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The Twenty-Four Principles of Samkhya

Originally the three gunas were in complete balance. Prakriti was undis-turbed. This original
condition is known as prakriti-pradhana or mula-prakriti, which is the natural foundation.
When purusha came near, prakriti began to change.
A good analogy of this is you and your car. While you are away, your car just sits there in its
original state. Once you see the car, the desire arises to sit in it, to turn it on. When you and
your car come together, things start to happen. ou begin to dri!e and go places. "oon you
forget your car is not you. #t feels like you. ou can sense e$actly where it is on the road. The
car reacts to the other cars on the road as if it had a mind of its own. #t notices things like
traffic lights and pedestrians, almost as if it
was conscious. "oon you and your car are one and you ha!e forgotten why you e!er got in the
car in the first place.
Once purusha acti!ates prakriti, the first e!olute arises% the first thing to appear out of the
natural foundation of prakriti-pradhana is mahat, the great principle. This is also known as
buddhi or the awakened intelligence. &ahat is intuition, or cognition, but it is not
consciousness. Only purusha is conscious. 'ut, because of mahat(s great intelligence and
luminosity, it is often mistaken for consciousness. )ust as our car can sometimes seem to ha!e
a mind of its own, buddhi can seem to be conscious - it is an illusion.
*rom buddhi e!ol!es ahamkara% the +#-maker.+ Ahamkara creates the sense of self ,with a
small +s+-, also known as ego. #n this respect, ahamkara pretends to be purusha ,which is "elf
with a big +"+-. "o now your car starts to act as if it(s the boss. Perhaps here our analogy
begins to break down, but you probably know some people for whom their car is the boss. A
small scratch on the fender can send some owners into great angst, and they act .uickly to
repair the superficial damage. #t is at the le!el of ahamkara that subjects and objects arise. +#+
becomes the subject, and the rest of the world pro!ides its objects. At this le!el indi!idualism
arises because inherent in the subject/object duality there is separation. 012
Purusha and Prakriti are completely distinct, making the Samkhya philosophy dualistic.
*rom ahamkara e!ol!es manas, the mind, and the ten senses ,the indriyas-. &anas here is the
lower mind, which we ha!e seen in the kosha model. #t is often described as the ele!enth
sense. 032 Also out of ahamkara arise the fi!e elements ,bhuta- and the fi!e energy potentials
,tanmatra-. The elements we ha!e seen before4 space, air, fire, water, and earth. The fi!e
energy potentials are new to us. These are the tanmatras, the substances upon which the senses
function. They are what is touched, what is tasted, what is smelled, what is heard, and what is
What has not been e$plained yet are the other senses. "amkhya lists ten. *i!e we are !ery
familiar with4 these are called the +cogniti!e senses+ - listening, feeling, seeing, tasting, and
smelling. The remaining fi!e are the conati!e senses4 speaking, grasping, mo!ing, e$creting,
and reproducing.
With these twenty-four principles, the "amkhya model is complete - a map of the inner and
outer uni!erse is offered to the psychonaut. While the map seems totally impossible to follow
for us normal souls, this is a map bla5ed by those who ha!e gone before us. 6an we really
criti.ue what we ha!e not e$perienced7 'ut that raises the final .uestion4 how do we follow
this map7 What is the practice of "amkhya oga7 8ow can we determine for oursel!es if this
map is accurate or not7
1 -- While there are countless separate and indi!idual purushas in the "amkhya philosophy, these cannot be said
to be either subjects or objects. While indi!idual and separate, they are connected because each purusha is eternal
and infinite. This, howe!er, is one area where "amkhya was found wanting. 8ow can there be countless
indi!idual purushas, each one all-knowing and infinite, without each purusha running afoul of all the other
purushas. "amkhya(s strict adherence to its pluralistic purusha was one of its major downfalls. Another problem
was its atheistic nature4 there is no creator god in this cosmology. 9!ery purusha is e.ual and e.ui!alent to e!ery
other purusha. The final problem with "amkhya was its strict dualism. #f purusha is distinct from prakriti, how
can it e!er become entangled in the first place7
3 -- #t is interesting to consider mind as a sense. What does the mind sense7 6onsciousness7 'ut that is purusha:
Perhaps the sages meant that the mind senses thoughts.
The Samkhya Practice
;iberation is freedom - freedom from prakriti. #t is often called +kaivalya,+ which means
aloofness, aloneness, or isolation. To obtain liberation one must separate from the body
because, despite all its wonderful .ualities, the body is made from prakriti. "eparation is
needed from the mind as well. <emember, prakriti is not just the physical manifestations we
see in life. &emories, thoughts, emotions, and e!en intelligence are all prakriti and need to
be left behind. True liberation, in the "amkhya tradition, cannot be obtained while
embodied. Only after lea!ing the body can one be truly and finally liberated. 'ut, if the
purusha is not cleansed of all its attractions to prakriti, then death is just the beginning of a
new cycle, and the purusha once again becomes attached to prakriti.
To achie!e liberation, the "amkhya yogis employ discrimination and renunciation.
=iscrimination ,known as viveka- is a knowing that is gained through reasoning.
<enunciation is a mo!ing away from e!erything that binds us to this life. While similar to
6lassical oga, "amkhya practice does not focus on samadhi as the main tool for liberation.
'oth practices, howe!er, re.uire a fierce form of asceticism e.ualed only in the )ain
The ascetic practice of renunciation is not for e!eryone.
#n the fertile period, around >??@A?? '.6.9., ideas were being de!eloped and e$changed between
many fields of in.uiry. "amkhya philosophy informed pre-classical yoga, which borrowed from
)ainism, which also influenced both "amkhya and 'uddhism. 9ach philosophy borrowed, tested,
adopted, and discarded ideas and practices from each other. 9!entually a consistent psycho-
cosmological model precipitated out for each philosophical approach.
#n ancient )ainism we find a similar dualism to "amkhya% the purusha is called the +ataman+ or the
+jiva.+ 9!eryone has her ji!a, uni.ue and separate from all other ji!as, just as the "amkhya
philosophy belie!ed purushas are separate. our ji!a is unfortunately stained or colored by its
association with the world of nature. The )ains belie!ed that the only way to clean the tarnish from
the ji!a is through fiercely adopting ahimsa4 non-harming. 9!en breathing harms the molecules of
the air% therefore, masks are worn to protect the air, and to a!oid inad!ertently swallowing an
insect. The most e$treme )ain saints would cease walking, because e!ery step would harm some
microscopic creature. 9!entually the saints would just sit and wait for death to take them. This is a
complete renunciation of the world and all its attachments.
This is similar to the fierce yogi practiced by the "amkhya and 6lassical yogis4 this is total
renunciation. 'ut, in the "amkhya philosophy, renunciation alone will not free the purusha from
prakriti(s grasp. Bi!eka, discernment, is also re.uired. This is knowing the way of the uni!erse, not
intellectually, because the intellect is still prakriti, but at a deeper le!el. Bi!eka de!elops an inner
knowing that discerns the ephemeral from the actual - separating the apparent nature of the world
from its underlying reality. While it is gained through reasoning, !i!eka also de!elops the will to
renounce all that is unreal.
"amkhya was a masterpiece of modeling the ways of the inner uni!erse. The adoption of its
cosmological structure by the 6lassical ogis and 'uddhists testifies to its power. 8owe!er, the
practice of "amkhya, and its underlying dualistic philosophy, was the basis for its e!entual demise.
6lassical oga mo!ed away from "amkhya, and replaced the emphasis on !i!eka with the practice
of samadhi. ;ater yoga schools, starting with Tantra, followed the 'uddha(s path of renouncing the
fierce renunciation practices of the )ains, "amkhya, and 6lassical oga paths. 9!entually all that
was left of "amkhya was the cosmology.
;et(s mo!e on now and e$amine how the two main yoga schools, 6lassical oga and Tantra oga,
and understand mind and all that lies beyond mind.
(Next The ogic Biew of &ind !
The Yogic View of Mind
The model of the inner and outer cosmos created in Samkhya worked so well
that the later schools of yoga adopted it with very little change. The Classical
Yoga model changed the emphasis of the practice, but left the model virtually
untouched. The Tantric school kept the twentyfour principles of Samkhya, but
discovered that the Samkhya yogis stopped their in!uiries too soon. "n top of
Samkhya#s twentyfour principles, the Tantrikas added another twelve that
served to bring together the dualistic universe into oneness. $s time passes, it is
natural that new ways evolve out of the old ways. %et#s look &rst at the way
Classical Yoga viewed the landscape of the mind, and how it taught the yogi to
transcend the ordinary world. Then we will look at how Tantra moved on from
"riya #oga
The oga "utra does not just offer one way to achie!e the goal of yoga% it has se!eral actions
we can perform. At the beginning of the second chapter of the oga "utra we are introduced to
one particular form of yoga called +Kriya Yoga.+ Criya means action, or in this case a
ritualistic approach to yoga. #t has only three steps4 tapas, svadhyaya, and ishvara-
pranidhana. Tapas is the dedicated effort or asceticism needed in order for our practice to bear
fruit. "!adhyaya is the study of ourself, or self-study. This self-study includes knowing the
scriptures and the practices recommended to help us achie!e the goal of yoga. #sh!ara-
pranidhana is a gi!ing up of all the fruits of our labor to a higher cause. #t is surrendering to
something bigger than our small self. 012
These three steps of the Criya oga are not physical. As described, anyone could undertake a
complete yoga practice without doing a single asana. The oga "utra offers the path of Criya
oga as one possible way to reach the goal of a still mind. This is a mental yoga% effort, or
tapas, comes from a strong will. Tapas is an absolute re.uirement for success. "elf-study is
also essential and this comes from looking within, as well as looking without, for guidance.
The last step, ish!ara-pranidhana, is the one that may seem the most foreign to our Western
minds4 to act without regard for the results.
The 'haga!ad-Dita, a small book buried in the midst of the epic poem of #ndia, the
&ahabharata, e$plains, with wonderful imagery, the reason for surrendering the fruits of all
you do to a higher power. The 'haga!ad-Dita contains the teachings of the ;ord Crishna to
his friend, the mighty warrior Arjuna. Crishna attempts to remo!e the delusions affecting
Arjuna, and e$plains that Arjuna cannot do anything unless Dod wants it to be so. =o not feel
pride when you accomplish something meritorious, for what ha!e you really done7 =o not
feel depressed when things do not go according to your desire, for Dod(s desire is always
greater. our only duty is to take the action% lea!e the results in Dod(s hands. This is a hard
lesson to grasp, and e!en harder to put into practice.
#n our yoga practice, things may not always work out the way we hope. "ome days we seem
to be mo!ing backward. 'ut this is only a problem when we e$pect particular results. Di!e up
the e$pectation and just do it. The will, the energy to do it, comes from tapas. Cnowing what
to do comes from self-study. The results are beyond your control. Offer them back to the
source, or to anyone or anything else that may need assistance. "end the benefits of your effort
to someone or something that needs special help right now. That is the power of prayer. That
is the power of faith. Without faith, e!ery spiritual practice flounders.
#n in oga, the results may not be ob!ious for a long time. in tissues, such as our ligaments,
ha!e a lower blood supply to them than the yang tissues, such as our muscles. They don(t
strengthen or lengthen as .uickly as our muscles. Our range of motion may take a long time to
increase, or may not grow at all. 'ut in the end, that is not the real point of the practice. in
oga will help us to be healthy, strong, focused, and open. 'ut all this too, is not the ultimate
point. The ultimate result is outside of our control. #f we succeed in our practice, it is because
of grace from elsewhere. Our job is to simply do the practice.
1 -- #f you look back at the drawing of purusha and prakriti you may notice that there is one particularly large
purusha shown. This larger purusha depicts ish!ara4 the first among e.uals. According to the oga "utra, this is a
special purusha - one that has ne!er been tainted by prakriti. #sh!ara is a lord, a particularly pure purusha, but not
necessarily Dod. #t is not clear in the oga "utra whether this lord is the original creator of the uni!erse or just
the first among the many purushas. What is clear is that ish!ara is not a personal god who will interfere in our
personal life. 8owe!er, ish!ara does ser!e as an inspiration for us.
(Next The Obstacles to oga !
The $%stacles to #oga
The oga "utra warns us about nine obstacles to our practice, called the +antaraya.+ These will
arise in our in oga practice just as they will in any yoga practice. These nine distractions of
our consciousness 012 are4
1. #llness - vyadi
2. ;anguor - styana ,or mental stagnation-
3. =oubt - samshaya
4. 8eedlessness - pramada ,or lack of foresight-
5. "loth - alasya ,fatigue-
. =issipation - avirati ,or o!erindulging-
!. *alse !iews - bhrantidarshana ,or illusions-
". ;ack of perse!erance - alabdhabhumikatva and,
#. #nstability or regression - anavasthitatva
#f one is not healthy, strong, and dedicated, there will be no success in yoga. Although the
oga "utra spends !ery little time talking about asanas and physical practices, it is ob!iously
essential that the body be strong enough to support the practice.
The &ays around the $%stacles
6hanting, or merely contemplating the sacred syllable Om, is one method to !an.uish the nine
obstacles. This is something that can be easily incorporated into the in oga practice. =uring
the long durations of the postures, listen to the sound of the uni!erse4 Om. 8ear the sound in
your head, feel its !ibration in your body.
Other ways around the obstacles include four additional practices4 032
1. *riendliness - maitri
2. 6ompassion - karuna
3. Dladness - mudita
4. 9.uanimity - upeksanam
9.uanimity is e$plained in the sutra as the state of being e.ually mo!ed ,or unmo!ed- by
people who are in pain or happy, or by people who deser!e merit or are unmeritorious. )esus
taught us that e!eryone lo!es her family and friends E lo!e your enemies too. That is true
e.uanimity, true e.uality.
Two other suggestions made in the oga "utra for strengthening our practice are sraddha and
virya4 faith and energy. *aith is the best cure for doubt% energy is the best cure for sloth or
languor. Also, smrti is recommended% memory - reminding oursel!es of times when we were
successful in the past - is e$cellent moti!ation to continue to work hard. <emembering
solutions from our study, or other times in our life when we o!ercame obstacles, are also
functions of memory.
1 -- Also called the $itta vikshepa.
3 -- We will see later that these four practices are also highly recommended in 'uddhism.
(Next The *i!e Cleshas !
The Fi'e "leshas
<ight after the oga "utra describes Criya oga, it e$plains the fi!e reasons we are bound.
These troubles, or afflictions, are known as the kleshas4 012
1. #gnorance ,avidya-
3. 9go ,asmita-
F. Attachment to Pleasure ,raga-
G. A!ersion to Pain ,dvesa-
>. *ear of =eath ,abhinivesah-
These fi!e afflictions are often depicted as a tree. A!idya is the trunk of the tree, and the other
four kleshas sprout from it. The "amkhya emphasis on !i!eka, knowing the real nature of the
uni!erse, is echoed in 6lassical oga(s emphasis on a!idya, or ignorance, as the chief
affliction we suffer. =estroy a!idya and all the other troubles go away.
Asmita is the ego. The problem with ego is not the fact that we ha!e one% it is useful and e!en
necessary to ha!e an ego in order to function and li!e. The problem arises when the ego
belie!es it is the "elf. #f all we do is in ser!ice of the little self, our life will be sorrowful.
When we ser!e our higher "elf, liberation becomes possible.
in oga is especially good at gi!ing us time to practice watching raga and d!esa. As we hold
the poses, as we remain outside our comfort 5one, a!ersion arises. We resol!e not to mo!e,
and instead we simply watch the a!ersion come E and e!entually go. #t goes away only to be
replaced by some new a!ersion. As we finally release the pose we are flooded with pleasant
sensations. The joy of coming out of a yin pose can create attachment. We want to stay and
linger in this wonderful feeling. 'ut, we again simply watch the pleasure, without reacting,
and mo!e on to the ne$t pose.
The practice we do on our yoga mats prepares us to face challenges at other times. We begin
to recogni5e our inner habits. We notice and remark to oursel!es, +Ow E this is a!ersion:+
We notice, saying, +Ahhh E this is attachment:+ Cnowing that these afflictions, or
hindrances, are constantly arising, we can consciously choose to not react to them E or
perhaps to react to them, if that is appropriate. 'ut now, because we are aware, the choice is
consciously made. Our reactions are no longer automatic.
The final klesha is said to be the most difficult to o!ercome4 abhini!esah. This is the clinging
to life. 9!en the most ad!anced yogis may fail to let go of this last affliction. #f at the time of
death there is the slightest hint of the thought, +Ho: # don(t want to goE,+ that person is
doomed to return and try again.
1 -- We will see a similar list in the 'uddhist philosophy called the fi!e hindrances.
(Next Ashtanga - The 9ight ;imbs !
Ashtanga - The
Eight Limbs
Shortly after the Yoga Sutra e'plains the three stages of (riya Yoga, a more
e'tensive practice is given. This is the famous eight limbs of yoga, which has
come to be called )the ashtanga.) *+,
The eight limbs are-
+. Yama
.. Niyama
/. Asana
0. Pranayama
1. Pratyahara
2. Dharana
3. Dhyana
8. Samadhi
There was a fondness in the philosophies of this era to create easy to remember
lists- the &ve vrittis, the &ve kleshas, and the eight limbs. The 4uddha also
employed this techni!ue, as we will discover.
