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THE YOGA PHILOSOPHY*
From A Modern Panarion
[Vol. II. Nos. 2, 4 and 7, November, 1880, and January and April, 1881.]
Articles by HPB
[Footnote* YOGA, or human hibernation, being only prolonged sleep, it is interesting to notice that there are instances on record of individuals sleeping for weeks, months, nay, even for years. ]
WE have ourself known a Russian lady—Mme. Kashereninoff—whose sister, then an unmarried lady about twenty-seven, slept regularly for six weeks at a time. After that period she would awake, weak but not very exhausted, and ask for some milk, her habitual food. At the end of a fortnight, sometimes three weeks, she would begin to show unmistakable signs of somnolence, and at the end of a month fall into her trance again. Thus it lasted for seven years, she being considered by the populace a great saint. It was in 1841. What became of her after that we are unable to say.
[Yoga has been differently defined by different authorities. Some have defined it as mental abstraction; some have defined it as silent prayer; some have defined it as the union of the inspired to the expired air; some have defined it as the union of mind to soul. But by Yoga, I understand the art of suspending the respiration and circulation. Yoga is chiefly divided into Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga.]
Here the author falls into an unmistakable error. He confounds the Râja with the Hatha Yogins, whereas the former have nothing to do with the physical training of the Hatha nor with any other of the innumerable sects who have now adopted the name and emblems of Yogins. Wilson, in his Essays on the Religions of the Hindus, falls into the same confusion, and knows very little, if anything at all of the true Râja Yogins, who have no more to do with Shiva than with Vishnu, or any other deity. Alone, the most learned among the Shankara’s Dandins of Northern India, especially those who are settled in Râjputâna, would be able—if they were willing—to give some correct notions about the Râja Yogins; for these men, who have adopted the philosophical tenets of Shankara’s Vedânta are, moreover, profoundly versed in the doctrines of the Tantras—termed devilish by those who either do not understand them or reject their tenets with some preconceived object. If in speaking of the Dandins we have used above the phrase beginning with the conjunction "if," it is because we happen to know how carefully the secrets of the real Yogins—nay even their existence itself—are denied within this fraternity. It is comparatively but lately that the usual excuse adopted by them, in support of which they bring their strongest authorities, who affirm that the Yoga state is unattainable in the present or Kali age, has been set afloat by them. "From the unsteadiness of the senses, the prevalence of sin in the Kali, and the shortness of life, how can exaltation by Yoga be obtained?" enquires Kâshîkhanda. But this declaration can be refuted in two words and with their own weapons. The duration of the present Kali Yuga is 432,000 years, of which 4,979 have already expired. It is at the very beginning of Kali Yuga that Krishna and Arjuna were born. It is since Vishnu’s eighth incarnation that the country had all its historical Yogins, for as to the prehistoric ones, or those claimed as such, we do not find ourselves entitled to force them upon public notice. Are we then to understand that none of these numerous saints, philosophers and ascetics from Krishna down to the late Vishnu Brahmachâri Bawa of Bombay had ever reached the "exaltation by Yoga"? To repeat this assertion is simply suicidal to their own interests.
It is not that among the Hatha Yogins—men who at times had reached through a physical and well-organized system of training the highest powers as "wonder workers"—there has never been a man worthy of being considered as a true Yogin. What we say is simply this: the Râja Yogin trains but his mental and intellectual powers, leaving the physical alone and making but little of the exercise of phenomena simply of a physical character. Hence it is the rarest thing in the world to find a real Yogin boasting of being one, or willing to exhibit such powers—though he does acquire them as well as the one practising Hatha Yoga but through another and far more intellectual system. Generally they deny these powers point-blank, for reasons but too well grounded. The former need not even belong to any apparent order of ascetics, and are oftener known as private individuals than members of a religious fraternity, nor need they necessarily be Hindus. Kabir, who was one of them, fulminates against most of the later sects of mendicants who occasionally become warriors when not simply brigands, and sketches them with a masterly hand:
I never beheld such a Yogin, O brother! who, forgetting his doctrine, roves about in negligence. He follows professedly the faith of Mahâdeva and calls himself an eminent teacher: the scene of his abstraction is the fair or the market. Mâyâ is the mistress of the false saint. When did Dattatraya demolish a dwelling? When did Sukhadeva collect an armed host? When did Nârada mount a matchlock? When did Vyâsadeva blow a trumpet? etc.
