DAAJI continues his series on the fundamental principles of psychology, with its foundation in the ancient wisdom of Yoga, as compiled in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. But the discussion on consciousness and mental well-being goes much further back, at least to the time of the Ramayana. Lord Ram’s recorded dialogues with his brother Lakshman focused on consciousness, the same is true of the dialogues between Ashtavakra and Raja Janaka from the same era, recorded in the Ashtavakra Gita, and the dialogues of the Rishi Vashishtha with Lord Ram and Lakshman, recorded in the Yoga Sangeeta. Obviously consciousness was an important topic of discussion among the thought leaders of the day. Patanjali was a researcher par excellence, and was able to curate all the knowledge available into the Yoga Sutras. That was thousands of years ago, and today we can take Patanjali’s elegant framework to a new level of understanding thanks to the practices that have evolved in Yoga in the last 100 years to correct these imbalances. Ashtavakra was very direct, and forthcoming, saying, “Know yourself as Brahm, know yourself as perfect consciousness,” while Patanjali takes us step by step in the most practical way. The void is felt in the first approach and the seeker remains clueless as to how to recognize the inner as Brahman.
Although Patanjali provides such well-defined steps in his Ashtanga Yoga, it remains to be seen how a seeker can confidently and masterfully enter the state of meditation and Samadhi. It is easier to follow the first six steps of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara and Dharana, as they are at a physical and mental level. The last two steps of Dhyana and Samadhi belong to the spiritual realm, partly also relating to the subtle bodies. Only through Heartfulness practices can one fully appreciate the spectrum of Samadhi.
DAAJI starts from the base of pure consciousness that results in a healthy human mind. He then proceeds to explain how the various mental imbalances arise, and furthermore gives us solutions to regain mental well-being through yogic practices. In this article he continues to explore the vikshepas, the obstacles to mental well-being and balance. These 9 vikshepas describe so many of the maladies of modern humanity. Here Daaji focuses on avirati and bhrantidarsana, two of the greatest causes of dysfunctional relationships today.
Part 9 – AVIRATI and BHRANTIDARSANA
So far we have seen how complexities and impurities accumulate in the field of consciousness and contribute to mental imbalance. When these layers continue to accumulate without being removed, we move towards a state of mental imbalance, complexity and entropy, leading to all sorts of ailments. These ailments or obstacles are known as the vikshepas in Yoga. Patanjali described 9 of them, and in today’s world we can add a couple more to the list.
Patanjali described the obstacles as follows:
1.30: Vyadhi styana samsaya
anavasthitatvani citta-vikshepah te antarayah
Vyadhi – Disease
Styana – Languor, mental dullness, apathy
Samsaya – Dilemma, indecision
Pramada – Carelessness, haste, indifference
Alasya – Laziness, sloth
Avirati – Absence of non-attachment, sensuality
Bhrantidarsana – False perception, blindness
Alabdha–bhumikatva – Not attaining the destination or stage, lack of determination
Anavasthitatvani – Instability, not retaining the condition
These are the obstacles on the path that distract the mind.
In the modern context, we can add:
Fear of missing out (FOMO)
In this article we focus on avirati and bhrantidarsana.
The sixth vikshepa is avirati, which translates as “absence of renunciation,” or “absence of non-attachment.” Avirati is the result of indulging, of going beyond needs to desires, and of gratifying the senses. It is the opposite to one of the four main sadhanas of Yoga, Vairagya or renunciation. The over-indulging of the senses can be associated with many types of behavior, but it is most often discussed in relation to sexual behavior, thoughts and attitudes, because they involve all the senses.
In the modern world of ready abundance and consumerism in many countries, avirati also relates to other aspects of life, such as our relationship with food, and indulging in addictive or obsessive behaviors towards other things, e.g. TV and digital gadgets, drugs and alcohol. It also underpins our fascination with fashion, interior design and decoration. In fact you could say that today’s fashion and cosmetics industries are the expression of avirati or over-indulgence of our sensory stimuli.
