Author: Swami Jyotirmayananda

Swami Jyotirmayananda

The Essence of Raja Yoga
Yoga

The Essence of Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga literally means “Royal Yoga,” because it presents a royal road to the integration of personality and attainment of Liberation. Being universal in nature, Raja Yoga gives a deep insight into the mind and its powers, and into the mystic art of controlling the mind by the practice of concentration, meditation and samadhi (superconsciousness). According to tradition, the original exponent of Raja Yoga was Hiranyagarbha or the Deity presiding over the Cosmic Mind. It was Patanjali Maharshi who compiled and edited the Sutras of Raja Yoga, probably centuries before Christ. Sutra means “thread,” and the teachings of Raja Yoga are presented in many brief statements, or sutras, into which many thoughts are threaded. The following is a simple outline of the profound mystic system of Raja Yoga, and a sincere aspirant should firmly implant these principles in his mind as a guideline for his spiritual sadhana. An important term in Raja Yoga is chitta, which includes ego, intellect, mind (conscious mind) and the unconscious. The very second sutra defines the purpose of Raja Yoga in relation to the chitta : “Yogash chitta-vritti nirodhah” — “Yoga is the cessation of the thought-waves of the chitta.” Chitta is compared to a lake. When waves agitate the lake, you cannot see the sky reflected in it; so too, as long as thought-waves continue to agitate the mind-stuff, you cannot discover the fact that you are essentially the Purusha, the Eternal Spirit or the Self, which is ever untouched by the chitta. Further, chitta in every human being is a gateway to cosmic powers. Being a portion of the Cosmic Mind, when it is highly purified it tunes itself to the Cosmic Mind and thus begins to tap boundless energy from the cosmic source. Therefore, by adopting the techniques of Raja Yoga, an aspirant moves towards Cosmic Consciousness. Mind is like an iceberg, with only a small portion revealed to you in your daily life. Even in one lifetime you are able to use only a fragment of the vast resources of your mind. But by the practice of Raja Yoga, you are able to understand the staggering mysteries of the chitta that lie hidden from your conscious mind. The Five Vrittis of the Chitta There are five types of Vrittis or thought-waves of the mind: Pramana or right knowledge consists of those thought-waves that reveal the objects as they are from a normal point of view. In other words, a rope is seen as a rope. Viparyaya or wrong knowledge results in those thought-waves that reveal the objects in an erroneous manner. For example, you see a snake instead of a rope. Vikalpa or imagination consists of those thought-waves that create an imaginary object on the basis of mere words. For example, someone speaks about snakes, and you begin to imagine a snake even when there is no rope or any other basis. Nidra or sleep consists of those thought-waves that reveal the absence of the perceptions of the world, as in deep sleep. However, a subtle form of sleep continues to operate even in waking life and is responsible for forgetfulness. Finally, smriti or memory consists of those thought-waves that enable you to recollect past experiences (including those of sleep). These vrittis constitute the fabric of your reality in daily life and are intermingled in every experience. When you see a rose, you are experiencing it directly (pramana). You may be wearing glasses that somewhat distort the image of the rose (viparyaya), and your mind may also imagine the rose gardens of Persia (vikalpa). At the same time, certain facts about the rose—its thorns, for example—may be held back from your perception because of nidra vritti, and further, you may also remember how you once enjoyed rose-essence or rose-preserves (smriti). Further, these vrittis may be either klishta or aklishta (painful or not-painful). If the vrittis of the mind promote ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred, and fear of death they are called klishta. On the other hand, if they enable you to develop dispassion towards the objects of the world, leading you to the heights of spiritual evolution, they are called aklishta or not-painful. The Five Kleshas An aspirant endeavors to destroy the following five kleshas or afflictions: Avidya or ignorance implies that you are unaware of the fact that you are the Spirit, ever unaffected by Prakriti and its products (the world of matter). Asmita or egoism expresses itself through such thoughts as “I am the doer of this action.” “This object is being enjoyed by me.” “I am the possessor of objects.” “I am this body.” And so forth. Raga or attachment consists of impressions that are formed on the basis of pleasure, and Dwesha or hatred consists of impressions that are formed on the basis of pain. Backed up by the impressions of attachment and hatred, you develop karmic involvements and become so identified with the present embodiment that you begin to dread death; this is known as abhinivesha. These five basic kleshas give rise to numerous impurities such as anger, greed and violence.   Samskaras and Vasanas These kleshas exist in seed form known as samskaras (subtle impressions), and when they begin to sprout they are called vasanas (subtle desires). Your project is to change the nature of your vasanas and samskaras. Instead of storing the impressions of anger, hatred, greed, and others, you begin to store impressions of cosmic love, contentment, purity, and the experiences of samadhi (superconsciousness). Then as pure samskaras and vasanas begin to fill your unconscious, you advance on the path of Yoga. Further, the samskaras (the impressions of afflictions) exist in five forms:  Prasupta (dormant) as in a child. Tanu (thinned out) as in a practitioner of Yoga who has reduced the mental impurities. Vichhinna (overpowered) as in most people of the world in whom one set of impressions are overpowered by another set. For example, since impressions of attachment are overpowered by those of hatred, you hate an object not knowing that in your act of hating there lies a hidden undercurrent of love as well; it is for this reason you are oftentimes thrown into turmoil by the deceptions caused by your own mind. Udara (expanded) as in gross-minded people in whom anger, hatred, and greed continue to function in an unrestricted manner. Dagdha (burned up) as in enlightened Sages, in whom the seeds of the kleshas are as if roasted by the fire of knowledge. Their samskaras still exist in order to sustain their life, but they do not create karmic entanglements. The Three Karmas There are three types of karmas (actions): vicious, virtuous and neutral:  Actions based upon anger, greed and hatred intensify the afflictions and are called vicious actions. Actions based upon non-violence, purity, absence of greed and other virtues are called virtuous actions. Actions performed by enlightened Sages are neither virtuous nor vicious, since they do not create karmic entanglements. The Three Gunas According to Raja Yoga, Prakriti is the material cause of this world, and consists of three modes: sattwa (purity and harmony), rajas (externalization and activity), tamas (dullness and inertia). These gunas constitute the basis of the unconscious, the mind, intellect, ego, senses, body and all the objects of the world.  The oil in an oil-lamp exists in three stages: gross oil in the reservoir represents tamas in one’s personality (stagnant), oil travelling through the wick is symbolic of rajas (active), and the oil burning into flame is symbolic of sattva (illumination). This is also the plan of spiritual evolution: the tamas in your personality must be aroused from its dull state and converted into rajas, rajas must be sublimated into sattwa, and then, when the chitta becomes filled with sattwa, you attain the intuitional realization of the Self.   The Five States of the Chitta In relation to the impressions and subtle desires (samskaras and vasanas), the chitta is subject to these five states: Mudha or dull: When the impressions of the afflictions become intense, one’s mind becomes very abnormal. It is filled with despondency, dullness and dark thoughts. There is a predominance of tamas or inertia in the mind.Kshipta  or distracted: When mind continues to run in random directions, it creates many virtuous as well as sinful karmas. It is predominated by rajas.Vikshipta (partially distracted): This state develops when there is a gradual increase of sattwa in the mind and one is therefore inclined to virtuous deeds. However, under provocative conditions, the mind may slip back to kshipta or mudha states.Ekagrata or one-pointed: This state belongs to those Yogis who have developed increasing sattwa in their personalities. In this state a Yogi advances in lower samadhi.Nirodha or controlled state: This state belongs to the highly advanced Yogi who has attained the highest samadhi and is perfected in the control of chitta. The Importance of Abhyasa and Vairagya Abhyasa (repeated practice of Yogic techniques) and vairagya (dispassion) are the two most effective methods of controlling the mind and advancing on the path of Yoga. Dispassion consists of a distaste for the pleasures of the senses that gives rise to an increasing sense of mastery over the objects. In the advanced state of vairagya you find yourself the master of the senses, mind, intellect, ego, and the chitta. Success in concentration, meditation and samadhi is directly related to your degree of vairagya as well as your sustained practice. The Four Yogic Attitudes Towards Others There are four attitudes that are helpful in advancing on the spiritual path of Yoga: maitri or friendliness towards those who are equals, mudita or cheerfulness towards those who are superiors, karuna or compassion towards those who are inferiors, and upeksha or indifference towards those who are gross-minded and very backward. By adopting these attitudes when dealing with others, you do not allow your mind to be affected by anger, hatred, jealousy and other vices. Thus you are able to progress steadily on the path. Surrender to God Surrender to God is the most important method for removing various obstacles on the path and entering into samadhi. By repeating Om (or whatever mantra you have been initiated into) with proper feeling and mental attitude, you advance in divine surrender. You develop a relaxed mental disposition towards the world and its happenings knowing that you are gently being led by God. You even come to realize that your apparent adverse circumstances are in reality meant to aid your spiritual evolution. One who has attained profound surrender to God can enter into samadhi in a very short time. Those Yogis who are endowed with the impressions of Yoga from their past lives spontaneously enter meditation and samadhi. On the other hand, most practitioners must follow the eight steps of Yoga. THE EIGHT LIMBS OF RAJA YOGA In order to control, discipline and culture the thought-waves of the mind, Raja Yoga has evolved the Eightfold Discipline, also known as the Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga. They are as follows: 1. Yama (ethical restraints): ahimsa (non-violence), satyam (truthfulness), brahmacharya (celibacy or sex-restraint), asteya (non-stealing), and aparigraha (non-covetousness). 