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-: Yoga :-

Introduction

Historical Survey      Yoga Basics   Schools of Yoga

Types of yoga    Lord Shiva -  Maha Yogi      Yoga: Taming the Body, Dissolving the Mind
Lord Krsna - Master of Yoga         Yoga: The Royal Path to Freedom 
Kundalini - The Power of the Serpent         Goal of Yoga  Yoga in the Modern World

TEN Mudra for Amazing Health Benefits

 

Introduction of Yoga

"Living souls are prisoners of the joys and woes of existence
to liberate them from nature's magic the knowledge of the brahman is necessary.
It is hard to acquire, this knowledge, but it is the only boat,
to carry one over the river of Samsara. A thousand are the paths that lead there,
Yet it is one, in truth, knowledge, the supreme refuge!

                                                     - Yoga Upanishad

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From times immemorial India has made creative efforts to explore the higher dimensions of Existence and Consciousness for enrichment of human knowledge and personality. In India, philosophy has been more than a sheer speculative quest, linked as it is with a living, creative and illuminating discipline which is known as Yoga. Yoga is a unique scientific discipline that leads to inner transformation and a definite psychological state of conscious enlightenment. The secret lies in the awakening and development of Yogic vision or higher perception through a sound and clean methodology that brings a luminous, intuitive perception into the truth of things. Divya Chakshu is the divine prophetic eye, the power of seeing, what is not visible to the naked eye. 

"To thee, I grant the Eye Divine,
Behold my Cosmic Splendor Line.

       - Bhagavad Gita xl.8.

The word yoga derives from a Sanskrit root meaning 'to join' suggesting the fusion of the two principles atman and brahman, self and totality. It is interpreted to mean the union of individual consciousness or 'Jiva-atman' with Parmatma - Universal Being or Over-Soul. It has been practiced since very early times in India and is supported by engraved seals discovered at Indus-Saraswati civilization. Its association with India is beyond doubt, and it is certainly central to Hinduism. 

 ***

Yoga, derived from the root yuj (to yoke, to unite). A man who seeks after this union is called a yogin or yogi. There are four manin division of yoga: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga. Panini, the grammarian, explains the meaning of yoga as union with the Supreme. Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutra, defines yoga as 'cessation of all changes in consciousness.' Yoga is the science and praxis of obtaining liberation (moksha) from the material world. It not only points the way to release, but offers a practical means of arriving there. Yoga is a practical path to self-realization, a means of attaining enlightenment by purifying the entire being, so that the mind-body can experience the absolute reality underlying the illusions of everyday life. It is one of the most famous of Hinduism's philosophical traditions, now practiced by Hindus, Christians, agnostics and atheists alike. Yoga has many meanings and comes in many forms. It is also based on an underlying philosophy that is linked to other schools of Hindu thought. Vedantins interpret Yoga as return of the individual atman to the Supreme. The Yoga with which most Westerners are familiar is Hatha Yoga, consisting of bodily exercises. The Philosophy of Yoga is called Raja Yoga, (the royal path), or Patanjala Yoga, referring to Patanjali, the reputed author of the Yogasutras, the basic Yoga manual. Because of its close connection with the philosophical system of Sankhya, it is also known as Sankhya-Yoga. 

Yoga literally means "junction". In the Upanishads the term Yoga signifies the union of the personal soul with the soul of the universe. As a system of philosophy is codified in the Yogasutras of Patanjali where Yoga is defined as the "cessation of movements of the mind." Swami Kuvalnanada and Dr. V. Vinekar have compared yoga to a Vina "which gives heavenly music only when its strings are attuned adequately and played upon harmoniously. One of the principal meanings of yoga is sangati - harmony. Joy of positive health depends on harmony between all bodily and mental functions. True Yoga is in all things wise and calm. 

Ordinarily a man is lost in his own confused thought and feeling, but when Yoga is attained the personal consciousness becomes stilled 'like a lamp in a windless place' and it is then possible for the embodied spirit to know itself as apart from the manifestations to which it is accustomed, and to become aware of its own nature. 

Yoga, is the union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. Just as camphor melts and becomes one with the fire; just as a drop of water when it is thrown into the ocean, becomes one with the ocean, the individual soul, when it is purified, when it is freed from lust, greed, hatred and egoism, when it becomes Satvic, becomes one with the Supreme Soul. 

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History of Yoga

Yoga has a long history. It is an integral subjective science. The very earliest indication of the existence of some form of Yoga practices in India comes from the Harappan culture which can be dated at least as far back as 3000 B.C. A number of excavated seals show a figure seated in a Yoga position that has been used by the Indian Yogis for meditation till the present day. One of the depicted figures bears signs of divinity worshipped as the Lord of Yoga. At the time of excavations at Mohenjadaro, Stuart Piggot wrote: "There can be little doubt that we have the prototype of the great god Shiva as the Lord of the Beast (Pashupati) and prince of Yogis."  

The seeds of the yoga system may be discovered in the Vedic Samhita because the Vedas are the foundation of Indian culture philosophy and religion. Hiranyagarbha of the earliest Vedic and Upanishadic lore is spoken of as the first Being to reveal Yoga: hiranyagarbha yogasya vakta nanyah puratanoh. It indicates that mental Yoga exercises were known and played a substantial part in the religious and philosophical outlook of the epoch. The philosophy of Yoga was ancient and was based on the Upanishads. The Svetasvatara Upanishad says: "Where fire is churned or produced by rubbing (for sacrifice), where air is controlled (by Yoga practices), then the mind attains perfection. In the Katha Upanishad, yoga is likened to a chariot in which the reasoning consciousness is the driver, and the body is the cart. Mastery of the body is thus achieved by control of the senses. This text is an early example of the basic yogic belief that the mind and body are not inherently separate but linked. The Upanishads accept the Yoga practice in the sense of a conscious inward search for the true knowledge of Reality. One if the most famous Upanishads, the Katha, speaks of the highest condition of Yoga as a state where the senses together with the mind and intellect are fettered into immobility. 

