In this series of articles, DAAJI explains the fundamental principles of yogic psychology, with its foundation in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. He explains Patanjali’s descriptions of the human mind and the various mental imbalances, and furthermore gives us solutions to regain mental well-being through yogic practices. In this article he starts to explore the vikshepas, the obstacles to mental well-being that have arisen because of the accumulation of samskaras in our system. These 9 vikshepas describe so many of the maladies of modern humanity. Here Daaji focuses especially on the first two, vyadhi and styana.
PART 7 – VIKSHEPAS: VYADHI AND STYANA
Remembering the fundamental principle of yogic psychology: our underlying mental state is one of purity and stillness. This stillness is at the Center of our existence, like the eye of the tornado, and is present in every fiber of our being, at the center of every atom. Yoga is all about our journey home to that Center, and we start by removing all the complexities and impurities in our field of consciousness.
In this series so far, we have seen how complexities and impurities start to accumulate, by exploring the normal everyday workings of the human mind – how the 5 vrittis work in the field of consciousness. Some of the vrittis are pure and in sync with mental balance, while others are colored and take us away from that pure, balanced state. Then we explored the next layer of complexity – the 5 kleshas or mental afflictions that take us further away from our Center of balance and result in suffering.
Now we continue further away from the Center, into the realm of entropy, complexity and instability, as we become more and more entangled in those afflictions playing out in our daily lives. We create behavioral patterns and habits through the accumulation of samskaras, and these lead to all sorts of ailments. Yoga calls these ailments or obstacles vikshepas. Patanjali described them as 9 types in his Yoga Sutras, a few thousand years ago. In this day and age we can add a couple more to the list.
We have already discussed the need to spend some time every day focused inward on the core of our being, of our existence, in order to counteract the entropy that would otherwise take us outward into entanglements, suffering and afflictions. That is what we do in Heartfulness Meditation – we turn inward to our heart. It is simple: when we direct the mind towards the heart, we move towards balance, peace, stillness and harmony; when we direct the mind outward into the external world, without a strong connection to the heart we encounter more and more entropy and instability.
Daily life is the interplay of the two currents – the outward and inward flow of energy and attention. Once we are well established in our inward connection with the heart, it permeates our being and oozes out into every aspect of life, so that we are able to avoid the pull of outward entropy. This is the most preventative approach to mental health we could possibly take. Imagine if every young person knew how to do this before embarking on the journey of life. How different the world would be.
Now, what happens when we don’t have that inward awareness with attention or connection developed, when we are not centered in the core of our heart? We become like leaves tossed about in the wind. Whatever colorings or afflictions are there in our system become more complex and manifest as the vikshepas, the obstacles and distractions to our further progress. Patanjali described these obstacles as follows:
1.30: Vyadhi styana samsaya
anavasthitatvani citta-vikshepah te antarayah
Vyadhi – Disease
Styana – Languor, mental dullness, apathy
Samsaya – Doubt
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
They are the obstacles that distract the mind.
In the modern context, we can add two more to the list:
fear of missing out (FOMO),
and digital distraction.
The first of the vikshepas is vyadhi or disease. Here Patanjali means physical dis-ease, where the system is away from ease. Where does disease start? Rarely does it initiate in the physical body itself, unless it is the result of an accident or physical trauma. Generally, it starts in the sheath of prana, in the bio-energy field known as the pranamaya kosha in Yoga.
The pranamaya kosha is the sheath where we experience the flow of energy within us, and with the world around us. Yogis describe the energy flow according to five energetic processes (karmendriyas) and five energy flows (pranas):
The sheath of prana is subtler and more refined than the physical sheath and is not glued to it. It envelops us like an energy bubble, creating the aura. The chakras of the subtle body are associated with this sheath. Because it is affected before any physical illness occurs, traditional healing systems like acupuncture and acupressure work on the energy meridians. Whenever an imbalance or illness happens, the first kosha to be compromised is usually the pranamaya kosha. Sometimes we can even predict the health of a person just by looking at the aura around their face, and disturbances in this bio-energy sheath have also shown up in Kirlian photography months before any physical disease manifests. Kirlian photography also captures unique images of individuals after meditation, with newer levels of consciousness affecting the aura in a positive way.
