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Vol. 62

Teachings of Shri Mahayogi

Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto, Japan, 2011
Passion that Transcends Hundreds and Thousands of Lifetimes
The Intake of Prana through Asana and Meals

The Role of Prana
Resolute Determination
and the Great Mission of Swami Vivekananda

Master and Servant: Truth and Ego
Humility and Taking Actions for God
Spirituality is the Greatest Gift of All
Teachings in the Story of Kisa Gotami

Testimonies from Actual Practitioners

The “Yoga Explained” Series by Sananda
The Path of Yoga
The Application of Discipline
for Putting the Practice of Raja Yoga
into Action

 

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Teachings of Shri Mahayogi

Translation of Satsangha
April 16, 2011
Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto

Passion that Transcends Hundreds and Thousands of Lifetimes

Ms. Wada (Dharmini): Please teach us what the importance is of visualizing a positive result—the realization of Satori—with regard to the activities of the mind.

MASTER: The forms in this world are the results of thoughts in the mind formed over time. Even if you look at one person’s lifetime, you can see that the results are in accordance with the intensity of that person’s thoughts towards objects. Everything in the world is a result of the thoughts in the mind.

Meditation in Yoga must be practiced with such enormous vigor that its power will transcend not only whatever was formed in this lifetime, but over hundreds or thousands of lifetimes. Indeed, these are thoughts too, however this cannot be limited to just one lifetime, but the passion and effort that transcends thousands of lifetimes is required in meditation. Through that, one can extinguish the karma and sanskara cultivated from thousands of past lives. Simply put, the mind’s thoughts hide the true Existence. Therefore, in this manner one must burn off or reap the seeds of karma that may be dormant in the subconscious. That is meditation in Yoga.

 

March 5, 2011
Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto

The Intake of Prana through Asana and Meals

Madhavi: It is recommended that we do not eat for about two hours after asana. Is that because the prana gets used for digestion when eating right after asana, or because prana is released through elimination?

MASTER: Before that, if you consider why it is that we must eat, you can understand that regardless of what type of food it is, we can understand that as we eat, we are taking the prana that is inside the food. In this way, you can say that in order to take in prana, we need food as well. When we do asana, we directly “eat” prana, so there is no need to eat food right away—that’s the first reason. That’s why, I suppose that you may have all experienced this, that after you practice asana on an empty stomach, you probably don’t have the sense of hunger much, but rather you are in a place where you feel a sense of being satiated. That then tells you that you don’t need to eat right away. But if you do work up an appetite, it is not good to eat right away since it causes the digestive energy called samana to be activated, and the good prana that was absorbed and is being circulated becomes disturbed. To prevent that, eat only after two hours if possible. That’s a basic guideline. It’s fine if you eat after one hour, but waiting for around two hours as a basic guideline is ideal.

Sananda: It may depend on the condition you are in before starting asana, but when you sense hunger right after practicing asana, then should we consider that it means that the effect from the asana practice was not manifested? Or is it because of our dietary schedule and habits?

MASTER: I think it is due to your habits. On average, everyone eats three times around the same time, in general. At times that may change, but when you insert the practice of asana into the schedule, a different rhythm from the one you used to have is brought about. Even so, your biological clock or your habits dictate that the nerves work in that way.

Sananda: I feel that asana practice is about creating a habit to prevail over the habits that we used to have. Does that mean that we should say during class that through the effects of asana, one will be filled with prana, so one will come to be ok without eating [food right away], and [that we should] also speak about having a habitual nature and how it is important for the mind to understand that, and practice giving up these habits?

MASTER: That is so. For example, when you eat right before practicing asana, you’ll feel discomfort during asana practice. Similarly, when you eat right after practicing asana, because the prana is disturbed, it doesn’t feel comfortable. That is a very natural reaction. Therefore, one must understand that the prana within the body is what maintains this body, and at the same time, understand that in fact we absorb prana from everything—this breath, food, and actually, even more, such as various forms of information, what you see, hear and touch. That is why you ought to work on improving your environment to be clean, so that you don’t feel bad, negative things, for there is a danger that various dirt that are attached to prana can enter. The reason for seeing and hearing only the good is also for taking good prana from them. Class times are usually set up when it’s easier to gather everyone [after work], so the dinner schedule may be affected. However, it is better for the body to learn to do this at least once a week. When you practice asana at home, I am sure that you can incorporate the practice accordingly into your schedule.

Sananda: You have mentioned that we absorb prana even from things we see. As we continue practicing Yoga, our sense of prejudice weakens, in other words, since various objects, or nama and rupa—the name and form—that accompany the impressions are different with respect to each individual, even if we see the same thing, I suppose that the kind of prana each person takes in is different. In the case of Shri Mahayogi, if he sees Atman in everything, then I suppose that only sacred prana is taken in. In that sense, should I understand that one’s own mind reflects on everything?

MASTER: That is so, just like a magnetic connection.

Sananda: In this case, is it correct to look at it [from the angle] that if our own mind becomes pure, then even if we see something impure, we won’t absorb bad prana from it?

MASTER: That’s right.

Sananda: Even so, basically it’s a good thing to keep things clean, correct?

MASTER: I’ve heard often that when one embarks on the practice of Yoga, they clean up their rooms immediately, their belongings are reduced, becoming more simplified and cleaner.

Ms. Fukoue (Anandi): During the class if someone wants to go to the bathroom, is it better to move slowly in order to prevent prana from escaping or the breath to return to the normal pace?

MASTER: Since the speed of the movement and breath are very closely related, if your breath is slow, then you can also move slowly. So it is good to mention it in class.

 

February 19, 2011
Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto

The Role of Prana

Mr. Kawazoe (Asanghan): Is it correct to understand that while [holding] an asana, prana gets compressed by putting pressure on the chakra at the [corresponding] point of concentration?

MASTER: Yes, this means that prana gets concentrated on the chakra.

Mr. Kawazoe (Asanghan): At that time, what is happening with the effects of prana?

MASTER: Each chakra is the center of a physiological function, such as respiration, digestion and elimination. Although since these are the physical body’s physiological functions that everyone is born with, there is nothing mysterious about that—chakra have the power that enables us to heighten the capacity of their functions. They can be heightened by concentrating the prana upon them. It is during the asana that this work is occurring.

Mr. Kawazoe (Asanghan): So, by bringing stimulation [to the chakra], we can gather [prana] at these points…

MASTER: Yes. So, there are so many varieties of asana, but each one is formed, or designed to focus prana on a particular chakra.

Mr. Kawazoe (Asanghan): I understand that the mind, breath and prana form a triad: if one falls, the other two fall. So, then when the activation of the working of prana is happening, how does that relate to the process of stilling in the end?

MASTER: If I explain it by using an example, the physical body, breath, and mind are constantly changing, so this can be compared to occurrences of irregular waves. Then, in order to calm these waves down, first you work on these irregular waves to merge them into one wave. That means you make it into a big wave. The concentration of prana, asana and meditation are nothing different from this, but if I take prana, it means that you merge them, gathering them into one big wave. Then, as they come to be merged, having the power of that big wave, you use [this gathered prana] for [further] concentration again—that can be in pranayama or meditation. And in the end, even that big wave is eliminated—that is an analogy, if I may say so.

Mr. Kawazoe (Asanghan): So it is just a part of the process.

MASTER: Yes.

Mr. Kawazoe (Asanghan): So it goes in the direction of the big wave in pranayama and meditation.

MASTER: Right. In fact, meditation requires that kind of enormous power of concentration, thus a huge cluster of prana is a necessity.

Mr. Kawazoe (Asanghan): So that means that moving [the prana] from muladhara chakra to the sahasrara chakra is also in the midst of the process.

MASTER: Yes, that too is one of the methods of making the one wave to become concentrated, and then eliminating it in the end.

Mr. Kawazoe (Asanghan): So then is the condition in which [the prana is] completely raised up and revealed, the condition where the waves are being subsided?

MASTER: Yes.

 

Mr. Iio (Gopala): Is it correct to understand that if we continue to practice the disciplines of Yoga, prana is accumulated in sahasrara?

