From the Jacket
Yoga and Parapsychology are two areas in which significant amount of professional research is awaited. Parapsychology, considered as the discipline to study psi (psychic abilities), is essentially the science of siddhis (extraordinary human abilities). Yoga is considered to be an effective psycho-spiritual pursuit that results in the manifestation of a variety of supernormal phenomena. In fact, Patanjali’s Yoga- Sutras is the foundational text of psychic science. One of its four parts, Vibhuti Pada, is filled with the description and discussion of a variety of paranormal phenomena. There is if thus an intrinsic commonality between yoga and parapsychology, which remains essentially unexplored in any systematic way. A serious and scientific study of the two and the resultant synergy of their confluence could result in resolving many of the riddles that puzzle parapsychology today and be a harbinger of a vibrant science opening up new frontiers. Further, it could be seen as a productive East West meet in a profound sense.
Keeping this in view, a national conference and a workshop were organized during January 3-23, 2006 at Andhra University by the Institute for Human Science and Service with international participation. The present volume is a compilation of the major presentations at the conference and workshop, which are appropriately revised and edited in the light of the discussions.
The contents of the volume contain theoretical articles and reviews as well as experimental reports. Contributors come from different countries besides India, including the United States of America, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands. Thus, the volume is international in scope and coverage.
PROF. K. RAMAKRISHNA RAO is a philosopher, psychologist and educationist with vast experience in national and international arena as a teacher, researcher and administrator. An acknowledged international authority on Indian psychology, consciousness studies and psychical research, Professor Rao has published nearly two hundred research papers and twelve books, the most recent ones include Consciousness Studies: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (McFarland, 2002), Towards a Spiritual Psychology edited with S. B. Marwaha (Samvad, India, 2005) and Handbook Indian Psychology edited with Anand Paranjpe and Ajit K. Dalal (Foundation Books, 2008). The founder President of the Institute for Human Science and Service, Professor Rao is currently the Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Delhi.
There is a curious misconception prevalent in the West that para- psychology is not in the realm of science but of religion. This is perhaps because the western definition of the ‘mind’ is limited only to what may be called ‘normal consciousness’, the sub-conscious and the unconscious dimensions. In the East, however, particularly in India we have known for many centuries that the mind has remarkable dimensions far beyond and above what may be called normal experience. The classic work on Yoga, Patanjali’s Yoga- Sutras clearly describes the paranormal faculties that can be developed as a result of following the discipline of yoga. These include telepathy, telekinesis, hearing at great distance and other such faculties which may appear supernatural but are, in fact, a result of rigorous training of the mind so that it transcends its normal barriers.
The study of parapsychology, therefore, is as much a subject of rigorous scientific exploration as is classical psychology. There is also a very close link between Yoga and parapsychology. Yoga comes from the same root as the word ‘yoke’, and implies joining the Atman with the Brahman, God immanent with God transcendent or, to put it in more familiar terms, the human and the divine. Indeed it is the enhanced abilities of the mind which are often exhibited by saints and seers, Sufis and mystics of all the great traditional religions that in some way represent the foundation of religious beliefs and practices.
There has been of late an enhanced interest in the West in the study of what are known as paranormal phenomena. This interest did not translate itself into productive research and fruitful understanding of the phenomena convincing to the scientific community in general, because they are considered anomalous or supernatural. What is required is to understand and accept as a natural fact that the human mind has tremendous vistas for growth and expansion, a virtually unlimited potential to exponentially increase its range and depth. Indeed, if we consider the mental faculties of primitive peoples and compare them with those of an Einstein, one can see in a dramatic fashion how the human brain can expand its capacities. There is, as Sri Aurobindo pointed out, no logical reason to presume that our present mental capacities have exhausted evolutionary process. Parapsychology provides us with valuable guidelines for pursuing what is surely the most exciting adventure in science today, the study of consciousness itself.
