INDIA 8 August 2011 These are no fast food service type of menus nor are there any free lunches and those expecting such an easy result are, with all my humility and civility warned to restrain themselves from these practices. Nor will it confer magic within a limited time frame. Its results are individual sincerity intensity oriented and may vary vastly. Same is the result in worldly pursuits but we do not question them and take them as natural. This is called a - conventional instinct.
In my previous issues, I discussed the basic concepts, philosophy of Yoga and the science of Yoga; now we shall go on to explore Yoga technique and its very need and the brief details of its various pathways to advance on for achieving the ultimate aim of human birth compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. For the purpose of brevity I shall keep using the word “Yoga” for “Patanjali Yoga Sutra”. Root word is ‘Yuj’ (Sanskrit) for Yoga meaning ‘Add or join’. Broadly speaking – To ‘Add’ our ‘Soul’ (individual) to the ‘Highest Soul’ (The Lord Almighty) and know our real identity, “Who Am I”?
We say, “I am a man or woman, I am a daughter, son, father, mother, sister or brother, I am from this or that country, I am the doer of this or that action, I am good or bad, I am happy or sad, I am a seeker, I am a spiritual, I am a lover of God or I am an atheist or non believer.”
We speak of “my home, my family, my friends, my enemies, my job, my stuff, my strengths, my weaknesses, my thoughts, my emotions, my problems, my joy, my karma, my past, my future, my spiritual path; we, I, you, they or even of my God.”
What do we exactly mean or refer to when one address as “I, we, they, or you?
What is this I and my who claims to be and own such things?
Are these things, claims, and identities ‘who I really am’?
What are all these things, these objects, this world?
What is the stuff of which they are made of?
And from where do all these many things arise?
Who am I, really?
Who Am I?
A human being is “Three-in-One” i.e. “Body-Mind-Soul” complex. First – what we think we are, i.e. ‘Body’. Second – what others think we are, i.e. ‘Mind’ (from our actions). Third – what we really are, i.e. ‘Soul’ and that is what we really are – is the answer to “Who Am I”? A healthy body has a healthy mind, it is an old saying both in western and eastern societies. Hence the body component has to be made fit and sound before we start exploring the potentials of mind. Satya Sai Baba said, “Master the mind and be Mastermind”. Therefore the correct approach will be to strengthen the body first. Whatever one wants to do, ultimately it is the ‘Mind’ that will accomplish – irrespective of the aim.
Yoga attempts exactly to do this first by correcting ‘Body’, continues to work at the mental aspects at the same time as seen by the step by step progress through its various stages. It is important to stick to its schedule of the prescribed stages seriously for a devoted practitioner or a student like in any other stream. It is further stressed that it is better to undertake its training under the guidance of an accomplished teacher. It leads us to the next pertinent question by priori, “Who could be the ‘accomplished teacher (Guru)’ to teach Yoga”? It depends upon the grade of the student and his/her aim for its study and practice. If one wants to limit to the physical level, then any round the corner studio may suffice. If one intends to go for ‘Higher Studies’, one may have to move away to faraway places in search of a truly evolved and enlightened person or a Guru as one does for the worldly education to travel far away distances. Multitudes of different definitions are given but a simple, short version that defines such a Guru is in the following Sanskrit verse:
Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devo Maheshwara
Guru Sakshat Parabrahmah Tasmai Shree Guru Veh Namah
Meaning: “Guru is verily the one who is/has him/herself known the ‘Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva’ themselves; (who creates, sustains [knowledge] and destroys [the weeds of ignorance] respectively.) I salute such a Guru”. Here the words – “Knowledge (Light) and Ignorance (Darkness)” has been substituted only for convenience; in place of “The Universe” – i.e. everything that is ‘perceived’. It is also expounded in the other Vedic verse, “Tamaso maa Jyotir gamaya” i.e. ‘Lead me (gamaya) from darkness (Tamaso) to Light (Jyotir)’. It may be a difficult task to locate such Guru but there is a saying, “When the pupil is ready, The Guru arrives”, meaning you have to yearn (even cry or weep) for.
All animals including the Human beings as we like to address this highly evolved anthropological species – Homo sapiens, have all faculties in common i.e. “Body, Mind-Intellect and the Soul”. All animals like the Humans have intellect but there is difference in the degree. It varies in all species including the human beings. Not all human beings have the equal degree of intelligence. We shall try to explore the realms of its practical applicability to unfold the creative side of human life through Yoga. This is what one tries to enhance by suitable education and training in all faculties including the spiritual field.
