Soul Psychology


"Know the self as a rider in a chariot,
and the body, as simply the chariot.
Know the intellect as the charioteer,
and the mind, as simply the reins.
The senses, they say, are the horses,
and sense objects are the paths around them....
When a man lacks understanding,
and his mind is never controlled;
His senses do not obey him,
as bad horses, a charioteer."


chariot.jpg











Recently a teacher of mine gave a seminar entitled 'Psychology of the Soul'.
I found it to be particularly succint and inspiring, maybe it's just because I like philosophy...
Here it is for your consideration!
Please bear in mind though that these are only notes upon which anextensive seminar was formed, and thus may not be complete inpresentation.

Text in [ ] brackets by me.

Section 1

EXISTENCE: The Vedic View

Life is comprised of five elements:

A) Existence
B) Consciousness
C) Emotion
D) Form
E) Activity

All are inter-dependent absolutes. In other words, each is essential,and without one the existence of the other has no real meaning.

The essential characteristic of existence is consciousness.

The essential characteristic of consciousness is emotion.

The essential characteristic of emotion is form.

The essential characteristic of form is activity.

Ultimately without activity, form, emotion and consciousness givingexpression to existence there can be no significant meaning toexistence.

What however, is the underlying impetus causing existence to expressitself through consciousness, emotion, form and activity? According tothe Vedic view the explanation lies in the fundamental truth that thevery nature of existence is that it is itself joyful. This concept isexpressed in the Vedic aphorism, anandamoya-bhyasat:that the absolute truth is by very nature joyful. This is the kernel oftruth lying at the very heart of every consequent explanation foreverything that consequently exists.

How so?

Because it is in the very nature of joy to delight in itself - and tothus wish for an increase of its own joy! And it is in order tofacilitate that urge for increase that existence consequently expandsinto ever fuller manifestations of itself, into consciousness, emotion,form and activity, just as a seed grows into a tree with branches,leaves, flowers and ultimately fruit.
Because the inherent nature of existence is joy, and because theinherent nature of joy is to wish for fullness, the Supreme AbsoluteTruth, in the never-ending pursuit of fullness, proceeds naturally toexpand itself - and to do so unlimitedly - into all the various aspectsof creation and into all the unlimited living entities and unlimitedphenomena that make up creation.

Section 2

PSYCHOLOGY: The Relationship between Consciousness and Activity

Psychology examines behaviour, or rather the relationship betweenconsciousness and activity. According to some psychology can only beeuphemistically described as a science because the frames of referenceused in describing behaviour are ultimately aribtrary. Unlike solidmatter, consciousness is fundamentally amorphous and cannot be brokendown into constituent elements of an absolute nature, or at least notinto elements universally agreed upon as being absolute.

In simple terms consciousness is the basic expression of existence andconsequently the basic cause of activity. In Western traditionDescartes also concluded that the basic proof of existence wasconsciousness, or as he put it, thought: cogito ergo sum.

As the basis of action, the study of thought is felt to be the key tounderstanding why we do what we do. When what we do is percieved byourselves or others as wrong, or bad, or conducive to some undesirableresult, and thus a problem (for us and perhaps others) then the linkbetween consciousness (thought) and action needs to be examined.

A fundamental aspect of the science of yoga also is the study between existence, consciousness and activity.

The gross aspects of our physicality are considered to be made up of 5 "elements": earth, water, fire, air and ether.

The subtle aspects of our consciousness are said to be made up of 3 "elements": mind, intelligence and false ego (as opposed to the true ego of the soul proper).

These three subtle elements are essentially grouped as one in both theWestern and Eastern thought under the broad heading of consciousness.Their specific essences are distinguished by seeming function.

Ego literally means sense of identity.

False ego means a sense of identity that is differentfrom what yoga science considers the original eternal identity of theself, or soul proper. False identity, or false ego, arises as a resultof the souls contact, association, and identification with matter, orthe stuff making up our present minds and bodies. The fundamentalfalsity of our present identity is rooted in the never-endingchangeability that results from the fluctuating and temporary nature ofmatter and material forms.

Intelligence is that aspect of consciousness we use for discrimination, to conclude things, and therefore to make decisions.

Mind is comprised of the facility to think, feel and will.

Section 3

MIND, the Seat of Consciousness

The behaviour of living beings, generally speaking, is dominated byperception and feeling. In other words, how we see things and how wefeel about what we see. This is the domain of what yoga science calls"mind". It can be analysed as follows:

Thinking: the ability to concieve, conceptualise or contemplate an object or experience.

Feeling: the emotional response, either positive, neutral or negative that follows on, resonates and flows from such thinking.

Willing: the consequence of our emotional reaction that causes us to desire, want or wish for (or not desire, want or wish for), a certain object or experience. What follows on from willing is some kind of activity or action carried out (generally) by the senses of the gross physical body.

