by Nick Andrea
In yoga we seek to transform body and mind, yet, does one take precedence over the other? This is a raging debate in spirituality today. On one side, we have hatha yogis who believe that by healing the body we heal the mind, while on the other are meditators who believe it is the work we do on our minds that heals our bodies.
Dr. Amit Goswami believes in the primacy of consciousness. In an interview with Science of Mind magazine Dr. Goswami explains that matter first exists as a possibility within consciousness. This possibility is then collapsed into form based on how consciousness focuses. This he calls “downward causation” (Young, 2012, p. 13).
In other words, consciousness shapes matter. Yet, what is consciousness? Is it the mind? No. Body and mind, both, are manifestations of ego – which is to say, form – and they arise from the same source. What we call ‘mind’ may be subtler version of it than body, but it is still form, nonetheless, and all form is conditioned. How could the conditioned change the unconditioned?
So, both the body-primary and the mind-primary views miss the mark in my view. Consciousness is deeper than form.
Personally, I do both hatha yoga and meditation on a regular basis because they are good for my body and mind. Like eating healthy food it just feels good. Those practices fall short, however, of attaining the unattainable. It can’t be had by going by the numbers. There is no formula for it. The Buddha alluded to this in his analogy of the raft crossing the river. We have to leave the raft – the formal practice – behind in order to step onto the shore of enlightenment.
What I have found that gives me access to undifferentiated consciousness, though, is presence – pure, surrendered, spontaneous. As Lama Surya Das once instructed his students, “just be” (I don’t recall the reference). It is settling into THIS moment, whether I am typing on the computer, eating and orange, or upside down in shoulder stand. It is dropping ego and relaxing into the truth of my connection to that which I cannot see, taste, touch, smell, hear. It is what many before me have called “non-doing.”
So, we all want to change ourselves and the world. It’s what brings us to the path of spirituality. Yet, it is not the formal parts of our being – our bodies and minds – that initiate this change, even if these are the instruments. It is something deeper and when we surrender to it we don’t so much create change as allow it to happen.
Young, K. (2012). Endless Emergent Possibilities Spirituality + Science = SHIFT!. Science of Mind, 85, 12. Retrieved from http://www.scienceofmind.com/pdf/mag/2012/dec/December-Contents-2012.pdf