Yoga, Hinduism, and Personality




Yoga :a Sanskrit word meaning "to join" or "to unite"



      The goal of Yoga is self-realization, which occurs when consciousness is turned inward and united with the Self.


Yoga methods concentrate on calming the mind and focusing on the Self.



Yoga is an integral part of the Hindu tradition, and dates back to the earliest  Veda's , the holy books of the Hindu religion which date back to 2500 BC.





Hundreds of different Indian and Hindi traditions, which were originally Oral Histories.


The Veda's consist of four major sections :


Oldest Section contains The Vedic Hymns, which reflect Hindu philosophy within their lyrics.


The second section contains the rituals and sacrifices : Perfect performance of religious rituals are essential to good fortune throughout one's life.


The third section deals with contemplation and inner truths, written for Hindu "monks" who lived solitary lives in deepest India, searching for inner truth.


The fourth section, or Upanishads, discuss the goal of knowing one's Self.


Together, the Veda's form the basis of all subsequent Indian philosophy.





Written in 2nd century BC, the Bhagavad-Gita was one of the first and most important works on the Yoga traditions and philosophies.


 The Bhagavad-Gita is part of a larger Indian epic, the Mahabharata, a story of the lives of five brothers.


The Gita can be viewed as a metaphor for the spiritual quest in life we all must make.


The five brothers represent the five senses, and the battlefield is the body and consciousness of an individual.


The Gita is a conversation between Arjuna (the ego) and Krishna (the self)


Krishna teaches Arjuna the importance of devotion, duty, self-control, meditation, and other yogic practices.


In this way, the Gita is a "road map" to the proper practice of Yoga.




Schools of Hindu thought


Yoga is one of six major classes of Hindu philosophy


Mimamsa :  The philosophy of ritualism


Nyaya : The school of logic


Vaisheshika : naturistic philosophy


Vedanta :  nondualistic metaphysics


Samkya : dualistic philosophy



Vedanta, Samkya, and Yoga are the most influential sources in Hinduism today.


In Vedanta, reality is seen a single, indivisible whole.


In Samkya, the goal is to understand and achieve various levels of existence.


In Yoga, the mephasis is on experiencing altered states of consciousness that bring with it insights about the Self and the world.

Basic Yoga metaphysical concepts


Yoga is a dualistic philosophy, every human being is a combination of Spirit and Nature



Body and mind come from  nature


Nature (Prakriti) is the ground from which all material things arise.


The Self comes from Spirit


Spirit (Purusha) is pure consciousness, existing both within and across galaxies and universes.


Within the individual, the Spirit appears as the Self.


Our mind, coming from nature, can distort our awareness of the Self.


Yogic Practices are designed to help us achieve increasing awareness of the Self.


The ultimate goal of Yoga is self-realization, uncovering the Self,


Only the Self can provide us with true joy.



Yoga and consciousness



Yoga is sometimes defined as "Controlling the activities of the mind"


Meditation practices are designed to reduce the "chatter" and hyper frenetic mental activities and to restore a sense of calm and inner peace to the mind, which will allow us to experience e our Self.


Yoga is the complete focusing of attention of whatever object is being contemplated.


All yogic practices attempt to quiet the "waves of consciousness" and calm the mind.


Some teach meditation, some teach biofeedback techniques which focus on the body.


Once body and mind are still, awareness of Self will come.





Karma refers to the relationship between action and consequence.



Before you act, you have freedom, but after you perform a particular action, the effects of that action will follow you whether you want them to or not.


"Look before you leap" is a cliché which is philosophically rooted in the Karmic circle.


            Every individuals life is influenced by past actions (a causal view of human behavior)


The Yogic tradition is not about the supression of unwanted or unacceptable actions but rather the transformation of negative tendencies into positive action and thought.  Positive action and positive thought will lead to "good" karma.


      Note the elements of behaviorism and the conservation of energy which is implicit in this aspect of Hindu philosophy.



            Gurus and Self-Realization



Because subconscious tendencies can prevent us from knowing our Self, Hindi tradition has spiritual teachers, or Gurus, who can assist in the self-realization process.


Guru's can raise a student of Yoga's consciousness.


Guru's are seen as essential in achieving ecstasy.


