Yoga for the Modern World

Yoga for the Modern World is about aspects of modern culture including science, philosophy and literature, and how the study of these subjects leads into the deep ethical and metaphysical questions that have occupied thinkers throughout history, and the solutions to these questions that are offered by the traditional non-dual teachings when rightly understood.

There are chapters on:

1 The Relevance of Yoga for Modern Western Society
2 The Religion of the Future
3 The Vedantic View of the World
4 The Inner Enquiry
5 Attentive Silence
6 The Meaning of Life
7 No Time Like the Present
8 Exchanging Complements
9 A Good Koan [on Wittgenstein]
10 Reconciling the Contradictions
11 An Example of Greatness [on Michael Faraday]
12 Seeing is Believing
13 Tolstoi’s Questions
14 Living in Truth [on Vaclav Havel]
15 Learning from Experience [on Arnold Toynbee]
16 The Mind in Society
17 A Critical Ailment
18 Time for Thought
19 Searching for the Good Life

Here is an extract from ‘The Relevance of Yoga for Modern Western Society’:

It is because of the great interest of Yoga philosophically that it has appealed to so many great minds in our Western tradition who, even when they have had no intention of practising Yoga for themselves, have been deeply impressed by its philosophy. Schopenhauer said of the Upanishads ‘They have been the solace of my life and they will be the solace of my death’, and other great philosophical figures, like Deussen and Max Müller, were no less enthusiastic after a lifetime’s study. But it is not only the philosophers who have been impressed by the teachings of Yoga. In this century one remembers a host of writers who have been deeply influenced by Vedantic thought, authors like Aldous Huxley, Gerald Heard, and even Isherwood and Somerset Maugham. Maugham is recorded as having said that though he himself was of the earth, earthy, the religious philosophy of Yoga was the only one which he thought merited serious consideration.

However, today it is rather to the scientists that we look as the guardians of truth. Even in this field one finds some of the greatest figures deeply impressed and influenced by Vedantic thought. Robert Oppenheimer is a case in point; but perhaps the best example is Erwin Schrodinger, the father of Quantum Mechanics and Nobel prize-winner who is an avowed believer in the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta. I think Schrodinger’s writings on this subject have a particular interest in that he was led to believe in the Vedantic view by a consideration of the scientific evidence, in particular by what he calls the arithmetical paradox of the oneness of mind. Objectively we seem to have a plurality of egos, a multiplicity of conscious individuals and yet consciousness is never experienced in the plural.

This is a further extract, from ‘Inner Enquiry’:

Let us say something about meditation. According to our teacher, Dr Shastri, it involves three major factors: relaxation, concentration, and merging the mind in the enquiry into truth. It is not limited to those who practise Yoga. If one consults the accounts of how a really great mathematician sets about thinking about a problem, the first thing that he needs is relaxation. He needs inner peace. He cannot think creatively if his mind is in a state of agitation and turmoil. And until the mind is controlled—and in any great mathematician it is controlled through long practice of mathematics—the will is a captive to the wayward desires and impulses, thoughts and impressions, which bubble up in a never-ending stream from the unconscious. The greatest things in life, said our teacher, are achieved, not by strained effort, but by effortless effort—by self-forgetfulness, when the will has focused the mind and then abdicated. First of all, the will has to be brought into play to focus the mind, but then comes the stage where the mind has been focused effectively and the will can abdicate, leaving the field of mental consciousness to be totally absorbed in the object of contemplation. And when that state is reached—the state of the focused will-less mind (whether in the field of art, or mathematics, or, through Yoga, in the field of spiritual truth)—the mind achieves what is called ‘effortless effort’, and becomes really creative.

Yoga for the Modern World will be of interest to students of culture and the history of ideas. Some inquirers with a knowledge of modern science and philosophy will find it helpful to see how these lead to deep metaphysical questions, and the enlightening solutions to them offered by the non-dual teachings.