MASTER: Hmm, it is not that simplistic of a way either. The role of prana is necessary in the world, so to speak, however prana too is unnecessary at sahasrara in samadhi, or in the dimension of realizing the Truth; and therefore there is no need to store it. Prana is simply a means to be used to an end in order to experience it, kind of like a ladder.

Mr. Iio (Gopala): So, like the process, or the big wave that Mr. Kawazoe mentioned about earlier…

MASTER: Yes. The ladder is used for climbing. Once the climbing is over and you have climbed up to the top, you no longer need the ladder. The prana has a role like that.

Ms. Fujino (Harshani): A while back when I asked about what we need in order to overcome the big wave, Shri Mahayogi taught us that it is the power of faith. (Shri Mahayogi smiles as if to show he recalls it and says, “Yes.”) In what you have just mentioned now, is it correct to view the power of faith, or the power of bhakti used when overcoming the big wave, as what makes the wave itself disappear? Are overcoming the wave and having the wave disappear two different things?

MASTER: Well, that too is just like the ladder analogy that was just mentioned, and using that power likened to the big wave, that is the power of prana, the faith is heightened—that is its role. And in the intoxication of bhakti, which is a kind of samadhi, that prana, or the big wave, disappears within it.

(after some silence) See prana truly as energy or power. All the activities in the world are created through prana, and they’re strengthened or weakened in various forms. In various fields where ones displays exceptional talent relative to others, you can see it as a result of the power of concentration and heightening of that prana. It is the same in Yoga; but in Yoga, the purity of the mind is added to it, which is the result of faith and applying the correct teachings of the Truth, and these are deepened by the power of prana as well.

Ms. Hirokawa: Is a person who is full of prana perceptible by all?

MASTER: Well, prana does not have form and shape. Even this light bulb, the power, the electricity, is lighting up the light, yet its given capacity is only 40 watts. There are various watts, some bulbs could be 100 watts or 1000 watts. Since humans can only recognize the external appearance, they can only perceive the effects of that prana through the manifestation of the external appearance. Therefore, however good or evil something might be, you can see the effects of prana in the external form of their ways.

Sarani: There is a story that I read that Swami Vivekananda introduced in the book Karma Yoga that has made me wonder: a young ascetic, who had been meditating under a tree for years, and one day, when he shot a fierce look at a crane who bothered him during meditation, in the tree branches above, the crane fell to the ground, and so then the young ascetic became arrogant [about his powers]. The story goes that later on, this ascetic was corrected by a housewife living a normal life and a yogi who was a butcher. Does that mean that even if one does not have faith, one can gain these kinds of powers through the power of Yoga?

MASTER: That too is possible. It too is one of the traditions, and in a way it is also an issue that Yoga has had since ancient times. It is the derivative outcome from simply the physiological part: the power of prana, or prana and power of concentration, yet still, it shows that it can be developed that far through them. And that is the reason why Yoga has often been misunderstood, like [yogi] have been said to be wizards.

Sanatana: About mastering these siddhi through ascetic practice, it is written in the Yoga Sutra too, and the Mahabharata especially mentions the ability to kill people through gazing at them—but will these powers actually arise through these ascetic practices, for example, spending your life with keeping your hand up continuously, or with never sleeping?

MASTER: Well, I have never verified them myself (laughing), but legends tell of many instances. And considering the fact that even in the Yoga Sutra, that is what is considered to be the most scientific, these things are mentioned as well, you can support that in ancient India, it might be too much to say that these were common, yet most likely already widely recognized. It is very possible that through practicing those [kinds of] ascetic practices, in which mainly the ones where you torture or abuse the body to the extreme, which were rejected by Buddha first of all, a kind of ecstasy or the power of concentration was gained, creating siddhi-like results. Even nowadays in India, there seem to be many ascetics. However, at one point, Buddha and Yoga, which is called raja yoga in the modern day, did not accept the asceticism of long ago, but this means that even so, remnants of that are still present in Yoga.

Shachi: There are many stories like that in Autobiography of a Yogi.

MASTER: Yes, many stories like that are written in that book. The mastering of or controlling of the prana is explained in-depth in that book. 

Sanatana: I feel that I can understand that meditation can give rise to such power because it is clear that by understanding the essence and mechanism of things and matters, you can govern them, therefore it is natural that such powers arise. However, in the case of an ascetic, even though internal insight may come coincidentally in the ascetic practice, most likely, that’s not their goal since the reason for their practice is to burn off their karma—I understand that. Perhaps, it might be understood that by eliminating karma, limits on one’s abilities are eliminated. But the surface of the story seems very transactional—by taking an oath and practicing ascetic practice, one is guaranteed powers, and on the other hand, that is connected somehow to the internal logic and goal of a person who performs ascetic practice…

MASTER: What seems to be the root of ascetic practice can be seen in Hindu mythology. It’s transactional bargaining. Some fierce gods, not exactly like devils, practice asceticism in order to gain the power of prevailing over celestial gods. And then as a result they gain powers that overwhelm the other gods. This is often used as a reason for ascetic practice. It is a completely transactional story. And even as various siddhi are written in raja yoga, in Buddhism too, it is said that one displays supernatural powers in deep meditative states; they have the list of powers that are very similar to Yoga. (after some pause) Well, in any case, none of these are the goal, yet they are powers that may potentially arise in the process of deepening oneself.

 

February 26, 2011
Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto

Resolute Determination
and the Great Mission of Swami Vivekananda

Jayadevi: Before Vivekananda went to America, he meditated on [what came to be known as] “Vivekananda Rock” (a very small island off the southernmost tip of India, Cape Comorin, where he meditated and fortified his determination [for his future mission], which has since then become a landmark known as “Vivekananda Rock”). The struggle that even Vivekananda had until he arrived at such determination…I wonder about it and would like to know what it was… In fact, we went to Vivekananda Rock. Vivekananda went there by actually swimming across the ocean. The rock is within eyesight, yet to do that, it’s really almost like staking your life…diving in, swimming across the ocean, then meditating. I suppose that this was related to going to America or the great mission ahead of him or… I’m wondering what he went through [in order to arrive at that conclusion].

MASTER: He wandered across India for almost five years. During his wandering, I suppose that he keenly felt through his entire being the reality of India, simply put, the suffering of the masses. For us in this age, it may be unimaginable, but the living conditions in India during that time, perhaps 99.9% of people there were suffering from poverty, and discrimination to an extent that is unimaginable. Not only was there the issue of the British being oppressive, but people were oppressed under religious rule for millennia. That is what is called the caste system, and although originally religion was supposed to make people happy and not be something that makes them suffer, imperfect religions were disseminated and they created this defect. I suppose that he must have reacted and felt the impact of this directly and then exploded; and then for closure at the end of that journey, he sat and meditated on what he could do about it, upon what came to be known today as Vivekananda Rock. Around that time, coincidentally or by necessity, he heard about the Parliament of the World’s Religions happening in the United States, and he must have thought that in order to save the people [of India], a slice of bread was necessary. And that in order to do that, he wanted to bring the bread from the West, which was prospering at the time, and conversely, bring the Wisdom of Satori, the illustrious heritage of India, to the West.  I feel that that site was where he solidified his resolution. According to the legend of Buddha, when he reached the ultimate [state of] Enlightenment, and as he thought no one would be able to understand this highly noble Satori, [at the point of] almost giving up on disseminating the teaching, Lord Indra came to implore Buddha to save the masses. Then, Buddha showed great compassion and began to teach the Dharma and save the people. I feel that exactly the same kind of thing happened within Vivekananda. It must have been Ramakrishna’s spiritual will, and Shri Ramakrishna’s power may have eternally worked through him. Nevertheless, there was none other than Vivekananda who could have purely overseen and executed it.

 

March 5, 2011
Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto            

Master and Servant: Truth and Ego

Mr. Nishimuta: Shri Ramakrishna said that since it is difficult to eliminate the ego, we should make the ego into a servant. Concretely, how should we do that?

MASTER: What is the difference between the master and the servant? The master says, “Do this, do that,” and the servant only follows orders. If the servant begins to think, “I want to do this, or do that” and begins to do whatever he wants, then immediately, he is fired. So, when the ego insists on something, you must say “No” to it. The way of a good servant is, then, to compare that to the Truth, which is the Master, and receive the Master’s instructions, think on them, and then act upon them.