Western scholars have generally underestimated the antiquity of Yoga. However, examining the Rig Veda from the point of view of spiritual practice, the British vedicist Jeannie Miller has concluded that the practice of meditation (dhyana) as the fulcrum of Yoga goes back to the Rig Vedic period. She observes: "The Vedic bards were seers who saw the Veda and sang what they saw. With them vision and sound, seership and singing are intimately connected and this linking of the two sense functions forms the basis of Vedic prayer." Vedic Indians knew how to celebrate life, but they also had a penchant for deep thought, solitary concentration, and penance.  Dating from a period of the Aryans in India, Yoga has had an enormous influence on all forms of Indian spirituality, including Hinduism, Buddhist, and Jain and later on the Sufi and Christian. The teaching of Buddhism which arose in India are similar to those of yoga: striving toward nirvana and renouncing the world. Indeed, some kind of meeting between yoga and early Buddhism certainly took place, and one of the Buddhist schools is actually called Yogachara (practice of Yoga). Indian Buddhism spread throughout Asia, some ideas from Yoga were carried into Tibet, Mongolia, China, and from there on into Japan. Indeed, Zen is a specific form of Yoga's dhyana or 'transcendental meditation' and the word Zen (like the Chinese tchan) is a simple phonetic development from Sanskrit dhyana. 

Yoga can be said to constitute the very essence of the spirituality of India. Yoga, the science and the art of perfect health, has come down to us from time immemorial.

Within the broad spectrum of Hindu philosophy, Bharatiya Darsana, there are generally considered to be six schools, the Sadarsanas or systems of opinion. The six systems are the Vedic schools of Mimamsa, Vedanta, Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Sankhya, and Yoga. All of these are of classical Hindu origin and expounded by the finest minds.

Sri Aurobindo said: "All life is Yoga." It means human life itself is yoga because many things are united in human organism.

Thomas Berry has observed: "As a spirituality, Yoga is intensely concerned with the human condition, how man is to manage the human condition, to sustain his spiritual reality in the midst of life's turmoil and to discipline his inner awareness until he attains liberation. Yoga can be considered among the most intensely felt and highly developed of those spiritual disciplines that enable man to cope with the tragic aspects of life. The native traditions of India are all highly sensitized to the sorrows inherent in the world of time and the need to pass beyond these sorrows. Hinduism sought relief in the experience of an absolute reality beyond the phenomenal order. Buddhism is particularly indebted to Yoga tradition for its basic mental discipline."

L Adams Beck has observed:

"The true yogin is really the exponent of a wonderful and ancient system of psychology, one far more highly developed than any known in the West. He is the man who in mastering the secrets of the phenomenal life of the senses prepares us for the approach  through death to Reality.  In this matter, India took her straight and fearless flight to the innermost and outermost confines of thoughts and experience. "

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Basics of Yoga

The aim of Yoga is the transformation of human beings from their natural form to a perfected form. Yoga is a precise practical method of spiritual training which goes back to very ancient times. These methods have, of course, been progressively developed and thoroughly tried over the centuries, and are collectively known as Yoga. Yoga is one of the many paths leading to release. It adopts numerous guises and techniques. Perhaps it is more of a praxis for salvation than a philosophy.  

Certain elements of Yoga are found in Vedic texts but an even greater antiquity than that has been attributed to the system. The various ascetic and practical theories were drawn up into a darsana, which became orthodox in the Vedantic period, called Yoga. It is the complimentary darsana to the Sankhya and has special application to the Hatha Yoga. But the Yoga is theistic whereas the Sankhya is not. 

Several Upanishads mention Yoga, for example the Taittiriya Upanishad and especially the Katha which defines it as “the firm restraint of the senses.” The purpose stated in the Yogasutras is the same for all the Yogas, namely, to free oneself from the determinism of transmigration. The final aim of Yoga is identification by means of knowledge, with the Absolute. 

By suppression of the passions and detachment from all that is exterior to him, the ascetic attains superior states of unshakeable stability which eventually end in mystical communion, in a state of Samadhi, with the essence of his soul. The state of Samadhi is the culmination of Yoga and beyond it lies release. It is a suspension of all intellectual processes that lead to instability. Samadhi, then, is a “state without apprehension”. The life of the soul is not destroyed but is reduced to its “unconscious and permanent” essence. Yoga is, properly speaking, union with the self.  When thus “isolated”, mind is the same as purusa when it is freed from mental impressions “like a precious stone isolated from its veinstone.”   

The aim of Yoga is to tear the veil that keeps man confined within the human dimension of consciousness. Yoga is radically different from the normal consciousness of human beings. This is a point of paramount importance of every seeker of Yoga to bear in mind. The various aspects of this alteration have been clearly brought out by the Indian adepts. "I have realized this great Being who shines effulgent, like the sun, beyond all darkness," says the author of Svetasvatara Upanishad (3-8). "One passes beyond death only on realizing Him. There is no other way of escape from the circle of births and deaths." Here is one of the most prominent signs of genuine experience of the Self. The fear of death and uncertainly about the Beyond is over. "O Goddess, this embodied conscious being (the average mortal) cognizant of his body, composed of earth, water and other elements, experiencing pleasure and pain," says Panchastavi (5.26) "even though well-informed (in worldly matters ), yet not versed in thy disciplines, is never able to rise above his egoistic body-consciousness. This another noteworthy sign. Close association of consciousness with the body leads to the fear of death, as it precludes the possibility of the self-awareness, as an incorporate Infinity, beyond the pale of time, space, birth and deaths.

Yoking the Horses of the Mind

"Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff from taking different forms," says Swami Vivekananda. The mind-stuff may be imagined as a calm, translucent lake with waves or ripples running over the surface when external thoughts or causes effect it. These ripples form our phenomenal universe - i.e. the universe as it is presented to us by our senses. If we can make these ripples cease, we can pass beyond thought or reason and attain the Absolute State.

Yoga represents a central and pivotal concept in Indian culture and some understanding of this is essential for those who wish to grasp the deeper significance behind Hinduism. The relationship between the Brahman and Atman, between the all-pervasive divinity and its reflection within individual consciousness, is the main concept behind Vedantic philosophy. Spiritual realization involves in some way a joining of the Atman and the Brahman in its broadest sense. Yoga represents both the process as well as the goal of this union. 

