Exploration of Indian Yoga Psychology

A blog on the Transpersonal Psychology of Indian Yoga and the Spiritual Genius of India (another blog of the same author – www.integralmusings.wordpress.com)

Significance of the Human Body-M.S. Srinivasan

imagesA unique feature of the tantra yoga is the great importance given to the human body.  Unlike the traditional vedantic yogas which tend to  despise  the  body  as an ugly assortment of flesh and bones and  as  a  great  obstacle  to  sadhana, the tantric yoga gives almost a divine  status  to  the  body.   Human Body, in the tantric conception is the material form of the divine  Sakthi in Man the microcosm, as the physical universe is the  material body of the Sakthi in the macrocosm.  All the natural activities and functions of the body are in essence, the activities of the divine Sakthi.  The tantric texts enjoins the seeker to make this idea a living and conscious fact of  his day  to  day  life.   So says Siva sutra “Bodily activity is the enjoined discipline”.

But what is the psychological and spiritual basis of this veneration for the body?  From the psychological point of view, tantric attitude to the body follows logically and naturally from some of the fundamental principles of Tantric psychology.  As we have explained elsewhere, in the tantric conception the human being is a multi-dimensional system of energy; the human organism is an indivisible whole of psycho-physical-spiritual energy or to be more precise he is a psycho-physical organism in which the spirit dwells in the body.   So, tantric psychology makes no separation in thought as well as in practice between Body, Psyche and Spirit.  The human being is viewed as a single organic psycho-spiritual-physical whole.

There are some fine and subtle differences in the standpoint of vedantic and tantric psychology on the relative importance of body and mind with very practical consequences for sadhana.  The vedantic psychology also views the human being  s  a  spirit dwelling in  the  psycho-physical  organism.   But vedantic  thought views the human being predominantly as a spirit in  the  Mind with Mind as the primary instrument of liberation and perfection and body as a very  subordinate  instrument,  rather a troublesome and  heavy  clod  in  the spirit.  On the other hand, tantric psychology views human being predominantly as  a  spirit in the Body with body and the life-force prana  as  the  primary instruments  of  liberation  and  perfection  and  the  mind  supporting   and enlightening the body and life in their effort.  This is the reason why tantra sadhana gives great importance to Kriya yoga, yogic disciplines  involving physical-vital activities like asanas, pranayama’s, mudras and rituals.

The   other practical consequence  of  this  difference   between   the psychological  stand-point of the vedantic and tantric yoga is in the  method used to effect the liberation.  The traditional vedantic method of  knowledge is to separate and detach the body from mind and mind from the spirit so  that the  spirit  can  reach  alone to its source in the  Absolute  in  a  bodyless liberation.   On the other hand tantric yoga in general doesn’t make any  such separative  act;  it  takes the human being as  an  indivisible  psycho-vital-physical-spiritual  organism  and tries to liberate and  transform  the  human being  as  a whole – his body, life and mind by the power of the  spirit.   We must remember here that the goal of the kundalini yoga of the Tantras is not a bodyless liberation but a spiritual transformation of the whole being of  man.  According  to tantras this highest transforming experience is  not  merely  a subjective  illumination  and ecstasy happening outside the body;  it  happens, within  the body and enjoyed and experienced by the body, flooding  the  whole body  with  light  and  bliss; even the energies  which  constitute  the  body undergoes this spiritual transmutation at the subtle level.

But there is  a still deeper spiritual  insight  behind  the  tantria’s veneration  of the human body.  In the tantric conception the  energies  which form the physical organism of man contains in potential all the  psychological and  spiritual forces, powers, achievements and ecstasies which he is  capable of  attaining.  So the human body is not a repulsive mass of blood and  bones but a treasure house of spiritual riches.  The energies of the human physical organism contains potentially the highest power and bliss.  “Ananda  is  the nature  of  the  supreme Reality and Ananda is founded in  the  body”  says  a tantric  text.   According to another text, the lowest abdominal centre, in man, called the Muladhara, which controls the biological functions of the body contain all forms of bliss including the supreme bliss.  It is  as  if  the divine  Sakthi,  the Mother of the World, with all Her  spiritual  riches  and delights  which  She wants to lavish on Her human child,  descended  from  her highest  spiritual  plane into the body of man, which is the  lowest  and  the grossest  part of his being and entered into the lowest of his  energy-centre, Muladhara which controls the activities of his body.

So, not a disembodied liberation in some supracosmic Beyond, but an embodied perfection and beatitude here and now in the body is the goal of the Tantra yoga.

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This entry was posted on June 25, 2013 by in Psychology of Tantra Yoga.
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