Ancient Science: Yoga – Practice of a theory
I will not dwell too much on what Yoga is considered as in today’s world. There are a dime and dozen sites that talk about this. The explanations vary anywhere from being just exercises for the body, to a union of spiritual and physical, to a way to understand and be one with the soul and so on the definitions go. Any of these definitions can be taken based on the limitations applied to what is practised. But, what I want to bring out in this blog is a different concept from all this. The perspective is with respect to what I have written as the basis of all ancient Sanskrit literature, i.e., “the science of truth“. If all ancient literature describes the science of the truth, then it stands to reason that Yoga, (which as any website will tell, is from the root word “yug” which means “connected”), should be the practical part for the theory of what is described in these ancient science.
The most intriguing implication yet, of tatvamasi is with respect to the study of the unmanifested. It implies, If, that remote, that I am experimenting on, is equivalent to this “I”, then experimenting with this “I” should be the same as the experiment with that “remote”.
An observer is only required if the process of knowing goes in the sequence of steps as: experiment with remote objects -> trigger thought formation -> understand -> know. Such a sequence of knowing obviously comes associated with the problems of the observer effect. This is “the externally triggered knowing”, the same as “study with the manas” as we described before.
When we look at it from the perspective of the unmanifested, the experimented is the same as “I” or what is in that external is also within me. So, the sequence of knowing can as well have been reversed and been in the steps: “I am that” -> knowing -> understanding -> thought formed. This is an unravelling process, that starts with “I am that” and hence “I transform to know”. Here, we are never observing “that”, we are only being “that”. Hence the observer effect does not happen.From A Research of Shiva: The Enigma
Two questions arise here: “How can I become that?” and “how can I study and translate that which I am, to an understandable thought”? This is the practical side of the theory. The modern way of conducting an experiment and learning is not going to work here. The way an experiment is conducted has to change. If we go by tatvamasi, we conduct an experiment with and within ourselves to know and then allow the thought to form from that knowledge. This I believe is what is described in Yoga.
For example, to understand “force”, “reactive force”, “gravity” and “centre of gravity”, what best teacher is there, other than to disturb the equilibrium established on the body and experimenting? Giving it a description comes later. First is the knowing, then the description. The ekapada-asana shows this concept very well. The concept is best known when this asana is done with the eyes closed and ears plugged. First stand steady by focussing approximately in the heart region of the body, towards the side of the leg on which you are standing. Now move the focus slowly vertically and horizontally i.e., from the tip of fingers to the tip of the toes and from left to right, while simultaneously analysing the various effects of the changing focus. What is observed when doing this is that balance is lost as focus moves. This implies that the centre of gravity is shifting with focus and not stable. The question is “why”? Once a centre of gravity is established for the changed form of the body, it should retain and hence bring stable balance. But why does that not happen and the centre of gravity change with focus? We seem to have controlled the distribution of forces in the various parts of our body, by changing focus? Thus, it brings us to the very core question, “Which force is the reactive force? The force applied by the body or gravity?” And another core question, “What is weight? If I can redistribute forces, then is my weight staying constant?” This is the type of learning that is promoted in Yoga.
Another example: Understanding fluid pressure. Again what best to understand this than a practical application. The Padmasana, the vajrasana and various sitting postures show this. Sit still with the eyes closed and the ears plugged and observing the fluid flow in your body which is visible as pressure sensation in the brain controlling various parts of the body. When no pressure is present, there is no detected sensation. The Padmasana applies pressure on the arteries of your leg affecting the flow of blood to the foot. The subsequent numbing of the feet and the pressure on the knees, the pressure on your spine changes the sensation in the brain and helps you know (without description) fluid pressure. Compare this to the sensation when you do a ardha padmasana and the concept is known. Combine say a vajrasana with Bhastrika and you can know the pumping of fluid by observing the heart at the end of Bhastrika. To reiterate, this is “knowing”, not “describing”. What we learn in book and scientific texts are descriptions. Practical knowledge can only come by the sensation. When practical knowledge comes from observing external observations, such as flow of water through pipes, what is got is a translated knowing, pressure translated as visible image, sound heard etc, which are reactions. When practical knowledge comes from observing it within yourself, the translation is not present, it is a direct formation of a thought of the concept.
What is important to note in these examples is that I have let a thought form from knowing as opposed to having a descriptive thought direct the knowing. As, I have indicated in my book “Surya Siddanta: Emergence of empirical reality” in the chapter “Changing scientific enquiry“, we need to bring “thought” and “change” as a part of any scientific enquiry that we do. Scientific experiments cannot be devoid of these. When, we do the above kind of experiment, “thought” is formed due to knowing and hence automatically incorporated and change is what drives “knowledge” that forms the thought and hence is automatically taken into consideration in the description of a concept. The major drawback of this type of study is the transfer of knowledge is very erroneous and difficult, which can be a reason that this knowledge is lost over time.