Yoga fall into categories as according to the spiritual path one chooses at the outset but the end remains the same. The thousand years old experience of the Hindus lead them to classify Yoga adepts into several kinds.  

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The Stages of Yoga

The upward progress of the Yogin towards the supreme end is made up of eight stages, known in the Sutras as Yogangas. They are as follows:

1.Yama (moral virtue); 2. Niyama (rules and observances); 3. Asana (bodily postures); 4. Pranayama (control of the life force); 5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses far from the external world); 6. Dharana (memory); 7. Dhyana (meditation); 8. Samadhi (total concentration).  

The other Yogangas  

Pratyahara: the Yogin withdraws his senses from the temptations of the outside world. Dharana: a true conception of things.Dhyana: meditation in one of the asanas. Without meditation nothing is possible. 

Samadhi: this is the final stage which the Yogin reaches when he has attained complete spiritual fulfillment. Without Samadhi it is impossible to know Truth.  

The ancient doctrines of Yoga are broken up into the Hatha Yoga (the asanas and pranayama are its chief elements), Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. 

Only when he has practiced the different disciplines common to all the Yogas does the Yogin begin to reap the fruit of dhyana or “meditation” in the form of absolute concentration. Scholars trace the origins of Laya Yoga in the Samaveda but its full explanation is to be found in the Chandogya Upanishad.  

In the Bhagavad Gita the Lord says: 

“”This unfaltering Rule I declared to Vivasvat; Vivasvat declared it to Manu, and Manu told it to Ikshvaku.    
“Thus was this Rule passed down in order, and kingly sages learned it; but by length of time, O affrighter of the foe, it has been lost here.   
“Now is this ancient Rule declared by Me to thee, for that thou are devoted to Me, and friend to Me; for it is a most high mystery.”

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Schools of Yoga

Sankhya and Yoga are regarded as twins, the two aspects of a single discipline. Sankhya provides a basic theoretical exposition of human nature, enumerating and defining its elements, analyzing their manner of co-operation in the state of bondage (bandha), and describing their state of disentanglement or separation in release (moksha), while Yoga treats specifically of the dynamics of the process of disentanglement, and outlines practical techniques for the gaining of release, or "isolation-integration" (kaivalya). The two systems in other words supplement each other and conduce to the identical goal.

The Sankhya System

Founded by the rishi or Sage Kapila, Sankhya offers freedom from the pain and misery of samsara. Sankhya philosophy is scientific in treatment and, perhaps, the most appealing to the mind of our technological age. Sankhya also falls under two groups marshalled behind the two great exponents of the school of thought, Kapila and Patanjali. Kapila's philosophy does not take into consideration the God-principle, while Patanjali adds to the fundamental factor of his doctrine the concept of Isvara. On this bases these philosophies are termed Nirisvara (without God principles) Sankhya and Saisvara (belief in God principle) Sankhya.

Sankhya is derived from the word "Sankhya" which means numbers. 

Sankhya-Yoga is possibly the oldest among the Indian systems. It has become, in one form of another, part and parcel of most major religions of India: hence we find Samkhya-Yoga combined with Vaisnavism, Saivism, and Saktism, and most of the Puranas contain numerous chapters on Sankhya-Yoga as a path to salvation. Sankhya ideas may be found already in the cosmogonic hymns of the Rig Veda, in sections of the Atharvaveda, in the idea of the evolution of all things from one principle, dividing itself, in the Upanishads and also in the Upanishadic attempts to arrange all phenomena under a limited number of categories. The oldest traditional textbook of the school is the Sankhya-karika of Isvara Krsna. The Sankhya Karikas begins with the aphorism: "From torment by three-fold misery the inquiry into the means of terminating it."

No philosophy has had greater influence on Ayurveda than Sankhya’s philosophy of creation, or manifestation. According to Sankhya, behind creation there is a state of pure existence or awareness, which is beyond time and space, has no beginning or end, and no qualities. Within pure existence there arises a desire to experience itself, which results in disequilibrium and causes the manifestation of primordial physical energy.

This energy is the creative force of action, a source of form that has qualities. Matter and energy are closely related: when energy takes form, we tend to think of it in terms of matter rather than energy. The primordial physical energy is imponderable and cannot be described in words. The most subtle of all energies, it is modified until ultimately our familiar mental and physical energy unite for the dance. 

Pure existence and primordial energy unite for the dance of creation to happen. Pure existence is simply “observing” this dance. Primordial energy and all that flows from it cannot exist except in pure existence or awareness. These concepts of awareness are central to the ancient philosophy of Ayurveda and, ultimately, to maintaining health in human beings.

Sankhya, like all other Indian philosophical systems, aims to offer help in gaining freedom from suffering. In order to do so, it has to analyse the nature of the world in which we live and identify the causes of suffering. Sankhya postulates a fundamental dualism of spirit (purusa) and matter (prakrti), and locates the cause of suffering in a process of evolution that involves spirit in matter. Kapila's philosophy is entirely dualistic, admitting only two things. Purusa (the spirit) and Prakrti (inert matter) as pradhanam, the main factor of the creation of the world. Purusa, energy, is eternal, caitanya or pure intelligence is the cause of the world; while Prakrti is the subject of existence. Prakrti is constituted by three principles (gunas) which are in an unstable equilibrium:

a. sattva, or lightness
b. rajas, or impetus
c. tamas, or inertia

In the state of dissolution (pralaya) these three qualities are quiescent, evenly balanced, and there is no creation. But, once the equilibrium is disturbed, creation takes place.

In The Philosophy of ancient India, Richard Garbe (1857-1927) expresses great admiration for Kapila, saying, “In Kapila’s doctrine, for the first time in the history of the world, the complete independence and freedom of the human mind, its full confidence in its own powers were exhibited.” Arthur Anthony Macdonell (1854-1830) asserts that for the first time in the history of the world it “asserted the complete independence of the human mind and attempted to solve its problems solely by the aid of reason. Dr. S Radhakrishnan (1888-1975) wrote: "When the self realizes that it is free from all contacts from nature, it is released." As per Will Durant (1885-1981) the last word of Hindu religious thought is moksha, release - from first desire, then from life."

