What is Yoga? The Spiritual Connection of Hinduism

      The seals excavated from Sindhu Sarasvati sites showing Rishis sitting in yogic postures suggest emergence of Yoga and Rig-Veda is intertwined. The practice of Tapas (sitting in deep contemplation) finds its mention in Vedas and Brahmanas at many places. Needless to say that Yoga has been around with Hinduism even before concepts like spirituality and religion came to exist. Our revered sages of ancient times, people who composed Vedas and subsequent scriptures have realized the importance of silencing human mind in an effort to focus on deeper depths of the mind in a serene quietness and away from subjective distortions.

The seals excavated from Sindhu Sarasvati sites showing Rishis sitting in yogic postures suggest emergence of Yoga and Rig-Veda is intertwined. The practice of Tapas (sitting in deep contemplation) finds its mention in Vedas and Brahmanas at many places. Needless to say that Yoga has been around with Hinduism even before concepts like spirituality and religion came to exist. Our revered sages of ancient times, people who composed Vedas and subsequent scriptures have realized the importance of silencing human mind in an effort to focus on deeper depths of the mind in a serene quietness and away from subjective distortions.

      They have realized that all human beings universally come across experiences that touch all of them in similar measures. And that basic questions like 1. Am I a good person? 2. Why do I suffer? 3. How am I connected to the world around me and what is my position therein? 4. Things happen in particular ways but why? 5. How can I live my life in best possible manner? This realization of existence of a divine light deep inside the human heart and the realization that the same light also exists in everyone else, became the base of universal inclusivity of Hinduism which make it stand taller than most other human thoughts throughout the long human history.

      These initial thoughts later got developed into separate subject called Spirituality. The Indian way of practising these essential human understandings with the objective of gaining mastery by mind over body and emotional self with a purpose to win over the human desires is what we call Yoga. Simply put, it is the unique combination of physical and spiritual experiences. The feeling of Spirituality is known to possess a person at any stage and may get kick start under numerous influences and need not be connected necessarily to any religious feelings or matters of faith. So, yearning for Spirituality is independent of religious affiliations. But Hinduism has never seen this experience as external to religious manifestations.

      Hinduism has been using this urge be taken as a way of life aimed at the individual finding his relationship to the external world and invocate him to find his own truth. This desire to go to the real self-truth has been the hallmark of Hinduism thought and is responsible for higher achievements. It will not be any exaggeration to say that Hinduism is the fruit of highest intellectual and spiritual development of our great ancestors with array of Rishis and Munis.

      At this stage we can also realize that religious ideas, the way we apply this term now a days, must be better based on scientific methods and disciplined observation—the same techniques which are used by all Scientists to come up with new discoveries which are known to transform our lives so much. If a process is so successful in one stream, why not replicate the same in another field. After all, most people earlier believed that world was flat but changed their conviction, even by going against their religious faith, that world is indeed round and spinning rather than stationary. So, if the religious ideas are totally based on faith and beliefs alone, there is possibility of mistaken understandings. Religion is fine and so is all the worship that we undertake but should the individual also seek rationale as what is the science of his religion? Should he not direct his thoughts inwardly to seek answers to many of the religious questions and longings within their own spiritual nature? Yoga is the answer to these questions and much more.

      Yoga practitioners of antiquity have realized right in the beginning that human mind needs to be silenced as a prerequisite for accurately reflecting objective reality without its own subjective distortions. Yoga was not to create that reality but it was to prepare the human mind to be capable of apprehending it by assisting it to transform from prevailing noises, clustered thoughts, crowded views and its natural monkey like nature to a still position where it is disconnected to not only physical body but to that intellect plain which gives rise to newer thoughts every split of seconds. Just for an example, Carl G Jung, an eminent Psychologist and Psychiatrist who founded 'analytical psychology' and a prolific writer on many subjects from Switzerland, described Yoga as "one of the greatest thing the human mind has ever created."

