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University of Hawaii Fall 2002 Syllabus

University of Hawaii
Fall 2002 Syllabus “Philosophical Psychology: Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali”

Syllabus Phi1422 / Chakrabarti: Fall 2002

This course approaches Patanjali’s Aphorisms on Yoga as philosophical psychology.
The four chapters of this ancient Sanskrit work are:

  • On Stilling the Mind
  • On Contemplative Practices
  • On Psychic Powers
  • On the State of Pure Aloneness or Liberation

On the basis of a distinctive Samkhya ontology which reduces the objective world into a constantly evolving field of three affective matrices: Transparent Delight (sattva), Torment and Dynamicity (rajas) and Delusive Torpor (tamas), the Yoga theory of the Psyche offers us sophisticated answers to the following philosophical questions:

What is a mind? Is it a mistake to think that I am my mind? Can there be consciousness without any sense of ego?
How does the mind function in waking, dreaming, sleeping, concentrating, knowing, remembering, getting distracted, and sleeping?
What are the emotions?
What is the role of language and imagination in our ordinary perceptions and beliefs?
What is the Yoga account of our experience of time?
What moral preparations or practice of virtues must go hand in hand with the practice of meditation as a means to attaining a waveless mind? How is pure consciousness to be detached from object-consuming mental activity?
What is the correlation between bodily postures, breathing and mental states?
What is the role of self-conscious reasoning and analysis in Yoga meditation?

Week One

What is Philosophical Psychology? Can philosophical psychology have a normative or therapeutic side to it?

What is Yoga? Can Yoga be studied as Philosophical psychology? (Whicher: Ch 1)

The concepts of CittaCittavrtii. (Feuerstein, pages 1-33)

Week Two

Concepts of “the river of the mind” continued (Whicher: chapter 3)

Definition of samadhi. Does it mean arresting, or quieting or restricting or stilling of the modifications of the mind? Types of samadhi: On the object, On the grasping act, on the
grasper ego, Intuituve Omniscience leading to total detachment and, finally pure aloneness of the spirit. What is the own-nature of this spirit or “onlooker”(drista)? The changing
mind and the unchanging pure consciousness. (Whicher: chapter 4 and additional ph-copied readings: Dasgupta pp 13-30)

Week Three

What is to be rejected (= suffering) and its causes, the means of rejection and the target state of sufferinglessness (Yoga Sutras 11.15-27)

The Moral Psychology of the discriminating person and sensitivity to our sorry embodied existence.

Week Four

Concepts of Knowledge, Error and Verbal Constructions. The Yoga Epistemology

Is sleep a state of the mind?

Week Five

Yoga Ethics: the Eightfold Method and the place of the Restraints (yama) and Observances (niyama) in the path to Yoga.

Week Six

Concepts of Repeated Practice (abhyasa) and Dispassion (vairagya). (Whicher: Chapter 4)

Comparisons with William James on Habit.

Week Seven

The fourfold virtues of Friendship, Compassion, Joyousness and Indifference towards different types of fellow beings. The importance of vigilant meditative attention to the practice of imagining oneself in the place of the other.

Week Eight

The conflation of word, awareness and meant object in ordinary distracted thinking and wi1ling and the results of discriminating between them. Focusing and isolating as techniques of one-pointed contemplation. The Yoga theory of language. (Yoga Sutra II. 42 and 111. 17)

Week Nine

The Role of God in Yoga (Dasgupta: Yoga as Religion): Omniscience

Causation in Samkhya and Yoga.

Week Ten

Clear light of Pleasure, Restlessness of Pain and Darkness of Interia. The nature of emotions bitten by the five afflictions: ignorance. egotism, will-to-live (fear of death), desire and aversion.

Week Eleven

Three faces of Time, Feeling of change, and Change of Feelings.

