thought I’d have a little fun myself today.’
The Karma Yoga and then meditations on truth are like the rubbing; they give confidence, and yet, till we see the clear mirror, we are sure but not quite sure. The smut is not there at all: a sportful trick-of-illusion gave it existence. Still, the rubbing of it gives a temporary assurance or half-assurance, till the certainty of the mirror.

In some of the mystical schools, the world is real, and has to be renounced as real. To the yogin in training, too, there are times when the reality of the world becomes intense, and there too it has to be renounced as real. The Eastern story of a test for a potential treasurer describes how the Minister arranged for the three candidates to be alone for a few minutes in a room where there were jewels carelessly strewn about, so that ‘a few would not be missed’. When they had all passed through, and stood before the King, the Minister told them to dance. Two danced awkwardly, as if weighed down; but the third leaped into the air and whirled himself about. The Minister said: ‘Majesty, there is your future treasurer’.
Later the King asked the youth: ‘What did yu think when you saw those jewels?’ He replied: ‘Your Majesty, I thought it a bit strange. But I set myself firmly that I was anot going to begin a career by stealing. When I knew I was not going to steal them, I looked at them calmly, and I saw that they were imitation jewels, of no real value. That set me completely free of temptation, without any effort.’

Suppose in the little story one of the other candidates had suspected that this was some sort of test, and had held back from taking any of the ‘jewels’, that would have been an outer renunciation of something real to him. Inwardly his heart would have been boiling with desire. That would be the outer renunciation; Dr. Shastri cited cases like St. Anthony and Charles V of France who made a forcible outer renunciation but found no inner peace. He himself had lived in forests. It takes great courage. He once said that in the forest you sleep in the daytime, and keep the fire going at night. There is an illusory idea among flat-dwellers in the West that some Indian yogis ‘run away from the difficulties of the world to take refuge in the peace of a mountain cave, or a hut in a forest.’ In fact the Indian jungle is a far from silent place; flocks of parrots hold shrieking parliaments on the trees; as for caves, if warm and dry they will have to be shared with a young lion or a big snake, as Rama Tirtha shared his on occasion. In the traditional yoga, this is not recommended till the body-consciousness is faint and the universal conscious strong. The renunciation in that state is described in the fifth poem of Dr. Shastri’s booklet Spring Showers:

Clouds, black and threatening, gathered last night.
The cold wind blew furiously, rain poured in torrents.
I sat cold and shivering in my straw hut, which leaked like a worn umbrella.
Hissing snakes crept into my hut expecting protection.
Scorpions crawled upon my tattered blanket.
Croaking dolefully, the bullfrogs entered, splashing mud from the pools of water in my old collapsing hut.
I can bear these all cheerfully, and much more, as my Love is ruling my passions and the emotions in my heart.

Before that, a sojourner would usually be running back to the troubles of hot running water and other comforts.
Life is an illusion, but it is not meaningless like an imaginary snake vividly projected on to a rope in a poor light. (In the classical Indian logic, an analogy holds for just the one point, and it is illegitimate to extend it beyond that, into realms of value for instance.) The world-illusion is an appearance set up by the divine Maya trick-of-illusion, and it has a symbolic meaning. It points to the reality of the divine Self which creates and supports it, and it contains a key to unlock its imprisoning gates. These gates are mental imaginations, which nevertheless hold as firmly as a nightmare. But the basis of yoga practice is, that individuals are held by false convictions, in both senses of the term. The crime of which they are convicted is non-existent, so it is a false conviction in the legal sense; and the warders and prison walls are imaginary beliefs, convincing enough but unreal – false convictions in fact.. The sentence of prison is a false conviction, and the prison itself is a false conviction.
When the classical texts illustrate the nature of illusion, they often cite cases like a mirage-water seen in the desert, a snake seen mistakenly in a rope, or supposed silver in mother-or-pearl. These illustrate just the fact that the illusion is a memory of real water, rope or silver projected as a living perception on to a base which has some similarities. But they are chance accidents, of an unfavourable kind. There is no purpose or meaning in them. The concept of the Maya trick-of-illusion by which the world is projected, has special qualities not illustrated in the above examples. It has a symbolic meaning, and it has a purpose. Moreover it contains in itself a key to dissolve its compelling power.
The symbolic meaning is that of play – deliberate self-limitation, and then struggle within that limitation to attain freedom from it. On a tiny scale, this aspect could be represented by certain games of Patience played with cards, where they are dealt out, some exposed and some face down and thus unknown. The player has to use skill in manipulating them within fixed rules, to try to arrive at a given final ordering. The Rubik cube might be thought of as another case. A central point is, that the player could resolve the problem by breaking the rules, by force so to speak. That would gratify his immediate purpose, but it would be meaningless – it could not be called success. The essence of a game is, that one can indeed break the rules, but one cannot break the rules and still be in the game
These examples from games have to be taken very cautiously. They illustrate just the one point, and they are not meant to trivialize the game of life-and-death.

