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The Yoga Technique

12845645
In: The Destiny of the Mind. East and West. By William S. Haas. Faber & Faber. London, 1956. pp. 218-235.

"What distinguishes Western and Eastern from Near Eastern civilization or from any other is . . . the fact that beyond any substantial qualities West and East alone represent clearly demonstrable forms of consciousness. That of the West has been expressed as unity in variety—that of the East as juxtaposition and identity. [Western and Eastern mind and civilization are, therefore] definitely not compatible and consistent. They constitute two separate forms of consciousness."

"Eastern form of knowledge is a form of being, that is a state. Only that is comprehended which one becomes and is."

"Eastern cognition is interested in conciousness itself. The subject fixes itself in its own consciousness prior to the object, the subject returns and is alone with itself. Western congnition is interested in the objects of consciousness. Western knowledge is a form of having. When its creativeness comes to an end in one field it turns to another."

"When the Western structure seems to approach the state of pure consciousness there will always arise an irresistible temptation to experience this state as a possession. The subject would want to emerge from behind the state to assure itself of its attainment."

William S. Haas (Karl Wilhelm Haas, 1883-1956)
http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/haas-william
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Wilhelm_Haas

 

The Yoga system lays bare the working of the dismantling of cognition
and the logic of the Eastern mind. There is an additional reason
to give due appreciation to the Yoga technique. For despite the
extended literature dealing with it no comprehensive scientific
study has yet been made to investigate its physiological and psy-
chological principles and their qualification for the achievement
of its purported aim. While in a looser significance the term Yoga
is applied to any consistent effort which will bring about the union
of the individual self with Brahman there are many forms of Yoga,
such as Bhakti Yoga—union through devotion—Karma Yoga—
union through action, and others which can be left aside for our
argument.[1]

At the threshold to the comprehension of Yoga man's relation
to his body appears once again, but in a new light. To the West
it is a basic idea that we control our body, and more specifically
that the body is that part of the external world over which we
exercise an immediate influence. That the body possesses power
over us is a secondary insight and therefore a derivative experi-
ence. Our emphasis on controlling the body derives from the fact
that in our mind-structure the body and the whole external world
are relative to the higher senses. The moving at will of the body
and its limbs and the changes caused thereby in our surroundings
and in relations to the world, immediately impress the eye and
result in making an object of the body. Thus arises the unequalled
endeavour of the Greeks to shape the naked body according to an
ideal harmony of beauty, health and fitness. This dominating
positive objectivation is questioned by doctrines which maintain
that the body controls us and result in an ascetic attitude of a
more or less aggressive character. Announced in various forms by
pre-Socratic philosophers this latter was resolutely taken up by
the Stoics to triumph in the Middle Ages.

[1] All of the Yoga systems derive from the two basic forms of Yoga—Hatha Yoga
and Raja Yoga. These two systems depending upon and complementing each
other constitute the classic Yoga system, going by the name of Hatha-Yoga-
Pradipika of Svatmarama Svamin. The Hatha Yoga of the Pradipika contains
only a limited number of postures and exercises, differing in this from the variety
of acrobatic performances which Hatha Yoga has developed. The right view is that
there cannot be Hatha Yoga without Raja Yoga nor Raja Yoga without preceding
or accompanying Hatha Yoga. This the Pradipika indicates from the very
beginning by the emphasis placed on breathing exercises which form a natural
link between physical and mental Yoga.

p. 218

 

The original and deepest experience demonstrates to the East
that we do not control the body. This must be so because to the
East the body is relative not to the higher senses but to the vital
instincts. And over the instincts man does not exercise the direct
power he does over his limbs and the whole body as a part of the
external world. If there is to be any control at all of the body it
cannot be the same as in the 'Vest. It must aim at something else—
deeper and of wider scope and be attained by other means.
Indeed, the East has been granted a more penetrating intuition
of the link existing between the body and the subject. Owing to
its structure and the resulting orientation, the East bypassed the
Western position which stressed the visible and tangible aspect
of the body.

