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My favorite quote from the Bhagavad Gita refers directly to the self:

The Self is a friend for him who masters himself by the Self;

but for him who is not self-mastered, the self is the cruelest foe.

(pg. 89; Mitchell, 2000)

This quote suggests that we can be our own best friend, or our own worst enemy. Indeed, Krishna tells Arjuna that what he must do is to be himself. It is only through his own actions that Arjuna can fulfill his potential. However, Arjuna must not remain attached to the consequences of his actions; he must simply act and allow the universe to move forward as it will. Only by truly understanding the nature of the universe, and the nature of ourselves, can we properly make this choice. The practice of Yoga helps us to see this reality, and the Bhagavad Gita helps to describe the essential practices.

The altar prepared for the ceremony when the author was initiated into Kriya Yoga.

Together, the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras contain all of the basic information on Yoga we will explore in this chapter. There is actually a fair amount of overlap between the books, but it is unclear which one may have been written first. Most scholars believe that the Bhagavad Gita was written between 500 B.C. and 100 A.D. (Mitchell, 2000), which falls right in the middle of when Patanjali is believed to have written down the Yoga Sutras . Since both philosophies seem to come from much older sources, it may well be that they owe their commonalities to some older tradition that can no longer be specifically identified.

Placing Yoga in Context: An Ancient Plan for Self Development

Yoga is much older than any other theory described in this book, with the exception of those parts of other theories that were borrowed from Yoga and Buddhism. The ancient Vedas , which provide much of the mythological and philosophical basis for Hinduism, are 4,000 to 5,000 years old (placing them amongst the oldest recorded literature in the world). The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita , which provide the basic teachings of traditional Yoga, were written as early as 600 B.C. (though there is little consensus on exactly when). Kriya-Yoga, the yoga believed by many to be the original Yoga of Patanjali, was lost to the world for many centuries, until it was reintroduced by Lahiri Mahasaya in 1861. Yoga continues to evolve today, with many different styles being introduced and revised, both in the East and the West.

Although this ancient philosophy may not seem relevant to modern personality theory, it has actually been part of psychology from the very beginning. Most notably, Jung and Rogers were clearly influenced by their travels to India and China, respectively. The knowledge of Yoga and Buddhism they developed as a result of those and other experiences helped to shape their personality theories. Fromm also examined how psychoanalysis and Buddhist meditation compare to each other. Today, as positive psychology examines topics such as happiness and well being, and as spiritual psychotherapists examine the important role that spirituality plays in the lives of many people, those practices that Yoga, Buddhism, and other spiritual disciplines have in common are being examined more closely by psychologists. In the next chapter we will examine similar spiritual disciplines that exist within the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions.

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Source:  OpenStax, Personality theory in a cultural context. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11901/1.1
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