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Cultivating happiness - Ancient Psychology Exercises to Soften the Ego

Facilitated by: Manu (PhD, Lama, E-RYT 500)


More than two-and-a-half millennia ago the Buddha Siddhartha Gautama had already solved the mystery of happiness: the cultivation of the Six Perfections or Paramitas gradually dissolves the ego, transforming us in lighter, more flexible and adaptable beings. And two millennia ago Patañjali codified the Yoga Sutras in a book—sutras probably much older in the oral tradition—where it is written about Yama or external, social observances, and Niyama or internal, personal observances. Yama and Niyama are the basis of yoga, the first two limbs of Ashtanga Yoga or the eight limbs of Raja Yoga, which evolve from the social or external to the personal or internal and from the physical or coarse to the mental and spiritual or subtle, culminating in the practices of meditation and the mystical experience of samadhi. Yamas and Niyamas establish the foundations for living in harmony and peace with our surroundings and with us. When there is a certain level of peace and harmony one can begin to make faster progress in the spiritual path toward complete liberation from this plane of polarities and confusion.

This workshop will combine teachings from Buddhist and Hindu psychology in a whole that is both coherent and meaningful to our lives. Besides theory, which will be minimal, we will do several hands-on exercises with which we will put in practice the principles of the Paramitas, Yamas, and Niyamas to our daily life in order to work with our less polished sides as social and spiritual beings thus becoming very light and fluid for the more refined practices or aspects of yoga, such as meditation.

In the TED talk below, Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert brilliantly proves how happiness does not really depend on anything exterior but is the result of inner contentment. In other words, to learn to like what we have is what makes us happy. People who actually have more choices were found to be statistically unhappier by Gilbert. Unsurprisingly, Gilbert also found out that if given the choice, most people would prefer to have more choices in life. In other words, people are constantly preferring a life situation in which they actually will be unhappier. People who are "stuck" with something unchangeable or irreversible actually were found to be statistically happier.

The implications of this research could be criticized by some as promoting social conformism and paralyzing the thrust for change or social reform or e/re-volution. However, I think Gilbert is pointing to something deeper than that, which has to do with realizing that happiness is an inner process and anyone actually can achieve happiness given the conditions they already have. Why then struggle to create external change in the world? Are we any better off than 100 years ago in the world? Surely some have achieved higher standards of freedom, education, material comfort, health, life expectancy, and many other things. But are we happier than what our great grandparents were?

In Manu's course and workshop Cultivating happiness - Ancient Psychology Exercises to Soften the Ego, we study from a Hindu yoga transpersonal psychology perspective the niyama or personal observance of santosha--usually translated as contentment--which talks about the same conclusions Gilbert has reached through his research. Even enlightenment itself has been described by saints from diverse spiritual traditions as the ability to embrace everything as it is with love and joy.

According to Buddhist and Hindu teachings, contentment is just one of several other psychological attitudes that should be present in order to be truly happy. Gilbert focused on contentment, and that makes sense: in a society largely moved by the pursuit of happiness through the acquiring of material goods and the achievement of more freedoms and choices, contentment appears as one of the most important attitudes to develop. However, the "Buddhist" perfections of generosity, virtue, patience, diligence, concentration and wisdom; and the "Hindu" social observances or yamas of non-violence, truthfulness, protecting others' property, an orderly sexuality, and non-possessiveness; and personal observances or niyamas of purity, discipline, spiritual study, and surrender to something superior are equally important.


Olla on mielettömän todellisuuden todellisuus. Tehtävä on rakkauden toiminta. Kaikki, mitä me teemme, on vain peli tunnistaa rakkauden toiminta.


Ei ole hyviä tai huonoja, kauniita tai ruma ihmisiä, asioita tai olosuhteita, vaan vain emotionaalisuutta heitä kohtaan. Viisaus on ei tuomitse muita, tuntee tunteemme. Alkemia on muuttaa tunteita, ylläpitämällä harmonian ja hyvinvoinnin homeostaasia. Meditaation on tunnistaa ajatus, joka herättää tunteita havainnoimalla sitä tasaisesti. Mahamudra on herätä kuoleman jälkeen, näkemys siitä, mikä on aina ollut, on ja tulee olemaan.


Jooga on tietoisuuden teknologiaa - energiaa, joka on kehitetty kokemaan unionia. Se ylittää uskonnon ja kulttuurin.