Yogic Dualism

Traditional Yoga is, philosophically, metaphysically, dualistic.  I don’t actually agree with the dualism of Yoga and its philosophical cohort Sankhya and I’ve spent most of my adult life exploring and elaborating nondualism, but hey, that’s fine: I think it keeps one on their toes to practice something that doesn’t entirely accord with their beliefs: helps protect against dewy eyed nonsense.  Yoga is a practice, not a philosophy.  I like Edwin F. Bryant’s description of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, pg xlv):

a psychosomatic technique of meditative practice

The nice thing about Yogic dualism is that it isn’t the same as Western Dualism, such as that of Descartes.  This post is about that.  Bryant writes (pg xlvi):

In the Yoga tradition, the dualism is not between the material body and physical reality on the one hand, and mental reality characterized by thought on the other, but between pure awareness and all objects of awareness–whether these objects are physical and extended or internal and nonextended [res extensa and res cogitans].  In other words, in Sankhya and Yoga, thought, feeling, emotion, memory, etc., are as material or physical as the visible ingredients of the empirical world (footnote A [see below]).  As an aside, in this regard, Yoga has a curious overlap with modern reductive materialism, which holds that the internal world of thought and feeling is ultimately reducible to neurological brain functioning and other purely material phenomena, as well as with the computational procedures of “artificial intelligence”.  It thereby offers an unexpected overlap with modern functionalist accounts of mind that merits further exploration (avoiding some of the pitfalls in the Cartesian view in this regard, while, simultaneously, unlike Artificial Intelligence, retaining consciousness itself as independent of cognition [footnote B {see below}]).  Pure consciousness, called purusa, in this system, animates and pervades the incessant fluctuations of thought–the inner turmoil of fears, emotions, cravings, etc.–but the two are completely distinct entities.

To use a common rhetorical device found in internet forums: THIS.

Bryant later writes (pg liii):

It cannot be overstressed that the mind merely a physical substance that selects, organizes, analyzes, and molds itself into the physical forms of the sense data presented to it; in and of itself it is not aware of them.  Sense impressions or thoughts are imprints in that mental substance, just as a clay pot is a product made from the substance clay, or waves are permutations of the sea.  The essential point for understanding yoga is that all forms or activities of the mind are products of prakrti, matter, and completely distinct from the soul or true self, purusa, pure awareness or consciousness.

And (pg liv):

More specifically, the soul [purusa] becomes aware of the outside world when images of sense objects are channeled through the senses, sorted by the manas [mind], the thinking and organizing aspect of citta, and presented to the intellect.  Although inanimate, the intellect, in addition to its functions of discrimination noted earlier, molds itself into the form and shape of these objects of experience, thoughts and ideas, and, due to the reflection of the consciousness of purusa, appears animated.  Since the soul is adjacent to (footnote C [see below]) the intellect (and the citta in general), the intellect is the immediate covering of purusa; hence it is through the intellect that purusa becomes aware of these forms and objects of the world.

Footnote A:

As Dasgupta notes, if the mind itself were conscious, then why would its states be sometimes conscious and sometimes unconscious?  In other words, if the very nature of the mind were conscious, then all its states should always be conscious–there should be no unconscious or subconscious states in that which is, by definition, conscious.  The fact that this is not the case suggests that consciousness lies in another entity behind the mind, which is conscious of some states external to it but not others.

Footnote B:

Schweizer [Paul Schweizer, “Mind/Consciousness Dualism in Sankhya-Yoga Philosophy”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LIII.4 {1993}: 845-59] states as follows: “If mind and environment are held to belong to the same metaphysical realm, then mental content can both cause and be caused by other physical events.  This at least opens the door to explaining mental representation and the evolution of cognitive structure through appeal to the interaction between an organism and its environment, while it is not at all clear that this door is open on a Cartesian account” (1993, 854).  Along similar lines, he elaborates that AI adopts a computational paradigm, which assumes that all phenomena, whether artificial or natural, are founded on computational procedures evidenced in physical systems.  Since the citta in Yoga is an unconscious mechanism which manipulates the representational structures involved in perception, it can be characterized as computational (ibid, 854).  He further notes that, as in Yoga, “subjective experience is an element which is theoretically extraneous to the research programs of cognitive science and AI”.

Footnote C:

Since purusa is omnipresent, its adjacency with buddhi [intellect] is not spatial; conceptualizing their relationship is one of the main philosophical problems of Hindu thought.

I’ve been saying similar things in my posts (Yoga Sutras 1.2, Yoga Sutras 1.4, Consciousness, and probably elsewhere), but this is all a lot clearer than my jabberwacky.

Footnote A is a very interesting line of reasoning to me.  One could wonder how it doesn’t just move the same problem back a step, since, if purusa is pure consciousness, how can any form of unconsciousness be possible at all?  Basically, I think it is saying that the intentionality of consciousness, the about-something-ness of all conscious states, is not actually necessary to consciousness itself, but is simply a product of the conscious field witnessing or coming into contact with some material reality (measuring).

So, where does my non-dualism fit in?  What we are able to egoically relate to as “awareness” requires a certain density of intentionality.  Without a threshold density of contact with mental goings-ons, we aren’t actually aware of our awareness, like a mirror in the dark reflecting nothing.  Samadhi then is the result of focusing that awareness back on itself so that it is about itself.  Going with the mirror example, which I like, enlightenment, or samadhi, is a spherical mirror of in-angled reflections capturing some light and not letting it out.  Yoga is the technique of in-angling the mirror into a sphere.  At least in my terminology.  Technically, yogically, purusa is unchanging, and so isn’t itself amenable to in-angling.

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