Yoga – Truth, Consciousness, Bliss
By Swami Ayyappa Giri
Yogacharya, Yogini Ashram, California USA
I had an impactful introduction to the potentiality of Yoga. It was in 1970, arriving fresh from a local coffee house, I was too late to catch the hatha yoga, but hoped I could enjoy the lecture. I tip-toed into the Yoga hall, where dozens of people sat, transfixed on the fascinating discourse of the Guru. The speakers eyes remained closed as a veritable feast of ideas and inspiration emerged. It was Yogi S.A.A. Ramaiah, a venerated Saiva Siddhanta Yogi from South India. With the shyness of youth, I thought, “Let me just find an empty place on the floor without being noticed”. I spied a vacant spot and sat down, presumably unnoticed, as the Yogi, with eyes still closed, boomed out “Don’t think this is one of your coffee houses where you can pop in whenever you please, arrive late, and ignore the foundation of hatha yoga. If you want to benefit from Kriya Yoga you must arrive on time to lay a pile foundation for containing the powerful energies of the other practices.” Busss-ted! Alas, my late arrival had been “checked” but not without valuable instruction on the yogic expectation for punctuality. It was also a lesson on the clairvoyance of a great soul. What followed was decades of Yogic practice and teaching as service to the dharma of Sathguru Kriya Babaji, and his great disciple, Yogiar.
Yoga is derived from the word yuj, meaning yoke. It is a perfected connection, most say union, between the divine and yogi or yogini.
At first blush, Yoga appears to be different things to different people. According to vedanta, yoga is the union of the individual soul (jiva) with the cosmic soul (atma). Yoga to many Shaivas, however, is the knowledge of the oneness of the cosmic soul (Shiva) with the individual soul (atma). Some Shaivite traditions, such as Meykandar’s sub-sect of Saiva Siddhanta, prefer to preserve a slight separation, even in advanced samadhi, between the Jiva and Shiva. It is sometimes described as not unlike the salt in the ocean. They appear merged, but not quite fully, as the salt can always be separated again through evaporation.
Through the main body of Saiva Siddhanta, including its foundational Siddha, Thiramoolar, maintained that the individual soul, created by Siva, is destined, in some life or other, to completely merge in Him.
The sutras of the Trika Yoga lineage, maintain that Yoga is the realization that Shiva and Shakti are inseparable. This is elucidated in the The Uttara-naya Sutras, which are contained in the Nihsvasa-tattva-samhita and reflect the understandings of Kashmir Shaivism. The ancient Sankhya path offered the name of the highest consciousness as Purusha. The dualistic Vaisnavas say that the knowledge of Purana-purusha, the personality of Godhead, is Yoga. Naiyayikas say it is Ishvara, or Shiva, and the terms Ishvara and Purusha are used nearly interchangeably by yogis today.
While many of these paths have different names for the highest truth, they also acknowledge that this most ultimate awareness is impossible to describe. True yogic mystics do not bother at all about these differences, knowing that an ounce of experience is worth far more than even the most superb scholarship on the subject. My guru was an accomplished Siddhanta Yogi who never entertained a conflict between these yogic paths. “Does it matter?” he used to say, “…whether the icecream enters the mouth from the right or left side?”
Purity of body, mind and spirit
Impurity of the body, mind. and spirit leads to unhappiness, sickness, and death. These impurities are conquered by the eight limbs (angas) of Yoga advanced by the Siddha Patanjali: 1) moral codes (yama), 2) self purification and study (niyama), 3) asana (postures), 4) breath control (pranayama), 5) withdrawing the mind from the senses (pratyahara), 6) concentration (dharana), 7) deep meditation (dhyana) and 8) union with the object of meditation (samadhi). Through the consistent practice of an integrated path of yoga, such as Babaji’s Kriya Yoga, these goals can be achieved. In the event that an individual begins this process later in life, or even begins earlier in life but was drawn away by illusion, please know that no effort in the path of Yoga is EVER WASTED. A given soul will always take up where they left off in their previous life. It’s a cosmic law. This is why we see very young self starters in the path.