Srimad Bhagavad Gita (SBG) and the ‘Yoga Paths’:
Although the SBG describes the various ‘Yoga Paths’ e.g. Karma Yoga, Gyan Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Dhyaana Yoga. It is a concept enunciated keeping in view the broader worldly life of an average person with varied jobs and characters; while enumerating the Classical Eightfold Path as enunciated by the Sage Patanjali briefly in the sixth Chapter of ‘Dhyaana Yoga’ – which is a different route to “Divinity” as compared to other various types of “Yogas” or “Paths”. These are devised keeping in view different pursuants in this “Mundane” world as suits the individual need to attain ‘Divinity’. It is expressed in its simplistic form as “Work is Worship” and “Service to Man is Service to God”. Sri Satya Sai Baba expressed it, “Serve ever and Hurt Never”.
All these ultimately end in the same thing provided we do the “Work” selflessly and dedicate the “Karma” (Duty) to the Lord as the “Divine” offerings without attachment to its fruits (SBG – Ch. 2.47, 48; Ch. 3.19, 26, 29). The following link gives the full details of SBG with its English, Hindi and Sanskrit verses with their meanings. Read more at: http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/
It may sound apparently “Altruistic” but it goes beyond this apparently contradictory and paradoxical statement, also clear from SBG. It simply means that the actions you perform should be dedicated to “God” as part of your service to “God” in conformity to transform the ‘work into worship’; ‘God’ in turn will confer the “Boons” we deserve and how can we determine – what do we deserve? It is possible that we may get far more than we worked for without our expecting it! The Lord is the “All Giver” of everything provided one believes in so called God principle. In a simple earthly model, suppose if one works for a small entrepreneur or a King. We perform the same work in both instances but the reward in both instances may be vastly different. Therefore it goes beyond the altruism.
In SBG Ch. 6 ‘Dhyaana Yoga or Abhyaasa Yoga’, is also called “The Science of Self Realisation”. In this Chapter Six, Lord Krishna reveals ‘Astanga yoga’ without actually using this terminology. And the exact process of practicing such yoga is taught through the entire Chapter consisting of ‘Forty Seven Verses’. He explains in detail the difficulties of the mind and the procedures by which one may gain mastery of their mind through yoga which reveals the spiritual nature of a living entity. I have mentioned it to clarify the differences on Yoga between the SBG and Yoga Sutra for the beginners to avoid confusion. Thus this chapter in SBG is captioned: “The Science of Self-Realization”. For more details at:
In Ch 6: Verse 1; Lord Krishna said: One who enacts obligatory prescribed actions without expectation of the result (fruits) of actions is truly a renunciate and follower of the science of uniting the ‘Individual Consciousness’ with the ‘Ultimate Consciousness’; not one without (his) prescribed duties, nor one who merely renounces bodily activities or the daily ‘Karma’. This ‘Consciousness’ doesn’t bear any hallmark of a particular brand like “Hinduism or Christianity or Buddhism or Baha’i or Judaism or Zoroastrianism or Sikhism or Islam or any other tag. See more at: http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-06-01.html
The same procedure has been reiterated in details and in systematic manner by Sage Patanjali in his “Yoga Sutra” through one hundred and ninety five or six (195-6) verses succinctly and step by step in his ‘Eightfold Path’(Ch 2:29) spread in four chapters. I had enumerated them briefly in the Part I of this series. I shall try to go in a little more detail to explain the essence of each limb by explaining the gravity of its observance and its orderly fashion, “How it affects the development of our body and mind towards the evolutionary stages into the ‘Yoga’ activity step by step starting from ‘Bahiranga’ (Bahir = Outside and anga=limbs or organs) stages to ‘Antaranga’ (Antara=Inside)”? It may not be possible in one column due to its vast nature but I shall try to make it convenient in several parts for easy assimilation.
Section B: Practical Considerations:
“Don’t build your house on shifting sands”
Etymologically in Ashtanga Yoga, Asht-Anga = Eight-Organs or limbs. (Ch.II:29 Patanjali states, “yama niyamā 'sana prāṇāyāma pratyāhāra dhāraṇā dhyāna samādhayo'ṣṭāv aṅgāni”). In this verse: samādhayo'ṣṭāv aṅgāni; samādhayo = samadhi. (a)'ṣṭāv = eight. aṅgāni = Angas or Paths. Other preceding words are self explanatory and are enumerated below further.