The ashtanga begins with the yamas and niyamas, which are the ethical core of
yoga. These are analogous to the 5estern Ten Commandments, with one
important di6erence. 7oseph Campbell points out that, in the 5est, the Ten
Commandments are a bargain with 8od9 if we conduct ourselves in accordance to
these ten rules, we shall be rewarded in heaven. :eligious people in the 5est
strive and struggle to live according to these rules. "bviously we do not always
succeed, and our failings can cause considerable grief and guilt.
;n the <astern world, Campbell suggests, the ethical precepts of the yama and
niyamas are ways that the spiritually advanced person acts. These precepts are
not meant to be applied &rst, and then, once you master them, you are allowed
to proceed with the other limbs of yoga. :ather, as you progress in your practice
of yoga, you will &nd that your actions will become more and more ethical9 more
and more you will act in accordance to these precepts. 5ith this understanding,
we can strive to live ethically, but when we fail, we are not overcome with guilt or
immobili=ed by grief.
The yamas are practices that govern our outward relationships. *., There are &ve
+. Ahimsa >nonharming?
.. Satya >truthfulness?
/. Asteya >nonstealing?
0. Brahmacharya >living as 8od would live?
1. Aprigraha >nongreediness?
$ll of these yamas can also be found in our relationship to our yoga practice-
5hen we perform asanas, are we truly nonharming our
body, or are we pushing too deep@
$re we honestly watching what is arising, or are we telling
tales to ourselves in order to con ourselves into going too
$steya- $re we stealing calmness from our breath@
$re we performing the practice the way an enlightened
master would perform@
$prigraha- $re we grasping after more than we really need right now@
Aollowing the yamas are the niyamas, which show up in our inward relationship
with our self. $gain there are &ve-
+. Saucha >purity or cleanliness?
.. Samtosha >contentment?
/. Tapas >austerity?
0. Svadhyaya >selfstudy?
1. Ishvara-pranidhana >surrendering to a higher power?
"nce again all &ve niyamas can be developed in our Yin Yoga practice. The Batha
Yoga te'ts suggest that, before beginning your practice, the student should
bathe, evacuate the bowels, and ensure the room is clean and free from bugs.
This is saucha. 5ithout a pure, clean body, our practice will not bear fruit.
Samtosha, or contentment, is also to be practiced. 5ith contentment, there is no
grasping, no attachment or aversion. The &nal three niyamas we have seen
before. These are the three stages of (riya Yoga. */,
The limbs of asana and pranayama will be discussed later in our Courney. The &nal
four limbs of the ashtanga are purely mental practices. Dratyahara develops the
ability to focus9 it is the closing of the sense doors, and a shutting out of all
distractions. Yin Yoga provides many opportunities to practice pratyahara. 5e go
deeply inside and are cut o6 from the distractions of the outer world. Arom here,
dharana is possible. Eharana is concentration. This can be concentration upon an
obCect, a sound, or even a sensation. The breath is a favorite obCect for
concentration during asana or pranayama practice.
Ehyana *0, is meditation- in the state of meditation the obCect of meditation and
the subCect doing the meditation begin to merge. There are no thoughts arising to
interfere with the perception of the obCect and the obCect itself. Bowever, total
oneness has not yet been reached. That occurs in samadhi.
+ Ashta means eight and anga means limbs. Curiously, the Yoga Sutra does not
mention this name, and some scholars feel that the ashtanga was added to the
original sutra hundreds of years later, in much the same way that many religious
te'ts in the 5est were edited and modi&ed by copyists centuries later.
. Many te'ts of yoga describe these yamas. Light on Lie by ;yengar is
recommended for students wanting to learn more. $lso recommended is the The
!eart o Yoga by T.(.V. Eesikachar.
/ ;t is their repetition here that leads some scholars to believe that the
ashtanga was added to the Yoga Sutra centuries after its original compilation.
0 The evolution of the word dhyana is interesting. 5hen the practices of yoga
&ltered into China, the words went with them. ;n the &fth century, the
4odhidharma arrived in China, practicing a special kind of 4uddhist dhyana. The
Chinese called this practice ch#an. ;n the tenth century, 7apanese monks returning
to 7apan after studying this new practice, called this practice Fen. Thus the
7apanese word Fen is actually derived from Sanskrit dhyana- meditation.
(Next: Samadhi and (aivalya )
Samadhi and Kaivalya
The Yoga Sutra states that samadhi is the ultimate tool of yoga. Gote that this is
not saying that samadhi is the ultimate goa" of yoga. 5here Samkhya practice
involved discernment and renunciation, Classical Yoga involves samadhi and
renunciation. 4ut what is samadhi@ That is not an easy !uestion to answer.
Samadhi literally means )ecstasy.) ;t is ac!uired through devoted practice and
grace. Dractice alone will not guarantee samadhi. The grace of the guru >or of
8od? is also re!uired. ;n samadhi, consciousness itself shines forth as the obCect
of concentration. This means that, in samadhi, the subCect and the obCect become
one- consciousness senses, and is absorbed in, itself.
;n the state of samadhi, all perceptions are shut o6. Gothing disturbs the
immersion of the self in the Self. ;yengar warns that in the state of samadhi, no
action is possible as there is no one to act. 5e cannot do anything while in
Samadhi9 to do re!uires someone to do, and something to be done. The presence
of a subCect >the doer? and an obCect >the thing we are doing it to? causes us to
leave this wondrous state of samadhi, and come back to being a player in life.
The Yoga Sutra, being a very technical manual, o6ers a hierarchy of levels of
samadhi. ;n fact, all yoga traditions e'pound upon the various levels of samadhi
that the yogi will pass through. ;t is beyond the scope of this Courney to e'amine
these stages. Bowever, it is interesting to note that the Yoga Sutra and other
sages warn that the danger to the yogi is greatest at this stage. Samadhi is so
pleasurable that many seekers get stuck here9 instead of pushing onward to the
ultimate goal, they become sidetracked in this ecstatic state.
The ultimate goal is kaivalya- aloneness or aloofness.
"nce a yogi has mastered samadhi and is back again in the ordinary world, what
has changed@ ;n samadhi there is no subCect, no obCect, and consciousness is
aware of only consciousness. 5hen the yogi has left samadhi, she still knows the
real nature of the universe. "nce again she has entered the world of action, but
now she acts out of the knowledge of the unity of everything. ;yengar says that
kaivalya is samadhi in action. $t this stage, the yogi is fully liberated. Bowever,
;yengar is a modern yogin. The yogis of the classical era still believed in a dualist
universe. %iberation is not possible while still trapped in the body. (aivalya is not
the &nal liberation. ;n modern times many scholars do interpret kaivalya to mean
liberation, or mo#sha. 8eorg Aeuerstein believes that, for the classical yogis,
kaivalya meant only the ability to see without anything to be seen. This is the
ultimate aloneness, but it is still one step removed from &nal liberation the
liberation that comes only with the release of the body.
(Next: Droblems with Classical Yoga
Problems with lassi!al "oga
7ust as competing traditions dismissed Samkhya because it was dualistic,
Classical Yoga too was considered Hawed. ;t su6ered the same problems as
Samkhya. Bow could there be all these purushas Hoating about the universe,
omnipotent and in&nite, but separate@ The rise of 4uddhism, and its emphasis on
the middle path, also created problems for Classical Yoga. Classical Yoga was
&erce, its renunciation achievable by only a few. Bow could yoga ever be a
spiritual practice for everyone, when it demanded such sacri&ce@ The 4uddha
tried earlier versions of Classical Yoga, mastered them, and dismissed these
"ther yogis began to think in new ways. They began to ask, );f we can become
liberated only through working while in our bodies, how can our bodies be part of
the problem@) Surely the body must be part of the solution. The body should not
be destroyed in order to achieve liberation9 it must be honored, in the same way
a temple is honored. ;n fact, the body is the temple in which we do our practice.
This was the dawning of a new, radically di6erent form of yoga. This was the
beginning of Tantra Yoga.
(Next: Tantra )
Tantra "oga
Chronologically, the early Samkhya philosophy arose Cust before the time of the
4uddha, who died in 0I/ 4.C.<. This was the time of preClassical Yoga. True
Classical Yoga took form over the &ve hundred years or so after the 4uddha. $s
now, very few people practiced this strict, severe form of yoga. 5hile the ancient
sages following this practice believed one could achieve true and &nal liberation
only after leaving the body, there e'isted a belief within the Jpanishads that
living liberation was possible. This belief in living liberation *+, was !uite
attractive. $fter all, if there is only the Self, why should we have to get rid of
anything else to recogni=e it@
$t this time 4uddhism was Hourishing, but it was still steeped in the cultural
biases of the day. Throughout the world at this time, the prehistoric matriarchal
societies had died out. Civili=ation, technological advancements, and structured
political hierarchies were all patriarchal. 5omen had few or no rights, and very
little respect. <ven the 4uddha refused to allow his stepmother to Coin his sangha
once her husband, his father, died. $nanda >the 4uddha#s cousin? pleaded with
the 4uddha, until the 4uddha &nally agreed, but only if his stepmother agreed to
follow eight precepts that the men didn#t have to follow. <verywhere the feminine
was reCected and repressed. *.,
Tantra arose in reaction to the denial of the body and the denial of the feminine.
5hy do we have to consider the body or the mind as an enemy@ 5hy do we deny
the feminine energies@ There must be a way to accommodate all these factors
that are so obviously present in lifeK ;n 7ungian terms, the ;ndian sages of the
early &rst millennium were the &rst yogis to recogni=e and accept the anima- the
female part of the soul. ;t would take <uropean culture a thousand years to come
to the same reali=ation. */,
Tantra arose out of the seeds of Samkhya, Classical Yoga, and 4uddhism but it
!uickly surpassed all of these philosophies. 5here the earlier schools were
patriarchal and either dualistic or atheistic, Tantra embraced the feminine, the
principle of unity, and o6ered a way for anyone to practice. Tantra ignored class
structure, and as a result had many practitioners from the lower castes. This
egalitarianism was uni!ue and energi=ing.
+ $lso known as $ivan-mu#ti.
. See (aren $rmstrong#s book Buddha for a clearly written historical biography
of the 4uddha. "n page +/L she lists the eight conditions the 4uddha gave in
order for his stepmother, or any female, to Coin the order- a nun must always
stand in the presence of a monk9 nuns must always spend retreats with monks
>never by themselves?9 they must receive instructions every two weeks from a
monk9 nuns must not hold their own ceremonies9 nuns must do penance in front
of a monk for any o6enses9 a nun must be ordained by both a nun and a monk9
she must never critici=e a monk however, she could be rebuked by a monk9 and
&nally, a nun must not preach to monks. The 4uddha only reluctantly allowed his
stepmother, and other women, into the sangha, warning that, because he did
this, his teachings would now last only &ve hundred years. 5omen, he
considered, would )fall like mildew on a &eld of rice,) destroying the order.
/ ;t wasn#t until the eleventh century that the patriarchal imperative of the
Catholic Church began to allow any hint of the feminine. %ike the 4uddha, the
Church never fully embraced women in their hierarchy.
(Next: The ThirtySi' Drinciples of Tantra )
The Thirty-Six Principles of Tantra
To the tantrikas ,the practitioners of Tantra-, the psychocosmological model of the
uni!erse created by "amkhya was good as far as it went, but it didn(t go far enough. The
model was good because, as in all spiritual reali5ations, the senses that show us the world
present just a thin sli!er of what is really there. 8owe!er, the "amkhya yogis didn(t reali5e
that they were a !ictim of &aya% they failed to see deeply enough into the real situation.
On top of "amkhya(s twenty-four principles were another twel!e.
)ust abo!e the great di!ide of purusha and prakriti sit the illusionary layers of &aya. &aya
has se!eral possible meanings, ranging from illusion to relati!e e$istence. 012 Tantrikas
belie!e that there are fi!e forms of &aya. Abo!e these manifestations of &aya are the
three pure principles of e$istence4 %ad-&idya, 'shvara, and %ada-%hiva. And finally, abo!e
these three pure principles is the ultimate reality of "hi!a/"hakti.
;ike two sides of one coin, "hi!a/"hakti can ne!er be separated. They coe$ist as one, but
they can be seen as two, depending upon which side you are looking at. As we descend the
left side of the diagram, down from "hi!a, we unfold the subjecti!e aspect of e$istence. As
we descend the right side, down from "hakti, we unfold the objecti!e aspect of e$istence.
#n Tantra we find a different !iew of Dod, the clock maker, and his creation, the clock. We
disco!er that Dod is the clock% Dod is part of his own creation. And we are the clock too E
we are part of his creation - and part of Dod at the same time.
#t is far beyond our scope to del!e deeper into the ontology of the Tantra model. #nterested
students may find Deorg *euerstein(s book (antra) the *ath o+ ,$stasy to be helpful. The
point of what we ha!e e$plored so far is that, according to Tantra, the One unfolds into the
&any. ;iberation, then, is achie!ed when we tra!erse this path backward4 from the
seemingly many we find in our e!eryday life, we go all the way back to the One.
;iberation, this finding the One behind the &any, is possible while we are in the body. #n
fact, the body is a necessary tool to reaching this liberated state. Only incarnate beings can
become enlightened and liberated. 9!en the gods are jealous of humans% only humans can
become truly free. The path to liberation is the Tantric Practices.
Shi'a and Shakti are one, not two, thus the Tantra philosophy is non-dualistic.
1 -- As opposed to the actual reality, which is hidden behind her.
(Next Tantric Practices !
Tantric Practices
The goal of the practice of Tantra oga is,
fundamentally, to release "hakti, and mo!e her up
the central channel of the body, to meet with "hi!a
who is waiting for her just abo!e the crown of the
head. Of course, like all yogic teachings, there are
some schools that claim the e$act opposite is what
must happen% "hakti must descend to the waiting
"hi!a. #n either case, the tools mostly used to
awaken and mo!e the sleeping "hakti are the tools
of pranayama. Tantra also describes in detail the
subtle body anatomy, which prana animates. 012
Pranayama, howe!er, is not the only tool a!ailable.
Tantra has a broad offering of techni.ues and
practices. They include4
Yantra, and the
*an$ha--akara ,the *i!e-&s-
Our journey takes us now to look at these Tantric
"hi!a and "hakti by
1 -- We ha!e already re!iewed this energy anatomy in the section The ogic Biew of 9nergy. The practices
of pranayama are described in more detail in 6hapter 1>4 &o!ing 9nergy.
(Next &antras !
The reciting of mantras ,which are syllables, words, or te$ts- has been performed since the
Bedas were re!ealed o!er fi!e thousand years ago. #n Tantra, mantra recitation ,also called
+japa+ or repetition- reaches a grand height. The word mantra itself has se!eral meanings.
&anas means mind or thinking. (rana means liberation. Thus a mantra can channel
thoughts into liberation. Another interpretation suggests that a mantra protects the mind.
&antras are sounds charged with the power to gain fa!ors, to appease the gods, and to
identify with the ultimate reality.
There are countless mantras. 8indu life is surrounded by mantras% from birth to death
mantras are chanted. &antras can be recited out loud, which gains one a certain amount of
merit. When the mantras are whispered, greater merit is gained. The highest merit is gained
when the mantra is heard silently inside. This silent hearing of mantras must ne!er be
rushed or done incorrectly% merit is lost in those cases.
'eyond seeking fa!ors, mantras can be used as an object of concentration, helping to still
the mind. &antras can easily be incorporated into the in oga practice. A yoga teacher
can generally recommend an appropriate mantra for a student to use. 012 &any mantras
include the syllable Om. The Tibetan 'uddhist mantra .m mani padme .m is a wonderful
way to still the mind. &antras praising the source of energy, the sun, are .uite common and
fa!ored. The /ayatri -antra 032 is often recited e!ery morning and there are many 6=s
a!ailable with wonderful renditions of this homage to the sun. 0F2
1 -- The mantra so0ham is discussed later, in the second half of our journey.
3 -- Dayatri is one of many names of the sun(s energy.
F -- =e!a Premal, who has a hauntingly lo!ely !oice, has two !ersions of the Dayatri &antra a!ailable on
two of her 6=s, ,ssen$e and %atsang.
(Next &udras !
"ymbolic gestures are called +mudras.+ &udra deri!es from the word mud, which means to
delight. 'asically mudras are seals that lock in energy and awareness. They can be formed by
the hands or the body itself. The shapes represent inner states. This is easy to !erify for
yourself. *old your arms in front of you and notice your inner state. How release the arms and
open them wide, joining the tips of your forefingers to your thumbs. Hotice the changed inner
state. ogis who employ mudras can sense the energetic differences of e!en minor changes.
There are at least one hundred and eight hand gestures. 012 When we
add all the body seals, we find there are a lot of mudras a!ailable.
"ome of the commonest hand seals are the anjali ,prayer- mudra
and the jnana ,wisdom- mudra. 032 The jnana mudra is sometimes
mistaken for the $hin ,consciousness- mudra. "wami "atyananda
"araswati, who has written many of the e$cellent books published
by the 'ihar "chool of oga in #ndia, e$plains that the jnana mudra
is done with the palm facing down, while the chin mudra has the
palm facing up. "ince jnana means wisdom, when we perform the
jnana mudra we are sealing in wisdom. When we perform the chin
mudra we are sealing in awareness or consciousness. These mudras
are formed by touching the tip of the forefinger to the thumb. The
jnana mudra is just one of many therapeutic mudras, and is said to
be good for curing insomnia, ner!ous tension, and a weak memory.