The Eastern man feels body and subject to be linked together
in a sphere far below that viewed by the West. This sphere is
inaccessible to observation and is barred from interference by will
or reason. In our body, the man of the East would be prompted to
say, we are dragging something along with ourselves which though
close to and experienced as intimately connected with us, nonethe-
less remains unknown. It is independent of consciousness and
under its surface. Pretending that we control our body—he
would continue to argue—is vain and sticks to superficial
impressions. On the contrary, if there is anything over which, in
the normal state of things we have no power at all, it is the body.
Power is founded on knowledge and those who have no knowledge
have no hope of control. The newborn infant moves his limbs
automatically. Even the all-important gesture of grasping is
automatic. These elementary movements of the legs and arms
have only to be regulated in the simplest way to produce what we
proudly proclaim to be the control of the body. Thus, our control
is limited to a tiny section of the functions of the body. And it
remains, in the proper and figurative sense of the term, superficial.
This must be so, for our immediate knowledge of the body through
distinct sensations extends but little farther. If we in the West
are satisfied with calling this capacity of directing the movements
ofthe body and its limbs in space control, we deceive ourselves.

The East is transfixed by the experience of coenesthesia—the
sensation of bodily consciousness. This is an inextricably obscure

p. 219

 

compound of organic sensations which seems to grow more
refractory as one tries to penetrate its mystery. And yet it is
evident that nowhere else can there be found the key to a deeper
insight, into the joinder of body and subject. And it is by virtue of
this insight that a real mastery of the body is achieved. In order to
realize this goal the confused mixture of the bodily experience
has to be broken down into its components. Only in this way can
the inaccessible be made accessible and the impenetrable pene-
trated by consciousness. Only in such a procedure can the ulti-
mate sense data which carry the experience of the body's belong-
ing to the subject, be induced to appear in the light of conscious-
ness. As long as they remain below the level of consciousness safely
hidden in that chaotic compound of coenesthesia, the body eludes
being known and therefore escapes real control beyond the pitiable
pseudo-domination which is the only one we may claim to possess.

There is, however, a reverse to this fact. In the proportion that
we learn to control our body in full measure, the experience of the
body being ours would gradually vanish. It would be replaced by
a feeling of increasing estrangement, for then our body would no
longer be experienced as ours. But the very condition for its being
experienced as ours is that with the exception of an exceedingly
small section, the body and its functions operate outside and
below consciousness. The superficial direction which we exercise
over the body, though not entitled to the pretentious term of
control, suffices for all practical means. Nothing short of the
complete consciousness of all bodily phenomena could afford the
ground for a genuine control. But such a state would inevitably
produce a rupture of the natural tie between us and our body—
an effect which would make us experience the body as an object.
Thus the technique of breaking down the body experience into
its elements in order to render them conscious and thereby to
exert full control over the body will end in its objectivation.
However—and this cannot be overemphasized—this result will
come to pass only in a mind which by its very structure is bound
to create objects. For the natural intention of the West in adopt-
ing this technique would be to aim at controlling the body like
any other well known object.

Contrariwise the same technique applied by the East will cul-

p. 220

 

minate in a quite different result. For the Eastern mind is oriented
not to objectivation but to the establishment of pure conscious-
ness. Therefore, the result will be just the opposite. As the body
elements come to be controllable at will, the subject, now that he
is assured that the body will no longer exert any disturbing influ-
ence, loses all interest in it and dedicates his life and effort to the
freed Self. Under these circumstances the body will resemble a
smoothly run engine whose connection with the subject has been
unhinged. In that condition its relation to the subject is neither
that of subject-object nor that of subject-other. In a metaphoric
sense one might call this state of things the utmost possible
control in domination of the body. Yet one would hardly speak
of domination where what is controlled has definitely dropped
from sight. It would be different if in this process of the dis-
mantling of the body a hostile attitude towards it existed which
would immediately restore to it the object character.

This general background is essential to an understanding of the
operation of the Yoga technique and its potential success.

* * *

The inner logic of the structure of the Yoga technique is no
less scientific than its basic idea. It starts from the principle that.
the raising of all body sensations into consciousness is the means,
by unhinging its connection with the subject, of controlling the
body. Then the first task is to diminish the number of potential
body sensations. This means that the bodily sensation in which
all of them merge, some distinguishable, the overwhelming majority
indiscernible, has to be restricted. To achieve this, conditions
must be created which, by excluding disturbing stimuli stemming
either from the body itself or from outside, will guarantee the
smooth running of the bodily functions.

