Darshana and Seeing Reality
By Swami Rama
Yoga darshana is one of the most ancient darshanas. The word darshana comes from the root drishyate anena which means, “that through which you can see.” That particular system through which you can see Reality is called darshana. Just as you can see yourself in the mirror, so also, through yoga darshana, the yoga sutras, can you see the Self. Darshana is not the same thing as philosophy. Philosophy is a compound word meaning “love for knowledge.” Darshana is not a mere love for knowledge. This is one difference between oriental and occidental philosophy: the ultimate goal of darshana is to see Reality.
Yoga science is based on Samkhya philosophy, which is the very basis of all sciences. Samkhya (samyag akhyate) means, “that which explains the whole.” Samkhya embraces the whole universe—how the universe came into existence, and all relationships within the universe. It explains human life on all levels—our relationship with the universe, our relationship with the creator who created the universe (if there is any), our relationships with our own mind and our inner being, our relationship with the center of consciousness, and our very existence. Even if a person is agnostic or atheist, they will get something from Samkhya philosophy.
The Samkhya philosophy gave birth to mathematics. If there were no mathematics, no one would understand science. All the sciences would crumble if mathematics were removed because science is based on mathematics. Samkhya philosophy is the very basis of yoga science. I am teaching you what I was taught in the monastery by a great swami, Chakravarti, who was a great Indian mathematician. He taught me by drawing triangles, lines, and dots in the sand.
Samkhya philosophy defines the whole process of understanding that which is real and that which is not real. Here the word Reality is not used as you use it in the external world. Let us consider the blackboard I am using. Is it real? According to Samkhya philosophy, the blackboard is not real because Reality is that which is not subject to change, death, and decay. It is true that it has a material reality, but the blackboard itself is not real because its form and name can change at any time. If an object’s form and name can change, it is not Absolute Reality. According to Samkhya, Reality, or Truth, is that which exists in all three times—the past, present, and future. In the material world, a man of flesh and bones is real, but in Samkhya philosophy, Reality means that which is everlasting, exists in all times, and is not subject to change, death, and decay. The world appears to exist; it appears to be real, but actually it is not because it exists on the existence of something else. Those who do not know Reality, think that the world is real. To those who know Samkhya, the world is not real.
When yoga science was taught to us in the monastery, they always taught Karika, a classical text of Buddhism, and Samkhya along with it so it could be more easily understood. Karika, Samkhya, and yoga are very closely related to each other. If you want to understand the systems of Indian philosophy, including Buddhism and Jainism, you should study the Karika. The Karika does not say that one should try to understand God or talk about heaven and hell; it is very practical. The first sutra of the Karika is: dukha-traya-abhighatat: “Oh man, be aware of the pain that arises from three levels—pain coming from within, pain coming from outside, and pain coming from nature. First gain your freedom from these three sets of pain.”
The science of yoga is thousands of years old. Man has always searched for ways to make life happier in the external world. Though he was partially successful, he was not yet truly happy. Then he started searching for an internal way of organizing the internal states. The great sages, with the help of meditation techniques, dived deep into the inner realms of their being and experienced the unspoken great words of wisdom. Some five thousand years ago, when there were no printing presses, the teachings were imparted to students orally in a very compact form called sutras so they could be easily remembered. Through practices and experience, the truths given by the teachers could be verified.
Patanjali was a great sage who systematized and organized the study and teachings of yoga. He was not the first teacher of yoga, nor is he considered to be the originator of yoga science. There is a saying in Sanskrit, “One who was born first, the first who came into manifestation, was the first teacher of yoga.” Patanjali was only the codifier of yoga science. His approach is very practical; he was not a simple religious preacher or priest, but a scientist and a great philosopher who understood life with its currents and crosscurrents. He was a great yogi who practiced, who knew, and who made experiments. Patanjali was an enlightened being, a sage, who has given us yoga science for the benefit of all human beings.
After doing his own experiments for a long time, Patanjali organized the study of the internal states into one hundred ninety-six sutras. These sutras are called yoga darshana. The word sutra means “a string,” and the yoga sutras are connected with each other like the beads of a mala. Patanjali sometimes used several sutras to express the same idea if one sutra was not adequate to completely explain a particular subject. If more than one sutra is used for explaining a particular concept, it means that concept is very essential and should be thoroughly understood.
The Yoga Sutras is a very important classical text. I want to give you a glimpse of the whole text. All three schools of Buddhism—Mahayana, Hinayana, and Nirvayana—and the Jain teachings have borrowed from this text. The Upanishads are replete with the teachings of yoga science. Every religion in the world includes something about yoga, yet yoga is not a religion.
