The Crown of Life


The Forms of Yoga

    Having discussed the yoga system in general as expounded by Patanjali, we will now proceed to study the various forms of yoga that arose subsequently. Beginning with the traditional, we are told of four distinct types: ( 1 ) Mantra Yoga, (2) Hatha Yoga, (3) Laya Yoga and (4) Raja Yoga. Most of these draw heavily on Patanjali and present reformulations of his basic teachings, each specializing in one or another of its aspects. As such, some degree of repetition is unavoidable; yet we must risk it, if only to have a clearer view of the vast subject of yoga.


They even forget, that all deities reside in the human breast.
                                                                         WILLIAM BLAKE

    Mantra Yoga is concerned, in the main, with the acquisition of one or the other material or mental power or powers through the constant repetition of a particular mantra or oral formula in order to attract the presiding power or deity to which the mantra relates, and then to press that power into service, good or bad, according to the will and pleasure of the practitioner. One who uses these powers for effecting evil and doing harm to others often runs the risk of self-immolation and usually falls a prey to the wrath of the deity concerned. Those who employ such powers for selfish motives with the object of material gains to themselves at the cost of others, very soon lose their power, and in the end ruin themselves. These powers may, however, be profitably used for the good of others and there is not much harm in that, though it may mean loss of some vital energy after each such act. All types of miracles of the lowest order, like thought-reading, thought-transference, faith-healing, particularly in cases of nervous and mental diseases, fall under this category. It is therefore much better to avoid such things and to conserve whatsoever psychic powers one may acquire, and use them for gaining at least the lower spiritual planes and regions which form the seat of the deities concerned, in a spirit of selfless devotion. Then all the psychic powers will of themselves function without incurring any loss by one's own acquisition of them. It should however be borne in mind that repetition of the mantras per se does not bear any fruit unless it is done with full attention fixed on the specific mantras, and with intense devotion such as may set up particular vibrations connected therewith. But Mantra Yoga by itself is not of any value in self-realization, and more often than not those who practice this form of yoga remain ever entangled in useless pursuits of one kind or another as described above, with no great benefit to themselves in the upliftment of the self or soul.
    As regards the exercise of mantra siddhis or supernatural powers acquired through the efficacy of meditation on mantras, Patanjali, in his Yog Sutras, sounds a definite note of warning:

They are obstacles to samadhi, powers but in worldly state.
Technique in Mantra Yoga

    Mantra Yoga is the yoga of rhythmic repetition of hermetically sealed formulas--sacred and secret--prepared by the ancient mantrakaras (adepts in phonetics and in the power of sounds, including supersonics or sounds beyond the human ken), each designed separately for winning over the particular god or goddess representing one or the other powers of Nature. It may be practised with or without the aid of a rosary of Rudrakhsha, as the Shaivites do, or of Tulsi beads, as used by the Vaishnavites.
    The mantras represent vibrations. The most sacred of the Vedic mantras is that of the Gayatri. It is the mool mantra of the Vedas and hence is considered to be of the first importance. Its virtue is said to be great and its japa or repetition has been enjoined on all Hindus from a very early age. The easiest and the most efficacious is the sacred syllable Aum, symbolizing the creative life-principle itself, and hence most of the mantras themselves begin with this sacred syllable. The Advaitists, who see the power of God immanent in all forms and as all-pervading, believe in the mantra of identification of atman with Parmatman: Aham Braham Asmi (I am Brahman), and Ayam Athma Brahman (I am Thou); and these are often shortened into Soham or Sohang and Hansa or Aham-sah, meaning respectively "I am He" and "He is I." The Vedantists repeat Om Tat Sat (Aum is the Truth and the Reality) and the Buddhists Om Mani Padme Hum. Next in the scale are mantras dedicated or addressed to this or that deity in adoration, praise, propitiation or entreaty for boons.
    The efficacy of a mantra depends on its right pronunciation, right appreciation of its significance, which is often very profound, the right attitude of the person engaged in Mantra Yoga, and on the competence of the preceptor or Guru, who has mastered not only the technique but has successfully manifested for himself the seed-power lying hidden in the core of the mantra, and can offer it as a prasad or a gift of grace to his disciple.
    Some of the mantras bring forth quick results, some fructify in their own good time and some bear fruit according to the merit of the individual concerned. Some are, however, of a forbidden type and hence inimical in nature, and more often than not they prove harmful.
    Again, the effect of a mantra also depends on how the japa is performed. The japa done in whispers is considered as more meritorious than the one uttered loudly, and japa done in low murmurs is still better, while mansic japa done with the tongue of thought is the most meritorious.
    The japas too are of different kinds according to the occasion, the season and intention of the doer. The nitya japas are, for example, to be performed every day as a matter of routine. The namittika are for certain ceremonial occasions. The prayashchitta are those done as a penance, atoning for lapses from the path of rectitude. Then there are chala and achala japas, that can be performed at any time, at any place, and under any circumstances, in any state or position. The others require a specific asana, place, time and direction, etc., coupled with a regular and elaborate ritual, e.g., offerings of flowers, scent, incense, light-waving and bell-tinkling, havan and tarpan (rituals of fire and water), with various purificatory acts.
    For success in Mantra Yoga it is necessary that the sadhak should observe purity within and without, having a full-hearted devotion, exemplary character and conduct, before he can have any degree of concentration and contemplation.
    We observe similar practices among the Muslim faqirs, who practice vird or repetition of sacred words like Hu, Haq, Analhaq, and use a tasbih (rosary) for the purpose. The Christian monks also tell their beads and chant hymns and psalms.