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Patanjali defines Yoga as the “cessation of movements of the mind.”  - "Yoga Citta Vritti Nirodha"

Ignorance consists in attributing permanence,
Subjectivity, homogeneity and pleasurability to
What is impermanent, non-substantial, non-
homogenous and painful. 

   - Yoga Sutra 2,5).

The other part of the Sankhya darsana is Patanjali's yoga. The sutras on yoga are propounded by Patanjali and Maharishi Vyasa is known to be its main commentator. Here they have introduced the principle of God (Isvara) as Pranidhanam and that is why it is also known as Sa-Isvara Sankhya.

The term yoga, according to Patanjali's definition, means the final annihilation (nirodha) of all the mental states (cittavrtii) involving the preparatory stages in which the mind has to be habituated to being steadied into particular types of graduated mental states. This was actually practiced in India for a long time before Patanjali lived; and it is very probable that certain philosophical, psychological, and practical doctrines associated with it were also current long before Patanjali. Patajali's work is, however, the earliest systematic compilation on the subject that is known to us. 

The Patanjali Yogasutra explains more fully how the subtler senses and organs can be developed by men who seek God who is none other than their own true innermost spirit. To achieve this end, a whole science of yoga has been developed, and the Yoga Darsana is the most useful 'darsana' for a sadhaka (spiritual aspirant). 

This is the second of the systematic or integral expositions of the Yoga technique that have been preserved from ancient times. The term Yoga, according to Sage Patanjali's definition, means the final annihilation (nirodha) of all the mental states (cittavrtti) involving the preparatory stages in which the mind has to be habituated to being steadied into particular types of graduated mental states. The Yoga doctrine taught by Patanjali are regarded as the highest of all Yoga (Rajayoga), as distinguished from other types of Yoga practices, such as Hatha yoga or Mantrayoga. 

If Sankhya describes the evolution of matter, its diversification into a manifold, Yoga describes the process of reducing multiplicity to Oneness. Yoga is not mere theory, although it is one of the philosophical systems. It also implies physical training, will power and decisions. It deals with the human condition as a whole and aims at providing real freedom, not just a theory of liberation. The Yogasutras are a short work containing 194 brief aphorims arranged in four parts entitled: a. samadhi (concentration) b. sadhana (practice) c. vibhuti (extraordinary faculties) d. kaivalya (ultimate freedom. The Yoga described in the Yogasutras has also been described as astanga yoga, 'eight-limbed Yoga.' 

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Types of Yoga

"Hinduism has taken into consideration the fact that people are of different tastes, temperaments, predilections, and bent of mind, and therefore has accepted the need for different paths for different individuals to suit their requirements. Thus four different paths have been laid down: Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga. Followers of all the four paths have the common goal of merging with the Supreme Reality. While the Jnana Yogin aims at reaching his goal by the realization of his identity with the Supreme Reality, the Bhakti Yogin surrenders his individuality at the feet of the Lord, his beloved; the Karma Yogin realizes his goal by work unattached to the fruits thereof and the Raja Yogin soars ahead by physical and psychic control culminating in 'merging' through Samadhi. 

1. Jnana Yoga - is the way of wisdom. 

The Jnana Yoga is monist. The aim of asceticism is to reach Knowledge and gain access to noumenal truth. The word jnana means "knowledge", "insight," or "wisdom". Jnana-Yoga is virtually identical with the spiritual path of Vedanta, the tradition of nondualism. Jnana Yoga is the path Self-realization through the exercise of understanding, or, to be more precise, the wisdom associated with discerning the Real from the unreal. 

The term jnana-yoga is first mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, where Lord Krishna declares to his pupil Prince Arjuna: "Of yore I proclaimed a twofold way of life in this world, o guileless Arjuna - Jnana Yoga for the samkhyas and Karma Yoga for the yogins." (III.3). Jnana Yoga represents the knowledge of the self in general. Self is present everywhere and all bodies are perishable. The self never perishes. It never dies even though body is killed. The Yoga of knowledge represents the knowledge of the self, and the self is eternal, omnipresent, imperishable and omniscient. 

Jnana Yoga is the most arduous way, reserved for an elite and in it the Yogin must go beyond the plane of Maya. Jnana Yoga leads to an integration through knowledge, gnosis. Also, there is dhyana yoga. The Sanskrit dhyana becomes Ch'an in Chinese which becomes Thom in Vietnamese, Son in Korean, Zen in Japanese. This yoga is specifically what gets called the yoga of meditation.  All these constitute the Buddhi yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, that is, the yoga of integrated intelligence and will. 

2. Bhakti Yoga - is the way of exclusive devotion to God. 

Bhakti Yoga is the supreme devotion to the Lord. Bhakti is intense attachment to God who is the Indweller in all beings, who is the support, solace for all beings. Bhakti yoga is integration through love or devotion. It teaches the rules of love, for it is the science of the higher love; it teaches how to direct and use love and how to give it a new object, how to obtain from it the highest and most glorious result, which is the acquisition of spiritual felicity. The Bhakti Yoga, does not say "abandon" but only love, love the Most High". 

3. Karma Yoga - is the way of selfless work. 

To exist is to act. Karma yoga means the discipline of action or integration through activity. Karma Yoga is the Yoga of self-surrendered action. Even an inanimate object such as a rock has movement. And the building blocks of matter, the atoms, are in fact not building blocks at all but incredibly complex patterns of energy in constant motion. Thus, the universe is a vast vibratory expanse. Karma Yoga is selfless service unto humanity. Karma Yoga is the Yoga of action which purifies the heart and prepares the heart and mind for the reception of Divine Light or the attainment of Knowledge of the Self. But this has to be done without attachment or egoism. The karma yoga of The Gita is a unique philosophy of action and it declares that nature has given the right of action to man only and the right of the result of action is under the authority of nature. But the action is a duty of man; therefore he should perform actions without the desire of fruit. Lord Krishna says: "Not by abstention from actions does a man enjoy action-transcendence, nor by renunciation alone does he approach perfection." (III, 4). Then God Krishna, who communicates these teachings to his pupil Arjuna, points to himself, as the archetypal model of the active person: "For Me, O son of Pritha, there is nothing to be done in the three worlds, nothing ungained to be gained - and yet I engage in action." (III.22). 

