In the last 30 years, yoga has become a subject of scientific studies in India as well as abroad. First, the scientific studies were carried out on the most known aspects of yoga, the yoga asanas. In many countries, teams of scientists and doctors were studying the possible effects of yoga postures on the body. Of course, everywhere the teams gave a very wonderful report in their research. As a result, yoga postures became a very powerful means of therapy.
In the last three decades or more, many incurable diseases, chronic and constitutional, both, are being successfully tackled in India as well as abroad. This is a very preliminary but an important aspect of yoga. Later, the thinkers began to ponder over the possibility of whether or not yoga could influence the activities of the brain and consciousness. Now research is going on all over the world and the results which we have obtained so far speak very positively about some of the aspects of yoga, not necessarily only asana, that can alter the behaviour, the chemistry and the waves of the brain. I will try to tell you in layman’s language so that you can carry the knowledge home.
I am not keen whether you practise or not, that is left to you. For me, it is important to explain how far yoga has been understood by the thinking people of the world today, not only by Hindus or Muslims, but also by agnostics, who don’t have any concept of God, reality, atma, or after life, people who just believe in matter, total matter and nothing beyond matter. They have come to the conclusion that through the practice of yoga, the quality of the contents of the brain can be changed, influenced, transformed or completely metamorphosed.
If that be so, how are we going to apply this science of yoga to our own profession, career and station in life? We are sannyasins, some are businessmen and you are students. Everyone has his own career and profession. Is it possible therefore to apply this science of yoga in such a way that it will improve the quality of our performance? What yoga should we practise that will enable us to improve the quality of our experience which we have every day with the people we come across, and which we have in interaction with social and national problems? That mental personality should be developed through yoga. We believe it does. But how?
There is a general opinion now prevalent in the western countries and in certain circles in India as well, that through the four practices of pranayama, dhyana yoga, yoga nidra and antar mouna the mind of students can be improved. In Switzerland, educationists have been working on this and they are working on the behaviour of archetypes in the brain. These archetypes in the brain are in billions and trillions. They seem to become a barrier in expressing our mental personality.
Many times you feel that you understand things better and sometimes you don’t. At times you experience total clarity when you study geography, mathematics or history. There seems to be total clarity, and at other times it seems everything is clouded and you don’t understand. In this connection, you will have to study the behaviour of that mechanism which is the seat of understanding. This is the brain. The archetypes in the brain come in the way of your expression. These archetypes are the substances which lie buried in the depth of the human mind, not the external mind which is connected with the senses – that is the externalized mind. Through the eyes, the ears, through other mediums of perception, this mind obtains knowledge. I am not talking of that mind. That mind is just a reflector. There are other areas of the mind, chitta, which you should be able to touch if at all you want to develop to be a genius, a student of outstanding success.
You don’t have to do much with this mind, particularly that part of the mind which depends on external sources of the senses, the indriyas, not even with that mind which depends on the storehouse or the fund of knowledge which you have gathered and collected. There is an area of the mind which you do not know, which you have never experienced and that area has to come out. That mind can only come out if you can fix the archetypes.
Scientists in connection with the educational system, particularly in Switzerland, have developed a science using yantra and mandala. The geometrical figure, you see many times are known as Sri yantra, Kali yantra or Tara yantra. We thought for some time, even in our country which is the origin of this culture, that these yantras in geometrical shape were a mystic substance. Many people didn’t understand, neither priests, swamis, nobody could explain this.
Mentally retarded children are using yantras. They are told: Concentrate on the yantras with eyes open, then close the eyes and visualize the yantra as long as you can. When you are not able to visualize with the eyes closed, then open the eyes again and gaze at the yantra. Go on practising this system of trataka, dhyana on the yantra, twice a day for 10 to 15 minutes. What will happen and what happens? They say that yantra has the capacity and power to penetrate deep into the depth of the mind, manifest and express that mind. Through this practice of yantra meditation, mentally retarded children are helped in countries whose cultural tradition is not yoga. In this country where we have this rich tradition, we are not aware and have completely forgotten what these funny geometrical things are.