Eight limbs are: 1. Yama 2. Niyama 3. Asana 4. Pranayama 5. Pratyahara 6. Dharana 7. Dhyaana 8. Samadhi. Yama and Niyama are further subdivided in five each branches of ‘Don’ts and ‘Do’s. Don’ts are meant to be cleansing or propitiatory exercises. Then the ‘Do’s’ give the positive commands to add or obey certain practices to adopt. Both together purifies us corporeally of the negativity and annexes positivity respectively.
Then proceeds to undertake the next limb i.e. Asanas to make the body pliant and flexible; while the next limb of Pranayama (‘Praana’ - the ‘life force’ and ‘Yama’ – ‘control’ of breathing) helps to control and purify this very basic principle on which our existence depends i.e. ‘Praana’ (‘Life’). Upto this stage the Yoga is called ‘Bahiranga’ and the next stage of ‘Pratyahara’ forms a transition stage to the next most important phase of ‘Antaranga’. But Pratyahara is included into the Bahiranga because it still remains at the earlier stage of preparation of the ‘Mind’ for the next important stages.
Some Benefits so far i.e. ‘Bahiranga’ practices:
(1) It purifies the blood by proper oxygenation and then reaches the oxygenated pure blood to the various body parts.
(2) It improves the memory, insomnia, giddiness (vertigo), sinus problems, headaches,
(3) Energises the body, enhances the swiftness and working body capacity thereby overall performance is increased tremendously.
(4) It also increases our “Vital Capacity” which is defined in the physiological terms – measured in time capacity to hold our breath. Longer you can hold your breath, better is the vital capacity. This is of particular significance in medical science to the anaesthetists used for the assessment of fitness of a patient for surgical operations.
(5) Body aches and pains, arthritis, joint pains, gout,
(6) Flexibility and stretchibility of body
(7) Lifestyle diseases e.g. obesity, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure (hypertension), indigestion and functional gastrointestinal diseases of all kinds, acidity problems, gaseousness, bowel problems including colitis (ulcerative), reflux disease, loss of appetite and taste,
(8) Asthma and bronchitis, hackneyed cough,
(9) Endocrinal problems e.g. thyroid disorders, diabetes, improvement in other neuro-endocrinological problems,
(10) Body-Mind compatibility – Perfect treatment for a lot of psychiatric disorders like depression, insomnia, anxiety disorders, sudden mood shifting disorders, concentration problems, enhancement in memory,
(11) Eye disorders like sight problems of need for specks and refractory errors, glaucoma, other general benefits. But such patients need to do the special Yoga exercises meant for eyes and other ear, nose and throat problems like “Traatak, Anulom-Vilom, and other Pranayama exercises. These are well known to cure or improve these disorders but they have to be pursued regularly and diligently.
(12) Can be practiced by all ages and all sexes but initially some trained guidance under an adapt person is advised to avoid harmful effects.
(13) Detoxification of body by eliminating lot of ill defined impurities arising out of our daily irregular habits of eating, drinking, sleeping.
(14) Overall positive effects measured in improved personality and facials. It heals unresolved emotional issues, mental blockages, including anxiety, depression, anger, fear, as well as substance abuse and other dysfunctions.
(15) Prevention of deep venous thrombosis due to improvement of flow of blood in the calf and pelvic veins. In sukhasana pose, it will also help in toughening the walls of veins especially in the calves.
(16) If practiced correctly, one can control and even stop heart beat. But if practiced incorrectly, this feat may result in death also. But mastery over heart can be attained.
(17) Control on body temperatures like exposure to extremes of temperatures will not affect the body adversely and one can easily endure the ice cold weather or high summer or extreme hot weather.
(18) Extraordinary physical feats like bending a thick stout metal rod, pulling a heavy vehicle or weight with teeth or hairs, letting a heavy vehicle or elephant pass over the body with impunity, walking over fire, bury in underground completely for three to four days without breathing etc are some of examples that an apt Yogi can exhibit.
(19) Enables you to find enduring happiness and peace. Thus it may help in preventing or uniting the broken families and help reduce the general family tensions; thereby enhance peace and well being in life.
(20) It will also enhance longevity and reduce or slow down wear and tear of the body. It will definitely bring more satisfaction in life.