Purity leads to health and joy in every aspect of human existence. It also leads to inner bliss. Purity is not achieved through a single practice, but emerges over time though the integrated path of yoga. Through association with high minded souls (satsang), proximity to and initiation from, a true Guru. Ceremonial worship (puja) and devotional chanting (kirtan). It also requires a supreme and persistent effort with a combination of practices, including, hatha yoga, regulated breathing, meditation, life experience and sincere yearning for God. High minded qualities such as compassion (kripā), peaceful demeanor (kshamā), nonviolence (ahimsā) and a decreased compulsion for sex (brahmacharaya) are cultivated and develop naturally. When non-violence and sexual control dawn in the psyche, uncontrolled lust (kama)is vanquished. As compassion (kripā) and an absence of anger towards others (kshamā) are reduced, the urge to injure ones self or others (krodha) diminishes and disappears. By avoiding theft (asteya), cultivating guilelessness (Ārjava), and speaking truth (satya), or thirst for possessions and wealth (lobha) beyond what is essential, vanishes. The point is that as one impurity is overcome, the others are diminished as well. Let us be grateful for the Divine Grace in the development of a pure heart.
The greatest yogis perceived that we have various sheaths or multiple bodies that extend from the gross physical to the energy (pranic), mental, intellectual, and spiritual bodies. Yoga seeks to align these sheaths as instruments of divine will (dharma). Spiritual observances (niyama)are required to change the vibration of the bodies or sheaths (kosha) to receive the light energy of high consciousness. This purity is achieved through intensive yogic practices (tapas), determined efforts at cultivating purity and contentment (santosha), as well as faith that the lineage and practices will lead to the heart of dharma (astikya). Other observances include offering charity according to ones means (dana), faithfully worshiping ones favorite divine form (ishta-devata), and serving as an instrument of the formless absolute (brahman). Reflection on the principles expounded by sacred texts (siddhanta-shravana), upholding an aversion towards wicked pursuits (hri), and exercising discrimination (mati) are vital. Finally, the performance of mental repetition of sacred sounds (bija mantra), and fire meditation (homa) are powerful means of burning karma and focusing the mind. Some are enthralled with mysticism, but before the higher reaches are achieved, one simply has to address the challenge of becoming a better person. In that way, one wins the Grace of the Sathguru lineage (guru paramapara).
Concurrent with all these efforts is an integrated practice of various forms of Yoga including Hatha, Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, Dhyana, Darana, and Kriya. The goal of yoga is inner bliss, Samadhi. Simply practicing Yoga with faith and devotion leads to purity and clarity of mind.
This path of physical control or hatha yoga consists of three aspects; physical postures (asana), body locks (bhanda), and mystic signs and symbols (mudra). A combination of techniques prescribed by the Guru offers the most effective result.
The Ishopanishad, one of the great spiritual treatises, reflects a general concept true to the path of Hatha Yoga. “Physical movements are not spiritually helpful in themselves, nor does concentration alone bring success. However, one who combines concentration with physical control achieves success.”
The word hatha suggests “hard” or “hardiness”, reflecting the inner discipline which results from its practice. Consistent practice of hatha yoga balances the energies in the subtle bodies and leads to robust health and vitality in all planes. The Hatha tradition also suggests an harmonious blending and balancing of the male and female aspects and energies within ones being. This concept is explained with the bisection of the word hatha; “ha” suggesting masculine energy, perceived as solar (surya) and “tha” suggesting feminine energy, perceived as lunar (chandra). The benefits of hatha yoga are not by any means limited to the physical plane. Most of the techniques tone and balance the energy channels of the vital plane. The two most important treatises on the subject of Hatha Yoga have emerged through the centuries as classics; the Gheranda Samhita and the Hatha Yoga Pradapika. Many of the kriyas have been glorified in these classics as transformational techniques having a profound effect physically, vitally, mentally, intellectually, and spiritually.
The temple of the soul must become a fit vehicle for the light. Yoga seeks not only the transcendence of the physical but ultimately the transformation of the physical as well as powerful waves of subtle electromagnetic energy descend. One cannot contain the nectar of Divine Grace in a weak, leaking pot. Thus the path of hatha yoga has ramifications which extend to the loftiest levels of spiritual attainment, specifically, a comprehensive descent of the divine attributes into the cellular structure of the physical body.
