In modern days, lifestyle disease is a common term in the medical field. But the “right lifestyle” is not yet clearly defined. A probable definition for wrong lifestyle is change in daily routine and food habits. But the answer to the questions as to which are the wrong daily routine, which are the wrong food habits etc. is not yet clearly available. When we use the term lifestyle disease, it has an implication that once upon a time our lifestyle was perfect. If so, we must have a thorough investigation into it. This article is an attempt to define the term “right lifestyle” in an entirely different context and how Yoga is helpful in this regard.
In Sanskrit literature mind has generally three levels. 1. Manas, 2. Buddhi and 3. Chitta. These three combined is the mind in English.
Let us examine the mind of a little child. A child smiles at everyone. Its parents, neighbours, strangers, animals, even the dangerous creatures are the same to it. It even does not distinguish between its own mother and any other lady. It does not differentiate between various objects including its faeces and urine. For it, there is nothing in the universe which is despised. This stage of mind is called “agape” in the Bible. In English we can call it universal love. This state of mind of a child is called manas in Sanskrit.
Everything in the universe is lovable to it. At this stage, the child considers everything as a part of itself so that it does not distinguish between itself and the surrounding. This stage of child’s mind is comparable with the “mahatthathva ” in Sankhya. Usually this is termed as God’s love.
In due course, the child begins to recognize his own mother and the other lady differently. The child can even identify different animals. It loves all of them even though it recognizes each of them as separate. This stage of a child’s mind is called buddhi. Here the lowest form of “I” feeling emerges in the mind of the child so that it distinguishes others from itself. This stage of a child’s mind is comparable with the aham thathva in Sankhya.
The child grows up and goes to school. The child begins to think and recognizes things as “my book”, “my bag”, “my mother”, “my father”, “my house”, “your father”, “your mother”, “your pencil”, “your house” etc. The terms “me”, “my”, “mine” take charge of its mind. Now we can call the child “he/she”. It recognizes things as his things and other’s things. He begins to love his own belongings more than others. This stage of child’s mind is called chitta in Sanskrit. At this stage the child’s mind is attached to panchmahabhoota.
Loves everything without distinguishing itself from others. A feeling of “I” arises in the child’s mind and that “I” includes the whole universe.
Loves everything but distinguishes others from itself. A feeling of “I” and “you” arises in the child’s mind.
Loves only his/her own belongings and distinguishes between his/her own and other’s belongings. A feeling of “my” (not “I”), “yours” (not “you”) arises in the child’s mind and the love is limited to his/her own belongings.
At this stage, the child’s mind is said to have developed pride. It is called ahankara in Sanskrit. Thus we can observe that modern education is a process of making a child proud. Later on, the child’s mind develops feelings like grief, fear, tension and anger. These four feelings together with the initial pride make a man/woman arrogant.
1. When “my belongings were lost” or “my desires were not fulfilled,” a feeling of grief arises in the mind. When we remove the term “my” from these sentences, they become “belongings were lost” and “desires were not fulfilled”. No feeling of grief arises here. Grief comes only when we attach the word “my”.
2. Suppose I am into an important work and if I think that whether “my work will succeed?” A feeling of tension develops in my mind. If we avoid the term “my”, the sentence becomes “work will succeed?” There is no feeling of tension in this hypothetical situation. Tension builds up only when we use the term “my”.
3.When I think that “what if some accident happens and injuries inflicted on me” a feeling of fear arises in my mind. If we take “me” out of the sentence, it becomes “what if some accident happens and injuries inflicted.” There is no feeling of fear. Fear comes only when we use the term “me”.
4.When “others do not behave or work according to my instructions”, a feeling of anger arises in my mind. If we avoid the term “my” from the sentence, it becomes “others do not behave or work according to instructions”. There is no feeling of anger. Anger surfaces only when we use the term “my”.
All the above four feelings are triggered by the thought “my” or “me”. The thought of “my” or “me” makes a man proud or simply ahankari. We have observed that pride or ahankara is a byproduct of chitta. If we are able to avoid or eliminate the thought of pride or ahankara, we can avoid all the four feelings.
Becoming child-like is the easiest way of eliminating pride or ahankara from one’s mind. Currently the stage of chitta dominates everybody’s mind. If we change the thoughts in our mind from chitta to buddhi and then to manas, we become little children like. For such a change, a recommended good practice is: deliberately avoid using the terms “me” and “my” while speaking or thinking,
It is a known fact that when tension in one’s mind increases, so is the blood pressure in the body. Here tension occurs to chitta in our mind, but the blood pressure affects the body. That means a feeling in the mind turns out to be a disease in the body.
The actual reason for lifestyle diseases is the sustained feelings such as grief, tension, fear and anger which are triggered by pride. Since all these feelings including pride arise in chitta, we can prevent lifestyle diseases by eliminating these activities of chitta.