      Yoga practices have been developed over a long period of hundreds of years and finally got compiled by Mahrishi Patanjali as Yoga Sutra in the first century AD. Again, Patanjali is not the inventor of Yoga but only somebody who consigned the ancient practices into writing and should be credited as a compiler or redactor. Patanjali listed five distinct impulses 'vrittis' that slave the normal human mind, namely, Ignorance, Ego, Passion, Disgust and Lure for transient life. These impulses surface and resurface one after the other in inexhaustible and uncontrolled energy Since, these are basic part of human nature; one cannot win over these simply by study or understanding. Human being is deeply conditioned by Vasana (lust) and just having knowledge of it is not enough. Simply said, "Yoga is the science of mounting a constant pressure on the unconscious mind to bring it under control and to behave as directed such that it must follow your command like under a servant master relationship." But mind being a monkey; this situation is possible only after establishing a perfect balance among body, psychic, through strenuous practices of long drawn process and use of human intellect.

      Nature is supposed to contain gross manifestations (effects) and subtle (causes) perceptions. The gross can be easily perceived by senses. The practice of Yoga will lead to the acquisitions of more subtle perceptions. All orthodox Indian philosophy has liberation of the soul as a single goal of humanity. One of the main Philosophy emphasized on acquiring knowledge while other focused on right rituals and meditation as the way forward. But many renouncers found, in practice, liberation of soul only through study and meditation extremely difficult. The forces of visible material world with all its desires and passions held human beings in such a powerful grip that tougher measures were required to aim for Moksha. The most effective and most practised method devised to achieve that goal is called "Raja Yoga".

The Raja Yoga

      The science of Raja Yoga proposes to put before humanity a practical and scientifically worked out method of reaching this truth. All other scientific pursuits in any field require the laboratory to experiment and instruments. The laboratory used in Raja Yoga is the mind itself and it is also used as an instrument and as an equipment for observation. The power of attention when properly guided and directed towards the internal world, will analyze the mind. But turning the mind inside and stopping it from going out and then to concentrate all its power and finally throw those powers on the mind itself, is very difficult proposition. The only solace is that it is certainly not impossible as so many people are there who have made progress on their journey on this road in past and present alike.

      Unlike basic sciences, the prophetic religions are supposed to be based on personal experiences of their respective founders. It is understood to be difficult and, at times, impossible to get such experiences repeated by others. That is why, today, the preachers tell us to just to follow the religions based on faith without asking questions. But Yoga is the science teaching us how to get these perceptions/experiences by any human at any point of time. Logically speaking, there is no point in following a religion if you are personally unable to feel that experience yourself. But logic certainly does not apply to all religions. Not having experienced your own truth is comparable to having a soul inside you but never having a feel for it well within yourself. As per Vedas:

"...than alone all doubts vanish, all darkness get scattered when a person has grasped the truth, realized it and felt it in his heart of hearts".

      What is the use of such knowledge? Well it will take away all our miseries. Every misery comes from fear or from an unsatisfied desire ... for example, if you know that you are a soul and a soul never dies, you will have no fear of death. Once you are aware that you have become perfect and far above attachments and desires, you stop having desires. If you stop having desires, surely there can't remain unfulfilled desires. Let us be clear that desires can be only curtailed and never fulfilled. Because every time you try fulfilling one desire, newer desires are bound to crop up without any end.... Let us see how Raja Yoga helps in that direction.

      The final goal of Raja Yoga's all combined teachings is how to concentrate the mind, then how to discover inner most recesses of our own mind, then how to generalize their contents and form our own conclusions. As truth requires no prop to stand, the study of Raja Yoga requires no faith or belief. So it is quite universal in its approach and equally suitable for every age group or religion basis or gender or regional background person.

      Human body and mind are very well connected. If one gets disturbed, the other also gets impacted. With vast majority of humanity, the mind is largely under the control of body. (That situation brings them nearer to animals that also have little developed minds. Have we not seen them doing all the things that a human does for self or family except that they don't have the power of reasoning)? But before any attempt to control the mind, one is ought to sufficiently control the body. Here is the use of all the 'asanas' recommended for practising for a long period of time before one tries to graduate to higher level of pursuing the Yoga. All one gets out of pursuing all sorts of asanas is to manage control of mind over body. But that is only a small fraction of Yoga or just a baby step towards the long journey of Yoga. This explanation is just to preempt some of the readers who may be equating practice of asanas with Yoga. No, Yoga asanas are not for helping you get a muscular body. One should never forget that one who does opt for violent exercises, carry the risk of living shorter. People using their brains rather than their muscles, generally live much longer.

