A Brief Outlook on Raja Yoga pt.#3

practical-raja-yoga-meditation
FIFTH STEP – PRATYAHARA

Pratyahara is withdrawal of the senses from their respective objects. It is the abstraction of the senses. Real, spiritual or inner life begins when the Yogic student is established in Pratyahara.
Pratyahara checks the outgoing tendencies of the senses. The practice demands considerable patience and perseverance. It is a trying discipline of the senses.  If you can disconnect the mind from the senses, there will be abstraction of the senses automatically. Control of the senses is absolute one-pointedness of the mind.

HOW TO PRACTISE PRATYAHARA

Just as a turbulent storm tosses a ship, so also the hidden desires toss the roving senses and the mind vehemently. Therefore, beware! Be on the alert. Be eternally vigilant. Annihilate all desires with the sword of dispassion and the axe of discrimination. This is the true secret of self-restraint. If you have intense dispassion, you can practise Pratyahara easily. Dispassion is the enemy of the senses and the friend of Pratyahara. Discrimination between the Real and the unreal helps a great deal in attaining success in Pratyahara.

No amount of human effort alone can give perfect success. Therefore, persevere and pray. Divine Grace is needed.

Pratyahara becomes easy after the practice of Pranayama. Pratyahara follows the practice of Pranayama automatically. Practice of Pranayama thins out the senses and prepares the Yogic student for the practice of Pratyahara.
Observance of silence, moderation in diet, steadiness in pose, dispassion, regularity in the practice of Pranayama, patience, contentment, perseverance, tenacity, celibacy, seclusion, are all aids to Pratyahara.

Withdraw the mind, the Prana and the senses. This is triple withdrawal. This is very powerful.
Success in Pratyahara depends upon the strength and force of past Yogic impressions. He who has practised Pranayama and Pratyahara in his previous birth to some extent will have success in Pratyahara within a short time in this birth.

He who is well-established in Pratyahara can meditate calmly even in a noisy place. Pratyahara develops will-power and inner spiritual strength. Nothing can distract the mind of one who is established in Pratyahara.

He who is eflicient in Pratyahara can enter into deep sleep the moment he lies down on his bed. Napoleon and Gandhiji could do this.

OBSTACLES TO PRATYAHARA

Unsteady Asana, too much talking, too much mixing with worldly people, too much activity, too much food, too much walking, too much curiosity in other people’s affairs, are all obstacles in the practice of Pratyahara.
If dispassion wanes and if there is slackness in the practice, the senses become turbulent.

A Bhakta or a devotee does not practise Pratyahara. He beholds his Lord in all objects.
A Jnana Yogi also does not practise Pratyahara. He tries to identify himself with the hidden Self in all objects by negating the names and forms.
A Raja Yogi alone practises Pratyahara deliberately.
That Yogic student who jumps at once to the practice of meditation without Pratyahara will not have success  in meditation.

It is diffrcult to say where Pratyahara ends and Dharana or concentration begins.

SIXTH STEP – DHARANA (CONCENTRATION)

Dharana is fixing the mind on an external object or an intemal point. Concentration is purely a mental process. It needs an inward turning of the mind.

Concentration is fixing the mind; meditation is allowing one idea to flow continuously. A serene mind is fit for concentration. Keep the mind serene.

Celibacy, Pranayama, reduction of wants and activities, dispassion, silence, seclusion, discipline of the senses, Japa, control of anger, giving up reading novels, newspapers and visiting cinemas, are all aids to concentration. Give up TV watching.
Japa (recitation of Lord’s Name) and Kirtan (singing of Lord’s Name and His Glory) will develop concentration.

HOW TO CONCENTRATE

Do not leave the practice even for a day. It is very difficult to rise up again. Devotees concentrate on the heart, Raja Yogins on Trikuti (the seat of mind), Vedantins on Sahasrara or top of the head. Trikuti is the space between the eyebrows. You can also concentrate on the tip ofthe nose, the navel, or the Muladhara (below the last vertebra of the spinal column.

Concentration on the moon is beneficial to those of emotional temperament. Concentration on candle flame will give vision of Rishis and Devatas.

Concentrate on divine qualities such as love, mercy, compassion, or any other abstract idea such as infinity, omnipotence and omnipresence of the Lord, etc.

You can concentrate on the breath in your nostrils (Soham sound). There is ‘Soldering inhalation and ‘Ham’ during exhalation.

