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West meets East

An internet friend has asked, "I know you have been trained in Yogic psychology and philosophy. And, I find the advice within many of your daily thoughts useful. But, I don't see too much difference between most of what you write and Western psychology. What is the difference between Western and Yogic psychology?"

I thank you for the question, because it indicates to me that I may be approaching my goal of integrating yoga philosophy and psychology into my life. (Though, it can also mean that I am drifting too far West!) It never made sense to me to study the subjects simply as a mental or academic exercise and for my Western mind, the process of integration has been a long term effort.

Both Western and yoga psychology abound in classifications. Western psychology in its classifications, as I understand it, refers solely to mental states. The yoga psychology classifies the moral states, treating of the mental states as mere effects produced by moral conditions.

A psychology which is founded on the study of moral conditions is immediately and practically related to conduct. Yoga psychology is therefore dynamic, not merely descriptive. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (which I am translating into English, French and German) is above all a treatise on action. Its purpose is to assist the reader in deciding what he ought to do. Thus, true study of yoga psychology is impossible without living it, as well.

The classifications of Western psychology deal almost entirely with the psychic nature and the psycho-physical correlations of the lower self. It sets forth many details of psychic stimulus and response and describes typical human behavior in individuals and in the masses. But Western psychology has no general doctrine of the nature of being, no clear concept of soul, no serious consideration of the moral struggle. To me, it seems a chaos of dogmas and opinions, often diametrically opposed, and composed of discordant schools of thought.

Yoga psychology is the study of the mind, as a principle in itself, in its relation to external and internal experience, and in relation to the "I-am" or the higher Self. By understanding of the mind, the student learns to overcome the mind's limitations — its “modifications,” as Patanjali calls them — and thereby becomes a free being. This freedom is identical with knowledge, for it is the product of knowledge. Yogic psychology, therefore, is inseparable from yogic philosophy; is, in fact, a department of philosophy. In the West, psychology is not compatible with philosophy and the ally of the grossest materialism. To a yogi, there can be no true psychology without a philosophy of soul.

Any questions??