What is the point of Yoga?

A. W Watts attempted to explain Yoga as a sort of psychotherapy, but made the common mistake of estimating on a purely psychological level. There is doubtlessly a great similarity between Yoga and psychotherapy. However, the former does not stop at a mere ‘integration’ or, as some prefer to call it, ‘actualisation’ of the psyche; it aims at nothing less than a complete transformation of man. This will have to be elucidated. The purpose of psychotherapy is, as we understand it, to fully restore the capacity of functioning of a man, to free him from mental duresses and to make him mature emotionally and in his social relationships. Usually the person undergoing psychotherapy is afflicted with some negative dispositions, physically and mentally.

In other words, he becomes to the psychotherapist a patient. Yoga, on the contrary, generally starts with the normal, healthy individual. This fact is made quite plain in the Sanskrit texts: ‘The Self is not to be gained by the weak.’ And in the Mahabharata, the grand Indian epic, we can read that’ … the vow of Yoga is only for a man of unweakened mind, for none else - that is clear’.“ Numerous other passages, to the same effect, are to be found particularly in the scriptures of Hatha yoga and Tantrism. Yoga starting with the mentally and physically ‘normal’ person can never be an arena for the insane or psychopaths. It is symptomatic that in the West, Hatha yoga is promoted as a system of health although, in its classical form, it makes physical and psychomental fitness a basic requirement for its practice.

The starting point of Yoga being already different from that of psychotherapy, its aims are still more dissimilar. Yoga commences with a person solid in every respect and has in view not a restoration to normality or an amelioration of functioning or adaptation, but a man’s emancipation from all restrictions peculiar to a human being. That is, it intends to restore man as a transcendent entity. Accordingly, this emancipation is hued on a transmutation of human nature. M. Eliade, leading authority in the field of the history of religions and benevolent critic of Yoga, has carried out a profound analysis of this basic phenomenon of spiritual life. He characterised the Yogic practice as a progressive dismantling of human personality ending in a complete abolition.

 
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