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BOOK REVIEW  
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 78-79
Yoga & Parapsychology: Empirical Research and Theoretical Studies


Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bangalore, India

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Date of Web Publication11-Jan-2012
 

How to cite this article:
Ilavarasu V J. Yoga & Parapsychology: Empirical Research and Theoretical Studies. Int J Yoga 2012;5:78-9

How to cite this URL:
Ilavarasu V J. Yoga & Parapsychology: Empirical Research and Theoretical Studies. Int J Yoga [serial online] 2012 [cited 2019 Jul 17];5:78-9. Available from: http://www.ijoy.org.in/text.asp?2012/5/1/78/91723

Edited by: K. Ramakrishna Rao,

Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi,

Year: 2010,

Pages: 516, ISBN: 9788120834736, Price: 795 INR

Yoga and parapsychology have gained immense attention of researchers and general public in recent times. More rapidly the popularity increases, more the skepticism creeps in. Currently both yoga and parapsychology are facing this challenge. Scientific validation no doubt dispels all skepticism and doubts but what if the very scientific methods and tools are inadequate to fathom the depth of a field? What is the solution? The scholarly work of Dr. K. Ramakrishna Rao is a timely addition to this field to dispel some of the doubts lingering in the minds of experts. Apart from Dr. Rao's own profound essays, scholars across the world have contributed their intriguing thoughts and made the book a comprehensive treatise. Wide spectrum of topics is covered, from psi research in the west to the eastern theoretical works such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and the Upanishads. Meticulously conceptualized and presented, this book has gained that rare charisma to attract interest of students, researchers, educationists, and general public alike, and thus stands out as a distinguished work in the field.

Each chapter of the book is arranged to make a meaningful picture out of discreet presentations and with smooth flow of ideas, which reveals Dr. Rao's deep and comprehensive understanding of the field. Setting the foundation, he introduces the nature of the field, and this is further carried forward in the next two chapters. The next nine essays deal in depth the philosophical aspects of psi from mainly the eastern perspective, including lengthy elaborations on the classic text of yoga, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Sri Aurobindo's profound experiential knowledge, the Upanishads, and the Buddhist texts. Topics from yoga siddhi (yogic attainments) to reincarnation are discussed. The last seven essays bring out the amazing results of empirical research in the field. Roger D. Nelson's essay on the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) invokes high curiosity in researcher's mind and it is strengthened by others in the subsequent essays on scientific experimental works. Theoretical and empirical parts are given equal importance, thereby striking a perfect balance.

In the first chapter, Dr. Rao puts before the readers the whole history of development of psi research. It is interesting to learn that parapsychology is over 25 centuries old. Later it lost empirical investigation when started associating with religion. He describes how in the mid-20 th century empirical research in psi bloomed and also how skeptic's strength has gained strength. He reflects upon inherent limitations and hurdles in the field and how they are being addressed by researchers. Dr. Rao makes a striking point of difference between the eastern and the western approaches; for the former, psi and related phenomena are natural process of inner growth, leading toward self perfection, whereas for the latter it is an anomaly. He concludes that psi research must develop deeper understanding and strong theories. He also expresses his concern regarding scientific obsession of data-driven search and use of stringent western methods. Building on this foundation, J.E. Kennedy in the second essay evaluates methodology of psi research. He attempts to connect it to spirituality. Personality factors associated with psi are analyzed, giving emphasis to cross-culture studies.

James C. Carpenter in the next essay elaborates on various psi models. He explains various stages and processes involved in psi cognition. He lays great emphasis on harmonizing parapsychology with other branches of science, replicating results of findings and exploration of mechanisms involved in psi processes. These three essays lay a sound foundation for the entire book.

The next phase of the book focuses on diverse theoretical framework for psi research, driven mostly by eastern thought. Matthijs Cornelissen and Richard Hartz have captivatingly brought out the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo. All knowledge comes from within; it is just a matter of attuning toward that inner source. Vedic and mainstream views of consciousness have been brought out. To support these, Sri Aurobindo's life experiences which descended for humanity in the form of 'Record of Yoga', have been beautifully presented to readers. These experiences give us a glimpse of vast human potential. These two essays have got immense kinetic energy to move anybody. They successfully assert Sri Aurobindo's conviction that siddhis are natural process evolving out of inner growth toward perfection. Another classic text, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, is discussed in detail by eminent scholars like Sangeetha Menon, K.M. Tripathi, and William Braud. They have brought out various aspects of the text. Samkhya philosophy, nature of mind and its unfolding, leading to ultimate perfection have been carefully dealt with. A reader can learn a lot of Sanskrit terms, as they were used to keep the essence of text as pristine as possible. In these chapters, guidelines are drawn for empirical research too. How to study yoga siddhis and other related phenomena like out-of-body-experience etc., are elegantly described. Both eastern and western mind will find these chapters equally novel. Insight is provided from the Vedic texts also. H.R. Nagendra describes the concept of pancha kosha (five sheath theory of existence) and relates this to psychosomatic illnesses. A unique contribution of this chapter is the classification of illnesses. Integrated approach of yoga therapy (IAYT) is discussed as a holistic method of management of psychosomatic illnesses. Arjuna De Zoysa has contributed an essay on Buddhist concept of self, non-self, and rebirth. Transience, the central Buddhist doctrine, is highlighted. This essay is made interesting by a number of anecdotes, case histories, and metaphors. Dr. Rao himself has contributed another essay on reincarnation study. He explains various related phenomena like out-of-body experience (OBE), near-death experience (NDE) and so on. He has supplied a number of case studies. He meticulously correlates these with the theory of karma, widely discussed in Indian philosophical literatures. Supplementing these ideas, S.N. Arseculeratne's essay investigates mechanism of reincarnation with special reference to congenital deformities. Though a very brief essay, it is filled with profound thought-provoking ideas such as, "investigation of reincarnation is by means of correlating the present life circumstances with the Indian ola leaf horoscopes, which (are) remarkably accurate…" (p. 307). These essays have got potential to enhance one's belief in reincarnation theories.

The last seven chapters deal with experimental results of diverse psi researches. Roger D. Nelson's essay on Global Consciousness Project (GCP) brings awareness to how human minds are connected and influenced by mass emotional reactions and group activities like rituals and celebrations. GCP attempts to correlate physical, geophysical, and social variables. Readers must themselves explore these most fascinating findings. Other essays under this classification shed light on experiments to reveal psi ability, application of psi in military intelligence, healing and so on. Research scholars can find these essays impregnated with ideas, and get a complete picture about experimental methods, research methodology and statistical tools. The last two essays dealing with experiments on personality, religiosity, and paranormal experiences seem to challenge many widespread beliefs of common man. To explore them all in full, one must get a copy of this book.

To conclude, this book is a unique contribution to the field of parapsychology, not only to give the past developments but also to usher us into future showing definite roadmap. Dr. Rao must be congratulated in bringing out such a volume of diverse ideas of parapsychology under one roof, without compromising with details. The whole volume may seem challenging to novices, especially technical terms in Sanskrit, but it is worth taking the effort to persist and assimilate. Including further brief notes would have made this book more students friendly. Further in the interests of students, a subsidized version would be greatly welcomed. This book must occupy a place in all university libraries. This book can be recommended as a reference book for research scholars, as it contains diverse information from the field. Glossary of the book itself is a valuable resource, apart from brief bio-data of authors in the end. This reviewer eagerly looks forward to Dr. Rao's next work in this area.

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Correspondence Address:
V Judu Ilavarasu
Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bangalore
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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