6 Schools | 4. Yoga


The Yoga


Prostrations to Śrī Patañjali Mahāṛṣi, the exponent of the Rāja Yoga system of philosophy, the first systematiser of the Yoga school, whose ‘Yoga Sutras’ is the basic text.

The word Yoga comes from the root YUJ which means to join. Yoga is restraint of the activities of the mind, and is the union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul.

Hiraṇyagarbha is the founder of the Yoga system.

The Yoga founded by Patañjali Mahaṛṣi is a branch or supplement of the Sānkhya. It has its own charm for students of a mystic temperament and of a contemplative type.

It claims greater orthodoxy than the Sānkhya proper by directly acknowledging the existence of a Supreme Being (Iśvara).

The God of Patañjali is a Special Purusha or Particular Soul unaffected by afflictions, works, fruition and vehicles. In Him is the highest limit of the seed of omniscience. He, being unconditioned by time, is the teacher of even the ancients. He is ever free.

The sacred syllable O is the symbol of God. Repetition of Om and meditation on Om, should be practised. This will remove all obstacles and will lead to the attainment of God-realisation.

The Yoga Sutras

The ‘Yoga Sutras’ of Patañjali form the oldest text-book of the Yoga school. It has four chapters:

The first chapter, Samādhi Pāda, deals with the nature and aim of Samādhi (the state of super-consciousness where Absoluteness is experienced attended with all-knowledge and joy; Oneness).

The second chapter, Sādhana Pāda, explains the means of attaining this end.

The third chapter , Vibhuti Pāda, gives a description of the supernatural powers or Siddhis that can be achieved through the Yoga practices.

The fourth chapter, Kaivalya Pāda, describes the nature of salvation.

Rāja Yoga and Hatha Yoga

Patañjali’s Yoga is Aṣṭāṅga-Yoga or Yoga with eight limbs. This Yoga deals with the discipline of the mind and its psychic powers:

Hatha Yoga treats of the methods of bodily control and regulations of breath. The culmination of Hatha Yoga is Raja Yoga.

A progressive Sadhana (self-effort; spiritual practice) in Hatha Yoga leads to the accomplishment of Raja Yoga. Hatha Yoga is a ladder to ascend to the stage or summit of Raja Yoga.

When the movement of breath is stopped by means of Kumbhaka (retention of breath) the mind becomes supportless. Purification of the body and control of breath is the direct aim of Hatha Yoga.

The Shat-Karmas or six acts of purification of the body are:

Dhautī (cleansing of the stomach), Basti (natural form of enema),
Netī (Cleansing of the nostrils), Trāṭaka (unwinking gazing at some object),
Naulī (churning of the belly) and
Kapālabhātī (removal of the phlegm through a certain kind of Pranayama).

[Prāṇāyāma = regulation and restraint of breath]. The body is rendered healthy, light, strong and steady by the practice of Āsanas, Bandhas and Mudras.

Yoga – A Methodical Effort to Control the Mind

Yoga is a method of strict discipline. It imposes restrictions on diet, sleep, company, behaviour, speech and thought. It should be practised under the careful supervision of an expert and illumined Yogi.

Yoga is a methodical effort to control the mind and attain perfection.

Yoga heightens the power of concentration, arrests the wanderings and vagaries of the mind, and helps to attain the super-conscious state or Nirvikalpa Samādhi.

The practice of Yoga removes restlessness of body and mind. It removes the impurities of the mind also and steadies it.

The aim of Yoga is to teach the means by which the individual soul may attain complete union with the Supreme Soul:

This fusion or blending of the individual soul with the Supreme Purusha is effected by controlling the Vṛittis of the mind. This is a state which is as clear as crystal, since the mind is not coloured by contact with worldly objects.

The Yoga and The Sānkhya

Kapila’s system is Nir-Īśvara Sānkhya, as in it there is no Īśvara or God. The system of Patañjali is Sa-Īśvara Sānkhya, because there is Īśvara or Special Purusha in it, who is untouched by afflictions, works, desires, etc.

Patañjali built his system on the background of the metaphysics of the Sānkhya. Patañjali accepts the twenty-five principles of the Sānkhya.

He accepts the metaphysical view of the Sānkhya system, but lays great emphasis upon the practical side of self-discipline for the realisation of the absolute unity of the Purusha or true Self.

Sānkhya is a system of metaphysics. Yoga is a system of practical discipline. The former lays emphasis upon investigation and reasoning, and the latter upon concentration of the will-power.

The individual soul in the Yoga has greater freedom. It can attain salvation with the help of God. The Sānkhya maintains that knowledge is the means to salvation.