Every word of the sutras has meaning, so you need to understand each word properly in order to understand the whole sutra. Sutras are similar to aphorisms in English, but they are not mere aphorisms. They are compact, concise, abstruse sentences that cannot be understood without expansion and explanation. I studied the sutras many times in my childhood, yet I still did not really know much about them. The yoga sutras are not actually meant for students to study because they will drive you crazy! They are really meant as an outline for the teachers. If you study only the sutra as it is, you will not understand what it means. Patanjali intended for the teachers to practice the sutras and to expand on them for students. Understanding has nothing to do with how learned you are. If someone is a very learned person and is knowledgeable about the scriptures but does not practice, it will be very difficult for that person to comprehend the entire concept, philosophy, psychology, and practical aspects of Patanjali. If you do not practice the yoga sutras, you cannot explain them, no matter how much you study, and you will make serious mistakes. Only when you practice the sutras will you understand them very clearly. Only those teachers who are competent, who have studied the tradition from their competent teachers, and who have practiced and applied the truths therein, have the right to teach the yoga sutras. In ancient times only those who were adept taught the sutras. No one would study them from anyone who was not a perfect yogi. Only someone who has practiced this science with mind, action, and speech, and who has traditionally studied this science, can explain and impart the knowledge to those students who are prepared.
The first four sutras are very important. They are the cornerstones of the architecture of yoga science. Patanjali explains the first four sutras of the first chapter in the entire one hundred ninety-six sutras. These four sutras are the nucleus; the rest of the sutras are the explanation.
The four basic sutras are:
Have you determined to find peace, happiness, and bliss? Have you decided to do that? Or are you still searching for someone else who will give you peace, happiness, and bliss? The scriptures say that no one in the world will ever find these goals in any relationship. Peace and happiness are within you, beyond your body, breath, senses, and mind. You can attain that peace by learning how to direct your energies within toward the deeper aspects of your being. To attain that you do not have to retire from the world. You do not have to shun your relationships or abstain from your duties. You only need to discipline yourself. Discipline means not allowing yourself to be dissipated mentally by your thoughts, actions, or speech. Patanjali, the codifier of yoga science, taught that all human beings can attain the goal of human life by understanding the yoga sutras, practicing them, and applying them in daily life.
Yoga is a science, a philosophy, and a psychology. Yoga science deals with the subtleties of life. It offers a practical side to philosophy and provides a variety of techniques. Yoga psychology teaches how to apply yoga science to know yourself. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are the foundation of ancient psychology, including the Buddhist, Zen, Jain, and other psychology systems that support the seven systems of Indian philosophy. There is no real distinction between Eastern and Western psychology. The actual distinction is between the ancient and modern psychologies. There are many branches of ancient psychology.
The word psychology means “the science of mental life,” but modern psychology has not developed to the extent where it can truly say that it knows how to study mental life. When you study mind as a subject you are merely collecting the information and opinions of others and trying to study what it is. I never met anyone who could really study my mind, even though I went to well-known psychics. They made various predictions that I did not believe. I said, “Tell me what is going on now in my mind and what has happened with me in the past, then I will believe what is going to happen with me in the future.”
Modern psychology has really studied only behaviorism. That is not the study of the mind, but only aspects of the mind. Behaviorism is an incomplete science. Very little of the mind is expressed through behavior. Therefore, by studying behavior you cannot understand the totality of the mind. Historically, modern psychology is based on the study of the behavior of mentally abnormal people. Patanjali did not base his science on abnormal behavior, even though he was fully aware of that particular category of mind. Modern psychology was born out of the study of misery, out of trying to understand mental problems that could not be handled by medicines. Modern psychology teaches that we cannot fully understand anyone’s thinking process because we cannot really know how someone is thinking. Patanjali studied and analyzed the normal mind in its totality, with all its functions and modifications. Yoga psychology evolved from the prime necessity of attaining realization.
Modern psychology is not yet a finished product. It reaches certain conclusions today, and tomorrow those conclusions are discarded. Besides behaviorism there was another branch of psychology in which such great psychologists as Freud, James, Williams, and Jung tried to understand the deeper aspects of the mind, but they did not thoroughly accomplish this. They did begin to study hypnosis, but did not really go far in their studies of the mind using hypnosis. Self-hypnosis and autosuggestions can help people with problems up to a certain extent, but they cannot lead you to know the deeper levels of life. At this point, the ancient or yoga psychology begins its study.
Ancient psychology explains that the human mind has an immense capacity. If the mind can be prevented from distractions and dissipation, it can be disciplined and directed in the right direction. Yoga psychology is a complete science. Yoga psychology is very deep and can be understood only by practicing it, not by memorizing the yoga sutras. Patanjali’s method is subtle, exact, and profound. If modern psychologists fully understood Patanjali’s subtle methods, they could do tremendous good for society. But modern psychologists are usually not taught to go beyond the conscious and unconscious fields of the mind, or to become aware of the soul, which is the very goal of human life.
Psychology deals with mental life, both the conscious and unconscious. With the help of analysis and therapy, that which is in the unconscious is brought into the conscious mind, where it can be addressed. Modern psychology often deals with behavior, but yoga science goes to the very core of the soul, from where springs mind and its modifications. Unless you know your own sva-rupa, your own real Self, you cannot have perfect control over your mind and its modifications.
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