We live in a world which, despite its tremendous scientific and technological achievements, has still not been able to tackle the most exciting and enigmatic of all phenomena on this planet — the human mind. It is there, as the famous opening lines of UNESCO point out, that wars began, and not only wars between nations but civil strife, violence, crime and growing stress and tension in the minds of men. It is, therefore, necessary for us to start turning the searchlight inwards to see what it is that moves our thoughts and actions, and whether we can transcend our normal consciousness and move into a more holistic and integrated view of life.
Prof. K. Ramakrishna Rao who heads the Indian Council of Philosophical Research has performed an extremely useful service by editing this volume entitled Yoga and Parapsychology in which, apart from some of his own erudite articles, he has brought together whole spectrum of papers by scholars from around the world including the United States, the United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, Germany and the Netherlands. It represents a major contribution towards a better understanding both of Yoga and parapsychology and of their symbiotic relationship, and I warmly commend this volume to students and teachers of psychology around the world.
Yoga and parapsychology are two areas to which I devoted a significant amount of my professional life. Parapsychology considered as the discipline to study psi (psychic abilities) is essentially the science of siddhis (extraordinary human abilities). Yoga is considered to be an effective psycho—spiritual pursuit that results in the manifestation of a variety of supernormal phenomena. In fact, Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras is the foundational text of psychic science. One of its four parts, Vibhuti Pada, is filled with the description and discussion of a variety of paranormal phenomena. There is thus an intrinsic commonality between yoga and parapsychology, which remains essentially unexplored in any systematic way. A serious and scientific study of the two and the resultant synergy of their confluence could result in resolving many of the riddles that puzzle parapsychology today and be a harbinger of a vibrant science opening up new frontiers. Further, it could be seen as a productive East-West meet in a profound sense.
Since industrial revolution in the West, science has grown exponentially. The growth, however, is primarily in physical and biological domains with human sciences lagging far behind. The asymmetry between the two is a cause of serious concern for those looking at the future of humans on this planet.
Humans are endowed with minds and consciousness that place them at the pinnacle of the evolutionary pyramid. They give them enormous advantage over the rest of the inhabitants of the earth to control not only their own destiny but also that of the entire planet for better or worse. What is this mighty thing called the mind, at once so important and yet so enigmatic? Is it merely a "pack of neurons" firing in synchrony, as physical sciences have increasingly inclined to assert? Are we no more than complex computers with outstanding parallel processing capabilities? Is ours no more than conditioned existence with little freedom beyond the deterministic web in which we are situated? If the mind were without consciousness, if our knowing abilities were limited to what we perceive through our senses, and if one’s freedom of will and choice were no more than chimerical hope of the human condition, then perhaps we could ungrudgingly settle for a mechanistic and reductionist conception of the mind as a complex, computing machine. However, the intrinsic subjectivity of consciousness, the not inconsiderable evidence for the existence of extraordinary human abilities such as ESP, and the notion of free- will so sacred to our species cry out loud and clear that we look beyond the neurological configurations to understand the nature of the human mind.
If we are simply brain-driven machines, what becomes then to our notions of freedom and responsibility, long cherished and nourished by civilized societies throughout ages in the East and the West? How about spiritual beliefs and practices that are the backbone of all major global traditions? Is the manifest conflict between private experiences of people and the public verifiability of truth real? Are there any alternatives to the neurocentric conception of consciousness and the mind that could conceivably bridge the epistemic asymmetry between objective science and subjective experience?
The above questions cry out for answers. Both yoga and parapsychology appear to suggest an alternate paradigm that may be seen as interesting as well as challenging in this context. The yoga tradition in the Indian subcontinent, so distinct and starkly different from the Western, is unique in many ways. It is unparalleled in its claimed success in cultivating and controlling the human mind and achieving higher states of consciousness, and greater degrees of achievement and happiness. Consequently, it has the potential for providing a new paradigm for studying the mind, one that would reconcile the scientific demands as well as spiritual aspirations. The theory and practices of yoga and the phenomena born of them could serve at a minimum as useful check posts to screen the current conceptions of the mind for their inclusiveness, consistency and validity; and at their best they may suggest new models and methods to investigate the mind.