Do not concentrate when the mind is tired. Do not wrestle with the mind when you concentrate. When irrelevant thoughts enter the mind, be indifferent. They will pass away. Do not drive them forcibly. They will persist and resist. It will tax your will. But substitute with divine thoughts. Evil thoughts will gradually fade out.
Be slow and steady in the practice of concentration. Apply some Brahmi-Amla oil to the head if there is much heat. Take butter and sugarcandy. This will cool the system.

If you want to succeed in any walk of life, you must develop concentration. It is a source of spiritual strength. It is the master-key for opening the chamber of knowledge.

SEVENTH STEP – DHYANA (MEDITATION)

Meditation is an unbroken flow of knowledge of the object on which one meditates.
Meditation follows concentration. Concentration merges in meditation.

Concentration, meditation and Sarah (superconsciousness) are internal Sadhanas. When you practise concentration, meditation and Samadhi at a time, it is called Samyama.
Meditation is freeing the mind from all thoughts of sense-objects. The mind dwells on God alone during meditation.

BENEFITS OF MEDITATION

If you meditate for half an hour daily, you will be able to face the battle of life with peace and spiritual strength. Meditation kills all pain, suffering and sorrow.
Meditation is the most powerful mental and nervine tonic. Meditation opens the door to intuitive knowledge and realms of eternal bliss. During meditation the mind becomes calm, serene and steady. One idea occupies the mind.

Deep meditation cannot come in a day or a week or a month. You will have to struggle hard for along time. Be patient. Be persevering. Be vigilant. Be diligent.
All doubts will be gradually cleared through meditation.

HOW TO MEDITATE?

Meditate regularly in the early morning between 4 and 6 a.m. Have a separate meditation room, or convert by means of screens a corner of a room into a meditation chamber.
Use your commonsense throughout your Sadhana. Do not go to extremes. Stick to the golden medium or the middle path.

Meditate in the beginning on a concrete Form such as the image of your Ishta Devata, Lord Jesus, or Lord Buddha. This is Saguna meditation, or meditation on the form of the Lord with attributes. Think of His attributes such as omnipotence, perfection, purity, freedom, when you meditate on His form. Rotate your mind on His form from head to foot or from foot to head.

You can also recite Om while meditating. The short-accented Om burns all sins, the long accented gives Moksha, and the elongated bestows all psychic powers (Siddhis). He who chants and meditates upon this monosyllable (Om), meditates upon and chants all the scriptures of the world.

Meditate on the effulgence in the sun, or the splendour in the moon, or the glory in the stars. Meditate on the magnificence of the ocean and its infinite nature. Then compare the ocean to the infinite Brahman, and the waves, foams and icebergs to the various names and forms of the world. Identify yourself with the ocean. Become silent. Expand.

Gaze steadily on the formless air. Concentrate on the air. Meditate on the all-pervading nature of the air. Watch the flow of breath. You will hear the sound ‘Soham,’ ‘So’ during inhalation and ‘Ham’ during exhalation. Soham means “I am He.” The breath is reminding you of your identity with the Supreme Soul.

EXPERIENCES IN MEDITATION

The feeling of rising up during meditation is a sign that you are going above body-consciousness.

When you practise concentration and meditation, you are bound to get various powers and Siddhis. Do not use these powers for gaining some material end. Do not misuse the powers. You will get a hopeless downfall.

There is really no such thing as a miracle. When you know the cause, the miracle becomes an ordinary event. During meditation you will get rapture, ecstasy, thrill.

A flash is a glimpse of truth. It is Ritambara Prajna. This is not the whole experience. This is not the highest experience. Reach the Bhuma or the Infinite. This is the acme or the final stage. You have reached the final destination. Meditation stops here.

You will hear various sorts of Anahata sounds. You will see brilliant lights in the space between the eyebrows. Sometimes you will behold coloured lights: green, blue, red, etc. They are due to the presence of different Tattvas at a particular time.

Sometimes you will have vision of Rishis, sages, tutelary deity, Nitya Siddhas, astral entities, landscape, mountains, blue sky, beautiful lardens. Sometimes you may float in the air. Your Astral body may get detached from the physical body. You will move about in the astral world. You may go to Brahma Loka, the realm of Brahma or Hiranyagarbha.

Those who have entered the first degree of meditation will have a light body, sweetness of voice, beautiful complexion, clarity of mind and scanty urine and defaecation.

OBSTACLES IN MEDITATION

The chief obstacles in meditation are:
– Laya (sleep),
– Vikshepa (tossing of mind),
– the rising up of latent desires,
– lack of Brahmacharya,
– spiritual pride,
– laziness,
– disease.

Other obstacles: company of worldly people, overwork, over-eating, self-assertive Rajasic nature.