      As per Raja Yoga, the external world is but the gross form of the internal. The internal envisaged world, the subtler world, is the cause while external world is effect. Once the man is able to control his internal, he will get the whole external nature under his control. You must have heard that every big reality first takes shape in the mind of its designer. Similarly, a person seeking advantage from Yoga must first firm up his mind with a clear dream of what needs to be achieved. After all, if your drawing is not firm, what kind of construction you can expect physically.

      In religion, as much as in all other matters, one is advised to discard everything that weakens the person and adopt what strengthens him. One should not have anything to do with any such idea or concept or ritual that tends to make you less strong. Mysteries and andh-bhakti or such other illogical points weaken the human brain, so we are better advised to stay away from believing anything illogical or something that doesn't make sense to us. Another word of caution about extremes, an aspirant for Yoga practices must avoid the extreme of luxury as well as austerity He must neither observe fast too much nor torture his flesh. He who sleeps too much or works too much or he who does no work, none of these people can ultimately be a Yogi. So, bringing harmony in all actions and establishing our life style without going into extremes is a precondition for expected results. Further, it has been seen that in human society; too much wealth or too much poverty is a great impediment for the higher attempt for spiritual quest. It is, more often than not that the greats of the world come from middle of the strata.

Steps to Achieve Final Goal

      Contrary to general expectation, Yoga is not simply sitting in few absurd postures and achieves proficiency in sitting in some postures where many others are not able to hold their body. It is much more. Having a very narrow view on Yoga is a criminal waste and far from the complete system. It is a step-by-step journey to be learned only by practising. Simply getting knowledge of all the steps doesn't help in any way. Let us understand the steps needed for climbing one at a time and the journey must begin from the first step to avoid the risk of crash landing. Each stage is desired to be perfected first before going for the next step. Any one jumping from one to another or not qualifying step one before working on step two will never get expected results.
The whole process of Raja Yoga is divided into eight steps, named:

1. Yama,
2. Niyam,
3. Asana,
4. Prayanam,
5. Pratyahara (restraint of senses from their objects),
6. Dharana (fixing the mind on a single spot, concentration, ekagrata),
7. Dhyana, meditation, and finally
8. Samadhi.

      The texts suggest that each stage requires rigorous work spreading over years. So, any time one comes across someone promising quick results under the disguise of Yoga, is surely not to be relied. But we have a situation where it is difficult to find so much of spare time for going through the process step by step but the gains at the end are simply attractive. This dichotomy is the reason behind that people find difficult to let go Yoga advantages so easily. It is to bridge this gap that numerous commercialized versions are available all through the world promising instant Yoga advantages. But, the real Yoga is not open for fast forward mode. Neither there is room for some quick-fix solution or short cuts. Let us now talk about each step in some detail: Following Yam and Niyam are basic but essential preparation for Yoga. The aspirant is required to strictly follow the prescribed Yama (prohibitions) which include

      1. Practising Ahimsa—Killing of animals or incurring physical injury to some one will be but a limited meaning of Ahimsa. Unfortunately; English languages (like many other languages of the world) do not have a word to express the real power of Ahimsa. It refers to each and every action or thought which, directly or indirectly, result in harm of any living being. Besides actions, even speaking unkindly to any other human being or even getting a strong thought in the mind aimed at any type of harm to someone, will get qualifies as Himsa. As we have seen earlier, both action and thought are of equal importance throughout Indian systems. Following Ahimsa will include avoiding non injury to all, not causing pain to any one, having feeling of compassion towards all living creatures, following practice of forgivingness, having peace and equanimity towards self and others, abstaining from eating animal meats, avoiding actions of all types of cruelty including for animals and other living beings.