There are many books a!ailable on mudras. #n "wami "atyananda
"araswati(s book 1sana *ranayama -udra 2andha he has
pro!ided a full description of the fi!e kinds of mudras4 hand
mudras, head mudras, postural mudras, lock mudras ,bandhas-,
and perineal mudras. The book gi!es many e$amples of each kind
of mudra, including a description for making the whole body into
one big postural mudra4 the maha mudra. 0F2
&udras are easily practiced in in oga. While in most of the
postures, we can hold our hands in mudra or clasp our feet. Once
the mudra is formed, the practice is then to sense the energetic
effect of the mudra. That is a complete meditation all on its own.
1 -- One hundred and eight is a magical number signifying wholeness. When you see a claim that there are one
hundred and eight of something or other, you can be assured there are probably a lot more than that.
3 -- Pronounced ghee-yana, and sometimes spelled gyana or gian mudra.
F -- As shown in the picture abo!e, sit down with one leg forward, the other knee bent so that the foot is brought
to the inner thigh, press the heel into the perineum, and clasp the e$tended foot with both hands.
(Next antras !
Tantra may also use geometrical de!ices as the object of meditation or concentration. These
objects are yantras, and can be considered !isual mantras. The yantra is a representation of the
uni!erse, and its contemplation leads to reali5ations about the uni!erse(s nature. The word
yantra literally means a machine or de!ice. While a yantra is similar to a mandala, the yantra
is s.uare and contains interlocking triangles. A mandala, howe!er, can be of !arious shapes.
The %hri Yantra contains fi!e downward-pointing triangles
representing "hakti, and four upward-facing triangles
representing "hi!a. 012 Together these nine triangles form
forty-three indi!idual triangles. Toward the outside are found
two circles of lotus petals. The inner eight petals represent
Bishnu, and the outer si$teen petals represent the attainment
of the desired object. Bishnu(s consort is ;akshmi, who is also
known as "hri. "he is the goddess of good fortune, and it is
after her that this yantra is named.
At the center of the yantra is a dot, called a +bindu+ or seed
point. This is the focal point. #n this one infinitely small point
is found the infinitely large uni!erse. Whate!er e$ists outside
is found inside, and !ice !ersa. This single reali5ation is at the
core of many religious esoteric teachings. The macrocosm is a
reflection of the inner microcosm, and what happens in one
realm affects the other.
The practice of yantra !isuali5ation is not easy, and its mastery depends upon the student(s
power of concentration and her ability to feel and control the subtle energies. Tantra also
employs !isuali5ation of a chosen deity. "imilar to a yantra, the objecti!e of this practice is to
completely identify with the form being !isuali5ed. 9!ery nuance should be e$perienced
completely, especially when the eyes are closed.
The use of mantra, yantra, and mudras are far from the only, or e!en the most well known,
forms of Tantra practice. Of more notoriety are the *an$ha--akara4 the *i!e-&(s.
1 -- "hi!a(s lingam is always shown pointing upward, indicating !irility, and "hi!a(s triangles also point upward,
in the direction of his phallus, which is a good way to remember whose triangles are whose in these yantras.
(Next The Pancha-&akara of Tantra !
The Pancha-(akara of Tantra
<emember, Tantra e!ol!ed in the midst of a repressi!e culture, one that kept people of lower
castes subjugated through cultural bias, de!alued women, and saw the body and the mind as
an e!il enemies to be o!ercome. ;ife was !ery hard for people who were not males of the
'rahman caste, or kings and princes. Anything that could suspend the e!eryday worries and
concerns of the masses would be welcomed. Tantra offered a path to people who had no other
means to e$perience joy. The path included rituals% the rituals included the *i!e-&(s.
The Pancha-&akara were ways to cleanse and transcend the mind. 9ach +&+ stands for a
particular practice4
-adya or wine
-atsya or fish
-amsa or meat
-udra or parched grain
-aithuna or se$ual intercourse
#n our Western culture today, these fi!e practices seem rather mundane and unremarkable. 'ut
a thousand years ago, this was .uite shocking to conser!ati!e society. The use of alcohol was
frowned upon by !irtually all religions. The adoption of the non-harming ethic in )ainism and
'uddhism was carried into &edanta, 012 which had become the most common belief system in
#ndia at the time Tantra was flowering. Hon-harming, or ahimsa, meant being !egetarian% no
meat or fish was to be consumed. &udra, in this conte$t, is not the practice of seals, or
gestures% it is speculated this meant the use of drugs. 032
The final practice is one that has gi!en rise to most of the misunderstandings about Tantra -
se$ual intercourse. The first misunderstanding arises due to the e$istence of two !ery different
schools of Tantra4 the right-handed school, and the left-handed school. The right-handed
school belie!ed that the Pancha-&akara were to be interpreted symbolically. One did not
actually drink alcohol, eat meat, or get high. #nstead, one used the imagination to simulate the
effect of such a practice, in order to transcend the ordinary world. The left-handed school
disagreed, belie!ing that each practice was indeed meant to be actually performed.
To appreciate the effect of the Pancha-&akara today, we would need to adapt them to suit
today(s culture. Today eating meat, drinking alcohol, engaging in freely a!ailable se$ual
relations, or indulging in drugs does not shock us. These don(t jar us out of our normal state of
mind. To understand the intent of the *i!e-&(s, we would ha!e to change these to practices
that are not only cultural taboos in today(s society but are things that we would find personally
re!olting to do. #f a spiritual school e$isted today that re.uired you to ingest li!e maggots, and
then publicly perform ritual incest with your grandmother or grandfather, that school would
.uickly gain a reputation similar to the one Tantra was tarnished with for centuries. 0F2
=ue to the misunderstandings about the less commonly practiced left-handed school of Tantra,
and due to the fact that anyone, regardless of gender or class could practice Tantra, both the
right-handed and left-handed schools were dri!en underground. <emember, Tantra is really
trying to free and raise shakti energy so that li!ing liberation can be achie!ed. The tantrikas
were not indulging in the Pancha-&akara for simple pleasure. #n fact, during maithuna,
orgasm was not allowed. And besides, there were many other Tantric practices that didn(t
in!ol!e any of the Pancha-&akara. Pranayama and physical e$ercises had no stigma in and of
themsel!es. 'ut they were guilty by association.
1 -- Bedanta is the major branch of 8induism, and arose out of the Ipanishads.
3 -- Ob!iously if mudra comes from a root word meaning delight, drugs would be a good way to be delighted.
9!en today ganja and bhang ,marijuana- are .uite popular in #ndia.
F -- Please note4 This is not to suggest Tantra promoted incest: #n fact, it was always !ery clearly stated that
se$ual relations with one(s mother was ne!er allowed. ,8owe!er, the women participants in such se$ual rituals
were generally older and more e$perienced in the ceremonies than the men.-
(Next 8atha oga !
)atha #oga
"ociety(s disgust for Tantra(s teachings resulted in the e!olution of a new school of yoga4 8atha
oga, which arose from Tantra oga. 8atha kept many of the practices that Tantra de!eloped, but
just as Tantra discarded what it didn(t like of 6lassical oga, 8atha also dropped the unsa!ory parts
of Tantra. 8atha oga focused its practices on building a healthy body, one that would be perfect
for the higher practices of mediation and samadhi. #n this respect in oga is just one of many
branches of 8atha oga. The objecti!e in the in oga practice is also to prepare us for the deeper
spiritual in.uiries into reality, and e!entually enlightenment. Along the way many physical,
emotional, and mental benefits are obtained.
8atha oga is often called the ladder to 3aja Yoga. <aja means kingly or royal. <aja oga contains
the higher limbs of the oga "utra4 dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. in oga also prepares us to
work with the mind at progressi!ely deeper le!els. To do so re.uires insight and dedication. These
are .ualities that yoga shares with the ancient practice of the 'uddha, who was also an
accomplished yogin.
(Next The 'uddhist Biew of &ind !
The *uddhist +iew of (ind
A young man came to !isit the 'uddha one day. 8e was filled with .uestions. 8e asked the 'uddha
about the nature of the uni!erse, about the meaning of life, about death, and about many other
things. The 'uddha paused, and then in reply asked the man a .uestion of his own. +=id someone
tell you that # would answer these .uestions for you7+ +Ho,+ replied the young man, +# am just eager
to learn.+ The 'uddha regarded him closely, and then taught an une$pected lesson.
+Once there was a man who was wounded by a poisoned arrow. A doctor was .uickly summoned.
The poison was deadly, and the man had little time left. As the doctor began to e$tract the arrow, the
wounded man stopped him and asked, (Wait. # must know who shot me: Why did he do this7 What
kind of man was he7 Was he angry or jealous7 =id he shoot me out of rage, or by mistake7( The
doctor e$plained that the man had a choice4 allow the arrow to be remo!ed right away without any
answers, and li!e, or wait for all his .uestions to be answered, and die.+
What he taught, the 'uddha e$plained to the young man, was a way to end suffering. That was far
more important than knowing the structure of the hea!ens. Why would you want to waste one
minute on unimportant details when the most important work in your life has not e!en started7
;earn to free your mind, end your delusion, and end your suffering before worrying about all these
other .uestions.
The 'uddha li!ed in a time when the "amkhya philosophy was becoming widely accepted.
8owe!er, the 'uddha was a !ery pragmatic man. 8e did not bother with models of the cosmos. 8e
wanted e!eryone to e$plore his or her own situation in minute detail. The 'uddha(s teachings ga!e
specific ad!ice on how to a!oid suffering and obtain release.
There are few hierarchical models of mind and consciousness in the 'uddha(s teachings. #f there is a
psychology at all, it is an applied psychology. #t resonates today closely to the schools of beha!ioral
psychologies, which we will address in the ne$t part of our journey. *or now we will e$plore a brief
!ignette of the life of the 'uddha, his reali5ations, and his main teachings as they can be applied to
our practice of yoga.
(Next The 8istorical 'uddha !
The )istorical *uddha
There are many wonderful stories about how the 'uddha(s birth was accompanied by celebrations
by the gods, about how he came into the world in an unusual way, 012 and his first steps and his first
words. ;ike all the founders of major religions, stories and myths grew and multiplied. 'ut, like all
mythic heroes, the historical facts are far less a!ailable. Caren Armstrong(s book 2uddha is a
concise presentation of what we really know of the historical 'uddha. The pro!en historical facts
are few and can be summari5ed .uickly.
"iddhatta Dotama of the "hakya tribe was born in Capila!atthu in the small country of "hakka. 032
"hakka was in a !ery remote area of what is now the western edge of Hepal. "hakka was s.uee5ed
between the larger kingdoms of &agadha to the southeast, located in modern 'ihar, #ndia, and
Cosala directly west. #t was a time of political strife and physical danger.
The generally accepted year of birth for the 'uddha is >AF '.6.9., although some 6hinese scholars
put this one hundred years later. The 'uddha li!ed for eighty years. "iddhatta was a prince, his
father one of the many aristocrats who participated in go!erning "hakka. When he was twenty-nine,
Dotama left his family, including his newborn son, to search for the answer to why life was so filled
with suffering, and to find a way to end suffering.
The future 'uddha first studied yoga under two masters% he became an adept at all the yogas his
teachers taught. This included mastery of the deepest meditations and the highest le!els of samadhi.
Dotama became a !ery accomplished yogin, but he found that the real answers he was seeking still
eluded him. The highest knowings offered by his teachers were not the ultimate reali5ation. 8e left
each teacher and, li!ing with fi!e other de!oted yogins, practiced on his own. 8is yoga was fierce%
he almost died from his austerities.
"i$ years after his renunciation of the pri!ileged life in "hakka, "iddhatta renounced this new life as
well. 9$tremism, he declared, was not the answer. *rom now on he would practice only the middle
way, a path of moderation. 8e decided, as Armstrong writes, +to work with human nature and not
fight against it.+ This meant he would steer a path between gi!ing into the pleasures of the world
self-indulgently, and the e$treme, body-denying asceticism of the yogis and )ains.
"itting down under a tree, "iddhatta !owed not to mo!e until he achie!ed enlightenment. 8e
succeeded and then, after a time of internal debate o!er what he should do ne$t, he decided to share
what he had learned with the world. *or the ne$t forty-fi!e years, the now awakened one, the
'uddha, taught. Although he taught, he knew that ultimate reali5ation cannot be taught% the way can
only be pointed to. The indi!idual must walk the path personally. All a 'uddha could do was point
the way to the path.
The 'uddha left the world in GJF '.6.9., after suffering a fatal and painful case of dysentery, an
unfortunately common disease of the time.
This much is known about the 'uddha. Also known is where he taught, whom he taught, and the
way the teachings were passed down through the generations. 'ut, beyond these dry facts, there
arose many wonderful stories and metaphors, each with its own !alue to the student of the mind.
)oseph 6ampbell warns us that whene!er we read mythic stories, we must not read them as if they
were facts. To belie!e these myths are historical truths would be to reduce them to the e.ui!alent of
dry headlines in a newspaper. The proper way to digest these stories is to ask what they mean to
you: Personally: What does the fact that the awakened one is said to ha!e sprung from his mother(s
side at the le!el of the heart, and not in the normal way, mean for you7 0F2
What moti!ated the 'uddha to seek enlightenment was his obser!ation of the conditions of life. 8e
saw sickness, he saw aging, he saw death. #n the midst of all this suffering, he saw a holy man
attempting to free himself from the afflictions of life. "iddhatta decided to personally seek the
solution to suffering. Ipon his enlightenment he reali5ed he had indeed found the way. 8e called
the way the *our Hoble Truths.
1 -- 8e e$ited from his mother(s side at the le!el of the heart.
3 -- We are using the Pali !ersion of these words. Often we may see the 'uddha(s name written in the "anskrit language
as "iddhartha Dautama.
F -- A wonderful and enjoyable side trip is to !isit these mythical stories about the 'uddha. &any of )oseph 6ampbell(s
books ha!e se!eral illuminating tales. ou may want to read the (rans+ormation o+ -yth through (ime for se!eral
illustrati!e stories. A more e$tended side trip would lead you to the works of 6ampbell(s good friend 8einrich Kimmer
and his weighty book *hilosophies o+ 'ndia. <ight now our journey takes us deeper into the main teachings of the
(Next The *our Hoble Truths !
The #o$r Noble Tr$ths
The 4uddha decided to use a process commonly used by doctors in his day to
describe the problem of our life and its solution. $ doctor, visiting a patient in
distress, will &rst determine what the problem is. "nce known, the doctor goes on
to discover the cause of the problem. Ge't, she tries to see if there is a cure for
the problem. Ainally, she prescribes for her patient the way to e6ect the cure.
This is a very simple, e6ective, and pragmatic approach. The 4uddha, being very
pragmatic, followed these four steps as well. Be called this &rst teaching the Aour
Goble truths. These truths are-
+. Su6ering e'ists
.. There is a cause of our su6ering
/. There is a cure for our su6ering
0. The cure is the <ightAold Dath *+,
;n these simple truths, the 4uddha added nothing superHuous. There is no
metaphysical tradition9 there is no psychocosmological model9 there are simply
these four facts.
+ 5e will look at the <ightfold Dath in detail in a
few pages.
(Next: Su6ering )
% - S$&ering
;f you are alive, there will be times in your life when you will
e'perience pain. Dain can come in many guises. There is
physical pain, emotional pain, psychological pain, and
spiritual pain. These are the inevitable conse!uences of
simply being alive9 it is part of the deal. This does not mean
that life is painful all the time. Certainly there are times when
we are not in pain, and we feel neutral or happy. 4ut pain is a
part of life, despite our attempts to deny it or run away from
it. Go life is free from pain.
To buy YinSights as
an e4ook >DEA
format?, click the
Su6ering is di6erent from pain. The 4uddha e'plained the
di6erence with a story.
)"nce,) the 4uddha told his followers, )there was a
man who was shot by an arrow. *+, Bow do you think
the man felt@) asked the 4uddha.
)BurtK ;n painK) replied his followers.
):ight,) agreed the 4uddha. )Gow this unfortunate man
was soon struck by a second arrow. Gow how do you
think he felt@)
)Much worseK) replied the followers.
)7ust soK) agreed the 4uddha again. )The name of that
second arrow is su6ering.)
Dain, as we have seen, is inevitable. ;t is a part of the bargain
of being alive. 4ut su6ering is optionalK Su6ering, according
to the 4uddha, is that second arrow. Su6ering is the reaction
we inHict upon ourselves when we are subCected to the &rst
arrow of inevitable pain.
;n his book %ho Dies& Stephen %evine suggests many ways to
e'amine this truth for ourselves. %evine is a 4uddhist
counselor who has studied for many years with <lisabeth
(ubler:oss and :am Eass. Be has worked with people who
are dying and in constant pain. Bis practical, meditation
based teachings help the terminally ill come to recogni=e that
they are not their disease, they are not their pain, and there
is someone beneath the pain who is creating the su6ering
they are e'periencing. ;t is not the sensations that create the
problem, but rather the stories we add on top of the
sensation that create the su6ering. "nce we recogni=e how
we create our own su6ering, the original sensations, which
we call pain, are made more bearable. %evine#s meditations
help us see the di6erence between pain and su6ering.