2. Niyama (ethical observances): shaucha (physical and mental purity), santosh (contentment), tapas (austerity), swadhyaya (study of scriptures and repetition of mantra), and Ishwara pranidhana (surrender to God).  The above yamas  and niyamas are similar to the ten commandments of the Bible. Furthermore, they exist in every religion in some form or other. 3. Asana (physical poses): This discipline is meant to give stability to the body, so that one may sit in meditation for a long duration. 4. Pranayama (control over the vital forces): This consists of various breathing exercises that are designed to harmonize and control the pranas (vital forces) of the body. The above two disciplines are the special concern of Hatha Yoga, which is considered a branch of Raja Yoga consisting of many evolved physical poses and breathing exercises geared to promote the fitness of the body and mind. 5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses): This is accomplished in two ways: Firstly, by controlling the pranas, you are able to withdraw your senses from the sense objects at will. Secondly, by controlling the mind, the senses come under the control of your reason and are spontaneously withdrawn through understanding. (This second form of pratyahara is the more mature and advanced form of pratyahara, and is the ideal toward which to strive.) Endowed with pratyahara, you can enjoy the serene atmosphere of a cave even while living in a busy city. On the other hand, if pratyahara is lacking you will always have something disturbing your mind. Even in a peaceful cave, you will find numerous causes for your mental distraction. These first five steps constitute the external or indirect means to Yoga (the final state of Liberation), while the following three steps are called the internal or direct means to Yoga. 6. Dharana (concentration or one-pointedness): Equipped with moral purity, and physical and mental stability, you enter into the advanced steps of Yoga beginning with the practice of concentration. It consists of training the mind to focus itself on any point (on any object—whether concrete, such as a rose, or abstract, such as bliss). 7. Dhyana (meditation): When the one-pointed state of the mind is maintained without any interruption, with a sense of ease and spontaneity, it is called meditation. 8. Samadhi (superconsciousness): When the mind continues to stay in the state of dhyana, you lose the consciousness of triad—“I am meditating. This is the object of meditation. This is the degree (practice) of meditation.” Consequently, there emerges a mystic consciousness in which your normal consciousness is lost for the time being, and that mystic consciousness transforms your inner nature. Ascending the various states of samadhi, you finally attain Kaivalya or freedom from the world-process. Samyama – The Key to Unlock Psychic Powers It is difficult to say where concentration stops and meditation begins, or where meditation stops and samadhi supervenes. Every time you sit to practice meditation, these three go together. Thus, these three together are given a special name, samyama. By the practice of samyama on different objects, one acquires a mystic light (prajna or the light of intuition) that enables you to explore the mysteries of objects, the gross elements, the subtle elements, the individual mind, and the Cosmic Mind. By practicing certain forms of samyama, you can acquire various psychic powers such as materialization and dematerialization of the body, levitation, thought-reading, extra-sensory perception, invisibility of the body, and many miraculous powers that are inconceivable to the normal mind. However, if you become interested in these psychic powers, or siddhis, you deviate from the path leading to Liberation. Further, if you lack vairagya or dispassion, you may become vain and deluded because of your psychic powers. And then, by the misuse of psychic powers, you fall from the lofty ideals of Yoga. Patanjali Maharshi says, “These siddhis are obstacles to the attainment of the highest samadhi, because they continue to externalize the mind.” (Raja Yoga 3/37). On the other hand, when samyama is directed towards the Self, one ascends the heights of samadhi and ultimately attains Liberation. Aids to Samadhi 1. Ishwara pranidhana: It has been already mentioned that surrender to God is the most effective aid for attaining success in samadhi. This includes meditation on the Divine Self along with repetition of Om or any mantra. 2. Control of prana: By controlling the pranas or vital forces, you bring about control of vasanas or subtle desires of the unconscious. Prana and vasanas are interdependent, and you practice meditation along with certain breathing exercises to harmonize the two. 3. Meditation on sorrow-less minds: By meditating upon Buddha, Jesus or other enlightened personalities, you lead your mind to increasing states of sattwa or purity. Ascending States of Samadhi Every object chosen for meditation has four aspects: gross (its physical form), subtle (its constituent elements), subtler (the cosmic mentation underlying the object), and subtlest (the universal Prakriti or Nature). Accordingly, from a broad point of view, samadhi is of four types: 1. Savitarka and nirvitarka: When the mind is able to commune with the gross form of the object, initially the samadhi is called savitarka (with argumentation), and in its intense state it is called nirvitarka (without argumentation). 2. Savichara and nirvichara: When the mind enters the subtle constituent elements, the samadhi is called savichara (with reflection), and when intensified, nirvichara (without reflection). 3. Sananda (blissful): When the mind enters into communion with the Cosmic Mind, you experience a unique sense of joy—as if you have thrown away the burden of your karmas and the goal of unending bliss is within your sight. 4. Sasmita (with “I-am-ness”): Gradually the mind enters into that lofty state from where you can see the origin of your ego-sense. It is the state where chitta (the mind-stuff) and Purusha (the Self) blend like the ocean and the sky during the hours of sunrise. These four stages of superconsciousness are called lower samadhi, compared to the following that is the highest state of samadhi. 5. Asamprajnata samadhi: By the perfection of lower samadhi, you attain viveka khyati, or intuitional knowledge that reveals the fact that the mind-stuff is ever detached from the Spirit or the Self. Then you begin to develop detachment towards the mind-stuff itself. This is termed as para vairagya, or supreme dispassion.  In this stage, you plunge yourself in the universal expansion of your own innermost Self. You are no longer dependent upon the various layers of “matter,” and therefore, this samadhi is called niralamba, or “without support.” And since the seeds of karmas are burned up during this samadhi, it is called nirbija, or “without seed.” In this state you attain Self-Realization and become free of the world-process.  Experiences in Samadhi To convey the profound experiences of samadhi, Raja Yoga uses highly poetic terms, which are as follows: Ritambhara prajna (truth-filled vision): When you advance in lower samadhi, your intellect becomes filled with the vision of truth. Prashanta vahit (peaceful flow of mind): When you begin to enter into asamprajnata and your vision of knowledge continues to be unobstructed, you experience a stream of boundless peace flowing in the depths of your heart. Dharma megha (the cloud of virtue): With the increasing impressions of your cosmic expansion during lower and higher samadhi, you develop a state of mystic saturation. These impressions (like luminous clouds of the highest virtue) gather in your heart and begin to shower the nectar of immortality (the vision of freedom). Kaivalya or Liberation A Yogi who has attained Enlightenment experiences the following: 1. The feeling that all that was to be known has been known. 2. The awareness that all that was to be abandoned (including ignorance) has been abandoned. 3. The realization that all that is to be attained (including the highest attainment—the intuitional knowledge of the Self) has been attained. 4. The experience that there is an absolute cessation of pain, and the goal of one’s existence has been realized; one is Liberated. 5. The knowledge that there is no more need for the chitta, which has accomplished its two-fold purpose of bhoga (to bring experiences of pleasure and pain) and apavarga (to bring about spiritual evolution culminating in Liberation). As long as you have not attained Liberation, you need the chitta as well as your material vehicle—the body—in order to experience the pleasure and pain through which you continue evolving until the highest state of Liberation is attained. 6. Freedom from the gunas. The gunas or modes of Nature that continue to flow on in order to nourish and sustain your mind, intellect, senses, and body, now enter into a process of involution. Like rocks falling from a mountain top, they continue to fall into the boundless ocean of Prakriti or Nature. 7. Establishment in the Self: You become a Jivanmukta or one liberated in life. Though performing your duties, you are ever rooted in the Self. In the state of ignorance, your spirit continued to experience pleasure and pain due to its identification with the various thought-waves of the mind; but now, freed of the chitta and its thought-waves, you abide in your innermost Self. Author’s Note: This has been a simple outline of the profound mystic system of Raja Yoga, and an aspirant must study the Sutras of Raja Yoga for more insight into various key points that have been presented here.   With deep gratitude to, and permission from, Swami Jyotirmayananda
