07. Ancient Teachings Of India

The ancient teaching of India is summed up in the cryptic statement: "that art thou" (tat tvam asi). The teaching does not make clear, however, what the "that" is or what the "thou" is; or in what way the "that" and the "thou" are related, or how they are to be identified.

Yet if these words are to have meaning they should be explained in terms that are understandable.

The substance of all Indian philosophy, to take a general view of the principal schools, seems to be that in man there is an immortal something which is and always has been an individual part of a composite or universal something, much as a drop of sea water is a part of the ocean, or as a spark is one with the flame in which it has its origin and being; and, further, that this individual something, this the embodied doer, or, as it is termed in the principal schools, the atman, or the purusha, is separated from the universal something merely by the veil of sense illusion, maya, which causes the doer in the human to think of itself as separate and as an individual;

whereas, the teachers declare, there is no individuality apart from the great universal something, termed Brahman.

The teaching is, further, that the embodied fragments of the universal Brahman are all subject to human existence and coincident suffering, unconscious of their supposed identity with the universal Brahman; bound to the wheel of births and deaths and re-embodiments in nature, until, after long ages, all the fragments gradually will have been re-united in the universal Brahman.

The cause or the necessity or the desirability of Brahman's going through this arduous and painful procedure as fragments or drops is not, however, explained.

Neither is it shown how the presumably perfect universal Brahman is or can be benefited by it; or how any of its fragments profit; or how nature is benefited.

The whole of human existence would seem to be a useless ordeal without point or reason.

Nevertheless, a way is indicated by which a properly qualified individual, seeking “isolation," or "liberation" from the present mental bondage to nature, may by heroic effort pull away from the mass, or nature illusion, and go on ahead of the general escape from nature.

Freedom is to be attained, it is said, through the practice of yoga; for through yoga, it is said, the thinking may be so disciplined that the atman, the purusha, the embodied doer, learns to suppress or destroy its feelings and desires, and dissipates the sense illusions in which its thinking has long been entangled;

thus being freed from the necessity of further human existence, it is eventually reabsorbed into the universal Brahman.

In all of this there are vestiges of truth, and therefore of much good.

The yogi learns indeed to control his body and to discipline his feelings and desires. He may learn to control his senses to the point where he can, at will, be conscious of states of matter interior to those ordinarily perceived by the untrained human senses, and may thus be enabled to explore and become acquainted with states in nature that are mysteries to most human beings.

He may, further, attain to a high degree of mastery over some forces of nature. All of which unquestionably sets the individual apart from the great mass of undisciplined doers.

But although the system of yoga purports to "liberate," or "isolate," the embodied self from the illusions of the senses, it seems clear that it actually never leads one beyond the confines of nature.

This is plainly due to a misunderstanding concerning the mind.

The mind that is trained in yoga is the sense-mind, the intellect.

It is that specialized instrument of the doer that is described in later pages as the body-mind, here distinguished from two other minds heretofore not distinguished:

minds for the feeling and the desire of the doer.

The body-mind is the only means by which the embodied doer can function through its senses. The functioning of the body-mind is limited strictly to the senses, and hence strictly to nature.

Through it the human is conscious of the universe in its phenomenal aspect only: the world of time, of illusions.

Hence, though the disciple does sharpen his intellect, it is at the same time evident that he is still dependent upon his senses, still entangled in nature, not freed from the necessity of continued re-existences in human bodies.

In short, however adept a doer may be as the operator of its body machine, it cannot isolate or liberate itself from nature, cannot gain knowledge of itself or of its real Self, by thinking with its body-mind only;

for such subjects are ever mysteries to the intellect, and can be understood only through the rightly coordinated functioning of the body-mind with the minds of feeling and desire.

Palanyadi's Yoga Aphorisms

It does not seem that the minds of feeling and of desire have been taken into account in the Eastern systems of thinking. The evidence of this is to be found in the four books of Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms, and in the various commentaries on that ancient work.

Patanjali is probably the most esteemed and representative of India's philosophers. His writings are profound. But it seems probable that his true teaching has been either lost or kept secret; for the delicately subtle sutras that bear his name would seem to frustrate or make impossible the very purpose for which they are ostensibly intended.

How such a paradox could persist unquestioned through the centuries is to be explained only in the light of what is put forth in this and later chapters concerning feeling
and desire in the human.

The Eastern teaching, like other philosophies, is concerned with the mystery of the conscious self in the human body, and the mystery of the relation between that self and its body, and nature, and the universe as a whole.

But the Indian teachers do not show that they know what this the conscious selfthe atman, the purusha, the embodied doeris, as distinguished from nature:

No clear distinction is made between the doer-in-the-body and the body which is of nature.

The failure to see or to point out this distinction is evidently due to the universal misconception or misunderstanding of feeling and desire.

It is necessary that feeling and desire be explained at this point.

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