In this modern day and age even the latest scientific discoveries technological progress and our well-organized social, political and economic institutions have failed to solve the individual's physical mental and spiritual problems. Law, police, armies, governments constitutions, all have failed. In spite of prosperity, material comfort total social security and the best education, in spite of all we have in modern society, emotionally we are very poor. On the emotional level we have illness, derangement and disorganization; everything except peace of mind. We are suffering from chronic illnesses, not only from physical diseases but from mental ones also. People in under-developed countries are suffering largely from physical maladies and people in the prosperous and advanced civilizations are suffering from chronic mental illnesses about which we are totally ignorant We are not aware of what these psychological errors are, the deep-rooted tensions and afflictions which are guiding our destiny and which guide human behaviour. These individual afflictions, the tortures and pains which are inevitable in our life, are guiding the destiny of the world. The restlessness throughout the world is an outcome of the sickness in the mind of modern man.
The modern societies have put an end to the great plagues of the past but are now faced with a new epidemic of mental and psychic illnesses, caused by the stressful, highly competitive modern way of life. In Australia, for example, more than half of all hospital beds, including psychiatric and non-psychiatric, are occupied' by people suffering from alcoholism, schizophrenia and related ailments. In all the developed countries sleeping pills, tranquillisers and headache tablets are consumed in huge quantities every year. Tranquillisers and alcoholic drinks may give temporary relief from muscular and emotional tensions, but when their effects diminish they prove to be of more harm than good to the user. The mental problems he had forgotten for the time being return in a more intense way, and often he is not in a position to withstand their powerful impact and he becomes mentally weak and unstable. It is significant that many schizophrenics are also alcoholics.
Many of the other illnesses characteristic of the industrial countries are undoubtedly psychosomatic in origin, although physical causes such as bad eating habits and environmental pollution are also important. In the United States nearly half of all deaths are currently due to heart and arterial disease, and nearly a fifth to various forms of cancer. Other illnesses in this group include diabetes, kidney failure, arthritis and rheumatism, stomach ulcers, asthma, bronchitis and a host of digestive disorders and skin complaints. These illnesses arise from deep-rooted tensions in our minds and bodies.
There is no one today who is entirely free of mental sickness. This sickness can never be cured by living in material prosperity or by saying a few prayers in the morning. Many people live in ignorance of what mental sickness really is, and the mental factors that cause their worries and fears are unknown to them. We live in a world of matter, of materialism. We know when our bodies are ill and we take treatment, but when our minds are ill we are unaware of it and so we do not seek a cure. Thus the sickness becomes embedded in the deeper layers of our. mind, in our subconscious mind. Individual minds are part of the collective mind. Individual mental sickness and collective mental sickness can lead to disaster and often does. There must be some way to develop a healthy condition in society, in the community, in the family and in the mind of the individual. Religions have failed; the economic programs have also failed to give peace to mankind and to solve the problems of the individual, the community, and the society. These problems start basically with the individual and these problems can only be solved by the individual. The individual is the nucleus of most of the problems that lie before us.
The saints and sages of India have been saying for many centuries that peace and calmness are only attained from within and not from without. Every individual should possess the ability to go into the subconscious so that the inner personality can be treated and made healthy. Through yoga nidra this can be done. Modern psychology and Indian philosophy enumerate three types of tensions responsible for all the agonies of modern life. The first is muscular or physical tension, the second, mental or psychic tension, and the third, emotional tension. These threefold tensions cause disease inhibitions, complexes, anxiety and all kinds of suffering. Many people say or think that they are relaxed most of the time.
For some this might be true, but most scientific tests will conclusively show that most are constantly tense, even though they are not aware of it. We can confirm this for ourselves by ordinary observation. We all know people who habitually bite their nails, pick their noses, scratch their heads, stroke their chins and so on. Others may chain smoke cigarettes, talk compulsively about nothing, move about restlessly and display constant irritability. These people do these things without awareness and similarly we can lack awareness of our own state of tension. We may think we are happy and relaxed but a close look at ourselves and the manner in which we behave does not usually confirm this.
Relaxation sounds easy; you simply lie in a comfortable position, close your eyes and go to sleep; or you have a smoke or a drink, you go to the movies, read a novel, or switch on the television. Perhaps you visit the club, or go to the doctor for some sleeping pills, or even take a holiday. All these methods provide only temporary relief from tension. Even when people are sleeping their minds are continually turning over the same thoughts and worries and they wake up feeling exhausted. In this scientific age people are ignorant of relaxation.
Yoga nidra is the yogic tranquilliser, a natural means of establishing harmony and well-being throughout the entire system. It is a superbly effective system of relaxation that substantially reduces the physical and mental tensions brought about by modern life. For people who are sick or weak, it rejuvenates the nervous system and awakens a great healing power.
Yoga nidra is known as a method of relaxation but in fact it aims at a total physical and mental balance. It brings about a state of complete quietness in all dimensions of our personality, but it can also help to bring about enlightenment and self-realization. The practice is based upon rotation of consciousness, in which the consciousness is taken through the different parts of the body, and this is the secret of its effectiveness. But other yogic techniques are also utilized, notably antar mouna, (inner silence) pranayama and chidakasha dharana (inner visualization.) Assembled together, the whole practice constitutes a versatile method of meditation that is suitable both for beginners and advanced students.