Mr. Nishimura: Ramakrishna says that the thought of “mine” is ignorance. Will the ego eventually self-destruct?

MASTER: It can be said like that, but you must educate it before that. That is to say, make the servant understand its place.

 


March 19, 2011

Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto

Humility and Taking Actions for God

Ms. Tahara (Saranya): Regarding the recent devastating earthquake1, I cannot stop crying about it. I thought about what we can do, and what came to my mind then was humility and being content with what we have. Will you please teach us again about humility?

MASTER: When we think about humility, what is the opposite of humility? It is arrogance, self-conceit, the sense of superiority—you can find all selfish thoughts there. Because of that, the more these thoughts grow bigger, the more the discriminatory way of viewing grows bigger, and the arrogance becomes even more disgustingly unbearable. You should understand that humility is the complete opposite. When you come into contact with others for the first time, if you relate to others through an aspect of seeing yourself as a person who is far from perfection, a tiny thing, but respectful of others no matter who they are, then you will be able to humble yourself not only towards others, but to all living beings. That is what humility is. The Truth teaches that God abides in everything. If you prefer not to use the word “God” then you can replace It with “Sacred Existence.” It boils down to this: because that is the essence of all and everything, regardless of the visible shape or form, you bow down toward it, seeing only its essence. Now, humility (emphasizing) cannot be just in one’s thoughts. It must be (emphasizing again) practiced through actual, concrete actions—if not, it will be a contradiction. This world may be the world that is established upon various classifications and prejudices, so to speak: ones who are young, ones who are the boss or superior, ones who are under someone at work—however these are simply roles or functions for convenience that are needed to execute the work. They have nothing to do with the essence. Therefore, if possible, those who are learning Yoga take no account of these things and should bow down indiscriminately to all existence, to be humble. Even those who may be instructing Yoga classes (laughs). That is the best place to learn. In the world out there, no occupation is more easy to fall into arrogance than the occupation in which one can be called a teacher. That is precisely why if you are practicing Yoga that belongs to an authentic learning of Yoga, then you have to be humble.

Madhri: Earlier, you mentioned being “a person who is far from perfection, a tiny thing”, but if it’s misinterpreted, it could turn into a poor-me-attitude of self-loathing and self-deprecation.

MASTER: If misinterpreted.

Madhri: We are far from perfection, but perfection towards what? Does this mean that one is still in the middle of the path and hasn’t arrived at perfection?

MASTER: The destination you are viewing here is a Perfect Being, Truth, God or Atman—so it means that being far from perfection, or a tiny one, compared to these complete, well-rounded Existences. So in that sense, various worldly status or seniority has nothing to do with it.

(Haridas then says that this earthquake reminded him of one of the parables Shri Mahayogi spoke of. One day, a practitioner of spirituality asked a holy man to teach him about maya, the holy man told him to come along on a journey. As the practitioner began to follow and travel with the holy man, the holy man asked him to go fetch some water since the holy man was thirsty. When he went into a village to ask for water, a woman appeared, and he fell in love at first sight. They got married, had children and were living happily. One day, a flood struck the village and immediately the water swallowed up his house, wife and children. As he desperately reached the shore and fell down exhausted, the holy man tapped on his shoulder and asked him, “When are you going to fetch me the water?” Then Haridas says that what he realized based on a string of recent events is that in the past he had a moment of experiencing a sense of subtle consciousness. And that on the way home, when he saw faint lights spilling out from the windows of various houses, he saw there that there was no individual consciousness but some other type of consciousness that pervaded everything.)

Haridas: Thinking from the perspective of this metaphor, I am not directly affected by the disasters this time, but I feel that I am within everyone who has been affected by this; and so if I were there, it might be about accepting what has just happened right in front of me, and how much effort I can exert in order to do the best—karma yoga in the way of Yoga, I think. My conclusion all boils down to that. Another thing in my mind is that, at the end of the parable about maya, the holy man asks, “What happened to the water I asked you to fetch?” In short, is it correct to interpret that that holy man is God, and taught the man about how the relative world is, and asked the man “By the way when will you act for me?”

MASTER: (very happily) That is a good recognition (laughing). Indeed, it is exactly so. That is a very deep, good realization.

(Haridas says that it is a very critical situation for Japan, yet it is in these times that real recognition comes. In fact, officials from town halls in affected areas have lost their own homes and family members, as well as dozens of fellow staff, but they keep working, giving of themselves everything they can for the community. He says that it is the ultimate state of karma yoga, where one completely eliminates oneself. We tend to focus on the tragic situations, but he says that they make him realize what it means to truly act [for the sake of others].)

Yogadanda: In the parable mentioned earlier about the act of fetching water for God, what does that water concretely symbolize in the circumstance we’re facing right now?

MASTER: Who is asking for that? It is Divine Existence, as symbolized by the holy man. So it symbolizes everything that he wants.

Yogadanda: Is it something that we can concretely intuit as our discipline of practice progresses…

MASTER: The water doesn’t necessarily mean objects, but it symbolizes what actions God wants you to perform, or what you are being asked to act on by God, therefore it is exactly as Haridas just mentioned. And that disciple performs acts of God, becoming a good servant or a tool of God.

______________

[1] On March 11, 2011, one week prior to this satsangha, eastern Japan was struck by a massive earthquake and tsunami that took the lives of over ten thousand people and destroyed the homes of over 100,000 people.

 

March 26, 2011
Mahayogi Ashrama, Kyoto

Spirituality is the Greatest Gift of All

Sananda: Vivekananda said that when you give food to the hungry, they will be satisfied, yet they will get hungry right away and want food again; next, if you give them knowledge that they desire, then the time when they’re satisfied can be extended, however, that also has a limit; by giving them spirituality, their minds’ desires are satisfied forever. We can easily understand [the need for] satisfying intellectual or sensory desires, and I think that we can also understand the desire for knowledge, but when it comes to explaining satisfaction by giving spirituality, I wonder how we should understand this?  

MASTER: If we categorize things broadly, all things consist of the body, mind and soul. As long as you have a body, you need food to maintain it. So, if food is deprived, suffering arises, and in order to quench that suffering, a slice of bread is needed. Where does the suffering of the mind come from? It is the second part (the cause of suffering) of the Four Noble Truths (everything is suffering; the cause of suffering; the cessation of suffering, the way leading to the cessation of suffering), which is described with a term, “tanha.” Tanha is the word that refers to a thirst just like a desperate desire for water when the throat is parched, a condition of thirst and starvation. In this way, the suffering of the mind is considered to be the condition by which the attachment towards desires you have created yourself was heightened to the point of starvation. Therefore, in order to quench the suffering, knowledge needs to be applied. However, this has a limit—you can prevent starvation on some level by gaining knowledge that gets you a job that keeps a bit of food on the table or by gaining knowledge that controls desire somewhat. However, since these types of knowledge are not absolute, in order to end the absolute thirst, spiritual knowledge or salvation is crucial. When spiritual saturation arises, then the mind stops desiring anything whatsoever, never to be starved again. Not only that, it even goes further, the soul itself returns to its eternal homeland, so it will be fully content. That is precisely why spirituality is the greatest gift of all.

Sananda: Is that “spirituality” developed by coming into direct contact with the Soul, True Existence, or the Existence [of an Enlightened Being]—is this how it will be developed [further]? I think that the knowledge and wisdom about Yoga is like one of the entry points to it, but is direct contact necessary?

MASTER: Yes, it becomes definitive through that [contact]. But before that contact can happen, at least the issues within the mind will be resolved gradually as preparation, so to speak.

Sananda: In this case, is it fine to consider that this is also included within the realm of spirituality?

MASTER: Even if it’s not sufficient yet, if the yearning or the aspiration is pure, and at the same time, if renunciation towards worldly things has already arisen, then one comes to enter into spirituality.

Sananda: So is it correct to understand that when people progress on the path, everyone must start from these sensory places, meaning that even though everyone’s minds might be attached to something, one proceeds toward spirituality by renouncing them?