Let’s first explore why it is important to transcend this obstacle in relation to sexual behavior and desire. In Yoga, passion is known as Kama, and it is a divine emotion, necessary for the continuation of the species. If tomorrow we all became celibate, humanity would disappear within 100 years. Kama can never be destroyed, but it is important to know how to master it wisely.
First of all, why does sensual energy build up in our physical system? As children, our creative energy is applied to many different activities – play, art, music, dance, storytelling, imagination, problem-solving, and so many other things. Around the age of fifteen, a lot of this creative energy is channeled into procreative energy.
Where does this energy come from? It accumulates in our system when we eat food, drink water, and take in energy from the sun and other sources. In many of us, it accumulates in the lower chakras, as it cannot easily move up into the higher chakras unless and until they are awakened. These lower chakras govern our basic instinctual survival nature, and they are known as the mooladhara, swadisthana and nabhi chakras.
When our energy is centered in these lower chakras, we function like other animal species, with our focus on basic survival instincts: eating to survive, competing with others for resources, and procreating for the survival of the species. There is a very big difference, however, between other animals and human beings. Most animals eat simply to survive – they don’t take more energy than is required. Similarly, most animals have a defined breeding season – once a month, once every few months, once a year etc., so that the number of young born is well regulated and the species manages it’s population size naturally. They utilize the energy input and output in a very regulated fashion that has developed through years of evolutionary process. Human beings, on the other hand, have distorted the natural patterns and cycles because of desire.
Because of the build-up of energy in the lower chakras, sex acts like a safety valve, a release, in which the energy taken in is released back into nature, and the build-up is dissipated.
Our relationship with food is also associated with the lower chakras, but instead of dissipating energy, eating adds to the energy balance, compounding the problem. And over-indulgence in food can lead to blockages in the energy flows of the human system, as the pranamaya kosha becomes burdened. This is one of the reasons why fasting can be so beneficial in balancing the human system.
Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh wrote about this balancing of energies in a letter to one of his associates in 1924, saying, “Let us observe keenly our anatomical structure and understand the various faculties active within the human body. Let us consider only two of these in the first phase of our study. These are the two basic instincts: satisfying hunger and thirst and satisfying the carnal desire, which is rampant.
“The feelings of hunger, thirst and the need for sleep indicate that there is deficiency of nutrition or water, or that the body is tired, lacks strength, and needs rest and recuperation. This results in the desire to satisfy that feeling, which is fulfilled by Nature through the mind and senses. In Hindi, this desire is called kama shakti, the force of passion or sensual desire.
“Corporal desires are also part of kama shakti, and relate to the instinctual need to reproduce. But the other limb of the same kama shakti is subtle, and does not fulfill the deficiency, instead ejecting the surpluses and fulfilling the deficiencies. So, the human seed or seminal fluid, which accumulates in a cavity in the body until there is no more room, is ejected by the subtle force. Finally if this essence, which is thrown out of the body, is implanted in a fertile womb, the other wish of nature is then fulfilled, namely, that from one there become many.
“Surplus and waste substances that accumulate for long periods in the body breed poisonous matter. This you can witness as the result of constipation or of being unable to urinate. But an excess of semen creates a sense of embarrassment and affects the wisdom of the heart.”
Energy is transmuted into more and more subtle states.
Matter becomes energy and eventually it becomes absolute:
physical becomes subtle becomes causal.
The most peripheral and complex eventually becomes
central and pure.
By doing a regular yogic practice with the help of a capable Guide, we are able to shift the fulcrum of energy upwards.
This happens in Heartfulness from the very first meditation sessions with a trainer, when the heart chakra is awakened. The yatra or inner journey is activated, and as the chakras are traversed, the center of energy moves upward, so that the human system becomes a transformer. Energy is transmuted into more and more subtle states. Matter becomes energy and eventually it becomes absolute: physical becomes subtle becomes causal. The most peripheral and complex eventually becomes central and pure.
In addition, Heartfulness offers a simple morning practice know as Point B Cleaning, which is done first thing in the morning in order to manage the build-up of sensual energy. It is practiced for five to seven minutes as follows:
Fix your attention on Point B and imagine that all impurities and heaviness are going out of Point B from the front of the body. Imagine that as this process is going on, the glow of the soul begins to appear from behind.