      2. Forbidden to Steal—means prohibition to grab whatever one wants and whenever he wants. Having any tendency of pilferage or for lifting any thing in excess of minimum required for basic living. A person should be satisfied in basic requirement of food and shelter being met without any grudge or objection. Contentment with minimum resources for minimum requirements is the point being talked here; not only the kind of stealing to be reported to police. The idea here is to develop a feeling of happiness by accepting one's life situations and conditions, what ever they are, and by developing the attitude of contentment so that one is not always engaged in piling up more and more. By practising this prohibition, we shall get relaxation of mind, a feel of peace; a distinct form of happiness.

      3. Must not Speak a Lie—"Satyam vada" the categorical statement coming out of the Upanishads makes it beyond any qualifications. At the same time, speaking truth must meet twin conditions of being necessary and kind. In other words, it means that one must speak kindly and only when necessary and must speak truth and only truth and nothing but truth, at all times and not even attempting any kind of distortion or addition or subtraction. Speaking truth at all times leads to purity of speech which then will lead to purity of mind. Thinking deep, one does realize that speaking truth is a natural to humanity but we have got habituated to move away from this on some or the other loose pretext. But every time a lie is spoken, there is a burden on soul and by abstaining from speaking we take a step towards our natural self. Truth is known to require strength and courage.

      4. Total Abstaining from Sex and Intoxication — for preserving physical and mental powers and enhancing will power, this prohibition goes a long way. Ancient Yogis claimed that of all the energies of human body, the highest is called "ojas”. This is stored up in the brain. A person having higher ojas is certainly more intellectual and spiritual. The power used during sex, when properly controlled, gets converted to ojas. So only a chaste man can make ojas rise and stored in brain. This is why chastity is considered highest human virtue among all religious orders in the whole world and Hinduism is not the only one advocating this great virtue.

      Similarly; intoxication weakens the power of judgement and comes out as absence of will power. Both these traits shall be required in abundance when we pursue further steps on our way up.

      Another word of caution! And this caution is applicable for all four points equally forcefully. All the four points in discussion above call for total abstaining. One can not talk about how many times are ok or how much is not ok. No, the matter is absolutely clear. Either one observes the prohibition or he doesn't. There is a no mind way.

      As a second step, and only upon complete success over the first step of following Yam, the aspirant must be able to follow for mastering over bodily and psychic disciplines. These include:

1. Complete Bodily and Mental Purity: This requires periodical baths, restricted eating, eating on time, getting regular exercises, sufficient amount of sleep, following schedules regularly, etc. The focus here is on being clean and disciplined.

2. Contentment: Being satisfied with life in totality. Contentment enables one to enjoy the peace of mind which will work on stress levels of the heart and mind will be handy for regulating the thought process in later stages. The mind of a person who is not contented, remains pursued on objects of unfulfilled desires and that will create road-blocks on the way of seeking spiritual gains.

3. Austerities: Fasting, penances, observing Dharma (behaving kindly and courteously to everyone no matter what is going inside the heart).

4. Studying Holy Scriptures and Repetition of AUM: Indian scriptures are full of knowledge on all human aspects. Regular reading of these scriptures has been known to provide encouragement to spirituality seekers for thousands of years. And regular rendering sound of "Aum" also is a symbolic move for showing complete faith in all Vedic literature. It is not to be taken as an abstract word. So any where one comes across mention of chanting "Aum", it implies, following everything mentioned in the Vedas and Upanishads.

5. Complete Surrender of your Individuality to Personal God: This Niyam requires us to surrender our complete existence to Eshwar meaning complete abandoning to the will of the Supreme. The merits of this surrender have been dealt in detail during our discussion on Gita where Krishna is heard encouraging Arjuna to leave everything to God. The firm belief of complete surrender to Supreme is desired to bring us nearer to God.

      Yam and Niyam combined are basically moral training; it is only based on the continued practice of these that further practice of Yoga will succeed. The dedication of aspirant in following these preparatory conditions goes to test and prove his spiritual ambition. Success in these is known to lead the practitioner to be a different kind of human being with a radical moral transformation.

      Yoga aspirant has to leave his unenlightened self behind, abandon Ahamkara and behave as if their soul is already liberated. Over a period of time, by sheer dent of practice, these ethical disciplines are to become second nature. No progress can be expected unless the above-mentioned controls are exercised and psychological transformation is achieved.