These are some of the benefits or powers that a Yogi can acquire from the practice of Bahiranga Yogas enlisted here for the sake of the readers, though the list is unlimited even thus far. Some people can acquire some powers of creating things also and they are called ‘Tantrics’ but these objects are very flimsy, frail, weak and transient. At the same time, exhibition of such powers is equally harmful to the Yogi also in various ways. In the least it causes diminution in the strength of the yogic attainments of their spiritual powers and in the worst, it may lead to mental derailments or physical harms in various ways depending upon their activities. It may also result in death of the yogi in the worst of circumstances.
With the next limb of ‘Pratyahara’ which means the withdrawal of one’s senses from the exterior to interior milieu; we come to a stage of transition phase in the practice of ‘Yogas’ from Bahiranga to stepping into the domain of Antaranga. At this stage one must decide his/her actual goal for the study and practice of Yoga. This is crucial. If one wants to stay at ‘Worldly’ or Lower level, practicing thus far is more than enough. If one wants to progress to the ‘Other Worldly’ or Higher level experiences, then it is appropriate to delve in further deeper studies and practice of the subtle aspects of the most profound and exclusive knowledge of Yoga. This involves shear personal experience of the “Higher Self” that accrues all the benefits one cannot imagine. These benefits include the highest subtle knowledge of everything worldly to the benefit of all and of every level. His/her word becomes command. It will also confer power to know the past and future lives of anyone including him/herself.
Having resolved to go further into the higher realms, one comes to the stages of Dharana, Dhyaana and Samadhi – Concentration, Contemplation and Meditation respectively in its simplistic English epistemology. Patanjali explores these experiences in the third chapter of his Sutras – viz ‘Vibhuti Pada’. This is an individual matter involving personal experience that is beyond linguistic descriptions, qualifications and quantification. Yet it leads us to an experience where one discovers the most important realms of “Oneself” that is beyond “Time and Space. I shall try to deal with them briefly for my readers one by one.
As we cannot deny the fact that modern science e.g. Physics, Chemistry etc is the brainchild of Western world but is there anything Christian in it or the non-western world should not learn just because of its origin? It will be naive to say or do that. Same way, Yoga originated from India in the very ancient past by the untiring efforts of meditating Sages who are today identified as ‘Hindus’ but it will be naive to restrict it to others than Hindus. This is where the conflict of interest comes between the so called modern ‘Science, Yoga and Religion’. Science stealthily refutes to recognise the phenomenon of ‘Experience’ because it is impossible to reproduce it or verify it under our presently available insufficient scientific knowledge and equipments. Our hubris does not allow us to accept our deficiency so far. We have no means to measure hunger, pain or taste; same way we have no gadget to measure the complex thought process. Until that stage, the science and our revered scientists will have to contain in its observational phenomena, whether we like it or not. This subject has been detailed sufficiently in the earlier Part III.
Certain theologians are trying to portray or identify it with Hinduism but to draw a political mileage. Their act is right but the intention is wrong. I do not mean to mud sling on anyone but the truth must be appreciated in its right earnest. With this general introductory background, I shall try to deal with the each limb in little more detail in subsequent articles one by one starting with the “Yama” (first limb) and finishing with “Sadhana” (eighth limb) culminating in the “Enlightenment or Self Realisation”.
Before I close this discourse, I shall like to add a note to warn or caution my readers against the so called commercial ‘kits or courses’ for a set time for a set amount of fees in the name of “Enlightenment or Self Realisation” techniques with a guarantee of money back. I should not be lured into such studios or shops. The average person does not know the exact meaning of such strange words especially the naive innocent Western population ignorant of even the very wordings and is bound to get trapped into the luring advertisement packages. Some of them seem to employ the aids of cardiac (ECGs), electroencephalograms (EEGs) or pictures of the brain and body parts to impress their customers with varied marketing gimmicks. I should exercise caution before involving with such groups in the name of “Enlightenment or Self Realisation”. I suggest a strong word of caution against such establishments. If it is a some kind of “Yoga Asanas”, one may explore for their general well being and it’s all the attendant benefits. Even if it will, only a small experiment but no big loss or cheating. Rest is in the hands of our destiny and ‘Karmas’. God bless.
(Dr. O. P. Sudrania is a senior retired teacher in surgery and a medico-legal counsellor; now also engaged in research of spiritual and socio-political analytical science as a part of service to humanity.) DOWNLOAD THE FULL EDITION OF THIS ARTICLE WITH IMAGES HERE