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Integral Worship of the Divine Self
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Integral Worship of the Divine Self

The Divine Self can be worshipped and meditated upon in two ways—saguna and nirguna. The saguna method, which is given a greater emphasis in Bhakti Yoga, the path of devotion, is to meditate upon God in the form of an avatar such as Rama, Krishna, Jesus, Buddha or others. It also includes the worshiping of God with the help of any name or form, or any concrete or abstract symbol. The nirguna method, which is highlighted in Jnana Yoga, the path of wisdom, implies meditating upon God as formless, attributeless and unqualified by any mental concepts. From ancient times the followers of mysticism have repeatedly developed confusion regarding the correct understanding of these two methods of Divine worship. Many who follow jnana or wisdom have always looked down upon the method adopted by bhaktis or devotees, seeing it as sheer sentimentality. They hold as utterly absurd the belief that the Absolute Self Who transcends time and space could be talked to, touched, loved and enshrined in one’s heart. Devotees, on the other hand, often look down upon jnanis, considering them as dry intellectuals, devoid of the nectarine taste of Divine Love. But those who truly understand these two methods do not find any contradiction in them. They are in the possession of an integral vision of Divine Worship—and such a vision needs to be promoted by an aspirant. The Necessity of Combining Saguna and Nirguna Worship The human personality has two distinct aspects: feeling and reason. The saguna method corresponds to the feeling aspect of the personality, and through it a person is led to integrate his sentiments into Divine feelings. The nirguna method corresponds to the rational aspect of the personality, and by following this method one is able to render his intellect subtle and pure. The two methods complement each other, for as the feeling aspect of the personality is integrated through saguna practices, an aspirant gains increasing purity of his intellect, and in turn, as the intellect is rendered pure through nirguna practices, his sentiments become more and more integrated and purified. Therefore, these two continue to assist each other until, in the state of Self-realization, an aspirant’s bhavana or feeling becomes transformed into anubhavana, spiritual experience of Divine Bliss, and his rational aspect becomes transformed into intuition, the revelation of Pure Consciousness. And since in this sublime state both reason and feeling reach their ultimate unfoldment, a Sage then becomes at once all “heart” as well as all “head.” He realizes Brahman, Who is at once Absolute Bliss as well as Absolute Consciousness. Those who are unable to appreciate the mystic art of worshipping the Supreme in human form should reflect deeply upon the examples of great Sages and Saints. They should ask themselves, what led Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, who was a great devotee of Goddess Kali, to hold the view that the world is nothing but Brahman, which is the basic Non-dualistic tenet of Vedanta? Likewise, what led Sri Shankaracharya, one of the greatest exponents of Non-dualism, to dance in the temples of gods and goddesses and to compose verse after verse overflowing with devotion? They should further reflect upon the fact that the Upanishads, the Gita and the other texts of Vedanta are filled with instructions for adoring God in His saguna form, while they teach the nirguna form of adoration as well. And even those scriptures that are predominately devotional, such as the Ramayana of Saint Tulsidas and the Srimad Bhagavata of Sage Vyasa (where Lord Krishna is glorified), give abundant teachings pertaining to the attributeless Brahman and the illusoriness of the world-process. Contrasting Saguna and Nirguna Worship Saguna worship holds on to something tangible—Divinity symbolized in a name and form, while nirguna leads the mind to mystic expansion wherein names and forms are negated and transcended.A Saguna worshipper may worship God in an image, for example, in a Shaligrama (sacred stone), in the Ganga (the sacred river), in a Divine statue in a temple, or any Divine form. He chooses a Deity, an Ishta Devata such as Krishna, Rama, Devi, Shiva and the like, and repeats the mantra (sacred name) of the Deity. A nirguna worshipper, on the other hand, disciplines his mind by meditating upon the sky or anything that gives him a sense of transcending the limited concepts of the world. He may meditate upon the abstract attributes of God such as Non-duality, Infinity, Pure Consciousness, and others. He also may adopt the Mahavakyas or Great Utterances, or any other elevating utterances for his mantra (for constant repetition along with mental reflection). “Soham”—“I am That” and “Aham Brahmasmi”—“I am Brahman” are examples of nirguna mantras.A saguna worshipper adopts Murti Upasana (worship of God in an image) or Pratika Upasana (worship of God in a symbol). A nirguna worshipper practices Ahamgraha Upasana, which implies meditating upon an object with the attitude of being that object. It is the practice of identifying oneself with the object of meditation. This prepares the mind for the affirmation, “I am Brahman.”In the worship of the Divine Self, a saguna worshipper utilizes his senses, while a nirguna worshipper has to withdraw his senses in order to lift his intellect beyond the concepts of names and forms.A saguna worshipper believes in Divine Grace and learns the art of surrender. By surrendering to God he receives Divine Grace, which in turn overcomes all obstacles and enables him to attain the highest goal of Self-realization. A nirguna worshipper, on the other hand, believes in purushartha or self-effort, and practices disciplines in order to remove the gross and subtle impurities of his personality. He then aims at the negation of the ego by the practice of deep reflection.A saguna worshipper is like a person who views the panorama of nature through his window as he is comfortably seated in a house situated on a high cliff, while a nirguna worshipper goes out of the house and enjoys the beauty of nature by wandering freely among the mountains and valleys. However, both have their limitations. A nirguna worshipper is devoid of the comfort and stability of the saguna worshipper, and although he may have an expansive view, he may find himself lost in it. A saguna worshipper may close his windows and remain snug in the confines of his room, thereby depriving himself of the beauteous scenery around him. In other words, a nirguna worshipper can become too intellectual, while a saguna worshipper can become too enclosed in his sentiments.Saguna and nirguna forms of worship are complementary and supplementary to each other. Many aspirants begin with the saguna method, and as they advance, their intellects open to the grandeur of nirguna worship. Others who begin with nirguna worship eventually realize that the subtle impurities of the mind cannot be removed by self-effort alone, and so they then take recourse to saguna worship.Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa explained the relationship of the two methods by using the example of preparing an Indian sweet. In the preparation of this sweet there are two stages—when the wheat-cake is cooked in oil and when it is placed in syrup. The nirguna method corresponds to the first stage, while the saguna method refers to the second. Thus jnana (wisdom) is sweetened by bhakti (devotion).The saguna method of worship is like acquiring a microscope and enjoying the inherent beauty in every minute particle of creation. The nirguna method is like acquiring a telescope and looking into the vastness of the sky, thus revealing the celestial bodies. The former leads to the recognition of the inner grandeur that lies within the confines of each human personality, while the latter leads to the recognition of the transcendental glory of the Self.In the Ramayana, Lakshmana represents a saguna devotee, while Bharata represents a nirguna devotee. When Rama departed and went to live in the forest, he asked Lakshmana to remain in Ayodhya and continue serving his parents and protect the kingdom. But Lakshmana was utterly disinterested in that project; all he wanted was to follow Rama into the forest and enjoy serving Him. Bharata, on the other hand, also yearned to be with Rama, but he realized the greater responsibility of performing Rama’s will by staying at Ayodhya.This signifies that though a nirguna worshipper, Bharata is yet ever devoted to the saguna form of Rama. And similarly, Lakshmana, though a saguna worshipper, often learns from Rama the nirguna knowledge of Brahman, the Absolute without attributes. In an ideal mystical unfolding, saguna must blend with nirguna, and nirguna must be mellowed by saguna.The nirguna form can be compared to invisible water vapor that permeates the atmosphere in the form of humidity, while the saguna form is like the fall of silvery snowflakes. The same Brahman, Who is invisible and beyond the mind and senses, assumes the role of a personal God by the force of the love of His devotees.Nirguna form of meditation enables an aspirant to remove gross impurities from his mind, while the subtle seeds of egoism, pride and desire are effectively removed through saguna as the stream of devotion sweeps over the mind.A nirguna devotee promotes the wellbeing of the whole world. He attains the state of performing the maximum good to the world by his inward state of renunciation and actionlessness. Though not acting, he becomes the performer of great actions. A saguna devotee, on the other hand, keeps himself ever busy serving the Lord in people around him, while inwardly he enjoys the serenity of Divine Surrender. And so, though acting, he does not act.When Arjuna asked Krishna which of the two methods is superior or better, He replied that the saguna method is more practical and effective. At the same time, he told Arjuna that both methods lead to the same goal. Finally, he explained the characteristics of those fully developed devotees in whom both the methods of saguna and nirguna have reached their utmost perfection. (See Gita, Ch. 12) Integral Worship Therefore, although an aspirant should always have an understanding of the interdependence of these two methods, he must adopt the method that suits his psychological structure. Then, as he advances he must integrate both methods until he is rid of the gross as well as the subtle impurities of the mind. The fact is that there is no superiority of one method over the other, and both must be well harmonized in one’s spiritual journey. Let your intellect delight in the transcendental glory of the Absolute while your feelings clasp the lotus feet of the Lord deep within your heart. Let your intellect revel in the woodlands of Vedantic vichara (reflection on Brahman) while your heart enjoys the melody of Krishna’s flute by the shores of the Yamuna River. With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda
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Yogic View Of Health
Yoga

Yogic View Of Health

Health is the basis of all forms of human self-effort. The scriptures declare, Dharmaartha kaama mokshaanam aarogyamoolam uttamam, which means arogya or health is the basis of dharma (ethical value in life), artha (material achievements in life), kama (satisfaction of desires, or the vital value of life) and moksha (spiritual release, the infinite value of life). Without health, no self-effort can be possible. Further, in Sanskrit the term for health is swasthya, which literally means the quality of being established in the Self. This gives you a broad insight into health. True health implies being established in the Reality of the Self within yourself. True health is, therefore, the state of Self-realization. In a restricted sense, however, health is normally defined by the expression Sound mind in a sound body. The general concept is that a person should have a healthy physical body and a clear strong mind as a requirement for promoting any form of self-effort in life. In the perspective of Yoga this is true also. However it is to be understood that it is not the body that fashions the mind; it is the mind that fashions the body. In order to understand how health is promoted and how diseases are warded off, you must first understand the general analysis of health according to Yoga. Defining Disease Avidya or ignorance is considered to be the root disease. Avidya refers to an unconscious obscurity which does not allow you to discover your essential nature as Brahman, or the Divine Self. As long as you do not discover your essential nature, you cannot possess a mind that is free from complexes and the burden of frustrations. All Yogic process are designed to eventually heal this root disease which overcomes your casual body. So, ignorance or avidya is the mula adhi or root disease. It is the basis not only of the personality of the present life, but of countless embodiments you have already experienced, and the many personalities that you may have to live through in future. This process of birth and death will continue until you are freed of this disease by attaining Self-realization. From mula adhi (root disease) there arises adhi (mental disease). From a broad point of view, egoism, attachment, hatred, fear, greed, lust, anger, pride, jealousy, craving, discontent, and other negative qualities are expressions of adhi or mental disease. Adhi or mental disease sets forth discordant vibrations causing abnormal functions of the pranas (vital forces). The nadis or subtle channels through which the pranas flow become misbalanced in their operation: some nadis become extraordinarily active, while others become sluggish. Consequently, the humors of the body are disturbed. According to the ancient view, the health of the body depends upon the balance of the three humors: wind, bile and phlegm. When these humors are disturbed, there develop physical diseases. From the popular point of view, physical diseases refer to diseases such as fever, cough, cold, pneumonia, typhoid, rheumatism, and numerous others known to modern science. However, in the Yogic perspective, diseases include your circumstantial developments as well. If you have diseased circumstances, then in your family life there is constant quarrel among friends and neighbors; there is constant jealousy and hatred; in business there is loss, tension and pressure. Your circumstances are shadows of your personality. The conditions of adversity that you encounter in your life are like diseases which result from the karma of your past. This however, does not mean that you are destined to experience adverse situations. If you study the law of karma profoundly you will realize that you have the innate freedom of self-effort; you have the power of spirit within you that can overcome all impediments and lead you to the supreme health of the spirit: the state of Self-realization. What is Health? To be truly healthy implies to be free from discomfort within yourself. The English term ‘disease’ refers to dis-comfort or dis-ease. To be healthy implies having a physical body that is fit to work out a process of spiritual evolution, as well as being able to promote circumstances that are congenial to your spiritual growth. As you deepen your understanding of spiritual growth, you gain further insight into what we mean by health.  Your circumstances may not be comfortable in the way your ego would like them to be, but if they are such that they help you to think deeply in spiritual matters, then they are healthy. Similarly, if your physical body is able to promote in your mind a process of spiritual reflection, if you are able to use your physical body for mental advancement, then you are healthier than a person who is physically very healthy, but whose mind is weak and filled with negative qualities. Such a person, one who is physically fit but unable to grasp the higher purpose of life, may be, both medically and scientifically, considered at the top of physical vitality. But, from the Yogic point of view, he is like a person who possesses a wonderful palace, but that palace is filled with monkeys, horses and uncontrolled servants. It can hardly be used for his joy and prosperity. Therefore, even though he possesses a healthy body, he is not healthy. To be healthy is to utilize your resources for your mental advancement. On the other hand, due to hereditary reasons, you may be born with a serious defect in your body. If, however, through that feeble body you continue to combat what you already have developed from your childhood, and in spite of the obstacle you have, you continue to advance with your mind and transcend the physical limitation, then you are Yogically healthy. Even though you may possess an ordinary house with a thatched roof that leaks slightly here and there, if you are able to live in it with great joy and harmony, it is much better than having a great palace filled with disharmony and lack of understanding.  One must understand, therefore, that the physical body is a tool, and your real health does not depend entirely on the quality of the tool. Rather, if the quality of the tool is there, it shows that you can work out your evolution better. Simply because a mechanic has in his hands wonderful and advanced tools, he may not be able to set things right. You cannot judge the skill of a mechanic on the basis of the tools he possesses. However, if you have a mechanic who is an expert as well as in the possession of tools which are wonderful, that is the ideal. Just as you cannot judge the mechanic on the basis of his tools, in the same way, you cannot judge the true health of a person on the basis of his body. The Flow of Prana Vitality flows from the plane of mind through numerous nadis or subtle astral channels. That vitality is known as prana. In Yogic perspective, insight into health can be gained by understanding the flow of prana into your physical body through those subtle channels or nadis. The pranas are divided into five categories: prana, apana, udana, samana and vyana. The study of these is particularly important in Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. Hatha Yoga specializes in the balancing and harmonization of these Pranas in your body. The very terms ‘ha’ and ‘tha’ refer to prana and apana, the two important pranic functions. Prana assimilates and nourishes your body by operating through the lungs and heart. Apana removes the waste product from the body. Therefore, a balance of the two sustains your physical health. When the root disease of ignorance afflicts your unconscious, keeping you from discovering your real identity, mind builds within itself an ego center and clings to it. That ego begins to obstruct the flow of vitality into your body. Further, whenever the mind is upset and confused, or in the process of exhausting or working out a negative karma, that mind develops a basis for restricting the flow of prana in your physical body. When there is a strong mental reaction to something, the prana that flows into your physical body reels like a deer that has been shot by an arrow. Instead of flowing through the right channels, there arises an imbalance of the flow of prana through your physical body and certain pranas become overactive and some under-active. When mind sets up restrictions on the flow of prana due to Karma, ignorance or misunderstanding and dullness, the pranas do not flow in harmony. Therefore, various diseases develop in the physical body. Physical diseases arise due to abrupt flow of prana in your physical body, causing the chemistry of your body to become disturbed. Toxic developments begin to take place. Things that should be rejected are not. Certain body parts that should work become lazy and say, ‘We will do it tomorrow’. If the liver says, ‘I will secrete tomorrow,’ while gastric fluids secrete in abundance, you have heartburn, nausea, restlessness. There must be synchronization in different parts of your body in order for you to be healthy. Effect of Mind on Body We can thus see, with Yogic insight, that every disease is the result of a negative karma. By that we imply it is the result of a negative pattern of the mind.  