Revolutionary Thoughts on the profound job Yoga has to do in modern society
Yoga is a ‘Science of Mind’
We believe what science says; science has become the ‘truth holder of our time’. So we feel good if we can say “Yoga is a science (or we can prove Yoga is effective through science)”. But what is ‘science’? Science as we know it is relatively young in human history. ‘Hard science’ that focusses exclusively on matter, has existed for 500 years; a mere eye blink in human history! But its base is much, much older! However today we treat science as if it were the word of God! We are proud to have evolved to having science and what it classifies as ‘hard facts’. What does it mean? A maxim, a ‘law’ is/was established that a particular method or technique allows only that as truth, which can be measured or calculated. Then a hypothesis is formed, and then that very hypothesis must be verified by experiments that prove and attest to the hypothesis…i.e. scientifically valid is only that which produces a predicted result. Predictability and shared agreement became the hallmark of scientific truth, or what is deemed a ‘fact’.
What was, is, and can be studied, used to be limited to that which could be touched and seen etc., i.e. matter. Today we are a little step further in that ‘New science’ also allows and explores subtle aspects and connections between phenomena etc.
But either way, the question is hardly asked, “What is the Foundation of how something is studied, what is seen, thought, experienced?”
This foundation is in the mind of the scientist. We know now that minds are conditioned, maybe even from the moment of conception. Thus in modern physics we know that we cannot measure, experience anything without it being influenced by the observer… (i.e. the observing mind).
So whatever is seen and observed scientifically or otherwise, goes through mental filters of a person, which are by nature conditioned. My quest this time is not the process as how this happens, but to explore the effect that it has had.
It means our whole perception of life is conditioned by our environment i.e. our culture and its basic maxims (via schools, parents, social interaction… anything!).
What are these base cultural imprints from which we act?
For this, we have to go way back in history.
What we call history is a very short span of time; even if we include so called ‘prehistory’… we only talk say about 10 thousand years at the most… but humans, as we know them, Homo-sapiens have existed for 200 thousand years. Millions of years back, there were also humans (Homo erectus etc…), beings that existed, thought, worked with tools, had families…even ‘cultures’; we know very little about them, although we discover more and more ancient quiet sophisticated cultures… but alas… they disappeared.
Even within the history of Homo sapiens, ‘modern man’ is relative young. So how did the human and its values and attitudes as we know them…come to be?
It is said that around the Bronze Age, (2-3000 BC and in some areas before) with the evolvement of agriculture, the values changed. With the step to agriculture people now started to make boundaries, owned things. Now it was about me and mine; now one had to protect ones food source, possessions became important (including possessing woman and animals…) and with it, the drive to defence of possessions grew.
(This is the same time as, so it is said, that the masculine principle started to overrun the feminine principle… but this is at the present not the point of inquiry). This shift in way of life (like all experiences) affected and shaped minds; i.e. started conditioning minds in a different way…We could say a certain ‘Culture’ was born.
But what Culture, what are the maxims behind this culture, this shift? The experience that man could control nature! This in time expanded colossally.
This growing mental shift is at the base of one of the stories that shaped Western culture. In Genesis (Bible) it describes how God himself tells people to make the earth and all that live on her, their dominion. God gave not only permission, but commanded (one could say) to use, exploit, enslave what is on earth, or even kill what is in the way of one’s intentions – meaning, even kill other humans.
We never question what happened here…in terms of evolution? Mankind lived in paradise before; in harmony with Nature…then he was driven out of Paradise… (let’s just stay on this thought… and not divert into the what and why’s?).
In terms of anthropological evolution there was a step, a deliberate step, were mankind parted from the old way of living in harmony with nature, and started to see himself as so strong that he could dominate it.
Before this decisive step, obviously mankind looked to the higher forces, nature, God… and was guided by them. Now man thought, he was separate, better, autonomous in charge, and his aim was just that; to use this ability to control… for maximum benefit/profit.
So here we have the Paradigm, the basis of thought that eventually led to the overuse of this power that brings us through history to the devastating state of the world at the brink of suicide, today!
Anthropologically speaking – not all humans went that way, we could safely say, that one branch of humans (as happened in human history before) went that way, others stayed and continued to live in harmony with nature as they had for thousands of years. They live content in harmony with nature even today, in their own ancestral ways…until – the ‘new human’ drives them out or kills them. As we do!
