ABSTINENCE

Total-AbstinenceAbstinence is abstaining or refraining especially from some indulgence. Abstinence is temperance. We speak of abstinence from meat, abstinence from whisky, abstinence from food or sexual indulgence.

Abstinence is continued temperance which gives longevity, good health, and keeps the body free from diseases.
Abstinence is a discipline which gives Vairagya or dispassion and helps the aspirant to march forward in the path of Yoga. Abstinence is the practice of Yama or self-restraint. lt is the ground-work of virtue.
Abstinence is the strongest fence against diseases.

Self-denial is giving up what one wishes. Abstinence may be refraining from what one does not desire. Fasting is abstinence from food for a limited time and generally for religious reasons.

Excerpts from “HOW TO CULTIVATE VIRTUES AND ERADICATE VICES” by Sri Swami Sivananda

A Brief Outlook on Raja Yoga pt.#2

practical-raja-yoga-meditationTHE THREE GUNAS

There are three Gunas or qualities in the mind, viz., Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. When Sattva preponderates man is calm and serene (Santa). When Rajas preponderates he is Ghora (agitated or excited). When Tamas preponderates he is Moodha (dull and foolish).
Control Tamas through Rajas. Control Rajas through Sattva. Control Sattva by Sattva itself.

He who has gone beyond the three Gunas, who has equal vision and balanced mind in pleasure and pain, honour and dishonour, is a sage or a full-blown Yogi. When the mind is Sattvic, there is serenity. Truth is reflected in a serene mind.

Sattva increases through association with the wise, study of religious books, Sattvic food, repetition of the Lord’s Name, etc. Sattva has the characteristic of effrrlgence. It is also harmony or goodness or purity. Sattva is stainless like the crystal.

Sattva binds a man by attachment to happiness and knowledge. Sattva is a golden fetter. Rajas and Tamas are iron fetters.

Rajas is passion or activity. Rajas causes distraction and restlessness. Rajas is the source of thirst and attachment to action. A Rajasic man wants power, wealth, prestige, position, name and fame. A Rajasic man constantly moves. He is ambitious. He is ever engaged in action. He is talkative. He is full of cravings and desires. He is attached to action. He runs after sensual pleasures. He is under intoxication of pride of wealth.

Tamas is inertia or darkness. Tamas is bom of ignorance. It binds a man by heedlessness, indolence, carelessness, lethargy, sloth and sleep.

The fruit of Sattvic action is happiness; the fruit of Rajasic action is pain; the fruit of Tamasic action is ignorance. If anyone meets death when Sattva is predominant, he attains to the spotless world of the Highest. If he meets death in Rajas, he is born among those attached to action. If he meets death in Tamas, he is born in the womb of the senseless. He takes his birth amongst the dull and stupid, or the lowest grades of human being.

The three Gunas are present in all human beings. No one is free from the operation of any one of the three Gunas. These qualities are not constant. Sometimes Santa predominates; at other times, Rajas or Tamas predominates.

The Lord has mastery over the three Gunas. When the three Gunas are in a state of equilibrium, Prakriti is in a state of equipoise. There is no projection of the world. There is Pralaya or deluge. A vibration arises. There is disturbance in the Gunas. Equilibrium of the Gunas is disturbed. The world comes out. Rajas and Tamas are pitfalls on the spiritual path.

PHILOSOPHY OF OM

Om is the word of power. It is the sacred symbol of Brahman or God. All languages and sounds have come out of Om. The whole world also has come out of Om.

The goal which the scriptures uniformly extol, which all acts of austerity which speak of and wishing for which rnan leads the life of celibacy-that goal is Om.

Japa of Om is remembrance of the Lord. The Yogic students get one-pointedness of mind by repetition of Om. By constant repetition of Om the force of spiritual Samskaras is increased.

Repeat Om mentally when you retain the breath (Kumbhaka). This will give you power, strength, vigour and health.

Om is the life and soul of all Mantras. The essence of all scriptures is Om. ‘A’ starts from the root of the tongue; ‘U’ proceeds from the middle; and ‘M’ comes from the end by closing the lips. ‘A’ represents the waking state, ‘U’ represents the dream state and ‘M’ represents the deep sleep state. A U M covers the entire sounds producing area.

Amen is Om. Ameen is Om. The vibration produced by chanting Om in the physical universe corresponds to the original vibration that arose when the world was projected. Yogis always meditate on Om. Om is the inner music of the Soul. It is the music of Silence.

THE EIGHTFOLD YOGA

There follow the eight limbs of Raja Yoga: Yama (self-restraint), Niyama (observances), Asana (pose), Pranayama (control of Prana or breath), Pratyahara (abstraction of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (superconscious state).

FIRST STEP – YAMA (self-restraint)

1. AHIMSA – is perfect harmlessness. Eliminate the beast nature within. Ahimsa is not merely non-killing. It is positive, cosmic love.

By injuring another you injure your own self. By serving another you serve your own self. Love all. Serve all. Hate none. Insult none. Injure none in thought, word and deed.

