My initial reading through the broad strokes of Indian philosophy have concerned the art of refocusing perspective, which is more of a honed skill than an innate quality. This, of course, is tied closely with the practice of yoga, which is seen rather simplistically as a mode of relaxation or exercise in Western culture. But the Yoga Sūtras make reference to ceasing our ‘ordinary awareness’, as well as various forms of knowledge that we are capable of uncovering through the art of meditation.
The basic principle is that in the course of rushing through busy schedules, filled with constant stimuli and an unwillingness to rest properly, we often miss the reality that is plain to see before us. We are prone to consuming and retaining bundles of information in our everyday lives, and this leaves us vulnerable to viewing the outside of our immediate lens with less clarity than we ought to.
The analogy for this principle is demonstrated by imagining peering out of a window of a fast-moving train. Staring out of the window as the train is running forward can only ever paint a blurred image of the outside world, which symbolises the anxiety and opacity that we depict our reality to be steeped in whilst our minds are busy rushing ahead. This masked perception of our lives, compounded by the wailing of the wind and the screeching of the wheels, is overpowering and facilitates the uncomfortable state we have to adopt in having to address our current situation or future prospects. It is not just that the immediate setting is blurred; it’s every possible image that you hoped to have seen on your journey becomes incomprehensible over time.
The art of meditation therefore suggests that the only true way of observing our reality is to slow the train right down, so that we can analyse ourselves and our surroundings with clear and undistorted vision. The ability to reach this kind of stillness and calm, although requiring considerable effort, can be the source of new-found knowledge and intuition.
One of the most interesting things I have discovered in uncovering philosophical ideals from the East is how the importance of religion, specifically the notion of spirit, has forged a compelling relationship with philosophical ideals we typically associate with Western thinkers. The Ancient Greeks, such as Thales and the Stoics, are those who we champion as the pioneers of logic and reason, proclaiming that the mysteries of our reality can best be deciphered by rational observation of the natural world. But these roots can also be observed in Eastern soils, with Medhatithi Gautama’s anviksiki (‘science of inquiry’) school of logic dating back to 6 BC.
The beauty of the relationship between logic and spirit within Indian philosophy can be emphatically surmised by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, regarded as one of the most influential Indian thinkers of the 20th Century:
“Reason is subordinated by intuition. Life cannot be comprehended in its fullness by logical reason … culture based on mere logic or science may be efficient, but cannot be inspiring.”