Love, Serve, Remember

Articles by Swami Veda Bharati

Yoga Psychology

From a transcription of a talk given at a teacher training meeting at The Meditation Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, in the summer of 1983.

When we use the word "psychology," we don't use it in the reductionist sense – "My relationship with my mother caused it" – that kind of thing, you know. "Maybe if you talked with my mother, it would help me." That is not what we mean. Rather we are talking about the states of mind that we have cultivated. You see, when an incident "x" occurs in our life, there is no mechanically predetermined response "y" which we must always give. People say, "Well, I am this way because incident ‘x’ occurred,” implying that for "x" there is fixed response "y.” And that becomes an excuse-making, rationalizing justification for the response that we choose. But, you see, we also have "y-1", "y-2","y-3" and "y-4", and also "z-1" and "z-2" and "z-3" and "z-4", and all the letters from "a" to "z", and all the possible algebraic formulations you can give, and so we must not use the Freudian-Jungian analytic methods so completely that we are slaves to them – that we are slaves to the incident "x" that occurred, because Person-A in the face of the same incident "x" will respond one way and Person-B will respond in a different way. And Person-A at one time will respond one way, and at a different time will respond in a different way.

In yoga psychology we speak of the internal states of mind that one has cultivated. I personally believe strongly that ideals are the best therapy for any emotional difficulty. The ideals that you have believed in, that you have cultivated, that you live by, are the ones that help you determine your emotional responses. If, for example, a man strongly believes in the ideal of monogamy, he cannot have an emotional response to another woman approaching him, no matter how beautiful she is. A woman simply does not have an emotional response to another man, no matter how handsome or attractive he is. You see? And another person says, "Well, I was in such a situation that there was nothing I could do about it. I'm just a human being, so this had to be my response."

I consider ideals to be the determinants of the weakness or strength of our emotions. A certain little emotion may arise, but at what intensity it is experienced is determined by your ideals. You may have the emotion of rage, but your ideal determines whether you are going to take it as far as throwing a bottle through somebody's window or even murder. It is your ideals which determine it: "Well, I can't allow myself to get that far. I'm only going to curse him in my mind.” Or "I'm only going to stand on my balcony and throw abuse at him, or take him to court. Well, maybe I'll have a fist fight with him, but I'm not going to murder him."

Again, it is your ideals which determine the intensity of your emotional ceiling and its expression. And it is the cultivating of ideals that I actually believe in, not the cultivating of emotions. Emotions get cultivated automatically as ideals get cultivated. That is why you cannot find an exact word in English for the Yamas and Niyamas. Ahimsa (Non-violence): is it an ideal or an emotion? Somebody slaps me on one cheek. Is my response to slap him on two (both sides of his face), or is my response to show him my other cheek? – that is determined by my ideals.

So you are the person to see into your ideals. Then the external act can be very flexible. Actually there is nothing to cultivating emotions, thinking less painful thoughts and so on and so forth. Don't make that such a problem. Cultivating the ideals is the thing – and living by those ideals non-fanatically – not going about imposing them on everyone. But it all requires a great deal of flexibility. And I am more and more recognizing what a sinister handicap it is – inflexibility – that is keeping all of us back in our progress. We talk about regulation, and we talk about discipline; but some people are so fixated on discipline that they can't manage to break a rule without feeling guilty. For example, to wear a tie all the time is a fixed position. To not wear a tie all the time is a fixed position. I don't take those fixed positions, and when the occasion calls for it, I dress in an immaculate Western way. And when the occasion calls for it, I dress in an immaculate Eastern way. And when there is neither occasion, I wear dhotis. But many people cannot stand the thought of changing into something that is appropriate for the occasion. They are stuck. They are not making progress in emotional flexibility. In everything they will take a fixed approach.

So shift. Keep your ideals. Keep your principles. If you have those, you can afford to shift. But if with every shift your ideals change, then is not a discipline; it is not an ideal. Then it is fanaticism. There is a very fine line as to when you adhere to your ideals and when you allow yourself a little leeway. You see, the ideal is maintained in the heart, in the mind, and when that is maintained, then you can compromise the external act. Only you are the judge.

Can anybody, coming from any background, cultivate positive ideals? Yes, everybody already has positive ideals. Everybody has the seed of positive ideals. There is no one in the world who does not, because that's a basic divine urge in a human being. In human beings there are basic beastly urges, basic human urges, and basic divine urges. Which of these urges you choose to respond to is up to you. But all three urges are present in every human being. To begin to choose to respond to those divine urges in you, you simply start cultivating high ideals. If you don't choose to cultivate them, then you will have all kinds of excuses.

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