Reinforcing this idea, doctors and psychologists have pinpointed many psychosomatic cases of disease, where a disease has no scientific basis in the physical plain yet the patient creates it due to psychological reasons. From a wider point of view, it is reasonable and understandable that different mental afflictions cause different physical diseases. If you are constantly subjected to fear, you will have heart trouble and low blood pressure because fear chills. On the other hand, if you are subjected to anger, violence and hatred, you will have high blood pressure. You will be hypersensitive, and you will not be able to breathe deeply because you are too restless. Your lungs may become affected. Therefore, although different mental afflictions and negative thoughts of the mind do not result in physical diseases immediately, they are the basis of future physical illness. Overcoming Disease In order to overcome diseases, you must understand that prevention is better than cure. This proverb is very important. Do not wait until a disease has developed and taken root in your physical body. Try to prevent it. Bring Rhythm and Joy into Your Life ‘Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’: This simple saying encourages a pattern of life that keeps you in harmony — no excess in entertainment, no excess in sleeping, no excess in eating, no excess in keeping awake, but a life characterized by moderation and rhythm. In addition, there must be joy and good humor. Your personality must develop a taste for humor. When there is an occasion to be joyous, do not let it slip by. Do not stay in gloom. To this effect, we might evolve our own proverb: “One humor a day keeps brain-fog away!” And do not forget the other proverb as well: ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’ In a society of great economic complexity, it may not be too wise to keep the doctors away. However, in Yogic understanding an aspirant must be his own doctor. You must develop an insight into how you can adjust your diet, your exercises, your method of concentration and your association. Develop Insight into Karma At the same time, you must have insight into karma: in spite of all your efforts, at times, disease may persist. Your negative karma of the past may seem to void your efforts of today. However, you should persist with patience. By sustained self-effort, by generating good karmas in your daily life, and by adopting rational methods you may triumph over the disease and regain perfect health. Diet and Exercise If you are suffering from a disease, controlling diet becomes a meaningful and necessary austerity. Adjust to a diet which is scientifically sound even if it is not too tasty for you. Since the problem may be due to simple weakness or stress, then try to combat it with Yoga exercises and relaxation. Doctors and Medicine? And what about the question of whether or not a Yogi should take medicine? Many people are confused about this matter. There are Yogis who will not have doctors coming in through their front door but will have them come through the back door because they do not want their devotees to see that they are depending on doctors. In their minds, they think that taking recourse to any medicine is a violation of Yogic principles. That is completely wrong. Yoga does not oppose research in matters of practical health. With Yogic insight, you must accept any research that science has presented and take advantage of it. In the scientific study of health, research has shown the value of vitamins and of various things pertaining to the physical body. All these things must be taken into consideration. Philosophy does not oppose science. Rather, philosophy is like a tree that has its roots deep within the Self, but its branches can continue to grow wider and more extensive in the world of matter. As scientific research grows and further understanding of disease is gained, you must utilize the understanding. However, you must maintain the constant awareness that medical science is not the ultimate. There is something more. God – The Master Physician You must seek the roots of disease and destroy them by the practice of mantra. Even ayurveda, which was written in ancient times by great physicians, concludes that ultimately it is by the grace of Narayana that a person can be cured when all medicines have failed. If a person has the possibility and capacity to love God with such intensity, there isn’t any disease that Narayana cannot cure, because he is the master physician. The Self within you can cure anything, whether it be physical, mental, or spiritual disease. Therefore, the purpose for being healthy, the attainment of Self-realization, must be understood. Do not wait to be ideally healthy to do ideal things, but continue to do ideal things in your day to day life. Dedicate Your Energies to True Healthiness Since diseases have their roots in the mind, do not rely on external treatments alone. It is unwise to go on running from one system of treatment to another: a month of homeopathic treatment, followed by a month of naturopathic treatment, and then by allopathic treatment and so forth. Be close to nature. Prevention is better than cure. Observe the laws of health. Take recourse to a healthy vegetarian diet. Perform your duties in the spirit of worship of God. Take recourse to Hatha Yoga asanas and pranayamas. In addition do walking, swimming, and similar outdoor exercises. In the case of a physical problem, adopt any system of treatment and follow it through. At the same time adopt techniques such as meditation, repetition of mantra, study of scriptures, and others to remedy the mind of its subtle diseases. The ideal a Yogi should work for is a healthy body and a healthy mind for attaining Self-realization, which is the only true health. When in spite of your best efforts, you are unable to ward off a disease, you should learn to transcend it. Continue to enlighten your mind with the understanding that you are not the body, you are essentially the Absolute Self. No matter what the impediments in your daily life, continue to utilize your energy in the right direction, towards the good of humanity. As you serve humanity, as you put your energy to use and develop higher qualities, you begin to see many defects drop away from your personality like a miracle. Diseases will evaporate as if they didn’t exist. Nothing is impossible for you; you can develop ideal health, abundant vitality, and your presence will be like a breeze: soft and sublime to humanity and to yourself.  With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda
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Austerity

The Mystic Path of Increasing Joy What is austerity? Most people think of austerity as adopting some discipline that is uncomfortable for the body for a spiritual purpose. In the name of religion and devotion, people all over the world practice austerities. You have heard of nuns and monks beating themselves with whips. In the Himalayas, you will see some people seated in the Ganges River at three o’clock in the morning trying to endure the icy cold water. Then there are people who gaze without winking for hours and hours and people who fast for a long time. Some people take up the vow of not speaking (mauna) when they are teenagers and do not speak a word until they are advanced in years! Many observers are amazed by these practices and consider them something quite extraordinary. People say, “How great a saint this person is; he has been practicing austerity for such a long time.” But from an advanced point of view, these external things should not delude you. Real austerity has a Divine purpose. Austerity is a mystical process that enables you to purify your mind and brings you closer to God—that is real austerity. Austerity must make your body and mind fit for a higher purpose. If, instead, austerity makes your body crippled and your mind stunted, that austerity has no meaning—although it may be quite dazzling to the masses. Austerity Makes You the Master of Yourself Practicing austerity implies adopting a life of healthy discipline. Learn to wake up at a certain time, perform your duties without being sluggish, and develop promptness and punctuality. All these are austerities. In the beginning, an austerity may seem bitter. Your ego may complain terribly. But gradually as you persist, you begin to enjoy it. For example, when you first begin rising in the morning at four o’clock for mediation and yoga exercises, you may have difficulty adjusting to your new pattern for awhile because you are not accustomed to it. If anyone awakens you to help you keep your vow, you may get angry with that person. But as you begin to pursue this new discipline, you begin to enjoy it. Now you expect people to wake you up, and if they do not wake you up, you become angry with them! When you begin to enjoy a disciplined life, it is no longer discipline. Austerity should not fill you with a sense of pathos. You should not feel that you are renouncing something, or practicing something painfully difficult. Rather, austerity should be considered a divine luxury for an aspirant because it allows you to be a master of yourself, not a slave. When you lack austerity, you become a slave. A slave may be given all types of rewards, and have wonderful robes and ornaments, yet he still lives a life of dependence. Similarly, though you may have a lot of things, if you lack austerity and discipline in your personality, you remain dependent on the circumstances in the world around you for your happiness. This process of austerity enables you to become a master of yourself. In the Gita, Lord Krishna speaks of three types of austerity: satwic, rajasic, and tamasic. Tamasic austerity is a gross form of austerity that is characterized by inflicting pain on oneself or on others. Suppose, for example, a person feels intense hatred towards another. Somewhere he reads that a particular mantra will destroy the enemy, and that if he were to repeat that mantra while standing in the cold Ganges for hours at a stretch the mantra will be quickly effective. So, early in the morning he enters into the Ganges and stands there repeating the mantra. People observing him think he is a wonderful ascetic, but all the while his mind is