      At this stage, and only after the teacher is satisfied that the aspirant has mastered the Yam and Niyam, he allows the successful aspirant to start the first Asana. Sitting in crossed leg position for hours together, motionless with back, neck and head upward, the Yoga aspirant is supposed to learn to severe the link between his mind and his senses. Asanas include a series of exercises, physical and mental, to be gone through on daily basis until the higher states are reached.

      Different sages developed different postures over long years spanning centuries just to innovate their own tools that helped them in aiming for severance of mind from sense organs. In the process, some Asanas also got identified with providing direct indirect benefits for the physical fitness of internal organs of the body just as a bye-product. Yoga was never developed with physical health at the centre—for that, our sages had devised Ayurveda.

      One is allowed to find his own comfortable posture to continuously sit for long hours except that spinal column should remain erect in line with neck and head. After sitting, one has to purify the nerves by using techniques like 'Anulomvilom', 'bhastrika' and' Kapalbhanti'... according to one's own capacity. These may be practised four times everyday at dawn, midday, evening and midnight. Keeping body healthy and strong is a precondition for ensuring obstruction free asanas.

      It may have come as a new learning altogether. Because until now, we may not have understood the tough preparation originally designed for getting permissions for sitting for the first Asana. But once we apply the logic that Yoga is not so much to do with the body but the mind and consciousness, we start appreciating importance of the ground rules of physically challenging Yama and Niyam. This also helps us in realizing the gap in real Yoga and 'Instant Yoga' being served all around. Body is important but only in limited capacity. Body is the vehicle of soul where the mind is navigational tool. Of course, you need a good vehicle to reach your destination trouble free but once you reach the destination (and if you know that you are not going back) you park the vehicle in a parking lot and soon forget everything about it completely. The destination, here, is liberation of soul.

      As a next step of the ladder, the aspirant learns to regulate his breathing for inflicting even greater attack on one's subconscious self. Respiration by nature is a fundamental and automatic sequence in every living being. But for pursuing Pranayam, one has to learn to breathe more and more slowly with longer and longer pauses in-between. Prana is the force that is setting the whole engine of our body into motion. The most obvious manifestation of Prana is breath. Entering through the breath will enable us to find out about the subtle forces, the nerve currents that are moving all over the body. It is by controlling these nerves that one hopes to control the body. Finally, we shall try controlling the mind also.

      As a practical suggestion, you should get used to carryout a pre-pranayam routine where you take deep breath and throw it out for couple of times. Then take it in with one nostril and throw it out slowly through the other nostril and repeat the same sequence using other nostril. Initially; you may experience that you are unable to breathe deep enough or are unable to fill your lungs full enough, take it as natural. This practice will correct this tendency soon.

      The person dedicating himself to practise Yoga should try Pranayam minimum two times every day, in morning as well as in evening. And, undertaking all these steps with unstoppable regularity is the key. Doing it only when you have time and skipping on other occasions will result in skipping of success also.

      One should better have a special room/place kept exclusively for conducting Pranayam. It is like mandatory to enter the identified space with completely clean body and mind. You can also place flowers in this room, burn incense, no quarrel, and no anger and have no unholy thought in that room. To the extent possible, the entry to such a place should be restricted only for like-minded people. Basically, one has to create this special space as one's own temple. And once there, the aspirant should pray for seeking knowledge find clarity; prayer for seeking anything else will always qualify as selfish.

      Pranayam literally means control of Prana which has a much wider meaning than breath. Prana is infinite, omnipresent manifesting power of this universe. Everything called energy or force is evolved from Prana including gravitational and magnetic forces. Every action by the body; as nerve current or as a thought, is all manifestation of Prana. The sum total of all forces in the universe, mental or physical, when resolved back to their original state is called Prana. Controlling Prana is the end and aim of Pranayam. I am highlighting the point here with the idea of bringing the point home that there are several words in our Sanskrit that a language like English fails to convey even a small fraction of that. Prana vs Breath is one such example.

