Yoga theories can be verified by experiment
In yoga we have theories, and they can be proved by very careful reasoning and analysis. Yet, the mind does not take them in.
But, when they are verified, partially at least by experiment, then the resistance of the mind is overcome and they can be accepted. It must not be merely theory. If it is merely theory, it will never have any depth to it. We shall be told, “You are that”, and we shall say, “Yes, I can say without any hesitation I am… oh, it’s not quite clear… oh! Brahman! I am Brahman! I am fear….(turns the page)…less and immortal!’ No, that is merely theory. It has to be something which is true by experience, not simply a theory. Well, how are these things brought about? If we look at some of the actual cases given in the Upanishads [we will be given an indication].
In the Upanishad, the boy [Bhrigu] goes to his father, who is a sage, and he says, ” Revered sir, Father, teach me Brahman.” He has already done considerable study, and he knows about Brahman, and the desire for liberation – freedom – has risen in him.
The father gives him 5 ‘doors’ – the body made of food, vital energy, ear, eye, mind. These are doors, he says. We have to go through the door, not stand in front of it, but go through it . [ We go through the doors by investigating deeply That which the body, vital energy, ear, eye and mind cannot apprehend but by whose power each is enabled to function]. Then he says to him, “That from which the whole universe has come forth, by which it is sustained, into whom it is finally dissolved”. This is the definition of Brahman. But he doesn’t say, “Now you know.” He says, “Seek to know That, try to know That”. The young disciple sits down and practises tapas, which literally means ‘austerity’.
In the Gita there are three kinds of tapas: the austerity of the body (which is simplicity of life, a certain pleasantness, a certain uprightness, and honesty – not being pleasant to peoples’ faces and then stabbing them in the back; control of the senses). Then there is the austerity of speech, which consists of saying what is true and useful, pleasantly uttered and not provoking people. But the highest austerity is the austerity of the mind, which is inner calmness, and finally silence. Shankara, in his commentary to the Upanishad, says that the highest form of tapas means meditation, and he defines it as one-pointedness and samadhi, and he says that this is the method by which Brahman is known and twice he says this is the only method.
The disciple practices meditation and he has an experience. He sees the whole world consisting of physical things but he is not satisfied and goes back to his father and says, “Teach me Brahman”. The father does not give him any instruction but says, “Meditate, for meditation is the way of knowing Brahman”. He meditates again and he has an experience of the world as energy. Again he goes to his father and his father does not confirm or deny it. He says “Teach me” but the father says, “Meditate, for meditation is the means of knowing Brahman”. Then it comes to Intelligence and finally it comes to Bliss. The father does not confirm it but when he has reached this realisation the Atman of the disciple and the Atman of the teacher are one.
There is no need to speak. As one Christian mystic said, “First you will speak to God. Then God will speak to you. Finally, neither of you will need to utter a word”. Again, there is a lost Upanishad which Shankara quotes from. V…. went to the teacher and questioned him, asking about Brahman. Again, he must have done a lot of discipline to have heard of Brahman and to have the desire for liberation. The teacher said, “Learn Brahman, O friend”. Then he [the disciple] said, “Teach me” but the teacher sat silent and he [the disciple] said again, ‘Teach me”. The teacher sat silent. He asked again, “Teach me”. The teacher said, “I do teach you but you do not understand. Silent is this Self”. It was a demonstration of the Absolute, beyond words, beyond attributes. Where the teacher was, there was a clear blue sky with no word clouds. Silent is this Self.
© Trevor Leggett
Titles in this series are:
Part 1: Word Clouds and Realities
Part 2: One method of teaching by Shankaracharya is superimposition
Part 3: Yoga theories can be verified by experiment
Part 4: Intensity of enquiry enables transformation
Part 5: Theories may be propounded but cannot be lived through
Part 6: The Great Lord seated in the body
Recap of experimental verification argument: Vedanta is supported by very carefully reasoned arguments