By Michael Ketterhagen, PhD
The Yoga Tradition has a unique way of describing the human being and placing the human in the chain of life on the planet. Yoga says that there are four “kingdoms/worlds” of life on Planet Earth—the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom, the human kingdom, and the divine kingdom. We, as humans, according to yoga, are on an evolutionary trajectory from the plant to the divine kingdoms. As a species, we have evolved from the plant world and are moving now from the animal to the divine worlds.
Even the famous Christian theologian, Thomas Aquinas defines us humans as “rational animals,” saying that our human “rational” mind houses our eternal spiritual soul. He does not just think “rational” means just our mental faculties.
In the yoga world, “whole human beings” are defined as eternal spiritual beings (atmans) with minds and bodies that breathe. Therefore, healing the human being by making ourselves whole would mean becoming less and less animals and thinkers and more and more divine. Examples of the whole human, the healthy human, would be people like Jesus of Nazareth, Mohammed, Moses, Mother Teresa, Jesus’ mother Mary, Mahatma Gandhi, Francis of Assisi, advanced yogis, and other saints and sages that have lived through the ages.
Making ourselves whole, that is, healing our humanness, would mean living more and more non-violently, more and more truthfully, more and more selflessly, more and more trustfully in the presence of a compassionate Creator who will always care for us to the point of death, even a horrific death, like being murdered or crucified.
Making ourselves whole would mean surrendering completely to the loving compassion of the Divine Source of Life.
But how can that be a joyful existence or a joyful experience?
It can’t when we are so deeply ingrained and imbued with the fear of death. This fear manifests itself as working hard for food, shelter, sleep, and affection and in accumulating guns and weapons to protect ourselves against perceived enemies.
How can we experience joyful surrender when most of our life is centered on our own physical desires for security, pleasure or power? Being whole means knowing that all those physical needs will be met as I strive hard to live a peaceful and loving yogic life while we let the fruits and consequences of that striving up to the divine, compassionate care of the Divine Mother through those around us.
This is truly a paradox, in the sense that we become whole and healed when we let go of our deep animal urges for food, sleep, sex and self-preservation.
How do we do that? By being very wise in our use of food, sleep, sex and our desire for self-preservation, says the Yoga Tradition. In addition, Yoga says that the way to accumulate that wisdom is through its practice of the eight limbs of yoga, culminating in meditation.
Again, as we learned before, the human being becomes whole through the practice of meditation and the practice of all the other steps leading up to that one-pointed experience of our divine nature.
Let us meditate more and more, so humanity can continue to heal!