Conquer sleep through Pranayama, Asanas and light diet. Remove Vikshepa through Pranayama, Japa, Upasana, Trataka, etc. Destroy desires through dispassion, discrimination, study of books which treat of dispassion, enquiry, etc.
Shun the company of worldly persons who always talk on sexual matters, money and worldly things. Observe moderation in diet. Obey the laws of health and hygiene.

Excerpts from “FOURTEEN LESSONS ON RAJA YOGA” by Sri Swami Sivananda

Universal Love

Satguru-Sivaya-SubramuniyaswamiLove is the sum of all the spiritual laws. We may say that love is the heart of the mind. Universal love has nothing to do with emotional infatuation, attachment or lust. It flows freely through the person whose mind is unclouded by resentment, malice, greed and anger.

Pure love is a state of Being. Whereas everyone is running around trying to get love, it is found in giving. When a person begins to lose the idea of his own personality through concern for others, he will attract a like response to himself. The outgoing force of the soul in action brings freedom to the lower states of mind. The instinctive person is ordinarily so preoccupied with his own self, so wrapped up in his own shell, that he cannot give a thought to the welfare of another. He cannot give anything of himself. He is still far from any realization of the Self within. The action and reaction of the self-centered state of mind creates tension and discord in mind and body. Often, when the diaphragm is tight, the muscles are tense, breathing is difficult and your whole disposition is on edge. A person attains relaxation and peace through a benevolent act in which he loses himself in another’s happiness. The cycles of tension and release, tension and release – which are constantly given birth to in the instinctive and intellectual state of mind – are only broken as the unfolding soul expresses itself in devotion, breaking up the crust of personal concern and hurt feelings.

To suddenly relieve a person of all tension would be like making a poor man rich overnight. The instinctive mind feels lost and insecure under the impact of any sudden change in evolution. As the soul, the superconscious mind, or the light of God, begins to shine through the rest of the mind, the mind will either become reactionary or cooperative.
Some people have a terrible fight within themselves as the soul begins to shine forth, and yet their only lasting satisfaction in life is in the outpouring of their individual soul qualities.

When you can become fully aware of the states of consciousness through which you pass, there will be no one whom you cannot understand, no one with whom you could not communicate through the medium of love. Until you learn the operation of this law as the sum of all laws, you will continue to harbor contention, to prefer argument and to walk the path of difference. Through bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion, the combative mind becomes erased, absorbed into the consciousness of the One Self, the Being permeating all beings. With the help of devotion, you can soar within. You cannot only pull away detachedly from unwholesome areas of the mind, but it is possible to keep yourself in an inward state of expanded consciousness.

The only real security comes from within. Gain security, and if your security comes from within you, you become unburdened. However, if one gains his security from the external mind, then of course he will not accept help if help is given. What is help anyway, but man sharing with man? Who is the helper and who is the one who is helped? You have often heard teachers say, “Every time I give instruction, I learn more than my students.” Is the teacher giving the opportunity to the students to learn, or are the students giving the opportunity to the teacher? Obviously, it is quite mutual. The external ego does not give us help. It only ramifies awareness into even more externalized areas of the mind. The mind of light, your super consciousness, is the only area of the mind where permanent bliss, security and steadfastness occur when awareness flows through it, even in the outer areas of your nature. The mind of light is the only thing that can uplift awareness, shuffling off the burdens of the external mind. It is the great teacher.

It takes great dedication, devotion and bhakti to disentangle awareness from that which it is aware of, to flow into and become aware of expanded areas of mind. The rewards are great. We are able to look over and through our expanded vision the totality of the exterior area of our mind and intuitively know the answer to the experiences that we are going through. And then we can focus, superconsciously, from our intuitive state of mind and look at the exterior world from a new perspective, from right within the very core of life itself. It does not take long. It does take one quality though – devotion. Devotion involves going deep enough to understand the great principle of the fulfillment of one’s duty. Who must be devoted to whom? Members of a family to their temple, a wife to her husband, a husband to his religion, children to their parents, the student to the teacher, the disciple to the guru. No matter what you are studying – mathematics, chemistry, philosophy, cybernetics, sociology, religion, a lifestyle – the professor should represent what you are going to be. That is why you are studying with him. Only through devotion will you be totally aware, open, free, inspired. Only through devotion will you become what you aspire to unfold within yourself.

Where do you get devotion? Not from the teacher. The teacher is only an awakener. He imparts knowledge to you, a vibration to you. He awakens you to the possibilities of the grandeur within yourself.

How do we unburden awareness from the external areas of the mind through devotion? Our attitude has to be correct. Only in that way can we manifest the qualities that we want to manifest.