Guru's can instruct students in Yogic techniques and can also adapt traditional techniques for the specific needs of the individual.


A Gur pushes a student beyond what the student feels capable of doing.


Additionally, the Guru provides a model of enlightenment for the student. 


A Guru who has realized the Self transmits a sense of inner peace and bliss.



Six Different Guru Specialties



Impeller : motivates and inspires the student


Indicator : prescribes the appropriate rituals and spiritual practices


Explainer : clarifies and interprets the spiritual process and goal of self-ralization.


Revealer :  Clarifies the details of the process


Teacher : Supervises the students progress and spiritual discipline


Illuminator :  advances the student's mental and spiritual understanding.



Initiation into Yoga is a critical element within self-realization and can not happen without the assistance of a guru.


During Initiation. the student is changed  through the transmission of the Guru's spiritual energy, which creates a special bond between Guru and disciple.


Different Schools of Yoga


Different ways of practicing Yoga exist, each suited for a particular personality :


Karma-Yoga (The Yoga of Action) : For those who possess a strong will or want to develop their will power.


Jnana-yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge) For those with keen minds


Bhakti-Yoga (The Yoga of Devotion) For people with a strong emotional nature


Hatha-Yoga (The Yoga of physical mastery) for individuals with strong self discipline.


Kundalini-Yoga (The Yoga of meditation) for those with potential for subtle, inner awareness.


Raja-Yoga, (the Yoga of the mind and body) for those with potential for deep concentration and mental control.



      Ideally, the Guru will prescribe the type of Yoga most suited for the individual.

Karma-Yoga,  The Yoga of Action


Karma-yoga teaches one to act selflessly, without worrying about our own personal gain or loss.


The karma-yogi seeks to serve other people, and act according to high ideals.  The karma-yogi must work hard to eliminate selfishness, laziness, and pride while achieving self-realization.


The karma-yogi is transformed by developing selflessness through service to others, rather than religious ritual and discipline.



Jnana-Yoga, the Yoga of knowledge


Jnana-Yoga is a discipline of rigorous self-analyis.  The Jnana-Yogic seeks to understand the forces of delusion and bondage and to avoid or reduce the influences of body and senses on experience.


The Jnana-Yogic must come to realize the Self exists independent of the body and worldly experience.  The disciple seeks the Self by discarding all that is limiting, perishable, or illusory.



Bhakti-Yoga, The Yoga of Devotion


Followers of Bhakti-Yoga use intense devotion to concentrate the mind and tranform the personality. These devotions include ritual worship, chanting, and the worship of Rama and Krishna and Goddess Kali.


Chants are often simple and repetitive, inspiring concentration on one aspect of the divine.


Hatha-Yoga, The Yoga of the Body


The practices of Hatha-Yoga are designed to purify and strengthen the body for advanced meditation.

According to Yoga philosophy, all functions require vital energy.  The more energy which is available, the healthier and more effective an individual can be.


Many practitioners of Hatha-Yoga routinely practice routines of 15 - 20 postures daily.  Any given posture may have several variations, which concentrate on different muscle groups.  Each posture has its own physical and spiritual benefits.


Additionally, vegetarian diet, celibacy, and breathing exercises are also common practices.


Mantra-Yoga . The Yoga of Sound


A mantra is a sacred phrase or syllable, charged with psychospiritual power.  In Mantra-Yoga, these sounds are used to attain a meditative state and to transform consciousness. 


                  "OM"  said to be the basic level of vibration in the universe,  Om is still the most popular mantra today.


      A disciple receives a mantra during initiation with a guru.  Stating mantras that have not been given during initiation will supposedly not raise consciousness.



Laya-Yoga, The Yoga of Meditation


The goal of Laya-Yoga is to become totally absorbed in a state of meditation. Through intense contemplation, the mind achieves self-realization

In meditation, only a single thought is focused.



            Psychological Growth and Yoga



Four Stages of Life


Each stage should ideally last twenty five years, as normal life span is thought to be 100 years for "highly developed" individuals


All four stages must be passed in order to receive self-realization


Student :  Occupational skills, as well as character development through emotional and spiritual discipline are the focus of this stage . The goal is to become a mature, productive individual, fully equipped to live a harmonious and productive life. 



Householder : Carrying on a family business and raising a family are the focus of this stage in life.

