YOGA. CONNECT. INTEGRATE. BECOME ONE
HE SCIENCE OF SPIRITUALITY
Evolution of Consciousness Series
ARE YOU CONNECTED?
There are so many Yoga schools and classes springing up everywhere around the world these days, and in December 2014 the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as International Day of Yoga, recognizing its universal appeal. International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing Yoga.
Yoga provides a way to nourish and refine our body, mind and soul, the purpose being to expand consciousness to its ultimate potential so that we become one with the source of all existence.
Yoga is all about uniting, about connecting. It comes from the Sanskrit ‘yadhjyuti ithi yogah’ meaning ‘one that joins’. Religion also has the same purpose, as the Latin root word re-ligare means ‘to re-join’.
So if Yoga means ‘one that joins’, what is to be joined? Actually so many things are joined and integrated through Yoga – body, mind and soul; worldly and spiritual – but in particular our soul becomes one with its original state of balance.
That is the purpose of yogic practice. And the soul, in its own wisdom, is carrying that memory of its original homeland, which is absolute balance. So unless and until we regain the balance that prevailed before the universe was created, we remain restless. Even in the most luxurious life, the heart will still be yearning for something better. Our soul is the carrier of the original memory of perfect balance. Hence, nothing of this world can satisfy us until we attain that state of samadhithat prevailed before creation. And that can happen through a proper practice.
Are our efforts actually
leading us to the state of
Yoga? When we practice
asanas, or pranayama, or
meditation, what are we
joining? Will our daily or
weekly practice take us to
the state of Yoga, of union?
So on this International Day of Yoga, let’s reflect for a minute: are our efforts actually leading us to the state of Yoga? When we practice asanas, or pranayama, or meditation, what are we joining? Will our daily or weekly practice take us to the state of Yoga, of union?
Asanas are designed to take care of the physical body, and have a purpose, but they are just one very small part of the whole field of Yoga. And they cannot refine the subtle bodies or touch the causal body, the soul.
In the last issue we focused on the five koshas – the five layers or sheaths of a human being. Asanas will only affect the outermost koshas – the outermost annamaya kosha and to a limited extent the next pranamaya kosha, and that too only in an ephemeral way. So by practicing asanas how will we refine the mind? How will we touch the soul?
It has to be a combined effort. Ashtanga Yoga is a complete package of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. So if we pick and choose just one activity because we like it, then it will satisfy only that one aspect. It will not be Yoga.
It is like going to work and choosing to do only one thing that you like the most. What will your boss think? Likewise, the whole system breaks down when we focus only on yama or asanas or dhyana – nothing will work. We have to find the balance.
But ultimately the true state of union comes from doing proper meditation or dhyana, and not every type of meditation is equal in this regard and will take us there.
Samadhi is the outcome of meditation. There are various stages of samadhi. In fact at every new place on our inner spiritual journey from one chakra to another, the states of consciousness we experience will be different. But generally three types of samadhi are described. The first is a totally unconscious stone-like state, where we have no consciousness of the condition given to us in meditation. The second is a semi-conscious dreamlike state, and the most refined, is the light, conscious, natural sahaj samadhi state, which comes after we have traversed the intermediate levels of unconscious or semiconscious stages along the way. Natural samadhi occurs when our consciousness is totally merged in the ultimate state, at one with that state. In the meantime, samadhi is a work in progress towards that natural samadhi. If we have to understand samadhi properly, sam-adhi, adhi means that which prevailed before the creation. What was the state of our consciousness at that time? We must regain that.
So whatever we do in our daily practice of Yoga needs to help us feel connected with our source, otherwise it is not really Yoga. And just as concentration is the result of meditation, Yoga is the result of doing the proper practices.
And when we connect with that sublime source, anything else that we do will also be permeated with some level of fragrance from the source. That is why Yoga is also called, “Skill in action.” When we are connected, everything that we do will have that fragrance.
KARMA, GYANA AND BHAKTI
Karma yoga, gyana yoga and bhakti yoga are often considered to be the three different paths to the Ultimate. Karma yogais all about evolving through service and action. Gyana yoga is all about evolving through knowledge and enlightenment. Bhakti yoga is all about evolving through love, devotion and attachment. It is wise to be selective in what actions, knowledge and devotional practices we choose. We need to ask ourselves:
In karma yoga, what actions and service will refine us? What sort of karmas can connect us to the source?
In gyana yoga, what sort of knowledge can elevate our consciousness? Gyana which can connect us to the source?
In bhakti yoga, to whom are we devoted? What form of bhakti will connect us to the source?