The so-called realism turns out, on careful examinations, to be false. Science is in fact a mass of inferences which show that naive realism is false. Bertrand Russell summed it up in a phrase which appealed to Einstein: ‘Naive realism, if true, is false; therefore it is false.’ Nevertheless it is not easy to maintain this conviction when away from the moments of analysis. He was obviously convinced by his own analysis, but fell away from it sometimes when he wanted to make a point. The same Russell, when it was put to him that consciousness was a prerequisite to all views of the world, retorted: ‘Nonsense. I can easily imagine a time when the earth was a mass of blazing rocks, with no consciousness whatever.’ He did not see that in using words like ‘rocks’ he was pre-supposing the existence of consciousness, and as a matter of fact sense organs also. On his own philosophical analysis, in that remote past there would be nothing there but sub-atomic particles. The most he could justifiably imagine would be, that if a consciousness (and sense organs or instruments) had been there, they would have constructed an appearance of blazing rocks. And the advances in physics since Russell’s time now may imply that without consciousness the particles would not be there either. It is not for outsiders to interpret the incredibly fine-spun inferences from paradoxical experimental results. The only point in raising them is to show that when scientists adopt apparently down-to-earth realism to brush aside metaphysical ideas, they are going against themselves, even sometimes against their own express declarations. This is a form of the Fallacy of Fluctuating Rigour, where naive realism is adopted as a weapon, though admitted to be false.
The false ‘realism’ has to be discarded. Yoga is established on its own experiments, which find and then penetrate through the energy-construct inferred by late 20th-century science, to the mental, and then intelligent, and finally spiritual basis of the world-illusion. To find and then penetrate that spiritual basis is the true realism, and the yogin who gives up clinging to false so-called realities, is the only true realist.


These words show a big difference between the aim of yoga and some of the aims set out in some of the traditional religions, which speak of triumphal glory. Yoga teaches that states of glory are in maya; the glories of divine creation and world maintenance are the truth of this world-process, but that process is ultimately a trick-of-magic, and the Lord withdraws it at the time of world-dissolution. The display of maya, however exalting and beautiful, is a set of conditions; they bind the soul which is trapped into taking them as real. Virtue, joy, political freedom and all the rest are conditions just as much as evil, and the soul has to become free of them. The sattvic qualities such as tolerance, goodness, and uprightness are in a sense nearer to knowledge and liberation than rajasic qualities of domination or tamasic ones of inertia and envy, but even sattva is not freedom. Unless the aspiring yogin takes the chance to make a jump out of the range of these conditions; good and bad both, his sattvic state will change and it may be some time before the opening can be created again. (Some schools say that it is at least a year.) The state of freedom is not within maya; it is identity with the Lord of maya who projects it as his joyful sport but is never deluded by it.
The presentation of the brilliance of sattva as the aim is an example of the development of religious thought. States of worldly triumph are sometimes pictured, though perhaps softened in the translation. For instance, in the beautiful psalm.
He will lead me forth beside green pastures…..
He will prepare a table before me against them that trouble me, and my cup shall be full.
The words ‘ prepare a table before me against them that trouble me’ can be translated ‘in the presence of my enemies’ but the meaning is far more extreme than that. A feature of the celebratory feast after victory was, that the leaders of the enemy, in rags and chains, were made to squat on the ground on the far side of the table. They had been starved for some time, and one of the pleasures of victory was occasionally to throw scraps of food to them and watch them desperately grabbing for it. If the victory had been a narrow one, so that the result might have gone the other way, – that was thought to add to the pleasure.

Yoga : Ann. Conf.10.7.48
© Trevor Leggett

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