Monthly Message

Finding Inner Light.
Brian Afton
YogaBetsy Discourse Number 23

  One quote attributed to Ben Franklin was that: 'We are all born ignorant but one must work hard to remain stupid.'

  Unfortunately, in our supposedly more advanced age we have a lot more help in maintaining and creating ignorance than people did in Ben's time. We are surrounded by a sea of noise and misinformation coming from all directions which positively dwarfs anything which existed during the colonial period. We have electronic media, the Internet and a veritable Tsunami of experts who profess to know everything and often seem to have very little practical understanding of anything at all or are in the employment of special interests peddling something or other they probably should not be.

  Humans are curious by nature and people have always wanted answers. Unfortunately, answers are of little use unless they are answers to the right questions. That is why it is important to study life's important questions with an authentic tradition. The ancient orders and traditions do not have all the answers but at least they do know many of the right questions and so it is there that our search for light should begin.

  For example, most people today still think that yoga is exercise and, there is that aspect to it, however, in the Himalayan Tradition it is understood that the most important part of yoga lies in developing the hidden powers of the mind and consequently it is meditation and not the postures which are the hallmark of an advanced practice.

  As Swami Rama has said, 'Meditation is not just thinking and worrying while sitting.' We do the postures to develop the strength and stability necessary to enable us to meditate but having developed that we are then able to turn our attention inward. The postures are not an end in themselves but the means by which we learn how to process stress and distraction so that we can gain control, first of our bodies and then of our minds.

  There are four states of consciousness recognized in the vedic traditions: Waking, Dreaming, Sleeping and Turiya or Samadhi. The purpose of meditation is to take us into that forth state which is sometimes called Super Consciousness.

  Modern psychology as most people think of it today probably began with the work of Sigmund Freud at the end of the 19th and early 20th Century. Much has been learned about the brain and the human mind by science since that day but for all of its achievements modern psychology has not yet discovered a practical method of attaining Samadhi or Super Consciousness.

  Moreover, contemporary educators and psychology teachers take issue with some of the definitions and conclusions of the traditional vedic view of mind and consciousness. Nevertheless, the ancient system is consistent within its own context and has proven to be both practical and useful.

  In the traditional vedic view the mind is divided into four parts: Manas, Ahankara, Chitta and Buddhi.  Manas corresponds with sensory experience: Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling and feeling. Chitta is the storehouse of our memories, not only conscious memories but unconscious memories. Ahankara corresponds to the modern word Ego. It is our sense of self identity. It is this part of our mind which equates our sensory experiences, memories and thoughts with a sense of self and our relationship to all of that. Buddhi is wisdom or intellect. It is that part of our mind associated with reasoning and that part which most of us regard as being our entire consciousness though in reality the four parts act together as a unified whole.

  That much would not stretch the limits of modern psychology too far. Where things become difficult is when when we try to reconcile current academic thinking with the deeper meaning of Chitta and where, exactly, the subconscious memories come from. In yoga it is assumed that not all of our memories had their origin in this lifetime.

  But irregardless of when it began, everything we think and do impacts our mind and is stored as an impression in the subconscious. What is not at all obvious is that a lot more than storing memories is being done by our unconscious and subconscious mind. The subconscious mind has one job and that is to take instructions from you. Basically, it is building your thoughts into your body and to a large degree even into your reasoning process.

  The simplest example of this is the case of a boy learning to ride a bicycle. At one point we have a boy who cannot ride a bicycle. A moment later we have one who can. What is not immediately clear is that the boys thoughts, what he learned have been physically hardwired into his body. He is now forever different from the first boy.

  In fact, everything you think and do impacts your mind which is very likely to try and build it into you in one way or another. Even such a thing as watching a 5th rate no account movie changes us. At the very least you will remember it but it will also have changed your body in subtle ways too. The person who watched the movie will be different than the one who did not.

  In Yoga samskaras and vasanas are the mental and physical inputs which impact our brains and the impressions they leave in our minds. With each application of a stimulus the groove it leaves in the mind becomes slightly deeper resulting in the formation of a habit. These habits are not only active in the physical body but affect our thinking itself and as time progresses they become stronger and stronger to the point where they may actually supersede our free will.

  The thing is that a habit is executed automatically. It bypasses logic and is done before you think about it, if you think about it at all. And this includes reasoning. Much of what the average person thinks of as reasoning is simply a habit repeating itself. Most people do not think very much at all. They recycle the same thoughts, over, and over again and never notice that fact. Much of what they think of as having been reasoned was implanted in them by their culture, their upbringing or worse by the media and fear merchants. Such a person is a slave. They have effectively been stripped of their free will.

  The primary point of yoga is not stretching, it is to give your mind back to you. There are four states of consciousness: Waking, Sleeping, Dreaming and Samadhi or Super Consciousness. In Samadhi one can observe the other three states and consciously bring knowledge up from the unknown part of ourselves. But there is more to it than just that. The mind body connection is complex. As Swami Rama has said, “all of the body is in the mind but not all of the mind is in the body,” and in meditation we will finally begin to contact that part which is not.

  This is difficult ground to discuss with a western audience because Science, in spite of all that it has accomplished in the past, is not likely to shed very much light on any of this, any time very soon. There is a great deal Science does not know about our universe including why it is here and where it came from. The best physical evidence we have indicates that the universe itself exploded into existence some billions of years ago in a big bang. But this, like most Scientific revelations, raises more questions than it answers.

  The universe exploded into existence? INTO WHAT? FROM WHERE? If there was nothing, how could anything have exploded into it? How can nothing do something? It has been suggested that the universe originated in other dimensions beyond time and space which are meaningless to us but this is not an entirely satisfactory answer either and it does not tell us why.

  Also, if you stop and think about it for a moment, nothing is a very troubling concept. We can envision a universe existing without us. But is it even possible for there to be nothing at all: no matter, no Energy, no time, no space? The fact that you exist suggests that it is not and it also suggests that there is a lot more to us and our minds than we have suspected up to this point as well.

  In the eastern traditions Super Consciousness is that part of the mind which is not in the body and lies beyond time and space. This is called Christ Consciousness in some circles and has been attained by only a very few people, so far. But the fact that it has been attained by even one of us means that it is possible for others to do so as well.

  The conscious mind is relatively easy to train and educate but to reach Samadhi or Super Consciousness we must first be able to control the subconscious mind and the flood of thoughts and distractions coming from within and without by the process called meditation.

  If we are systematic and persistent sooner or later our efforts will be met by an infusion of light and we will begin to have some understanding of who we are and why we are here to begin with. In short, meditation is likely to accomplish a lot more than most people think.

© Copyright 2015 Brian Afton 109 South 6th St Olean, NY 14760

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