Light of Yoga
Sri Swami Sivananda
Message from the book Lectures on Yoga and Vedanta.
YOGA is a perfect, practical system of self-culture. You can attain harmonious development of your mind, body and soul by the practice of Yoga. Yoga is an exact science. You can acquire absolute control over the whole nature by its practice. It helps the student to attain ethical perfection, perfect concentration of the mind and to unfold various psychic powers. It teaches applied psychology. It helps the practitioner to enter into conscious communion with the Lord through Samadhi, to separate himself from the three Gunas and to attain Kaivalya or independence eventually.
Yoga is the method by which the finite self or the individual soul is united with the Infinite Self or the Supreme Soul. Yajnavalkya defines Yoga, “Samyoga yoga iti ukto jivatma-paramatmano iti–the conjunction of the individual soul and the supreme soul is called Yoga.”
Yoga is the discipline of the mind, senses and the physical body. Yoga helps in the co-ordination and control of the subtle forces within the body. Yoga brings in perfection, peace and everlasting happiness. Yoga can help you in your business and in your daily life. You can have calmness of mind at all times by the practice of Yoga. You can have restful sleep. You can have increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and a high standard of health. You can turn out efficient, work within a short space of time. You can have success in every walk of life. Yoga will infuse in you new strength, confidence and self-reliance. Through Yoga you can have complete mastery over the mind, passions, emotions, impulses, temper and tongue. The body and mind will be ever at your beck and call.
The aim of Yoga is to free man from the thraldom of matter and the fetters of Prakriti and make him realise his absolute independent nature or Kaivalya. Yoga prepares him for the beatific vision.
Yoga deals in detail with the process of restraining the Vrittis or waves of the mind and attaining Nirvikalpa Samadhi or the state of super-consciousness in which the Samskaras or the seeds of rebirth are fried in toto. The Yogi attains perfection or Kaivalya (independence).
Yoga advocates complete detachment from secular interests for the sake of practising uninterrupted meditation. It recommends meditation on the inner Light of the heart or anything that is pleasing to you. It prescribes that one should withdraw oneself from the ordinary affairs of life for the purpose of practising constant meditation. Yoga can also be practised at home by having a well-regulated life.
Yoga is the turning away of the senses from 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 bliss and deep abiding peace.
Yoga aims at restraining the mind and its modifications. The practice of Yoga disentangles the Jiva from the phenomenal world of sense objects. The Jivatma becomes identical with Paramatma. This union with Paramatma is the goal of human existence. The western philosophers like Plato, Emerson, Schopenhauer, Spinoza, Max Muller, Paul Duessen and others have eulogised the study of the science of Yoga very highly.
The practice of Yoga will help you to control the emotions and passions and will give you power to resist temptations and to remove the disturbing elements from the mind. It will enable you to keep a balanced mind always and will remove fatigue. It will confer on you serenity, calmness, tranquillity and quietude and wonderful concentration. It will enable you to hold communion with the Lord and thus attain the summum bonum of existence.
You can develop many physical, mental and supernatural powers by means of Yogic discipline and restraint of mental modifications or waves in the Chitta. The physical body and the mind should be brought under control by Yogic exercises such as Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Kriya Yoga, concentration and meditation. By these practices you will be free from restlessness of body and mind. You will secure high standard of vigour and vitality, prolonged youth and longevity and a steady and powerful mind.
The path of Yoga is an inner path whose gate is your heart. You must have courage, perseverance, patience, endurance and real burning aspiration if you want to tread this path. A timid man is absolutely unfit for this path.
An aspirant in the path of Yoga should be humble, simple, gentle, refined, tolerant, merciful and kind. He should seek Truth everywhere. He should show reverence to Sadhus, Sannyasins, Bhaktas, Mahatmas, and Sages and to the Srutis and the Scriptures.
Moral excellence or ethical perfection is not, however, the final goal of the Yogi. It is only a means to the attainment of the end of life. Ethical development is more difficult than the attainment of intellectual eminence, because the truth can only be grasped by the Yogi who possesses a pure or untainted heart.
The essentials of moral life are straightforwardness, honesty, mercy, humility, respect for life or tender regard for every creature that breathes, absolute unselfishness, truthfulness, celibacy, non-covetousness, absence of vanity, hypocrisy and cosmic love.
Lust for power, material greed, sensual excitement, selfishness, passion for wealth and lower appetites have drawn man from his true life in the Spirit into the materialistic life. He can again regain his lost divine glory if he practises in right earnest the principles of Yoga. Yoga transmutes animal nature into divine nature and raises him to the pinnacle of divine glory and splendour.
Sadhana means any spiritual or Yogic practice adopted by the aspirant to purify, steady and control the mind and attain the Sadhya or that which is attained by Sadhana viz., Brahman or the Eternal, the goal of the Yogins.