Karma Yoga is the path of dedicated action. “Engaged in dedicated activity of his life’s duty (dharma), his mind remains as detached as the water on the lotus leaf, he should constantly strive to free his soul by the knowledge of divine truth”. Thus the Mahanirvana Tantraexpresses the lofty goal of Kriya karma Yoga. One of the Siddhas most striking characteristic teachings is the insistence that the Yogi need not renounce their trade and profession but rather engage in their livelihood honestly and sincerely which can be a path to liberation. Work, dedicated to the highest plane, is love manifested in lowest.
Jnana Yoga is the path of discrimination. The thorn of ignorance (ajnana) is removed by the thorn of knowledge (jnana). Vijnana, by contrast, is transcendental knowledge. On attaining vijnana both ajnana and jnana are discarded. Ramakrishna often said that a person who has merely heard of milk is ignorant, a person who has seen milk has knowledge, but that person alone who has drunk milk has been nourished. One uses jnana to attain vijnana. Jnana then is used to understand and discriminate between that which is real and that which is not. Renouncing name and form, he who understands the true essence of Brahma is not fettered by the bonds of Karma. The Mahanirvana Tantra states that “If a man acquires the firm conviction of the great spiritual truth that the Atman is the One witness, Lord, all perfect, without a second and the greatest of the great, that man attains liberation.”
Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion. Love of God, said the great Ramakrishna, is of two levels. The vaidhi devotee is limited by his nature to formal, structured, more external, devotion. All devotees begin as vaidhi devotees. They may count and record their actions as a miser keeps track of and revels in his money. Such a devotee aspires to enjoy the fruit of their spiritual work and thus offers a conditional love to the cosmos with the expectation of some reward or other. Through the maturing experience of time, the raga devotee emerges and the aspirant becomes absorbed in a passionate unconditional love of God. The vaidhi bhakta may enter and leave the path relatively like a comet but the raga bhakta maintains his connection to the Satguru and the inner spiritual reality throughout his life, and beyond. Not that it is a difficult choice. Once awakened, His aspiration and love of God would never permit him to lead a superficial, materialistic life. God himself assumes responsibility for the raga bhakta. Said Ramakrishna, “Those who are held by God have nothing to fear. The son who holds his fathers hand while walking along the narrow ridge of a rice field, may slip if he absent-mindedly lets go of the father’s hand, but if the father holds the son by the hand there is no such danger.” How does one develop such divine love? “Through restlessness”, replied the master – “the restlessness that a child in distress feels for his mother. The child feels bewildered when separated from his mother, and weeps longingly for her. If the devotee can weep like that for God he can even see him.” …”There are various qualities of bhakti”, said Ramakrishna. “The inferior devotee sees God as far away in heaven.” The mediocre devotee says, “God exists in all beings as life and consciousness.” But the loftiest devotee who has had the divine vision knows that “It is God Himself who has become EVERYTHING, all that is seen is verily the form of God. It is He alone who exists in and through all the universe.”
Withdrawing the mind from the senses leading to concentration – Pratyahara & Dharana
The Siddha Patanjali, writes, “Yoga chitta vritti nirodha” or “Yoga consists of cleansing the latent consciousness” (thus creating a cessation from the incessant and recurring waves of thought). The primary method is performed by disassociation of all thoughts which enter the mind, or witness consciousness.
Sri Aurobindo, the great Sage of Pondicherry, wrote about his initiation into witness consciousness and the origin of thought…“The principle business of mind is either a response of acceptance or a refusal of thought-waves. It was my great debt to Lele that he showed me this…I had never heard of thoughts coming visibly into the mind from outside but I did not think either of questioning the truth or possibility. I simply sat down and did it…my mind became silent as a windless air on a high mountain summit as I saw one thought and then another coming in a concrete way from outside…In three days I was free and the mental being in me became a Universal Mind not limited to the narrow circle of a laborer in a thought factory but as a liberated being free to choose from the vast thought empire.”