4. Raja Yoga  - The Respelendent Yoga of Spiritual Kings    

This refers to the Yoga system of Patanjali, is commonly used to distinguish Patanjali's eight-fold path of meditative introversion from Hatha Yoga. Psycho-physical practices for mind and cure have been part of Hindu medical science in the ancient times and no wonder Dr. freud and other modern psychologists are just the beginners in the field discovering the age-old science. Sri Aurobindo observed: "Indian yoga is experimental psychology. Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, the Upanishads - these and the Saiva Siddhanta treatises - furnish pioneering examples of experimental psychology." "In Indian psychology they proceed from the basis of the supremacy of mind over matter and postulate Atman as the ultimate Reality of the universe unification with which is the basic purpose of this yoga."

Romain Rolland 1866-1944) French Nobel laureate, professor of the history of music at the Sorbonne and thinker. He authored a book Life and Gospel of Vivekananda, calls this yoga as the experimental psycho-physiological method for the direct attainment of Reality which is Brahman. Many serious seekers have successfully tried direct realization of the Supreme through the mind control without waiting for indefinite births to take place. This great methodology was developed by the great classical theorist Rishi Patanjali who sought to attain ultimate knowledge through the control and absolute mastery of the mind thus cutting down the endless path of the soul for perfection through future births. The whole thrust is on the concentration and control of mind after shutting it out of all worldly objects to reach the Ultimate Reality. 

"The powers of the mind are like rays of dissipated light; when they are concentrated they illumine. This is the only means of Knowledge. The originality of Indian Raja Yoga lies in the fact that it has been the subject for centuries past of a minutely elaborated experimental science for the conquest of concentration and mastery of the mind. By mind, the Hindu Yogi understands the instrument as well as the object of knowledge, and in what concerns the object, he goes very far, farther than I can follow him."

Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) was the foremost disciple of Ramakrishna and a world spokesperson for Vedanta. India's first spiritual and cultural ambassador to the West, said: "The science of Raja Yoga proposes to lay down before humanity a practical and scientifically worked out method for reaching the truth." 

Other Forms of Yoga

There are several other forms of yoga, such as Hatha Yoga, Mantra Yoga, and Laya Yoga. The purpose of Hatha Yoga is to destroy or transform all that which, in man, interferes with his union with the universal Being. It is a "Yoga of strength" which lays particular stress on physical exercises that even permit the adept to perform physiological feats that are normally beyond human capacity.

Once a Yogin has obtained purification by the different disciplines of the Hatha Yoga the Yogin must recite a series of mantras or "prayers" which make up the Mantra Yoga. The aim of Laya Yoga is to direct the mind upon the object of meditation. 

All these are branches or subdivisions of the four main divisions of yoga stated above. All branches of yoga have one thing in common, they are concerned with a state of being, or consciousness. "Yoga is ecstasy" says Vyasa's Yoga-bhashya (1.1). 

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Lord Shiva - Lord of Yoga

Yoga is a supra-human (apaurusheya) revelation, from the realm of the gods; mythologicaly, it is said that the great God Shiva himself taught Yoga to his beloved Parvati for the sake of humanity. Shiva (the Benign one), is mentioned as early as in the Rig Veda. He is the focal point of Shaivism, that is, the Shiva tradition of worship and theology. He is the deity of yogins par excellence and is often depicted as a yogin, with long, matted hair, a body besmeared with ashes, and a garland of skulls - all signs of his utter renunciation. In his hair is the crescent moon symbolizing mystical vision and knowledge. His three eyes symbolize sun, moon, and fire, and a single glance from this eye can incinerate the entire universe. The serpent coiled around his neck symbolizes the mysterious spiritual energy of kundalini. The Ganga River that cascades from the crown of Shiva's head is a symbol of perpetual purification, which is the mechanism underlying his gift of spiritual liberation bestowed upon devotees. The tiger skin on which he is seated represents power (shakti), and his four arms are a sign of his perfect control over the four cardinal directions. His trident represents the three primary qualities (gunas) of Nature, namely tamas, rajas, and sattva. 

Shiva - The Lord of Yoga is typically pictured as meditating on Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas with his divine spouse Parvati (she who dwells on the mountain). In many Tantras, he figures as the first teacher of esoteric knownledge. As the ultimate Reality, the Shaivas invoke him as Maheshvara (Great Lord). As the giver of joy or serenity he is called Shanakara and as the abode of delight he is given the name Shambhu. Other names are Pashupati (Lord of the beasts), and Mahadevea (Great God).  He is iconographically portrayed as covered in ashes, with a third eye with which he burned Desire (Kama) and his matted hair, a crescent moon in his hair, the Ganges pouring down from his locks, garlanded by a snake, and sacred rudra beads, seated upon a tiger skin and holding a trident. The ashes on the body symbolizes him as a Yogi, who has burnt all his evil desires and rubbed himself with the ashes of the ritual fire. 

Shiva Sutra - The Yoga of Supreme Identity

Saivism has been the most remarkable contribution of Kashmir to Indian philosophy. It existed in Kashmir in the prehistoric period of the Indus Valley Civilization. There are two schools of Saivism which exist in India today. One is the dualistic school of South India and the other is the monistic school of Kashmir. The monistic school of Kashmir is also known as Trika-Sastra or Rahasya-Sampradaya. Recent excavations in the Indus Valley and the Middle East reveal that Saivism has been one of the oldest sect of India. 

The philosophy of Saivism had basically originated in the Himalayan area near Kailasa. Tryambakaditya, a disciple of Sage Durvasas, was the first teacher of this school. The Shiva philosophy and Yoga is known as Agama.  According to Siva-Sutras, One who experiences the delight of Supreme I-consciousness in all the states of consciousness becomes the master of his senses. 

