The aim and practice of Yoga: A radical difference in the real aim of Yoga
On account of the fact that there is a radical difference in the concept of Yoga, as presented in this volume, with corroboration from ancient canonical texts and standard books on the subject, and the generally accepted ideas, current today, it is necessary to make this distinction clear at the outset in order to avoid confusion.
According to my view all systems of Yoga embody divergent methods for the metamorphosis of consciousness.
The real aim of Yoga is not to cause an obstruction in the normal flow of thought by sustained efforts of concentration, but to open new areas of perception in the brain capable of manifesting a transhuman state of consciousness. The ideas expressed by some modern writers that the practice of concentration, carried to the required degree, can enable the Sadhaka to keep out both the sensory impressions, coming from outside, and the subconscious impulses, invading the mind from within, and in this state of freedom to experience the transcendent, do not at all present a correct picture of the processes released by Yoga or of the ultimate state to which it leads.
There is no agreement at the present moment between the principles underlying Yoga and the concepts of modern psychology and, therefore, any attempt to explain one in terms of the other cannot lead to an understanding of the causes that generate the supernormal states of consciousness associated with Yoga.
The aim of Yoga is to accelerate a natural process, already at work in the human organism: to mould the brain to a higher state of awareness. Modern psychology has no inkling of this process and, therefore, does not take it seriously into account in its treatment of the mind and its problems. There is no recognition among present-day psychologists of the obvious fact that the human brain is still evolving toward a yet unknown destination. This being the case, psychology can as yet have no jurisdiction over the province covered by Yoga. It is for this reason that, in spite of its antiquity and the overwhelming testimony of hundreds of top-rank intellects of
, the validity of Yoga as a means to gain transcendent states of consciousness still remains to be accepted by the scholars of today, and the whole subject is obscure and controversial. Even in India there is a great divergence of opinion concerning the efficacy of the various practices as well as about the ultimate condition toward which Yoga leads. Thus for Sankara, the exercise of the intellect to discriminate between the real and the unreal, before the actual beginning of the various steps of Yoga, is necessary in order to reach the supreme state; while in the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali no such condition is imposed. In Gita, the greatest stress is laid on passionate love and longing for the Deity whether manifesting itself in a form or in formlessness; Ramanuja, another famous exponent of Vedanta, believes in acts of daily worship, devout meditation (upasana), and self-surrender as the surest way of reaching Brahman. He says in Sri Bhasya (iii.2.23): India
“It is only in the state of perfect endearment, i.e., in meditation bearing the character of deep devotion, that intuitive knowledge of Brahman is gained and not in any other state.”
The Vedas lay stress on the performance of daily observances, austerity and dhyana (meditation), and the earlier Upanishads on righteous conduct, control of the senses and meditation on Brahman as the means to liberation.
The Upanishads, which show an advance over the ritualistic practices (karma-kanda) of the Vedas as a result of social and mental evolution achieved during the course of centuries intervening between the two, assign a higher place to intellectual discrimination in the pursuit of , moksa (liberation) than to religious rites and daily Karma (agnihotra, etc.).
Thus it is said in the Mundaka-Upanishad (iii.l.8):
“It, i.e., the Brahman, is not comprehended through the eye, nor through speech, nor through the other senses, nor is it attained through austerity or Karma (daily performance of religious duties).
When one becomes purified in mind with the blessings of a rightly discriminating intellect then only can one realize that indivisible Self through meditation.” According to Bhagavad Purana utter surrender to the Lord paves the way to emancipation. “Those who dedicate every day,” it says, 10.26.15, “their passion, anger, fear, love, unity and friendship to Hari, attain Him.”
This is confirmed in Bhagavad-Gita (ix.34) in the words of Sri
Krishna addressed to
Arjuna: “Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, make obeisance to Me, worship Me, thus uniting yourself to Me and entirely depending on Me you shall come to Me.”
Krishna repeats this promise again more emphatically at the end of the discourse
(xviii.66) thus: “Surrendering all duties (dharmas) come to Me alone for refuge”; “Grieve not, I shall absolve thee of all sins.”
The greatest emphasis among all the factors conducive to liberation has been laid on detachment, intense devotion, and purity of mind by most of the spiritual luminaries of
The possibility of emancipation for one who has not purified himself is categorically denied in the Katha Upanishad (1.11.24). “One who has not desisted from evil conduct, who has not his senses under control, whose mind is not concentrated and free from anxiety cannot attain this Self through knowledge.”
The preliminary practices of Yoga are, in actual fact, meant for effecting the much-needed purification of the bodily organs, the nervous system and the mind. Without this purification the practice of concentration, dharma and dhyana becomes fruitless. For this reason some of the renowned Yoga saints in
consider the dry disciplines of Yoga an impediment rather than an aid to realization as compared to purity of mind and intense longing for the Supreme. Surdas in his Brahmragita ridicules the idea of Yoga without bhakti (devotion) serving as a means for the attainment of God. India
In his Sursagar he makes the following observation: “In whose company am I to talk. He talks of Yoga in which all taste of life is burnt up.”
Kabir, another famous Yoga saint, presents the same idea in these words: “Without devotion to God the wicked go astray.
Whomever I approach for my deliverance is himself caught in the net. Yogis say Yoga is best and there is nothing else.
Hairy and shaven Sadhus (ascetics) claim that they have found siddhi (psychic powers, perfection). The Pandit, the warrior, the poet, the patron – each alone says he is great. . . . Leave passion to your right and left and hold on to the feet of Hari (the Lord).” San-karadeva, the far-famed saint of
who flourished in the fifteenth century, conveys the same idea when he says: “Thou has muttered spells (mantras), undergone austerities. . . . Yoga and logic have been mastered by thee, yet clouded is they mind, for without devotion there can be no salvation. All piety resideth in the name of Rama; this is the essential message of all holy books.” The earnest attitude of utter surrender and devotion is beautifully expressed in the Mahanarayan Upanishad (38.1) in these words: Assam
“May the Supreme accept me. May the Blissful accept me. May the Supreme alone that is Blissful accept me. 0 Lord, being one among Thy creatures, I am Thy child. End the dreary dream of the sorrowful existence that I experience. For that I offer myself as an oblation unto Thee, 0 Lord, together with the prana [life energy]
Thou hast infused in me.”
The whole spiritual literature of India is pervaded through and through with the utterances of venerated sages and seers, from the age of the Upanishads to the present day, proclaiming purity of mind, detachment from the fret and fever of the world, extreme devotion to and constant meditation on the Deity as the most effective means to self-realization. The regimented system of Yoga, as propounded by Patanjali, beginning with yama and ending in Samādhi, is not earlier than the beginning of the Christian era, though the practices enumerated must have been in use from time immemorial. In the Vedas and the Upanishads tapas (austerity), mitya karma (daily observances), dhyana (meditation), bhakti (devotion), vairagya (detachment), viveka (discrimination), brahmearya (continence), upasana (constant, devout and reverent thought), jnana (intuitive knowledge), and the like are all said to be the channels through which one can attain knowledge of the Reality.