Yoga and the Power of Subconscious


by Jayaram V

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Samkhya is one of the oldest darshanas or schools of Hindu philosophy, whose origin is shrouded in deep antiquity. Kapila is believed to be its oldest proponent who might have lived around 1000- 800 BC or earlier.

In its long history, the school underwent many changes and was incorporated in parts into Hinduism. Some scholars believe that few traditions of Samkhya  were atheistic or purely materialistic.

An entire chapter is devoted in the Bhagavadgita to discuss the salient aspects of Samkhya Yoga. The scripture also deals with the various concepts of the Samkhya such as the gunas, the Purusha and the Prakriti and the liberation of the individual self.

However most of what is discussed in the Bhagavadgita under the heading Samkhya Yoga has little in common with the original Samkhya as discussed in such works like the Kapila Sutras of Kapilamuni and the Samkhyakarika of Isvarakrishna.

Patanjali's Yogasutras was originally composed as a superimposition on the key concepts of Samkhya, with some modifications. One of the fundamental divergences between the two is with regard to their stand on the supreme Universal Self. The Yoga acknowledges Isvara as the Lord of the Universe and the source of grace. The Samkhya is silent about any reference to the creator God.

Followers of Samkhya believe that the world is created out of the same universal energy called Prakriti or Nature due to the permutation and combination of its building blocks called tattvas and what we believe to be creation is actually its transformation, diversification and evolution. Prakriti itself is uncreated while everything else is created from it.

In addition to Prakriti there are innumerable individual souls (Purushas), which are also uncreated like Prakriti and exist eternally. Prior to the creation, both the Prakriti and the Purushas exist in their unmanifest (avyakta) form, free from each other.

The earliest Samkhya traditions asserted that all the souls were essentially of the same nature. They were devoid of any qualities, experience, duality, impurity, state or even definable consciousness. They also held that Nature was a blind force which operated like a mechanical apparatus, according to set principles and patterns, with no intelligence of its own.

The Samkhya argues that energy can neither be destroyed nor created, but only transformed from one state to another or from one form into another. It is not possible to create things out of nothing because everything has to come ultimately from Prakriti which is stable and constant and produces everything from itself through evolution and transformation.

Although things appear to spring from nowhere, the non-existent cannot be the cause of any object. Every thing has to come from a preexisting source. There is an implied continuity and causality in the manifestation of things. For the human intellect, the cause and its effect may appear to be distinct processes, but they are essentially of the same nature.

A thing must exist in some form or state in its cause before it becomes manifest. Manifestation is fruition of what is latent and hidden. The effect is the latent force in its cause. It hides in its cause in the form of a potency and becomes manifested given the right conditions such as time, place and favorable circumstances.

If the effect does not exist in the cause as a potency, the latter cannot produce the effect. Cause and effect therefore represent the two different states of the same object. The Samkhya identifies two types of causes. The material cause operates from within and the efficient cause from without.

For example oil may be latent in its material cause which is the seed. But to extract it from the seed, we need to apply external pressure, which is the efficient cause. Some schools of Hinduism acknowledge God as the efficient cause of creation and Prakriti as the material cause.

We can explain the Samkhya philosophy using many common objects. For example, a flower remains hidden in the tree in the form of a bud or twig before it is manifested. A fruit remains latent in the flower till it becomes a fruit. So is a child who remains as the seed of its parents before taking birth.

A pot is hidden as an idea in the clay from which it is created. The potter's mind and hand as the external causes give shape to it. Here the clay is the material cause and the potter the efficient cause. So is the case of a statue hidden in a stone. Or the food we eat, which remains hidden in the vegetables and the raw material we use to cook it.

Every object thus remains hidden as a seed in its cause before it is truly manifested. Similarly every object contains the seed of its own destruction in some form or the other, which is activated like a time bomb when its time comes.

Thus the world is a product of numerous potencies manifesting themselves from their causes unleashed by Prakriti, which, according to Samkhya, is actually the source of all causes and in which everything, except the individual souls, exist originally in their seed form before they are manifested.

The Samkhya's theory of primordial energy as the constant and indestructible force, which can only be transformed but not destroyed, is similar to the law of conservation of energy of modern physics.

The Samkhya Yoga And The Subconscious

The Yoga philosophy is in agreement with the cause and effect analogy of the ancient Samkhya philosophy and accepts the argument that before anything materializes in our lives, it has to exist in some latent form, either as a thought, wish, desire, hope, goal, concept or vision or potency.

It however acknowledges God or Isvara as the efficient cause and Prakriti as the material cause. The latent impressions known as samskaras, which are formed due to habitual thought patterns, strong desires and repetitive actions also said to act as the seeds of our future lives.

Thus Samkhya's causality is very similar to the current theories regarding the use of thoughts, affirmations and visualization to manifest reality.  What is now labeled as the secrets of the subconscious power and its ability to act in mysterious and unfathomable ways to create desired conditions, was known to the followers of Samkhya and Yoga thousands of years ago although it was never their aim to acquire these powers at the cost of their spiritual advancement or declare them to the general public and the untrained to avoid their possible misuse and unintended harm. They referred these powers as siddhis or perfections and viewed them with distrust and disinterest.