"ur Yin Yoga practice is also an e'cellent time to notice the
truth of this &rst of the 4uddha four noble truths. $s we hold
the posture for a longer and longer period of time, sensations
begin to increase. 5e leave our normal comfort =one, and we
become distinctly uncomfortable. 5e may even be on the
verge of e'periencing pain. *., This discomfort is the &rst
arrow it is simply a sensation. Bow we react to a sensation
is the interesting part of the practice. Eo we add mental
4uy Gow button-
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stories and Cudgments to a sensation@ Eo we tell ourselves
how much we dislike the sensation, and wish it would end@
;f this is your normal reaction to discomfort, whether while in
a Yin Yoga pose or at any time in your life, study the
discomfort. 8et to know it. 5hat is really going on there@ This
is the place where the practice can yield the greatest insight.
%earning to watch and study the sensations arising in our
yoga practice prepares us to also watch these arising at other
times in life.
This common reaction to stress or challenging situations
leads us directly to the 4uddha#s second noble truth.
+ $rrows, as you will notice, are a common metaphor of
these times.
. Bopefully you are not going so deep that you are in
(Next: There is a Cause of Su6ering )
, - Suffering exists
#f you are ali!e, there will be times in your life when you will
e$perience pain. Pain can come in many guises. There is physical pain,
emotional pain, psychological pain, and spiritual pain. These are the
ine!itable conse.uences of simply being ali!e% it is part of the deal.
This does not mean that life is painful all the time. 6ertainly there are
times when we are not in pain, and we feel neutral or happy. 'ut pain is
a part of life, despite our attempts to deny it or run away from it. Ho
life is free from pain.
"uffering is different from pain. The 'uddha e$plained the difference
with a story.
+Once,+ the 'uddha told his followers, +there was a man who
was shot by an arrow. 012 8ow do you think the man felt7+ asked
the 'uddha.
+8urt: #n pain:+ replied his followers.
+<ight,+ agreed the 'uddha. +How this unfortunate man was
soon struck by a second arrow. How how do you think he felt7+
+&uch worse:+ replied the followers.
To buy Yin%ights as an
e'ook ,P=* format-,
click the 'uy How
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about the moon
+)ust so:+ agreed the 'uddha again. +The name of that second
arrow is suffering.+
Pain, as we ha!e seen, is ine!itable. #t is a part of the bargain of being
ali!e. 'ut suffering is optional: "uffering, according to the 'uddha, is
that second arrow. "uffering is the reaction we inflict upon oursel!es
when we are subjected to the first arrow of ine!itable pain.
#n his book 4ho 5ies6 "tephen ;e!ine suggests many ways to
e$amine this truth for oursel!es. ;e!ine is a 'uddhist counselor who
has studied for many years with 9lisabeth Cubler-<oss and <am =ass.
8e has worked with people who are dying and in constant pain. 8is
practical, meditation-based teachings help the terminally ill come to
recogni5e that they are not their disease, they are not their pain, and
there is someone beneath the pain who is creating the suffering they are
e$periencing. #t is not the sensations that create the problem, but rather
the stories we add on top of the sensation that create the suffering.
Once we recogni5e how we create our own suffering, the original
sensations, which we call pain, are made more bearable. ;e!ine(s
meditations help us see the difference between pain and suffering.
Our in oga practice is also an e$cellent time to notice the truth of
this first of the 'uddha four noble truths. As we hold the posture for a
longer and longer period of time, sensations begin to increase. We
lea!e our normal comfort 5one, and we become distinctly
uncomfortable. We may e!en be on the !erge of e$periencing pain. 032
This discomfort is the first arrow - it is simply a sensation. 8ow we
react to a sensation is the interesting part of the practice. =o we add
mental stories and judgments to a sensation7 =o we tell oursel!es how
much we dislike the sensation, and wish it would end7
#f this is your normal reaction to discomfort, whether while in a in
oga pose or at any time in your life, study the discomfort. Det to
know it. What is really going on there7 This is the place where the
practice can yield the greatest insight. ;earning to watch and study the
sensations arising in our yoga practice prepares us to also watch these
arising at other times in life.
This common reaction to stress or challenging situations leads us
directly to the 'uddha(s second noble truth.
1 -- Arrows, as you will notice, are a common metaphor of these times.
3 -- 8opefully you are not going so deep that you are in pain.
(Next There is a 6ause of "uffering !
- - There is a cause of our
"uffering e$ists because we cause it to e$ist. <emember that sensations are ine!itable. Pain is
a part of life, but suffering is optional. 8ow do we cause suffering7 The 'uddha recogni5ed
that we do this in two ways4 we cling to things that we find pleasant, and we run away from
things that are unpleasant. These two reactions are called attachment and a!ersion. We ha!e
seen these before% they are the third and fourth klesha of 6lassical oga, raga and d!esa.
(he 'ssue at 7and by Dil *ronsdal e$plains that there are four kinds of clinging we subject
oursel!es to. The first is a clinging to a particular spiritual practice or routine - thinking that if
we just follow the rules, that will suffice, and we will be happy. Infortunately, we do not ha!e
to look !ery far to see the damage caused by intolerant and strongly held religious or spiritual
practices. The second form of clinging is grasping certain !iews. These are all the opinions we
hold, and the stories we apply to oursel!es. We can be so strongly attached to a particular self-
!iew that, if it is damaged or lost, we are also lost. There are many e$amples of men strongly
attached to their self-!iew of being successful businessmen and family pro!iders. When a
personal financial crisis arises, such as a crash in the stock market, this self-image is
destroyed, and these men become so lost that their only solution is suicide. The third form of
clinging is the grasping to the sense of self% this is a form of asmita ,ego-, which was
described in 6lassical oga. 9!erything that occurs in the world is interpreted in terms of how
it affects or doesn(t affect me ,the ego or small self-.
The final clinging is the first one the 'uddha actually mentioned. *ronsdal lists it last because
it is the one people least understand, and are the most afraid of gi!ing up. #t is the clinging to
pleasurable sensations. The 'uddha did not say that pleasure was bad% he made no moral
judgment about pleasure or pain. What he warns against is the clinging to pleasure. )ust as
there will be times in life when pain is present, there will be times in life when pleasure is
present. 9njoy those moments, but when they go, let them go. ;earn to enjoy the moments as
they arise, and lea!e them in the past once they are gone.
A!ersion is the flip side of the clinging to pleasure. #t is natural for animals to seek that which
feels good, and a!oid that which feels bad. Hatural, but not necessarily the best strategy if
your goal is true happiness. The pleasure of this moment may not lead to sustained pleasure in
the future. We must rely upon a deeper intelligence to guide us. #s the pleasure of that e$tra
dessert really going to make you truly happy - especially when you succumb to that
temptation e!ery night, and e!entually de!elop diabetes and heart problems7 These are small
short-term pleasures that cause us a great deal of delayed pain.
There are small short-term pains as well, which, when we a!oid them, create long-term
suffering. #s the putting off of the meeting with your boss o!er an uncomfortable issue really
going to make you happier in the long run7 #f we only follow our animal nature when
presented with pleasure or pain, then we are gi!ing up real happiness.
When pain is present, as "tephen ;e!ine elo.uently e$plains, it is only present in the moment.
These moments change. Once the moment is gone, let this moment be gone. =on(t worry
about when the pain will return. =on(t allow your mind to reli!e the past episodes of
uncomfortable sensation. ;earn to li!e in this moment.
(Next There is a cure for our suffering
. - There is a cure for our suffering
8ere is the good news4 the 'uddha diagnosed our condition. Inderstanding what was causing our suffering, he
looked for and found that a cure does indeed e$ist. This cure is often referred to as nibbana, 012 but this is not
always a preferred designation. Hibbana can be easily mistaken for just another state of being, which in itself
becomes desirable. Once attachment arises again, the cure does not work. #n this respect, nibbana can become as
much of a trap to a 'uddhist seeking liberation as samadhi can be a trap for the yogi.
"tates of calmness, joy, and happiness do arise, but if we become attached to them we are still subject to suffering. #t
is possible to end our suffering, e!en if it is not possible to end the sensations that precede it. The cure the 'uddha
disco!ered is described in his last truth.
1 -- Or nirvana in "anskrit.
(Next The 9ightfold Way
/ - The cure is the eight-
fold way
Often to help understand the eight steps the 'uddha taught, they are grouped into three
categories. The first category is panna, 012 or wisdom.
1. <ight understanding
3. <ight thinking
He$t comes the second category of sila, or ethics. This is similar to the yamas of the oga
"utra(s ashtanga. These three steps are4
F. <ight speech
G. <ight action
>. <ight li!elihood
*inally the last three steps are called meditation, concentration, or samadhi.
A. <ight effort
N. <ight mindfulness
J. <ight concentration
ou will find slight differences in the names assigned to these eight steps. This is due to the
difficulty in precisely translating the Pali words into 9nglish. (he 2uddhist 2ible by =wight
Doddard, for e$ample, translates the second step of <ight #ntention as <ight &indedness and
the se!enth step of <ight &indfulness as <ight Attenti!eness.
These steps, like the eight limbs of the oga "utra, are not meant to be done se.uentially. One
works toward all eight, almost in a spiraling manner. One way to understand the importance
the 'uddha assigned to these steps is with another story.
A man is holding a knife in his hand. 8e pushes the knife into a woman. "he dies
from the wound.
A simple and tragic tale% howe!er, let us look deeper. The action is horrific, but what was the
intention behind the action7 #f the man in the story is a thief, and the intent is to harm the
woman, the action is indeed heinous. #f the man is a surgeon, and he inserted the knife into the
woman with the intent of sa!ing her life, the action was tragically heroic. The intention is
more important than the action. This is the fla!or of <ight #ntention or <ight Thinking.
Worse than wrong action is wrong speech. Worse than wrong speech is wrong thinking. 9!en
if you refrain from acting out the thoughts in your mind, the harm is done just by the thought(s
presence. #t is the thought that counts: Put another way, if the thought ne!er arises, there will
be no need to watch for wrong speech or wrong action. #t always comes back to how and what
we think.
The cure for our suffering lies in the way we think. We need to train our minds to no longer
cling to pleasure, and run away from pain. This doesn(t mean we a!oid pleasure, or seek out
pain, but rather that we treat both of these conditions e.ually. This is not easy, as we know.
)ust as the yogis ha!e noticed that we must o!ercome the fi!e kleshas, or afflictions, the
'uddha also pointed out we needed to o!ercome fi!e hindrances that get in our way of non-
clinging and non-a!oiding.
1 -- Or prajna in "anskrit.
(Next The *i!e 8indrances !
The Fi'e )indrances
#n the oga "utra we were told of the fi!e kleshas, or hindrance to our practice. These were
ignorance ,a!idya-, the ego or #-making ,asmita-, attachment ,raga-, a!ersion ,d!esa-, and the fear
of death or the clinging to life ,abhini!esah-. The 'uddha taught that there are fi!e mental
hindrances, called the +kilesa,+ 012 that ser!e to distract our minds and pre!ent us from li!ing in this
moment. The fi!e are4
1. =esire, which leads to clinging and cra!ing
3. A!ersion, which leads to anger or hatred
F. "leepiness or sloth
G. <estlessness
>. =oubt
We will !isit each hindrance more closely starting with desire.
1 -- The "anskrit !ersion of this Pali word is +klesha.+
(Next =esire !
=esire, in the conte$t of meditation or yoga practice, is the clinging to pleasant thoughts or
sensations. "imilar to raga in yoga, desire can create attachment, which causes suffering. #t is not
the pleasure that is the problem, but rather our cra!ing for pleasure that ensla!es us. When we try to
hang on to pleasant moments, ignoring the fact that e!erything changes, we create a fear internally,
the fear of the moment ending. Of course, the moment passes and the pleasure ends. This is one of
the realities the 'uddha talked about constantly. 8e called it +ani$$a,+ or impermanence.
9!erything ends% good times and bad times all ha!e their time, and they pass away. "o e!en if we
attain our heart(s desire, e!en when we are basking in pleasant feelings or situations, this kind of
pleasure is an illusion because it is transient. =esire creates suffering, and hinders us from reali5ing
the true joy of being.
=esire can be watched. #n our yoga practice we will e$perience pleasant sensations fre.uently.
6oming out of a long-held in oga pose can often create sensations that are e$tremely
pleasurable. 9njoy these sensations when they arise, but don(t cling to them. At the end of the
practice there is also a !ery pleasurable bu55 throughout the body. This good feeling may last for
hours afterward. *or many people this is the reason they return to the practice% they want to feel that
sense of well-being o!er and o!er again. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the feeling, and if
that is the moti!ation you need to keep doing your practice, that too is perfectly fine and all right.
8owe!er, just recogni5e that this is a cra!ing, this is an addiction. Watch these desires come into
e$istence - don(t react to them% just notice them. 9!entually the desires will recede, and you will be
able to enjoy the sensations of pleasure when they arise without the clinging or the hidden fear of
their passing.
(Next A!ersion !
5hen we are faced with situations outside our normal comfort =one, we tend to
react in one of three ways-
+. we run away from the situation as fast and as far away as we can or,
.. we try to change the situation as !uickly as possible or,
/. we Cust give up and, usually in a sullen selfpitying way, surrender.
The &rst two ways are very yang ways of dealing with life. Many people will hide
or run away from uncomfortable situations. "f course, this never changes the
situations or ourselves, so when we are faced with another challenging situation,
we do the same thing again. The second strategy is to change the situation. 5e
are taught early and often in our culture to change the world, to make something
of ourselves, to make a di6erence to become yangsters. $nd certainly there are
times that these are totally appropriate things to do. ;f we see a child being
beaten, we take action9 we try to stop the beating. $t times, a yang response to
the world is the proper reaction. 4ut not always, and not all the time. Barmony is
the balance between yin and yang. ;f we are always trying to change the world
>including changing our friends, our spouse, our boss, our coworkers N?, we are
going to burn out.
There is a di6erence between acting to right a wrong, and acting to end
sensations that we don#t like. The di6erence is found in our motivation. ;f we are
trying to avert harm to another being, that can be considered :ight Mindfulness
or :ight ;ntention or :ight $ction. This action is skillful and helpful. ;f we are
simply trying to end any uncomfortable sensations we are e'periencing that are
not harming us, *+, that is aversion.
The third way we avoid challenging situations is very yinlike we give up. This
type of surrender is also not skillful, if it involves thoughts that include the word
)should.) Aor e'ample, we give up trying to change the situation but think that
life really shou"d be something other than it is right now. 5e surrender to what is
happening, but we dearly want something else to be happening.
There is a fourth way to react to situations that take us outside our comfort =one.
$ccept what is happening, and simply watch, with great curiosity, what is going
on. This is not giving up and wallowing in selfpity. This is not crying to the world,
)"h, why did this happen to meK) This is calmly observing what is really going on.
This is looking for 'hat is creating the sensation of discomfort.
The Yin Yoga practice is e'cellent for providing opportunities to watch the arising
of aversion. $s we hold the postures, and as the sensations increase in intensity,
aversion arises9 we want to move. $s long as we are not in pain, and not harming
ourselves by remaining still, we don#t move. 5e remain in the pose and simply
watch the arising of sensations. 5e watch how these sensations morph and
change. 5e ask ourselves, )5hat is there about this feeling that makes me want
to move@)
%earning to be nonreactive in the midst of challenging situations while on our
yoga mat helps to build strength, resilience, and He'ibility. %ater, when challenges
arise at other times in our lives, we can draw on these skills. ;nstead of reacting
as we would normally, instead of running away, or trying to change the world, or
instead of even Cust giving up, we &nd we have another powerful option- we can
simply watch and observe what is really going on. "nce we can really see what is
happening, then a better way to respond may be revealed to us.
+ Such sensations could include boredom, an'iety, or the dull achy feelings that
arise in our Yin Yoga practice.
(Next: Sloth )
5e all feel tired from time to time. Euring meditation or yoga practice, our
mind and body may become very sluggish. 5e don#t want to move, we don#t
want to concentrate9 our will is sapped9 we may be physically or psychically
e'hausted9 we may be in pain or in e'treme discomfort. ;f we mechanically
proceed with the practice, we may sleepwalk through it, or space out
entirely. This robotic activity is not skilful and little bene&t will accrue to you
if you persist in the practice while in this state.
;n yoga this state is often termed tamasic this is inertia, a dullness that
steals the will to perform. The cure is raCas or activity. ;f we are meditating
with eyes closed, we may need to open them and sit a little taller. ;f we are
practicing yoga, we may need to add more vigour to the poses9 do several
vinyasas. *+,
Bowever, what the body may need is rest.
5e can tell only by really paying attention to what is happening. $re we
sluggish because we have e'hausted ourselves@ ;f this is really the case,
further e6ort will make the situation worse. ;f you are depleted from too
much yang activity, rest. Bowever, if you are Cust feeling a cycle of inertia,
notice this and react accordingly to wake yourself up. Too much yin is not
good. The cure is a bout of brisk yang activity9 this can be mental or physical
+ See Chapter +1- Moving <nergy for several suggestions.
(Next: :estlessness )
The flip side of sloth is an inability to calm down. <estlessness is too much yang. <estlessness
is the bu55 of too much caffeine, or the mind churning constantly while we try to sleep at
night. <estlessness can manifest physically as constant mo!ement, or agitation, or mentally as
constantly dwelling on the same thoughts o!er and o!er. Duilt is a great cause of restlessness.
We reli!e our sins, and ne!er allow oursel!es to forgi!e and mo!e on. Duilt itself is a terrible
sin, one that many )ews and 6atholics subject themsel!es to.