building up terrible negativity: “Now the mantra is going to gain power, and when the mantra is effective I will throw off my enemy and crush him!” That is tamasic austerity. Rajasic austerity is characterized by show, ostentatiousness. A person who is hypocritical may externally show himself practicing great austerity, but internally, in his private life, there is no real practice of self-restraint. For example, a person on the spiritual path may assert, whenever he is in the company of others, “I do not like any sweets; I am rigid in my diet.” But when he is alone he runs to his home, opens the refrigerator and starts eating ice cream and cake. That is rajasic austerity. Rajasic austerity is done for receiving honor and admiration, even though there may not be any basis for it, and it is selfish in nature. Satwic austerity is the austerity that an aspirant must understand and practice. In the seventeenth chapter of the Gita, Lord Krishna gives a comprehensive outline of such austerity, indicating that it is of three types—physical, vocal and mental. You practice austerity with your body, with your speech and with your mind. THE THREE ASPECTS OF SATWIC AUSTERITY:PHYSICAL AUSTERITY One aspect of physical austerity implies serving saintly personalities, spiritual preceptors, and men of wisdom. Such people have a mission designed to help humanity, so as you serve and adore them, your personality also is utilized for serving humanity. Your body becomes a disciplined tool for serving a greater cause, and you learn the art of using your energy for the good of others. Thus through satsanga (good association), as well as obedience to Guru and a spirit of selfless service, one practices this aspect of satwic physical austerity. The next aspect of physical austerity is arjawa or simplicity. Arjawa implies allowing your body to be simple. Through your body, you should exude simplicity, not ostentatiousness. Do not put on airs as you interact with people. Rather, an aspirant who desires Liberation must discipline his body, his manner, his movements so that he is ever ready to bow down in humility before the Self in all. When there is conceit within your mind, it reflects in your very bones. When you keep your head held high for every reason, naturally calcification develops in the spine. But when there is flexibility and adaptability in your personality, it allows the prana to flow into the body more freely. In the beginning, when you bow down before a Deity or before great personalities, your mind may not be ready for it; but as you physically begin to bow down your mind becomes inclined to do so. Your mental state reflects in your body; in turn your physical state influences the mind. Therefore you begin your austerity with the physical body and it affects the mind. There is an interesting story that gives insight into this quality of simplicity. There was once a great saint whose fame was spreading everywhere. Living at the same time was a learned scholar who was also devoted to scriptures and was quite well known, but who was not as advanced as the saint. The scholar developed a sense of jealousy towards the saint, and in his heart he began to wonder, “Could I ever be considered important by this saint? Could the saint ever touch my feet? Everyone bows down to me, but if the saint were to bow down to me, that would be something great. But how can that happen? It is impossible. Overwhelmed with this obsession, the scholar made a plan. Feigning great honor and devotion, he approached the saint and invited him to his home for dinner. Cheerfully the saint agreed. On the day that the saint was to arrive, the scholar set his scheme into motion. At the entrance to his home there was a low and narrow door that caused people to duck their head down as they entered. From the top of the door, he hung his sandals by a string, so that as the saint entered and ducked down, his head would strike against the sandals and he would fall down at the feet of the scholar! When the saint arrived, his head did strike against the sandals, just as the scholar, in his attempt to belittle the great man, had planned. However, the saint clasped the sandals to his head, and he said: “How kind you are. I have pain in my back so it is difficult for me to bow down. But now you made it easy. I could touch your feet with my head.” Hearing that, the scholar was amazed. Instead of being hit hard by the insult, the saint simply revealed his powerful humility and simplicity. He radiated the fragrance of true arjawa (simplicity and purity of nature). Of course the scholar, deeply touched by the saint’s humility, fell at the feet of the saint and resolved to follow the path of true saintliness. Another aspect of physical austerity is ahimsa—non-violence towards others. If, in a certain situation you are provoked and there is an urge to express your anger physically, do not do so. Still another aspect of physical austerity is shaucham or purity. Develop the habit of healthy living. Promote cleanliness in your clothes and surroundings, cleanliness in your body and a deeper cleanliness in your pranas by taking recourse to the right type of food and exercise to keep the body free of toxic substances. VOCAL AUSTERITY The next aspect of austerity is vocal austerity or discipline of speech. This is of greater importance than physical austerity because speech plays a tremendous role in human life. Through words you can prosper, and through the misuse of words you can degrade yourself. One great source of prosperity and progress is mastery over speech. Lord Krishna teaches that austerity of speech consists in not speaking words that cause agitation in others. Do not misuse the great gift of speech by making other people upset or angry. It also consists in telling the truth. Your words should communicate that which is true and not false. When you speak the truth, however, it should be to help others. If you are going to hurt others by speaking the truth, it is better not to speak. There is a saying: “Satyam Vada Priyam Vada, Na vada Satyam Apriyam” It means, “Speak the truth, but speak that which is gentle. Do not speak the truth that hurts others.” If your words hurt others, you simply create reactions and bitterness. You may recall the incident in the Mahabharata in which Draupadi laughed at Duryodhana. As he was touring a palace that had been recently built, he noticed that things had been constructed in such a way that where there was ground, it looked like shimmering water, and where there was water, it looked like the ground. As a result, he became confused. What seemed to be a wall would turn out to be thin air, and what seemed to be nothing but empty space would turn out to be a hard wall. Thus, he banged himself against those “transparent” walls as he walked around. He would even lift his garment thinking that the ground below was really water. Draupadi was watching all this in an amused way, and finally she broke out laughing, saying, “Look at the son of the blind man.” The words “son of the blind man” were true. He was indeed the son of a blind man, King Dhritarashtra. Nevertheless, Draupadi’s intention was simply to hurt his feelings. He was so hurt that he made up his mind to revenge himself on Draupadi—and that brought about the Mahabharata war, in which thousands upon thousands of people were killed. There were many other causes for the war, but Draupadi’s misuse of speech was one of the triggering points. So, one must be extremely cautious when speaking because speech is a powerful gift from God. The blessings of speech are immense. Only when you watch people who do not have the gift of speech and compare yourself to them can you realize what a wonderful gift you have. Through the discipline of speech you can sing the praises of God and help other people. You can also learn scriptures such as the Upanishads and Vedas, which were written to be recited. In brief it is important for you to note the importance of not using words that are intentionally meant to hurt other people’s feelings. This is the main point to remember when practicing austerity of speech. MENTAL AUSTERITY Lord Krishna says, “Manah Prasadah (cheerfulness and serenity), Saumyatyam (gentleness), Maunam (silence), Atmavinigraha (control of senses), and Bhava Samshudhi (elevated feeling of the heart)—these are called the austerity of the mind.” (Gita 17:16) Manah Prasadah In order for you to control your speech, your mind must first be controlled. Therefore, a set of practices has been enjoined to bring this about. The first aspect of austerity of the mind is manah prasadah—allowing the mind to be joyous. People who have been accustomed to think of austerity as something crude will be surprised. “How can austerity be joyous?” they might ask. In Yoga philosophy, austerity is not supposed to give you pain, but discipline you so that the spirit flows in a healthy, unobstructed way through your personality. Thus, the effort to maintain cheerfulness of the mind is a dynamic aspect of austerity.  