A lonely but pleasant spot for one's house with surroundings—
even flower gardens agreeable to look at, and a palatable and
nourishing diet, both serve the purpose and demonstrate, in flat
opposition to Christian asceticism, that the problem of the body
is best approached with the utmost caution and gentleness. All
this is in accord with that truly Asiatic wisdom that the more we
fight against a thing, the more surely do we become its slave and

p. 221

 

the more we try to escape from a thing the more we are liable to
become ensnared by it. Mortification of the body and raging
against the flesh are of no avail. The last elements of the body
consciousness, that hidden borderline between body and mind,
must be uncovered. So subtle a task cannot be achieved by
violence and direct attack. Even before the technique has started,
the general orientation and its effect can be anticipated. As a
result of the particular living conditions all immoderate and
abnormal sensations are ruled out, their number and variety
diminished, and their appearance and disappearance regulated.

Then the technique proper is accompanied by quite a few
exercises, some of them rather drastic, to remove eye diseases,
clean respiratory passages and the intestine, to increase digestive
power and to prevent the emergence of morbid conditions with
their unpredictable and disturbing sensations. The principle is
thus firmly established. To the physical hygiene corresponds the
mental with the usual moral code of doing no harm to anything,
speaking the truth, preserving continence, being merciful and the
like. But the remarkable fact is, not the contents of this code,
but the place assigned to it. Apparently these moral qualifications
are considered the strict parallel to the physical hygiene and they
are valued more as a natural precondition of the proper technique
than as an achievement to be acquired during the procedure.

To complete the picture of the situation in which the Yogin
finds himself, another element—this one of a higher, a spiritual
character—must be added. The loneliness of the Yogin is not
only an isolation in space. It is also a spiritual isolation, an isola-
tion in the metaphysical sphere. True, Shiva, the tutelary god of
Yoga, and Ishvara are here and there invoked. But they are no
more than mere expedients to concentration and they disappear
as the Yogin reaches perfection. But even they do not effectively
lessen the Yogin's loneliness. For though the Yogin may turn to
them asking for help there is no living communication between
man and god, no questioning and answering, nothing resembling
the great human drama of the Christian, particularly the Christian
mystic, in his search for his god. Thus, as the Yogin advances
along his path he may be compared to a closed system protected
from any interference from without.

p. 222

 

Although the order in which the exercises, almost all of which
have to be repeated time and again, are described does not corres-
pond to the order in which they are performed, a thorough analysis
divides them into different categories. Avoiding the astounding
acrobatic and contortionist performances usually known by the
name Hatha Yoga, Swatmarama's system demonstrates only a
few exercises resembling our gymnastics. The reason for this is
that the basic attitude of the Yoga exercises is the cross-legged
sitting posture with the spinal column straightened, whereas the
starting point and preparation of all our gymnastics is the stand-
ing position. The latter leads directly to all activities important
for ordinary life where muscular tension of the whole body or of
its parts is naturally directed to useful movements. Such are
grasping, striking, all kinds of locomotion as turning, walking,
jumping, running; further-on assault, self-defence and the over-
coming of obstacles. Nearly all our gymnastics consists in a con-
densation of these activities, anticipating their execution in an
elaborate way. Skill and muscular power, preparedness and elas-
ticity for action lie at the core of our gymnastics, the ideal of
which is action in the outside world. Its purpose is to lead us right
into the physical world, to give us a good position there, to make
us fit to take possession of it and there to defend our place.

The cross-legged posture of the Yoga presents the reverse
picture. Not only is it opposed to the standing position but no less
to our mode of sitting in which the body is quite unnaturally
bent twice. The cross-legged position provides the natural condi-
tion for a free and relaxing attitude. At the same time, it brings
the parts of the body close together. And thus, all in all, it sym-
bolizes what it is intended for—concentration of the mind and the
accumulation of energy. One is tempted to compare this posture to
a pyramid or a cone. In any case, it is a pose of steadfast self-
sufficiency without any orientation to the outside world. It is
indeed the ideal posture since it combines the utmost relaxation
with waking consciousness. Under such conditions the expendi-
ture of muscular energy is obviously limited to a minimum.
However, the stimulation of most of the proper exercises is not
concerned with muscular efforts and the movements of the body
and limbs. Rather do they refer to the interior of the body.

p. 223

 

Therefore, with only slight exaggeration we may speak of Hatha
Yoga as an invisible technique. The basic idea, however, remains
the same, namely, first to eliminate all superfluous sensations and
their morbid causes—second to raise to the plane of clear con-
sciousness all the rest, the potential as well as the existing sensa-
tions. The final aim is to separate them and thereby the body from
the subject. What there is of gymnastics in our sense of the term
including the variations of the cross-legged posture such as
various ways of crossing the legs, holding and moving arms and
hands, also serve this purpose.