In karma yoga, any action must elevate the lower self to seek the higher Self. Such actions will ennoble us, and ennoble the very actions themselves, because it is our innate nature to do the best possible.
And what about gyana yoga? In his book, Towards Infinity1, Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur describes gyana yoga as the progressive unfolding of wisdom and knowledge from personal experience on the spiritual journey. He says that gyana in the real sense refers to the inner condition of the mind which develops while passing through different spiritual states at the different knots or chakras. Gyana is, in fact, the realization of the conditions prevailing at each knot. As our inner journey takes us through many knots, the knowledge gained will continue to expand as we progress on that journey. This is real gyana yoga.
And what sort of bhakti leads us to the state of Yoga? Worship in itself hardly contributes to our success. Love is best expressed through the heart, in all facets of our activities.
For example, at bedtime, when we know we are going to meditate in the morning, are we looking forward to that meditation, to being with the Beloved when we awake? Are we restless to receive Him in our heart? Every bhakta must analyze: How must we prepare our heart to receive the Beloved? With such preparations the heart will automatically yield.
If we create such an attitude in our heart that is so inviting, the Lord will have no choice but to descend and be a part of our existence. A beautiful fragrance will then radiate from us. It becomes automatic. Even if a flower is hidden in the crevices of rocks, the bees will find it, so how can God not know about an anonymous being filled with love? We don’t really have to go in search of God in bhakti yoga. Be where you are, be pure, and be loving, and He will come looking for you.
Now, are these three paths really separate? In fact, karma without gyana is useless, and gyana without bhakti is useless. There must be a beautiful amalgamation of all three in our yogic practice. If we perform karma in a loving way, knowing well the consequences of our actions, then bhakti will naturally develop. If the essence of bhakti is not there, gyana yogawill be paralyzed, and karma yoga will also be paralyzed. Likewise, bhakti without action and without knowledge about what you are going to do is also useless.
We have to integrate these three and continue on with a lot of faith, which comes out of experience. We need not have faith in the beginning.
SUPERCONSCIOUSNESS AND SUBCONSCIOUSNESS
Yoga, when rightly done, will always guide us in the right direction. In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, “How should one lead a life?” Lord Krishna says, “Lead a life in divine consciousness.” So consciousness is at play here.
In the words of Swami Vivekananda, through Yoga we are trying to make use of our available consciousness. In meditation with yogic transmission, in no time at all we allow our consciousness to soar higher into superconsciousness, from where we get inspiration. It is a matter of experience. The superconscious is all that is yet to happen – but it tells you ahead of time what to do. It inspires you to do things.
When this same available consciousness dives deep into the subconscious, we receive intuitive wisdom. The subconscious is the storehouse of our past experiences. At nighttime, when we offer prayer with a heart full for love, then the sleep that we enjoy after such a prayer is of a different order, a different nature. Yogis call it yoga nidra.
Right from the first day in Heartfulness we are able to experience these two states of superconsciousness and subconsciousness. Rishis have died aspiring for this, meditating for hundreds of years yet remaining thirsty for it, because they did not know where to receive transmission. My Adi Guru rediscovered this ancient yogic technique and distributed it to all of us. They trained us and they passed it on freely. That is our Heartfulness tradition – all are welcome.
Yoga, when rightly done,
will always guide us in
the right direction. In the
Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna asks
Lord Krishna, “How should
one lead a life?” Lord
Krishna says, “Lead a life in
THE ELEMENTS OF YOGA
All thirty-five elements of Yoga are meant to be practiced together, even though each one contains a vast field of knowledge within itself. The thirty-five can be summarized within four main elements known as the four sadhanas, or sadhana chatusthaya.
Of these four sadhanas, let’s focus on the Shat-Sampatti, or the six virtues. Within the Shat-Sampatti, the aspect of Shama, of molding and regulating the mind, is where all the practices of Yoga are to be found – Ashtanga Yoga practices, Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, and the 21st century practices of Heartfulness.
Patanjali presented his eightfold path of Ashtanga Yoga to the world a few thousand years ago, to take care of the physical, subtle and causal bodies of the human being, through asana to refine the physical body, yama and niyama to refine character, and the other five to refine the subtle bodies, in order to unite the soul with the Ultimate.
Today, things have evolved further, so that Heartfulness brings together all thirty-five elements of Yoga without having to take up each step individually. It is a complete package of simple practices for all who want to experiment and experience.
So at this time in human history, we can all experience the pure essence of Yoga, supported by yogic transmission and yogic cleaning. And what is the result? Oneness with the source of all existence.