Saivism stresses the possibility of realizing the nature of self through opening of the third eye or inward eye in meditative trance.

Yoga: Taming the Body, Dissolving the Mind

Svetasvatara Upanishad say:

"When the yogi has full power over his body then he obtains a new body of spiritual fire that is beyond illness, old age and death."

Patanjali's Yoga sutra defines:

"Yoga is controlling the ripples of the mind."

Swami Vivekanada (1863-1902) was the foremost disciple of Ramakrishna and a world spokesperson for Vedanta. India's first spiritual and cultural ambassador to the West, came to represent the religions of India at the World Parliament of Religions, held at Chicago in connection with the World's Fair (Columbian Exposition) of 1893. He said:

"Yoga is a science which teaches how to awake our latent powers and hasten the process of human evolution." "It is restraining the mind-stuff from taking different forms."

(source: Yoga and the Bhagavad Gita

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) most original philosopher of modern India. He has observed:

"The yoga we practice, is not for ourselves alone, but for the Divine; its aim is to work out the will of the Divine in the world, to effect a spiritual transformation and to bring down a divine nature and a divine life into the mental, vital and physical nature and life of humanity. Its object is not personal mukti, although mukti is a necessary condition of the yoga, but the liberation and transformation of the human being."

(source: The Yoga and Its Objects )

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Lord Krishna - Master of Yoga

"The supreme bliss is found only by the tranquil yogi, whose passions have been stilled. His desires washed away, the yogi easily achieves union with the Eternal. He sees his Self in all beings, and all beings in his Self, for his heart is steady in Yoga."
                                                                                       
                     ~ The Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita, the most popular and authoritative work on the subject of transcendence in India. Most of the principles of Hindu philosophy are summed up in the Bhagavad Gita as the sermon of Lord Krishna to Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The Gita, as it is commonly known, is a poem of seven hundred verses spread over 18 chapters in the great Hindu epic of the Mahabharata which narrates the story of the descendants of King Bharata, popularly known as Kauravas and Pandavas, who fought a destructive civil war about five thousand years ago. 

The greatest book on Yoga, the Bhagavad Gita was delivered by Lord Krishna on the eve of one of the fiercest battles fought on Indian soil. The Gita is held to be the textbook of theistic Yoga par excellence. Each chapter propounds a different type of Yoga. Lord Krishna has been addressed as Mahayogi in the Mahabharata. Lord Krishna's teaching in the Bhagavad Gita have inspired some of the greatest mystics of the Hindu tradition. Simply stated, the human being only achieves union with God in all of His aspects through a fusion of contemplation and action. God is after all both Eternal Being and Eternal Becoming; in contemplative knowledge of our eternal identity with Brahman, we rest in God's Being, like a drop of water in the all-surrounding ocean; in enacting the divine will selflessly, we participate in the transforming activity of God. 

The Bhagavad Gita is sometimes described as being in some sense a book of yoga. It emphasizes self-discipline and control over the senses as essential techniques of a yoga that it defines as the "balance" of the individual and universal consciousness. "The wavering, restless mind goes wandering on", Krishna advises the despondent Arjuna: "you must draw it back and have it focused every time on the soul...Yoga is a harmony, he later continues, "a harmony in eating and resting, in sleeping and keeping awake: a perfection in whatever one does." The yoga that Lord Krishna expounds in the Gita is the karma (action) yoga of self control, and bhakti yoga - the way of "devotion". In the Bhagavad Gita, Krsna explains to Arjuna the various routes by which to achieve full consciousness of Atman and therefore perfect unity with Brahman. Lord Krishna was called Yogesvara because he was able to think of Yoga as means of achieving the goal by way of self realization. 

"This immutable Yoga I proclaimed to Vivasvat. Vivasvat imparted it to Manu, and Manu declared it to Ikshvaku. Thus handed down from one to another, the royal seers learned it." 

The Gita suggests four important ways to attain moksha - salvation. These four ways are four yogas: Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Jnana is the ultimate state, but it has to be reached with the help of other yogas such as Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga and Bhakti Yoga, the latter two being more popular. Even each of these yogas are independently capable of getting moksha to the practicant; but as the aspirant proceeds in his yogic experience, he necessarily tends to acquire elements of the other yogas and attains perfection because perfection is the ultimate goal of all the yogas.

Lord Krsna says:

"Fix your mind on me, Arjuna, practice this yoga, and trust me. Listen, and you'll start to realize just what I am." 

"Of all the endless thousands of men, only one here and there seeks enlightenment, and among those few there are even fewer who know me as I really am."

"There are three states in nature, three strands, three gunas - and they come from me. They are the virtuous sattva, the passionate rajas and the dark and heavy tamas. They are in me, but I am not in them. They serve to snare and delude the whole world, which can't perceive that I lie beyond them, unchanging and undying. Out of these gunas is woven my maya, a power that is hard to escape. Only those that trust me can get beyond that uncanny force."

The Bhagavad Gita speaks about very high level of reality. The basic setting of the Gita is a battle ground.  In the middle of the most significant battle of his life, on the field of dharma (responsible action), Arjuna, who is by type and deep inclination a warrior, is confused about right action and about his responsibility in the face of the conflicting demands of the different levels of dharma. He turns to Krishna, now acting as his charioteer, for help and instruction. The Bhagavad Gita, which means song of the Blessed One, contains the teaching given by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in his hour of crisis of conscience.   

"Fix your mind on me, Arjuna, practice this Yoga, and trust me. Listen, and you'll start to realize just what I am" 

It is clear right from the very beginning of the book that the teaching is about dharma. Dharma is essentially at all scales; at the scale of the entire cosmos, of society, of the family, and of the individual. The central subject of the Gita is dharma and the part we have in maintaining order – at all scales! Thus the Gita is a dialogue between the Dark Lord and the white pupil, between the Infinite and the finite, between the Unknown Mystery of the other shore and a wayfarer setting out from this shore, apprehensive and unsure. It is an exchange between different levels, within ourselves as well as outside. Krishna himself says ‘From me is all this world (BG 7:7), or ‘This whole cosmos is strung on me like pearls on a string’, and ‘I reside in the heart of every being’ (BG 13:2). In these and in similar expressions, Krishna indicates that he operates at the largest scale and at the highest level. Arjuna, on the other hand, is confused about action in a particular situation, at a very different scale and level.  