While this technique is easily attainable when it is applied to
the sensations connected with muscular movements, it becomes
extremely difficult when it turns to the inner organs and their
functions. Yet it is precisely at this point that Yoga must con-
centrate its art in order to unhinge the link between subject and
body. This task is all the more difficult because in normal life
the stimuli originating in the inner organs constitute the over-
whelming material entering the state of bodily sensation known
as coenaesthesia. However, they send but few distinct sensations
into consciousness, and these few are comparatively uniform and
regular such as those that stem from the digestive tract and the
heart. Abnormal and morbid conditions are required to remind us
of the existence of our inner organs. To conjure up all their
specific sensations, which nature has so wisely kept in the dark, is
certainly as difficult a venture as it is paradoxical and contrary to
nature. True there is the fact known as relative analgesia and
connected with it the anaesthesia of the inner organs. But if this
fact limits the task it does not by any means make it easier.

And so it is all the more remarkable that Yoga has elaborated
methods of coping successfully with the problem of awakening,
controlling and distancing these inner sensations. To try to break
down the coenaesthetic feeling into its components by directly
attacking it, would obviously be a hopeless task. No attention,
be it ever so meticulous, could achieve more than spurious success.
No concentration could succeed in singling out clearly defined
sensations of the inner organs, in localizing them correctly, and
still less in reproducing them at will. Thus if the way is barred to
direct approach, an expedient had to be found to get around these

p. 224

 

difficulties. It was found in a diagram of the interior and the organs
of the body.

The anatomy of Yoga has been generally accepted as a creation
of unlimited imagination. Fantastic clements grew like weeds
around the original framework, since it did not and could not
pretend to correspond to reality. The central part of this imaginary
chart are the Cakras. These are often represented as Lotus
flowers of which there are six or seven from the middle of the
cranium down to the perineum. Then somewhere below the navel
there is the Kanda twelve inches above the anus, and there in the
Kanda is the source of the thousands of nadis of which the
Sushumna is the most important. For at the mouth of Sushumna
sleeps the great goddess Kundalini coiled like a serpent. And to
awaken Kundalini and to make it move so that the breath may
pass freely is one of the main parts of the technique.

A full description of the Yoga anatomy of the body's interior
is beyond our argument. Attempts to identify it with the real
anatomic conditions have had uncertain and fragmentary results.
Some of the Cakras are likely to correspond to nerve centres, as
for example the solar plexus and the nadis to nerves and arteries.
Be that as it may, there is little doubt that the Indians could have
produced a picture of the body's interior closer to the facts had
such an achievement been their ambition. But, on the contrary, a
kind of vague analogy was all that was needed. In view of the
relative analgesia of the inner organs, the sensations which can be
identified in a smoothly running organism must be assumed to be
relatively few in number. Singling them out and localizing them,
however, is a supernormal task which requires unusual prepara-
tion. This prerequisite exists in a diagram of the body's interior.

Such a diagram when vividly imagined and mentally incor-
porated into the body, lends itself admirably to the purpose,
particularly in a mind endowed with concrete thinking, creative
imagination and an inner bias to realization. In full agreement
with this endowment, although the diagram of Yoga constitutes
a forceful schematization, yet it presents an animated picture, and
of this the previous description of the goddess Kundalini is a good
example. For this reason too the diagram is not merely more or
less clearly represented, as we may be prone to believe. It is

p. 225

 

actually incorporated by a vivid and determined imagination. In
this way the diagram fulfils all the functions required. It facilitates
the awakening of sensations. It singles them out and individualizes
them. It permit the localization of the individualized sensations
by projecting them on the part of the diagram. And finally it
performs the decisive function of externalizing the sensations
stemming from the inner organs. Then the result is the externali-
zation of the body as a whole—or, to express the same process
from the other angle, it enables consciousness to withdraw from
the body. Here again, the psychological insight of the inventors
of the Yoga technique is apparent. Only a diagram of the body
interior with but a superficial resemblance to real anatomic condi-
tions, is capable of exteriorizing the sensations. A picture reflect-
ing the interior of the body as it really is, might at best facilitate
the awakening of sensations. But it would never succeed in
separating them and therewith the body itself, from the conscious-
ness of the subject.