    This form of yoga deals with the control of the body and the bodily activities as the means of stilling the mind. Its aim is to make the human body strong and capable enough to stand and endure the hardest and the toughest conditions, and to make it immune, as far as possible, from physical diseases and ailments. But beyond a robust physique and possible longevity through the practice of pranayam or habs-i-dam, as it is called by the Muslims (control and regulation of breath), it is not of much help in self-realization by itself, though it may to a certain extent prepare the ground for a higher type of spiritual discipline leading thereto. It is in a sense a "ladder to Raja Yoga." It cannot even give the mind any great degree of control, as it is commonly supposed to do. By practicing Hatha Yoga, one may come to gain some siddhis or psychic powers through the exercise of certain asanas, mudras and bandhas, or physical positions and postures, and the practice of pranayam. The system includes observance of a number of penances and ascetic austerities like fasts and vigils, maun or a vow of silence for months and years, panch agni tapas (sitting with lighted fires on four sides and the burning sun overhead), standing on one leg, suspending oneself with head downward, etc. Some of the Christian saints went to great extremes like the wearing of nail-studded tunics, horsehair shirts, scourging of the body, self-flogging, all in imitation of the sufferings of Christ. Even among the Muslim shias, we see the traces of self-torture, when during the Muharram days, they beat their breasts and backs with knives fastened to iron chains in commemoration of the terrible sufferings that Hassan and Hussain, the grandsons of the Prophet, had to undergo along with a handful of their faithful followers, at the hands of their co-religionists under Yazid, on the burning plains of Karbla in defense of their faith. But all these terrible self-chastisements, however heroic in themselves, hardly grant any spiritual benefit. Of what good is it to torture and torment the body, when the serpent of the mind lies safely hid far beneath the surface and continues to thrive unscathed?
    Leaving aside such forms of self-torture, the Hatha Yoga proper aims at perfecting the body as an instrument for higher types of yogas, and as such may have some value, to enable the body to stand the stress and strain involved in them. But even the routine of Hatha Yoga Kriyas is too difficult to perform, and often leads to inner complications which at times prove serious and incurable and endanger life.
    These kriyas are meant for purification of the arteries and other channels in the body of all kinds of accumulated mineral deposits like chalk, lime and salt, etc., which clog the system and are the root-cause of decay and disease. This process of deintoxication and rejuvenation is done by means of purificatory acts called Shat Karma(meaning six acts), which are:
    (i) Neti Karma (cleaning of the nose): A piece of thin muslin about three-fourths yard long is twisted into a string-like form and covered with a coating of wax. It is passed through each of the nostrils in turn and taken out of the mouth after a little rubbing so as to clean them of phlegm, etc. It is helpful in curing diseases of the nose and throat. It keeps the head cool, and improves the sight. Those suffering from nose and eye disorders or acidity may substitute for it jala neti, or douching the nasal channels with pure water.
    (ii) Dhoti Karma (washing the stomach): A long piece of cloth three inches in width and measuring about seven yards in length is soaked in tepid water and then slightly wrenched. It is gradually swallowed down the throat into the stomach with the help of warm water, keeping about two feet of the other end in hand. After retaining it for a few minutes and shaking the abdomen, it is taken out very, very slowly. It cleanses the alimentary canal of impurities like mucus, bile and phlegm and cures an enlarged spleen and a cough, etc. This practice requires extreme care and attention so that the cloth may not get entangled in the intestines and result in serious complications, which might even prove fatal. It should not be practiced when suffering from inflammation of the throat and bronchial disorders, irritation of the stomach or during coughing, etc.