The general outlook of the Gita is that every action, even the smallest, has a cosmic background, even though we may not be aware of it. The idea that a human being has the possibility - not the actuality but the possibility of being a microcosmic image of the whole cosmos is an idea which is central to Indian thought. A human being is called a Kshudra Brahmanda, a small Brahmanda, the little egg of the Vastness. The whole universe is Brahmanda (the egg of Brahman, the Vastness) and a human being is a small Brahmanda. Arjuna must do on his human scale what Krishna does on a cosmic scale namely, he must assume responsibility for the maintenance of order. 

The Bhagavad Gita preaches reintegration through the way of action (karma yoga). Having removed all attachment and established oneself in the path of realization, one should remain in action, keeping an even mind, whether, one's actions bear fruit or not. It is this equanimity of mind which is named yoga. The Blessed Lord said: "Fearlessness, cleanness of life, steadfastness in the Yoga of wisdom, alms-giving, self-restraint, sacrifice and study of the Scriptures, austerity and straightforwardness; Harmlessness, truth, absence of wrath, absence of crookedness, compassion to living beings, uncovetousness, mildness, modesty, vigor, forgiveness, purity, absence of envy or pride..."

The Bhagavad Gita Yoga may be called 'Anasakti-Yoga'  - the Yoga of non-attachment. Lord Krishna speaks again and again of the evil of contact with externals and exhorts all to cut down the tree of worldliness with the axe of non-attachment. The world is sustained by desire and affection for things perishable. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, three primordial properties of Prakriti, constitute the stuff of the world of the senses. Lord Krishna is the Supreme Self, and everyone should seek shelter under Him, this is the path to Perfection, to Immortality.

The gist of Krishna's teaching is given in the following stanza: "Steadfast in Yoga perform actions, abandoning attachment and remaining the same in success and failure, O Dhananjaya. Yoga is called 'even-ness' (samatva) (BG II.48).0. The advice of Krishna is designed to draw the attention of the devotee from the external to the inner world, for the Lord, the intangible and ineffable "Knower", the wonder of creation, resides in us. The crude material instruments of science, however delicate, precise, and sensitive they might me, cannot reach this holy of holies, this Knowing principle which, lying disguised in the savants, is himself their inventor, designer and architect. It is no material science, but a loftier discipline that alone can hope to explore this most mysterious inner universe.

Yet, like a modern teacher, Krishna, the God incarnate, does not impose this doctrine on his disciple or on his audience, for that matter. He only counsels Arjuna, and after giving all his lecture, in the end, He tells that "It is my opinion; you are at liberty to do whatever you think is right for you." 

This is the greatest example of the freedom in God worship in Hinduism when the Lord God Himself does not compel people to have faith in only Him or incite in them fears of doom and damnation as punishment for disbelieving.

The Royal Path of Devotion

Sri Krishna said:

"Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart - a leaf, a flower, or water - I partake of that love offering. Whatever you do, make it an offering to me - the food you eat, the sacrifice you make, the help you give, even your suffering. In this way you will be freed from the bondage of karma, and from its results both pleasant and painful. Then, firm in renunciation and yoga, with your heart free, you will come to me."

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Yoga - Royal Path of Freedom

"Yoga means control of the contents of your mind. When your thoughts are stilled, your consciousness experiences only itself. But when thoughts begin to flow, you get caught up in them and the images they place before you."

Patanjali's Yoga Sutra says" Yoga consists in the intentional stopping of the spontaneous activities of the mind-stuff. The mind, by nature, is in constant agitation. According to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra, the classical text on yoga, the purpose of yoga is to lead to a silence of the mind. This silence is the prerequisite for the mind to be able to accurately reflect objective reality without introducing its own subjective distortions. Yoga does not create this reality, which is above the mind, but only prepares the mind to apprehend it, by assisting in the transformation of the mind - from an ordinary mind full of noise, like a whole army of frenzied and drunken monkeys - to a still mind.

According to the Hindu theory, it is continually transforming itself into the shapes of the objects of which it becomes aware. Its subtle substance assumes the forms and colors of everything offered to it by the senses, imagination, memory, and emotions. It is endowed, in other words, with a power of transformation, or metamorphosis, which is boundless and never put at rest. The protean, ever-moving character of the mind, as described both in Sankhya and in Yoga, is comparable to Emanuel Swedenborg's (1688-1772) idea that "recipients are images," ie. that the receptive organs assume on the spiritual plane the form and nature of whatever objects they receive and contain. (refer to Divine Love and Wisdom - by E. Swedenborg p. 288).

The mind is thus in a continuous ripple, like the surface of a pond beneath a breeze, shimmering with broken, ever-changing, self-scattering reflections. Left to itself it would never stand like a perfect mirror, crystal clear, in its "own state," unruffled and reflecting the inner man; for in order that this should take place, all the sense impressions coming from without would have to be stopped, as well as the impulses from within; memories, emotional pressures, and the incitements of the imaginations. Yoga, however, stills the mind. And the moment this quieting is accomplished, the inner man, the life-monad stands revealed - like a jewel at the bottom of a quieted pond.

The aim of yoga is the transformation of human beings from their natural form to a perfected form. Through yoga a person can become samskrita (literally, well made, well put together) and thus no longer be wholly at the mercy of natural forces and inclinations. The undertaking of yoga concerns the entire person, resulting in a reshaping of mind, body and emotions. 

The aims of the royal or Raja Yoga, as it is called, are high and noble even from the physical side; and they are wide and high. The body and mind must be brought to heel as an obedient dog, the reasoning and logical mind the same. 