These three facilities of thinking, feeling and willing are the constituent ingredients of what we call mind. This mind represents the pivotal point of consciousness, which itself is the pivotal point between existence and activity.Studying and understanding the mind therefore, the very seat (or heart)of consciousness, is critical to understanding the activity andbehaviour that finally defines and constitutes the value of ourexistence.

Interestingly, these three features of mind alsoconstitute what we would commonly refer to as our "heart", the heartthat is so eulogised in popular culture and given such wonderfulexpression through the creative "arts" of song, dance, drama, music,painting and sculpture. So, at the risk of coining a few bad puns, wecan confidently conclude that the mind, situated as it is at the coreof consciousness, and being the very springboard of action, really isthe heart of the matter - and thus, properly so, the real focus of our seminar.

Making Up Our Minds

Having analysed the faculties of the mind we will now look at what influences the nature and function of those faculties.

Above the mind, and what informs and should ultimately regulate it, is the Intelligence.

Below the mind, and what pulls and in most cases dictates to it, are the senses.

In Bhagavad-gita (as illustrated through the analogy of the chariot),the mind is depicted as the reins connecting the driver to the horses.Mind is an inherently mechanical instrument. The horses (senses) areconscious and active, the driver (intelligence) is conscious andactive, but the mind (reins), although the critical, pivotal factor,are inert and mechanical.

The Vedas describe that as part of the process of universal creationthe senses and their objects arise from each other. Thus there existsan inherent affinity and attraction between one and the other.Consequently, unless controlled otherwise, the senses will naturallypursue their respective objects as much as wild horses generally gowhere they will. In an uncontrolled situation the faculties of the mind(the reins), will tend to be subverted by the urges of the senses (thehorses) and ultimately be made even to serve those urges.

On the other side of the mind however (at the other end of the reins)stands the intelligence (the proverbial driver). The intelligence, onespower of discrimination, should ideally have the mind firmly under itscontrol, thereby directing the workings of the senses, and thus allactions of life. If the intelligence is strong and fixed on the path ofperfection then the course of one's life may be directed in adisciplined and productive way to that end.

The key to control of the mind therefore, and thus of life itself, is intelligence.

Section 4

How Intelligence Works

According to yoga philosophy intelligence is comprised of knowledge,memory and discrimination. The quality of our discrimination mustnecessarily be limited to the quality and quantity of our knowledge aswell as the strength of our ability to retain and recall suchknowledge. Knowledge without memory is as useless as memory withoutknowledge, and unless both are present we have no basis upon which todiscriminate.

Discrimination simply means the ability to evaluate things. In otherwords, to see things in terms of their proper value, both relative andabsolute. The conclusions we come to in consequence of our evaluationsforms the basis of our intellectual determination(as opposed to our sensual or mental determination). Ideally we shouldact according to the conclusions of our best intelligence, even if suchconclusions should clash (as they usually do) with the thoughts,feelings and desires of the mind, or the urges of our senses.

The essential aim of yoga, at least initially, is to gain control overthe mind and senses. One logical way of doing this is to strengthen andtrain the intelligence. This is done by education, instruction andpractice. Only if the education, instruction and practice are perfecthowever can we achieve a perfect result. We are all born into ignoranceand therefore success necessarily begins, as Krishna advises Arjuna, byseeking out a perfect teacher and accepting his shelter. Under hisdirection and through his instruction we can develop good intelligence.

Developing Spiritual Strength

In spite of good intelligence we often find ourselves succumbing to thetemptation of sense objects and the whims of our mind. What to do?

Superior to intelligence is the soul proper. This soul can be percievedby the faculty of perfect intelligence. Perfection as a conceptreflects the eternal nature of the soul itself. Perfect intelligencereally reflects only the natural desire and determination of the soul.Therefore real intelligence is actually synonymous with the trueexpression and aspiration of the actual self, the soul proper. Theperfection of intelligence necessarily involves therefore theresurrection of our eternal spiritual nature. Thus we come to the yogaprocess. Thus we come to the process of bhakti. Thus we come to the process of sadhana bhakti centered on sravanam, kirtanam, visnoh smaranam. [hearing, chanting & remembering the Absolute]

By practicing bhakti yoga the innate consciousness and faculties of thesoul are aroused and developed and one becomes firmly established inones original identity: jivera swarupa haya krishnera nitya dasa. [our form of eternal servitorship to the eternal absolute] Being firmly situated in the consciousness of krishnera nitya dasaa devotee's intelligence becomes informed thereby, steady, and strong.The mind and senses are consequently brought under control, or rather,in line with ones eternal spiritual nature. This is the perfection ofyoga, the perfection of existence, the perfection of consciousness, ofdesire and activity, and therefore of action.
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