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

Obstacles in God-realization #5

Aimless Wandering

Swami Sivananda

Some aspirants have got a habit of wandering aimlessly. They cannot stick to one place even for a week. The wandering habit must be checked. They want to see new places, new faces and want to talk with new people. A rolling stone gathers no moss. A Sadhaka should stick to one place at least for a period of twelve years (one Tapah period). If his health is delicate, he can stay for six months in one place during summer and rainy season and in another place for six months during winter. Sadhana suffers if one wanders constantly. Those who want to do rigorous Tapas and Sadhana must stay in one place. Too much walking produces weakness and fatigue.

Lingual Diarrhea

Much energy is wasted by too much talking. The energy that is spent in talking must be conserved and utilized for divine contemplation. talkative man is unfit for the spiritual path. Practise Mauna (Silence) daily for two hours and especially during meals. On Sundays observe full Mauna for 24 hours. Do a lot of Japa and meditation during Mauna. The Mauna that is observed during meditation cannot be taken as Mauna. Mauna should be observed by householders at such a time when there are great opportunities for talking and when visitors come to meet. Now only the impulses of speech can be checked. Ladies are very talkative. They create troubles in the house by idle talk and gossiping. They should observe Mauna particularly. You should speak measured words only. Too much talking is Rajasic nature.

Discussing too much

Too much discussions end in enmity and hostility. Much energy is wasted in useless discussions. Intellect is a help if it is used in the right direction of Atmic Vichara. Intellect is a hindrance if it is used in unnecessary discussions. Intellect takes the aspirant to the threshold of intuition. Thus far and no further. Reason helps in inferring the existence of God and finding out suitable methods for Self-realisation. Intuition transcends reason but does not contradict reason. Intuition is direct perception of Truth. There is no reasoning here. Reasoning concerns matters of the physical plane. Wherever there is ‘Why’ and ‘Wherefore’, there is reasoning. In transcendental matters which are beyond the reach of reason, reason is of no use.

Intellect helps a lot in reflection and ratiocination. But people in whom reasoning has highly developed become skeptical. Their reason becomes perverted also. They lose faith in Vedas and in the teachings of Mahatmas.

Irregularity of Sadhana

Just as a man is regular in taking his food, so also he must be strictly regular in his Sadhana. One can get the meditative mood quite easily without effort if he does his Sadhana at fixed hours, both morning and night. In winter one can have four sittings. One should have the same pose, the same room, the same seat, the same Bhava or the same mental attitude, the same hours for meditation.

One should meditate regularly. He should do the spiritual Sadhana untiringly with indefatigable energy, asinine patience, adamantine will and iron determination. Then only sure success is possible. Meals should be taken at regular hours. One should go to sleep at fixed time. See how the sun is very regular in its rising and daily work!

Sometimes the mind gets disgusted with one particular kind of Sadhana. It wants some new kind of Sadhana. Just as mind wants some variety in food and other things, so also it wants variety in the mode of Sadhana also. It rebels against monotonous practice.

Do not expect anything. Be sincere and regular in your daily routine, Tapas and meditation. The Sadhana will take care of itself. You mind your own daily business. The fruit will come by itself. Let me repeat here the words of Lord Krishna: “Thy business is with the action (Tapas, Sadhana and meditation) only, never with its fruit; so let not the fruit of action be thy motive, nor be thou to inaction attached.” (Gita: ll-47.) Your efforts will be crowned with sanguine success by the Lord. It takes a long time for purification of the mind and getting a one-pointed mind. Be cool and patience. Continue your Sadhana regularly.

Fault-finding

This is a detestable old habit of man. If you spend even a fraction of the time that you waste in finding your own faults you would have become a great saint by this time. He who applies himself diligently to his spiritual practices cannot find even a single second to look into the affairs of others. Much time is wasted in back-biting, scandal-mongering etc. Time is most precious.

Fear

This is a very great obstacle in the path of God-realisation. A timid aspirant is absolutely unfit for the spiritual path. One must risk the life, if he wants to attain immortality. The spiritual wealth cannot be gained without self-sacrifice, self-denial or self-abnegation. A fearless dacoit who has no Deha-Adhyasa is fit for God-realisation. Only his current will have to be changed. Fear is not an imaginary non-entity. It assumes solid forms and troubles the aspirant in various ways. If one conquers fear, he is on the road to success. He has almost reached the goal. Tantrik Sadhana makes the student fearless.

Fear assumes various forms. Some are not afraid of tigers in the forests. They are not afraid of gun shots in the battlefield. But they are awfully afraid of public criticism. Fear of public criticism stands in the way of an aspirant in his spiritual progress. He should stick to his own principles, and own convictions, even though he is persecuted and even though he is at the point of being blown up at the mouth of a machine-gun. Then only he will grow and realise. Fear of all sorts should be totally eradicated by Atma-Chintana, Vichara, devotion and cultivation of the opposite quality, courage. Positive overcomes negative. Courage overpowers fear and timidity.

Force of Old Samskaras

When the aspirant does intense Sadhana to obliterate the old Samskaras, they try to rebound upon him with a vengeance and with redoubled force. They take forms and come before him as stumbling-blocks. The old Samskaras of hatred, enmity, jealousy, feeling of shame, respect, honour, fear etc., assume grave forms. Samskaras are not imaginary non-entities. They turn into actualities when opportunities crop up. The aspirant should not be discouraged. They will lose their force after some time and die by themselves. Just as the dying wick burns with intensity just before it gets extinguished, so also those old Samskaras show their teeth and force before they are eradicated. The aspirant should not get unnecessarily alarmed. He will have to increase the force or momentum of spiritual Samskaras by doing Japa, Dhyana, Svadhyaya, virtuous actions, Satsanga and cultivation of Sattvic virtues. These new spiritual Samskaras will neutralise the old vicious Samskaras. He should plunge himself into his spiritual practices. This is his Kartavya or duty.

Excerpts from “Practice of Bhakti Yoga” by Swami Sivananda