Parapsychology, notwithstanding its self-imposed limits to work within the climatic constraints of Western "scientific culture", has provided during a century of effort impressive and in many ways unassailable evidence for the existence of cognitive anomalies. These anomalies seem prima facie to conflict with the so-called basic limiting principles that are considered sacrosanct in scientific establishments around the world. The irony of it all is that parapsychology is solemnly ‘wedded to the scientific method absorbing all its positivist biases and commitments; and yet over the years it has accumulated massive evidence that questions the very assumptive base of science itself.
The unfortunate consequence of all this is that psychical research ‘is disowned by the scientific establishments by and large and discarded in a large measure as blasphemous by the spiritual traditions in the West. It is pushed to the margins of science; and it is all but banished by the religious right. Few in the scientific establishment find for parapsychology a rightful place as a legitimate scientific endeavour and even fewer among the organized religions see psi as an integral aspect of our being.
From the perspective of yoga and the classical Indian tradition, the cognitive anomalies claimed by parapsychologists and ignored by the scientific establishment in general are no anomalies at all. Rather they are anticipated as natural consequences of development of the mind. Consequently, the belief in the validity and the veracity of psychic phenomena has persisted in the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Systematic treatises discussing them were compiled, as mentioned, beginning with Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras in 3rd"’ century BCE. Along with other classical writings on the subject, it contains a mine of ideas, which could give psi research a rich hidden resource to excavate and exploit. In recent history, the life and writings of Sri Aurobindo are an inspiring example of the practice of yoga for psychic development and spiritual transformation.
We may not be oblivious, however, to the fact that yoga itself has come to be a much abused concept — confused, conflated and commercialized. Yoga is a billion dollar business in the US, where it is equated with physical and bodily culture. There is a felt need for bringing greater conceptual clarity to discourses on yoga, for developing yoga theory in the light of current advances in science, and for focusing on methodological rigor in yoga research so that its inherent potential for understanding the human mind in paradigmatically new ways could be fully realized.
The contents of the volume contain theoretical articles and reviews as well as experimental reports. Contributors come from different countries besides India, including the United States of America, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands. Thus, the volume is international in scope and coverage.
We are honoured to have the Foreword for this volume from Dr. Karan Singh, a statesman philosopher, whose interest in drawing inspiration from classical Indian thought to address troubling contemporary issues and problems is well known. A leading scholar In Sri Aurobindo tradition, Dr. Singh is instrumental in promoting yoga as an academic discipline at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Delhi and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi during his tenure as cabinet minister in the Government of India. The community of Indian scholars interested in the scientific study of yoga look up to him to provide the much needed leadership and global initiative. I am grateful for the opportunity of knowing him and working with him.
The organization of the conference and the workshop and the publication of this volume are made possible by grants from Maurin Foundation for Parapsychology, U.S.A. and the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Delhi. I acknowledge our indebtedness to both these organizations. Of course our greatest debt is to the contributors and other participants who came from countries listed earlier and also from France and Iran. Some of them travelled long distances to attend the conference and the workshop and gave a lot of their time in writing and revising their papers published here. I nm personally grateful to all of them. I acknowledge also the help and assistance received from my colleagues at the Institute for Human Science and Service, especially Mr. Sadasiva Rao who provided the much appreciated secretarial services. I am grateful to Motilal Banarsidass Publishers and specially to Shri N.P. Jain for the care with which they have brought out this volume.
Last but no less important is the support I received from Dr. Sonali Bhatt Marwaha who shared the main burden of correspondence and other editorial chores. I am thankful and appreciative of her continued association and cooperation. If this volume would help to spur some interest in the scientific study of parapsychology in this part of the world and at the same time promote in the West an awareness of yoga, beyond asanas and pranayama, as a discipline that has great relevance for enhancing human potentials and wellness, we would consider the efforts that went into bringing out this volume Well their worth.
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