It is our attitude that affects our pranamaya kosha to a large extent. When this kosha is light and shining, our overall health is benefited. We radiate whatever state we have in our energy sheath, whether that is a loving joyous feeling or a negative feeling. When we are stressed, angry, or emotionally reactive, we need more energy. As a result, the pranamaya kosha is activated and this activates the sympathetic nervous system: our heart rate goes up, our breathing changes, and our body goes into its stress response. And today, stress is the great epidemic of the early 21st century, leading to all sorts of other chronic diseases, both physical and mental.
This is one of the reasons why pranayama came into being in Yoga – to balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. When our sympathetic nervous system is activated by stress, we can calm ourselves by activating the parasympathetic system through the Chandra nadi. And when we need to be more active and engaged, we can activate the sympathetic system through the Surya nadi. We are able to bring about balance.
The pranamaya kosha is not easy to refine, because here the ego mixes with consciousness, and that can be a volatile mix! All our energetic processes and cognitive senses derive their energy from this sheath, which also regulates our waking consciousness. Emotions like passion and anger are nourished by it. Fights and conflicts result from its misalignment, and we may become very egotistical if it is not refined. Excessive desire and materialism also upset the balance of the pranamaya kosha, leading to dis-ease. Per contra, moderation of emotions and mental faculties harmonizes the pranamaya kosha, which in turn harmonizes the physical body. The Heartfulness practices, including Point A Meditation and Point B Cleaning are very beneficial in refining this kosha and thus, ultimately, in preventing disease.
Continuous mind chatter, likes and dislikes, attraction and repulsion, all make this sheath unstable. So it helps to cultivate a smooth way of speaking, gentle body language, and a gracious inner attitude. Heartfulness practices provide the foundation for this moderation. It is our reactions of likes and dislikes that create the first vibration or stir in the field of consciousness, which affects point C, the strategic point or landing point for samskaras into our system. To prevent point C from being affected by likes and dislikes, try to maintain a meditative state throughout the day, like a beautiful lotus flower resplendent and contented in a dirty pond.
The word for health in Sanskrit is swasthya,
meaning ‘to be centered in one’s Self’.
In English, also, the word ‘health’ is from
the same root as the words ‘whole’ and ‘holy’.
When we are healthy, centered and whole,
the energy in our pranamaya kosha
circulates freely, without blockages.
When we are humble and respectful towards everyone, no matter what their status in life, including young ones and the elderly, and when we constantly dive into a state of insignificance and curb the ego, we find that this sheath becomes more and more refined. It finds its true luster when we have totally refined the ego to its original purity.
As we have already discussed, Heartfulness Cleaning removes the underlying samskaras, cleaning the complexities and impurities in the field of consciousness at the vibrational level, and this significantly reduces the volatility of the pranamaya kosha.
The word for health in Sanskrit is swasthya, meaning ‘to be centered in one’s Self’. In English, also, the word ‘health’ is from the same root as the words ‘whole’ and ‘holy’. When we are healthy, centered and whole, the energy in our pranamaya kosha circulates freely, without blockages. Energy is not dissipated entropically, and is perpetually recycling. And this is important because we also need energy to reach the Center – we need escape velocity, and that requires a healthy body and a healthy mind.
This aspect of careful utilization of energy gives us a clue as to why the Asanas for meditation are cross-legged with feet and hands turned inward, with a straight back and closed eyes. The body dissipates energy easily through the fingers, feet and eyes. When our hands are gently clasped, and our feet are crossed, they form closed circuits and energy is conserved. Open eyes actually dissipate the largest amount of energy from our pranamaya kosha, and when we close our eyes this energy is conserved well.
When the spine is straight, we conserve energy in another way. With the body and head upright, gravitation doesn’t lead to more energy being dissipated than needed. Even when they are balanced lightly on top of our necks, our heads weigh around 5 kilograms. When the head is straight and balanced, it will feel almost weightless. But when our heads fall forward during meditation or at other times, 15 degrees of movement away from the balanced position adds 12 kilograms to the weight of the head, and 60 degrees of movement adds 27 kilograms of strain on the neck and shoulders. So it is important to stay upright, steady and balanced in a relaxed way during meditation.
