August 15, 2007

No culture has had a monopoly on these forerunners

The Yoga of Self-Perfection and the Triple Transformation
by Richard Hartz Introduction: Yoga and Evolution
A remarkable result of the meeting of the “timeless” East with the progressive West is the idea of Yoga as a process related to evolution. The origins of this idea can be traced back at least to Swami Vivekananda. But it was left to Sri Aurobindo to arrive at a synthesis of the principles and methods of Yoga that is profoundly evolutionary in its spirit.
As early as 1909, Sri Aurobindo declared: “Yoga must be revealed to mankind because without it mankind cannot take the next step in the human evolution.”[1] It was soon after his release from Alipore jail that he wrote this sentence in an essay entitled “Man—Slave or Free?” A year’s enforced withdrawal from the Indian freedom struggle had given him an unexpected opportunity for concentration and spiritual realisation. The sentence in his essay foreshadowed the view of the evolutionary significance of Yoga on which his future work would be based.
But “Yoga” has meant many things in India’s long history. In all its forms, it has aimed at some kind of surpassing of the ordinary human condition through the development of supernormal capacities or states of consciousness. In the Indian tradition, however, the recognition of the limitless inner potential of the individual human being was not accompanied by an equally dynamic ideal of outward, collective progress. Nor was there an explicit idea of evolution in anything like the modern sense, in spite of some tantalising hints.[2] It was only at the end of the nineteenth century that, under the stimulus of Western thought, a Vedantic conception of evolution arose and provided a framework for reinterpreting Yoga in an evolutionary context.
The theory of evolution provoked heated controversy in the West due to its perceived conflict with Christian doctrines. But it was readily assimilated by Indian thinkers, who adapted it to their philosophy by seeing it as a kind of cosmic Yoga. In both evolution and Yoga, there is an unfolding of higher and higher grades of consciousness. Consciousness is a puzzling anomaly to Western science. In contrast, it is central to the neo-Vedantic theory which posits a prior involution of Spirit in Matter as a precondition for evolution.[3] A major problem of materialistic reductionism is thus avoided. Moreover, the involution hypothesis suggests the possibility that mind is only an intermediate outcome of the evolutionary process. Yoga, which attempts to go beyond the rational mind, can therefore be redefined as a deliberate means of accelerating our further evolution. As Swami Vivekananda put it:
Now... take the whole of the animal creation, man and the lower animals, as one whole. There is an end towards which the whole is moving. Let us call it perfection. Some men and women are born who anticipate the whole progress of mankind. Instead of waiting and being reborn over and over again for ages until the whole human race has attained to that perfection, they, as it were, rush through them in a few short years of their life.[4]
No culture has had a monopoly on these forerunners, among whom Vivekananda included all the great incarnations and prophets. But he went on to speak of methods by which even those not born with extraordinary gifts can hasten their progress. The Indian subcontinent has long been the scene of particularly intensive, systematic and many-sided efforts to work out such methods. These are the various forms of Yoga as it has been transmitted and elaborated from ancient times. Yoga in this sense remains largely unknown to the world in spite of the popularity of the postures and breathing exercises of Hathayoga, which recently have all but usurped the name “yoga”...posted by Debashish on Mon 13 Aug 2007 04:06 PM PDT Permanent Link Science, Culture and Integral Yoga

No comments:

Post a Comment