Yoga Or Hypnotherapy ?
Which process can help you go deep enough within to overcome all your addictions—for good ?
What follows is a conversation between Srila Hamsaduta Swami, one of the spiritual masters in the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and Dr. Leonardo L. Bascara, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of the Philippines and a specialist in hypnosis.
Dr. Bascara: There are many theories concerning hypnosis, but the one I favor most talks about the principle of conditioning, the conditioning of the mind. Suppose you’re a fellow who is suffering from bad habits like chainsmoking and heavy drinking. I can recondition your mind and body so you give up the cigarettes and the alcohol. I can cure the body’s addictions.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Suppose someone is a smoker and a drinker and then through hypnotic suggestion you get him to give up these two habits. Will he form another habit? In other words—
Dr. Bascara: It depends. Yes, this is a very good question.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: You see, our understanding is this: People take to various types of sense gratification, as we call it . . .
Dr. Bascara: Sense gratification.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: . . . because they identify with the body. An average person thinks of himself as his body or his mind. These are the two identities common in the conditioned state. Actually, the Bhagavad-gita and other scriptures call the materialistic man a “conditioned soul.”
Dr. Bascara: Conditioned soul?
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Yes. The soul, in his original state, is not under any conditions: he is free—free from the influence of the material body and mind. But when he enters the material world he becomes conditioned by the body and the mind and identifies with them. This is frustrating—because we’re not the body, not the mind—and that frustration is then exhibited as addiction to various types of sense gratification. Do you follow?
My question is this: When you give a patient a hypnotic suggestion and he gives up some bad habit, does he then develop another bad habit? This would seem likely, since his frustration must remain unless he gets higher knowledge of his real identity as a spiritual being separate from matter, separate from the body.
Dr. Bascara: That’s precisely why we first have to do psychoanalytic evaluation. I have to analyze my client to find out why he chain-smokes and why he drinks a lot of alcoholic beverages. These activities are symptoms of an underlying condition. So I try to find out the root cause of the problem.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Right.
Dr. Bascara: My principle is that if I remove the drinking and the smoking by straight hypnotic suggestion, it is just like removing the weeds in your garden. If you don’t dig out the roots, after one or two weeks there will be weeds again. So if I don’t find out the root cause of your bad habits, they will come back, perhaps in another form. I may remove your smoking, I may remove your excessive drinking, but you will go to gambling.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Exactly. Therefore we begin with this premise: The living entity is not a product of gross matter—earth, water, fire, air, ether—nor is he a product of mind or intelligence. The living entity, whose symptom is consciousness, is a substance categorically separate from what we know as the material, phenomenal world, which includes mind and intelligence. According to Bhagavad-gita, mind is also a material substance, but it is very subtle. For example, radio waves—
Dr. Bascara: Yes, they’re invisible.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: We can’t see them, but if we have a radio we can manifest them as sound. So the mind also produces forms, which are known as brain waves. The Bhagavad-gita says that all these things are matter. They fall into the category of what is called apara prakrti, the inferior nature. And Bhagavad-gita also says, “Besides this inferior nature there is another nature, which is called para, superior.” The difference between the two natures is that one is mutable and the other is not. Para prakrti, the living force that animates all matter, cannot be adulterated or changed, whereas the material force, the inferior energy, can be changed. For instance, wood can burn and change to fire, water can evaporate and change into steam.
Dr. Bascara: Or change to ice.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: So everything of this phenomenal world has the quality of mutability, but the living force cannot be changed. It can be covered but not changed. The whole of Vedic wisdom begins with this understanding: The living force, which is known as para prakrti or the jivatma or, in English, the soul or spirit, is the essential thing within matter. Matter, in and of itself, has no independent creative power. For example, an air conditioner has no power in and of itself to cool a room; it’s the electricity, the superior energy, that produces the cooling effect by working through the air conditioner. Or take a light bulb. The light bulb in and of itself cannot illuminate; it’s the electric force that creates the illumination by passing through the bulb.
Similarly, whether in the form of a human being or beast or bird or insect or plant, matter has no life in and of itself. The life is the soul, the superior energy, or consciousness. The body is an expression in time and space of the conditioning that the soul has accepted. So a person in the material concept of life—whether the bodily concept or the ‘mental concept—must be frustrated, because he thinks of himself in terms of matter, which in fact he’s not.