The Yoga holds that concentration, meditation and Samādhi will lead to Kaivalya or Independence.

The Yoga system holds that the Yogic process consists in the suppression of the diversities of mental functions and the concentration of the mental energy on the self-luminous Purusha.

The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga

Rāja Yoga in known by the name Aṣṭāṅga-Yoga or the Yoga with Eight Limbs; the eight limbs are:—

1. Yama (restraint)
2. Niyama (observances)
3. Āsana (posture)
4. Pranayama (control of breath)
5. Pratyāhāra (withdrawal of the senses)
6. Dhāraṇa (concentration)
7. Dhyāna (meditation)
8. Samādhi (super-conscious state)

The first five of these form the external limbs (Bahiraṅga) of Yoga. The last three form the internal limbs (Antar-aṅga) of Yoga.

Yama and Niyama

The practice of Yama and Niyama constitute ethical discipline. It prepares the Yogic student for the real practice of Yoga:

The Yogic student should practise non-violence, truthfulness, continence, non-stealing, and non-acceptance of gifts which are conducive to luxurious living; and practise purity, contentment, austerity, sacred study and surrender to God.

The chief of them is non-violence (Ahimsa). All other virtues are rooted in Ahimsa. Non-violence is abstinence from malice towards all living beings- in every way and at all times. It is not merely non-violence, but non-hatred.

The Yamas or restraints are the great universal vows (Mahāvrata), not limited by caste, place or country, time or circumstances. They must be practised by all.

There are no exceptions to these principles. Not even self-defence can justify murder for one who is practising the vow of non- violence. He should not kill even his enemy if he is to practise Yoga rigorously.

Āsana, Pranayama and Pratyāhāra

Āsana is steady, comfortable posture. Āsana or posture is a physical help to concentration. When one obtains mastery over the Āsana, he is free from the disturbance of the pairs of opposites.

Prāṇāyāma or regulation of breath leads to tranquillity and steadiness of mind, and good health.

Pratyāhāra is introversion. It is withdrawal of the senses from their objects.

Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Pranayama and Pratyāhāra are accessories to Yoga.

Dhāraṇa, Dhyāna and Samādhi

Dhāraṇa, Dhyāna and Samādhi are the three consecutive stages of the same process of mental concentration and are thus parts of an organic whole.

Dhāraṇa is the effort to fix the mind steadily upon an object.
Dhyāna is continuous and unbroken fixity of the mind upon the object.

Samādhi is fixity of the mind upon the object with such intensity of concentration as to become the object itself. The mind is wholly merged in and identified with the object upon which it is fixed.

Samyama or concentration, meditation and Samādhi are one and the same, that gives a knowledge of super-sensual objects. Siddhis are by-products of concentration.

[Siddhi = perfection; psychic power]. The super-natural powers are really obstacles to Samādhi or freedom.

Yoga Samādhi and Its Characteristics

Dhyāna or meditation culminates in Samādhi. The object of meditation is Samādhi.

Samādhi is the goal of Yoga discipline: Body and mind become dead, as it were, to all external impressions. The connection with the outer world is broken.

In Samādhi, the Yogi enters into Supreme Silence which is untouched by the ceaseless noises of the outer world. The mind ceases its functioning. The senses are absorbed in the mind.

When all the modifications of the mind are controlled, the Seer, the Purusha, rests in his own Self. Patañjali speaks of this in his Yoga Sutras as Svarūpa-Avasthanam (establishment in one’s true Self).

There are kinds or degrees of concentration or Samādhi, viz., Samprajñāta or conscious and Asamprajñāta or super-conscious:

In Samprajñāta Samādhi, there are definite objects of concentration for resting. The mind remains conscious of the object:

Savitarka (with deliberation), Nirvikalpa (without deliberation), Savichara (with reflection), Nirvichara (without reflection), Sananda (with joy), and Sasmita (with the sense of personality) are forms of Samprajñāta Samādhi.

In Samprajñāta Samādhi, there is a clear consciousness of the object meditated upon, as distinct from the subject. In Asamprajñāta Samādhi, this distinction vanishes, it being transcended.

Conditions For Success In Raja Yoga

The Importance of Yama and Niyama

Aspirants who desire to attain God-realisation should practise all the eight limbs of Yoga.

On the destruction of the impurities through the practice of the eight limbs- or accessories- of Yoga, arises the light of wisdom leading to the discriminative knowledge.

For the attainment of Samādhi or union with the Divine, the practice of Yama and Niyama is an indispensable necessity:

The Yogic student should practise Yama and observe Niyama side by side. It is not possible to attain perfection in meditation and Samādhi without the observance of the practice of Yama and Niyama.