    (iii) Basti Karma (washing the bowels): It is a kind ot enema whereby water is drawn in through the rectum into the lower intestines. After retaining it for some time, it is churned sideways and thrown out. It removes constipation and elects inner, hardened refuse matter, which generally keeps sticking to the inside. An addition of a little glycerine to the tepid water makes it more beneficial. It is used for ailments connected with the male organ and the anus and it cures gaseous disorders of bile or lymph, and diseases of the spleen and liver. A daily resort to Basti weakens the tender intestines and may inflame the inner surface, and hence the need for careful guidance in such matters. It may be substituted by air cleaning if necessary, by drawing in and letting out air instead of water.
    (iv) Gaja Karni or Kunj Karma: It is also known a Shankha Pashala. The practice consists in taking a bellyful of water and then swilling it within by muscular activity and throwing it out from the mouth as a gaja or elephant does with his trunk. In this way two or three quarts of warm water are taken and vomited out after washing the inner system by a circulatory motion of the muscles within. It is particularly useful for those who suffer from biliousness or acidity.
    (v) Niyoli Karma (shaking the belly): It is done by sitting erect in Siddha or Padma Asana with hands settled on the knees. The upper part of the body along with the intestines is then to be churned or shaken rapidly from right to left so to remove all inner impurities adhering to the inner walls. This practice is useful in ridding one of abdominal ailments of gastric and gaseous nature by releasing the digestive secretions. It helps in muscular contractions which in turn aid yogic breathing or pranayam.
    (vi) Tratak Karma (gaze fixing): It is a dristi sadhna and consists in fixing the gaze, first on external centers, and then gradually on inner centers as explained at some length in the foregoing pages dealing with Yog Vidya and Yog Sadhna, in the section on "pranayam." By it, the gazing faculty becomes steady and when turned inward, one begins to see the wonders of the inner world of Trikuti, the highest heaven of such yogins.*
    * Baba Garib Das tells us that the yogins regard Til as Kshar, Sahansdal Kamal or Sahasrar as Akshar and Trikuti as Neh-Akshar. The yogishwars go a step further and starting from Sahasrar, they go into Daswan Duar while the saints' nomenclature in this respect is Trikuti for Kshar, Daswan Duar for Akshar and Bhanwar Gupha for Neh-Akshar, and then the beyond, i.e., Sat Lok.
    In the scriptures, Akshar stands for the creative life-principle and it is said that one who knows and realizes its essence qualifies for the path Godward. The Akshar Purush with the help of Anhad or unending Sound Principle is responsible for the creation of the astral and physical planes below Trikuti. These are subject to dissolution, and are known as Kshar as opposed to Akshar, the indestructible Kutastha and Avyakt (above decay and dissolution). Beyond Kshar and Akshar is the Purshottam or Paramatma (the Oversoul God). Cf. Bhagavad Gita 12:3-4 and 15:16-17.
    The spiritual regions beyond Trikuti are upheld by Sat-Shabda (Sphota or the Word-essence) and the lord of these divisions is Neh Akshar but he too cannot outlive the grand dissolution. The Sat Lok or Muqam-i-Haq is the first Grand Division that lies beyond the border line of the dissolution and it is eternally the same (Neh-Akshar-Para) and this in fact is the abode of the saints, it being their native homeland.