MASTER: Yes, that is so.

 

Teachings in the Story of Kisa Gotami

Ms. Sawahiro (Satya): I was thinking about when Kisa Gotami was told by Buddha to get mustard seeds, what she must have felt, what she realized from Buddha’s words, as she moved away from her child and moved towards the Truth. Then I thought, she may have received something beyond words, from the very existence of Buddha. Then I thought that the form of an Awakened Being itself has such power. In the words of Buddha there is a saying that goes, “Those who see my form are not [necessarily] my disciples,” but I still want to think that it was because she received that teaching directly from the Buddha [that acceptance and her change of course happened].

MASTER: Indeed, I think that is exactly how it was. Buddha’s words, or teachings—these are nothing special or unusual, and he spoke nothing but all very practical and obvious things. So, then why are Buddha’s and other Awakened Beings’ words seen as special? It is because people in general are delusional. Therefore, they are unable to see what is obvious in front of their eyes. If you take the case of Kisa Gotami, she was on the verge of insanity, her mind was filled with the thought of reviving her dead baby. She was in denial about the death of her baby. That was why she went to Buddha, who had become an enormously respected figure, begging him to revive the life of her baby. Then Buddha taught her by asking her to go from house to house in the villages and gather three mustard seeds from a house that had never had a death in the family. She went asking from door to door, seeking the house where no one had died in the family, but there wasn’t a single house that this applied to. So she could not gather any mustard seeds. Finally, she could not help but accept that people die and that her baby had died. Then and there she realized that Buddha’s words had washed away her denial. Her mind then turned around completely. You can see that Buddha did not say anything special. According to the categories of suffering as mentioned earlier, there are considered to be four main categories with an additional four, for a total of eight categorized sufferings. Dying is suffering, and there are also the sufferings of separation from loved ones, or not having anything in the world go your way or not getting what you want. And, it is said that the causes of these are attachments to pain-bearing obstacles, and fundamentally, ignorance, an incorrect notion, is at its foundation. Yoga too has exactly the same teachings, and eliminating these various things—fundamental ignorance, or delusion—will lead to removing various sufferings. Therefore, I think that you can see the realization of Kisa Gotami when she finally came back to the feet of Buddha after going through the villages was like a sudden and radical transformation of her mind, as if a ray of light, shining brightly upon the darkness that occupied her mind until then as if she had truly gone insane. That shock must have been extreme.

(Ms. Sawahiro seems to understand and nods in silence.)
     What is symbolized by the legend of Kisa Gotami applies to everyone in general. The story makes such an impression.

Kinkala: Does that mean that when the attachment of Kisa Gotami to her child was corrected and she became convinced through Buddha’s guidance, discrimination about death happened?

MASTER: Yes, it can be concluded that way. She came to have correct understanding.

Kinkala: When we discriminate during meditation, we analyze and understand that ego and ignorance lay at the root of the thoughts, or we may also consider thoughts from various other angles, and then we understand that those thoughts were incorrect and become convinced; however, it very often is the case that even though there was understanding at that time, at a later time, sanskara emerges again, so the root cause was not uprooted completely. I think it’s very difficult to discriminate and complete one thing perfectly, but do you think that inevitably we won’t perfectly eliminate ego and ignorance unless we discriminate each respective various issue little by little until the very end simultaneously, while we continue to take the challenge of battling the reappearing sanskara again and again through repeatedly applying discrimination?

MASTER: Well, you can’t keep saying “you can’t help but do this,” yet there are times when that is inevitable too. Therefore, you cannot avoid it, but you have to discriminate exhaustively and thoroughly every time it arises.

Kinkala: When we practice it, what are the obstacles in the way of our being able to go further?

MASTER: (after some consideration) The power of concentration is everything. Practicing discrimination is not just about conflicting one knowledge against another. On one side, there must be absolute, certain Existence itself—the true Wisdom has to be present there. Because it is related to the Truth of Self Existence, as you are learning, this Truth is neither the physical body nor the mind, it does not have form or name, but it is the Only Absolute Existence. That is the true Existence, and anything other than that (emphasizing), all else is illusory. This teaching, or this Truth, you must practice this thoroughly. By doing that, then the power of concentration will heighten, and the various confusion and pain-bearing obstacles that the mind has created, will come to disappear. Even so, they may still remain stubbornly, then you must completely burn them up in order for them to never appear again. It is the repetition of that.

Kinkala: Is what you said that in order to practice Atma Vichara, (or Self-Inquiry), one must have perfected renunciation beforehand?

MASTER: Yes, however in order to have practiced complete renunciation, discrimination is necessary.

 

* * *

 

 

Testimonials from a Practitioner

The “Yoga Explained” Series
The Path of Yoga

by Sananda, March, 1998 Kyoto

Throughout the previous articles, the aim of Yoga and the mechanism of the mind has been explained based on Shri Mahayogi’s teachings. From this point on, this article will go into the actual practice of Yoga. Here I will expound on the overall picture of the Path of Yoga (the discipline of practice in action) and I will explain the concrete methods.

“True Self-Realization,” “the Union of God and person,” “Satori (Awakening),” “Liberation”—there are various expressions for It, but they all mean the same. What is most important above all else in applying the discipline of the practice of Yoga in action is to have passion towards this goal. One must set the perfection of Yoga as one’s life goal and seek to devote oneself entirely, with all one’s heart and soul, to attaining it. This passion will remove all obstacles and become the impetus by which one can proceed towards the goal. Furthermore, it is this passion that will bring about the opportunity of meeting a Guru (Master), which is an absolute requirement in Yoga. If a person can get that true passion, then the goal itself is almost accomplished. How fortunate are they who arrive at such holy thoughts! God belongs eternally to such souls. In proceeding on the path of Yoga, we must constantly ask ourselves without pause whether we are seriously seeking It and applying the discipline of practice without losing sight of the goal and whether our practice is real. The ceaseless application of discipline awakens the latent, pure desire for Truth and leads a person to spiritual awakening.

“First of all, one’s zeal for God (Truth) is most important. To fall head over heels in love with God is important—that is to say, one must desire God with all one’s body and soul. This yearning can prevail over all pain-bearing obstacles.”

—Shri Mahayogi

It [Samadhi or Satori] is very near to those who have intense zeal.”  

—Yoga Sutra 1.21

Yoga has been passed down from Guru to disciple uninterrupted. It is practiced in such an assured way that spirituality is poured from a vessel called the “Guru” into a vessel called the “disciple.” In the path of Yoga, a Guru is considered an absolute necessity. To heat up water, what do you do? You apply heat. Water will not heat up on its own. It will only heat up when coming into contact with a source of heat. It is the same in the spiritual path. The soul of a disciple will awaken for the first time only by coming into contact with the soul of the Guru, who radiates the hot waves of Satori. The Guru is the sole living proof of the Truth, of God, of the true Self, of true Love; and the Guru is the powerful divine Light that comes from That, and the Guru is the immortal Existence that guides the disciples with an unfathomable depth of love. We are able to see God only through the Guru. We are able to see Truth only through the Guru. He is the Truth itself and is our true Self. If a seeker is able to encounter the Guru, then his ideal has almost come to fruition. The Guru will guide the disciple to the goal without a doubt.

I think that what is important then, what we must do when we first embark upon the path of Yoga, is to follow in the footsteps of Holy Beings who have come before, study their teachings and actions and humbly follow them. Let us not depend on our immature judgements—for that would be the equivalent of walking in the dark without a source of light. Only the Guru can point out to us the right path.

Our egos are powerful. However, simply by a glance from the Guru, the ego will be destroyed. Prostrating to the Guru is the prostration towards the true Self—the Truth; therefore, the ego will come to be extinct by the Holy Light. One who is seriously learning Yoga has to treat their Guru with the highest respect, have the deepest adoration towards the Guru, and learn the teachings from the Guru, contemplate them, and apply them in action. Yoga is not something that one can learn from books, it must be learned from the Guru who has walked the path himself and perfected it.

“If you are to learn the Truth from a spiritual master, you must prostrate in front of him with respect, service and questions. Then, one can finally receive the holy teachings for the first time.”