But some, even today, managed to stay out of the way of the effect of the ‘New human’ and the consequences of their evolution did not touch them… they were content, had few illness… and until today they have no need of mobile phones as they communicate by telepathy; they have no need of TV’s and weather forecasts as they know the behaviour of Nature… etc. They have no need of technically perfect hospitals, because they have a huge knowledge of medicine, to cure the illnesses they encounter (which are much less than modern man suffers from). They have developed themselves; learned from nature, evolved… whereas the ones that branched off into domination of Nature have developed the matter/technology but impoverished themselves; they rely on technology; their minds conditioned by the cultural message… that only matter matters!
Of course this is simplified, yet contains essential truth. So, what is at the root of the present state of the world is a Paradigm that holds humans as superior and forgets that humans only exist in total co-operation, even dependency with all else. Consequently as they destroy ‘all-else’, they destroy their base i.e. themselves.
The Cultural Paradigm is so prevalent, so dominating that it shapes fundamentally our minds; conditions it in myriads of ways.
The way to save our world, indeed maybe save humanity is to change that cultural imprinting, that Cultural Paradigm, that enculturation that we have all suffered.
So now comes why I talk about this in relation to Yoga.
The ancient Rishis have seen this dilemma at the beginning. In fact, the first time the word Yoga was mentioned, in writing, in the Rig Veda (5.81.1) says: (no doubt long oral traditions proceeded)
“They yoke the mind in yoga
They yoke the intelligence in yoga;
They the great wise ones who belong
To the expansive wisest One.”
Means what? Means the ancient wise ones (Rishis) saw that the human mind was going in the wrong direction and they found ways to control it, tame it, and directed it back to that One power which is their origin – in which they live in harmony with all other! Oneness, Union, the Divine, Nature whatever word you want to give that Ultimate Power.
This is the origin of Yoga… its working on the Mind, control the mind, not the mind in its entirety, but that part which is enculturated, damaged by the cultural conditioning, that tells the human… he is the master over nature!
This cultural imprint, culture gone wrong, is the source that makes us suffer in a million ways.
Now if the ancient wise ones new that (say) 2000 BC; then why has it had no effect?
Because just like ‘New-humans’ kill other humans that do not fit or they cannot profit from, they pay no heed to the warnings of wisdom. , This wisdom though cannot be muted…it is still alive in the indigenous people…and in the Yogis of all times, which again and again try to call our attention to this base phenomenon that causes the damage to all of creation.
And what is that? Man’s indoctrination that he/she has power over nature; i.e. over others… that he is, ‘the crown of Evolution’. Man being the crown of evolution… to think that is contradicting millions of years of permanent change in creation, what we call evolution; Life is a continuous process! It cannot stop… when this process stops there is only death. So this way of thinking is irrational, megalomaniac stupidity! But we have accepted it by and large as paradigm; as base-truth.
Furthermore, mankind being at the crown of evolution… This would mean this kind of human does not believe it can evolve higher! Yes… it means it is the end of the road! The implication? It can only stagnate or be replaced by technical humans (genetically modified/artificial humans) and/or regress. And that is exactly what is happening. The ‘present human’ species has only a choice of being replaced by a genetically or technically modified version…or die; and man (science!) is proud of it! It is true; the human itself…cannot evolve!
Only the ancient /indigenous Ones, not mentally polluted in this way (meaning people not infected by our ‘culture’) can evolve and survive; if we haven’t killed them all by then.
Yoga from the beginning offered an alternative. Clean your mind from those mental patterns of separation, superiority and exclusion!
Become aware and let go of your attitude of taking, greed, and aggression (and its companion the drive to achieve) and develop a mind that is, “chitta prasadanam”… peaceful, tolerant, in harmony with all there is.
That is not going backward…but would offer a new forward!
Means Yoga as it is originally meant, as the wisdom about our minds and how to evolve with it to something higher, is the ‘perennial wisdom’ of changing the cultural Paradigm in our own mind that has brought society to its present suicidal path. Furthermore, once you see that, you will want to help others to do likewise… thus create a tsunami of Awareness… that might bring about a “New Forward”.