Therefore, whenever the author—Dr. Paul—speaks of Râja Yoga, the Hatha simply is to be understood.
[Minute directions then follow for the practising of postures, the repetition of Mantras; and Yâmyâsana and Prânâyâma, or the inspiration and suspension of the breath.]
All the above are, as we said before, the practices of Hatha Yoga, and conducive but to the production of physical phenomena affording very rarely flashes of real clairvoyance, unless it be a kind of feverish state of artificial ecstasy. If we publish them, it is merely for the great value we set upon this information as liable to afford a glimpse of truth to sceptics, by showing them that even in the case of the Hatha Yogins, the cause for the production of the phenomena as well as the results obtained can be all explained scientifically; and that therefore there is no need to either reject the phenomena à priori and without investigation or to attribute them to any but natural, though occult powers, more or less latent in every man and woman.
[Dr. Paul next describes the eight varieties. Kumbhaka, which Yogins practise with a view to study the nature of the Soul. Khecharî Mudrâ is the lengthening the tongue by splitting and then "milking" it until it is long enough to be turned back into the gullet, and, with its point, to press the epiglottis and so close the rima glottidis, which confines the inspired air within the system, the lungs and intestines being completely filled. By this practice he becomes insensible to everything that is external. "Without it," says Dr. Paul, "he can never be absorbed into God."]
As the science and study of Yoga Philosophy pertains to Buddhist, Lamaic and other religions supposed to be atheistical, i. e., rejecting belief in a personal deity, and as a Vedântin would by no means use such an expression, we must understand the term "absorption into God" in the sense of union with the Universal Soul, or Parama-Purusha—the primal or One Spirit.
[Directions are then given for the practice of Mûlabandha, a process by which youth is said to be restored to an old man.]
This posture will hardly have the desired effect unless its philosophy is well understood and it is practised from youth. The appearance of old age, when the skin has wrinkled and the tissues have relaxed, can be restored but temporarily, and with the help of Mâyâ. The Mûlabandha is simply a process to throw oneself into sleep (thus gaining the regular hours of sleep).
[Ujjayi Kumbhaka. Assume the posture called Sukhâsana, render the two nostrils free by the first Kumbhaka, inspire through both nostrils, fill the stomach and throat with the inspired air, and then expire slowly through the left nostril. He that practises this Kumbhaka cures all diseases dependent upon deficient inhalation of oxygen.]