The Yoga philosophy holds that these perfections arise in the practitioners of Yoga in varying degrees to the extent  they purify their citta1 or dynamic consciousness.

The Samkhya refers the citta as mahat while the Yoga calls it as  citta. We all possess citta, though in varying degrees of purity.

According to Yoga, it is responsible for our awareness, intelligence, perception, discretion, feelings, cognition, egoism, memory and also future births as portions of it go forth with the soul to the other world as causative citta (karana-citta) and becomes the seed for the next birth.

The citta is produced from the union between cit or the pure consciousness of the individual soul and Shakti or  or Prakriti (the primeval energy). The cit is believed to be static by itself, but becomes dynamic as cit-shakti or chaitanya-shakti when it is joined by the latter. Citta is the cit-shakti or the dynamic consciousness which acts as the creative power in all of us.

According to the Yoga philosophy, the citta is not just a thinking process or a product of the brain impulses. It is much more than some abstract mental stuff. It is the substratum or the support from which arise other evolutes of Prakriti. In the Vedanta the citta is often identified with antahkarana or the internal organ of which the mind (manas) is just one part.

It is also described as a real substance, made of ethereal or super subatomic particles of energy, having the ability to mirror real objects in their subtle forms. Like their counter parts in our experiential world, these subtle objects possess form, substance, some kind of spaciousness, color, luminosity and other properties such as sound and smell.

The luminosity comes from the presence of sattva2 in the citta. The objects appear and disappear in the citta according to the activities of the senses and the mind. Continuous and repetitive contact with them lead to the formation of deep impressions in the citta which mutate themselves into mental habits, attachments, attitudes, likes and dislikes, desires and latent impressions. The Yoga refers to these movements as the citta-vrittis or churnings of the mind, which are considered to be the cause of our suffering and restlessness.

The purpose of yoga is to suppress these formations in the citta3 so that the cit or  the pure consciousness becomes completely stable and free from both the impure objects and the evolutes of Shakti such as the mind (manas), the intellect (buddhi), the ego (ahamakara), the sense-ograns (indriyas) and such.

To facilitate this separation and purification, Patanjali's ashtanga yoga recommends  eight different sets of practices, namely yama (restraint), niyama (rule), asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (deep absorption).

Using our subconscious mind without proper training, discipline and inner purity is fraught with dangers. Great harm can befall upon oneself and others when the powers of the subconscious mind are unleashed without proper preparation, adequate mental training and moral purity.

The pure citta has extraordinary, almost God like ability, to manifest reality and make our dreams come true. With proper training we can cleanse our citta and plant in it the seeds of our future.

We can create conditions for the greater good of all. Great yogis do it constantly and silently not for their personal welfare but for the welfare of others and for the welfare of the world in general.

The purer the citta, the greater is its manifesting power. We have already stated that the miraculous powers that arise out of the practice of yoga are referred as siddhis or perfections. They are called perfections because they arise from the perfect state of being only, in which everything is pure and everything is in harmony, which come only after years of sustained practice.

Yoga views these powers as obstacles to liberation, as they may strengthen the very tendencies which Yoga aims to remove from the consciousness, such as egoism, greed, lust etc. The main objective of yoga is not attainment of supernatural powers but the transcendental state of the pure Self.

Serious practitioners of yoga, who are on the path of liberation, remain careful about these powers and do not use them either for vanity or for selfish or destructive purposes. To avoid strengthening their egos and desires, many choose not to display them in public even if they have. They also seek the constant help of their gurus to deal with the complications that may arise when these powers begin to manifest in them.

So if you are intent upon using your subconscious mind make sure that you have trained yourself adequately to cope with challenges that may arise in their use.

Practice the yamas and niyamas sincerely to keep yourself mentally and physically pure.

Expand your vision and use your subconscious for purposes that are greater than yourself.

Most importantly, remember that you are both the cause and effect of yourself. Right now at this very moment, you are sowing the seeds and also manifesting the seeds of your future that are latent in your consciousness.

If you can restrain your behavior and follow a rigid code of conduct, if you can control your thoughts and focus your attention on whatever you choose to and if you can identify yourself with the pure spirit in you instead of your body and mind, you will become the source or the cause of everything for yourself and others.

Suggestions for Further Reading


1. There is no equivalent word in English for citta although some people tend to translate it loosely as the mind, the subconscious mind, the psyche or the consciousness. None of these words actually convey its true meaning. So in this article I am using the original Sanskrit word to avoid misunderstanding

2. Sattva, rajas and tamas are said to be the three substances of Prakriti which are responsible for the diversity of material objects and their inherent propensities. Sattva is responsible for purity and pleasure, rajas for egoistic actions and pain and tamas for indifference and indolence.

3. Yoga cittavrittih nirodhah, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1.2

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