* * *

Here we arrive at a crucial result which casts into clear relief
the cleavage between the Eastern and the Western mind structure.
this whole process of singling out sensations, raising them ever
more clearly into consciousness, and setting them off from the
perceiving object, might seem to bear strong resemblance to the
Western process of objectivation. It is, however, the exact oppo-
site. Not only is this obtrusive object the body dissolved into its
smallest experienceable elements. But by controlling the sense-
data at will and thus making them appear and reappear before the
indifferent eye of consciousness, the fundamental intention aims
at depriving them of any substantial existence. The result, there-
fore, is not the constitution of an object. On the contrary, it is the
exteriorization of the sensations and thereby of the body as an
empty shell void of autonomous existence. Indeed, there is no
better and certainly no more consistent example to illustrate what
the dismantling form of cognition means and how it works. All
the great representative doctrines of Eastern cognition share with
the Yoga technique the dismantling of phenomena. But this is not
with the intent of reconstructing them anew as the real objective

p. 226

 

entities. Rather the definite aim is to advance on the way to the
pure subject.

For the sake of the clarity of the argument, it has been necessary
to lay to one side the dominant role of breathing. Actually, an
overwhelming number of the Yoga exercises are directly or
indirectly connected with it. From an early moment whenever the
nature of the exercises permits, the control of the breath is con-
nected with them. Then, as the technique proceeds the multiple
variations of breathing come to the fore as the main preoccupation,
and because of the intimate relationship between breathing and
concentration, it becomes the content of concentration. With the
usual caution the breathing exercises start with the various
hygienic devices for the purifying of the respiratory organs, nostril,
windpipe, and lungs. Then variations of breathing are probed and
trained while the breathing is connected with different parts of the
body as contracting the throat or the anus, or assuming different
postures. Then follows the regulation of the rhythm of breathing
and the technique of restraining and stopping breath and its
concentration on the Cakras and other parts of the body. In this
way, breathing is not only purified. It is restored to the leadership
which belongs to it. Once this has been achieved, this art assumes
the role of the foremost ally in the endeavour to exteriorize the
inner sensations. Thus, the breath is directed to and let through
the organs as they are or as they are imagined. Here is an example:

'Assuming this posture, he should close the mouth and breathe
out through the nostrils till the pressure is felt on the heart, the
throat and the brain. Then he should draw in the breath with a
hissing sound till it strikes against the heart, all this time keeping
his body and head erect.'

Moving the breath through the body it may rightly be said is
but an illusion. Yet it is no more an illusion than the whole
anatomy of Yoga which it is meant to complete and it is real to the
degree that it is efficient. So far as efficiency is concerned a super-
ficial training will disclose that when deep breathing is directed
to a real or imagined part of the body, whether it be exterior or
interior, it facilitates the perceiving and exciting of sensations.
In so doing, it helps to project the sensations on the anatomical
diagram and thereby it leads to their exteriorization. When, after

p. 227

 

an unlimited number of years, the exteriorization of all body
sensations has been achieved, what will then be the situation?
The natural link between body and subject will be severed, and
the body functioning perfectly in its own right, will appear to the
subject as an indifferent phenomenon.

With this exteriorization of the body the definition of Yoga as
'the restriction of the fluctuations of mind-stuff'[1] has been realized.
What is left is breath and consciousness both of which if not
identified, are inseparably interlaced and interdependent. Again
and again is it repeated that when the breath wanders the mind
is unsteady and vice versa. Yet even with this state of perfect
steadiness the summit has not yet been reached. There is still
consciousness and the content of consciousness, breath being now
that content, in fact the only content of consciousness. The aim
must be to attain pure consciousness—consciousness without
content. To achieve this final state—samadhi—consciousness and
breath must be ever more restrained until with the suspension of
breathing, empirical consciousness will cease to exist. Conscious-
ness has at last become independent and absolute. But in no way
can this state be called the destruction of consciousness, that is to
say, nothingness.