You cannot have concentration of mind without removing from within falsehood, deceit, cruelty, lust etc. Without concentration of mind, meditation and Samādhi cannot be attained.

The Five Mental Planes According to Patañjali

Kshipta, Mudha, Vikshipta, Ekagra and Nirodhā are the five mental planes according to the Raja Yoga school of Patañjali.

The Kshipta plane is that wherein the mind wanders amongst various sensual objects. The mind is filled with Rājas.

The Mūḍha plane is that wherein the mind is in a state of sleep and impotence on account of Tamas.

The Vikshipta plane is that wherein Sattva preponderates, and the mind oscillates between meditation and objectivity. The rays of the mind are slowly collected and gathered.

When Sattva increases, you will have cheerfulness of mind, one- pointedness of mind, conquest of the senses, and fitness for the realisation of the Ātman (Self).

The Ekagra plane is that wherein the mind is one-pointed. There is deep meditation. Sattva is free from Rajas and Tamas.

The Nirodhā plane is that wherein the mind is under perfect control. All the Vṛittis of the mind are annihilated.

A Vriti is a whirlpool or thought-wave in the mind-lake:

Each Vriti or mental modification leaves behind a Saṁskāra or impression or latent tendency. This Saṁskāra may manifest itself as a conscious state when the occasion arises.

Similar Vṛittis strengthen similar dispositions. When all the Vṛittis are arrested, the mind is in a balanced state (Samāpatti).

Disease, languor, doubt, carelessness, laziness, worldliness, erroneous perception, failure to attain concentration and instability in it when attained, are the main obstacles to concentration.

The Five Kleśas and Their Removal

According to Patañjali, Avidya (ignorance), Aśmitā (egoism), Raga-Dveṣa (desire and aversion, or likes and dislikes), and Abhiniveśa (clinging to mundane life) are the five great Kleśas or afflictions that assail the mind.

These are alleviated by means of continued Yogic practice, but not uprooted totally. They remain hidden in the form of seed. They sprout out again the moment they find an opportunity and favourable surroundings.

But Asamprajñāta Samādhi (Absolute-Experience) destroys even the seeds of these evils.

Avidya is the main cause of all our troubles. Egoism is the immediate result of Avidya. It fills us with desires and aversions, and veils the spiritual vision.

The practice of Yoga-Samādhi uproots Avidya (ignorance).

Practice of Kriya Yoga

Kriya-Yoga purifies the mind, attenuates or thins out the five afflictions, and leads to Samādhi. Tapas (austerity), Svādhyāya (studying and understanding of scriptures) and Īśvara Pranidhāna (worship of God and surrendering the fruit to God) constitute Kriya-Yoga.

Cultivation of friendliness (Maitrī) towards equals, compassion (Karuṇā) towards inferiors, Cheerfulness (Mudita) towards superiors and indifference (Upekṣā) towards wicked people (or with regard to things pleasant and painful, good and bad) produce tranquillity of mind (Chitta- Prasāda).

One can attain Samādhi through devotion to God. Devotion to God gives freedom. By Īśvara Pranidhāna, the Yogic student obtains the grace of God.

Abhyāsa and Vairāgya

Abhyāsa (practice) and Vairāgya (dispassion, non-attachment) help in steadying and controlling the mind:

The mind should be withdrawn again and again and brought back to the centre, whenever it goes out towards sensual objects. This is Abhyāsa Yoga. Practice becomes fixed and steady, when pursued for a long time without any break and with perfect devotion.

The mind is a bundle of Trishnas (cravings). Practice of Vairāgya will destroy all Trishnas:

Vairāgya turns the mind away from the objects. It does not allow the mind to go outwards (Bahirmukhī action of the mind), but promotes its Antarmukhī (inward going) action.

The State of Kaivalya or Absolute Independence

“The goal of life is the absolute separation of Purusha from Prakriti. Freedom in Yoga, is Kaivalya or absolute independence. The soul is freed from the fetters of Prakriti. The Purusha is in its true form or Svarūpa.

When the soul realises that it is absolutely independent, and that it does not depend on anything else in this world, Kaivalya or Isolation comes in:

The soul has removed the Avidya through discriminative knowledge (Viveka-khyāti).
The five Kleśas or afflictions are burnt by the fire of Knowledge.
The Self is not touched by the conditions of the Chitta.
The Guṇas retire to rest and the Self abides in its own divine essence.

Even if one becomes a Mukta (liberated Soul), Prakriti and its modifications exist for others. This, the Yoga system holds, in agreement with the Sānkhya.