This is the last article by DAAJI in his series on the fundamental principles of psychology, with its foundation in the ancient wisdom of Yoga, as compiled in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and supported by the modern methods of Heartfulness. So far, DAAJI started the journey from pure consciousness, the foundation of a healthy mind, and then proceeded to explain how the various mental imbalances arise. Along the way, he has also given us solutions to regain mental well-being using the Heartfulness practices.
In this article he explores the vighnas, the 5 conditions that accompany and are symptomatic of the obstacles and distractions. These vighnas are so evident in modern humanity – pain, anxiety, depression and despair, as well as problems with irregular breathing and nervous disorders. In fact, the World Health Organization has said that these symptoms are the epidemic of the 21st century. Finally, DAAJI explains to us how simple daily practices of meditation can dissolve all these imbalances, leading to a focused mind, which in turn leads to a contemplative mind, which in turn leads to harmony and peace, ultimately allowing joy to express itself.
PART 11 – VIGHNAS AND SOLUTIONS
Remember for a moment that the base of your consciousness is pure and still. When you have some time, perhaps this evening when you have wound down from the day, or early in the morning when the surroundings are also still, take a few minutes to dive deep within your heart and find that stillness. And then, during the day, witness for yourself what prevents you from being in that peaceful state all the time. Once we remove all the complexities, our inner nature returns to that peace and stillness. Meditation propels our consciousness towards the core of our being. It is the Center of our existence, and it is present at the center of every atom in our body. Yoga is a journey back home to that state of mental well-being, by removing all the patterning, conditioning, complexities and impurities in our field of consciousness. In short, meditation stills our mind.
In this series, we first explored the normal everyday workings of the human mind within the field of consciousness – the 5 vrittis or tendencies – and how they create patterns and conditioning. The vrittis can either be pure, fostering well-being, health and spiritual growth, or colored, creating entanglement, pulling us towards complexity and impurity. From there we explored the next layer of complexity – the 5 kleshas, the colorings or mental afflictions that take us further away from our center of poise, thus leading to imbalance and suffering.
Then we explored how we move even further away from our still center, into the realm of entropy, complexity and instability, as we become more and more entangled in those patterns and afflictions that play out in our life. At this stage, these patterns and habits become obstacles and distractions to our ongoing spiritual journey; they are known as the vikshepas. And accompanying these vikshepas are the 5 vighnas, the outer symptoms of un-wellness that are presented to health practitioners, psychiatrists and healing centers wordwide.
These 5 vighnas are the chronic diseases of our world! Stress, worry, emotional pain, anxiety and depression are a normal part of life for many people. The statistics on people taking antidepressants, painkillers, sleep medication, as well as self-medicating with illegal drugs and alcohol; the number of suicides; the incidence of chronic lifestyle-related diseases, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, strokes and cancer, are all overwhelming. They are so common that we no longer see them as abnormal. Nor do we realize how much our lifestyles are out of sync with the circadian (daily) rhythms that are hardwired into our physiology.
These daily rhythms determine our optimal sleep and eating patterns. Even the metabolism of our cellular energy follows the rhythm of the circadian clock. When we don’t sync with natural rhythms, the mitochondrial network is compromised and our cellular energy levels decline. Lifestyles with irregular daily rhythms have been linked with sleep disorders, obesity, diabetes, depression, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder. Basically, we are swimming upstream against the current in a lifestyle that is out of sync with nature.
This list of modern symptoms is no different from Patanjali’s description thousands of years ago of the 5 vighnas that accompany the vikshepas. Patanjali’s Sutra says:
1.32: Dukha daurmanasya angam-ejayatva svasa prasvasa vikshepasahabhuvah
Mental and physical pain, anguish and grief, despair
and depression, trembling of the body and nervousness,
and irregular inhalation and exhalation, are the
conditions that accompany the distractions of the mind.
These are the obstacles on the path that distract the mind.
Back in Patanjali’s time, these symptoms were not so commonplace, although the ancient tales like the Odyssey and the Mahabharata show us that they were certainly present back then. Today, however, the vighnas along with the vikshepas are the health concern of our era. In a sense, we have reached an overburdened level of mental complexity and heaviness that requires something radical to bring us back to health and balance.
Difficulties, traumas and suffering are nothing new. In fact, many people today are more comfortable than humans have ever been in the past, but as a consequence our resilience to cope with difficulties seems to be lower than ever. A good analogy is a pair of scissors: we are so saturated with pleasure that we have become numb, like scissors that have become blunt through overuse, whereas our intolerance of pain is like super sharp scissors that cut our emotional heart, because we do everything possible to avoid pain.
Any thought, emotion or action can lead
to a vibrational impression in the field of consciousness,
and when those impressions are repeated,
habits form, creating fixed patterns, which become
more rigid and solid over time as samskaras.
COMPLEXITIES & IMPURITIES:
HOW DO THEY FORM & HOW DO THEY AFFECT US?