"He who has controlled the Prana has controlled his own mind and all other minds that exist. He has controlled his body and all other bodies that exist, because Prana is the generalized manifestation of force."

      The Prana is the vital force in everything. Thought is the finest and highest action of Prana. Thoughts are at different planes — instinctive thoughts (like reflex to hit a mosquito if it bites), the conscious thought (based on reasoning, judging, looking at pros and cons) and finally the super conscious thoughts. All thoughts are part of Prana.

      Initial success of Pranayam shall be visible within few months of concentrated work e.g. expression of one's face should look better, calmness should be visible, voice quality should have improved—and the whole of nature will begin to change and one's own source book of knowledge will open out.

      All actions, internal as well as external, occur when the mind joins itself to certain centres, called organs. Hence, nothing wrong or unwanted will be done if the mind remains under control. Is it possible? Yes, actually this control is also possible by another person. That is what precisely hypnotic tricks are all about. But such involuntary controls results in disastrous consequences as it uses lots of energy from the mind that is getting controlled externally. Pratyahara, meaning "gathering towards" implies that a person has succeeded in attaching/detaching/controlling his mind to or from the centres at will. Once this stage is achieved, one can indeed say that person has become man from the earlier position of being a machine. And this is certainly a long step towards real 'Freedom'.

      How hard is it to control the mind? Human mind is just like a monkey, incessantly active by its own nature, than it gets drunk on desires, thus increasing the turbulence even further. After the desire, there is a further sting of scorpion called jealousy and last of all demons that enter the mind is demon of pride. So... first of all sit for a while and let the mind run on. Give it long rein and let it wander where ever it wishes to. Don't get astonished thinking that such bad thoughts can entre your mind. It is normal, it can happen with anyone. Once you practise sitting in Asana over a good period, the number of thoughts entering the mind will gradually reduce, and in few more months, these will become fewer than before, until at last the mind will be under perfect control. This controlling and not allowing it to join with organs is "Pratyahara". One has to be prepared for a long journey, as it is not going to happen so easily.

      Having mastered Pratyahara, next thing to work on is Dharana also called Ekagrata, one pointed concentration. Aim is direct concentration on a single object or idea or even body organ in an uninterrupted manner. Important thing is to put away any emotion or association or distractions that try to invariably rush into the mind. Finally, when the Chitta or mind stuff, is confined and limited exclusively to a certain specific point, it is Dharana/Ekagrata achieved.

      The Yoga aspirant must always practise, should try to live alone as much as possible; the companionship is a distraction of mind. He should not speak much or work much for the same reason. The biggest advantage of Yoga is that it tones down nervous excitement, brings calmness and enables human to see things more clearly. Temperament will improve positively and so will be tlie health and voice/sound.

      One should give up all argumentation as it only throws the mind off its balance. Talking does not help in realizing things of subtle planes, so give up all vain talks. Also give up the desire for nibbling on one idea after another. To ensure full success, take up only one idea. Make it your life—think, dream and live only that one idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves be fully focused on that very idea with all their capabilities and energies.

      Having followed all above steps of Raja Yoga, one comes to Dhyana, meditation. When the mind has been fully trained to remain fixed on a certain internal or external idea/action/thought for as long as desired by the Yogi, it is called Dhyana. Having reached this stage, the master Yogi thus sinks deeply into his inner world and away from ordinary consciousness that he enters the state called "Samadhi", trance. In this stage he is able to control his psychic life and he becomes Abhedya, impervious, invulnerable for his own condition. At this stage, hot, cold, hunger and sleep, etc. are no more personal concerns.

      Pranayam throws out all impurities of the body. By Dharana, all impurities of the mind get thrown out and by Pratyahara, all impurities of attachment meet the same result. Finally, when Samadhi gets achieved, one reaches the stage where everything that hides the lordship of the Soul is taken off.

      Finally, in Raja Yoga, the Yoga of Meditation, Gita teaches how to discipline the mind and senses until the mind process is suspended in complete emptiness and merging in the Self. Later, especially after arrival of Bhagvad Gita, some other types of Yoga also got recognition. These were said to have same ultimate purpose taking a different route to reach the ultimate goal. Let us briefly talk about these as well.

