Human mental working and "Yoga"

- K.K. Verma, Ph.D.
Prof. Emeritus of Zoology
HIG1/327, Housing Board Colony, Borsi, DURG-491001, India


Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 13 (2003), 136.

"Yoga" is now fairly well known almost all over the world. But its meaning is generally not well understood. It is not just a set of useful physical exercises; it also includes disciplining of the mind to achieve peace and mental health. This latter component of "yoga" has been well described by Krishnanand (1997).

Human mental working is not as simple as outlined by Verma (2003). What he has figured may be described as the main channel for flow of the thinking process. But there are in addition and simultaneously working numerous interconnected channels, tackling various actual and imaginary problems, fighting fears, working out justification for actions done, seeking pleasure and solace, and some confused ones. Visualisation, conceptual thinking and memory are the bases of such side channels, as also for the main channel, as described by Verma (2003). Sometimes these side channels become so dominant that the main channel may be pushed to a subsidiary position. This mental working in different channels, in different directions, all at the same time, produces such clutter and turmoil that one craves for peace. In the Hindu scripture Bhagwat Geeta, human mind has been described as mercurial and uncontrollable.

In "yoga" this mental malady has been ascribed to ignorance or "avidya"; and "yoga" aims at curing the situation through a correct realization. "Yoga" philosophy points out that much mental pain and turmoil is through emphasis on one's individuality. Generally, a person considers all the universe around him as "outside" himself, i.e. apart from his personality. In fact an individual is a time limited phenomenon in the eternal process going on in the universe or "sansar". When he realizes this, the realization will reduce his fear of death, and will moderate the intensity of "raga"(=attachment) and "dvesha" (=hatred), which lead to most disturbing thoughts. This will reduce to a large extent his mental turmoil. People, in an attempt to achieve mental peace, try to banish thoughts or harness them, a difficult and painful experience. The realization of oneness with nature, as taught in "yoga", reduces mental turmoil effectively and painlessly.

This union with nature (word meaning of "yoga" is union) is certainly very effective in achieving peace. It is useful also in another way; it will save nature from mindless destruction by man.

Besides "yoga" ,another realization is also necessary. It should be realized that every human individual, though a time limited phenomenon, is also a unique phenomenon. Among all animal species the human species presents the greatest range of intraspecific variation, with the only exception of man's domestic animals. This extensive variability is a prerequisite for the intricacy of human society. The human social structure includes a large variety of niches, and variants are needed to fill these niches. While a person realizes that he is a time limited phenomenon, and only a part of the ongoing and eternal process, he should also realize that he is a unique product of nature, and has a unique role to play in society. Fear, "raga" and "dvesha" should be moderated, but at the same time, realizing his uniqueness, a person should act well in his niche to serve the ongoing process in the human social part of nature. "Yoga! " does not advise wholly ignoring one's individuality. As Krishnanand (1997) has put it, "Loss of self is the greatest of losses".

Krishnanand, Swami. 1997. Yoga as a universal science. Divine Life Society Publications, Shivanandnagar-249192, India.
Verma, K.K. 2002. Genotype and mana. EJAIB,12(2):64-65.
Verma, K.K. 2003. Human mental mapping-a preliminary attempt. EJAIB, 13(2):41-42.

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