    Besides the above, there are two other practices:
    (i) Kalpal Dhoti: (rapid breathing in and out) for purification of the lungs. It can conveniently take the place of Neti, but should be avoided in the rainy season and in ill-health. The breathing should be quick but not too fast, so that it may not affect the lungs and the respiratory system.
    (ii) Shankh Pashali: It consists in taking water by mouth and immediately evacuating it through the rectum after a little shaking of the abdomen. It cleanses the entire digestive system by washing it clean of all impurities.
    All these processes, if not done under the direction, guidance and control of an adept in the yogic sadhnas, more often than not do more harm than good. It must be admitted that there is something artificial and unnatural about them, and cases have been reported wherein even adepts have suffered from their performance. It is therefore better to take recourse to natural ways of simple, wholesome and fresh vegetarian diet in its natural state, some cow's milk and ghee, fresh water, regular but untiring exercises, deep breathing, etc., all of which are free from any of the dangers attending the Hatha Yoga practices.
    Thus we see that in Hatha Yoga one has, in the first instance, to set the physical house in order, and that this is done by the practice of Shat Karmas, or the six preliminary practices as described above. After this, for successfully working out this type of yoga and acquiring proficiency therein, recourse is to be had to the following disciplines:

(a) Scrupulous cultivation of yamas and niyamas.
(b) Observance of sanjam, or moderation and discipline, in all phases of life,
     and particularly in thoughts, words and deeds.
(c) Physical postures of asanas, mudras and bandhas.
(d) Pranayam or the control and regulation of the respiratory system,
     all of which have been explained elsewhere in Ashtang Yoga.
    We may now consider what some writers have said regarding the place of Hatha Yoga in the spiritual path. Shri Yogindra, in his Introduction to his Hatha Yoga (Simplified), speaks of Hatha Yoga as follows:
The necessity of this system of yoga must have been felt in the ancient past when the discipline and education of the physical became an essential form of discipline and control of the mental, the moral and the psychic. In this context, Hatha Yoga should be, and is, regarded as the methodical approach to the attainment of the highest in yoga. Because it deals primarily with the physical, the human body, in relation to the mental, it has been appropriately identified as the physiological yoga or Ghatasya Yoga.
     The author Alain Danielou in his book, Yoga: The Method of Reintegration, describes the method of Hatha Yoga as reintegration through strength, because "self is not within the reach of the weak," and dealing with its object and method, says:
Hatha Yoga is the name given to the technical practices and disciplines by which the body and the vital energies can be brought under control. Although one of the means of yoga, it is the first preparation toward the way of reintegration, essential for further realization.
    All treatises on yoga insist that the sole purpose of the physical practices of Hatha Yoga is to surmount physical obstacles on the spiritual or royal path of reintegration--Raja Yoga.
    "Hatha" literally means "will-power," or indomitable will to do a thing or to achieve an object howsoever out of the common run it may appear to be. The meaning of the word "Hatha" Danielou goes on to explain from the Goraksha Samhita, as:
    The syllable "Ha" represents the sun, and the syllable "tha" represents the moon and the conjunction (yoga) of the sun and moon is therefore Hatha Yoga.
    The cosmic principles which manifest themselves in the planetary world as the sun and the moon, are found in every aspect of existence. In man, they appear mainly under two forms, one in the subtle body, the other in the gross body. In the subtle body they appear as two channels along which our perceptions travel between the subtle center at the base of the spinal chord and the center at the summit of the head. These two are called ida and pingala; one corresponding to the cold aspect of the moon and the other to the warm aspect of the sun.
    In the gross body, the lunar and solar principles correspond to the respiratory, cool, and the digestive, warm, vital energies, and are called prana and apana. It is by coordinating these two most powerful vital impulses that the yogin achieves his aim. In relation to breath, the coId air breathed in is spoken of as prana vayu and the warm air breathed out as apana vayu.
    Hatha Yoga has certain undeniable advantages, many of which have already been described in the previous chapter when discussing asanas, pranayam or pratyahara. It lays the foundation of a healthy life capable of withstanding many physical strains through the elimination of toxic and impure matter within the bodily system. To a yogin, death comes not as the tortured end of a long process of decay, but like the autumn leaf or the ripe fruit, it is the severance that is naturally wrought by inner maturity. Gain of control over various physical functions naturally brings with it some degree of mental control as well, for any rigorous discipline of the body is impossible without a discipline of the will, and the development of the one stimulates the other.
    Nevertheless, the physical and psychic powers that Hatha Yoga ensures to the successful sadhak are not without their snares and dangers. Instead of being kept strictly private to further spiritual progress or used only for the most humanitarian purposes, they are often employed for winning public applause and wealth. It is not for nothing that the common man associates this yoga with men who walk on burning charcoals, swallow glass pieces, or metal blades, eat snake heads and rodents, hold back running cars, or allow themselves to be run over by trucks or elephants. The serious-minded student of yoga, observing this abuse, must use these practices strictly as stepping-stones to Raja Yoga or else discard them altogether as yet another distraction from the goal, another means for pampering the ego which they set out to master. Huston Smith, in The Religions of Man, has put the matter roundly:
Some persons are chiefly interested in coordinating their bodies. Needless to say, they have their Indian counterparts-- men who take mastery of the body as their basic interest .... Whereas the West has sought strength and beauty, India has been interested in precision and control, ideally complete control over the body's every function . . . Julian Huxley has ventured cautiously that India appears to have discovered some things about what the body can be brought to do of which the West has no inkling. This extensive body of instruction comprises an authentic yoga, Hatha Yoga. Originally it was practiced as a preliminary to spiritual yoga, but as it has largely lost this connection, it need not concern us here. A judgment of the Hindu sages on this matter can be ours as well: incredible things can be done with the body if this is what interests you and you are willing to give your life to it. But these things have little to do with enlightenment. In fact, they grow out of a desire to show off, their mastery makes for pride and so is inimical to spiritual progress.