A person is not the material body, any more than I am my shirt. My shirt is merely a garment for my body, a covering I will eventually discard. Bhagavad-gita says, “As a man gives up old and useless clothes and gets new ones, the soul gives up an old and useless body and gets a new one.” Life is evolving, but not exactly as Darwin suggested—by mutation of matter. Rather the soul, the living force, evolves as his original consciousness becomes progressively uncovered. As you know, when a person’s consciousness changes so do his external features. His body changes, his speech changes, his habits change, and so on.
The root cause of all man’s problems be they sensual, mental, or intellectual, is his misidentification with matter, with his body and mind. Therefore it seems that if you leave this basic misconception intact, even though you may cure a man’s drinking habit, smoking habit, or whatever, his frustration will come out in another way. This is the problem.
Dr. Bascara: Yes, if the problem is not completely resolved, then another symptom might come out; But if you are able to resolve most or all of the complex, then you may not expect other problems to come out after you have controlled the drinking and smoking.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Then it seems you are involved in a process of deconditioning the patient. And for that, yoga is ideal. You know about yoga?
Dr. Bascara: Oh, yes.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Yoga is a process of deconditioning—dissolving those conditions that we have accepted as real but that are in fact unreal.
Dr. Bascara: I see.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Of course, there are different types of yoga, but ultimately the basic principle is to purify the mind so we can understand our pure spiritual identity. Yogis want to go beyond the mind, beyond even the intellect, to the very root of life, the soul. They want to awaken the soul rather than deal exclusively with the mind, which has both conscious and subconscious aspects. They want to awaken the soul, the witness of the mind and intelligence.
As long as we are in material consciousness we will act mechanically, according to the dictates of the mind and senses. But through yoga a person can become enlightened to understand that all the actions and reactions of his mind, whether conscious or subconscious, and of his senses, which are reacting to the external environment—all these things are material and therefore separate from the soul. When a person understands this he can pass through life without anxiety, and he becomes free from fear, lamentation—
Dr. Bascara: He has peace of mind and security.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Yes, he becomes free from material desire. This is called the brahma-bhuta stage. In this state of consciousness a person doesn’t desire anything material, nor does he feel any unhappiness if he loses something, because he knows that nothing material, whether gross or subtle, has anything to do with his essential being, the spirit soul, which is separate from this world.
Dr. Bascara: Actually, in my lectures about hypnosis or hypnotism, I’m really speaking about nothing but conditioning and deconditioning. I hypnotize you, and I dehypnotize you. I think yoga has some of the qualities of hypnosis.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: This is the difference: A yogi goes beyond the mind to the soul. He aims for the soul.
Dr. Bascara: In yoga there is the spiritual aspect. In my hypnotherapy there is more of a mental aspect.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: The way I understand it, those who deal with hypnosis, psychiatry, or psychology try to adjust the patient to fit into certain conditions of the material world, but transcendentalists advise: “Never mind. Leave all these conditions; simply rise above them. Try to understand that whatever conditions may have been imposed on you in the past, either with or without your knowledge, are material and therefore extraneous to your real, spiritual nature. So let these conditions come and go.” That is the difference between the psychiatrists and the transcendentalists.
We say that ultimately every material condition, even if seemingly good, peaceful, and favorable, is not permanent and therefore cannot bring us the state of permanent satisfaction and happiness we are searching for. What is that state? We want to live permanently, we want to know everything, and we want to be happy without any interruption, perpetually. This is called sac-cid-ananda. Sat means “eternity,” cit means “knowledge,” and ananda means “bliss.” We always want bliss. We don’t want any pain, unhappiness, or frustration.
Those who follow the Bhagavad-gita philosophy don’t want to make any adjustment to this world: they want to leave it altogether. They know it is impossible to be happy even under the best of circumstances, because there is always birth, old age, disease, and ultimately death. As Bhagavad-gita says, life in this world is temporary and miserable.
Those who have not grasped this essential truth are trying somehow to adjust to the material atmosphere, either by medicine, by politics, by economics, by psychiatry, or by some other method. But you cannot be happy here, because everything material will fade away and vanish. So accepting this temporary existence as reality is the root cause of man’s dissatisfaction, in any shape or form. As Bhagavad-gita points out, material life is not our real life but a kind of imitation life. For example, a sleeping man dreams that he’s awake, but he’s not awake. He can understand that he’s sleeping only when he actually wakes up. Then he sees he was dreaming. Similarly, the Vedic wisdom tells us that this sensual and mental and intellectual existence we are now experiencing is a kind of dream; our real existence is beyond that. It is beyond the senses, beyond the mind, and beyond the intelligence. It is in the realm of the spirit. So the sum and substance of all yogic practice is to be liberated from this material existence and to attain to our original spiritual existence.