Just as celibacy is not the natural state, at the other extreme, passion can also get out of hand and end up in sex addiction or perversion. Instead of either extreme, the procreative energy is managed and balanced. For this purpose, the cleaning of point B works as a passion detox or sex detox, so that sensual desires are no longer overwhelming. Imagine the harmony that would result in human societies if people practiced this technique daily!
Life then takes on a different dimension and a new meaning. Nature transmutes to sequentially higher stages of supernature; consciousness transmutes to sequentially higher stages of superconsciousness. This is how our being expands, and our subtle bodies can disengage from their close attachment to the physical body. The center of our pranamaya kosha, of the energy flows in the human system settles in the heart, where it belongs, the middle link of our existence.
Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh wrote: “The heart, being at the center, functions to absorb the effects of the higher and lower regions, which is its characteristic.” He demonstrates this in a simple diagram:
As each chakra awakens, with the support of the Guide’s Transmission, the energy moves higher and higher, and sensuality is no longer the driving force.
Sex offers a more physical form of ecstasy, because it involves the outer senses and desire. When love is also there, it is not purely physical; it can also involve subtler aspects, but it is still at a lower level. Higher bliss, known as ananda in Yoga, which emerges naturally with the spiritual journey, transcends lower pleasure. The more subtle it is, the more potent. That is why yogis have run after bliss, and extolled it so much. But they can also indulge in desiring the ecstasy of these subtler forms of bliss. Avirati is perhaps even more of an obstacle in these higher realms, as it is so potent.
Many seekers have been caught in this trap of meditating to find their bliss. Many wait for those intoxicating states of consciousness that can be found in deep meditation, in various stages of Samadhi. As a result, they stop there – they are not willing to renounce this bliss to go beyond it to the Absolute state. In such cases, meditation is also like a drug for ecstasy. This is one of the biggest hurdles in the spiritual journey – moving beyond satchidananda to higher states of Reality and nothingness. As Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur once said, “I feel irritated to see someone acclaim satchidananda. This is like a worm feeding on cow dung and admiring its flavor. The satchidananda state is nothing compared to laya avastha.”
Even in a marriage, over a lifetime together, the pleasure and bliss in each other’s company becomes more and more subtle, until eventually it reaches a stage of apparent nothingness. Some time back, I was lucky enough to observe an elderly couple taking a stroll along the river in Princeton, New Jersey, their steps totally in sync. You could see they had been together a long time. They didn’t need to speak much, communicating their togetherness in the subtlest ways. They settled on a park bench overlooking the river, pulled out a flask of tea and some sandwiches, and together enjoyed their lunch in perfect silence. Their movements were in tune – the way she poured the tea was full of gentleness and care, as was the way he received the cup. They ate their sandwiches and enjoyed the stillness of the riverside.
They had reached a stage in their marriage of purity in connection and communion. This is the other end of the spectrum from the days of young love, when a couple is more physical and verbal in their demonstration of love. Now, extrapolate this evolution to a higher dimension altogether, and you will have some idea of where we may be headed with seeking subtlety in the spiritual realm.
The seventh vikshepa is bhrantidarsana, meaning false perception, delusion or blindness. It is the opposite to another one of the four main sadhanas of Yoga, known as Viveka or discernment. If we define consciousness as the degree of perception, when we falsely perceive it interferes with our consciousness and its evolution.
In fact, Viveka and Vairagya are the foundation of mental well-being, and come about naturally as a result of yogic practice. Both avirati and bhrantidarsana arise when we go in the opposite direction – towards dissonance, disharmony, entropy, separation and complexity.
How does false perception arise? And how do we distinguish what is false and what is true? In order to understand this, we need to go back to the beginning. Try to imagine the original state of our being, where there is only stillness, nothingness and total peace. From that Center everything we think and do emanates. We can call it the default position, the zero position, the balanced state. Of our three bodies, it is our soul that is at home in that Center, in the balanced state of nothingness.
Contrast that with the interplay of senses, thoughts, feelings and tendencies that draw us out into the world of movement and thinking, creating the various vrittis in the field of consciousness. But our soul is also embodied, and is connected with the physical body, so the soul, the atman, is also involved in movement and thinking (atman: ath means ‘movement’ and man means ‘thinking’). The soul is just as much at home with movement and thinking as it is with stillness. There is a constant flux between stillness and activity, between activity and repose.