Kundalini  Yoga - The Power of the Serpent

In Sanskrit, the coiled serpent is used to represent Kundalini, the energy that rises from the sacrum -- the bone at the base of the spine -- and results in enlightenment when it properly reaches the crown of the head through the practice of Kundalini yoga, which channels the energy along the six chakras, or energy centers, that correspond to the number of intersections of the serpent on the caduceus. Literally, Kundalini means "The Serpent Power." In the Caduceus - The Winged Staff, the serpents intersect each other at six points. i.e. the six Chakras. The term Kundalini means "she who is coiled". This symbolism simply suggests that the Kundalini is normally in a state of dormancy or latency.

The most significant aspect of the subtle body is the psycho-spiritual force known as the Kundalini-Shakti. What is this mysterious presence in the human body? The Kundalini in course of its ascension unfolds a perceptual flash of revelation. According to Kundalini Yoga, inner perception is possible by stimulating an eye center (ajna-chakra) in which the latest conscious energy is locked. It is located between the eye-brows, in the middle of the forehead. By unlocking this energy the inward eye is opened and the Yogi has a vision of Shiva and Shakti and also of the truth of things. 

According to Indian tradition, Kundalini is not merely the energy system in the human body designed for the evolution of the brain and the rise to a higher dimension of consciousness, but also as the instrument of cosmic life energy, the stupendous power behind the ceaseless drama of life and the eternal motion of the stellar universe. The secret of the Serpent Power was known in Mesopotamia and to the Native Americans. Frank Walters author of Mexico Mystique, says: "The now famous Hopi Snake Dance in which the priests dance with snakes in their mouths is the most dramatic ritual still emphasizing the serpent." Considering the complex and rare nature of the phenomenon of Kundalini it is unlikely that its knowledge could have developed independently in different parts of the world. The more likely position is that it must have travelled from one original source, where it was initially developed for centuries by a growing civilization, to other places on the earth. It is reasonable to conclude that the practices connected with this hidden force must have penetrated to America from India during the Vedic or pre-Vedic periods. 

(For more information, refer to chapter India on Pacific Waves?). From very early times we see the portrait of the Lord of Serpents or Kundalini with Shesha-Nag, forming the couch of Lord Vishnu on the Ocean of Milk. The picture has come unaltered from the remote past, perhaps from the time of the Vedas, and is a superb allegoric representation of the Serpent Power and the state of consciousness to which it leads. The word Patanjali in Sanskrit literally means "one fallen in the palm of the hand." There is another legend that he fell as a small snake in the palm of Panini. Lord Shiva has the crescent moon and serpent symbol on the head and so did the Pharaoh Ramses II with serpent symbol on the headress. 

Goal of Yoga

The majority of practitioners of yoga outside India are primarily interested in improving health and fitness. The ultimate goals may range from reaching Moksha to physical immortality.

Within the monist schools of Advaita Vedanta and Shaivism this perfection takes the form of Moksha, which is liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death (Samsara) at which point there is a realisation of identity with the Supreme Brahman. For the Bhakti schools of Vaishnavism, bhakti or service to Svayam bhagavan itself is the ultimate goal of the yoga process, wherein perfection culminates in an eternal relationship with Vishnu, Rama or Krsna, depending on the affiliation.

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Yoga in the Modern World - The Truth about Yoga

In Hinduism, God is about experience, not just belief. Yoga is a means through which one can experience God. Yoga is a very ancient system that originated in India. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’, meaning to join together, i.e. become one with God. Ultimately, Yoga is a system of meditation devised by Rushi’s many thousands of years ago, but based on the teachings of the Puranas, Upanishads and Vedas with the aim of finding God. Yogic traditions go back to The Bhagavad Gita, Vedic sages such as Yajnavalkya and Swaminarayan Bhagwan himself, who learnt Yoga whilst on Pilgrimage (van vichran). There are many levels and stages of Yoga and it is an exact science like mathematics or physics, but one of the most complex. Many of you may have heard the word ‘SAMADHI’, which is like achieving the ‘black-belt’ in Yoga, i.e. the highest Yoga level. When you are in SAMADHI it is believed that your heart rate falls and your body almost switches off, i.e. you may appear externally to be ‘dead like’, but your mind is in full focus of Maharaj and his abode.

Unfortunately, today many have simplified Yoga as consisting of physical and mental disciplines that make us healthy, alert and happy. It is popularly assumed that Britain’s Yoga community is dominated by trendy West London types with more time and money than sense. The reality is that in its truest form, even before practicing physical Yoga (in the form of asanas) you need to observe certain basic Disciplines (‘Yam’) and Observances (‘Neam’) in your daily life. This includes things like ‘Satya’ upholding the truth, celibacy, non-violence (ahimsa) and not accepting gifts.

Don’t get me wrong, Yoga is not just for the few. The beauty of Yoga is that you can dip as far as you like into the pond and still receive some benefits. However, the deeper you go, the more profound the changes. Anyone can practice the outer or physical aspects of Yoga regardless of religious orientation. However, one who does not accept the basics of Sanatan Dharma, i.e. karma, rebirth, bhakti etc. cannot practice the higher levels of Yoga, which assumes this knowledge. We must be wary of the overuse and westernisation of the word ‘Yoga’. The West, due to lack of understanding, have a tendency to corrupt our words (both in definition and usage), with ‘Guru’ being such an example over the last 5 to 10 years. Some westerners have started creating their own Yoga paths, cults and schools without full knowledge of the Yoga System, whilst others have commercialised Yoga in order to make it profitable! Watch out for western variations of Yoga under names like ‘Pilates’.

Ashtang Yoga is one approach. Others include Jnana Yoga – the Yoga of Wisdom, consisting of four steps to become liberated from Maya, and Bhakti Yoga – the Yoga of Devotion, consists of nine steps and is widely considered to be the easiest yogic path to Maharaj. In brief the nine steps include; listening, singing, remembering, service to God, rituals (i.e. puja), prostration, devotion, friendship and self-offering.

“Of all the Yogas, he who always abides on Me with greatest faith, is the highest Yoga of all” i.e. Bhakti Yoga (Bhagavad Gita Ch. 6.47). ‘In the age of Kali, people will worship God by performance of “Sankirtana-Yajna” – chanting of names of Bhagwan. (Bhagavad Gita Ch. 11.5.29).

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