—Bhagavad Gita, 4.34

 “When a cup is full of dirty water, no matter how much pure water you pour into it, everything will keep spilling out. If people try to work on Yoga seriously, first the stale water must be gotten rid of, and they must listen humbly to the Master’s teachings and apply them through their actions.”

—Shri Mahayogi

 

Now, let us keep the above words in our minds and go further into the explanations of Yoga. The path of Yoga can be divided into four main paths:

Karma yoga (yoga of action)—the yoga in which reaching the Supreme Divine (God) is attained through fulfilling one’s duties and rendering devoted service to others, all while not being attached to the results of one’s actions.

Bhakti yoga (yoga of devotion)—the yoga in which one dissolves oneself into God through having faith and adoring God.

Jnana yoga (yoga of knowledge)—the yoga in which one awakens to the true Self by thoroughly and completely discriminating (viveka) between Truth and non-Truth.

Raja yoga (yoga of meditation)—the yoga in which one realizes the Truth through controlling the prana (ki or chi) and restraining the activities of the mind.

*Hatha yoga (physiological), kundalini yoga (supra-physiological), mantra yoga (sacred words), and kriya yoga (actual practice) are all included in raja yoga.

The practitioners will come to choose whatever form suits their temperament. However, in modern society, it may be necessary to put all four yoga combined into practice, while practicing a main path. The reason is that the modern world does not provide an environment suitable for pursuing concentrating on just one path of Yoga. In the current situation where we are living, it is impossible to wish for the blessed environment of a Yoga practitioner that is completely free from external societal interference and without having the problem of maintaining the bare minimum necessities to live. In the holy sites of India, such environments may exist, however, it is due to our karma that we live in our own current environment, so we must begin Yoga from wherever we are at the moment. And, in order to put Yoga into action while having a job or having a family, the four yoga are absolutely essential. By using each of the four yoga properly in various situations in life, one overcomes various obstacles and gathers the hard-to-control mind and directs it towards the goal.

Each of the yoga will be explained in detail in another article, but here, their main characteristics will be explained.

 

 “The mind, prana and karma are an interlocked triad. When you control one of the three, the other two will be controlled as well.”

—Shri Mahayogi

In order to realize the “control of the mind,” each yoga approaches the three facets of the triad: mind, prana and karma.

Karma yoga has as its main purpose and practice to control karma through eliminating selfish actions and giving oneself up to rendering devoted service for the good of others. Desire creates karma, and so one practices to prevent new karma from being created by breaking away from selfish actions. Through that, the cause of the activities of the mind—karma and sanskara—disappear, and the Truth comes to be revealed to the practitioner.

Bhakti yoga has as its main purpose and practice the gathering of the entire mind, focusing it towards God through loving God, thinking of God, and devoting oneself to God with all one’s body and soul. The most intense human emotion is the emotion of romantic love. [In bhakti yoga,] utilizing this natural emotion of love to the maximum, one brings the mind, which is difficult to deal with, into a gathered state and concentrates it towards God. Bhakti yoga is natural to practice in combination with the practice of karma yoga. God abides in everyone. A person who serves and worships others is truly a real bhakta (bhakti yogi), as well as a real karma yogi.

“He alone is worshiping God who serves all beings.

—Swami Vivekananda

Jnana yoga has as its main purpose and practice working to realize the true Self through inquiring into the essence of the mind through thoroughly and completely discriminating [its activities by putting them up against the Truth]. The mind itself is the field of work for the jnana yogi. A practitioner dives deeply into the mind, and completely and utterly discriminates and renounces all that is non-Truth.

Raja yoga is the most traditional yoga, and this yoga has as its main purpose and practice the restraint of the mind by controlling the prana, through asana (bodily exercise of yoga) and pranayama (breathing methods), etc. The activities of the mind happen through prana, therefore controlling prana leads to the restraint of the mind.

It can be said that these four yoga are the sacred paths that have been shown since the time of the ancient Guru in order to bring the multi-faceted human mind under control. It is said that there are as many paths as there are people, and that the various religions of the world are a reflection of that. We can’t possibly understand everything about the infinite Truth or God with our little intellect. Each drop of Truth that is manifested within each person—these are all just a drop of the infinite God. Even so, just like one can know the ocean by drinking only one scoop of seawater without having to drink the entire big ocean, while walking on one’s respective path one can eventually arrive at the ocean of bliss (God), and drink the nectar of bliss according to one’s respective capacity.

The content of Yoga practice can be divided into two categories: “detachment” and “practice (study and mastery).” “Detachment,” as the word implies, is to be detached from desires (pain-bearing obstacles). It means not wanting things that are not the Truth, and it is the discipline of restraining the nature of the mind, which seeks fleeting, ephemeral objects in the external world. It is also called “non-attachment” or “renunciation.” It is difficult to meditate while having desires that agitate the mind. It is just like putting a barrel of liquor in front of a drinker who is trying to quit drinking, and so three minutes later, he is drunk again. If “detachment” is imperfect, it dries up the spiritual strength gained from “practice (study and mastery).” It is just like filling up a bucket with holes at the bottom. By “detachment,” one controls desires, and further, through that, karma and sanskara are controlled. When one is detached from all desires, and that non-attachment is practiced thoroughly and completely, only then is true concentration of the mind achieved for the first time.

“Practice (study and mastery)” means the regular application of asana, pranayama, meditation, etc., and it is the discipline of practices that gather the mind into single-pointed concentration towards the aim of Yoga. “Practice (study and mastery)” is also called sadhana (discipline of training and mastering), and the fruits of sadhana accumulate as spiritual strength. It is this strength that controls the mind, and it is this strength that guides people to the Truth. Through this power, all pain-bearing obstacles are discriminated and are driven away and extinguished. Without “practice (study and mastery),” one cannot succeed in “detachment” either. It is extremely difficult to actually practice just “detachment” alone. The mind rebels against oppression. By sublimating the energy of desire to the energy of concentration upon Yoga, the energy of desire becomes possible to control. In this way, the two come in tandem as one whole.

According to the Yoga Sutra, practice has the following three aspects:

-Austerities (tapas)

-Study of scriptures (svadyaya)

-Surrender to the Supreme Existence (ishvara pranidhana) 

These are the basic elements that apply not only to raja yoga, but to other yoga as well.

“Austerities” means “to accept pain,” and it applies to sadhana such as asana, pranayama and meditation. “Tapas” means “to burn” or “heat,” and it refers to the purification of impurities (pain-bearing obstacles) by burning them using the heat generated by various sadhana. “Heat” arises from “accepting pain.” Now, whose pain is it? It is the pain of the “ego.” The egotistical nature of human beings always takes the direction toward laziness and flows according to the way the desires go. Letting this flow without intervention is a comfortable condition for the ego. The place to where this flow arrives is the lowest point. However, that place is like a dirty puddle. “Austerities” is the practice of removing oneself from this habitual, familiar place, and at first, just like going against the flow of water, there is a bit of friction with the ego. That’s when “heat” arises and the ego is burnt.

This “heat” can be experienced at first from the application of the discipline of asana practice. When you continue to apply the practice of asana, during the first stage, extreme heat may arise from within. A strong flow of prana generated by practicing asana revitalizes the weak parts of the body, i.e. intense heat is generated. In other words, the body is purified by this heat. Therefore, asana is more effective for people who feel more stimulation (discomfort). There is little benefit for people who don’t feel any stimulation from asana. However, for these people, there are advanced asana that are there for them. For this reason, flexibility is not all that important in asana. When the breath is no longer disturbed, even while experiencing the most intense stimulus (in other words, when the prana is not disturbed), is the point where asana is complete.

As you can see, not only asana, but pranayama, meditation or even discrimination in the practice of jnana yoga have “austerities” in their content. And, not just limited to sadhana, there is also pain arising from day-to-day interactions with others—for example, not talking back when someone is badmouthing you can be a part of “accepting pain.” This means that not giving rise to any selfish actions, words or thoughts in our own daily life is “accepting pain” and you will come to put it into practice in daily life.