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 and Jnana-Yoga. In a restricted sense, it refers to the Raja-Yoga of Patanjali Maharshi. There is also another kind of Yoga called Hatha-Yoga. Hatha-Yoga is not separate form 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 moon. Hence Hatha-Yoga is the union of the Prana and the Apana. Hatha-Yoga prepares the student for the taking up of Raja-Yoga. It is only an auxiliary to Raja-Yoga.
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, when annihilated, it will eventually lead the Yogic practitioner to the highest goal viz., Asamprajnata Samadhi, wherein he rests in complete peace and union with the Supreme Soul. So it is called Raja Yoga or the Royal Yoga or King of all Yogas.
Yogic students are classified under three degrees or classes viz., the first, the second and the third. Yogarudha is one who has climbed the highest summit of the hill of Yoga. He is established in the highest Asamprajnata Samadhi. He belongs to the first class. Sadasiva Brahmendra of Nerur (South India), Jnana Dev of Alandi (near Poona) belong to this class of Yogins. (Yogarudha may have been a Yoga Bhrashta in his previous birth–one who had fallen from Yoga. He had finished all the preliminary practices i.e., Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama and Pratyahara in his previous births. He at once takes to meditation in this birth.) 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 the various steps of Yoga. He belongs to the third class.
Yoga compares this mundane life to the rotation of a six-spoked wheel. The six spokes are Raga, Dvesha, virtue, vice, pleasure and pain. Man does various virtuous and vicious actions on account of the force of the two currents i.e., likes and dislikes and he reaps the fruits of his actions viz., pleasure and pain. Through memory of pleasure he gets attachment to sensual objects. From attachment he favours some persons and does harm to some others. From likes and dislikes, pleasure and pain crop up in the mind. Thus the wheel of Raga and Dvesha, virtue and vice, pleasure and pain revolves without any likelihood of its coming to a stop by itself. But the Yogi stops this wheel from rotating by destroying the five afflictions through the practice of Asamprajnata Samadhi.
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 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 wordliness may blow away the little good result which the Yogic student had achieved and then it would be very difficult for him to rise again to the original height to which he had ascended. 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 also says: “Practice becomes fixed and steady, when practised for a long time, without any break and with perfect devotion.” (Ch. 1-15).
Yoga does not consist in sitting cross-legged for six hours or stopping the pulse or beatings of the heart or getting oneself buried underneath the ground for a week or a month. These are physical feats only. Many people think that there is nothing beyond this in the path of Yoga. Real Yoga is something more and something higher. Real Yoga is the attainment of the highest divine knowledge through Nirvikalpa Samadhi or conscious communion with the Lord by controlling the Indriyas and the mind.
For the practice of Yoga, a Guru or a teacher is indispensable. But you will have to be careful in the selection of your teacher. In the field of Yoga or spirituality, there are many self-imposed Gurus who do more harm than good. A Yogi or an adept who has already trodden the path will be able to take you safely to the goal. He will point out to you the snares and pitfalls on the way and remove obstacles in the path. If you are not able to get a realised Guru, you can get the help from advanced senior students in the path of Yoga. If you can live with your teacher for some years, till you are perfectly moulded, it is all the more better. But it is necessary for you to live with your Guru or teacher for some time at least, get lessons from him and practise them. Later on you can have Yogic practices at home and can keep correspondence with your Master. Whenever you get holidays you can remain with him. If you are not able to get a teacher, follow the elementary instructions contained in books written by realised Yogis. They will certainly inspire you, remove your doubts and guide you. If the authors are living, keep correspondence with them and see them during your holidays.
If you have a curiosity to get psychic powers or strange mystic experiences you cannot have success in Yoga. You must have ardent love for the Eternal. You must have intense aspiration for the Truth. Then alone, you can ascend the rungs of the ladder of Yoga and reach the summit of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. You must have burning dispassion also. Without dispassion you cannot have Self-realisation and without Self-realisation you cannot have freedom, perfection or Eternal Bliss.
A right understanding of the nature of the Self, through enquiry of “Who am I?” and study of Upanishads, a strong conviction that this world is illusory and unreal–arrived at through discrimination and consequent birth of dispassion–a strong yearning for liberation or attainment of the goal and regular practice of meditation will undoubtedly produce an attitude of detachment to the world and sublimate not only the desire for augmenting mental and physical powers but also all sorts of mundane desires.
Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga–all these Yogas–prepare the aspirant for the attainment of knowledge of the Self and culminate in Jnana Yoga. Therefore he should have a comprehensive understanding of all the Yogas. He should march on to the goal steadily, practising one particular Yoga which suits his taste and temperament. He can take such points from the other Yogas which will help him to attain progress and reach the goal quickly. In other words, every aspirant can make a happy combination of the above Yogas taking care not to confuse one with the other at any stage of his practices. Ho should use his common-sense at every stage. He must be able to find out for himself whether he is progressing or not by careful introspection and self-analysis.