    This is the yoga of absorption or mergence. Laya literally means to lose oneself in some overpowering idea or a ruling passion. By a deep and continued absorption through concentration, one is gradually led to a state of forgetfulness of everything else, including the bodily self, and to having only one thought uppermost in one's mind, which is the objective before him for realization. This obsession may be for anything, worldly gain, power and pelf, name and fame; even for acquiring riddhis and siddhis or supernatural powers or, above all, for attaining the Ultimate Reality we call God. Thus there are various forms and stages of Laya Yoga, the highest of course being absorption in the contemplation of God--the conception of the yogins in this behalf being the astral light and the means thereto lying through the practice of mudras or locked postures, many of which have already been described in the foregoing chapter; for Laya Yoga corresponds closely to Patanjali's views on dhyan. The highest type of contemplation in Laya Yoga takes one above body-consciousness, leading to the Divine Ground of the human soul--Sahasrar or the headquarters of the subtle regions, with a thousand-petaled lotus full of lights in a pyramidical formation. Forgetfulness of everything but the subject of continued meditation is the key to success in this form of yoga. It is the natural result of pratyahara and dharna leading to dhyan, which combined together constitute the foundation of Laya Yoga.
    The yogins believe in the twin principles of Purush and Prakriti, the positive male and the negative female principles, both in Man and in Nature. In Man this Nature-energy lies coiled up at the basal root-center in the body, and the process consists in awakening it into activity by the performance of asanas and the practice of yogic breathing, and in carrying it up through the central nadi--sukhman--until it reaches and merges in the highest center--the Purush in Sahasrar--and hence the term yoga of mergence. For success in Laya Yoga, one has to rely on the lights of the various elements that predominate at the chakras, or centers, in the pind or physical body. As this journey of mergence of the mind into chid-akash is not free from risks, it is necessary to work it out under the strict guidance of an adept in the line.
    Laya Yoga differs vitally from other forms of yoga, which in the main have a positive approach by concentration or contemplation on some fixed object. In Laya Yoga, the approach is of a negative type. Instead of controlling the mind as yoga systems generally do, it concentrates on controlling the Kundalini, the vital energy, which lies hidden and latent, and it is perhaps because it deals with a latency that it is termed as Laya Yoga.