The restless urge to mo!e is often found in the in oga practice. We ask oursel!es to remain
still, but we can(t. We fidget - we feel an itch, and immediately react and scratch it. We just
can(t settle down and be still. Isually when the body is mo!ing, it is a sign that the mind is
mo!ing. And when the mind is mo!ing, usually the breath is also fractured. "moothing the
breath, and watching it calm and slow is one e$cellent way to calm the mind. Once the mind
is calmer, the body will mo!e less. Once the body is .uiet, there will be less need to breathe
fast, and the cycle will positi!ely reinforce itself.
<estlessness in meditation often arises due to the mind constantly being draw back to plans or
in!entories of our life, or our failings. We obsess - we can(t let go of the cycle of planning and
e!aluating our plans. We make judgments o!er and o!er again% we judge who we belie!e we
are and how we are doing. The cure here is to allow our mind to come back to simply
watching the breath. The harder this is to do, the more we need some support, or tools. An
e$cellent tool is to count the breaths. "tart at one with the ne$t inhalation, two for the
e$halation, three for the ne$t inhalation E keep counting until you reach ten, and then start
#f se!eral minutes of counting breaths doesn(t work, perhaps feeling the breaths will be more
fruitful. Hotice the way the air feels as it passes your upper lip and enters the nose. *eel the air
in the throat or chest. Or notice the way your belly or chest mo!es up and down with each
breath. 012
1 -- We will be introduced to se!eral other meditation techni.ues in the second half of our journey.
(Next =oubt !
;n yoga, doubt is called )samshaya.) The cure prescribed is
shraddha or faith. The 4uddha de&ned doubt as indecision or
skepticism. This can be a healthy, skillful thing to do. The
4uddha often asked his students to !uestion everything. Gever
accept something as true simply because an authority asserted
it is so. You must walk the path for yourself, investigate
everything personally, and ask !uestions.
4ut, when !uestions overwhelm us, indecision arises. 5e may
become stuck, unable to make a choice. %ike the hungry donkey,
halfway between two piles of hay, that can#t decide which one to
go to, we remain rooted and eventually su6er for our indecision.
Too many people use doubt as an e'cuse for living. There is a
time to evaluate, to !uestion, to gather information, but then
there comes the time to act. %ife is not a spectator sport no
one can make this Courney for us. Eo not let doubt become a
hindrance we need to take action in life.
Bow did the 4uddha recommend we take action@ Aortunately he
had many suggestions on how to behave. Aive suggestions,
called the &ve precepts, form the ethical foundations for living.
(Next: The Aive Drecepts )
The #ive Pre!e(ts
<very religion and spiritual practice has a code of conduct. 5e have seen how the
Yoga Sutra laid down &ve yamas and &ve niyamas to govern our inward and
outward attitudes. 4uddhists follow a similar, but shorter list that we have seen
are called the Aive Drecepts. *+, These suggestions are to-
+. :efrain from killing
.. :efrain from stealing
/. :efrain from se'ual misconduct
0. :efrain from idle speech, lies and rumors
1. :efrain from into'icants
The &rst four have a direct correlation to the yamas and niyamas of ahimsa,
asteya, brahmacharya, and satya. $s we noted earlier, these practices are not
the Ten Commandments9 there is no deal with 8od that if you follow these rules,
your place in heaven is assured. ;n fact, the 4uddha never liked to talk about
heaven or life after death. Bis interest was to end su6ering in this life, right now.
The &ve precepts are tools that can help one stay out of trouble, until
enlightenment is &nally obtained.
5hile we become more mindful, we will naturally act in accordance with these
precepts. Jntil then, we make the e6ort to follow these steps, even if it is not in
our current nature to do so. :efraining from killing has the bene&t of building a
sense of identity with others. 5e are not referring to simply killing other people
any killing or harming creates a sense of separation from others. 5hile we
become aware of the interconnection between all beings, and all things, we are
less likely to cause harm. So too with stealing, se'ual misconduct, or lying9 when
we know that everything is connected, we have no wish to spread harm or
negative energies.
;f you decide to follow these precepts, and fail, do not fall into the familiar pit of
despair and guilt. "nly enlightened beings act with total enlightenment. 5e Cust
do our best, and when we do come up short, as we will, we resolve to do better
ne't time.
;sn#t this the way we would like to practice our yoga too@ 5e can#t possibly do all
the poses. 5e can#t always be present all the time. <ven the most advanced
yogis have postures that elude them, or have postures that they can do now, but
won#t be able to do in twenty years. 5e simply work toward whatever goals we
set for ourselves, and do our best. ;f, or rather when, we fail we don#t beat
ourselves up9 we don#t allow ourselves to become discouraged. 5e Cust move on
and try again. $fter all N it is the Courney that counts, not the arriving.
The 4uddha spent little time philosophi=ing or developing cosmological models of
the universe. Bis concern was the mind. To be complete we could investigate the
4uddhist dissertations on the psychological levels of the mind, the &ve s#andas,
*., or the eighteen factors of cognition. 4ut this would move us away from the
most valuable teachings the 4uddha left us. */,
The real Cewels of the 4uddha#s teachings are the methods for calming and
controlling the mind. :emember that the 4uddha was a yogic adept9 he mastered
all the most advanced practices, and found them wanting. Bis practical advice
focused on following the <ightfold Dath and meditation. ;t is through the various
forms of 4uddhist meditations that our Courney becomes shorter.
+ Thich Ghat Banh has updated these precepts for our times and culture. Be
calls these )the Aive Mindfulness Trainings.) Eetails can be found at his Dlum
Village 5eb page, www.plumvillage.orgOmindfulnesstrainingsO/the&ve
. The &ve aggregates of personality- form, the body of sensations, perceptions,
mental activity, and consciousness.
/ Aor an e'cursion into these psychological features of 4uddhism the reader
may wish to visit an overview by Er. C. 8eorge 4oeree >
webspace.ship.eduOcgboerObuddhapers.html? or a detailed dissertation by Silva
Dadmal >ccbs.ntu.edu.twOAJ%%T<PTO7:$EMOsilva.htm ?.
(Next: 4uddhist Meditation Dractices )
)$ddhist *editation Pra!ti!es
4uddhist meditation is the focusing of the mind onto a single obCect, or range of
obCects, with the intent of building awareness. $nother name for meditation is
mindfulness- we are simply present, aware of what is happening. 5hen we can
really notice what is going on, all the things we imagined were happening drop
away until &nally, what is left is the truth.
There are many di6erent types of meditative techni!ues o6ered by the various
schools and styles of 4uddhism. Eespite these di6erences, the most common
anchor for the mind is the breath. The breath is completely portable9 is always
with us and always available to bring us back to this moment. "ne of the
4uddha#s teachings on using the breath is in the Anapanasati sutra. Bere the
4uddha tells us-
The meditator, having gone to the forest, to the shade of a tree, or to an
empty building, sits down with legs folded crosswise, body held erect,
and sets mindfulness to the fore. $lways mindful, the meditator breathes
in- mindful, the meditator breathes out. *+,
Aormal meditation practice does involve sitting in a comfortable posture. The
Yoga Sutra o6ers the same advice- your seat >your asana? needs to be
comfortable and stable. Bowever, this does not mean you must be in the %otus
position. ;f %otus is an easy posture to maintain, without undue discomfort, for
thirty minutes or longer, it may well be your ideal posture. Aor most 5esterners,
however, the pain is neither conducive to the practice nor is it good for your
knees9 it is better to adopt an easier posture that can be maintained for long
periods. Sitting crosslegged, or even sitting in a chair, is okay if your back is
straight and tall and your knees are below your hips. Sitting on a cushion, rather
than right on the Hoor, is recommended even if your hips are very open.
:egardless of which way you are sitting, or even if you are meditating while in a
Yin Yoga posture, ultimately, in the words of %arry :osenberg, )it is the mind that
must sit.)
"ften the student will &nd one teacher re!uests that the eyes be closed but the
ne't teacher will tell the student that her eyes must be open. These edicts come
from di6erent traditions. ;n the Theravada tradition, which employs the practice
of vipassana >or insight? meditation, the eyes are closed. *., ;n the Fen and
Tibetan traditions, the eyes are open or half open but cast downward. */,
<ach tradition has reasons for its choice. Closed eyes create less visual
distraction but can induce sleepiness. "pen eyes may be subCected to many
distractions but it is harder to dream when the eyes are open. Since both ways
are o6ered by various traditions, there is obviously no right or wrong way to have
the eyes. Choose the option that works for you9 if studying with one teacher,
follow her guidance while you work with her.
5hat should be avoided is a constant switching between the two modes while
meditating. ;f you believe you are allowed to open or close your eyes at any time,
the danger is that thoughts will arise. You begin to debate if now would be a good
time to switch modes. ;n our meditation such thoughts are acceptable and
perhaps inevitable, but we do not wish to react to such thoughts. 5e simply note
them and go back to our anchor, watching the breath. Meditate with your eyes
open or closed, but once you have chosen an approach, stick to it.
This, of course, is Cust a guideline. ;t doesn#t mean you won#t be allowed into
heaven if you close your eyes while meditating once in a while. There may in fact
be times when switching is the best choice if you &nd you are getting really
sleepy, and su6ering the full body Cerks with your eyes closed, it may be better to
open them. ;f you &nd your mind is Cust too wild with your eyes open, close them.
4ut during a short yin pose of three or &ve minutes, you should endeavor to stick
to one mode.
+ Arom Breath (y Breath by %arry :osenberg.
. $n e'cellent online resource through which one can learn the vipassana
practice is www.vipasana.com.
/ Eetails of the Fen methods can be found in Dhilip (apleau#s rigorous book
The Three Pi""ars o )en or in the gentler approach o6ered in Su=uki#s Fen Mind,
4eginner#s Mind. "r you can go online and visit www.=enspace.org.
(Next: 5atching The 4reath )
+at!hing The )reath
There are many di6erent ways to watch the breath. ;n the Fen tradition we may
be asked to simply count the breaths. 4egin with the inhalation N that is one. The
e'halation is two. The ne't inhalation is three. (eep counting until you reach ten,
and then begin over at one with the ne't inhalation. ;f this becomes easy, and
you can count to ten without getting lost, without reaching twenty, or without
counting mechanically in the background, then try to count only the e'halations.
This approach is sometimes called )shamatha) with support. Shamatha is one
permissible way to meditate in all schools of 4uddhism and other spiritual paths,
as well as in the yogic schools. *+, Shamatha means calm abiding, tran!uility, or
meditation as we sit and breathe, we Cust sit and breathe. Gothing special is
happening, nothing special will ever happen N that is what makes this practice so
;n the vipassana tradition you may be asked to follow the sensation of the breath
notice how it feels to breathe in and out. 5here do you feel it@ You may be
asked to follow the feeling of the air on your upper lips as you breathe, or to
follow the feeling in the throat, belly, or chest.
Dlease note- we are not trying to change the breath in any way. "ur approach is
very yinlike- we accept the breath the way it is. ;n very active yang styles of
yoga, we do try to change the breath for e'ample, when we perform uCCayi
breathing. ;n pranayama, we very obviously try to change the breath. 4ut, in
shamatha or vipassana, we want the breath to be whatever it wants to be- we
accept it as it is. This is not easyK $s soon as the mind tunes into the breath, it
tries to control it, perfect it. Erop the e6ort and Cust watch. 5atch the beginning
of the inhalation, notice the e'act moment the inhalation ends, the moment the
e'halation begins, and the e'act moment the e'halation ends. Gotice the slight
pauses, if any, between the in and out breath, and the out and in breath. Eon#t
try to create, force, or do anything.
"f course, you need not only follow the breath while meditating in a sitting
posture9 you can do this while walking as well. ;n Fen this is called )#inhin.) 5alk
slowly or !uickly. 5alk indoors or out in nature. Bowever you choose to walk,
watch the breath. <very time you notice your awareness has wandered away,
simply bring it back to this breath.
+ Bowever, vipassana, or insight meditation, is uni!ue to the Theravada
school of 4uddhism.
(Next: The $napanasati Sutra )
The Ana(anasati S$tra
The $napanasati Sutra provides si'teen contemplations, or places to direct
awareness. These are set into groups of four with the &rst group focused on the
body, the second on feelings, the third on the mind, and the last group focused
on wisdom. %arry :osenberg suggests that, although the $napanasati Sutra is
used mainly in the Theravada tradition that he teaches, the 4uddha#s teachings
in this sutra can be of value to meditators following the Fen or Tibetan traditions.
Those drawn to watching the breath, as the basis of their meditation, can bene&t
from knowing what may arise while they practice. The si'teen contemplations
can be very brieHy summari=ed-
+. 4reathing in long
4reathing in short
Sensitive to the whole body
Calming the whole body
.. Sensitive to rapture
Sensitive to pleasure
Sensitive to mental processes
Calming mental processes
/. Sensitive to the mind
8laddening the mind
Steadying the mind
%iberating the mind
0. Aocusing on impermanence
Aocusing on fading away
Aocusing on cessation
Aocusing on relin!uishment
The process is breathe in and out, and focus awareness on each contemplation.
Aor e'ample, you may think )breathing in long) while you are breathing in long,
and think )breathing out long) when you are breathing out long. 5hen you
master one contemplation, move to the ne't.
$long with a full description of the 4uddha#s teaching, :osenberg o6ers the
following &ve, very mundane ways to practice meditation-
+. 5hen possible, do Cust one thing at a time
.. Day full attention to what you are doing
/. 5hen the mind wanders from what you are doing bring it back
0. :epeat step number three several billion times
1. ;nvestigate your distractions.
You will !uickly notice that this advice is something that need not be left on the
mat or on the =afu. *+, This is instruction for everyday life. 5e practice doing all
this while we meditate, or while we practice our yoga, but we practice so that it
will be easier to do this at all times.
;n Yin Yoga we have lots of opportunity to watch the breath, and investigate
distractions. The asanas generate a lot of distractions. So what to do when the
distractions are so strong that they take us away from the breath, and we Cust
can#t come back@ ;n these cases we switch the obCect of meditation to the
+ $ =afu is a cushion used for
(Next: $wareness of the 4ody )
Awareness o, the
);f the body is not cultivated,
the mind cannot be
cultivated,) said the 4uddha.
)There is one thing that
when cultivated and
regularly practiced leads to
deep spiritual intention, to
peace, to mindfulness and
clear comprehension, to
vision and knowledge, to a
happy life here and now, and
to the culmination of wisdom
and su6ering. $nd what is
that one thing@ Mindfulness
centered on the body.)
;n the book The Issue at
!and, from which the above
!uotation comes, 8il
Aronsdal tells us that his
teacher once said, )Eo not
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do anything that takes you
out of your body.) This
simply means, don#t go
away. Eon#t do anything that
will take you away. Stay
present, and pay attention
to the body.
Got only are physical
sensations present in the
body, emotions are also felt
in the body. Thoughts may
be heard in the head, but
feelings, physically or
emotionally, must be noticed
in the body. This is one of
the big reasons that all
forms of yoga are so great at
taking us down the path to
meditation. ;n yoga we feel
the body, we feel the breath,
and we notice anything that
distracts us or takes us away
from this moment of
sensation. Consider a time
when you felt a strong
emotion wasn#t there an
accompanying tension or
sensation somewhere
physically@ That knot in your
belly, that !uiver in your
voice, the Hush in your
cheeks, the pain at the base
of your neck N 4uddhist
psychology teaches that
emotions are embodied- we
Cust need to notice them.
The 4uddha was !uite clear that there is a big
di6erence between a sensation and our reaction,
between pain and su6ering. 5hen we really pay
attention to what we are feeling, we start to notice that
what we thought was su6ering is something else. ;n his
book 5ho Eies, Stephen %evine uses this di6erence in a
very helpful and skillful way for those who are dying or
in constant pain. Be teaches his clients to really
investigate the sensations, to ask themselves to note
e'actly what they are e'periencing. You can ask if the
sensation is sharp or dull. ;s it burning or cool@ 5here
e'actly is it@ Eoes it move around, or does it stay in one
place@ Eoes it come and go, or is it constant@ Eoes the
si=e and shape of the a6ected area change@ The more
we can notice, the further away we take the sensation
from any associated su6ering.
$s we meditate, we ask the same !uestions. ;f our
original anchor is the breath, we seek to return to
awareness of the breath. Bowever, if a sensation in the
body constantly arises that is so powerful that it pulls
our awareness away from the breath, we change the
obCect of our concentration and go with that sensation.
5e watch the sensation with the same curiosity and
commitment that we were watching the breath.
Curiosity is a wonderful gift to use in meditation. Strive
to be as curious and as focused as a cat. 5hat are you
actually feeling at this moment@
Erop any ideas of what you think you are feeling. "ften
we allow a memory of some past pain >or pleasure? to
replace what is really being felt. "r, without our
noticing, a fear that we may begin to feel a new pain
replaces, in anticipation, the actual current sensation.
5e imagine a feeling that hasn#t arrived yet. Eon#t fall
for these old tricks of the mind. Gotice what is present
right now.
Yin Yoga is an e'cellent time to develop our skill in
watching sensations9 there will be lots of sensations all
over the body. ;f one becomes predominant, and
prevents you from focusing on the breath, go with that
predominant sensation. Gotice everything, as %evine
suggests. $lso notice if, along with the physical
sensation, emotions have arisen. This is not uncommon
when we do any work with the hips. "ften emotions
such as anger or irritation will arise when we open this
area. 4e open to this arising.
Got all emotions need to be strong or overwhelming, of
course. Most of the time, the emotions are so mild we
don#t even notice they e'ist. 4ut, they are there if we
look for them. ;t is rare that we are not e'periencing any
emotion. The emotion may be contentment or mild Coy,
unease or mild an'iety. ;rritation can arise for a
moment. $ common emotion, for students Cust
beginning Yin Yoga, is boredom. The mind is used to
being stimulated, and rebels at doing nothing.