Many people have developed the habit of allowing their minds to become negative. You can often tell such people by the way they droop their heads. You must watch your own mind very carefully. Try to develop the philosophy that the world is an expression of the Divine creation. There is intelligence and a guiding purpose behind the world; you have nothing to worry about. There should be no room for grief, dejection, and sorrow in your life. Always think of the positive things that you have acquired and accomplished. By thinking of the blessing God has given you, you will have so many reasons for being cheerful. More than anything else, understand that the Divine Hand is sustaining your personality at every moment. The awareness that divinity is with you can fill your mind with joy. By adopting this philosophy of loving God at all times, you allow your mind to be serene and joyous. Do not develop negative thoughts. When they do arise, simply be a witness to them. When you keep your mind in a negative state, you will be steadily generating negative impressions, and your mind will be forced to stay negative by the weight of the impressions. Due to the weight of the impressions of sadness and sorrow, you will not be happy even when you find yourself in a wonderful situation—a situation you have been craving for a long time. This is so because your experiences of joy and sorrow are intimately related to the impressions of your unconscious. Therefore, an important part of austerity is not to let your mind be negative. Hold your head high, and let your mind be joyful. Saumyatwam The next aspect of austerity is saumyatwam (gentleness). When you confront a situation that provokes your mind into becoming agitated or inactive, simply look at it without building up ill will towards anyone. Let your mind stay gentle, composed, and detached. You will discover a spiritual strength within yourself. Otherwise, by reacting to external situations, you allow your mind to become agitated. An agitated mind creates negative impressions in your unconscious. Gradually a habit builds up. Your mind constantly reacts to things no matter how they are. If you are looking for absolute perfection according to the concepts of your ego, you will never find it; there will always be something to irritate your mind. If you are vulnerable to negative influences, or if you are already predisposed to react to something negative, then all you need is just a pretext. A leaf might fall on your head, and it would be enough to put you into a state of agitation, figuratively speaking. Saumyatwam implies that the mind becomes serene, calm, and unaffected—just like the face of Buddha. When you watch a movie, you are always aware of the fact that all the happenings on the screen are mere appearances. Therefore, though you feel sorrow at the tragic developments, you are not deeply affected in your heart. Similarly, be a spectator to your mind and its changes, and know that faith in God will ultimately make you truly gentle. Mauna The next practice relating to the mind is mauna (silence). If you watch your mind, you will notice that a great many thoughts enter it constantly. After a while, it is as if a lively discussion is going on deep in your mind. The world may be quiet around you, yet your mind might be as noisy as a marketplace. This should not be. When you are engaged in various actions, watch your mind. Do not entertain conflicting thoughts and do not allow the mind to be agitated. Rather try to relax your mind. You should be like a swan as it enters the lake and sports with the waters, but the moment the sport is over the swan shakes off the water particles. Much in the same manner, perform your duties well in the world, but the moment you retire, shake off all your tensions and worry and relax in the arms of God, in the arms of Divinity within. The thoughts of the mind should be as still as a lake without waves. You can do this by turning your mind to God and practicing japa (repetition of Divine Name). Mentally repeat the Name as you allow the feeling of Divine Presence to develop. Gradually your mind will become calm. Calming the mind is a constant project for an aspirant. Bhava Samshuddhi The next austerity of the mind is bhava samshuddhi. Bhava means feeling. All human experiences are based upon the feelings that you have. When you see a dear relative, a certain feeling develops. Within society, the feelings that exist between different people play a great role. The same human being that gives you great joy today can give you great sorrow tomorrow if the feeling changes. Therefore, you must learn to watch your feelings and observe the types of feelings you hold within your heart. Develop the quality of grasping what is positive in others so that your feeling is always magnanimous. Do not draw to yourself the negative qualities of others. If you have built up a bitter mind, each time you see the faces of people you will find, “Oh, here is a crooked nose.” “There the ear is twisted.” In other words, you will feel that everyone has a particular type of error, and you will conclude, “This world is filled with useless people. What is going to happen to the world?” You must understand how much you are hurting yourself when your mind continuously focuses on the negative in others. As time goes by you realize how much negativity you have stored in your unconscious. Why not change your attitude so that you go on filtering that which is the best? Look at any person and realize that God is shining through his eyes, and that the Divine prana (life-force) is pulsating through him. All people make mistakes. However, despite those mistakes there is always something in everyone that you can admire. If, at the moment, you can perceive no such admirable quality in the other person, then just keep your mind detached. But do not go on looking for defects and keeping your mind filled with negative feelings. In trying to remove the impurities of your personality, hold before you the ideal of these three types of austerity. In a provocative situation, people tend to commit three errors: physical involvement, bitter words and ill will. In the plan of yogic austerity, first learn to restrain the body, no matter how agitated you may be. Then strive to control the speech, and finally you will succeed in controlling the ill will of your mind. For example, the root of ahimsa or nonviolence lies in your mind. In your mind itself there should not arise any thought of injuring others. But when you are trying to control your mind, and trying to remove an impurity, you begin with your physical body. If, in a certain situation you are provoked and there is an urge to express your anger physically, do not do so. At this stage, when you are not yet evolved enough to attack the mental root of your impurity, let the anger be confined to your mind. Restrain your body, because if you do not do so, you will become involved in many complications. Then the second thing you should restrain is your speech. When you restrain the body, your speech may take over and compensate for physical restraint! Although, relatively speaking, it is better that you are just speaking and not physically doing any harm, you must learn to restrain your speech as well as your body. Even though your thoughts may continue to run wild, if you are able to restrain the body and the speech, you are in a better position to attack your thoughts. If you are truly practicing austerity of the body, speech and mind, the impurities of your personality will be destroyed. The potentiality of your spirit will shine forth just as gold shines when it is melted. And that is the purpose of austerity—to purify the unconscious, which will then enable you to enter into higher levels of spiritual experience. Whoever practices this plan of austerity becomes a blessing for himself and for humanity. All that is good, beautiful and divine is possible through austerity alone. With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda  
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Discover Sat-Chit-Ananda Within!
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Discover Sat-Chit-Ananda Within!

Every individual soul is sustained by Divine presence, which is Sat-Chit-Ananda—Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Absolute. The thrill of experiencing the grandeur of this Divine presence is beyond imagination, yet such experience is the goal of your existence. As an individual personality you are like a wave, but if you dive deeper and deeper into your being you will discover that you are the Ocean itself. As you gradually move towards that realization through the practice of meditation and enquiry, you experience the manifestation of Sat-Chit-Ananda in your personality day by day. Sat—Existence Absolute Sat (Existence Absolute) manifests as indomitable will. Through the power of Sat you move on undeterred along the spiritual path, in spite of adversity, in spite of difficult situations. You see the manifestation of Sat in the universal desire to survive, despite all obstacles. No one wishes to become non-existent; everyone wants to live forever. This feeling arises because essentially you are pure existence, not the physical body. Identified with Sat, you are immortal and eternal. It is only when you believe yourself to be the physical body that you feel confined to a short duration of life in this world of time and space. From the worldly perspective, no matter how much you may achieve, all your attainments are but a trifle. After all, in the vastness of this universe, what is the physical existence of one human being? Everyone has an inner sense of perpetual existence. This innate sense is a manifestation of Sat, and unconsciously one is always trying to realize that Sat aspect within. Chit—Knowledge Absolute The manifestation of Chit (Knowledge Absolute) is experienced in the form of an inner grasp of the subtle truths of the Self. It is also experienced when your intellect becomes bright and sharp about matters of this relative world and guides you correctly in the projects you undertake. No matter how dull a person may be, he or she still has the urge to know more and more. No one will accept being called a dull-wit, since essentially we are all Knowledge. It is for the revelation of that innate Knowledge that we all strive. Ananda—Bliss Absolute Everyone is always striving for happiness without realizing that true happiness is his very essence. You experience the manifestation of Ananda (Bliss Absolute) as inner joy begins to unfold more and more with increasing purity of heart. Such joy radiates to all living beings around you, and creates an atmosphere of peace and harmony. Sat Chit Ananda Is Always There! At every moment, Sat-Chit-Ananda surges like the ocean. It towers over you like the sky. You cannot get away from Sat-Chit-Ananda, for you are always rooted in God. Yet it requires a sensitive mind to understand that point. Think of the intricate body that you possess. Think of the mysterious way in which the senses function. Think of the mystery of the mind as it operates through the brain and nervous system, and think of the mystery of the intellect. Then ask yourself, “Who is organizing all this? Who has created it all? Who is behind it all?” The Upanishads ask, “Who is the mind of the mind, the eye of the eye?” If, through enquiry, you were to develop a profound awareness of that Reality underlying your personality, you would be awed. When you are in deep sleep, who is caring for you? Think back to when you were a child with little in the way of worldly wisdom. Who cared for you then? Between death and rebirth, what travel agency allows you