And if anyone feels inclined to sneer at the novel remedy employed by the Yogins to cure "coryza," "worms" and other diseases—which is only a certain mode of inhalation—his attention is invited to the fact that these illiterate and superstitious ascetics seem to have only anticipated the discoveries of modern science. One of the latest is reported in the last number of the New York Medical Record (Sept., 1888), under the title of "A New and Curious Plan for Deadening Pain." The experiments were made by Dr. Bonwill, a well-known physician of Philadelphia, in 1872, and have been since successfully applied as an anæsthetic. We quote it from the Dubuque Daily Telegraph:
In 1875 Dr. A. Hewson made a favourable report of his experience with it to the International Medical Congress, and at a recent meeting of the Philadelphia County Medical Society several papers were read on the subject, and much discussion followed. In using the method, the operator merely requests the patient to breathe rapidly making about one hundred respirations per minute, ending in rapid puffing expirations. At the end of from two to five minutes an entire or partial absence of pain results for half a minute or more, and during that time teeth may be drawn or incisions made. The patient may be in any position, but that recommended is lying on the side, and it is generally best to throw a handkerchief over the face to prevent distraction of the patient’s attention. When the rapid breathing is first begun the patient may feel some exhilaration, following this comes a sensation of fulness in the head or dizziness. The face is at first flushed and afterwards pale or even bluish, the heart beats rather feebly and fast, but the sense of touch is not affected, nor is consciousness lost. The effect is produced more readily in females than in males, and in middle-aged more easily than in the old; children can hardly be made to breathe properly. It is denied that there is any possible danger. Several minor operations, other than dental ones, have been successfully made by this method, and it is claimed that in dentistry, surgery and obstetrics it may supplant the common anæsthetics. Dr. Hewson’s explanation is that rapid breathing diminishes the oxygenation of the blood, and that the resultant excess of carbonic acid temporarily poisons the nerve centres. Dr. Bonwill gives several explanations, one being the specific effect of carbonic acid, another the diversion of will-force produced by rapid voluntary muscular action, and, third, the damming up of the blood in the brain, due to the excessive amount of air passing into the lungs. The Record is not satisfied with the theories, but considers it well proved that pain may be deadened by the method, which it commends to the profession for the experimental determination of its precise value.
And if it be well proved that about one hundred respirations per minute ending in rapid puffing expirations can successfully deaden pain, then why should not a varied mode of inhaling oxygen be productive of other and still more extraordinary results, yet unknown to Science, but awaiting her future discoveries?
[After speaking at some length concerning Samâdhi and of the various branches of Râja Yoga, Dr. Paul’s remarks call forth the following note.]
This system, evolved by long ages of practice until it was brought to bear the above-described results, was not practised in India alone in the days of antiquity The greatest philosophers of all countries sought to acquire these powers, and, certainly, behind the external ridiculous postures of the Yogins of to-day, lies concealed the profound wisdom of the archaic ages, one that included among other things a perfect knowledge of what are now termed physiology and psychology. Ammonius Saccas, Porphyry, Proclus and others practised it in Egypt; and Greece and Rome did not hesitate at all in their time of philosophical glory to follow suit. Pythagoras speaks of the celestial music of the spheres that one hears in hours of ecstasy, Zeno finds a wise man who, having conquered all passions, feels happiness and emotion but in the midst of torture. Plato advocates the man of meditation and likens his powers to those of the divinity, and we see the Christian ascetics themselves through a mere life of contemplation and self-torture acquire powers of levitation or æthrobacy, which, though attributed to the miraculous intervention of a personal God, are nevertheless real and the result of physiological changes in the human body. Says Patanjali:
The Yogin will hear celestial sounds, the songs and conversations of celestial choirs. He will have the perception of their touch in their passage through the air,
which, translated into more sober language, means that the ascetic is enabled to see with the spiritual eye in the Astral Light, hear with the spiritual ear subjective sounds inaudible to others, and live and feel, so to say, in the Unseen Universe.
The Yogin is able to enter a dead or a living body by the path of the senses, and in this body to act as though it were his own.
The "path of the senses"; our physical senses, supposed to originate in the astral body, the ethereal counterpart of man, or the jîvâtma, which dies with the body; the senses are here meant in their spiritual sense—volition of the higher principle in man. The true Râja Yogin is a stoic; and Kapila, who deals but with the latter—utterly rejecting the claim of the Hatha Yogins to converse during Samâdhi with the Infinite Îshvara—describes their state in the following words:
To a Yogin in whose mind all things are identified as spirit, what is infatuation? What is grief? He sees all things as one; he is destitute of affections; he neither rejoices in good nor is offended with evil. . . . A wise man sees so many falsethings in those which are called true, so much misery in what is called happiness, that he turns away with disgust. . . . He who in the body has obtained liberation (from the tyranny of the senses) is of no caste, of no sect, of no order, attends to no duties, adheres to no shastras, to no formulas, to no works of merit; he is beyond the reach of speech; he remains at a distance from all secular concerns; he has renounced the love and the knowledge of all sensible objects; he flatters none, he honours none, he is not worshipped, he worships none; whether he practises and follows the customs of his fellow-men or not this is his character.