Aronsdal tells us that there are four aspects to being
mindful of emotions-
+. :ecognition we &rst recogni=e that an emotion
has arisen
.. Gaming once we know an emotion is present,
what is it@
/. $cceptance this is yinK $llow the emotion to be
0. ;nvestigation drop any Cudgments about the
emotion, and look at it with fresh eyes.
Aronsdal then goes on to suggest ways to become
mindful of our thoughts. This is a much deeper and
more challenging practice.
(Next: Mindfulness of the Mind )
*ind,$lness o, the *ind
"ur breath is always with us. Sensations are also always present, even if not
noticed. So too, emotions are there for the &nding, if one chooses to search. $ny
of these obCects can be used as the foundation for mindfulness training. $s we
progress from watching the breath to sensations to emotions, the challenge
grows to stay focused. The sensations come and go, sometimes here, sometimes
there. The emotions are ephemeral at times, and are often very diQcult to detect
and watch. The biggest challenge, however, is to watch our minds.
Many beginning students believe that the purpose of meditation is to stop all
thoughts. They have heard the de&nition of yoga from the Yoga Sutra *+, and
believe that meditation too has the goal of ending the whirlings in the mind. $nd
sometimes this may actually happen- the mind may become so calm that fewer
and fewer thoughts arise, until there is complete stillness. 4ut this is never a
permanent state, so the 4uddha said this couldn#t be the real goal.
5e do not try to stop our thoughts from arising- we do not wrestle with them. $s
Aronsdal o6ers, )Mindfulness of thinking is simply recogni=ing that we are
thinking.) Certainly when we watch the mind we can become calmer. 4ut this is
not the calmness of torpor, a drugging or dulling of the mind. This is an active
calmness, the yang within the yin.
5hen we do more than simply watch each arising thought, we get caught up in it.
5e struggle with it. The thought creates some emotional response and this is
manifested somewhere in the body. This cycle is endless the mind a6ecting
emotions, emotions a6ecting the body, the body a6ecting the breath, and then
the breath a6ecting the mind again. Sometimes the cycle begins with a sensation
in the body or an arising emotion. $ny arising can in turn create new thoughts.
5e can interrupt this cycle by not reacting to, or struggling with, the thoughts.
:osenberg discusses the third tetrad of the $napanasati sutra *., in detail in
Breath (y Breath. This is the grouping where we breathe with the mind. Be warns
The point is to change our mind from a battle&eld, where we#re always
&ghting these >mind? states, or getting lost in them, to a place of
peaceful coe'istence. Then these visitors, these guests in consciousness,
don#t have such power.
Bis prediction on when we succeed- )5hen that happens, these states start
thinning out, falling away.)
The 4uddha told us long ago that it is our attachments that cause our su6ering.
The way to end attachments is by simply watching them arise. 5e observe and
get to know our cravings. ;nstead of Cust instinctually reacting to them, trying to
obtain whatever it is we want at that moment, we Cust let the thoughts or feelings
come. :osenberg says that there is something false about trying to let go. "ften
it is an attempt to push away, which means a struggle is occurring. The practice
is not to struggle or push away desire or attachment, but simply to observe it.
5ishing our states of mind don#t happen is pointless9 it doesn#t work to force
them away. $ll our states of mind need to be accepted as part of our
consciousness. %et them come, let them blossom, look at them closely and when
they go, let them go. Thich Ghat Banh suggests an even more radical approach.
<choing 7esus, he suggests we learn to love our kilesas.
5hether we meditate while formally sitting for thirty minutes, or use the briefer
periods of a Yin Yoga pose, we can always come to the deeper level of
mindfulness watch the mind itselfK 5e have found four acceptable anchors to
our mindfulness practice. 5e can begin by watching the breath, we may choose
to watch sensations in the physical body, we may watch emotions arise and How,
or we may choose to watch our minds. There is another e6ective anchor we can
also use. 5e can simply listen.
+ Yoga citta vritti
. The mind group.
(Next: %istening )
)Yoga begins with listening. 5hen we listen we
create space.) So states :ichard Areeman in his CE
set, The Yoga *atri+. $s an e'ample, when we listen
to a good friend, we give her space to be whoever
she needs to be in this moment. 5e don#t begin to
think of our response or interrupt. 5e fully listen. 5e
are fully present and aware of her.
:ecall that space, a#asha, is the most subtle of the
&ve elements in the Samkhya cosmology. $nd the
sense associated with space is listening, which
implies that it is the most subtle sense. There e'ist
complete meditative practices that focus solely on
listening as the techni!ue9 the anchor is sound. 5ith
practice, we can learn to discriminate minute details
in all the sounds around us. 5e drop any Cudgments
that this is a nice sound, or an annoying sound.
Meditation centers are often very noisy places9 there
are lots of sounds to work with. "r we can go on
retreat to a very !uiet part of nature, but even here,
there will be lots to hear.
%istening can be done anywhere, and at any time. %ike our breath, our ability to
listen is always with us. Euring our Yin Yoga practice we have lots of time, and
many chances to practice this form of mindfulness. Settle into your pose, and
then listen. Bear the sounds close to you. Gotice the sounds far away9 notice the
brightness, the tone, the pace, and timbre of each sound. Gotice your reaction to
the sound9 do not attempt to stop these reactions. $t &rst you may &nd you don#t
like certain types of sounds- the music in the background may seem distracting9
the teacher#s voice or the breathing of another student close by may get on your
nerves. 7ust notice these emotions, and let them be. :eturn to simply listening.
5hen your practice has ended, notice if your ability to really listen stays with you
as you prepare for your ne't activity. :emind yourself to come back to simply
listening throughout the day. 5hen we listen, thoughts tend to recede or stop. 5e
naturally pause when we are in input mode. 5e are open to noticing whatever
there is to be noticed. <rich Schi6mann suggests buying a digital watch with a
count down timer. Set it to chime every twenty minutes, and each time it chimes,
pause listen Cust for a moment, drop whatever activity your mind is engaged
in, and come back to this moment with full awareness. %istening is a very !uick
and e6ective way to regain this moment. *+,
+ $ very nice program you can download onto your computer is a bell that
sounds throughout your day, reminding you to come back to the present
moment. You can &nd this program at the 5ashington Mindfulness Community
5eb site- www.mindfulnessdc.orgOmindfulclock.html.
(Next: :ed %ights and Telephones
-ed Lights and
5hether we are on a =afu or on a mat, how do we
begin our meditation@ Bow do we end the session and
take the mindfulness with us@ These are practical
considerations that are important for transferring the
practice of mindfulness into everyday life.
"ften teachers will suggest beginning your practice
with an intention. "ne of the highest intentions is that
of the (odhisattva. The bodhisattva is an enlightened
master, a buddha who has forsaken &nal liberation,
choosing instead to remain with us for the bene&ts of
all the other beings who have not yet reached
enlightenment. They have four !ualities referred to as
the Brahma ,ihara. *+, These are-
+. %oving kindness to all creatures
.. Compassion for all who su6er
/. Sympathetic Coy for all who are happy
0. <!uanimity, a pervading calm.
This grand intention may be a bit over the top for
most students. Stephen 4atchelor in Buddhism
'ithout Be"ies o6ers a more tractable resolve. Be
suggests our intention include )aspiration,
appreciation and conviction.) Aor e'ample, he o6ers
these words to begin our practice-
); aspire to awaken, ; appreciate its value, and ;
am convinced it is possible.)
The resolve to awaken may at &rst seem a sel&sh one
but all 4uddhists assure us that if we awaken,
everyone bene&ts. Sarah Dowers has adapted
4atchelor#s phrasing and uses a similar intention at
the beginning of her classes. She will often say,
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); vow to awaken to awareness for the bene&t of
all beings. ; appreciate its immeasurable value
and believe it is possible, as ; am now, without
You may wish to copy this phrase completely or
develop words that resonate with your own intentions.
$ common phrase, short and succinct, is lokah
samasta sukhino bhavantu. This simple and beautiful
chant is a wish for all beings everywhere to be happy.
"nce your practice on the mat has ended, the real
practice begins, bringing mindfulness to every minute
of your day. "f course, we cannot be truly mindful
every second, but we can intend to be. 4ringing
mindfulness to our lives is the subCect of many books
and teachings. 4uddhist teachings in all their forms
are very practical and pragmatic. 5onderful authors
abound. Taste the teachings of Charlotte 7oko 4eck
with either of her e'cellent books -veryday )en and
Nothing Specia". "r dip into any of the ninety or more
books by Thich Ghat Banh >also a6ectionately called
Thay, which means )teacher)? such as Peace is -very
Thay has several e'cellent suggestions for bringing
our awareness back to the moment. "ne practice is
the Te"ephone *editation. 5hen the phone rings,
most people#s &rst instinct is to answer it right away9
we have some hidden fear that the person on the
other end will hang up if we don#t answer in the &rst
two rings. Thay points out that the other person really
wants to talk to us, so we don#t need to rush. Airst,
when the phone rings, we should pause, stop
whatever we are doing, and Cust notice the phone. "n
the second ring we should think about who the other
person is and smile. "n the third ring we should think
about ourselves talking with this person and again
smile. "n the fourth ring we move toward the phone.
Ainally we pick up the phone and say )hello) with a
$nother wonderful everyday meditation
Thay o6ers us is the .ed Light *editation.
Be has noticed that many drivers when
they get stopped at a red light get angry or
upset with being delayed. So many people
have allowed their lives to become so busy
that they resent their time being wasted in
traQc. 4eing slowed down easily irritates
them. 4ut that reaction is a choice- we can
choose to react another way. Thay suggests
we see each red light as an opportunity to
do a minimeditation- we can thank the light
for turning red, for giving us a chance to
check back in with our life, to notice our
breath or sounds, our body or feelings. 5e
can win back another precious taste of this
moment, the only time we can actually be
$ll these techni!ues of building mindfulness
help us in our daily life. The more we
practice, the easier it becomes to practice.
$s noted earlier, the 4uddha was not
concerned about models and science he
didn#t care why the world is the way it is. Bis
concern was to help end su6ering now. The
yogic models of Samkhya or Tantra didn#t
concern the 4uddha. Bis advice was always
practical and pragmatic.
;n the 5est many brilliant minds have pondered the
mind, and have developed a wide array of models and
theories about how the mind works and how we can
end our su6ering. Many of these thinkers have
independently rediscovered methods that the 4uddha
described two and a half millennia ago. Their models
also echo the divisions of mind noted by the
psychonauts of early yoga. "ur Courney down the Yin
:iver now takes us toward some of these 5estern
viewpoints of mind. 5e will learn how these too can
assist our practice of yoga.
+ Similar to the Yoga Sutra#s teaching of maitri,
karuna, mudita and upeksanam.
(Next: The 5estern View of Mind )
The +estern .iew o,
To many people in the 5est, investigating the mind
conCures images of lying on a couch, while behind them
sits a man looking suspiciously like a Viennese doctor
holding a notebook- Berr Eoctor Areud#s reputation
persists as the archetypal psychiatrist. Many are
familiar with his early psychological model of the mind
the id, the ego, the superego surrounded by the
libido, which thrashes around causing all sorts of
su6ering. Areud bla=ed a pioneer#s path, but one that
we will not Courney down. :ather we will follow the path
laid by Areud#s friend and disciple >at least until their
famous falling out?, Carl 7ung. *+,
There are many possible psychological models of the
mind we could investigate that have become popular in
the 5est, Cust as there are many esoteric models of the
mind in the <ast. Dhilosophers have looked deeply into
the way the mind works for centuries. :ene Eescartes
developed his famous a'iom from these investigations.
Be hoped to solve the basic e'istential !uandary with
the phrase ); think, therefore ; am.) $s we have seen
from the <astern point of view, this a'iom is backward.
;n the <ast, it is more a case of ); am, therefore ; think
N now how can ; calm down all those thoughts and
&nd out who ; am@) Carl 7ung#s approach to the mind is
chosen for illumination due to his e6orts to &nd a
bridge between the <astern and 5estern views of the
5e will begin by looking at the models found in 7ungian psychology. *., $fter
seeing how 7ung developed many similar reali=ations about the mind to those we
have seen developed in the <ast, we will look at a more practical, pragmatic
approach for dealing with the mind. This school of mental practice is )Cognitive
*/, 4ehavioral Therapy) or C4T. C4T deals with how we think, and how what we
think a6ects what we feel and how we act. C4T psychologists would also modify
Eescartes# a'iom- )5e are what we think.)
+ 7ung was born in +I31 and died in +L2+.
. $ term 7ung himself did not fancy. Be believed each patient needed a
speciali=ed approach tailored to his or her own uni!ue situation. ;n this manner
he mirrored the yoga teaching philosophy of (rishnamacharya and his son
/ The word )cognitive) may seem foreboding but basically it means thinking.
(Next: The 7ungian Model )
The 2ungian (odel of the (ind
)ung, like all yogis, based his concepts of mind on personal e$perience4 his was not a
theoretical model !oid of any practical reality. Through his own crises and mental breakdown
and his long climb back to wholeness, he obser!ed the landscape of the psyche up close and
"imply stated, )ung(s model of the psyche has three main parts4
1. the ego which is the home of our consciousness,
3. the personal unconscious into which we stuff e!erything we ha!e seen and forgotten or
would like to deny e$ists within us
F. the collecti!e unconscious, which we share in common with all human beings and
which holds the many archetypes that are symbols of life situations
The ego must e$ist, according to )ung, for without an +#+ to witness, there can be no
consciousness. Inlike the 9astern models where the ego presents a false +#+ that needs to be
shown as a sham or an illusion, to )ung, the ego needs to continue. #t is an una!oidable part of
the psychic landscape, and has as much right to be recogni5ed as the unconsciousness aspects
of our psyche.
The personal unconscious is the +matri$ of all potentialities.+ )ung belie!ed the unconscious is
able, just like the conscious mind, to think and feel, to ha!e purpose and intention. 8e
described its contents as
E e!erything of which # know, but of which # am not at the moment thinking%
e!erything of which # was once conscious but ha!e now forgotten% e!erything
percei!ed by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind% e!erything which,
in!oluntarily and without paying attention to it, # feel, think, remember, want and
doE 012
)ung(s recognition of the collecti!e unconscious was a crowning achie!ement, and one often
misunderstood and rejected by other psychologists of the time. The collecti!e unconscious is
hereditary, not personal. #t is not created by the indi!idual(s e$periences in this life, but is
shared as a repertoire of instincts across e!ery human being. These instincts take the shape of
archetypes or images that arise in cultural myths or personal dreams% they are the demons and
angels within but reflected or projected outside onto e!ents and people around us. These are
the images that the Tibetan 'ook of the =ead 032 warns will appear in the first few moments
after death. Inless we recogni5e them as simply parts of our own mind and do not fear them,
we will panic and rush foolishly into our ne$t cycle of birth and death.
According to )ung, archetypes are only ali!e when they are meaningful to us. "ince the
symbols of another culture ha!e little meaning to us, those images do not awaken the
archetypes in our Western psyche. 0F2 )ust take note of your dreams, the ones that are most
!i!id, disturbing, or memorable, to find how your archetypes are clothed.
There is a fourth part of the psyche not mentioned abo!e4 the "elf. This can be considered just
one of the many archetypes )ung introduced us to, but this is the ultimate archetype. #t is the
organi5ing principle within each of us that guides us and gi!es us a direction to follow. #n
)ung(s own words4
#t might e.ually well be called the +Dod within us.+ The beginning of our whole
psychic life seems to be ine$tricably rooted in this point, and all our highest and
ultimate purposes seem to be stri!ing toward it. 0G2
)ung(s description of the "elf sounds distinctly 9astern. 8e claims it is both unitemporal and
uni.ue, just as the yogis described purusha. The "elf is uni!ersal and eternal, just as the
Tantrikas belie!e. #t e$presses both our human image and god(s image.
With this model in mind, let(s turn to look at what )ung wanted us to achie!e through his
1 -- )ung4 (he %tru$ture and 5ynami$s o+ the *sy$he - page 1J>.
3 -- The 'ardol Todol.
F -- 8indus and 'uddhists in #ndia and the =aoists in 6hina used metaphors based on their culture. )ung was
adamant that people in the West should stick to the images of the West in order to understand their own situation.
Of what !alue to a "wiss bricklayer is an image of "hi!a dancing on top of a dwarf named A!idya7
G -- )ung4 (wo ,ssays on 1nalyti$al *sy$hology, page AN.
(Next The Doal of )ungian Psychotherapy !
The 3oal of 2ungian Psychotherapy
The goal of the spiritual practice of yoga is
liberation from the cycles of birth and death. The
goal of the 'uddha(s meditation is to end
suffering. The goal of )ung(s psychotherapy is
+indi!iduation,+ which means the integration of
our unconsciousness with our consciousness,
allowing the "elf to arise.
)ung was uni.ue in the West. 8e not only sought
to end the suffering of his patients from their
illness, he also wanted to help healthy people
reali5e their full potential. 8is therapy was not
limited to those afflicted, as were all the other
psychotherapies of the day. ;ike his ancient
9astern counterparts, he wanted to cure his
patient(s present problems and make them strong
enough to face the real e$istential problem - he
wanted them to become whole.