to know which way to go? How do you gravitate to the exact type of parents and the environment in which your talents and abilities can unfold? How are you led to the situations that are best suited for your evolution? Ponder over the mystery behind all this. Sat-Chit-Ananda is your essential nature. Sat-Chit-Ananda towers over you and interpenetrates your existence. But due to ignorance, you are unaware of this. Thus the task before every aspirant is to remove ignorance so that the all-pervading presence of the Self is realized. Channelizing Divine Energy During the rainy season, lightning sometimes crashes with such intensity that it lights up the entire sky in just one moment. If all that energy could be channelized, a whole city could be illumined for an entire year. Similarly, immense Divine energy—the energy of Sat-Chit-Ananda—exists everywhere and in everything. It is there in every individual, waiting to be channelized. But how does one channelize that energy? How does one draw from the inner source that immutability of Sat, that all-knowingness of Chit, and that immense joy of Ananda? Consider all the troubles and tensions people face because they lack the awareness of Sat-Chit-Ananda. God created the intricate process of the human body so people could use the body to become Divine, yet what the ego does with it is quite to the contrary. Eyes could shower nectar, yet they often shower fumes. Tongues could give flowers, jewels and diamonds, yet they often give forth frogs and toads. The mind that could encompass the joy of eternity becomes instead a storehouse of garbage. However, the energy of Sat-Chit-Ananda is so immense that even a little touch of it can totally change your life. Learning to draw upon that immense Divine energy in your daily life is accomplished through sadhana or spiritual discipline. Through sadhana, you can bring about a total transformation in your personality. Therefore, each and every moment of your life try to receive the touch of the Divine within you. Touching the Feet of the Lord In the Ramayana, Lord Rama, his brother Lakshmana, and Sita were banished from the kingdom because of a conspiracy by Rama’s stepmother. When they attempted to cross the river by boat to get to the forest, the boatman said to Rama, “I will not have you enter my boat unless you let me wash your feet—for your feet have a special power. When you allowed your feet to touch Ahalya, the saint’s wife who had become frozen into a statue, the statue came to life. If my boat were to become alive like Ahalya, I would lose my business.” Rama then looked at Sita and Lakshmana, smiled, and put his feet forward for the boatman to wash. As the boatman did so, his boat turned to gold. There is an interesting popular story about the ancient events that led to this episode in the Ramayana: Once, in the heavenly world of Vaikuntha, Lord Vishnu lay resting upon the thousand-headed Shesha serpent, with Lakshmi Devi, the Goddess of Prosperity, fanning Him. Just then, in the milky ocean, a little turtle swam towards Lord Vishnu with the idea of touching his feet. But when the turtle came closer, Lakshmi Devi brushed it aside with her fan, smacking it’s nose. When the turtle ignored her and continued to come, Shesha breathed venom on it—and so the turtle could not touch the feet of Lord Vishnu. According to the story, as the ages passed, the spirit of that turtle became the boatman carrying travellers across the river; Sheshanaga, the serpent, became Lakshmana, the brother of Rama; Lord Vishnu incarnated as Rama; and Lakshmi Devi became Sita. The profound meaning behind this story is that in the ocean of the world process, every soul is moving like a turtle, wanting to touch that Sat-Chit-Ananda within—wanting to touch Lord Vishnu, Who is there sleeping within one’s very heart. There are obstructions though. Whenever you become deluded by the vanity of wealth, Lakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity) is smacking your nose so you cannot move onward. The glittering material values of the world devour the mind. One becomes obsessed with material objects, with winning the lottery, and with other illusions that just serve to keep the mind agitated. Each time this happens, Lakshmi is sidetracking you from your deeper goal. If, in spite of such obstructions, you begin practicing concentration and meditation, and, as a result, attain a certain degree of willpower over the temptations of wealth, then another obstruction comes to frustrate your spiritual movement: egoistic pride and vanity develop. You succumb to the temptation of psychic powers or other types of fame and glory. This is because Sheshanaga, the gigantic serpent who symbolizes the cosmic mind and all psychic powers, is breathing venom upon you. However, when you spiritually advance to an even greater extent, you become a boatman—a servant of God, helping people in misery to cross the waters of the world process. Although you once were a turtle, through Yoga you have become transformed into a bhakta or devotee of God; and as such, even though the world may present you with obstacles, you approach God resolutely and cling to his feet! And the moment you touch the Divine Self, your mind—symbolized by the boat—becomes full of sattwa or purity. Thus you are transformed. Touching the feet of God implies that you are drawing from the vast resource of Sat-Chit-Ananda within your personality. Touched by the Divine within you, every action becomes karma yoga or selfless service; every feeling becomes an elevated sentiment of bhakti yoga, the path of devotion; every reflective process becomes an aspect of jnana yoga, the path -of wisdom; and every form of concentration in your mind becomes a ray of raja yoga. Thus, touched by the Divine within you, you become an integral yogi—and this attainment should be the goal of every individual. Promote Relaxed Simplicity in Your Life Always remember that it is possible for you to draw inexhaustible energy from your inner source—the Divine within you, that Sat-Chit-Ananda whose majesty is beyond normal imagination. To do so, however, your mind must not be cluttered. You must live a life of simplicity that is conducive to relaxing the mind. Otherwise you will always be stressed and tense. Attaining true success in life implies that you have allowed your mind to relax. It is important to understand that when you are tense and unhappy, your dealings with others become abrupt and you tend to make mountains out of molehills. When you are happy, however, it becomes easy for you to convert mountains into molehills. Happiness overcomes many problems. To promote such a relaxed simplicity in your life, you must take recourse to satsanga (good association), develop faith in God within you, do japa (repetition of mantra), and meditate daily. In order for inner transformation to occur in your personality, you must incorporate the important aspects of the different yogas into your daily life. See God in Others Another point to consider in the process of reducing stress is your relationship with others. Understand that God abides in all living beings and acts through them. It is recognizing the Divine in people that enables you to really communicate with them. Every individual is like a house that is closed. In order to get into that house you have to get through the door; you cannot go through the wall. The implication here is that when trying to work with someone, don’t address the negative aspect within that person or you will only build a wall and inhibit communication. Don’t say to someone, “You’re a dull-wit, but I can make you wise.” No matter how much wisdom you may have, if you take that approach, immediately a wall is put up. On the other hand, if you take a positive approach and tell that person that he or she is very bright and could be even brighter, then the door will be opened. So, develop the awareness that God is within all people. Be careful never to think that God is in you—but the devil lies in others! The Divine dwells in every individual personality. In order to be a yogi, you must learn how to live with diverse personalities in the world in such a way that you maintain sensitivity in your communications and enhance your good karmas by compassionate and intelligent interactions with others. Harmonize Your Life Accordingly, plan your life in a harmonized way. Do not go to extremes. Remember, moderation is the key to success. For example, do not think that because meditation is valuable you should do it for six hours a day. Everything that is important should be brought into your daily life, but slowly and a little at a time. Actually, it is practicing with a sustained movement over a long period of time that brings success. That sustained movement creates a habit that consequently becomes part of your personality. If you are harmonized, in a joyous way you become a greater yogi. If you are not harmonized, then even though you may do intense austerity, you remain a lesser yogi. Never Lose Sight of your Goal Wherever you are, the goal of your life is to attain Self-realization. That is not just the privilege of those who live in the mountains or in caves. The entire world has been fashioned by God specifically to lead you to Self-realization; it doesn’t matter where you are. Thus, reflect on Sat-Chit-Ananda, the immensity of energy within you, and learn to channelize that energy in a harmonized way. As you do so, dharma megha (the cloud of virtue) gathers in your unconscious, and the lightning of intuition flashes. Hence ignorance is destroyed and your personality is allowed to become a receptacle of cosmic energy. This channelization of the power of Sat-Chit-Ananda has been happening all throughout your life in degrees, but when you become highly advanced—when you become a sage—then cosmic energy flows through you in the most dynamic way. No scientist can easily explain what made Jesus, Buddha, or any great saint so great. What allows them to be loved, to be worshipped and to become a source of inspiration for thousands of years? It is the power of cosmic energy, the power of the Divine within. And that power must be adored by you until you too attain Liberation, and Divine energy flows through your personality without any impediment.   With permission from Swami Jyotirmayananda
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