The householder seeks satisfaction in family pleasures, vocational success, and in being an active responsible citizen of the community.


Forest Dweller : Refers to the gradual retirement from family and occupation.  The husband and wife may move to a smaller house in the woods, or may withdraw in large part from social and community affairs.  They are still available to their children to give advise and counsel.



Renunciant :  Entrance to this stage is marked by a ritual which resembles funeral rites.  The individual gives up all responsibilities and social obligations and is now free to pursue self-realization without external demands or restrictions.



Five Obstacles to Self-Realization within Yoga


Ignorance : The major obstacle to growth.  The basis for all suffering is ignorance of our true identity.  An ignorant person is someone who concentrates all their conscious energy on the outside world, instead of focusing on the one true source of joy, the self.


Egoism :  Results when we identify the Self with the body.  Identification with the body leads to fear, desire, and limitation.


Desire and Aversion:  The longing for pleasure and the recoiling from pain.  These afflictions tie an individual to the external world.  A major aim of Yoga is to overcome our sensitivity to pain, pleasure, success, and failure .


The Yogic principle of nonattachment is to enjoy what one has, but not to desire what one is missing.


Fear : Fear is the constant terror of death, and stems from body identification, rather than Self identification. 




Other Aspects of Psychology within Yoga


The Body  :  Depending upon which branch of Yoga you are indoctrinated in, the body can be seen as a positive source for spiritual growth, or as an onerous source of desire, fear, and aversion which prevents one from self-realization.


Social Relationships :  Your social relationships vary, depending upon your level of self-realization. Before realization, our social relationships are due to the socio-cultural traditions of our upbringing.  After realization we can act within society, but we are not of society. 


"Learn to see God in all persons… You will know what divine love is when you begin to feel your oneness with every human being, and not before that time" (Yogananda, 1986)





principles of austerity and denying one's desires through fasting, yogic positions,  and celibacy is a long lasting tradition of Hinduism and Yoga. 


tapas : the tradition of practicing austerity and restraint, to show self-control over one's own bodily desires.


Exercise of will also provides Yoga students with the direct experience of confronting laziness, low self-discipline, and similar non-desirable personality traits.


Emotions :  Yoga distinguishes between painful waves and nonpainful waves of consciousness.


Painful waves are thoughts and emotions which increase ignorance, confusion, or attachment.  They do not have to be unpleasant (i.e. pride), but they do further distance you from realization of the self.

Nonpainful waves of love, generosity, and courage should be cultivated to create positive subconscious tendencies, which will lead to positive karmic actions. However, Even positive emotional states are transcended by someone who has reached self-realization.



Intellectual Development in the Yogic Tradition


Intellect is the increased understanding through personal experience.


Yogics who attempt to study the Veda without putting into practice the words of the verses are practicing a sterile intellectualism which will not lead to realization.


Personal Reflection is necessary to grow the intellect.


Meditation, Fasting, Silence, and austere living are all methods to help aid in the self-analysis of personal reflection.



Conclusions of Yoga and Modern Personality



Many Parallels exist between this ancient religious philosophy and modern theories of personalities.


The Freudian structure of consciousness, and the idea that the desires of the ID are hidden from usual awareness seems to have much in common with the body-spirit division within Hinduism.


In Yoga, you try to realize the self.


In psychotherapy  you try to uncover those repressed memories of the unconscious.


Jung's stages of life seem to closely resemble the Yogic stages of life in many details.


Jung's descriptions of Extraversion and Introversion as turning inward or outward of psychic energy resembles the two thrusts of consciousness within Yoga.



Adler's , Roger's and Maslow's  descriptions of personality and how to treat people seems to have some Hindu flavor as well.


Think of the roles the guru must take, and then think about the relationship to the Adlerian ideas of Social interest, and the treatment philosophy of all three that congruence, empathy, and understanding are crucial for psychological growth within a therapeutic setting.


The special relationship between the guru and his disciple, and the modeling the guru does for the disciple is analogous to the modern therapist-client relationship with Client Centered treatment philosophies.


Maslow's goal of Self-Actualization  seem to flow from the Yogic concepts of self-realization.


Maslow's conception of B-values seems closely related to the Karma-Yoga (Yoga of Action) philosophy.