The second thing the scientists have been talking about is mandala. For us, it is idolatory. For them it is a scientific process of conceptualizing and thereby influencing the subconscious and unconscious areas of the mind. You will be surprised, but they even go to the extent where concentration on those mandalas can finally stabilize the waves in the brain – the alpha, beta, theta and delta waves in the brain, which have got voltage, frequency, ampere and vibration. It is like electricity. If you can reorganize, reset and restructure the brain wave patterns, you can manifest a new quality of brain and understanding.
This is just a glimpse that I have presented before you out of thousands and thousands of researches that have been conducted the world over. Since yoga has been introduced in rehabilitation centres in America, doctors have succeeded very well. I am not talking about drugs, I am talking about the relationship between yoga and the mind. I am talking about the relationship between yoga and consciousness, between yoga and man’s swabhava, personality, his prakriti, nature. It is true that yoga postures do help and you must practise a few of them every day. At least surya namaskara you must practise, but yoga does not end with that. With that, yoga begins.
Not only sannyasins or grown ups, every student must be exposed to the scientific aspects of yoga unknown to us in this particular generation, but which scientists have come to learn about. Our ancestors did know. Thousands of years ago there was a tradition that a child at the age of 7 or 8 years was ordained the sutra, a thread. I am not talking like a Brahmin, I am talking like a doctor. I am talking of science and not trying to establish or try to prove anything religious. At the age of 7 or 8, children were ordained a sutra; that was known as upanayanam. They were also given a mantra, pranayama and surya upasana.
Now scientists are talking about something very important. In every child, at the age of 7 or 8, the pineal gland begins to degenerate. With the degeneration of the pineal gland in the body, the pituitary is unleashed. It is opened completely and with the opening of the pituitary gland, the hormones enter the body in an unchecked manner. Imbalance in the personality grows. A boy or a girl of 15 years can think, experience, desire and have the passions of a man or a woman of 35 years. There is no balance because the pineal gland was not maintained in a healthy state when it began to degenerate at the age of 7 or 8.
In order to maintain the health of the pineal gland so that it may survive for as many years as possible, mantra, pranayama, surya upasana and asanas were introduced. I am not going to talk about mantra and surya upasana. I will speak a few words about pranayama and how it affects the pineal gland, situated at the top of the spinal column in the medulla oblongata. In religious terms, it is known as the third eye of Lord Shiva. We call it ajna chakra, the monitoring centre from where the respiratory, excretory and all other systems in the body are given orders and are being monitored. Even muscular atrophy and other diseases can be directly controlled by training the pineal gland, ajna chakra, the monitoring centre. Scientifically, we call it the monitoring centre. That training can be done through pranayama.
Breathe through the left nostril, breathe out through the right nostril. Breathe in through the right, breathe out through the left – a simple thing. We have seen in our scientific studies that when we breathe in and out through the left nostril, the right hemisphere of the brain is seen contracting and expanding, contracting and expanding. The same thing happens when you breathe in and out through the right nostril, the left hemisphere of the brain is acting. This is called nadi shodhana pranayama, alternate nostril breathing.
With this pranayama, you are training a very important part of your body, the brain and pineal gland. In those days, pranayama was taught with the view that our children would have the pineal gland maintained for many years so that they would have a balanced personality between emotion, thinking and experience.
I did not talk to you on yoga asanas and exercises because I thought many of you know about it. I wanted to give you this information because I am involved in it. I still believe that just as you can improve the quality of everything, you can improve the quality of the brain also; it is possible. The brain is not a static substance and if you are an idiot, it does not mean you have to remain an idiot. If you have a bad memory, it does not mean that you should always have a bad memory and there is nothing to improve it. In India, the only place that gives you this explanation about yoga is the Bihar School of Yoga.
I come from Bihar, I live in Bihar, but I am not a Bihari. I love the people of Bihar very much and my ashram is situated in the exact spot where the eldest son of Kunti and the eldest brother of the Pandavas ruled Angadesh – Maharatha Karna, Mahadaani Karna and Mahayogi Karna.
9 February 1982, Vivekananda College, Madras, Tamil Nadu