The “study of scriptures” does not mean simply reading spiritual books, nor is it like studying in school. Nor is it a type of academic research. “Svadhyaya” is to learn various teachings from holy beings and scriptures, to nurture understanding, and to put it into action in order to discipline it and master it yourself through the practice of discrimination and meditation. It cannot end at intellectual satisfaction. It is very important to master it through experiencing it. If you continue to put the teachings of Yoga into action, each time you open the same book, you will recognize that the degree of spiritual benefit you get from it will change over time. In other words, the deeper, more profound meaning of the teachings will be revealed according to your own spiritual progress on the path of Yoga. The depth of wisdom interpreted from the same book will be different between beginner and advanced levels. And also, the scriptures and the teachings from Holy Beings act just like guidebooks. It is necessary to correctly understand the teachings without making the error of going down the wrong path. In addition, spiritual books play the role of reminding us of our goal.

However, the teachings of the Guru are incomparable to these books. The Guru grants the teachings specifically to you. He bestows the most appropriate teaching at that time, looking at your current situation. I think that in fact, the role of spiritual books are just like aids to the teachings of the Guru. Without the teachings of the Guru, the teachings from spiritual books cannot come to life. Therefore, it is necessary for us to learn the Truth based on the teachings of the Guru.

“Surrendering to the Supreme Existence” means surrendering oneself. How one interprets “Supreme Existence” might be different according to the temperament of each individual person, but “God” or “Truth”—the aim of Yoga is this: “Surrendering to the Supreme Existence (ishvara pranidhana).” It is required that one surrenders everything else [but “God” or “Truth”] for “God” or “Self-Realization.”

“If you want to receive treasures,
then get rid of the junk you’re holding onto right now.”

—Shri Mahayogi

Even so, in order to proceed much further with “ishvara pranidhana,” it is best to serve an existence that best embodies the “Supreme Existence.” Ramakrishna Paramahansa often said, “If you want to see God, see God in humans. He is most manifest in man.” The one who knows this and gives up everything to serve humanity, he or she is a karma yogi. Mother Theresa was a karma yogi of modern times. Now, to practice surrendering oneself to the Guru, who is the manifestation of God itself, will bring about very rapid progress in the practice of Yoga. As mentioned before, if one can rid oneself of all the water in the cup, then immediately the Guru fills it up with holy water. Renunciation of the self is the highest ideal in Yoga and in religion. 

In this article, the overall picture of Yoga was explained. Everything about Yoga cannot be explained in such a limited space, and ultimately, Yoga cannot be understood without actual application of disciplines. Even so, in the case of walking the path of Yoga, it is necessary to have correctly understood the overall picture of what Yoga is.

From the above, as we observe the external process of Yoga practice, we can see that through the four yoga, we practice “detachment” and “practice (study and mastery).” We are required to put sadhana into action based on the guidance of the Guru, and to apply in action the practice of discrimination and selfless service in our daily lives. Your current life will transform into accomplishing the aim of Yoga. Your ideals, thoughts, lifestyle, diet, words, actions, thinking will all be refined based on teachings of Yoga, becoming pure and simple. Everything in your life will be focused on Yoga.

Internally, as your passion for Yoga heightens, your attachment towards external objects will begin to diminish. You will taste the internal fruits of the training and mastering of Yoga and will no longer be interested in the small ups and downs of the external world. The seeds of desire (sanskara) will get smaller and be reduced, and the mind will become pure, simple, and sturdy. The mind will no longer be affected by anything, and single-pointed focus towards Yoga will be realized. When this application of the practice of Yoga in action becomes perpetual and continuous, the seeds of desire will dry up, and the mind that loses these supports will dissolve into the aim of Yoga (God).

At that moment, you will know—You were free. That bondage was created by the mind, as a monologue, in a self-directed, self-produced play. When this stage closes its curtains, the true Self itself will emerge.

 “Just as you wake up in the morning and laugh at yourselves for reacting to the ups and downs in the dream you were having; when you awaken to the True Consciousness, you will realize that the experiences [of the world] that you had thought to be real was only a dream, an illusion. Realization is the Awakening to Absolute, Pure Consciousness, the Eternal Existence.”

—Shri Mahayogi

 

The “Yoga Explained” Series:
The Application of Discipline
for Putting the Practice of Raja Yoga
into Action

by Sananda, May, 1998 Kyoto

In the previous article, we looked at the overall picture of Yoga practice. We covered the four yoga: karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, and raja yoga. In this article, we will go into the actual practice of the most traditional discipline of practice: raja yoga.

Raja yoga, translated as the “Royal Path of Yoga,” is so traditional that when the word “Yoga” is mentioned, it indicates this raja yoga. As seen in the Yoga Sutra, the main characteristic of raja yoga is the control of the mind through performing exceptional psychological analysis. This is precisely the reason why Yoga is called the science of the mind. Just as modern scientists observe various phenomena in the world to derive theorems and laws, yogi, the ancient scientists, observed the workings of the mind meticulously, came to understand its subtle mechanisms, and thus discovered the path to arrive at the true Self deep within by stopping the activities of the mind.

All of you Immortals! Those who live in the highest realms! The path has been found. There is a way to completely escape from this darkness. There is no other path but to seek out the One who has transcended all darkness.

—The Upanishads

Its secret is ekagrata (single-pointed concentration).1 Normally, the power of the mind is scattered and weakened, being disturbed by its various activities. However, when the mind is brought to focus upon a single point, its power becomes infinite. By this power, one becomes able to transcend time and space, as well as the bondage of causality. This reaches to the direct knowledge of the object of concentration (Truth, or God). It reaches the essence of the object. This knowledge is completely different from knowledge derived from normal logical thinking; knowledge itself is realized. It is what is called knowledge without any cognition or perception of difference. One becomes completely One with the object. By utilizing the power of this mind, which is then under control, one restrains all sanskara (pain-bearing obstacles), and then the state of having restrained the activities of the mind is realized. In this way, raja yoga shows logically and scientifically the path towards the realization of Satori.

Another characteristic of raja yoga is that raja yoga has a very physiological system of discipline—to actualize bringing the mind under control through controlling prana (ki, or chi, life energy). Asana (training of Yoga through use of the physical body; methods of sitting) and pranayama (energy and breath control) fall under this.2

If we consider just the aim of Yoga, all that we must do is restrain the mind—in other words, go directly into meditation; however, in order to practice extremely steadfast meditation, we must have a strong physical body.3 People’s bodies in this modern age are especially weakened by various stress factors and inappropriate diets, and their bodies cry out in pain after only sitting in meditation for hardly ten minutes. Asana exists in order to create a body that can endure intense meditation. And also, these physiological disciplines and trainings exist for the purpose of controlling the prana. Prana is the fundamental energy that moves the universe, and it acts as life energy within the body. Pranayama is the discipline of practicing to control the prana through breath control. When one attains it successfully, one becomes able to control the mind, which is the subtlest prana. Asana and pranayama make it possible to control the prana through physiological disciplines and training. Raja yoga is extremely broad, and as a system that goes far and in-depth into these physiological disciplines and trainings, raja yoga is unlike any other religion or mental training.

We will go into the actual practical methods later, but before then, I must mention what is necessary before the actual application of the practice of raja yoga. I mentioned that raja yoga is a science of the mind earlier, and just like other sciences, there are some disciplines that we must observe, even if one has not understood the applications by which to practice them.

First, it is necessary to concentrate on the application of practice under a Guru (Master). The practice of disciplines based only on book knowledge is impossible. Unlike a chemistry experiment, we don’t know what’s inside the beaker. Sanskara and karma accumulated in our minds are not clear to a beginner who is just embarking on the path of Yoga. Only the Guru knows it. Therefore, the Guru’s instruction is absolutely indispensable. In India, it is said that in order to find a Guru, seekers might spend decades, or even lifetimes searching. That is how crucial a Guru is. Also, Yoga places importance on applying the practice of the teachings in one’s actions. Because Yoga has quite an excellent philosophy, people tend to just become satisfied with intellectual understanding; however, no spiritual progress is made without applying the teachings into action. “Applying the teachings into action” means practicing Yoga through “thoughts, words and deeds.” We must make sure to not just remain in the level of intellectual understanding without applying it in action.