In earlier editions of Heartfulness Magazine, I described the spiritual anatomy of a human being, with its physical, subtle and causal bodies, its chakra system, and its sheaths known as the koshas. I have also described how we create complexities and impurities that accumulate at various points in this spiritual anatomy, in the field of consciousness, through conditioning. They accumulate as a result of repeated patterns of feeling, emotion and thought, and these in turn lead to repetitive actions. Actions become habits, creating patterns of behavior that become more and more fixed over time, forming impressions in the subtle body. These impressions are known as samskaras.
As the old English proverb says:
Sow a thought and reap an action,
Sow an action and reap a habit,
Sow a habit and reap a character,
Sow a character and reap a destiny.
Swami Vivekananda describes this process in his book, Jnana Yoga: “Suppose I go into the street and see a dog. How do I know it is a dog? I refer it to my mind, and in my mind are groups of all my past experiences, arranged and pigeon-holed, as it were. As soon as a new impression comes, I take it up and refer it to some of the old pigeon-holes, and as soon as I find a group of the same impressions already existing, I place it in that group, and I am satisfied. I know it is a dog, because it coincides with the impressions already there.
“When I do not find the cognates of this new experience inside, I become dissatisfied. When, not finding the cognates of an impression, we become dissatisfied, this state of the mind is called ‘ignorance’; but, when, finding the cognates of an impression already existing, we become satisfied, this is called ‘knowledge’. When one apple fell, men became dissatisfied. Then gradually they found out the group. What was the group they found? That all apples fall, so they called it ‘gravitation’. Now we see that without a fund of already existing experiences, any new experience would be impossible, for there would be nothing to which to refer the new impression.”1
Any thought, emotion or action can lead to a vibrational impression in the field of consciousness, and when those impressions are repeated, habits form, creating fixed patterns, which become more rigid and solid over time as samskaras. The forces of soul can bend under the burden of samskaras. These samskaras are the roots of the karmic blueprint of our conditioning. Unless we remove them, we stay trapped in their patterns and we cannot break free, no matter how much we may want to change.
When we combine this understanding with Patanjali’s descriptions of vrittis, kleshas, vikshepas and vighnas, we see how the layers of samskaras form over time, creating emotional heaviness and dysfunction.
How to free ourselves from such a burden? Heartfulness offers a simple, highly effective set of methods to remove these layers and thus reduce the lifestyle maladies that characterize our modern societies. What leads to an anxious mind or a depressed mind? An anxious mind is one without peace, without stillness, always turbulent with disturbances and emotional turmoil. It is symptomatic of a restless field of consciousness, which is like an ocean in a storm, always churning, always reacting, addicted to the highs and lows.
Other symptoms include nervousness, trembling and shaking of the body, and shallow and irregular breathing, sometimes manifesting as panic attacks. Try keeping your breathing calm and deep when you are feeling stressed or emotional. It is difficult, but you can use simple breathing techniques to help you calm down.
How to free ourselves from such a burden?
Heartfulness offers a simple, highly effective set of methods
to remove these layers and thus reduce the lifestyle
maladies that characterize our modern societies.
Our journey in Yoga is to return to the purity and simplicity of consciousness at the Center of our being, and as we divest more and more layers, our mental and emotional state lightens progressively. It is not a linear progression but a spiral progression.
The Heartfulness practices each have an important role to play in this, and most vital to the removal of impressions is the practice of de-conditioning we know as Cleaning. When we sit for Cleaning in the evening, we unload the impressions of the day and create a vacuum in the heart, similar to the way taking a bath washes away dirt from the physical body.
What is being purified? Consciousness, and this has a ripple effect on our perception, bringing clarity, understanding and wisdom. Pure consciousness can more easily make wise choices. In fact, Ram Chandra of Fatehgarh once said, “The soul of a human being will be clean in proportion to the power of discrimination they possess.” The purer the heart, the more wisdom flourishes.
Cleaning is complemented by Heartfulness Meditation. Over time, as a result of meditating in the morning with Transmission, we learn to absorb and carry the depths and fragrance of the meditative state with us throughout our daily activities. In a sense, we are meditating with eyes open, and this creates a field of protection, preventing emotional reactions and judgments, and thus preventing the formation of samskaras. And so the need for Cleaning gradually diminishes and becomes more need-based, as we master the art of remaining meditative during all our activities.
Heartfulness Prayer at bedtime connects us with divine love, helping us to sleep in a deeply profound state, and also allowing us to go deeper in meditation the next morning. When we are flooded with so much love, we naturally have more resilience, and we also prefer to stay connected rather than being pulled to the periphery of our being by the highs and lows of a reactive consciousness.
As we interweave these three practices of Meditation,
Cleaning and Prayer every day, our consciousness is always
being recalibrated to remember its pure state, which is our
constant reference point for mental well-being.
And so, as we interweave these three practices of Meditation, Cleaning and Prayer every day, our consciousness is always being recalibrated to remember its pure state, which is our constant reference point for mental well-being. This we call constant remembrance.
In the older yogic texts, the vikshepas and vighnas were mostly seen as temporary obstacles to spiritual progress, rather than maladies in the general sense as they are often viewed today. Here we will explore both worldviews, to shed more light on how we can work with them going forward.
