Self awareness, its development and Yoga

Post By: Published on: December 18, 2016 Reading time: 8 minutes

School of Yoga explains the Self, its awareness and Yoga.

Recap: Our sense of identity can only exist if we manifest and if someone acknowledges that manifestation. Unfortunately, our manifestation is never perfect and neither is the feedback received by us on our manifestation from the others, so there is a gap between what we think we are and the feedback others give us on that perception.

  • Our sense of self-worth (asmitā) depends on the feedback we get from others. 
  • Over time, this feedback becomes our perception we have of ourselves.
  • Consequently, it becomes the base of our conditioning (dharma).
  • Unfortunately, our actions are never a perfect expression of our self and neither is the feedback we receive from others. So, there is a gap between our expression and feedback. This is called māyā or farce.
  • We are also continuously transacting to maintain our sense of Self (asmitā). 
  • There is continuous give and take which is mostly unequal, with one giving more than the other. As a result, nearly all transactions result in debt (ṛṇa).
  • Due to the feedback, our conditioning and sense of Self get updated. This changes our personality or svatantra.

School of Yoga explains identity of the Self and Yoga.

Svatantra is a compound word (sva = self + tantra = weave) and is the result of the yoking of our conditioning with our behaviour in any situation. Yoke? 

Yes, yoke is the English term for the Sanskrit word, Yoga… both words are cognate, from the same root.

The world has become smaller and success lies in our ability to handle rapid change. This change could range from diversity issues in the form cultural, racial or sexual biases to assimilation of technical and business information; or issues as mundane as handling jet lag and cross-cultural food.

The process of confronting, accepting, assimilating and responding to reality is not easy, especially when each experience is new and traditional/ “ready recipe” responses are inappropriate/ inadequate. This continuous need for “ground up” response tests our entire value and belief system and stresses us and others that we seek to change.

Yoga (yoking) can be used to refer to any relationship between 2 entities such as;

  • The yoking of our sense of Self (Siva) with our manifestation (Shakti)
  • The yoking of our conditioning (svadharma) with our behaviour (svabhāva).
  • The yoking of the person with the environment or situation (vijñāna).
  • The yoking of man and woman into a union – ardhāṅgani (half body woman).

Yoga is ability use the awareness of Self or prajñā to transcend the bond (to be in the bond but not be affected by it), thereby isolating it. This awareness comprises 2 aspects. The awareness of the Self in any situation or vijñāna and the awareness of the Self as an entity or jñāna.

School of Yoga explains awareness of the Self or prajñā.

Example: Consider time. We constantly plan our lives by the clock, but does the Sun care? Do the winds and tides work to a schedule? What happens when we are engrossed with something we like? We forget time which for us, becomes the gap between when we remember starting the activity to the moment we became conscious of ourselves again. We had become so engrossed us that our consciousness was completely merged with the subject, this can roughly also be termed as the state of yoga between us and our subject.

Situational Awareness (prajñā) operates at two levels; awareness at a situational level (vijñāna) and awareness of the impact of change on the sense of Self (jñāna). Situational Awareness covers the following areas:

  • Ability to interact with our environment in such a way that we retain our sense of peace and keep the peace with our environment.
  • Ability to digest and assimilate inputs from the environment, extract and assimilate the essence of our experience, reference and understand concepts and build a base for better engagement with the environment.
  • Ability to process data needs to be enhanced. The ability to handle multiple situations, each with its own demands of our time and energy without getting agitated.

Situational Awareness is an exercise in capability building, directing our energies to generating maximum effectiveness for the time that we are alive. This means understanding the objective of what we are setting out to do, putting together a plan that has measurable milestones, eliminating waste in the form of frittered energy, fear, etc., in our operations, communicating effectively, learning continuously and being aware of what we are doing.

This occurs when:

  • There is a continuous sense of equilibrium or homeostasis when interacting with the environment. 
  • There is increased awareness of the stimulus, ability to extract and assimilate the essence of the experience, reference and understand concepts and reconciliation with one’s own personality.