And a selfish and a disgustingly misanthropical one this character would be were it that for which the True Adept was striving. But it must not be understood literally, and we shall have something more to say upon the subject in the following article, which will conclude Dr. Paul’s essay on Yoga Philosophy.
[One of the practices followed by the Hatha Yogin is called Dhauti. This is the act of swallowing a bandage of linen moistened with water, measuring three inches in breadth and fifteen cubits in length. This is rather a difficult process. But very few fakirs can practise it.]
And a happy thing it is that the process is so difficult, as we do not know of anything half so disgusting. No true Râja Yogin will ever condescend to practise it. Besides, as every physician can easily tell, the process, if repeated, becomes a very dangerous one for the experimenter. There are other "processes" still more hideous, and as useless for psychological purposes.
[Nor does his hair grow during the time he remains buried.]
In reference to the arrest of the growth of the hair, some adepts in the secret science claim to know more than this. They prove their ability to completely suspend the functions of life each night during the hours intended for sleep. Life then is, so to say, held in total abeyance. The wear and tear of the inner as well as the outer organism being thus artificially arrested, and there being no possibility of waste, these men accumulate as much vital energy for use in their waking state as they would have lost in sleep, during which state, if natural, the process of energy and expense of force is still mechanically going on in the human body. In the induced state described, as in that of a deep swoon, the brain no more dreams than if it were dead. One century, if passed, would appear no longer than one second, for all perception of time is lost for him who is subjected to it. Nor do the hairs or nails grow under such circumstances, though they do for a certain time in a body actually dead, which proves, if anything can, that the atoms and tissues of the physical body are held under conditions quite different from those of the state we call death. For, to use a physiological paradox, life in a dead animal organism is even more intensely active than it ever is in a living one, which, as we see, does not hold good in the case under notice. Though the average sceptic may regard this statement as sheer nonsense those who have experienced this in themselves know it as an undoubted fact.
Two certain fakirs from Nepaul once agreed to try the experiment. One of them, previous to attempting the hibernation, underwent all the ceremonies of preparation as described by Dr. Paul, and took all the necessary precautions; the other simply threw himself by a process known to himself and others into that temporary state of complete paralysis which imposes no limits of time, may last months as well as hours, and which is known in certain Tibetan lamaseries as . . . . The result was that while the hair, beard and nails of the former had grown at the end of six weeks, though feebly yet perceptibly, the cells of the latter had remained as closed and inactive as if he had been transformed for that lapse of time into a marble statue. Not having personally seen either of these men, or the experiment, we can vouch only in a general way for the possibility of the phenomenon, not for the details of this peculiar case, though we would as soon doubt our existence as the truthfulness of those from whom we have the story. We only hope that among the sceptical and materialistic who may scoff, we may not find either people who nevertheless accept with a firm and pious conviction the story of the resurrection of the half-decayed Lazarus and other like miracles, or yet those who while ready to crush a Theosophist for his beliefs, would never dare to scoff at those of a Christian.
[A Yogin acquires an increase of specific gravity by swallowing great draughts of the air, and compressing the same within the system.]
This is what, three years ago, in describing the phenomenon in Isis Unveiled, we called "interpolarization." (See vol. i. op. cit.,pp. 23and 24.)
[On the powers resulting from Prâpti, it is said . . .]
As a deaf and dumb person learns to understand the exact meaning of what is said simply from the motion of the lips and face of the speaker, and without understanding any language phonetically, other and extra senses can be developed in the soul as well as in the physical mind of a mute, a sixth and equally phenomenal sense is developed as the result of practice, which supplies for him the lack of the other two.