In Yoga we try to maximize the potential of all three – stillness,
thinking and movement. To do this, we do two things: turn our
attention inwards during meditation towards the stillness of the Center,
and refine our outward activities so that our thoughts and movement
are in tune with our inner Nature. Then they are conducive to
evolution, happiness and balance.
Therefore, in Yoga we try to maximize the potential of all three – stillness, thinking and movement. To do this, we do two things: turn our attention inwards during meditation towards the stillness of the Center, and refine our outward activities so that our thoughts and movement are in tune with our inner Nature. Then they are conducive to evolution, happiness and balance. We cannot rest in stillness all the time, and that is also not the aim of Yoga, which is just as much about skill in action. So instead we learn to integrate stillness and activity in our daily actions.
In this combination of stillness and activity, lived out in purity and simplicity, the soul can shine, radiating inner joy and happiness. When the waves of the vrittis calm down during meditation, we see our true nature. As we master the art of meditation, we then can externalize that true nature into our daily activities. This is another one of the specialties of Heartfulness – to carry the meditative state with us into the day, into the other 23 hours of the day when we are not meditating.
What complicates and pollutes the purity of the balanced state? The impressions that are activated and then accumulate in our heart-mind field of consciousness, as the vrittis become colored and repetitive, forming a web of complexity that is then mirrored in the neural networks and pathways of the nervous system. These we call samskaras, and they create cognates by which we perceive the world – layer upon layer of them – so that our perception can be likened to looking through many lenses of different colors, until eventually we cannot see clearly at all.
If we are not regularly removing these impressions, it will be like driving at night through heavy fog; we see only a few feet in front. There is no clarity, no vision, and no larger perspective. It is like the old English proverb, “You can’t see the wood for the trees.” More specifically, as per the spiritual anatomy of Heartfulness Yoga, it is only once the 5 chakras of the Heart Region have been purified and traversed, up to the throat chakra or air point, that real clarity and discrimination – Viveka – become the natural state of being. In fact, Viveka is not as simple as distinguishing between right and wrong; it is also distinguishing between two right things and knowing which is more appropriate. True Viveka enables us to discriminate against anything that interferes with our goal or purpose in life.
As a case study of bhrantidarsana, Rohan is 25 years old. He is a very successful engineer living in Silicon Valley, California, with a good salary and a generally healthy lifestyle. He has had a few girlfriends, and each time a relationship ends he feels rejected, hard done by, mistreated and betrayed by women. By now he has come to expect this to happen – feeling that women are using him for his money and success. Everything is always their fault in his eyes.
This makes him sad, because he really wants a permanent committed relationship and marriage. Will he embark on a new relationship with openness, or is he likely to start with the false perception that all women will use and betray him? He is not even aware of this pattern; he is blind to his own prejudice, as it has become an automatic subconscious response. His subconscious cognates will surely sabotage the next relationship from the outset, without him knowing that he is affecting the outcome. Anyone new will gradually be forced to live up to his expectation of failure, unless he becomes conscious of the patterning and chooses to remove it.
How will Rohan change his patterns? The most effective way is to remove the past impressions or samskaras that have accumulated in the subconscious mind. In Heartfulness, this is done daily during the evening practice of Cleaning. After a few months of Heartfulness practice, Rohan is already noticing big changes in his inner environment. Some of his old habits have already left as a result of the Cleaning practice, and he has learnt simple ways to change his behavior. Gradually, he is mastering his emotions, and approaching life with positivity and confidence, along with more openness and humility. Through Heartfulness Meditation and Prayer, he is also learning to listen to his inner voice through the heart, develop clarity and make wise decisions. His heart is opening and becoming more generous. The obstacles are melting away, one by one.
In the next article, we will take up the vikshepas of alabdha-bhumikatva, anavasthitatvani, FOMO and digital distraction.
Article by DAAJI (Kamlesh Patel)
November 04, 2019
October 03, 2019
September 01, 2019