Karma Yoga (The Yoga of Action)

      Many earlier philosophies encouraged seeker to leave the Sansar and go in search of truth to a Guru or some forest academy. But Gita presented yet another way and called it "Karma Yoga". It suggests work to be carried out without any attachment to the work itself or desire of results—like Nishkama Karma. Under Karma Yoga, one is asked to dissolve his body mind identity by connecting with whole of life and dedicating yourself in service of others without any attachment and without expecting anything in return. This allowed normal people to continue engaged in normal activities as householders without losing their claim for liberation. It was a good reply to both Buddhism and Jainism which encouraged its followers to leave behind everything and pursue liberation as a single-minded activity. One can imagine a situation of the society if all able bodied people decide to hang their boots and start pursuing Moksha following the ascetic life. That is certainly no practical situation for the universe to continue.

      Simply put, Karma Yoga is a path of doing the right thing, of following one's own swa-dharma and accepting destiny as it comes. One, who discharges his duty without getting attached to results of his work and adopts right means, is a Karma Yogi. To drop the doer from the action is Karma Yoga. To see one self as a divine tool and to be happy to offer the results of his actions to the divine is following karma yoga. (Peter Marchand)

Bhakti Yoga (The Yoga of Devotion)

      In recognition of the general mood of thinkers of its time, Gita explains Bhakti as a mode of total surrender to the chosen God. Point is mere knowledge of scriptures can't lead to Moksha. One has to have Gyan, Karma and Bhakti. This way Gita, again, opened vast potential for normal householders engaged largely in their chorus to seek Moksha in the easiest of all and quickest possible way. No wonder, Bhakti was later to become such a great movement and attracted substantially large number of followers that the earlier recommended paths of knowledge could have never dreamt of. By exposing a seeker to Bhakti Yoga, the same goal is taught to be achieved by identifying with their God in love and devotion by completely devoting one's own identity to his chosen Ishta Deva. This is by and large the only path followed by Islam and Christianity. Here your love for your God allows you to close your mind and just follow the path shown without looking anywhere or applying any logic.

Gyan Yoga (The Yoga of Knowledge)

      The word knowledge taken here does not apply in intellectual form of the word but the knowledge of Atman and Brahman. This is the path of wisdom and direct experience of Brahman as the ultimate reality. It renounces both desire and action. But it is understood to be very steep and difficult to practise. Throughout the long history of mankind only a select and elite group has been able to proceed on this path.

      While under Bhakti the devotee follows the promptings of his heart, in case of Gyan Yoga he uses the power of mind to discriminate the real from unreal. The aspirant here is supposed to use his will and discrimination to get out of the normal attached identity with body and mind until he realizes the real Self. In conclusion, it can be said that all four schools need to be blended in appropriate proportions. Any single school looks incomplete without others. So, aspirants are advised to follow all schools to ensure full advantages.

      In addition to above four distinct schools, we also come across some other forms of Yoga: the prominent among those are Tantra, Mantra and Hath Yoga. We will have a good look at Tantra and Mantra under the topic 'Sects of Hinduism' but we still need to touch base with Hath Yoga. Hath is part of Tantra Yoga which puts all concentration on step number three and four of Ashtanga Yoga or Raja Yoga. It is actually a short cut process to avoid other steps with the aim of quickly reaching the last step. Hath Yoga focuses on postures and breath control to energize the subtle nadies.

      There is one more important point in there to understand with reference to Yoga practitioners. And it relates to the knowledge that the final benefit will not arrive all of a sudden. Yoga requires a lot of efforts and a lot of practice. Regularity is the key to success; half an hour per day in not equal to three and half hour on Sunday. But consolation is that some advantage is assured every time one sits for practising Yoga. It is not that if we are not able to reach to the destination, there will be no gains. There is proportional advantage related to the degree of our progress. Spiritual peace and power is expected to flow towards practitioner in the same proportion that he loses his individuality. Yoga trains a person to consciously suppress individuality by proper physical, mental, moral and spiritual development.

Post a Comment

Do not post any spam link here.

Previous Post Next Post