Yoga as Mental Science

Traditionally yoga has been described as “Mental Science” by ancient Indian scriptures and texts. Yoga science has many aspects and many people have explained it as per their understanding of the subject. Patanjali has defined yoga as mind control. Lord Krishna has described yoga as “Concentrating the mind to supreme god by controlling the ever-disturbing senses.”

As described by many sages and monks, yoga is about mind control and about reducing the thoughts to lead a peaceful and happy life. In today’s world, as stress and depression has become common problems, yoga can help to a great extent to improve our emotional well-being and overall health.

Understanding about how our mind works cab help us to control it. In the book “How to understand the mind”, the Buddhist monk Geshe has explained that the function of the mind is to perceive or understand objects. From the point of view of its different levels, he described three levels of the mind as
The Gross Mind – During our waking life, our mind uses the five sense organs to perceive things around us.
The Subtle Mind – During sleep, we use our subtle mind to experience the appearance of various kinds of dream things.
The Very Subtle Mind – The very subtle mind is so called because it is very difficult to recognize. Without the very subtle mind we would have no life because the gross and subtle minds are temporary minds. They arise and disappear and only our very subtle mind holds our life continuously throughout our current life and life after life until we become an enlightened mind.Objective of our human life should be to recognize this very subtle mind and realize the true self. Lord Krishna also mentioned that “By nature’s law, this human form of life is specifically meant of self-realisation.”

From the point of view of its function, the mind can be divided into Primary mind and Mental factors. The function of the Primary minds is to apprehend the mere entity of the object while the mental factors apprehend a particular attribute of an object. Eg. Apple is the mere entity and its color, shape and size are the attributes of the apple.

There are five mental factors that accompany every primary mind. If one of them is missing, the primary mind would not be able to identify the object. They are
Feeling – Feeling experiences an object as pleasant, unpleasant or neutral
Discrimination – distinguishes an object from other objects
Intention – enables the mind to move towards its object and become involved with it
Contact – perceives an object as pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral and serves the basis for the development of feelings
Attention – is to focus the mind on a particular attribute of an object.
In Buddhism, various meditation techniques have been recommended to control our mind. As our gross and subtle mind exists mainly because of our 5 senses awareness, meditation techniques revolves around sense withdrawal.

Patanjali explained the Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal) as the 5th limb of the Ashtanga yoga. But controlling your mind is a gradual process which consist of first controlling your body through Yama, Niyama, Asanas and then only you will be able to achieve pratyahara and then subsequently the mind control.
Similar to Patanjali’s 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas, Buddhism has also 10 virtues that is to be practiced
• Faith
• Sense of Shame
• Consideration for others
• Non-attachment
• Non-hatred
• Non-ignorance
• Effort
• Mental suppleness
• Conscientiousness
• Equanimity
• Non-harmfulness

A person can follow the selective limbs from the 8 limbs of yoga suggested by Patanjali, according to their physical or spiritual goals. Eg a person only concerned about their health and emotional well-being can pursue the Asanas and Pranayama only. A person who has higher goal of self-realization needs to follow all the 9 limbs in sequence and gradually move along the path.