Patanjali's Yogasutra: A Psychological Study is an attempt at an English translation of Patanjali's Yogasutra with commentary rendered in current psychological idiom. It features an extensive Introduction to the context and attempts to draw out conclusions on the implications of yoga theory and practices to current psychological knowledge.
Yoga paradigm goes well beyond what is currently in vogue and provides a more fruitful model for studying and understanding human nature, both hidden and manifest. This volume thus
provides the psychological context and the relevance of studies of yoga for advancing the existing psychological knowledge. Yoga psychology provides the foundation for Indian psychology, an emerging discipline, rooted in classical Indian tradition.
According to Indian psychology, the person is a unique composite of body, mind and consciousness, making a qualitative distinction between mind and consciousness. Self-actualization, the ultimate aim of a person, is realized by cultivating consciousness as-such, resulting in a kind of psycho-spiritual symbiosis, enabling a person to experience an all-around transformation.
Professor Koneru Ramakrishna Rao is currently Chancellor of GITAM (deemed to be) University. He has the rare distinction of being National Fellow of the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research and the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, and Distinguished Honorary Professor at Andhra University. His earlier academic appointments include Professor of Psychology and Vice-Chancellor at Andhra University; Executive Director, Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, USA; Chairman, A.P. State Council of Higher Education, and Advisor on Education, Government of Andhra Pradesh. He published 25 plus books and
nearly 300 research papers.
Prof. Rao received numerous honours that include the national award Padma Shri from the President of India and Honorary Doctoral degrees from Andhra, Acharya Nagarjuna and Kakatiya universities. He was elected as the President of the US-based Para psychological Association three times, the only Asian to be so honoured.
My interest in yoga is long standing. I have been involved in theoretical studies as well as experimental research on yoga for over fifty years. I have had the privilege of establishing the Institute of Yoga and Consciousness and the Yoga Village under the aegis of Andhra University when I was its head. Dr Zail Singh, President of India at that time, inaugurated the Institute located in Vizianagaram Palace donated to the University by Shri P.V.G. Raju, the Maharaja of Vizianagaram, whom I had known personally. My empirical studies involved phenomenological and experimental work at the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology at Andhra University. Among these studies one that stands out in my mind is the research we conducted on Yogiraj Vaidyaraj. With the equipment brought from the Menninger Institute in the US, we along with Elmar Green and his wife monitored the physiological changes that took place as the yogi sat in a compact airtight wooden box with a glass door opening in front. With very limited amount of oxygen available, Yogiraj stayed in the box sitting for over seven hours with little noticeable physiological distress. In other words, the yogi was able to stay comfortable with very little consumption of oxygen relative to what is normally required.
Our work generated a lot of interest; and the Chief Minister of the state himself paid a visit to our laboratory. This is in stark contrast with the funding agencies like the University Grants Commission (UGC) who were reluctant to support academic study and research in yoga. At the time the Chairman and the Vice-Chairman of the UGC happened to know me personally, and were familiar with my academic credentials. I was successful in persuading them to fund our work. This was indeed the foundation that enabled me to continue for years my involvement in the study of and research in yoga. It is refreshing to note the current initiatives by the Government of India to promote yoga globally. Shri Narendra Modi successfully steered the United Nations to designate 21st June as International Yoga Day. This has cheered all of us who have been pleading for decades for a place for yoga in academic curricula.
Soon after the study of Yogiraj, I undertook a survey of yogis who were known or claimed to have supernormal powers. I found none I would consider as having any noticeable psychic abilities. Then, I went to a small institution in Pondicherry known as Anand Ashram and administered some standard parapsychological tests carried out by one of my students from Trinidad, West Indies. In some respects, the results were encouraging. Then, my moving to the US to head Rhine's Institute of Parapsychology resulted in keeping aside my interest in yoga for nearly two decades.
My return to India resulted in a resurgence of my interest in yoga. My latest contribution in this area is the publication of the book Foundations of Yoga Psychology (2017). Several friends who read the Foundations suggested that a more condensed and affordable book containing mainly the text of Patanjali's Yogasutra, with psychological commentary would be a valuable addition to yoga literature. This prompted me to undertake this publication.
In this book, we attempt at an English translation of Patanjali's Yogasutra with commentary rendered in current psychological idiom. An extensive introductory chapter provides the context, and the concluding chapter attempts to draw out the implications of yoga theory and practices to current psychological knowledge.
There is not much that is original in this book. Most of it is drawn from the extensive literature that already exists. What I have done is to provide the psychological context and the relevance of studies of yoga for advancing psychological knowledge. It is my belief that the yoga paradigm goes well beyond what is currently in vogue and provides an alternative which is more inclusive and possibly provides a more fruitful model for studying and understanding human nature, hidden and manifest.
We consider yoga psychology as providing an interesting paradigm to study human behavior with the goal of elevating human functioning to a different level of achievement and self- actualization. It goes well beyond studying human behavior as something conditioned by learning and experience. It does away with all forms of reductionism and determinism, and attempts to open up a universe where freedom is the goal to be achieved through self-realization.
Yoga psychology indeed provides the foundation of what is now being developed under the rubric of Indian psychology. Indian psychology is an emerging discipline rooted in classical Indian tradition (Rao and Paranjpe, 2016). The basic postulate of Indian psychology is that the person is a unique composite of body, mind and consciousness, making a qualitative distinction between mind and consciousness. The goal of the person is self- actualization, which is realization of the self within. The self is not the manifest ego. It transcends all the hidden animal instincts. Indeed, it is one's true being. Its realization/actualization is possible by cultivating consciousness as-such. Cultivating consciousness generates a kind of psycho-spiritual symbiosis, which in turn brings about personal transformation, altruistic value orientation, flowering of inner being, and manifestation of dormant psychic abilities.
I have received much help from several of my colleagues in preparing this volume. They include my secretary Smt. Prasanna Kumari, who keeps me on track all the time keeping me alert without slipping into any kind of slumber, and Dr Rositta Joseph Valiyamattam, who had helped with the editing of the book. Again, my attendant in my office at GITAM University, Miss G. Kanaka cheerfully attends to all my routine needs in office. They all are part of my professional family. I acknowledge my appreciation for all their involvement and support.
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