* * *

In the Yoga technique and its underlying idea we face one of
the most daring and ingenious conceptions of the human mind.
This great adventure in consciousness is distinguished from all
others in that consciousness deals with itself alone and with the
sole aim of arriving at its own essence—pure consciousness. All
other adventures, particularly those of the West, deal with
qualified consciousness, be it religious, artistic, philosophical or
scientific, and they achieve something concrete and determinable.
Nevertheless, the fundamental assumption which underlies Yoga
can certainly claim a higher degree of evidence than can the pre-
suppositions of religion, philosophy, art or science of any denomin-
ation.

As with all Eastern philousia, Yoga starts with the self-

[1] James Haughton Woods, The Yoga-System of Patanjali, The Harvard
University Press, 1927, p. 8.

p. 228

 

evident truth that consciousness is the primordial and unquestion-
able datum. At first sight this position might seem in close
relationship with Descartes' cogito ergo sum,—I think therefore
I am,—as the fundamental self-evident truth. His conclusion that
thinking implies the existence of the thinker or, to put it in a
general form, that Isness derives its validity from thought, is, to
say the least, debatable. Descartes' statement is in fact a petitio
principii
—a begging of the question—which could be formulated
thus. If I consider real or existent what thinking reveals to be real,
then reason is the only safe source of reality. The stand taken by
philousia in general and Yoga in particular is infinitely more
cautious and consistent. It avoids any involvement in the problem
of whether or not thought is the only or the foremost means through
which we can be assured of our own or any other reality. Yoga is
satisfied with the self-evident statement—there is consciousness.
And this without attaching to the word 'is' any particular signifi-
cance such as reality or unreality or whatever it be. Consciousness
is there, and this is the only statement which is beyond any
possible doubt. It would be equally erroneous to pass from the
being-there of consciousness to the conclusion that some or all
of the contents of consciousness are real or unreal. All such moves,
however tempting, transcend the simple datum of 'there is con-
sciousness'.

So if we are to avoid quicksand the only matter with which we
can deal is consciousness. To express this in a more conspicuous
form—consciousness can deal only with itself. This preoccupation
of consciousness with itself can have but one ultimate meaning.
Consciousness must rise to ever increasing clarity about itself.
The clarification of consciousness or the attainment of pure con-
sciousness is, therefore, the only task which can be undertaken
without risk of moving in the realm of the uncertain and the
deceitful. Placed in this light the task implies that all content
must be eliminated from consciousness. And further the con-
nection between consciousness and all that is not consciousness,
particularly the body, must be unhinged.

This reasoning is as sound as the basic proposition is self-
evident. Likewise the Yoga technique, abstruse and unrealizable
as it may seem, is in itself consistent and thoroughly adapted to

p. 229

 

that purpose. Nowhere is there a fault in theory. Whether or not
the goal can be reached is unpredictable and can be demonstrated
only by experience. Thus it is impossible to look at Yoga as a
fantastic or illusory creation. Yoga theory and practice live up to
both philosophical and scientific requirements and its conclusions
are drawn with relentless consequence. Whereas at the outset
prayers are addressed to the Gods Siva and Ishvara these dis-
appear from the scene as the work progresses. At the end they are
thrown overboard as is the anatomical diagram of the body
interior. Both diagram and gods are mere expedients, pragmatic
means for concentration or exteriorization. To accept them as
real would contradict the search for pure consciousness.

Apart from the prayers addressed to the divine helpers, the
kind of consciousness that dominates the Yoga exercises is of a
particular character. It is prepared by conditions which, by
excluding emotion and unforeseen stimuli, induce a state of
equanimity. In this calmness of the mind the exercises, though
variegated, are monotonous. They produce and reproduce again
and agam the same sensations. This, however, is not all and it is
not even the main point. It should be emphasized particularly
with regard to breathing, that these monotonous repetitions must
take place unfailingly in the light of consciousness and that any
other kind of mental activity must be avoided.