That is why Rishi Patanjali defined Yoga as Chitta vritti nirodhah. In other words eliminating the activities of chitta is called Yoga. We know that thoughts are the activities of chitta. That means eliminating thoughts and feelings in chitta is called Yoga. We have seen that the predominant thoughts in chitta are grief, fear, tension and anger which are triggered by the thought pride. When we eliminate these thoughts from chitta, it turns out to be manas. As and when our mind attains the state of manas, we become “little children”
The literal meaning of the word Yoga in Sanskrit is communion with cosmic mind (God). As per Sankhya, the Indian school of thought, all the matter in the universe including empty space evolved from cosmic mind1. If matter is evolved from mind, then surely under suitable circumstances mind can evolve from matter2. (This topic is beyond the scope of this article.) That means this material universe including mind and body of every life form is evolved from thoughts of cosmic consciousness. When the cosmic consciousness is not thinking/vibrating, it is called Brahma1 . When the cosmic consciousness is thinking/vibrating it is called cosmic mind. Most often it is referred to as God or “Bhagavan”.
When we eliminate the thoughts in our mind, our mind attains the state of cosmic mind. Now vibrations/thoughts in our mind become identical with the vibrations/thoughts of cosmic mind. At this stage of mind, we can say that our mind is in communion with cosmic mind (God). When our mind is in Yogic state, we realize that our mind (individual mind) and cosmic mind are identical. When our mind is completely out of thoughts, we can realize ourselves as cosmic consciousness and say “aham brahmasmi” or I am cosmic consciousness.
The realization of ourselves with cosmic consciousness is called “moksha” and we say that we merge into Brahma. Note that thoughtless (vibration free) consciousness is Brahma1. In short we can say that Sankhya explains the journey of consciousness to matter and Yoga explains the journey of matter to consciousness. This is called Brahma chakra.
There are varieties of Yoga technique in Indian school of thought such as Hata Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga, and Karma Yoga. When we look from outside Hata Yoga is just some exercise. Each Yoga movement is connected with inhalation and exhalation. This attached breathing pattern is the main difference between Yoga and other exercises.
It is almost impossible for an ordinary man to keep his mind thoughtless even for a moment. When we deliberately try to do it, at least the thought “I should not think anything” will be there in our mind. This is because of the imbalanced hormone secretions from our endocrine glands. Unwanted or insufficient quantity of hormones in the blood stream produces unnatural as well as unwanted thoughts in our mind. So at first we have to balance the hormone secretions of our endocrine glands. When we do Hata Yoga consistently, the hormones produced by our endocrine system get balanced and it reflects in our mind as peacefulness. This condition of mind is sufficient for eliminating many of the diseases from our body because unwanted unnatural thoughts (negative thoughts) are the main cause of lifestyle diseases. But as and when we stop Yoga, the condition of mind reverses. At this stage we may be able to begin the process of eliminating thoughts from our mind.
Bhakthi Yoga is another method of eliminating thoughts from our mind. Here we imagine an external creator, God or simply a “guru” and offer all our good and bad thoughts to him so that our mind becomes free of thoughts. Such a continuous and consistent procedure will lead to elimination of thoughts from our mind. Here we are concentrating our mind on one thought “the creator God”. Once we attain this state of mind, it is easier to get rid of that thought itself from our mind and attain a thoughtless mind.
In Karma Yoga we concentrate our mind on the duty that we are doing and do not expect anything in return. Submit everything that we get as return to the “Guru” or God so that our mind is free of every worldly thought. Maintaining this condition of mind will lead to a thoughtless mind. In Jnana Yoga, the one who has attained all these wisdoms become thoughtless. Among all these Yoga techniques, the easiest one is Bhakthi Yoga. Mind
Ancient Ayurveda says that all diseases arise from the thoughts in mind. If the thoughts in mind are able to produce feelings such as fear, tension, anger, grief and pride, one becomes a patient. Since panchmahabhuta are thoughts in mind1, relationships between bhuthas and thoughts can be had from table 1.
Table 1. Relationship between bhuthas and thoughts in mind
Out of all these, we can conclude that modern education is a journey from wisdom to knowledge. A child is always a yogi and his mind is in the state of manas. We train his mind to buddhi and then to chitta. In chitta state a lot of unwanted thoughts come into his mind and he becomes arrogant and eventually a patient. To attain wisdom and become disease free one can opt, any of the Yoga techniques mentioned in the article.
Reproduced with permission from
Dr. Thomas Mathew, Associate Professor, Mar Dionysius College, Pazhanji, Kerala, India, 680542 E-mail:[email protected]
Originally published in the journal of science and healing outcomes.