The "elf, according to )ung, is the source in the
beginning - and this same "elf is the goal in the
end. 'etween these, there is unfolding a
continual de!elopment, an integration of the
personality. That is the process of indi!iduation.
This transformation occurs through the
interaction of the ego and the unconscious.
Around the middle of his life )ung was
introduced to the teachings of =aoist alchemy
through his friend <ichard Wilhelm and
Wilhelm(s translation of the book The "ecret of
the Dolden *lower. )ung reali5ed that alchemy
was a metaphoric approach to the transformation
he was seeking. The alchemists, in trying to
transmute base elements into gold or sil!er, were
really attempting to liberate Dod from the dark
matter of the uni!erse. To )ung, this was the
whole psychic process of liberating our "elf from
the dark matter of our unconsciousness. 012 &any
spiritual teachers, throughout the ages, ha!e
sought this same goal.
The Tibetan 'uddhists belie!e that we can
become liberated only if we shine a light on our
inner darkness, so that, at the moment of death,
the darkness( metaphoric apparition does not
o!ercome us. )esus, in the Dospel of "aint
Thomas, preached, +#f you bring forth what is
within you, what you bring forth will sa!e you. #f
you do not bring forth what is within you, what
you do not bring forth will destroy you.+ These
teachings are the same as )ung(s e$hortations to
achie!e indi!iduation4 the fractures within us
must be healed and a new being will emergeE
the original being, the "elf.
8ow to achie!e indi!iduation is the ne$t
understanding we need to gain.
1 -- oga itself is an alchemical process E see Tim &iller(s
article using this metaphor in his (he 1l$hemy o+ Yoga at
(Next #ndi!iduation !
)ust as a sick person, weakened by illness, cannot
perform ad!anced yoga or meditation, neither
can the person with a fractured personality
achie!e enlightenment. #ntegration of the whole
person is re.uired. Deorg *euerstein says this in
another way, +enlightenment is no substitution
for integration of the personality.+ The history of
yoga is full of highly ad!anced gurus who
mastered many esoteric practices but did not heal
their own psychic schisms. Their deep
imperfections caused great pain and suffering to
their disciples and followers.
#ndi!iduation is possible only when
consciousness heeds the unconscious. The
opposites within us must meet in order to
complement each other. #sn(t this e$actly what we
mean when we name our yoga +8a+ and +Tha+
yoga7 The opposites of sun and moon, the
opposites of yin and yang, the opposites of light
and darkness need to come together, to be unified
or yoked.
<admila &oacanin tells us, in her book (he
,ssen$e o+ 8ung0s *sy$hology and (ibetan
)ung postulates that on a psychological le!el
the union of opposites cannot be achie!ed
by the conscious ego alone - by reason,
analysis - which separates and di!ides% nor
e!en by the unconscious alone - which
unites% it needs a third element, the
transcendent function.
With this obser!ation, )ung denies the claims of
the "amhkya yogis4 !i!eka is not sufficient for
achie!ing liberation. We must go beyond reason
or understanding. We must go way beyond
dualism and follow the teaching of the Tantras.
We seek wholeness.
#n 1M1A )ung wrote a book on this topic, which
he called (he (rans$endent 9un$tion. The
function, the task, is transcendent because we
need to go beyond both the rational and the
irrational. We need to bring them both together
and this can be done only from outside both.
)ung used two main methods to help his patients4
1. dream interpretation and
3. acti!e imaging.
#nterpreting dreams is an ancient practice. The
'ible praised )oseph(s skills when he interpreted
his Pharaoh(s many dreams. #t is also a modern
practice, employed by *reud as well as many
others before and after )ung. =ream oga has
also been popular in the last century. "wami
"i!ananda <adha wrote a book on this topic
called 3ealities o+ the 5reaming -ind) (he
*ra$ti$e o+ 5ream Yoga. #n )ung(s hands, dreams
were deconstructed into the archetypes of the
personal and collecti!e unconscious. 8e brought
their stories to light. 012 'ut this is only !i!eka%
this is understanding the message. &ore than
understanding is needed. To truly change, action
is needed.
Acti!e imagination is one of )ung(s original and
uni.ue contributions to Western psychotherapy.
8e uses the alchemist(s approach to transform the
psyche, to reconcile the opposites deep within us.
8e begins the process with calming the mind.
&oacanin describes the task as being !ery
similar to basic meditation.
E to induce a calm state of mind, free from
thoughts, and merely to obser!e in a neutral
way, without judgment, just to behold the
spontaneous emergence and unfoldment of
unconscious content, fragments of fantasyE
This is no different than what we ha!e been
asked to do in our in oga practice during the
periods of meditati!e holding of the poses. This
is the teaching of the 'uddha, to simply watch
what is arising without judgment. )ung suggests
we record in some way the symbols that arise
during this meditation4 record them in writing or
by drawing them or by dancing them. Di!e them
a life of their own.
How that suggestion is new.
This ne$t stage of acti!e imagination brings the
conscious mind to the acti!ity4 let it join the
dance. 'oth the unconscious and conscious
become acti!e together. #f the therapy, if the
practice is successful, the patient, the student, is
now able to li!e her life consciously. Ho longer is
she subjected to the confusing, hidden urges of
the unconscious mind that dri!es her actions
without her conscious awareness or cooperation.
Acti!e imagination has many similarities to the
practices of cogniti!e beha!ioral therapy ,6'T-,
which we will look at more closely later. #n all
these practices, the objecti!e is the same4 to use
the mind to program the mind. We use our
conscious mind to affect the unconscious mind
and change the patterns of our beha!ior, our deep
1 -- "ee his collection of writings in the book =reams,
translated by <.*.6. 8ull.
3 -- (he ,ssen$e o+ 8ung0s *sy$hology and (ibetan
2uddhism by <admila &oacanin
(Next )ung &eets the 'uddha !
/$ng *eets the )$ddha
The 5estern approach to studying the mind is empirical9 our science is based
upon observations that are veri&able. The <astern approaches are metaphysical
but the 4uddha insisted his followers observe for themselves everything he
taught. 4uddhism is also completely empirical. Yoga too re!uires the student to
see for herself follow your guides but take nothing for granted9 check it out
<verything that works is real.
Eo you doubt your own e'periences@ Eon#t. :eality is there within what you are
seeing, e'periencing. 4ut we can get fooled9 that is why we need the guides.
They help us look behind the disguises9 they help us interpret the symbols. 4ut
again and again, they will warn us that we are the ones who must do the looking.
There are numerous similarities between 7ung#s psychological methods to achieve
individuation and those of the 4uddhist traditions. $ctive imagination has its
counterpart in the Tantra practice of yantra. Yantras are symbols that are
concentrated upon until the energies of the unconscious are released into
conscious awareness. 7ung#s desire to understand the meaning of the
unconscious symbols is the same desire to discern the real >sat? from the unreal
>asat?. This is the goal of an ancient mantra-
/m asatoma sat gamaya
Tamasoma $yotir gamaya
*rithyor ma amritam gamaya
%ead us from the unreal to the real
%ead us from the darkness to the light
%ead us from the fear of death to immortality
The 4uddha and other <astern teachers taught a radical transformation of
consciousness. 7ung taught us how to sacri&ce our ego in order to allow the
emergence of our Self >the 8od within?. 4oth approaches re!uire a guide9 there
are dragons at every turn along this path. <ven though these dragons are
symbols of our own inner darkness, they are dangerous creatures nonetheless.
They can devour the unprepared and cause grave psychic and even physical
harm. The practice of deep meditation, advanced yoga, or individuation is not to
be done alone.
There are di6erences as well between 7ung#s approach and the <astern ways.
7ung absolutely re!uires the ego to maintain its e'istence. 5e do not transcend
the ego we incorporate the ego9 the ego simply becomes subordinate to the
Self. The ultimate goal for 7ung is not total consciousness with an absence of
problems or strife. 5ith each new level of consciousness achieved comes a new
burden. The process of individuation is never complete. :emember 7ung is an
empiricist9 he deals only with what can be known, and this prevents him from
entering the realm of metaphysics. 5e cannot bring to consciousness everything
that is unconscious9 we can only work toward that goal.
Aor the 4uddha, everything that needs to be known can be known and liberation
can be achieved. 5ith liberation comes bliss and an end to su6ering. Tantric
4uddhists believe this liberation is achievable in one lifetime. $nanda >bliss? can
be found right here, right now. 7ung, by contrast, did not believe complete
individuation, attaining complete wholeness, is possible.
4ut one thing 7ung and the teachers in the <ast would agree upon. 7ung
complained, )Nstill too few look inward N) *+, Today there are many people
su6ering psychic pains who are advised to seek solace in drugs. Taking an
antidepressant, or even stronger drugs, is a lot easier than svadhyaya, looking
inward. $nd for some this may be helpful, but there are many who have turned
inward many of these people are using the modern tools of cognitive behavioral
therapy to help them cope with the challenges in their lives.
+ 0ung1 T'o -ssays on Ana"ytica"
Psycho"ogy, page 1.
(Next: Cognitive 4ehavioral Therapy )
ognitive )ehavioral Thera(y
Jnderstanding our dreams or understanding our habitual behavior can certainly
help us understand why we face challenges in our lives but this knowledge alone
will not help us deal with the challenges. ;f our hope is to change the way we are
feeling, to end our su6ering, we need other tools to assist us in changing our
habitual patterns.
The eightfold path that the 4uddha described twenty&ve hundred years ago
proclaimed we needed to do things right- right thinking, right speaking, right
actions N Conversely, what can make life more diQcult is wrong thinking, wrong
speaking, wrong actions N Correcting these wrong habits is where the tools of
C4T are very useful.
C4T is a merger of two distinct therapies. Er. 7ohn 4ush e'plains *+, the two
precursors to C4T.
4ehavior therapy helps you weaken the connections between
troublesome situations and your habitual reactions to them. :eactions
such as fear, depression or rage, and selfdefeating or selfdamaging
behavior. ;t also teaches you how to calm your mind and body, so you
can feel better, think more clearly, and make better decisions.
Cognitive therapy teaches you how certain thinking patterns are causing
your symptoms by giving you a distorted picture of what#s going on in
your life, and making you feel an'ious, depressed or angry for no good
reason, or provoking you into illchosen actions.
Together these two therapies form a powerful, clinically proven approach to
achieving a more satisfying life. C4T is very di6erent from psychoanalysis, which
can take years of work, and has, in Er. 4ush#s words )not much science behind it.)
<ven the early clientcentered therapies of pioneers, such as :ogers, were based
on the personal intuition of the therapist. The clinically proven bene&ts of C4T
have caused it to become the preferred approach to dealing with emotional and
behavioral problems.
+ Check out
http-OOwww.an'ietyinsights.infoOreadOpageOCwbRcbtRscienti&cRera.htm to &nd out
more about Er 4ush and his work.
(Next: 4ehavioral Therapy )
)ehavior Thera(y
4ush lists the three main approaches of 4ehavior Therapy, which appeared in the
+L1S#s. These are
+. Eesensiti=ation
.. 4ehavior modi&cation
/. 4ehavior activation
Eesensiti=ation seeks to reduce the troublesome emotions by allowing these
emotions to arise while in a rela'ed state. 4ehavior modi&cation aims to replace
undesirable behaviors with desirable ones. ;t re!uires knowing the cues that we
use to initiate behavior, interrupting these cues, and replacing them with more
appropriate behaviors. The &nal approach aims to pull the client out of her
depressed state by restoring everyday habits or pleasurable activities that may
have been lost or forgotten. *+,
+ $nother school of behavioral modi&cation is called Geuro%inguistic
Drogramming or G%D. G%D became prominent in the +L3Ss and #ISs through the
work of :ichard 4andler and 7ohn 8rinder. They modeled brilliant therapists, such
as Milton <rickson and Virginia Satir, and distilled from these e'perts the essential
tools they used to help their clients. 5hile G%D has grown in popularity through
the years, its teachings spread most widely through the work of $nthony :obbins
and his &rst book, 2n"imited Po'er. :obbins, however, did not use the name G%D
for the procedures he adopted from 4andler and 8rinder, much to their
annoyance. Aor insight into their approach, the reader may want to read their
initial book 3rogs into Princes or visit :obert Eilts# G%D Jniversity at
(Next: Cognitive Therapy )
ognitive Thera(y
Cognitive, or thinking therapy, arose in the +L2Ss. Er. 4ush describes two main
+. :ational <motive Therapy >:<T?
.. Er $aron 4eck#s Cognitive Therapy
:<T simply wants us to act or think more rationally. The work is to identify our
irrational thoughts as they arise and lead to problems, and correct them. Er.
4eck#s cognitive therapy has the same goal as :<T. Be began to identify many
di6erent types of cognitive errors, and developed many ways to correct these
thought patterns. *+,
$n e'ample of a cognitive problem could be someone cuts you o6 in traQc9 the
thought arises in your mind that that person hates you. Arom this faulty thought,
you begin to have thoughts about how many people in your life don#t like you.
You become depressed. This depression has no reality behind it. You don#t know
why the person cut you o6 N most likely it was because she was not paying
attention. ;f you change your thoughts to how the other driver may have been
having a bad hair day and was easily distracted, your chain of reasoning would
lead you to a completely di6erent conclusion. :ather than being depressed, you
may instead send a wish to the other driver9 you may wish for her to calm down,
put on a hat, and enCoy her day in peace and safety.
C4T begins with the premise that outside events and other people are not what
cause us problems9 what causes all our problems is the way we react or think
about these outside situations. ;t is the way we respond that makes all the
di6erence in our life. This is akin to the 4uddha#s statement that life contains
pain, but our su6ering is optional. "nce we recogni=e our response, we work to
change it. $nd it is workK This is not easy, but if the student or client is
determined to change su6ering into Coy, the work will bear fruit.
+ Er. 4eck is considered the father of C4T and has written many books on the
topic. 4ognitive Therapy and the -motiona" Disorders is an e'cellent introduction
to the subCect. Er. 4eck works today with his daughter 7udith, e'panding our
understanding of cognitive centered therapies. More information can be found at
(Next: Gewer $pproaches )
Newer 5pproaches
=r. 'ush describes more recent ad!ancements in this whole field that come !ery close to what
we ha!e been in!estigating in 9astern metaphysics. These approaches, which arose in the
1MM?s, include
1. &indfulness &editation
3. Acceptance and 6ommitment therapy
The typical goal of these approaches is to become less affected by our thoughts, by any
sensations or e!ents, or by our mental fantasies and imaginings. #ncluded in the second
approach is a holding true to our personal !alues in all we do and think. The methods are !ery
similar to meditation techni.ues, which we will in!estigate in the section &editation on
The typical approach to cogniti!e beha!ior therapy includes obser!ing and changing the way
we react to situations, our thoughts about these situations, and the emotions that arise. One
powerful tool to use to do this is +recording thoughts.+
(Next <ecording Thoughts !
1ecording Thoughts
We ha!e seen earlier that thoughts affect our emotions, which in turn can affect us physically,
which in turn can affect our thoughts. Our physical, emotional, and mental bodies are
completely interconnected% doing something to one kosha affects all the others. We can call
the process +connecting the dots.+ #f we can interrupt these connections, we can stop the
a!alanche of thoughts, emotions, and physical feelings from continuing their destructi!e
A !ery !aluable tool offered in 6'T is the +Thought <ecord.+ The book by 9dmund 'ourne,
The 1n:iety and *hobia 4orkbook, and the book -ind .ver -ood by =ennis Dreenberger
and 6hristine Padesky both ha!e a series of tables that can be used to record thoughts, and
help change the way thoughts affect our emotional state. The thought record assumes that the
cause of our emotional unbalance, or any suffering we are e$periencing, is preceded by
thoughts that unconsciously and automatically arise when certain situations occur. #f we can
detect this flow, and interrupt it or substitute different conclusions, we can change the
emotions or the suffering we are e$periencing.
To make a thought record, create a table with the following se!en headings across the top of
the page, beginning with4
Situational 5nalysis
The first step in compiling a thought record is to note a situation you were in when
an upsetting emotion or suffering occurred. Hote whom you were with, what you
were doing, where you were, when this happened E be as detailed at possible. Write
it all down in point form..
(ood 5nalysis
The second step is to describe the moods you were feeling in that situation. Ise one-
word labels such as sad, mad, glad, an$ious, impatient E then .uantify the intensity
of the mood in percentages. <eally intense moods might be rated eighty or ninety
percent. Weak moods might deser!e ratings of only ten or twenty percent.
5utomatic Thought 5nalysis
The third step is a bit more challenging, but can be fun. Ask yourself what was going
through your mind when the situation arose, before you started to feel the moods.
What thoughts came unbidden7 Then ask yourself, +What do these thoughts mean
about who # am7+ What do these thoughts imply about your future7 What is the
worst thing that could happen because of this situation7 8ow would this make other
people think about you7 What specific images arose in your mind at this time7 Write
these down. 6ircle or highlight the thoughts that seem to be the most powerful ones.
These are called +hot thoughts.+
6'idence that Support the )ot Thoughts
;ist any e!idence you can think of that would pro!e the hot thoughts to be true. 'e
factual here E don(t mind read, or assume you know what other people are thinking.
6'idence that 0oes Not Support the )ot Thoughts
How, search for reasons why these thoughts are perhaps mistaken. This is a critical
part of the process. Take each thought one at a time. &ull them o!er slowly4 don(t
rush this. Ask yourself, +Are there other reasons why this situation could ha!e
occurred7+ 6onsider what you would say to a friend who sought your ad!ice, what
e!idence you would offer her for why these hot thoughts are wrong. Think of past
times when you knew the hot thought was wrong. Think of as many reasons as
possible why these thoughts are not true. Write these down.
