On yoga and the science of psychology

I first came to India a year ago. I had just quit my studies in psychology. Initially I had chosen to study psychology, because I sought to learn about the human psyche, about consciousness.

To cut a long story short, I wanted to learn about human experience, how one can coach people to be the best version of themselves and to realize their highest possible potential.

I found only statistics and lame concepts about the human mind and what makes it tick. No- not even what really makes it tick but rather about all the external objects and circumstances in this world that influence peoples minds all over the world.The object of the science that calls itself the “science of psychology” in the West, is not even the human mind and its properties itself.  This science is concerned almost solely with the study of the objects around the mind that influence it.

Very soon I was very sure that by pursuing this science I would not even dig an inch deep into the ocean of human consciousness. Frustrated and empty, I left it- and more or less coincidentally decided to venture to India to learn about the ancient science of yoga.

I am very grateful for having done so. In yoga I found what I had longed to learn for such a long time.

Now yoga, as per understanding in the west, is just a sequence of movements, a mere physical exercise. Initially even I thought about it, but quickly found out that it is actually much more than that. I went to the Paramanand Ashram and yoga institute in Indore, and found that that was the best choice I possibly could have made. The institute has hosted multiple research projects in yoga. It is one of the very few places that lay a lot of emphasis on learning traditional yoga. This place enables one to learn from original ancient books as well as teachers who are super holistic in their approach. Guruji Dr.Omanand, the head of the institute has himself studied yoga for decades, holds multiple degrees, but what I personally consider much more important is that his teachings are based on deep experience. With his teachings he enabled me to dive deeper into my own consciousness, my own self. My experiences and learning at the ashram shed light on the true meaning of yoga.

The term “yoga” means “union”. It means union of the gross aspect of human consciousness, which is comprised of the mind, the body and external objects that influence us in our thinking; with the very subtle spheres of our consciousness.

Yogic science gives us concepts, principles and techniques that enable us to experience ourselves beyond the mind. You may ask yourself “how is that possible?” Now this is a legit question, considering the fact that the majority of us humans have only experienced ourselves in constant mind chatter. If your self talk comes to an end- then what is left of you? Then how can you identify yourself?

The answer is: You do not identify yourself as anything particular. Through meditation we learn to disconnect from concepts and belief systems we hold about ourselves and life. Meditation helps us stop that constant monologue that is taking place in our mind every day. Thereby it liberates us from outdated or rigid concepts and beliefs and gives us space to experience a deeper sphere of our being. The path of yoga provides us with numerous of such techniques, that are meant to still our mind and enable us to experience our true nature.

If you believe in the depth of human consciousness, you can assume that it is comprised of different layers. The very outer layer of our consciousness consists of our senses and what we perceive through them. It then proceeds further on to the level of the mind- that is voluntary as well as involuntary, but certainly conscious thinking. The layer after conscious thinking is the unconscious part of our self, that is all spheres of our being that we are not aware of. This is no news to western psychology. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychotherapy, often regarded as the founding father of the psychological science, declared the human consciousness to be comprised of these three spheres. The external, the conscious mind and the unconscious mind. Also, with his ice berg analogy of the human mind, he clearly stated that the unconscious part of our mind is by far (!!!) the largest of these three components. In this analogy the tip of the iceberg is meant to represent the conscious part of our thinking, that is, the mind. This area makes up about 10% of our consciousness; the vast majority of the iceberg, the unconscious part of our consciousness is hidden in the depth of the water, not visible to the onlooker, not an object of awareness to our limited mind.

Now there is a crucial difference between modern science of psychology and ancient yogic science. Freud added on a lot to the western understanding of human psyche- yet science is still stuck on the tip of the iceberg, in the mind. In his psychotherapy Freud himself never crossed the crucial line between the conscious mind and the unconscious. Still, in modern science the approach is solely trying to understand and fully describe our conscious mind. Now this approach is neglecting the fact that in order to understand ourselves up to the extent that we become the masters of ourselves, i.e. that we can abandon psychological suffering and discover true happiness, we need to go beyond the conscious mind. We need to examine that which is unconscious but never the less part of us. This is where the ways part. Modern science and psychotherapy approaches do not do so. The unconscious is not matter of examination. Examination only takes place on the level of the mind. Ancient yogic science on the other hand does so. It provides a multiplicity of techniques that enable us to cross the line between the mind and the unconscious. Like that we are able to dive into the depth of our self. We realize that the mind is only one part of our self, not at all the essence of our self.

Yogic science has known this for more than 5000 years. This realization has the capacity to bring true transformation in the form of peace and endless happiness to our life.

It is the focus, what it is all about. Modern science focuses on the examination of consciousness on a mind level. The scientific method itself is excellent, but in order to find meaningful answers it is not only the methodology that matters, but also the object of examination. You have to be sure that the object of examination is capable of providing the answers to your questions. Examining human consciousness solely on the mind level will not give any meaningful answers, no matter how well one employs the methodology. The focus needs to be shifted from the level of the mind to the level of consciousness. Yogic science has understood and successfully practiced this kind of science since thousands of years. A simple shift in focus is all that it needs in our modern science and we will be able to successfully fulfill the real purpose of the science of psychology.  That is understanding the true nature of human kind, helping people successfully overcome their sufferings and lead a wholesome life. In this sense, I predict that only branches that will employ a shift in focus as suggested by yogic science will be able to fulfill the true purpose of psychology, the true purpose of yoga. Which is helping people in the matter of self realization.

By Annika (Ma Abhika Anand). I grew up in Hamburg, Germany. The culture I grew up in places a lot of emphasis on science and analytical thinking so as a twenty year old I decided to follow that path and study the science of psychology. But I always longed for a different understanding of life, one which the object oriented science in the west could not provide me with.

I have always traveled a lot and loved getting in touch with different people and cultures and so in 2015 I planned my first journey to India. I was fascinated with the country, the people and the culture. There is something in Indian culture that is incredibly different to the culture I grew up in and I sensed it was capable of providing me with the kind of understanding of life I had been looking for. Since that journey in 2015 I have traveled to India multiple times, studying the science of yoga and through that the science of life.

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