    As the name indicates and implies, it means "the royal road to reintegration;" the reintegration of soul which is now in a state of disintegration, having lost its cohesion through the diversifying influence of the mind running into so many out-going channels. This path offers a scientific approach Godward and is best suited to persons gifted with a scientific mind and a scientific outlook, both within and without, and given to experimentation. It is based on the assumption that the true self in man is quite different from, and more wonderful than, what it is commonly supposed and appears to be in the work-a-day life where it is subject to limitations that crowd in and press upon it from all sides, making it look for all practical purposes a finite element and not the limitless reality it really is.
    Again, the experiments involved in Raja Yoga are to be performed on one's own self, unlike those in other sciences, in which the whole process involved is one of experiment on outside nature. A Raja yogin is not expected to take things for granted or to blindly accept an authority, scriptural or otherwise. His is essentially a path of self-experiment in the laboratory of the mind, and he proceeds slowly but steadily, step by step, and never stops until the goal is reached.
Man, according to Raja Yoga, is a "layered entity" and is clothed in so many folds, one within the other, e.g., body, bodily habits, mode of life, inherited and acquired, senses and addictions, vital airs, restless mind with innumerable mental vibrations, ever-active will and egocentricity, etc., all of which form koshas or veils covering the atman. Within these lies the crest-jewel of Being itself, the ever-abiding Self underneath the phenomenal personality. Thus complete liberation (mukti), consists in complete release from the countless finitizing processes enveloping the Infinite Ocean of the Creative Life Principle, so as to have all power, all life, all wisdom, all joy, all bliss and everything else in its fullness. In other words, it means depersonalization of the soul by literally tearing down the personality or the mask which an actor dons when he comes on to the stage to play his role. The job of a Raja yogin then, is to unmask the reality within him by removing the numberless masks or false identifications, and thereby to separate the great Self from the enshrouding sheaths by which it is encumbered.
    Ashtang Yoga or the eightfold path of Patanjali leads to what is commonly known as Raja Yoga. It is the ladder whereby one achieves Nirbij Samadhi, Unmani, Sehaj-awastha or the Turiya pad, which is the crown of all the yoga systems and the efflorescence of the yogic art. It deals with the training of the mind and its psychic powers to an extent which may lead to Enlightenment, whereby true perception is attained and one gains an equipoise, a state of waking trance. His soul is unshakably fixed inwardly at its center, sam, even though he may apparently be engaged in worldly pursuits like the rest of mankind. This state is the pinnacle of all yogic endeavors and practices, and once attained, the yogin, while living in the world, is yet no longer of the world. This is how Raj Rishi Janak and Lord Krishna, the prince of the yogins, lived in the world, ever engaged in worldly pursuits and activities, carrying the wheel of the world in their hands in perpetual motion, yet with a still center fixed in the Divine Plane All of their actions were characterized by activity in inactivity. Such is the apex in the yoga system, a state in which the senses, the mind and the intellect come to a standstill. In the Katha Upanishad, we have:

When all the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not--that, say the wise, is the highest state- the Kaivalaya Pad (the state of supreme realization).
    It aims at samadhi (the final step in Patanjali's yoga system), whereby the individual is deindividualized and perceives within him the totality, unbounded and unembodied, limitless and free, all-pervading like the ether. It is seeing all things in the aspect of eternity.
    A few words about the state of samadhi may not be amiss here. Samadhi may be conscious or super-conscious. In the one, the mind remains conscious of the object, while in the other, there is an inner calm in which one sees and gets a real insight, as if in a flash, of the object as it really is. It is seeing with the soul (or the inner spiritual eye), when our bodily eyes are shut. This is immediate and direct perceptual knowledge as distinct from mediate knowledge, i.e., through the medium of the smoke-colored glasses of the senses, the mind and the intellect. It is a state of "still silence," far removed from the maddening world outside. It is a mystical state in which chit, manas, budhi and ahankar all lose their respective functions and the disentangled and deindividualized Self alone shines in its own luminosity. It is about this state that Vyasa tells us: "Yoga can best be known only through yoga, for yoga becomes manifest through yoga." (Yoga Bhasya iii:G).
    The most sacred syllable with the Raja yogins is Aum. In Mandukya Upanishad, we have a detailed account of this word. It is the same as the holy Word in the Gospel of St. John. It is the Kalma or Bang-i-Qadim of the Muslims, the Akash Bani or Vak Devi of the ancient Rishis, the Udgit or Naad of the Upanishads, the Sraosha of Zoroaster, and the Naam or Shabd of the Masters. The world and the Vedas all originated from this syllable Aum. In Gita it is said, "The Brahmin, who reciting and thinking upon Aum, goes forth, abandoning the body, goes on to the highest path." Lord Krishna speaking of himself says, "I am Omkar, I am Pranva in all the Vedas, in speech I am Ek-Akshra (The One Syllable).'' In the Upanishads it is stated, "Aum is the bow, the mind the arrow; Brahman is the target. Know ye the Brahman with concentration, hit the target with singleness of vision (Ekagrat), and then like an arrow becoming one with the target, the individual soul will become identified with the Brahman."
    A single vibration in Brahman (Eko Aham Bahusiam) caused all the lokas, and with it brought into being all planes, spiritual, causal, astral and physical, with their countless divisions and subdivisions. The physical vibrations in man correspond to the one, original vibration that led to the projection of Srishti or the Universe, with all its trinities, like Brahma, Vishnu and Siva; Satva, Rajas and Tamas; Jagrat, Swapan and Sushupti, all of which are contained in Aum, the lord of the three worlds.
    Lord Yama, the God of Death, exhorting Nachiketa said, "The goal uniformly extolled by all the Vedas, and for which man strives with all his tapas, is, in brief, Aum."
    Similarly, the term pranva means something ever new and fresh, unchanging and eternal (kutastha nitya), like the relation between Shabda and its meaning, as opposed to parinama nitya, which is eternally changing.

    From the above, it follows that each of the four classical forms of yoga is but an integral part of the yoga system as a whole as given by Patanjali, with a special emphasis on one or the other aspect of the system, and that these forms constitute a progressive development from Mantra Siddhi to Raja Yoga, each step paving the way for the next higher stage on the yogic path.
    To make yoga more practicable, distinctions were made in later times, for different types of people, based on individual temperaments and vocational pursuits. While the persons who were highly intellectual and reasoned out everything very often took to Jnana Yoga or "the Yoga of Knowledge," those with an emotional temperament were offered Bhakti Yoga or "the Yoga of Devotion," consisting of devotional exercises like singing and chanting of hymns and psalms (as did princess Mira and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu). Again, those who were primarily engaged in the outer activities of the world, were considered as best fitted for Karma Yoga or "the Yoga of Action," consisting of austerities like fasts and vigils, performance of yajnas and other charitable acts, meritorious deeds like pilgrimages to holy places and reading of scriptures, etc., and above all the path of selfless duty. In this way there arose the three types of "popular yogas," namely those of head, heart and hand, signifying Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga. These yogas find their first clear and unequivocal exposition in the Bhagavad Gita, and Lord Krishna stands in the same relationship to them as does Patanjali to the four traditional types.
    But it must be noticed that these three types cannot be classified into water-tight compartments. Each of them can hardly be practiced by itself to the total exclusion of the others. They simply indicate the predominant and inherent traits in the nature of the aspirants. A mere theoretical knowledge of yoga, without devotion and action, is just like a tree bereft of foliage and fruit, fit only for the woodcutter's axe. Again, devotion per se is meaningless, unless one has an intellectual grasp and a factual experience of the thing and actively strives for it. Actions by themselves, whether good or bad, without devotion and knowledge, keep one in perpetual bondage, like fetters of gold or of steel as the case may be, for both sorts have an equally binding force and efficacy. This world is a Karma Kshetra, or field of action, and all acts performed on the plane of the senses without discriminating knowledge and loving devotion bear fruit, which the doer has of necessity to gather up, whether he wills it or not. It is only action performed without attachment and desire for the fruit thereof that can bring freedom. One has therefore to become Neh Karma in this Karma Bhoomi, to escape from the wheel of Karmic bondage. Tile Law of Karma is stern and inexorable, and one should not unnecessarily go on doing Karmas endlessly and remain in eternal bondage.