Ahimsa is Supreme Love. Ahimsa is a weapon of the strong. It cannot be practised by weak persons.

The practice of Ahimsa develops the heart in a wonderful manner. The practice of Ahimsa will make you fearless. He who practises Ahimsa can move the whole world. He can tame even the wild animals.

Amisa is not a policy. It is a sublime virtue. Anger can be easily controlled by the practice of Ahimsa. The law of Ahimsa is as much exact and precise as the law of gravitation or cohesion.

He who is patient and forgiving, who has self-control can practise Ahimsa. If you practise Ahimsa, you should put up with insults, rebukes, censures and assaults. You should never retaliate, nor wish ill to any body even under exfreme provocation.

2. SATYA (truthfulness). Thought, word and act should agree. This is truthfulness. Whatever you have seen or heard must be spoken of as it is. Do not twist or modify. This is Satya.

By speaking truth, the mind is purified, and divine light dawns. Stick to your promise at any cost.

lf you are established in truth, you will get Vak-Siddhi – whatever you say will come to pass.

3. ASTEYA (non-stealing). Desire or want is the root-cause for stealing. If you are established in non-stealing, all wealth will come to you.

4. BRAHMACHARYA (continence) is is purity or freedom from last in thought, word and deed. It is freedom from serial thoughts, sexual urge and the attraction of sex. What is wanted is sublimation of sex-energy. Repression or suppression of sex-energy will not help in the practice of Brahmacharya.
Brahmacharya lies at the very heart of Tapas or Yoga. No spiritual progress is possible without Brahmacharya.

5. APARIGRAHA (non-covetousness) removes anxiety to preserve, fear of loss. It gives peace, contentment and satisfaction. It is an aid to practice of Ahimsa, Satya and
Asteya.

Never take from life more than what you need for your simple and bare living. If you are established in non-covetousness, you will get the memory of past life.

SECOND STEP – NIYAMA (observance)

Niyama is the second step in the path of the Eightfold Yoga of Patanjali. It consists of:

1. SAUCHA (purity). Through purity of mind come cheerfulness of mind, concentration, conquest of the senses and fitness for Self-realisation.

2. SANTOSHA (contentment) gives superlative happiness and peace.

3. TAPAS (austerity). Through the practice of austerity come some powers or Siddhis.

4. SVADHYAYA – study of spiritual books and scriptures.

5. ATMANIVEDANA (self-surrender). Through the practice of self-surrender comes Samadhi or superconscious state.

THIRD STEP – ASANA

Any steady and comfortable pose is Asana. A steady pose gives concentration of mind. Physical exercises draw the Prana out. Asanas send the Prana in. Where Hatha Yoga ends, Raja Yoga begins.

PRANA

Prana is energy. It is subtle life-breath. It is the life-principle. lf Prana departs from the body, we call the condition death.

There is only one Prana. It assumes five names according to the function it performs:
1. Prana does inhalation and exhalation.
2. Apana does the functions of nutrition and excretion (elimination).
3. Samana does the function of digestion.
4. Vyana does the function of circulation of blood.
5. Udana does the function of deglutition. It takes the individual during sleep to the heart. It separates the astral body from the physical body at death.

Mental function is due to vibration of the Prana force. Prana is the link between the astral and the physical bodies.
Prana, Apana, etc., are gross forms of the main Prana. Psychic Prana, which generates thought, is subtle.

In the Cosmos, the universal Prana brought forth the elements. Prana vibrates on cosmic Ether. Air, fire, water and earth are produced.

Prana is the oldest part of existence for it starts functioning from the very moment the child is conceived. It is the best also. Even during sleep it functions, when mind and
other organs are at rest.

Cosmic Prana is termed Hiranyagarbha. Fire burns through Prana. Wind blows through Prana. Rivers flow through Prana.

Prana is magnetism. Prana is electricity. Prana is expended in thinking, willing, acting, moving, talking, etc. A strong and healthy man has an abundance of Prana or nerve force or vitality. The Prana is supplied by food, water, air, solar energy. The excess of Prana is stored up in the brain and nerve centres.
When the sex-energy is sublimated, it supplies abundance of Prana to the system. lf you can control Prana, you can control all the forces of the universe. If you control the Prana; you can control the mind easily.

There is intimate connection between Prana, mind and semen (the vital fluid). If you can control your seminal energy, you can also control your mind and Prana.

Retain the breath and send the Prana to any diseased part of your body. The disease will get cured. Store abundant Prana through the practice of Pranayama. Touch any diseased part of the body in any man. The disease will be cured. A senior Yogi can transfer his Prana to others and cure diseases.

Prana is the universal life principle. It is the principle of energy or force. It is all-pervading.

FOURTH STEP – PRANAYAMA

Pranayama is restraint of Prana. By restraint of the breath Prana is controlled. By the practice of Pranayama, Rajas and Tamas, which cover Sattva, are removed. Then the mind becomes fit for concentration. Practice of Pranayama removes diseases of the body and renovates the cells, tissues and nerves.