The difficulty in keeping the mind concentrated on a succession
of monotonous impressions even when they may present a particu-
lar interest is well known. Almost inevitably the mind will either
go astray and turn to other objects, or somnolence will set in. In
order to stay awake our consciousness requires interest in the
object so that it can be active in observation and reflection or at
least in emotional reaction. But in the Yoga exercises not only is
there no interest in the sensations implied, but it is the very core
of the technique that they should be regarded with utter indiffer-
ence. To ask that the mind should remain evenly awake in this
state of monotony amid indifferent impressions is therefore a
demand of the utmost difficulty. It is contrary, if not to the work-
ing of the mind in general, at least to the Western mind which by
its very nature must elaborate on the object. What Yoga requires
is a subtle, a disinterested and a steady kind of consciousness

p. 230

 

which follows the impressions, so to speak, from afar. It is a species
of accompanying consciousness which with its discreet light is but
the place where the impressions occur. The inner relationship
between this kind of consciousness and awareness is obvious. And
whatever may be the state of consciousness in samadhi, it cannot
differ fundamentally from awareness.

The most demonstrable and the most transparent example of
the process of dismantling cognition is provided by Hatha Yoga.[1]
The subtlety with which the natural data of our body are resolved
into their elements and deprived of reality, and the prudent confi-
dence which prevents any kind of objectivation—all this is but
the negative aspect of that positive intent which seeks to maintain
everything in relation to consciousness and consciousness in
relation to itself. For the aim of dismantling cognition is the pure
consciousness or subject. At first sight a definite similarity, if not
analogy, occurs between the working of methods of Eastern and
Western cognition. This impression is justified only in so far as
both, dissatisfied with a merely receptive and contemplative atti-
tude toward the world, deal actively with it. And action means
interfering with and transforming the original data. But this is all
that they have in common. In flat contradistinction to the East,
the West disintegrates the phenomena because they do not satisfy
the philosophical or scientific reason which seeks out objective
reality, and constructs one world image after another in the tire-
less hope that eventually it will discover one solid and resistant
enough to stand the test.

This is the 'saving through of the phenomena'—that seemingly

[1] It is generally assumed that Hatha Yoga has to be followed by and culminates
in Raja Yoga—Raja Yoga being the technique for those whose spiritual endow-
ment permits them to dispense with the exercises of Hatha Yoga. Such a sharp
distinction between Hatha and Raja Yoga is, however, not unconditionally
justified. True, Raja Yoga is the Yoga of contemplation and meditation based
upon concentration and breathing. However, in the advanced stage of Hatha Yoga
there are quite a few exercises which live up the requirements of Raja Yoga or at
least come very near to them. In any ease, so far as aim and technique are con-
cerned, Raja Yoga shares with Hatha Yoga the principle and method of dis-
mantling cognition. The difference is that the dismantling process in Raja Yoga
operates exclusively on the level of mind and spirit. Indeed this applies not only
to Raja Yoga but to all the various branches of philousia in India and the Far
East. To quote one characteristic example: The Bhagavadgita is essentially Raja
Yoga relying chiefly on meditation. But in order to prepare a sound basis for the
spiritual way and to secure it from harm, the Gita appropriates from Hatha Yoga
the general physical, moral and mental conditions. (Lesson the sixth, 10-14.)

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endless process in which man reduces the world, whose objective
reality he is driven to recognize by his instinct and senses, to the
rank of phenomena, and in the course of which all the screens of
objective world images which he has invented seem doomed to
share the same fate. For apparently renunciation is man's destiny.
Either he chooses to move and toil in the abundance of phenomena,
enlarging their number by endless discoveries at the same time
trying to reduce them to fundamentals—free to call this universe
the reality instead of resenting it as imperfect. Or he may resol-
utely turn his back on it, renouncing the variety of outer and
inner phenomena, in fact everything which is known as life. Then
grasping at the unique datum in the whole spectacle, to wit, con-
sciousness, he makes it his exclusive theatre of action, confident
that in this realm if anywhere truth and reality must be found.

* * *

At the height of his fulfilment, the man of the East stands
utterly alone. On his way, save for initial guidance, he has been
without human or divine help and having arrived at the supreme
state he cannot nor does he expect to meet anything that can be
thought of as an objective entity. Thus, the result of this dis-
mantling process of decorporealization is another form of con-
sciousness, or to be more exact, it is consciousness itself without
limit or qualification. And just as during the toiling years there
is no absolute being to appeal to in hope or in despair, so at this
moment of consummation there is none to receive him. But what
appears to those, who are fashioned by another structure, incom-
prehensible or super— or inhuman, particularly when we remem-
ber the continuous communication between the Christian saints
and God—of which 'the dark night of the soul' by John of the
Cross may be quoted as an illuminating example—the identical
situation of unqualified isolation cannot hold the same emotional
and intellectual implications for the man ofthe East.