Everyone has many different qualities and tendencies in his nature. Some are flowing freely. Others are suppressed. Others are repressed. Some are active and others temporarily inactive. Our tendencies formulate our attitudes. Our attitudes, once consistently held, stabilize our perspective in looking at life. The first step in unburdening awareness from the externalized odic-magnetic areas of the mind is to cause a bhakti, a love, a devotion, right within the nerve currents of your body.

Devotion and duty lay the foundation for the spiritual unfoldment that everyone is talking about in this age. We do not find the path in books. We find the path in how we handle our individual lives.

Bhakti yoga is the awakening of the love nature through the practice of devotion and giving. Giving begins new life. Giving is an essential for spiritual unfoldment, for until we give and give abundantly, we don’t really realize that we are not the giver; we are just a channel for giving. Abundance, materially and spiritually, comes to you when you cease to be attached to it, when you can take as much joy over a little pebble as you could over a precious ruby. The power of giving is a very great power, a great power that comes to you through yoga. You hear about yoga powers, the power of levitation, the power of suspended animation, but the truly great powers are the power of giving, the power of concentration, the power of the subconscious control over your mind, body and emotions, the power of universal love – practical powers that can be used today.

Why can’t you spiritually unfold until you learn to give and give and give and give until it hurts? Because that hurt is your block. Many people give, and they give generously, up to the point where they feel, “I have given a lot,” or “I have given too much,” or “I gave as much as I can give,” or “I will give more when I can,” or “I enjoy giving and I used to give a lot, but I can’t give so much right now.” These are the little blocks that come up within man’s nature and undermine man’s nature and bind him down to the depths of the negative areas of the subconscious mind. And then he can’t progress. Why can’t he progress? Because he can’t have devotion unless giving unfolds as his light.

The person who has a heart full of joy, even if he doesn’t have material possessions to speak of, always finds something to give; he gives what he has. He knows that he is not the giver at all, and when something comes his way, he gives of it freely. He is a vehicle for giving, and finally he is so full of abundance in consciousness that he knows he is not the giver, and he fulfills bhakti yoga in his life. If you give and give freely and spontaneously, you feel good about it, and if you do it again, you feel even better about it. But if you give and give selfishly, you feel bad about it, and if you continue to do so, you’ll feel worse. If you give and give spontaneously, you will awaken your inner nature, and spiritual power will flow through you, and you will merge with God within you. But if you give and give selfishly, by hanging on to your gift after you have given it, you close the door to spirituality. Giving is in many, many forms. Give freely, and your gift will come back to you, often doubled. That is the incomparable law of karma. Then this opens the door for another gift to be given. Your intuitive nature will tell you how you can give, when and where, and soon you will find yourself giving every minute of every day in the most
spontaneous ways.

Excerpts from “Merging with Siva” by Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

Bhakti & Jnana Part#2

swami sivanandaBhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga are not incompatibles like acid and alkali. The fruit of Bhakti Yoga is Jnana. Highest Love (Para Bhakti) and Jnana are one. Perfect knowledge is love.

Action, emotion and intelligence are the three horses that are linked to this body-chariot. They should work in perfect harmony or unison. Then only the chariot will run smoothly. There must be integral development. You must have the head of Sankara, the heart of Buddha and the hand of Janaka. Vedanta without devotion is quite dry. Jnana without Bhakti is not perfect.

(1) Jnana Yoga is like crossing a river by swimming. Bhakti Yoga is like crossing a river by a boat.
(2) The Jnani gets knowledge by self-reliance and assertion. The Bhakta gets Darshan of God by self-surrender.
(3) The Jnani asserts and expands. The Bhakta dedicates and consecrates himself to the Lord and contracts himself.
(4) A Bhakta wants to eat sugar-candy. A Jnani wants to become sugar-candy itself.
(5) A Bhakta is like a kitten that cries for help. A Jnani is like a baby-monkey that clings itself boldly to the mother.
(6) A Jnana Yogi exhibits Siddhis through will or Sat-Sankalpa. A Bhakta gets all the divine Aisvaryas through self-surrender and the consequent descent of Divine Grace.

In the Gita (IV-39) Lord Krishna clearly points out that Bhakti and Jnana are not incompatibles like oil and water. He says: “Sraddhavan labhate jnanam – The man who is full of faith obtaineth wisdom.”

“To this ever harmonious, worshipping in love, I give the Yoga of discrimination by which they come unto Me.” (X-10.)

“By devotion he knoweth Me in essence, who and what I am; having thus known Me in essence, he forthwith entereth into the Supreme.” (XVIII-55.)

A happy combination of head and heart is perfection.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda