YOGA: THE MASTE SCIENCE
Yoga is the technology of consciousness transformation par excellence. It struggles to achieve a metamorphosis of the ordinary consciousness and attempts to achieve this by way of centralizing and unifying the consciousness process. This is more or less true of all forms and varieties of yoga. Each one of them aims to realize the core of all existence. The transcendent awareness of the self outside and beyond the transient world is the supreme felicity of yogic quest.
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to bind, join, attach or yoke. It also means union or communion, merger or dissolution. It signifies the yoking of all the powers of the body, mind and soul to god. It involves the disciplining of the intellect, the mind and the will. The yoga praxis is a means to attain the poise of the soul, the spirit of equanimity.
Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. It was collated, formulated and systematized by Sage Patanjali in his classical work, the Yoga Sutras. It consists of four sections containing two hundred aphorisms, divided thus: 51, 55, 56, and 38. There is a slight variation in number of aphorisms in its many editions. Some present one hundred and ninety-five aphorisms.
The first chapter of the Yoga Sutras deals with the nature and goal of Samadhi. The second chapter elucidates Kriya Yoga pointing to the means of attaining Samadhi. The third chapter gives an account of supernatural powers which are acquired through yoga practice and Samadhi. The fourth chapter deals with psychological analysis and the nature of liberation through Samadhi.
Little is known about place and time of the birth of Sage Patanjali. His authoritative works widely known among Sanskrit scholars are:
1. Patanjali Bhashye, authoritative commentary on Panini grammar.
2. Charak, a work on medicine.
3. Yoga Sutras, the authoritative work on yoga.
Sage Patanjali is widely known as a physician of the body, mind and psysche. He purifies the body medically; mind and speech through insightful study on Panini grammar; and soul through yoga. His integral yoga leads to a perfectly-integrated individual who is sound of body, sound of speech, sound of mind. The secrets of anatomy, physiology, psychology , philosophy, semantics and grammar are revealed to a yogi.
This profound discovery of yoga is an essential insight of all genuine mysticism. Yoga Sutras ( 1.2-3 ) presents possibly the most concise formulation of the process of emptying of all mentations followed by the manifestation of Transcendental Awareness: “Yoga is the restriction of the activity of consciousness- (when consciousness is appeased), then the seer ( i.e. the Self) abides ( in his ) own form”.
Yoga is the way to the creative void. It is the pause between breaths. It holds the key to man’s ultimate salvation. Selfhood or hard boiled egocentricity is the reason why man is case into the whirling wheel of Becoming. It distorts the One of Being into the transience of the space-time continuum.
Yoga has been from the beginning a secret doctrine. It is transmitted from an adept to a suitable aspirant when the latter shows the required qualities of determination, courage, endurance and physical and mental fitness. The former confirms his readiness to instruct either formally or by silent consent, by diksha, samskara or actual initiation .
Only the teacher knows the path for having walked it successfully. He is a knowledgeable person fit to be a guide. After instructed onto the path, the initiate travels towards his destination. The guru is teacher and confidante, guardian and judge in one person and worthy or unconditioned devotion. He is a constant monitor of the supreme ideal, of the renunciation of the ego.
The eight-fold path of classical yoga has been given out in the Yoga Sutrasof Patanjali which comprise the following members: (1) Yama, restraint (2) Niyama, discipline (3) Asana, posture (4) Pranayama, breath control (5) pratyahara, sense withdrawal (6) dharana, concentration (7) dhyana, absorption (8) Samadhi, entasy.
The highly dynamic nature of yogic operation is emphasized by the author of the Yoga Kundalini Upanishad (III.14b-15) :
“As the flame, dormant in the wood, cannot flare up without friction, so also the torch of gnosis (cannot shine) without the yoga of the practice ( of unification ).”
The tendency towards unification and totalisation is a feature of all yogic techniques as manifest on all levels of yoga. The yogi orients his every thought and wish towards the One surpassing all opposites remodeling it in himself. By restraining his greed for life, the yogi frees himself from the coerction of the instincts. By adopting a kindly attitude towards all beings, the yogi outside of life. But he does not stop halfway-death is followed by an initiatory rebirth.”
The Yoga Sutras (II.30) mention five components of Yama, although later texts refer to ten : (1) Ahimsa, non-hurting (2) Satya, Truthfulness (3) Asteya, nopn-stealing (4) Brahmacharya, brahmanic conduct i.e. chastity (5) Aprigraha, greedlessness.
Yamas are called the ‘great vows meant to be practiced regardless of place time, circumstances, and one’s particular position in life. They have universal validity. They aim to uproot the most powerful human urges, that of sexuality and domination. If they are not effaced, they will cause a lot of psychomental confusion and disintegration. When the yogi acquires supernormal powers of siddhis in the process of yogic Sadhana, there is a danger of their belong grossly abused, to the detriment of others, and ultimately oneself.
The yogi seeks to realize the One in the Many. He then seeks to go beyond the Many. He finds his good in almost hermitic solitude, at the same time making his relationship with other beings as harmonious as possible.
To the Indian way of life, the rules comprised by Yama are reflections of the cosmic order ( dharma, rita). Without their preservation in the individual’s life, man can never attain emancipation.
The virtue of Ahimsa is more than a negative command not to hurt; in its wider positive meaning it means love. In this sense, it embraces all creation. To hurt a being is an insult to the Maker.
The yogi opposes the evil in the wrong-doer, but not the person of the wrong-doer. By this he appeals to the heart and works out the magical conversion. It is by loving a person while fighting the evil in him that one hopes to win the battle. He acts like a mother to an erring child.
Along with Ahimsa go abhaya (freedom from fear) and akrodha (freedom from anger). Freedom from fear comes only to those who lead a pure life. The yogi fears none and none need fear him. For a yogi is purified by self-study and company of the saints.
Satya or truth is the highest rule of conduct. ‘Truth is God, God is truth’. If the mind thinks of truth, the tongue ulters words of truth. If the whole life is based on truth, then a man is truly fit for union with the supreme Being. Reality, in its essence, is love and truth. It expresses itself through these two aspects. That is why Ahimsa, which is based on love, is enjoined by sacred texts. Untruthfulness puts the Sadhaka out of harmony with the underlying primary law of truth.
One who is established in truth, whatever he really needs comes to him on his own. God, the souce of all truth, supplies all his needs. One who prays with a pure heart, has no need to run after worldly things.
Asteya or non-stealing includes not taking what belongs to another without his consent, not using to other ends not intended by the owner. It means avoidance of misappropriation, breach of trust, misuse and mismanagement . The yogi reduces his physical needs to the minimum. He believes if he gathers more than what he really needs, he is a thief. Freedom from craving enables one to ward off temptations that disturb his tranquility or rob away his peace of mind. He who follows the commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal’, becomes a trusted repository of all treasures. Brahmacharya signifies the life of celibacy, religious study and self-restraint . the loss of semen paves the way to death and its retention to life. By the preservation of semen, the yogi’s body exudes a sweet smell. He has no fear of death. According to Sankracharya, a brahmachari (one who observes brahmacharya) is a man who is engrossed in the study of the sacred Vedic lore. He constantly moves in Brahman. He knows that everything abides in Brahman. In other words, he who sees divinity in all things is a true Brahmachari.
Patanjali, however, emphasises the importance of the continence of the body, speech and mind. It matters little whether one is a bachelor or a married one living the life of a householder. What is important is that he has made Brahmacharya a part and parcel of his day-to-day life. All the sruitis (codes of law) recommend marriage. Almost all the yogi and sages of old in India were married men having families of their own, they fulfilled their domestic and social duties and responsibilities. Thus marriage and parenthood are no bar to the knowledge of divine love, happiness or union with the Supreme Soul.
When one is established in brahmachara, one develops enormous vitality and energy. He gains a courageous mind and powerful intellect. He acquires the strength to fight against any type of injustice. The brahmachari uses the forces he generates wisely: he utilizes the physical powers for doing the work of the hand, the mental ones for the spread of culture and the intellectual ones for the growth of spiritual life.
The five percepts of yama are designed to purify the mind. They are a means of effectively blocking the three gates to hell, namely, sensual desire, anger and greed. They represent the first step towards the transformation of man by putting an end to heedlessness and neurotic compulsive nets.
To be free from hoarding or greedlessness is aparigraha. It is another version of asteya or non-stealing. By observance of aparigraha or non-hoarding, the yogi lives a simple life.
The five components of self discipline (Niyama) are: (1) Saucha, purity (2) Samtosha, contentment (3) tapas, asceticism (4) Savadhayaya, self-study (5) Ivara-pranidhana, devotion to the Lord.
The yogi is content with what he receives from life. The more he eradicates his ahamkara, abhimana (selfhood and pride), the more tranquillity he experiences. So much the less are his attachments to earthly joys and pleasures. As compared to the bliss of the Self, the pleasures of the world are vain. Equanimity, the all-embracing vision of sameness (sama-darshana) discloses to the yogi the One wherever he sees: “He whose self is yoked in Yoga (and who) everywhere beholds the same, sees the Self abiding in all beings and all beings in the Self.”
The third component of self-discipline (Niyama) is tapas (austerity). The word tapas literally means ‘heat, glow’. It is believed that the world has emerged from a Primeval Being who cause all creation through an act of self-heating (tapas). Likewise the yogi by austerities melts his individual cosmos. He thereby reverses the original act of creation. Thus what flows out of the One through tapas, is called back again through tapas.
Sacrifice and asceticism (tapas) are closely related. Tapas is the appropriation and utilisation of the powers inherent in the created universe. By this the yogi of tapasvin (ascetic) can attain to autonomy of the primordial creator. He thus gains supremacy over all beings and things. He can, like shiva, destroy or save, curse or bless. Or he can abandon his physical existence altogether. He can transcend the universe to seek identification with the indivisible Absolute, the supra-mundane One.
Tapas is the conscious effort to achieve ultimate union with the Supreme Being. It connotes a process to burn up all desires which stand in the way of this goal. It is necessary to make one’s life illumined, pure and divine.
Tapas is of three types : Kayika, relating to the body, vachika, to speech, manasika, or to mind. Continence (brahmacharya) and non-violence (ahimsa) are tapas of the body. Using words which do not offend, reciting the glory of God, speaking the truth without regard for the consequences to oneself and not speaking ill of others are tapas of speech. Developing a mental attitude whereby one remains tranquil and balanced in joy and sorrow and retains self-control are tapas of the mind.
This three-fold asceticism practiced with supreme faith by men (who are) yoked and not longing for the fruit (of their deeds) is designated as Sattva-natured.
(That) asceticism which is performed for the sake of (gaining) good treatment (from others), honour and reverence and with ostentation-that is called here ( in this world) rajas-natured. (It is) fickle and unsteady.
(That) asceticism which is performed (on account) of foolish conceptions (with the aim) of torturing oneself of (which has) the purpose of ruining another (person)-that is called tamas-natured.
Tapas must on no account degenerate into self-torture which only weaken body and mind. On the contrary, it ought to strengthen these and make them operational:
“Through asceticism clarity (Sattva) is attained, through clarity the mind –essence (manas) is attained, through the mind essence, the Self is attained ; he who has attained the Self does not return.”
Svadhaya must not be confused with intellectual learning. It is rather the meditative recitation of, and absorption into, the ancient wisdom. It is the immersion into the vibration of the chanted words to which a special power is attributed. By recitation the power of sound is unlocked. The mind of the Japin (recitant) is, as it were, transported into the centre of the sacred words. He thus becomes aware of their deep inner meaning.
Reflecting on the various aphoristic statements of Patanjali, God of the Yoga Sutrasappears as a ‘particular transcendent self-monad or purusha’. He is eternally undefiled by the cause of suffering , by action and its fruit and even by the deposits (as’aya) in the depth consciousness, i.e. the ‘activators’ (samskaras).
Patanjali clings to clear-cut dualism between Awareness monads and unconscious nature also thought to comprise the psychic and mental process together with the strict pluralism which implies that each living being has its own transcendental Awareness unit.
Indeed devotion to the Lord in classical yoga is not a submission to God but an attitude of loving adoration, only a means to “attain singleness of intent.” Nevertheless it is erroneous to suggest that one could very well cut out the sutras relating to the Lord, without even leaving a trace of excision.” Nor is it tenable to reduce god to a mere archetype of the yogi, as for example, M Eliade suggests. Instead Patanjali’s firm adherence to theism could well have its roots in the actual inner experience of the yogis.
Although God is formally different form countless Self-monads, essentially he fully coincides with them. In other words, there is only a numerical multiplicity. Qualitatively, God and Self-monads are one : for all Selves are omnipresent and hence intersect in eternity.
As a hawk tried to a rope can be brought back again when it has flown away, so consciousness (Jiva) bound to the primary constituents (guna) is pulled along the prana and apana.
The mind is not brought under control by many considerations. The only means for its control is nothing else but the vital force. It is by the invention of special breathing practices and the discovery of the mutual dependence of consciousness and vital force that it is possible to the influence the mind. The ordinary irregular flow of the vital force can be changed by bringing it under conscious control.