Next, I am going to mention an especially important point for beginners. It is about diet. Our minds are constantly affected by the condition of the body. Therefore, we need to be aware of the types of food that will make up our bodies. We should always eat foods that have the quality of sattva (pureness). For a meal to have the quality of sattva, it means that you should make a meal with vegetables (fresh and in-season) in a modest amount. There is no need to become obsessive about this, yet the restriction of one’s diet is more important than most practitioners would think. Food that has the quality of sattva purifies the body, and when the body is purified, the mind is no longer affected by the body, and consequently the concentration of the mind becomes easier.

Bearing the above points in mind, let us move on to the actual discipline of the practice of raja yoga in one’s actions.

Raja yoga is also known as ashtanga yoga (the Yoga of Eight Limbs).

  1. Yama (Abstinences)
    • Ahimsa (non-violence)—to not give pain to others (which includes all living things) through one’s thoughts, words, or deeds.
    • Satya (truthfulness)—to be honest and have integrity in one’s thoughts, words, and deeds. To not lie.
    • Asteya (non-stealing)—to not steal from other’s in thought, word, or deed.
    • Brahmacharya (continence)—to be chaste within all environments, in thought, word, and deed.
    • Aparigraha (non-greed)—to not receive any gifts from anyone.
  2. Niyama (observances)
    • Shauca (purity)—the purification of the internal and the external. There is no value whatsoever in external purity if there is no internal purity.
    • Santosha (contentment)—to be satisfied with the bare minimum needs.
    • Tapas (austerity)—to overcome any conditions internally and externally, e.g. dualistic conditions: hot and cold, happy and sad, etc.
    • Svadhyaya (the study of scriptures)—to nurture one’s understanding of the Truth.
    • Ishvarapranidhana (faith towards a personal god)—to have pure faith toward a sacred being, and the unshakable vow to realize Satori.
  3. Asana (seated positions)—comfortable, stable posture.
  4. Pranayama (controlling prana)—the control of prana through breathing.
  5. Pratyahara (withdrawing the senses)—directing the mind from the external world towards the internal—true Self.
  6. Dharana (concentration)—gathering the mind and concentrating it on a specific object.
  7. Dhyana (meditation)—the uninterrupted flow of concentration [thought] towards that object.
  8. Samadhi (the state of super consciousness)—Union with the object.

 

This last stage, called Samadhi, is the ultimate state that a human being can attain, and it means Satori. The state where you have transcended the edge of the world and become One with the Absolute Existence, the Immortal Existence, is Samadhi. The realization of this is the aim of Yoga, and all the limbs preceding it are solely for attaining That.

Yama and niyama are not exclusive to raja yoga, but they are moralistic and ethical teachings common to other yoga and religions (Eightfold Noble Path, Ten Commandments, etc). The practice of the disciplines of these tenets in action builds a solid foundation for Yoga, and without having this foundation established, the accomplishment of Yoga is impossible. So, then why must we put these disciplines into action?

“The [aim and benefit of the continuous] application of yama and niyama is the elimination of selfish thoughts, words, and deeds.”

—Shri Mahayogi

That is to say, the continuous practice of yama and niyama in action means the continuous practice of “detachment,” one of the pillars of the disciplines of practice in Yoga that was mentioned in the previous article. If one’s thoughts, words, and deeds follow yama and niyama, then the mind will naturally come to be purified. The mind that is purified enables you to easily focus on the aim of Yoga (God). For example, the most important tenets among them, ahimsa (non-violence) means that one must not give pain to others, not only in action but at the level of words and deeds as well. The application of the practice of ahimsa eliminates the selfish mind in its entirety, and purely transforms people into true Love itself. It was said that all conflict ceased and all animals began to co-exist in harmony around Buddha. The true meaning of yama and niyama are shown in the following teachings of Shri Mahayogi below:

 “Our essence is One Immortal Existence, Absolute Consciousness, Pure Joy. If our essence is immortal and one sees only the One true Existence that was previously seen as “others,” then there would be no “others” to hurt, or to lie to. If the Self is Everything, then there is nothing to desire. Indeed, because that is the Truth, we must practice yama and niyama in action.”

—Shri Mahayogi

The state of one’s practice of yama and niyama comes to advance further toward perfection through the application in action of the disciplines of the subsequent limbs, and then one’s understanding of the great meaning of yama and niyama is gradually deepened. However, let us begin to apply the practice of these disciplines from where we are right now. The steady and ongoing application of the practice of yama and niyama will certainly lead the mind to tranquility.

Now, from the next limb, “asana,” we enter into what is more centrally characteristic of raja yoga. Asana has grown in popularity, so much so that it is even considered to mean Yoga nowadays. However, asana is absolutely not the aim of Yoga, it is only one part of it.

 “One cannot realize Satori through asana. However, there are aspects of asana that are necessary as well for people who live in this current age. Asana creates the body—the body of a yogi—that is suited for meditation.”   

—Shri Mahayogi

The first aim of asana is to create an invincibly strong body. We create a body that can withstand intense, long hours of meditation. The body that is perfected through the discipline of practicing asana may feel so light and healthy that you may feel like it doesn’t even exist. Through that, the mind becomes free from the bondage of the body. One of the greatest asana, “siddhasana,” looks from the outside like a simple sitting position, but it is the pose in which one should be seated without any effort or strain at all from the spine, which was made stronger and more flexible through the discipline of practicing various asana. This seated posture minimizes the consumption of energy, and thus enables one to do long hours of meditation. Just by sitting in siddhasana one’s prana comes to be controlled, and the mind comes to be concentrated. If we look in more detail, asana stimulates and then revitalizes the chakra, which are centers of prana. (see Asana Basic published by Mahayogi Yoga Mission) Each respective asana stimulates one of the seven chakra that correspond to each respective asana. Prana becomes strengthened through that, and the body, under its effects, becomes sturdy. That means that the practice of asana does not simply affect the physical body, but it also has the effect of purifying and strengthening the subtle body (astral body) that lies further within the body. And, as its effect, the breath, which is an outward expression of prana, comes to be transformed. It changes into more rhythmical and stronger breathing. Furthermore, that will affect the mind. The mind will begin to feel tranquil and calm. The mind will come out of the state of agitation and will come to be prepared for meditation. In this way, the effects of asana extend not only to the aspects of the physical body, but to the breath, to the prana, and all the way to the mind.

In the asana practice, it is important to practice the basic asana well. You must not challenge yourself to do difficult ones in the beginning. It is best to practice the basic asana every single day without rushing [to do difficult asana]. Of course, as you pass through the beginner’s stage, you may include a little more advanced asana in your practice. Or if your body becomes flexible, you may try asana with a higher level of difficulty. However, since asana is a training using the body, there are individual differences. We must not forget that practicing only the most basic asana has sufficient beneficial effects. In asana, it is especially important to hold your completed position. Breathe slowly (yet without strain), and exhale completely. At the beginning, breathe [in your completed position] for 5 to 10 rounds, and as you become more familiar with asana, breathe for around 20 rounds. As one becomes more adept at asana, the breath will not be agitated even in the challenging and uncomfortable completed poses. And this kind of breathing will transform one’s breathing during daily life also—the breath becomes rhythmical and stable throughout the entire day. In this state, we transcend the duality of comfort and discomfort in the body; no matter what condition the body is in, the breath is not agitated, and the mind remains tranquil. That [state] is the completion of asana. One who reaches this state is no longer bothered by the body.

Asana is tapas (austerities) itself. It might look easy, as if only involving slow movements and stopping, holding the completed pose. However, once you try it, you will recognize very quickly that heat is generated from inside the body. This is not the type of heat generated by muscular activities, like those that are athletic. Those types of heat dissipate and cool down quickly. The heat felt during athletic activities is the heat that arises when prana is spent. The internal heat generated by practicing asana is the manifestation coming from prana that has been activated and accumulated through practice. And, it is generated by accepting pain. Therefore, the visible flexibility in asana is not that important. Even if your body is stiff or inflexible, the effect of asana is there for certain. In fact, the more discomfort you may feel in asana, the greater the prana that can be generated. Various muscles will become flexible through asana, and the place where there was imbalance will be revitalized. Nerves and muscles throughout the body will be strengthened. That is the proof that prana has been accumulated. And it will enhance the self-healing ability that dwells in the body, healing from within the parts that are weak or sick. If you devotedly discipline yourself to practice asana daily, you will feel these effects in even less than a month. Through practicing the discipline of asana, we will sense the mystery of our own microcosm inside. But first of all, you must apply the discipline into action. Learn the practice of asana under the right Master, and then put asana into practice every day.

