To me, yoga has never been a religion, not that I felt any disregard for religion, but I have always felt that the organization of the personality is always internal. It can never take place unless yoga is supplemented with religion. Yoga has remained this way for centuries and centuries.
People felt that it was a way of renunciation and a yogi has always meant a recluse. Sleeping on a bed of nails, exercising some psychic powers, drinking nitric acid, walking over fire and water, and then in contrast a householder was given the word of yoga at the time of marriage. It was considered to be completely out of place. The meaning of yoga was relatively unknown to most people.
It was with great difficulty that Swami Vivekananda and Swami Sivananda and a few other great saints brought this great science from door to door.
Today, people have begun to realize that yoga is a way of life, and more than that, it is a system of discipline. It does not matter if you are an agnostic, you can take to yoga. It does not at all interfere with your views, with the values of life that you had. I have been in America and the thousands and thousands of people in the churches, in the cafeterias, the hotels, the bars, everywhere are suffering from mental sickness. Mental sickness can never be cured by leading a life only of material prosperity. Just saying a few prayers in the morning does not cure mental sickness either.
This mental sickness is a terrible term, which must be understood. A few sensible individuals have become aware of this mental sickness. But there are many people who are living in ignorance, in the deeper basis of anxieties, worries, and fears but they do not know. People say that yoga is not for them. But there is no one in the world who is free from sickness. There is no one whose mind is not ill. You are always looking at your body, you have studied the sciences, which tell you about headaches, fevers, colds and coughs, but for the time being, let us think about the diseases of your inner personality. The psychic desires that are unknown to you but which are reflected in your day-to-day behaviour. This mental sickness is spreading throughout the world like an epidemic and it has got to be treated immediately or else anything can happen.
Individual minds are part of the collective mind. Individual mental sickness and collective mental sickness can lead to disaster. When the body is ill, we are aware of it and take care of it. When our mind is ill, we do not know it and we do not take care of it. The inner layers of our mind, the psyche of our being, is beyond our conception. We live only in a world of matter.
Yoga is really a method by which we bring about a healthy atmosphere in our system. There are many people who do not think about mental illness, but look at what they are doing, their thoughts, their behaviour, and the way they infect society with their system of thinking and philosophy.
The subconscious mind and the deeper layer of your subconscious ultimately become responsible for the expression of life. As such, it becomes necessary for every individual to be treated and the treatment of mind, or the treatment of the inner personality, can take place by the practices of yoga. This treatment includes those emotional disorders that are born out of emotional maladjustment.
Bhakti yoga is for those persons with emotional disorders, as it purifies the emotions. Psychic disorders, twists and errors of the personality can only be eliminated by the practice of meditation or dhyana. When it is said that meditation brings about enlightenment and ultimately, self-realization or God-realization, it is true but at the same time unless there is complete quietness in all dimensions of your personality, God-realization can never take place. Whether you are going to treat your mental personality or are trying for God-realization, yoga is the common method.
The various methods of yoga are karma yoga, hatha yoga, jnana yoga and raja yoga. The modern man, who has to step into the new dimension of consciousness, who should realize the new doors of perception, in order to bring about a healthy atmosphere in the whole of mankind, will have to practise the yoga of meditation. It is called dhyana yoga.
What happens is that in all the dimensions of your personality, a process of complete reorientation and relaxation of almost all the muscular, mental and emotional tensions takes place. These threefold tensions are deeply integrated in your personality. They can be very easily eliminated by the practice of dhyana yoga, the practice of meditation.
Therefore, in the practice of meditation, we have two stages. The first stage is the negation of consciousness; a central point is reached which is called the point of negation, the act of thought-withdrawal. Once withdrawal has taken place and the state of transcendence has been acquired by the self, then the self, the being or the consciousness will expand inwardly. It is only then when the consciousness expands inwardly and the awareness becomes more and more expanded that the unconsciousness is eliminated and the whole being comes to a point of purity and illumination.
It is in this context that I have been discussing yoga during the world tour. I have been conducting classes and at the same time, have been taking cases of mental patients, seizure fanatics, neurotics, and people suffering from anxiety, neurosis, those who do not sleep for days and weeks at a time and those suffering from psychosis. Without going into detail about the operations of the mind, I can tell you that the practice of meditation is one of the easiest and most perfect methods for changing the whole personality and with it the whole concept of life.
Sometime ago, I met a man who was previously a criminal who used to be a member of the underworld, a terrible man. In the evenings, I gave him meditation. I did not tell him at that time what it was, I simply said, “You close your eyes and breathe normally.” After a period of one and a half months, I noticed a great change taking place in him. Finally, he admitted he wanted to commit another crime but he was so lazy. This is how yoga brings about a state of tranquility in the person. Tranquility takes place both in the physical and psychic structure of man.