Responses to stimuli is a weave of our identity with our behavior. So, awareness of our decision-making process allows our personality come under our own control and this is yoga practice.

What is Yoga? Definition and relationship with the Self.

Patanjali Yoga Sutra defines Yoga as citta (consciousness) vrddhi (rising) nirodha (stoppage) which translates to “stopping consciousness from rising” and means “the ability to get to a state where there is no personality”.  

Consciousness rises from the sense of self or identity; hence yoga is the ability to negate our sense of identity. Hence, yoking is the ability to integrate our sense of identity with our actions with the ultimate intent of reaching a point of integration where there is no identity in the actions. This means that Yoga is the technique of moving awareness from reflex, to conscious with the final goal being the cessation of personality.

Yoking can be used to refer to any relationship between 2 sentient entities. but yoga is obviously more relevant in the yoking of our conditioning with our behaviour because it is the yoking which we use regularly. However, it is important to realize that evolution in that subject will lead to change in our sense of identity (Siva) and its manifestation (Shakti).

Here, we need to differentiate some major forms of yoking;

  • The yoking of Siva (our identity) with Shakti (our manifestation)
  • The yoking of svadharma (our conditioning) with svabhāva (our behaviour).
  • The yoking of husband and wife into a union ardhāṅgani (half body woman).

School of Yoga explains stages of development of the Self:

This subtle awareness of the yoking (yoga) between one’s sense of Self and external or internal entities goes through the experience of a mix of 4 levels of awareness (prajñā). They are;

  • Jāgrat (wakeful or transactional state) – Awareness of the sense of Identity (asmitā) in any situation. Success is achieved by controlling cognition or indriyas. When stimulus is physically isolated, there is reduced like-dislike (rāga-dveṣa).
  • Svapna (conceptual or dream state) – All stimuli, whether external or internal leave a residue. This state is transcended when conditioning or (dharma) is transcended. The physical manifestation of this state is breathing with no agitation.
  • Suṣupti (formless state or nir-rūpa) – This state is one where form is transcended.
  • Turiya (state where no guṇa exists nirguṇa state). In this state, there are no attributes.

Finally, the indication that one’s awareness (prajñā) is developing in the right direction is a permanent sense of peace (śānti) or increasing level of homeostasis within the Self (asmitā).

School of Yoga explains the major schools of Yoga for transcending the Self

  • Jnana-Yoga – In this school, the sense of Self is transcended by negating all forms of stimuli.
  • Bhakti-Yoga – In this school, the sense of Self is transferred to another entity like God, Guru etc.
  • Karma-Yoga – In this school, sense of Self is transcended by negating the consequences of response.
  • Hatha-Yoga – In this school, the sense of Self is transcended by using the body and the subtle energy channels.
  • Raja-Yoga – In this school, the sense of Self is transcended by combining elements of all the above schools.

Anecdotes, experiences and situations to help understand the Self…


The transformation of Cassius Clay in Mohammed Ali

Mohammed Ali was born as Cassius Clay and began training in boxing to channelize his anger at discrimination. At age 22, he defeated Sonny Liston to become the world champion. Shortly thereafter, he converted to Islam to become Mohammed Ali. Two years later he refused to be conscripted, preferring to go to prison and be stripped of his championship titles. Resuming after four years, he regained the title and defended it twice. However, the hammering he received in the ring resulted in the debilitating illness of Parkinson leading to his retiring. Finally, his unflinching stand on discrimination made him an icon of his people.

  • How did Mohammed Ali’s identity develop and change?
  • What was the stimulus in each case which prompted change? From Cassius Clay to Mohammed Ali, from free-man to convict and champion to patient.
  • How did he cope with the change?
  • Trace the changes to his interaction with his environment, within himself, his coming to terms with himself and his situation.

Points to Ponder on the Self:

Internal Tags: Dharma (conditioning)Stress and Situational AwarenessStress and pranaAwareness measures, Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga.

External Tags: Consciousness

  • How do you become aware of your personality?
  • What do you know of Yoga?
  • What is self control? How does it affect stress?

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