Now, let’s move to another level of functioning entirely: imagine the role Transmission or pranahuti plays in regulating the bio-energy sheath and directing our attention toward the Center, away from the entropy of afflictions and obstacles. In the very first Heartfulness Meditation, a person can dive deep into Samadhi because of Transmission, because it is the subtlest energy emanating from the core of our heart itself. While it requires a Guide of the highest caliber to infuse Transmission into our hearts in a masterly way, so that it acts as a catalyst in our system, the process is simple. The Guide is taking the prana of prana itself, the ultimate form of energy – so subtle that it has no hint of actual energy left in it – and is utilizing it to transform us from the inside out. Through Transmission we learn how to stay connected. It gently entices us from the core of our heart itself, so the connection becomes more and more effortless. In fact it is an effortless antidote to our individual entropy.
The second of the vikshepas is styana, meaning – languor, apathy and mental dullness. Apathy is one of the greatest obstacles to any endeavor, as it is a state in which we waste energy. Our energy is drained, we go round and round in circles, and we may talk a lot but it does not translate into doing. We lose interest, and without interest nothing is possible. What does the word ‘enthusiasm’ mean? It comes from the Greek word enthousiasmos, meaning ‘possessed by God, inspired’. Transmission is another way of infusing Divinity into our hearts, inspiring us, enthusing us, so that we have interest. With Transmission apathy can disappear overnight. The source of all energy, the source of all vitality, the life in life, is being infused into us so subtly and so gently. It is like a tree that has been thirsting for water all through the hot dry summer, and one day the monsoon rains arrive. The level of vitality in that tree will improve instantly. Similarly, when we receive Transmission, life takes on a new level of vitality. The Transmission nourishes our soul and the ripple effect is so palpable, comforting our heart, mind and body.
Even still, the need to conserve energy is there, because if we keep on dissipating energy we will lose the vitality we receive through Transmission, and we will deflate like a balloon that has been untied. The balloon will be inflated then deflated, inflated then deflated, inflated and deflated. What a waste if nothing is retained after each meditation! That is one reason why it is important to sit for a few minutes after Heartfulness Meditation and absorb the inner condition received, making an attempt to be one with it. It allows us to acquire it, enliven it, imbibe it, become one with it, in union, so that it does not dissipate. That way we make the most of every opportunity.
Lastly, Swami Vivekananda has beautifully explained that it is our consciousness, our “chit, our mind-stuff, that is the engine that draws in the prana from the surroundings, and manufactures out of this prana the various vital forces: first of all the forces that keep the body in preservation, and lastly thought, will, and all other powers.” So imagine how effective this chit will be in utilizing prana if we keep it in a purified refined state, regularly immersed in Transmission in daily meditation. Now, compare that with a chit weighed down by mental afflictions, obstacles and heaviness. There is no comparison. With a pure consciousness vitality is effortless, while with a consciousness that is complex, impure, entangled, and has succumbed to entropy, apathy is almost inevitable because energy is always dissipating. It is as difficult as swimming against the current.
So imagine the impact of Transmission,
the most potent form of prana, on neuroplasticity!
Imagine the inspiration, the creativity, and the
expansion of potential for continuous improvement
and scaling new heights that comes by the simple act of
meditating every morning with pranahuti.
Swami Vivekananda goes on to say that it is also prana that makes new neural pathways in the brain: “With every fresh idea we make a new impression in the brain, cut new channels through the brain-stuff.” So imagine the impact of Transmission, the most potent form of prana, on neuroplasticity! Imagine the inspiration, the creativity, and the expansion of potential for continuous improvement and scaling new heights that comes by the simple act of meditating every morning with pranahuti.
In the next article, we will explore more of the vikshepas, and how they can be transcended through the simple practices of Heartfulness, bringing greater and greater mental well-being.
Article by DAAJI (Kamlesh Patel)
August 30, 2020
August 30, 2020
July 30, 2020