The ontological connection of the non-subject with the subject
as the other, or the dismantling of the other, or its disappearance
or exteriorization—all of these phrases conveying the same general
meaning—does not involve the same devastating psychological
effect as the destruction of everything objective would necessarily

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produce in the Western mind. For there, the radical elimination
of the object would dry up the very life-stream of the subject.
The philosophical idea of an Absolute or the scientific construc-
tion of an objective world are congenial to the Western mind. So
likewise is any kind of relationship of the subject with these con-
ceptions such as subordination, union, identification, or absorp-
tion, because any form of participation in the Absolute means
objectivation which is to say reality. In the East on the contrary
the subject discovers reality in theoretical and active withdrawal
from any object, which in turn is to say, in the dismantling of all
other data and in the corresponding discovery of an ever more
real existence of itself as consciousness. Accordingly, the great
Eastern types present the aspect of a monadic loneliness together
with an essential self-sufficiency.

Those towering figures which might seem to contradict this
statement are on the contrary the best witnesses to its truth. There
is the Buddha who moved by compassion, renounces the nirvana
and returns to the world to resume the work of salvation. There is
Confucius himself the incarnation of his teaching, who passes his
life in expounding the humane attitudes which alone create the
perfect man, uphold family and society and support the state.
However, when the Buddha makes his decision he is the perfect
being. His act of commiseration is by no means the indispensable
outcome of his Buddhahood, and his return is entirely contingent,
constituting neither an inner necessity nor a higher form of
Buddhahood. In the same sense, Confucius and the other Chinese
sages conceive themselves to be, and they are entities of perfec-
tion. If they decide to work in and for the world they neither cede
to an inescapable inner compulsion nor do they grow in stature.

This, we of the West who measure their action by our own
standards may regard as the true fulfilment of what they are.
The reason for our way of judgment is that in an objective world,
action achieving changes claims quite another position and value
than in the East. Accordingly, a sage's means of producing effects
apart from direct action is his teaching and the setting of an
example. However, behind and beyond the example is the belief
in an immediate, magic influence, emanating from the mere
presence of the superior man. Though not everybody is capable

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of responding to his radiation, this direct mode of producing effect
is one which is peculiar to the Eastern sage. It is, in accord with
his monadic being, his self-sufficiency and his perfection.

A deeper understanding of Confucius will reveal him in this
respect in no way different from a Taoist sage, and the fact that
much arrainst his own will he is wandering, teaching and counsell-
ing must not deceive us. What he felt would have been the ade-
quate situation in which he could have exerted his influence and
what fate refused to grant him, was to be invested by a prince with
full authority to reorganize state and society. The kind of influ-
ence he would then have applied can be well illustrated by an
anecdote. When Confucius expressed his intention to go to the
people of the Western mountains he was warned that they were
barbarians. He answered: 'If a sage lived among them what rude-
ness would there be?' The immediate, quasi magic, civilizing effect
is apparently what Confucius had in mind in contradistinction to
the influence of an example which would have to be consciously
appreciated in order to be followed, or to the teaching of moral
behaviour—both of these being forms of education quite unlikely
to succeed among the barbarians.

The man of the East having thus arrived at his goal realizes
what is contained in the structure, namely the autonomy and self-
sufficiency of the subject. Here again does it become manifest that
in the domain of the Eastern mind, nature cannot occupy a place
similar to that which it holds in the Western where it is the live
opposite of the subject. But with the emphasis on the subject,
nature does not develop into an entity in its own right on equal
terms with the subject—it cannot even have any real impact on
him. The only phenomenon which can be detached from the rest
of nature in order to become of real concern is the body. The
experience of man's corporeal appearance among the other pheno-
mena of nature is the distinct phenomenon through which nature
reaches deeply into the realm of consciousness. There the man of
the East makes the uncanny discovery that the body is not opposed
to the soul, but a psycho-physiological whole connected by an
impervious link with the Self. Nature is indifferently the same to all
men, but everybody possesses a body of his own. Therefore, the
body is the crucial experience, not nature. Seen from this vantage

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the interest in nature appears as an escape, at least as a detour
which after an unpredictably long strife returns to the central
phenomenon of the body. With clear determination the Eastern
mind-structure expresses that man's true concern is man and that
man is essentially consciousness.

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