Through engaging in the discipline of practicing asana daily, we touch upon the sureness of Yoga and establish the foundation for training in Yoga. The stable breath and strong, powerful prana acquired from practicing asana will become the power to fuel us to continuously apply the practice of Yoga. The energy accumulated through that must be directed toward the aim of Yoga. One should not be content with just a little healthier and lighter body. You should not stop at such little joy. A much bigger joy awaits further ahead. You must not stop. When you look at the current state of Yoga, unfortunately, people’s goal stops after acquiring a healthy body through practicing asana. Certainly, being healthy is wonderful. However, the body will die one day. We must proceed further with this healthy body.

The next step after asana is pranayama. Pranayama means to control the prana. Prana is the fundamental energy of the universe. In this body, which is our microcosm, prana can be referred to as life energy. The external activities, in which we use the body, the internal activities, or the organs, and the activities of the mind, all occur due to prana. Because our senses are gross, we can only feel it through physical activities; when the subtle senses start to awaken through the application of the practice of Yoga, one can begin to feel the activities of the prana. In asana, prana is revitalized, yet it is only at an indirect level of revitalization through physical movements. In pranayama, one is directly controlling this prana. This indicates that if one succeeds in the practice of pranayama perfectly, one will be able to control the prana of the entire universe. One will be able to rule over all energy. However, if one makes use of this power, without faith, it will lead to ruin. A practitioner of Yoga directs this power to a much higher level, Satori. Every prana is concentrated on Yoga. And this shows that the mind is the subtle prana itself, and that controlling prana is exactly the same as controlling the mind.

The practice of pranayama begins with controlling the breath first. You practice to breathe rhythmically. During this pranayama practice, you practice the act of “kumbhaka,” which means stopping the breath, “holding the breath, or [being in a state of] non-breathing.” In other words, you stop the breath. The breath is the most straightforward manifestation of life activity. Generally, the stopping of the breath means “death.” However, for the practitioners of Yoga who have immense prana accumulated within and have faith towards Yoga, stopping the breath does not mean death. We human beings take in energy from the outside world through food and breath in order to maintain life. Normally, we eat daily out of habit and breathe unconsciously without resting. It is like just “getting by,” and this condition continues until the day we die. However, as prana is accumulated through training in the disciplines of Yoga, it becomes possible to control this cycle. One’s diet will naturally be controlled, consisting of the appropriate quality and amount for that individual. Generally, the amount will lessen and become moderate. The breath becomes so calm, quiet and long. In advanced Yoga practitioners, it has been verified that one breath can take one hour or even several days. This means that prana can be internally revitalized and accumulated such that it creates the condition in which it is not necessary to take in prana from external sources, food or breath.

And, when the breath stops, consequently, the mind’s activities also stop. You can observe that in daily experience too, when the mind is agitated, the breath is agitated; conversely, when the breath becomes calm, then the mind becomes calm. The breath and mind are the same in their root. You must notice that when we are concentrating devotedly on one thing, the breath stops. Thus, the breath is the manifestation of prana, and controlling the breath has a connection to and leads to controlling the prana, and further, it will eventually calm the waves of the mind.

According to the physiology of Yoga, our subtle bodies have channels where prana flows—nadi. It is said that there are 72,000 nadi within the body, and the three nadi that are located in the spine are especially important. It is said that with sushumna in the center, ida flanks to the left and pingala to the right, and they intersect at the end. Normally, only the ida (path of the moon) and pingala (path of the sun) are active, and prana flows going around through these two nadi. Just like the sun and the moon represent day and night in this world, that is, they represent time and space, the body, which is the microcosm, functions based on the workings of these two nadi. And these life [sustaining] activities are done through the breath. That is to say, through the breath—time and space, in other words, this world, or life’s activities, are sustained. Kumbhaka (non-breathing) means the suspension of the movement of the prana—in other words, it is Freedom (Satori) from space and time,4 the big pillars of bondage in this world, or it is the transcendence of causation. In this way, the breath, the prana and the mind—along with this world, are intimately connected.

An even higher purpose for a discipline of practicing pranayama is to awaken kundalini. Kundalini is the inexhaustible cosmic energy that is dormant inside the human body (at the bottom of sushumna nadimuladhara chakra). The microcosm is connected to the macrocosm. Pranayama opens its door. Sushumna normally does not function because it is clogged with pain-bearing obstacles and karma. However, it begins to function when prana is revitalized through the practice and training of Yoga and the nadi are purified. Then, through kumbhaka, one stops the prana flowing through ida and pingala, and concentrates all of the prana single-pointedly (ekagrata) into awakening kundalini. By using the heart and soul, while having faith in Yoga, we stake ourselves on attempting to awaken kundalini. With intense concentration, we raise kundalini up within the third path, sushumna nadi. Kundalini goes through the six chakra, then reaches the last chakra, sahasrara chakra, the gate of Satori.5 This is called “kundalini yoga.” This is the great aim of pranayama, and it is said that the great effort and the guidance of a Guru are crucial for its realization.

As you can see above, we can begin the practice of pranayama from simply controlling the breath in our daily lives. And through “controlling the breath,” control of the subtler prana becomes possible. At a glance, it looks like a repetition of simple tasks, however the power of pranayama is so powerful that it can directly lead to samadhi. And, even if one does not proceed to kundalini yoga, the effects of pranayama will manifest immediately. The physical body will be filled with prana and become strong and sturdy, and the mind will be prepared for concentration (dharana).

In this article, I have explained the physiological training and practices. We have to bear in mind that since they especially are done using the body, everything depends on actual practice (the application of the discipline to practice continuously in one’s daily actions). It is required to devote yourself entirely and concentrate all your effort to continuously put the teachings of practice into action under the guidance of a Guru.

In the next article, I will explain what is referred to as the “Science of the Mind.”

[1] As Eliade mentions in his book, Yoga (Eliade Anthology 9, Selica Book Publisher), we can say that a characteristic of Yoga sadhana (discipline and training) is ekagrata, single-pointedness. As will be mentioned later, asana is the single-pointed focus in a particular pose at the physical level. Pranayama is the single-pointed concentration upon kumbhaka (stopping the breath). The entry-point to meditation is gathering the mind and concentrating it on a single object. Clearly, the aim of Yoga is to gather the scattered activities of a human being and bring them to a single point. Yoga aims to gather all the energy to concentrate it on one single point, God or Satori.

[2] The part that only deals with the physiological training in raja yoga is called “hatha yoga.Hatha yoga is considered to be a part of raja yoga.

[3] However, this approach is very much like that of hatha yoga. Bhakti yoga, which is the yoga of devotion, and jnana yoga, which is the yoga of wisdom, apply disciplines and training using the mind, which are completely unrelated to physical conditions. Depending on the temperament of a practitioner, physiological practice is not always necessary.

[4] The common example is that when you are really focused on something almost to the point of not breathing, you may notice that you are not aware of time passing.

[5] It is said that there are considered to be seven chakra: muladhara (at the tailbone), svadhisthana (at the reproductive organs), manipura (at the navel), anahata (at the heart), vishuddha (at the throat), ajna (between eyebrows), and sahasrara (at the top of the head). Prana, along with the breath, circulates inside the microcosm that is the body through ida, pingala, and countless [other] nadi. And, it is said that the cosmic energy exists inside the chakra. Through [the practice of continuously applying] Yoga, one controls the two nadi, and makes the sleeping kundalini awaken at the muladhara chakra, raising it up through sushumna nadi. Kundalini penetrates through all the chakra, and will finally reach sahasrara chakra. Kundalini is referred to as Shakti (the Goddess), and the God Shiva (the masculine God) lives in sahasrara; the kundalini is raised, then unites with the God Shiva in sahasrara chakra.

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