Yogic View Of Psychology
Psychology has been defined as «The science of the mind, or mental states and processes; the science of human nature…» Our Western psychology is a relatively recent science which, although valuable in basic matters regarding behaviour, personality and the general function of the mind, in no way claims knowledge of, or allows for the existence, let alone the study of the soul and spirit of the human being. It has made great advances in the study of human behaviour and mental diseases but has not found answers enough to cope with the mental aberrations which torment society and which, regrettably, are on the increase.
Many of these abnormal conditions of mental disease in the community have been created by drugs of all kinds, chemical pollutants, alcohol and unhealthy nutrition to which there is no answer but by rectification of these negative habits and conditions.
In this regard the Yogic approach offers some assistance. It concentrates upon the individual building and maintaining a healthy body and brain through a healthy lifestyle. It also involves establishing emotional stability, development of intellectual skills and talents, right habits of thinking, soul satisfying work and occupation, and a spiritual way of life that allows for both duty and pleasure.
If the body is not nourished properly, the brain is not being nourished with an adequate and rich blood supply. It is not possible for the brain to serve as a healthy instrument either for creating or transmitting healthy thoughts. The diet of most westerners is totally unbalanced when ‘fast foods’, white bread, chocolate and coca cola have been monitored as the most popular consumer items in supermarkets.
Not only good food but so many other factors are equally important and these are fundamental to the teachings of Hatha Yoga which focuses upon physical health. The value of these teachings is acknowledged with the practice of Hatha Yoga becoming increasingly popular world wide. But our efforts must include equal attention to emotional control and mental discipline if we are to avoid the problems of modern times and enjoy total well being.
Understanding one’s personality and observing good and bad character traits is important, and most people are aware of the simple basis of psychology and the need to be assertive, how to view a private facebook offload ‘baggage’ and to keep a positive attitude to life. Although this work is valuable, there is a need for deeper comprehension and to focus upon the entire human soul and spirit, beyond the personality.
The Total Human Psyche — the Koshas
We are generally limited in the use of only three words in our English language to describe the extent of human consciousness. These are personality (body, emotions and thought), soul (deeper inner nature) and spirit (the mysterious invisible life force which animates us).
In the yogic philosophy the separate but interacting spheres of conscious intelligence are studied. The various aspects of human nature are known as sheaths or Koshas which altogether comprise the complete human psyche, each with its sphere of function, but they are all inter-related and interdependent.
The physical body is known as the Annamaya kosha. It is constructed from and maintained by the food we eat, and is differently composed in each individual according to many factors including diet and exercise, and matters of heredity. Its maintenance is largely a personal responsibility.
The body of energy, the Pranamaya kosha, radiates from the physical body, providing it with a natural shield of vitality, as well as the capacity for sensory feeling. It is constructed of complex natural energies, the most important being derived from respiration. Its maintenance is dependent upon our individual habits, diet, environment and our breathing in particular.
The body composed of our emotional feelings is the Kamamaya kosha, the body of desire. Although we share a capacity for common emotions such as love, hate, compassion and other feelings, each of us builds a unique emotional structure. This is determined by our fluctuating emotions, desires, moods and sympathies over which we exert differing degrees of control.
The mental body or structure is seen as having two components:
That built from our rational thinking activity is called the Manomaya kosha, and corresponds to the concrete or material mental processes of logic. Each individual differs in intellectual ability and use of logical thought and this is reflected in the ‘substance’ or quality of the person’s mental body.
That part of our thinking nature that is formed by consideration of abstract principles, concepts and ideologies and involves our own creativity of mind is called the Vijnanamaya kosha. Its sphere is concerned with, and allows us to grasp, new ideas and notions. This faculty is also variable, according to the creative and visionary talents of the individual.
Beyond the mind is the deepest part of our nature, where the sum total of our intelligence resides within the soul, called the Karana sharira. Here is the repository of our personal wealth of wisdom that has been gained from our many life experiences. The soul harbours the essence of our human individuality and holds the key to our immortal being.
There are few who have developed the next Kosha that grows by recurring special experiences of great peace and realizations of the Oneness of life, when we consciously surrender to the greatness of Life itself, to feel a part of the Whole. It is called the subtle Anandamaya kosha or the Body of Bliss.
Beyond the personality ego known as Ahamkara, is the highest part of our nature, our spiritual spark or Ego, called the Atma. Each one of us has such an Atma, a separate spark, but each is of the same element-the great Cosmic Fire of the Creative Spirit of God. Each at this level is pure and untainted by personal differences or individuality, and here brotherhood is experienced as a reality. The Atma represents the spiritual Will and motivates the development and function of soul-consciousness upon all the other levels, guiding it through the process of repeated incarnations, by which we learn. The Atma is the divine spark of creative life within each of us. It represents our immortal self.
To extend awareness of all the Koshas and be able to identify with the highest of them is the purpose of the yogi’s disciplines.