There should not be any strain in any stage of Pranayama. You must enjoy peace, joy and happiness. Do not produce any sound while inhaling or exhaling. Do not practise Pranayama when the day is hot.

Those who practise Pranayama can cure many diseases by directing the Prana to the affected part. The wish and intention of curing the disease is projected with a powerful will. Sit by the side of the patient. Close your eyes. Inhale gently. Then retain the breath and direct the Prana to the diseased part of the patient’s body. Concentrate your mind there and chant Om mentally. Strongly imagine that the Prana is penetrating into the diseased cells and destroying them. You can do this on yourself, too, when you are
sick.

DISTANT HEALING

You can repeat the process as in Pranic healing sitting alone in your meditation room and directing the Prana towards the direction where the patient lives. Fix up an appointment with the patient. Ask him to have a receptive mental attitude at the particular moment when you are directing the Prana to him.
Brahmamuhurta is the best period for exercising Pranic healing. This period is the predawn period from two hours before sunrise.

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

Words of Indian Saints Part #21

paramahansa-yoganandaManu is the universal lawgiver; not alone for Hindu society, but for the world. All systems of wise social regulations and even justice are patterned after Manu.

He has outlined the duties of a king. “He should shower amenities like Indra (lord of the gods); collect taxes gently and imperceptibly as the sun obtains vapor from water; enter into the life of his subjects as the wind goes everywhere; mete out even justice to all like Yama (god of death); bind transgressors in a noose like Varuna (Vedic deity of sky and wind); please all like the moon, burn up vicious enemies like the god of fire; and support all like the earth goddess.

“In war a king should not fight with poisonous or fiery weapons nor kill weak or unready or weaponless foes or men who are in fear or who pray for protection or who run away. War should be resorted to only as a last resort. Results are always doubtful in war.”

The origin of the caste system, formulated by the great legislator Manu, was admirable. He saw clearly that men are distinguished by natural evolution into four great classes: those capable of offering service to society through their bodily labor (Sudras); those who serve through mentality, skill, agriculture, trade, commerce, business life in general (Vaisyas); those whose talents are administrative, executive, and protective-rulers and warriors (Kshatriyas); those of contemplative nature, spiritually inspired and inspiring (Brahmins). “Neither birth nor sacraments nor study nor ancestry can decide whether a person is twice-born (i.e., a Brahmin);” the Mahabharata declares, “character and conduct only can decide.” Manu instructed society to show respect to its members insofar as they possessed wisdom, virtue, age, kinship or, lastly, wealth. Riches in Vedic India were always despised if they were hoarded or unavailable for charitable purposes. Ungenerous men of great wealth were assigned a low rank in society.

Inclusion in one of these four castes originally depended not on a man’s birth but on his natural capacities as demonstrated by the goal in life he elected to achieve. This goal could be (1) kama, desire, activity of the life of the senses (Sudra stage), (2) artha, gain, fulfilling but controlling the desires (Vaisya stage), (3) dharma, self-discipline, the life of responsibility and right action (Kshatriya stage), (4) moksha, liberation, the life of spirituality and religious teaching (Brahmin stage). These four castes render service to humanity by (1) body, (2) mind, (3) will power, (4) Spirit.

“These four stages have their correspondence in the eternal gunas or qualities of nature, tamas, rajas, and sattva: obstruction, activity, and expansion; or, mass, energy, and intelligence. The four natural castes are marked by the gunas as (1) tamas (ignorance), (2) tamas- rajas (mixture of ignorance and activity), (3) rajas-sattva (mixture of right activity and enlightenment), (4) sattva (enlightenment). Thus has nature marked every man with his caste, by the predominance in himself of one, or the mixture of two, of the gunas. Of course every human being has all three gunas in varying proportions. The guru will be able rightly to determine a man’s caste or evolutionary status.

“To a certain extent, all races and nations observe in practice, if not in theory, the features of caste. Where there is great license or so-called liberty, particularly in intermarriage between extremes in the natural castes, the race dwindles away and becomes extinct. The Purana Samhita compares the offspring of such unions to barren hybrids, like the mule which is incapable of propagation of its own species. Artificial species are eventually exterminated. History offers abundant proof of numerous great races which no longer have any living representatives. The caste system of India is credited by her most profound thinkers with being the check or preventive against license which has preserved the purity of the race and brought it safely through millenniums of vicissitudes, while other races have vanished in oblivion.”

Serious evils arose when the caste system became hardened through the centuries into a hereditary halter. Social reformers like Gandhi and the members of very numerous societies in India today are making slow but sure progress in restoring the ancient values of caste, based solely on natural qualification and not on birth. Every nation on earth has its own distinctive misery-producing karma to deal with and remove; India, too, with her versatile and invulnerable spirit, shall prove herself equal to the task of caste-reformation.

“Do not do what you want, and then you may do what you like” – a guide to soul freedom through mastery of the ego told by Sadasiva.

Excerpts from the book by Paramhansa Yogananda “Autobiography of a Yogi”