Week Twelve

What is liberation? Can the liberated being be a1ive and engaged in work? (Whicher: Chapter 6)

Week Thirteen

Other Kinds of Yoga: Yoga-in-action of the Gita, Yoga-in-love of the Theistic Schools (Aurobindo: Synthesis of Yoga parts One and Three)

Week Fourteen

Sri Aurobindo’s conception of Integral Yoga and the influence of Tantra.

Week Fifteen

Revision and Open Discussion

Writing Assignments and Methods of Assessment:

Four short (3 page) papers will be due on the Tuesdays of 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th weeks, tentatively. (20% of final grade)

One midterm take-home paper (5 pages) (20%) will be due at the end of October.

One final essay (8 pages) (60%) will be due on Tuesday, the 3rd of December.

Students will be continuously assessed on the basis of class participation and evidence shown of regularly doing the readings assigned.

Final Paper Due On: December 10th.

Yoga: Philosophical Psychology: “Citta”

the mind/psyche is NOT the self or the onlooker consciousness.

Citta is not Drasta

The mind is what the mind does.

What does the mind/psyche do? It fluctuates, flows, keeps transforming itself, since it is made of the three perpetually changing strands: illumination/pleasure, kinesis/pain and inertia/torpor.

The Five operations/fluctuations (vrtii) of the psyche are:

Correct Cognition, which, in turn, could be of three types:

a. perception
b .inference
c. knowledge from authority/ testimony

Incorrect Cognition

Verbal/Conceptual Construction



Each of these fluctuations could be generally of two types:

Afflicted or Unafflicted

Afflictions are of five general kinds:

unwisdom or existential error
I-am-ness / ego-sense
will to survive (= fear of death)

Thus the river of the mind flows in two opposite directions: towards the good that brings joy, and towards evil that brings pain and remorse. To the extent that we can arrest the flow that makes the mind fluctuate in the afflicted fashion, we can make it flow towards a stillness that ultimately leads to liberation from unwisdom and the bondage and suffering it begets. How is it possible to arrest the flow of aff1icted fluctuations of the mind ? Through practice and dispassion

YOGA: Philosophical Psychology

Questions for the 2nd 3-page writing assignment:

(Write at most 3 pages and at least 2 pages in answer to ONLY ONE of the following, indicating, on top, which question you are answering)

1. Is deep dreamless sleep a mental state?

2. “Ignorance (avidya) is mistaking that which is impermanent, impure, painful, non-self as permanent, pure, joyful and self”‘. (YS. II. 5) Why should one
expect that such a natural fluctuation of the mind would cease or get “arrested” simply by repeated practice (abhyasa) and dispassion (vairagya)? Explicate
the last two notions to extract a reasoned answer.

3. What is a conceptual construction (vikalpa)? Critically discuss Patanjali’s definition of it with your own examples. To what extent are conceptualizations
useful for Yoga and to what extent are they disturbances to be overcome?

4. Can a morally bad person attain samadhi? Can a person who has never been focused on anything, that is, has never been above the distracted (viksipta) state
of mind, have a morally virtuous character? Give clearly formulated arguments for your answers to each of these questions, not just your opinions or convictions.

Possible Paper for The Yoga Philosophical Class Fall 2002

1. What is the mind-body problem ? How would you try to solve it from a Yoga point of view?

2. What is samadhi? How many kinds of samadhi are there? What is the role of ethical
virtues in them?

3. What is time according to Yoga? Does the Yoga theory of time and our experience of
time match the Yoga view of causation?

4. Distinguish between Citta and Purusa. Can there be consciousness without a sense of ego?

5. What is “vairagya” (dispassion)? How many kinds of vairagya does the Yoga Sutra talk about ? Why are ‘practice and dispassion’ so important for-yoga practice? Try imagining one without the other. Why does it fail to help us attain a stillness of the mind?

6. What is the Yoga theory of words and word-meanings? How is it connected to the Yoga picture of cognitive samadhi-s?

7. What is the role of Isvara (God ?) in Yoga ? State clearly and fully Patanjali’s argument for the existence of such a “special person” and critique it.

Expected length: 6 to 7 pages (Not more than 7, not less than 5)