Patanjali offers the following solutions to all these mental imbalances in his Sutras:
1.32: Tat pratisedhartham eka tattva abhyasah
To remedy this, practice meditation on one principle.
Bringing the mind to one object for some time will dismantle all these obstacles. As the purpose of Yoga is oneness with the Ultimate Being, the object taken up for meditation is complete oneness with God, so that all distractions are removed. Any other object than the Ultimate is itself in flux, and so would not be helpful in this endeavor.
In this context, in Yoga it has always been considered very normal for vikshepas and vighnas to come to most people from time to time along the journey, and the guidance of yogis has been not to mind them when they come, just to keep on practicing, as they will eventually pass. This is true for both mental and physical symptoms, including nervous shaking. It is not that we bury our heads in the sand in an attempt to avoid the presence of obstacles, but rather that we do not indulge in giving too much energy and attention to them.
When Patanjali was alive, there was no yogic process of Transmission or Cleaning, which are both practices introduced by Heartfulness in the last 100 or so years. Both Transmission and Cleaning facilitate and accelerate the process of evolution: Transmission gently draws our attention inward to the object of meditation, taking us deeper and deeper through the dimensions of consciousness to the Center itself; Cleaning removes the obstacles, the vikshepas and vighnas, along the way. Both these practices help to reduce the effects of the vikshepas and vighnas significantly.
In current mainstream society, however, both in the East and the West, the vikshepas and vighnas are not just seen as temporary obstacles to be dissolved and transcended; they have themselves become the focus of our attention. Pick up any newspaper, popular magazine or scientific journal and you will find articles on stress, depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, pain management, or anger management. Culturally, we are focusing our attention on these modern maladies with such intensity that we are going deeper and deeper into them, and it doesn’t seem to be helping. It is like watering the weeds that are choking a garden instead of just letting them die and only watering the plants you want to thrive. It is our choice where we focus our attention – energy flows where attention goes.
So, what if we shift our focus to the real goal of human life, the soul at the Center of our existence, instead of on the obstacles? Would we have the mental health epidemic we have today? Our focus has moved to the periphery and our energies are directed towards the obstacles themselves. As a result, they are magnifying rather than disappearing.
This is not to dismiss the suffering of all those people who are unwell, whose lives are painful, who feel hopeless, and who may see their life as not worth living. Their pain is real. It is just to say that with a shift in perception, with a shift in purpose, with a shift in consciousness, with a different education and training, we can start to heal these problems.
Imagine what will happen when our collective worldview starts perceiving a higher human purpose. Everything will change. All the obstacles will take a back seat and remain simply that – obstacles along the way. They may still need to be overcome, but they will no longer be center stage in our existence. Perhaps that is why Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur famously said, “No country or nation will survive without spirituality as its base, and every nation must sooner or later adopt the same course if she wants to maintain her very existence.” All it takes is a shift of focus towards the higher purpose of human existence once a day in meditation. Such a shift is life changing.
1.33: Maitri karuna upeksanam sukha dukha punya
apunya visayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam
Consciousness is pacified by cultivating attitudes of
friendship towards everyone, mercy and compassion
towards those who are suffering, joy towards those who
are virtuous, and indifference towards those who are evil.
This next sutra is also life-changing if it is understood and followed. In fact, most of our difficulties in daily life come from not following the guidance found in this sutra. It is a vast topic on human relationships, which we cannot cover here, but, as a hint, I can share this much: A meditative mind is always compassionate. A compassionate heart gives birth to finer qualities, like cheerfulness and friendliness. And such a heart avoids making judgments and remains indifferent toward wickedness, evil and badness. The underlying divine laws of Nature associated with this sutra are very well described in Ram Chandra’s book, Commentary on the Ten Maxims of Sahaj Marg.2
Before the current era,
Yoga gave us the philosophy to know
what was needed to reach the highest
states of consciousness, and express
the full divine potential of a human being.
But now, in this current era, a set of simple
practices has been gifted to humanity,
for one and all to reach those same states.
That is the promise of Heartfulness.
Following this, Patanjali then offers various additional ways to pacify consciousness, given that one practice may not suit everyone, but he does not offer any guidance or methods on how to do them. Actually, it is very difficult to find specific methods in any of the yogic literature, as they were generally handed down by word of mouth from Guru to disciple.
It is only in the most recent yogic era, since the middle of the 20th century, when Ram Chandra distilled the Heartfulness practices from all the yogic methods available from ancient times onwards, and made these available to everyone, that we now have a set of practices that can solve our problem of consciousness. It is for this reason that Heartfulness is able to heal humanity, by removing the obstacles to mental well-being that plague our modern world.
Before the current era, Yoga gave us the philosophy to know what was needed to reach the highest states of consciousness, and express the full divine potential of a human being. But now, in this current era, a set of simple practices has been gifted to humanity, for one and all to reach those same states. That is the promise of Heartfulness.
1 Vivekananda, Swami, 1899. Jnana Yoga, chapter 12, ‘The Cosmos, The Microcosm’. Vedanta Press, USA.
2 Ram Chandra, 2019. Commentary on the Ten Maxims of Sahaj Marg. Shri Ram Chandra Mission, India.
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