The celebrated lady saint, Anandamayi Ma, asked her chellas to “Choose a word, a form, an image, a symbol – anything sacred representing Him (Shiva) as a whole or in part and whether in happiness or misery direct the current of thought towards him. Although the mind may wander it will seek rest in this center and in due course love and devotion will awaken for He who will take possession of your heart”
Deep meditation – Dhyana yoga
Dhyana is an advanced level of meditation wherein the meditation becomes increasingly focused into the depths. The Bhuta Shuddhi Tantra states that “Concentration on the universal divine form is dhyana. while concentration only on one point at a time is dharana.”
Going deep into meditation on the universal divine form, one gets inspiration from the indwelling self, often as a gem of high consciousness.
Bija mantras can serve as focused Dhyana as well. The subject is vast. A comprehensive article on Mantra can be found on Kalipath.com entitled “Mantra – Sacred Sound Bath of the Mystics Path”
As the Yogi or Yogini progresses in their practices (sadhana), they often shift their attention to the formless. The Sage Ramakrishna stated that he was able to make great advance focusing on Maa Kali, his ishta devata. His Kundalini Yoga Guru, Totatpuri, strongly encouraged him to transcend even his beloved Kali, and using the knife of discrimination, he cut the cords of attachment and plunged into Samadhi.
Sadhaks may lack the monumental love for the form to reach such a vision, in the beginning. Such sadhaks may be better served applying a meditation in which every energy perceived in the vital plane is ignored, every thought, image and concept that comes into the consciousness, is disassociated from, with the understanding that it is not the inmost self. The mental expression “Not this, not this” is recommended by sacred texts. One might start with the concept that the “I” is “not the body”, not the subtle energy (vital plane), not the thoughts and feelings that move through the being, and not the surface ego. The meditator waiting for the inmost ”I” in a calm persistence and dismissing the imposters.
There are four bold pronouncements of the Upanishads, referred to as the mahāvākyāni, which are exalted in the Advaita Vedanta and other Shaiva-Shakta paths. They are considered meditations par excellence for the advanced sadhak. If there use as a tool for meditation cultivates human ego, it is better to avoid them. Remember that everything is a means to an end, and Divine Grace comes to the humble.
1) “Brahma is wisdom” (prajnanam brahma) from Aitareya Upanishad
2) “I am of Brahman” or “I am the Infinite Reality” (aham brahmāsmi) from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
3) “That Thou Art” (Tat Tvam Asi) from Chandogya Upanishad.
4) “The Self is Brahman” (ayam atma brahma) from Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣhad
Patanjali Siddha, in his Raja Yoga Sutras, stated that “Kriya Yoga is purification (tapas), self analysis (svadhyana), and surrender to Divine will through dedicated action. (pranidhana)”
Kriya also describes an action meant to accomplish a specific yogic goal. Kriya Yoga in our current age is a path of dedicated practices that revolve around tuning the consciousness of the yogi or yogini to the divine vibrations, balancing the internal energies of the two adjacent conduits (ida and pingala), increasing the electro-magnetic energy of the central spiritual conduit (sushumna), and refining the energy centers through which the central spiritual conduit moves. It is, in short, the scientific art of mastering the breath. There are two influences that induce the mind to wander, 1) desires and 2) breathing patterns. If one is controlled, the other is controlled. Of these two, breath should be controlled first. Kriya teaches the method, introduced by the immortal Mahavatar Babaji, for controlling the breath. It includes learning how to breath, while manifesting the divine sound. Breathing affects consciousness. Every breath that we take has the potential to move us toward greater consciousness. By the practice of the ratio-breathing of Kriya, life can be extended and health improved. The techniques move the yogi or yogini closer to the great Himalayan master and in time, permit communication with him directly from within. The techniques help overcome attachment to drugs, cigarettes, unhealthy food, and unwanted habits.
Samadhi, the ultimate goal of yoga, and is the inner bliss state of constant realization of the oneness of the individual soul (jivatman) with the cosmic soul (paramatma). A discussion of Samadhi can be found on this site. (see Samadhi Secrets of the Himalayan Mahavatar Babaji)
References: Sarada Tilaka Tantra
Raja Yoga Sutras
For more on Kriya Yoga, see “Kriya-The Science of Trance and
Transformation” on ths Yogini Ashram website
Swami Ayyappa Giri
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