Introduction To Yoga
Sri Swami Sivananda
This article is a chapter from the book Yoga And Realisation.
Yoga aims at controlling the mind and its modifications. The practice of Yoga disentangles the Jiva from the phenomenal world of sense-objects. The Jivatma becomes Identical with Paramatman. This union with Paramatman is the goal of human existence. The western philosophers—Plato, Emerson, Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Descartes, Prof. Max Muller and Paul Daussen have eulogised the study of the science of Yoga very highly.
There are various kinds of Yoga. It varies according to the temperament of the practitioner. Yoga in a generic sense refers to Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Hatha Yoga. In a restricted sense it refers to Raja Yoga. Hatha Yoga is not separate from Raja Yoga. Hatha Yoga means the Yoga or union between “Ha” and “Tha”. “Ha” means the sun. “Tha” means the moon. Prana is known by the name of sun. Apana is known by the name of the moon. Therefore Hatha Yoga is the union of the Prana and the Apana. Hatha Yoga prepares the student for the Raja Yoga. It is only as auxiliary to Raja Yoga.
Yoga is a perfect practical system of self-culture. You can attain harmonious development of your mind and soul by the practice of Yoga. It is an exact science. You can acquire absolute control over the whole nature by the practice of Yoga. It helps the student to attain ethical perfection, perfect concentration of the mind and to unfold various psychical powers. It teaches applied psychology. It helps the practitioner to enter into conscious communion with the Lord through Samadhi, to separate himself from three Gunas and to attain Kaivalya or independence eventually.
Yoga is turning away of the objective universe and the concentration of the mind within. Yoga is eternal life in the soul or spirit. Yoga transmutes a man into divinity. Yoga brings a message of hope to the forlorn, joy to the depressed, strength to the weak and knowledge to the ignorant. Yoga is the secret master-key to open the realms of eternal bliss and deep, abiding peace.
Raja Yoga is an exact science. It concerns with the mind and the suppression of all its modifications. The mind being the cause for the existence of this phenomenal world, its annihilation will eventually lead that Yogic practitioner to the highest goal, i.e., Asamprajnata Samadhi, wherein the Yogi rests in complete peace, in union with the Supreme Soul. So it is called Raja Yoga or Royal Yoga or King of Yogas.
Yogic students are classified into three degrees or classes, the first, the second and the third. Yogarudha is one who has climbed the highest summit of the hill of Yoga. Yogarudha is a Yoga-Bhrashta or one who has fallen down from Yoga. He has finished all the preliminary practices of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara in his previous births. He at once takes to meditation in this birth. He is established in the highest Asamprajnata Samadhi. He belongs to the first class. Sadasiva Brahman of Nerur, South India, Jnana Dev of Alandi near Pune, belong to this class of Yogins. Yunjana is one who is deeply engaged in the practice of Yoga. He belongs to the second class. Arurukshu is one who is attempting to climb to the steps of Yoga. He belongs to the third class.
The arduous practice of Yoga demands an abundance of energy and nerve-power on the part of the Yogic student. If one conserves the seminal energy only he can have an abundance of energy and nerve-power. Therefore the practice of Brahmacharya is of paramount importance if one desires to practise Yoga and achieve the highest end of Yoga quickly. If there is slackness and irregularity in the practices, a fit of passion or worldliness may blow away the little good result which the Yogic student has achieved and it will be very difficult for him to rise again to the original heights he has climbed. That is the reason why one has to do arduous practice of Yoga till he is established in the highest Samadhi. That Yogi who has controlled his mind through the arduous practice of Yoga for several years will be able to cognise the immutable Reality that is behind this empirical existence or the world of names and forms. That is the reason why Patanjali Maharshi also says, “Practice becomes fixed and steady when practised for a long time, without any break and with perfect devotion” (Chapter 1, Sutra 14).
The intelligent, skilful and over-vigilant Yogi is ever ready with his arrow to kill this wandering, mischievous, turbulent mind. He attains ethical perfection, disciplines the senses and the mind, steadies the body, regulates the breath, adjusts the diet, controls the semen and finally hits at the mind straightaway. Then he enters into deep Asamprajnata Samadhi. You will find in Mundaka Upanishad, “Pranava or OM is the bow, the mind or the lower self the arrow, and the Brahman the mark or the target. If one carefully shoots at the mark, he becomes one with it.”
Just as the hunter catches a deer by spreading a snare, so also the Yogic student catches the mind by the snare of Nada or Anahata sounds heard in his right ear. The Nada or sweet melodious sounds that are heard in the ear first attract the mind. Then they bind it and eventually annihilate the mind. The mind is absorbed or dissolved in the Nada. Binding the mind means rendering the mind quite steady. To kill the mind is to make the mind absorbed in the Sound. Then it cannot run towards objects.
If you concentrate the mind at the tip of the nose, you will experience super-physical smell (Divya Gandha); if you concentrate at the tip of the tongue, you will experience super-sensual taste; at the centre of the tongue, super-physical touch; at the root of the tongue, super-physical sound; at the palate super-sensual colour. The super-sensual experience will serve as a sort of encouragement and will strengthen your conviction about the truths of Yoga. They will goad you to do rigorous Yogic practices in order to achieve the highest realisation.
Austerity, study of religious books and Japa of Mantra, devotion to the Lord or surrender to God constitute Kriya Yoga or Yoga of action according to Patanjali Maharshi. This is the first Sutra in Chapter II, Sadhanapada. This is Yoga of disciplines. The practice of Kriya Yoga prepares the Yogic student for entering into Samadhi or Superconscious State. It purifies the heart and thins out the five afflictions, viz., Avidya, Asmita, Raga, Dvesha and Abhinivesa (ignorance, egoism, love, hatred and clinging to life). The pure and the unselfish alone will be quite fit to receive the divine light and drink the nectar of immortality. The above discipline is a means to the accomplishment of Yoga. This is indeed the highest form of discipline. The Yogic student must practise this preliminary Yoga wholeheartedly and with single-minded devotion. The means is as much important as the end itself. If you neglect this practice and jump into meditation at once with the hope of getting Samadhi quickly, you will be delaying the spiritual progress. Every step in Yoga is important. It must be mastered. Then only you will be ready to take up the next step. Neophytes are very curious to know all about Samadhi. They wish to get Siddhis very quickly to attract the people and get name and fame. They have intense thirsting for applause.
Overloading the stomach, work that produces fatigue or overwork, too much talking, taking heavy food at night, too much mixing with people are obstacles in the path of Yoga. You should not practise Yoga when you suffer from dyspepsia, sour-belching; vomiting, diarrhoea, or any other disease, and also when you are too much depressed or fatigued.
If you are firm in your resolve to reach the highest goal of Yoga, if you have firm determination to attain the aim of spiritual life, you will rise up again and march forward even if you have a temporary fall. Feel the Divine in you. Open yourself fully to the Divine influences. Have perfect faith in the divine grace at very step. Feel the Divine guidance in all your actions. Aspire for the divine truth fervently. Develop burning desire for the attainment of God-consciousness and burning Vairagya. Abandon all worldly ambitions and mundane desires. If this is done rightly, the divine light will descend. You will have rapid progress in Yoga. Feel the divine presence in your heart, in all faces, in all objects, in all sentiments and thoughts and in all movements. Go on with your practice assiduously. Do not become impatient if there is delay in the descent of divine grace. Be contented. You are bound to succeed in the attainment of the highest aim of the Yoga, viz., Immortality and Eternal Bliss.