5lternati'e Thoughts
"ince you ha!e many reasons why the hot thoughts may be wrong, come up with
some more appropriate thoughts or conclusions that you $ould have reached in this
situation. ;ook for balance. At the end of each alternati!e thought, rate how strongly
you belie!e this thought to be true by assigning a percentage to it. A !ery belie!able
thought may rate a ninety or one hundred percent.
(oods 1e'isited
After doing all this work, pause for a moment, and look again at the moods you
listed earlier% rerate their intensities. 8ow strong are they now7 012
The thought record not only shines a light on the cause of our suffering, just as psychoanalysis
or !i!eka does, but it also unhooks the causes from our reactions. 'y looking at how irrational
our reactions are, and by accepting new thoughts, we can completely change the way the dots
are connected. We can change the suffering we e$perience e!en though the pain, or the
situation, is unchanged.
1 -- *urther information on creating thought records can be found at Ad!ances in Psychiatric Treatment4
#dentifying and 6hanging Inhelpful Thinking at http4//apt.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/J/>/FNN7eaf.
(Next oga and 6'T !
"oga and )T
5hat is happening to us is often outside our control9 changing our reaction to
what is happening to us is controllable. The key to this is awareness. This is
same intention that advanced yoga students have for their yoga practice. They
want to become keenly aware of their e'perience. They don#t want to Cust notice
the physical feelings they are having they want to also notice the thoughts
these feelings are creating, and the resulting moods. "nce they can see how the
physical is connected to the mental and the mental to the emotional, they are
ready to alter these connections.
Bolding a Yin Yoga pose for three or &ve minutes gives us time to really look deep
and see what is happening. 5e start to see these connections forming. 5e
become keenly aware of emotions like irritation, anger, fear, or even boredom,
surfacing. 5e can start to trace these emotions back to certain thoughts and
sensations. 5e can then choose, if we like, to change the way we are reacting.
5e can choose to awaken N or to $.5.$.(.<.G.
(Next: $.5.$.(.<.G. )
5e call yoga a practice for a reason. Dractice prepares us for the real work N the
work of living our life. Dractice consists of rehearsing, over and over, the actions
and reactions we want to master, so that, when the time comes, we are ready to
perform skillfully. Yoga practice builds awareness, which leads to choice. 5hen we
practice coming face to face with challenging moments, we learn how to slow
down, and notice what is really going on. 5e learn how to decide the right way to
act or react. 5e awaken to all the possibilities that e'ist in that moment, rather
then default to one habitual, and perhaps inappropriate, action.
This awakening can be achieved through a si'step program combining both yin
and yang elements. ;n cognitive behavioral therapy a similar program is o6ered
to help people cope with an'ieties, phobias, and debilitating fears. There are
fears that help us to live, and there are fears that stop us from living. These fears
may be consciously recogni=ed, or they may live deep inside us, directing our
behavior and reactions without our conscious awareness. $ll these an'ieties are
stimulated by situations or thoughts, real or imagined. 5hen faced with a
challenge, our unconscious mind often sends us subliminal directives >activated
by the samskaras?. 5hen we deliberately create challenges, such as during our
yoga or meditation practices, we get a chance to rewire the unconscious mind, to
reprogram new and more appropriate responses. 5e can undo the karmic
defaults we live under. *+,
The si'step program that helps us con!uer our fears and an'ieties, *., and
awaken to the moment, is called $.5.$.(.<.G. <ach letter represents one stage of
the program-
%0 Allow
10 +at!h
20 A!t
30 Kee( at it
40 Ex(e!t the best
50 Now
5hen these steps are followed, over and over again, they become a healthy,
healing habit. "nce the habit is established, the fears we e'perience are reduced
to only those that are appropriate for the situation we are in. To make these si'
steps into a habit, do them during your yoga practice or at any time you
recogni=e unease creeping into your body, mind, or heart.
+ Thich Ghat Banh would call these samskaras )weeds,) which we tend to water
mindlessly. 5e water weeds when we could be watering beautiful Howers.
. These would be called )du#ha) in the Yoga Sutra.
(Next: $llow )
$llow- this is the yin practice of acceptance allowing things
to be as they are in this moment. ;n our 5estern culture, the
drive is to change the world. $t a very early age we are
e'horted to be active, to do something, to make something of
ourselves. 5e are told to go out and change the world. This is
the essence of yang all our heroes and role models are
$nd there is nothing wrong with being a yangsterK There are
certainly times in life when the most appropriate thing to do
is to take action. $s we already discussed, if we see a child
being beaten, we take action to change that. 4ut if we are
constantly in yang mode, we will soon burn out. Stress
without rest is not balanced living. 5e need, at times, to Cust
let the world be the way it is.
;n reality there are actually very few times we can change the
world or change the situation we are in. "ur ego would like to
believe we can always do something, but this is simply not
true. There are many times when the appropriate action is
inaction, because there is nothing we can do, e'cept perhaps
make things worse.
$llowing things to be as they are is an important skill to learn.
This is not one that is pri=ed or taught in our culture. Maybe
for one or two weeks of the year, we are told to take a
vacation, to take a break and rest. 4ut then we &ll those two
weeks with all sorts of yang activities, and we get no closer to
really balancing our inner and outer worlds. Two weeks, of
course, is hardly enough to balance &fty weeks of feverish
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living. 5e need to learn to allow every day. Dracticing Yin Yoga
is an e'cellent time to learn to allow, to accept, what is
happening without reacting or trying to change the world.
(ing Canute was famous for trying to change the world. Be
tried to stop the tide from coming in. Be failed, of course, and
as a conse!uence got all wet. *+,
Dractice allowing9 begin with your breath N allow it to be
whatever it wants to be. This is not easyK "nce our ego
becomes aware of the breath it thinks it can do a better Cob
and tries to control it. 4ut practice N allow the breath to Cust
5hen a fear sneaks upon you N allow it inK 5elcome it, as
(ing Canute welcomed the water. The ego is the attendant
Hattering you with false praise. <go is whispering in your ear,
)Dush the fear downK (eep it hidden N Cust command it and it
will go awayK) Show the ego that you don#t have to &ght the
fear. :esisting fear is fruitless let it come, Cust as we allow
the waves to come ashore. *.,
5hen we learn to allow what is happening we take power
away from whatever is happening. This is a principle of
martial arts practice- do not resist. 5hen we resist what is
happening, we weaken ourselves and give power to that
which we resist, making it stronger. $ccording to 7ung, )5hat
we resist, persists.) ;nstead N practice allowing.
+ 4y the way, the mythical king knew what he was doing.
Be was proving a point to his Hatterers and attendants. They
were the ones saying that he was so great and powerful that
he could command the very oceans of the world. To teach
them a lesson he ordered his chair to be placed in the path of
the oncoming waters. The rest is mythic history.
. 7ung noticed that there e'ists a frightening part of our
psyche that he called )the shadow.) The shadow is formed by
resistance- everything that we deny about ourselves we throw
into a dark bag we carry behind us. 4ut what we resist
doesn#t go away or become weaker- it hides and grows
stronger. The shadow is very scary. 5e will do anything to
avoid facing it9 including proCecting its attributes onto others
and blaming them for the very weaknesses we deny e'ist in
ourselves. ;t is unfortunate when a person proCects his
shadow onto another person. ;t is catastrophic when a
country proCects its shadow onto another country- war is often
the result. This is the price of not allowing.
(Next: 5atch )
"nce we have allowed the world to be the way it already is, *+, our ne't practice
is to observe it simply watch. 5atching does not have to be done with the eyes-
listen- feel. "bserve what is happening in any way you can but really notice
what is happening.
So often we assume we know what is going on9 we don#t really, but we think we
do. 5e note !uickly what is happening, think we have it all &gured out, and then
move our attention somewhere else. :eally watching is hard work. ;t re!uires a
commitment to remain present and really look at what is going on.
Cultivate a sense of curiosity. ;magine you are a cat waiting by a mouse hole.
Eon#t let your attention waiver for even one second. 5atch for the mouse. 5hen
a mouse appears, because we are yogi cats and vegetarians, we let the mouse go
and wait for the ne't one.
5hen we really watch what is happening, we start to notice things we never saw
before. ;n your Yin Yoga practice, begin to pay more attention to the sensations
you are e'periencing. 5here e'actly is the sensation@ $sk yourself !uestions. ;s it
moving or constant@ Eoes it come and go@ Drovide one or twoword labels for the
sensations. ;s it hot or cool@ ;s it dull, or achy, or sharp, or piercing@ The more you
watch closely, the more you will see the better you will be able to describe
e'actly what you are e'periencing. The more you watch, the more you will notice
that you really didn#t know what was happening at allK You have been living your
life blind.
5atching by listening can be a complete meditation all on its own. Many monks
prefer this mode of meditating9 they become !uite accomplished at detecting
very subtle nuances of noises. You may choose to do this as part of your practice
as well. $s you hold a yoga pose, or sit in meditation, allow the sounds around
you to come to you. This too is the essence of yin. There is no need to chase after
the sounds they come to you. There is no need to do anything about them. You
don#t have to Cudge them as nice or irritating- all you do is allow them to come
and listen to them. You become a yinster.
5hen fears, or an'ieties, or other challenges in life present themselves to you,
allow them to come and watch them as you have practiced. Gotice what e'actly
the challenge or fear or an'iety consists of. Eon#t Cudge it as good or bad. 7ust
notice what is happening. The more information we have about a situation, the
more skillfully we can make choices. Then the time may come to take an action, if
that is appropriate.
+ $nd that includes allowing ourselves to be the way
we already are.
(Next: $ct )
%ook again at the yin and yang symbol. See that white yang dot in
the middle of the dark yin portion@ There is no way to completely
separate yin and yang. They are both present in every situation.
<ven in this si'step process of dealing with life, by allowing and
watching events to unfold, there is a need for yang energy. Taking
action is also present. This is not, however, the normal action of
doing for the sake of doing9 this is the action that arises naturally
from the previous stages of allowingOaccepting and watching.
;n Eaoism the term )'u-'ei) literally means )without action.) ;t
contains this parado' of action without action. This is often seen in
the masters of the martial arts9 with a minimum of action they
achieve everything. This is a fundamental tenet of Eaoist
teachings- water is the most yielding of all elements and yet the
most powerful. 8entle rains can wear a mountain to the ground.
;n our practice we also act without acting. 5hen fears or an'ieties root us, make
us unable to do anything, we act, we do what we must do. Eespite the fear,
despite the challenges facing us, despite our ego#s cries, we act. 4ecause we
have allowed the world to be the way it is, because we have accepted what is,
and because we have watched and observed what is really going on, our action
becomes skillful.
This sounds very reasonable but it is not very common. $s we have seen earlier,
normally we do one of three things when we are faced with challenges in our
lives. Many people, when they are outside their comfort =one, will try to change
the world. They will struggle to make the world become the way they want the
world to be. "ther people will recogni=e that they cannot change the world and
instead will run away from it. They will &guratively hide under their beds and
hope the challenges looking for them will pass them by. The world changers and
the ostriches soon &nd out that these strategies don#t work very well. They may
then Coin the third group of people, the people who simply give up. ;n a sullen,
selfpitying funk, they submit to the pains of life and take every opportunity to let
everyone around them know Cust how unfair life is.
Changing the world or running away from it are yang reactions that don#t work.
8iving up is a yin reaction that also doesn#t work. $llowing, watching, and acting
is a yinOyang way to meet life that does work.
Aor e'ample, in the winter the weather becomes cold. ;f we were driven by our
yang impulses we would try to change the weather or we would run away from
the weather by moving to a warmer climate. "ther people may stay put but they
will complain bitterly about the fact that no one seems to be doing anything
about this awful weather. The skillful way to deal with this unchangeable
challenge is to allow the weather to be what it is, to watch how we feel because
of this weather, and then to take appropriate action to dress more warmly.
Aor people aTicted by phobias the same approach works- when facing a
challenge that has taken you outside your comfort =one, allow the waves of fear
to How over you. $ccept these feelings without Cudgment. Then watch9 pay
attention to what is really going on. Eon#t imagine what is happening or try to
color it in any way, Cust notice what is. Then take the action that your fear doesn#t
want you to take live your life act skillfully, but do act.
5hen we practice yin yoga or yang yoga, we do the same things. 5e move
outside our normal comfort =one9 we allow the postures to How around us,
through us. 5e watch and notice the sensations arising, ebbing, and Howing. $nd,
when appropriate, we take action, perhaps coming out of the pose if we have
gone too deep or going deeper if the body mind has opened to that possibility.
$llow, watch, and act N that is basically the process e'cept we can#t Cust do it
(Next: (eep at it )
Kee( At 6t
Tapas is dedication, the sticking to your
practice, as described in the Yoga Sutra. ;t
is the &rst step of (riya Yoga. ;t is the
third of the niyamas. "ne of the earliest
de&nitions of the word yoga was
discipline. ;t is tapas, or discipline, that
we need now. "nce we have learned how
to allow the world to be the way it is, once
we have learned how to watch all the
sensations Howing through our minds,
hearts, and bodies, once we have learned
to take appropriate action, we need to
keep doing this. "ver and over again, we
build a habit. $ habit of allowing,
watching, and acting.
Babits are built through repetition9 if you
can repeat an action every day for
twentyone days, it will become a habit. ;f
you can practice your yoga every day for
three weeks, it will be diQcult for you to
stop doing yoga. ;f you can practice
allowing, watching, and acting for three
weeks, it will be diQcult to stop allowing,
watching, and acting.
Twentyone days is not a long time.
<ach cycle of allowing, watching, and acting takes very little time. <ach
succeeding cycle will take less e6ort as well. The more we practice, the easier the
practice becomes. 4ut, it does take e6ort, especially in the beginning.
<stablishing any new behavioral habit takes e6ort.
(Next: <'pect the best )
Ex(e!t The )est
The Yoga Sutra warns that there are nine obstacles >the antaraya? on our path.
The third of these obstacles is called )samshaya.) The 4uddha also warned of &ve
hindrances, called the )kilesas.) The &fth of these hindrances is the same as
samshaya9 it is doubt. Eoubt can cause all your e6orts to be in vain.
The cure for doubt is shraddha or faith. Aaith is the basis for every religion and
every spiritual practice. ;f one has no faith, all sacri&ce is in vain, all e6ort is
wasted. Aaith is found in every aspect of your daily life. 5e have faith when we go
to bed at night that we will awaken in the morning. 5e have faith that when we
go to work in the morning, our business will still be there. 5e have faith that
when we are hungry, food will be available. These seem obvious, but N what if
this faith was lacking@ ;f you were worried about not waking up tomorrow
morning, your e6ort to sleep would be drastically a6ected. ;f you doubted that
food would be available for your ne't meal, all your attention during the day
would be focused on that concern.
Aaith is not always rewarded. There are times when things don#t work out the way
we e'pected, but, considering how often faith is rewarded, those few times are
the e'ceptions that prove the rule. Aaith allows us to function skillfully9 faith leads
toward the world we desire.
5hen we work to $.5.$.(.<.G., we do so with the faith that it will succeed. 5e can
increase this faith through visuali=ations and aQrmations. Euring your ne't
meditation create a picture, sitting across from you, of your older self. Dicture the
)you) that you will be in &ve years from now. Gotice how good you look, notice
how strong and healthy you appear N notice that glow of wellness all around you.
Gotice too how happy you will be in the future, how calm and wise you will be.
Gotice all the other attributes you wish you had today, but think you are lacking.
Your future self has all those attributes notice them. Eon#t Cust see them in your
mind#s eye but feel them9 hear them too. 5hen you have a complete picture of
your future self, including sounds and feelings, allow your future self to approach
you, bless you, and teach you. Bear your future self tell you that all will be as you
e'pect it to be. Aeel yourself give you a big, tight hug N and merge into you. You
are already that future self9 within you, right now, are the seeds of all these future
attributes. Sense these seeds deep inside, already beginning to germinate. (now
that, within a few years, these seed will have grown.
(Next: GowK )
There is no time like the present. We ha!e all heard this saying before, but we miss what it is
really saying. Another catchy phrase helps e$plain this more clearly4
(he past is just a memory;
(he +uture is just a +antasy;
(his moment is a gi+t < that is why it is $alled the present=
;i!e in this moment. #f you need help read The Power of How by 9ckhard Tolle or !isit his
Web site. 012 This moment is the only time you can actually li!e your life. The future doesn(t
e$ist, the past also doesn(t e$ist% the only moment that has e!er e$isted is this moment, the
eternal now.
#n the gospel of "aint Thomas, )esus was asked when the kingdom of hea!en would arri!e.
)esus responded that +the kingdom of hea!en is spread out o!er the earth but men do not see
it.+ People often confuse infinity and eternity. 9ternal life means to li!e in this moment
because this moment, now, is eternal.
A similar sentiment was echoed by a Ken master who said, +This world with all its s.ualor,
po!erty and pain, this is the golden 'uddha realm.+ =o not wait for some time in the future to
be happy, to be present, to be awake. #t is all here right now, waiting to be recogni5ed.
Allow, watch, act, and keep repeating these steps while e$pecting the best to happen. 'ut do
all this right now. &ake A.W.A.C.9.H. into a habit, and you will awaken to this moment.
0o it now7
1 -- At www.eckharttolle.com.