The physical brain is undergoing a state of tension at all times. Even at night, when we are sleeping, the brain is tense. The physical matter is always tense, if you observe the thoughts which are admitted by the brain, they are so negative. It is impossible for man to relax his brain without any specific process. It is in this condition of tension that the brain becomes the basis of evil thoughts and the expression of personality is completely disoriented and destroyed.
During the practice of meditation, the individual consciousness passes through different spheres of tranquility. In those different spheres of tranquility, a process of exhaustion, elimination, of abnormal complexes takes place. Finally, a state comes when the mind obtains serenity, wisdom and strength.
For many years, yoga was associated with theology, but today yoga will have to be understood in terms of your personality. Since you are all educated, you belong to the race of intellectuals, you are not aware of unhappiness, of frustration, but they are embedded deeply in your subconscious. If you were put into deep hypnosis, by a psychologist and asked about your problems and difficulties, your conscious personality would not outwardly want to admit to problems. You try to hide the dark side of your soul.
The time has come when we will have to be free with ourselves and realize this. First, we treat problems of the personality. After that has been done, the mind is able to express its inner faculties and finally after a long time will come to self-realization which is the ultimate purpose of life for which we are all born. Wherever you come from East or West, the innermost consciousness in all of us belongs to transcendental dimensions. The Supreme Being, the supreme consciousness, the higher intelligence is in us all.
During the practices of meditation, you can see the vast collection of impressions. In the deeper states of meditation, you will see the different symbols of your personality. What you see, the instincts of man, can be seen in the form of symbols. You can see a tiger, a bull, a serpent, an angel, a divine figure, a flower, a dead man, a star, a landscape, a house, a river, a cross, heaven, death, and hundreds and thousands of things. You must understand that they are patterns of your consciousness. They are symbolic expressions, whether you understand them or not, it does not matter. Let them come and exhaust themselves.
During the practices of meditation, when you sit down quietly and try to concentrate on one point, the point does not remain but this has to be developed by continuous practice. The point develops the subconscious elimination, the subconscious expressions, the instincts, the impressions, the behaviours, the hidden motives and many more things. They all come to you in the shape of images, in the shape of forms and it is not necessary for you to analyse and understand them.
There comes a time when all the images come to an abrupt end. The pictures, the film moves very slowly. It means the inner dimensions of your personality are being unfolded. It is arriving, reaching the ultimate point of elimination. At this time, the mind is free from desires, from sins, from sickness.
As you are aware of your physical movements, in the same way, you will have to be aware of your psychic movements. With the help of modern science, you have eliminated many terrific diseases from the face of earth and maybe in a few decades we may entirely wipe clean the remaining diseases from the earth.
A psychic epidemic is spreading at the same speed as cholera or the plague used to spread in the past. In fact, we have been able to achieve victory over one aspect of health and the second aspect, the mental aspect remains to be achieved. Psychologists have a big job. They are treating the symptoms. Yoga does not treat symptoms. It does not cure anger, it does not treat passion, it does not treat jealousy, it does not treat phobias, but it changes the structure. It is the reorientation of the whole system.
The foundation, the basis, the structure, everything is changed, that is the fundamental difference between psychology and yoga. Whereas, in psychology, the symptoms are treated, if the treatment is successful, the man feels better but at the same time, he himself does not feel secure. He cannot say with firm conviction, with faith that he will never suffer mentally thereafter. He knows that he was suffering from some kind of mental ailment, but anytime anything can happen. An emotional breakdown in life can put him down at any moment and this whole thing could collapse.
Once you take to yoga, the great path of meditation, you may declare that anything may happen to me. I may face success or failure, I may be frustrated or I may succeed, I may undergo tensions for many days at a time, I am sure I will live. I can face life with strength and courage. The turmoil of life cannot put me down because I understand the secret, the secret of the correct mental outlook and attitude. This is the contribution of yoga.
In this modern century, yoga is helping hundreds of people. Could any psychologist help thousands of boys and girls who have taken to LSD? No, but one man, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi has helped with one simple method of transcendental meditation. I have interviewed thousands of young people. They have all thrown away their drugs. They are leading a new life. They practise meditation in the morning and in the evening. This is one practical illustration, one example that proves that through meditation, without fighting with yourself, with the religious fight, with the moral fight, the fight with your own willpower, you can change. Even if you speak the truth and live a life of honesty, you do not do so spontaneously, but through the practice of yoga, that great change will take place in your life.
1972, Hindu Centre, London, England, printed in YOGA, April 1972