It’s imperative for you to read our Bhagavad-gita, because it will give you insight that can help you unlimitedly in your work.
Dr. Bascara: I think the psychiatrist or psychoanalyst deals quite a bit with the spiritual aspects of life. We are learning a lot about philosophy and the spiritual aspects of being, existential phenomena, by delving into the mind.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: But after all, we have to ask. What is the cause of the mind? What produces the mind? Where does the mind come from?
Dr. Bascara: The soul?
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Yes, the soul. If we rise to that platform, we will have a complete picture of our real situation. Then we can deal with everything sensual, mental, and intellectual, because we will be on the true platform of existence, which is spiritual. When we dare to step up to this platform, everything will be clear.
The mind and intelligence also have form. Just as the gross body has form, the mind also has form, and when the gross form is destroyed, the subtle form remains. According to Bhagavad-gita, the perceptions of the gross senses—our experiences of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching—are all impressed on the subtle form, which we call the mind. And at the time of death this subtle form carries us to our next body. The subtle form creates our next gross form.
Dr. Bascara: The next body.
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: The next body. For example, the shirt you are wearing is a product of your desire. You have certain tastes, so you buy a certain style of clothing and put it on your body. Similarly, the mind contains all your desires, and those desires are exhibited in the material world in the form of your gross body. Bhagavad-gita says, “Whatever state of being one fixes his mind upon when he leaves his body, that state he will attain without fail.” And in another place: “The living entity carries his conceptions of life from one body to another just as the air carries aromas.” When the air passes over a garland, the air smells very sweet, but when it passes over garbage, it smells foul. We know that the air itself doesn’t smell sweet or foul but that in contact with certain objects it takes on certain smells. Similarly, when the soul comes in touch with this phenomenal world it takes on certain conceptions and qualities. All these conceptions and qualities taken together comprise the material mind, which then exhibits those conceptions and qualities in gross matter, in the shape of our body.
The purpose of yoga is to purify the mind of all material conceptions and qualities and to rise to the platform of transcendental experience, where there is no influence of time or space and where everything exists permanently. Because ordinary men are generally ignorant about their existential situation, they are always bewildered and frustrated. Then they take shelter of various addictions and habits in hopes of escaping the frustrations and miseries of material existence. Since all this is a result of ignorance, the cure for all the ills of humankind is the enlightenment that comes with complete knowledge—knowledge that is available in the Bhagavad-gita, and in other Vedic literatures.
Your therapy shouldn’t stop with hypnotic adjustments. It should go further. If you come to the ultimate root of all existence, the generating source of all phenomena—whether sensual, mental, or intellectual—then you will be able to provide a permanent cure for all diseases, not just temporary relief of some symptoms.
Today medical science provides at best only temporary relief for people’s miseries. It cannot provide a permanent cure, because it is ignorant of the root cause of all disease: our misidentification with the material body and mind. The wisdom of the Bhagavad-gita and all other Vedic literatures says that the real solution to our problem lies in learning how to give up attachment for material life altogether. Why? Because if at the end of life (which everyone must come to) we have not learned how to give up attachment for material activities and material enjoyment, then our mind will drag us to another body, and we will have to repeat the same struggle: birth, old age, disease, and death.
Dr. Bascara: Is that the same as reincarnation?
Srila Hamsaduta Swami: Yes. Even if a person is perfectly adjusted in this life, he cannot get away from birth, old age, disease, and death. The Bhagavad-gita advises that somehow or other we learn the art of giving up attachment for material existence, which in any shape or form is miserable. Whether one is a king, a sweeper, a doctor, or a patient, one is subject to four miseries: birth, old age, disease, and death. We want to be deathless, we want to be full of knowledge, and we want to be full of pleasure. But in the material atmosphere we are subject to death, we are full of ignorance, and we are miserable, because we are identifying ourselves with matter, with our material body and mind. Bhagavad-gita explains that we can attain the state of eternal bliss and knowledge only by going back to the spiritual atmosphere, and that is possible only by the deconditioning process known as yoga—the science of God consciousness.