Magnetic and mesmeric aura, or "fluid," can be generated and intensified in every man to an almost miraculous extent, unless he be by nature utterly passive.
We have known of such a faculty (divining the thoughts of others) to exist in individuals who were far from being adepts or Yogins, and had never heard of the latter. It can be easily developed by intense will, perseverance and practice, especially in persons who are born with natural analytical powers, intuitive perception, and a certain aptness for observation and penetration. These may, if they only preserve perfect purity, develop the faculty of divining people’s thoughts to a degree which seems almost supernatural. Some very clever but quite uneducated detectives in London and Paris, develop it in themselves to an almost faultless perfection. It can also be helped by mathematical study and practice. If then such is found to be the case with simple individuals, why not in men who have devoted to it a whole life, helped on by a study of the accumulated experience of many a generation of mystics and under the tuition of real adepts?
The dual soul is no fancy and may be one day explained in scientific language, when the psycho-physiological faculties of man shall be better studied, when the possibility of many a now-doubted phenomenon is discovered, and when truth will no longer be sacrificed to conceit, vanity and routine. Our physical senses have nothing to do with the spiritual or psychological faculties. The latter begin their action where the former stop, owing to that Chinese wall about the soul empire, called matter.
[Concerning the power called Vashitva, it is observed . . .]
Perhaps the Hobilgans and the Shaberons of Tibet might have something to tell us if they chose. The great secret which enwraps the mystery of the reïncarnations of their great Dalay-Lamas, their supreme Hobilgans, and others who as well as the former are supposed, a few days after their enlightened souls have laid aside their mortal clothing, to reincarnate themselves in young, and, previously to that, very weak bodies of children, has never yet been told. These children, who are invariably on the point of death when designated to have their bodies become the tabernacles of the souls of deceased Buddhas, recover immediately after the ceremony, and, barring accident, live long years, exhibiting trait for trait the same peculiarities of temper, characteristics and predilections as the dead man’s. Vashitva is also said to be the power of taming living creatures and of making them obedient to one’s own wishes and orders.
[Pythagoras, who visited India, is said to have tamed by the influence of his will or word a furious bear, prevented an ox from eating beans, and stopped an eagle in its flight.]
These are mesmeric feats and it is only by (in)exact scientists that mesmerism is denied in our days. It is largely treated of in Isis, and the power of Pythagoras is explained in vol. i. p. 283, et seq.
[Îshatwa, or divine power. When the passions are restrained from their desires, the mind becomes tranquil and the soul is awakened.]
In which case it means that the soul, being liberated from the yoke of the body through certain practices, discipline and purity of life, during the lifetime of the latter, acquires powers identical with its primitive element, the universal soul. It has overpowered its material custodian; the terrestrial gross appetites and passions of the latter, from being its despotic masters, have become its slaves, hence the soul has become free henceforth to exercise its transcendental powers, untrammelled by any fetters.
[With regard to restoring the dead to life.]
Life once extinct can never be recalled, but another life and another soul can sometimes reanimate the abandoned frame, if we may believe learned men who were never known to utter an untruth.
Wherever the word "soul" has occurred in the course of the above comments, the reader must bear in mind that we do not use it in the sense of an immortal principle in man, but in that of the group of personal qualities which are but a congeries of material particles whose term of survival beyond the physical, or material, personality is for a longer or shorter period, proportionately with the grossness or refinement of the individual. Various correspondents have asked whether the Siddhis of Yoga can only be acquired by the rude training of Hatha Yoga; and The Journal of Science (London) assuming that they cannot, launched out in the violent expressions which were recently quoted in these pages. But the fact is that there is another, an unobjectionable and rational process, the particulars of which cannot be given to the idle enquirer, and which must not even be touched upon at the latter end of a commentary like the present one. The subject may be reverted to at a more favourable time.
H. P. BLAVATSKY