He alone is free from the binding effect of Karmas,
who communes with the holy Word.
                          GURU AMAR DAS
    The yoga system, thus, is in essence one integrated whole and cannot be split into any artificial classifications. In Bhagavad Gita or the Song Celestial, which pre-eminently is a Yoga Sutra, the prince of yogins, Lord Krishna, gives a clear exposition of the various types of yogas to the Kshatriya prince Arjuna, so as to bring home to him the importance of Swadharm or the Path of Duty, as defined from various angles, for work is nothing but worship, in the true sense of the word, if one realizes it as such and does it without attachment to the fruit thereof.


    The path of Jnana is for those who are gifted with strong intellect or mental grasp and have a keen insight, capable of penetrating into the why and wherefore of things, so as to reach the core of reality. It means right discrimination and knowledge, the very first essential in the eightfold path of righteousness as enunciated by Buddha. It is from right understanding of the true values of life that everything else proceeds in the right direction, for without right and correct knowledge of Truth, all endeavors, with the best of intentions, are likely to go awry and land us sooner or later into difficulties.
    The importance of true knowledge is felt in fact in all aspects of yogic life whether Karma Yoga or Bhakti Yoga. In Karma Yoga, one needs to know and realize that one has a right to action or work and not to the fruit thereof. As one cannot but do work, the work is therefore to be performed in the true spirit of one's duty, a dedication unto the Lord, with the mind fixed on Him. The renunciation of attachment to the fruits brings evenness of temper, and in the calm of self-surrender lies true yoga of contemplation, a perfect peace born of total surrender of one's life to God.
    In Bhakti Yoga also, a bhakta or a devotee has, as a preliminary step, to understand the true significance of bhakti or devotion to the Lord and then to develop in himself a correct perspective, which may enable him to see the light of his Isht-Deva not only in human beings but in every form of life.
    In short, the path of Jnana Yoga lays emphasis on the true knowledge of the inmost Reality that is, or the true nature of atman. "Self-contemplation," the keynote of a true jnani, tries with the exercise of proper discrimination, to separate the apparently giant little self (the outer man) from the little great Self within (the inner man), for the self is the foe of Self, and self when properly trained becomes the friend of Self. The aim of this yoga is to chase away the darkness of ignorance with the torch of knowledge. It is a highly analytical path and for its successful working, one has to adhere diligently to three things:
    (i) Shravan or hearing: hearing the scriptures, the philosophic discourses, and above all, the living teachers of spirituality with first-hand experience of the Reality, who can transmit their own life impulse to those coming into contact with them, for it is in the company of the truly awakened soul that one awakens from one's long slumber.
    (ii) Manan or thinking: It consists in intense and thoughtful contemplation of what one has heard and understood so as to concretize the abstract, and make intellectual concepts the pulse of moment-to-moment living through a careful exercise of discrimination that distinguishes at every step the true from the false. It amounts to freeing the soul from the noose of egoism by all possible means at one's command. It is like churning butter out of the buttermilk.
    (iii) Nidhyasan or practice: It consists in shifting the center of gravity from the ephemeral and changing self to the abiding and eternal Self, from the circumference to the center of one's being. This gradually brings about detachment from the pairs of opposites--riches and poverty, health and disease, fame and ignominy, pleasure and pain, etc.--into which one and all tend to drift in the normal course of existence.
    The path of Jnana is a short-cut to yoga but it is frightfully steep, and very few can take to it. It requires a rare combination of razor-sharp intellect and intense spiritual longing, which only a few like Buddha and Shankara possess.
    The path, however, would become smooth if one, by a mighty good fortune, were to meet a Master-soul. A Sant Satguru can, by his long and strong arm, draw an aspirant right out of the bottomless vortex of the life of the senses without his having to do overmuch sadhna.

continued in next section

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