I will not describe in-depth any of the asanas or yogas. My intent to write this blog is to bring out the reasoning behind Yoga, so that the knowledge can be applied to any of the practice explained in any of the Yoga websites to achieve the end goal. The end goal being to know and form the thought of what is explained of the truth.
When we look at reality around us, we need to recognise that there are two aspects to it: The first is the appearance which follows certain established order of existence and by understanding and conforming to this established order we can change the appearances to appear as other things. The second is the underlying mechanisms that drive this appearance to be what it is. The study in modern science is solely related to the first, i.e., study of appearances. In Yoga, the study of appearances is done using the asanas. Also, I believe Yoga is not the effective tool for the study of appearances. It is useful to understand the basics and that is it. Yoga cannot be used to take appearances beyond what it is. But, for studying the second part of reality which is studying the “underlying mechanisms” that drive the appearance, Yoga is a better tool than that which modern science provides. While asanas of yoga is most commonly practices type, yoga also includes pranayama and various meditation techniques. The pranayama and meditation are thought regulation techniques. Thought control is what is necessary to study the underlying mechanisms.
As I have been describing in my previous blogs on ancient science, “thought” is the primary construct that is assembled together to form reality around us. As I have also written, we very rarely understand what thought is. We use thoughts to create a lot of technology, but what thought is, we do not know. Also, as I have written, thought cannot be studied with external tools, since doing so will just form other thoughts and not give us anything related to the underlying mechanisms. To study a “thought”, we need to concentrate on a single formed thought and delve deeper into it to see the thread of formation. How can this be done? On a high level if we think about it, what we need to do is (similar to debugging a single thread of an application):
- Clear out all thoughts and be in a state of no-thoughts or state of shunya
- Form the single thought that we want to study
- Weed out or prevent the reactive thoughts that occur due to that single thought
- Concentrate on the components of that single thought and trace it
This is where the pranayama and meditation techniques come into picture. Pranayama helps in the first step and various meditation techniques help in the subsequent three steps. Pranayama is regulating the breath. A number of studies has shown us how regulating the breath helps maintain our brain to work in steady states such as alpha, beta or delta states. We ourselves would have experienced how regulating breath and taking deep breaths helps prevent panicking. We would have noticed that the best way to prevent the brain from thinking of one topic is to focus it away from it and focus on another topic. For example, we have seen when we go on long walks, we are able to focus and think about and solve many problems. The meaningless action of walking which comes automatically and does very less brain activity, takes away the brain from worrying about doing something to keep yourself busy, regulates the brain to the pace of walking and focuses it on the problem at hand. When you want to prevent the brain from thinking of anything at all, what should it focus on? Wouldn’t it be better to focus on some meaningless action such as breathing which is automatic and does not require any brain activity? This is pranayama. Thus the first step when we start meditation is pranayama or any technique that will calm the brain and clear out the thoughts.
The subsequent step is to form a single thought to study. This again is very difficult, because we notice that as we remove the concentration from the breath, all the thoughts that were shelved come racing back. So, how do we prevent this. This then is the first step that is promoted by most meditation techniques. Sit silently and let any thought that occur to occur and just observe it without preventing it. This again is supported by many experiences that we would had. Someone tells us, do not think about XYZ and voila, we find we are thinking about it. In fact, we find we are taking it further and further like a string into other thoughts related to it, till we end up in some far away related thought. The best way to prevent this, is to look at your thoughts that occur without any interest or any prevention. And so on, the meditation techniques go. The ultimate goal is simple, to be able to form a single thought and follow through the thread to go to the source of creation. This is what is preached in Yoga. So, yoga is a practice to know the theory explained in ancient science.
Typically, the classification given is Jnana (knowledge) Yoga, Bhakti (division) Yoga and Karma (work) Yoga. These are translated as “the path of knowledge”, “the path of devotion” and the “the path of action”. But a literal translation is “connecting to the knowledge”, “connecting to the division” and “connecting to the work done”. So, in fact the various meditation techniques and Yoga are connected to the level to which you can go when you do that meditation. As I have described in “Surya Siddanta: Emergence of empirical reality“, thought gets formed, which forms knowledge, this then forms a network and logic which divides this knowledge and work is done to move it. So, as we connect to the various levels of thoughts i.e., level of work done, or level of division or level of knowledge, we understand and can explore that level. Thus, Yoga allows you to connect to that given level and study that level of formation.