THE EIGHTFOLD PATH OF YOGA
EIGHTFOLD PATH:In this chapter is described the path of yoga for obtaining Self-Realization, getting control of the mind through control of breath. For achieving devotion in the form of meditation described in the previous chapter, steps like yama and niyama (the first two stages in ashtanga or eightfold yoga, explained below) are prescribed. These have two forms, one of the nature of yoga and the other of jnana. Control over breath is yoga. Elimination of the mind is jnana. Which of these comes more easily to the aspirant depends on his inherent tendencies and maturity. Both lead to the same result since by control of breath the mind gets controlled, and by elimination of the mind the breath gets controlled. The object of both these methods is the subsidence and elimination of the mind. Ya m a (moral self-control which is necessary preliminary to the yogic path; in detail: abstention from lying, killing, theft, lust and covetousness), niyama (disciplinary observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breath-control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses from external objects), dharana (concentrated attention), dhyana (steady uninterrupted contemplation) and samadhi (identification of oneself with the Atman). These eight are the elements of yoga. Of these breath-control consists of exhalation, inhalation and retention. While in all the sastras it is said that exhalation and inhalation should be equal and retention twice their length, in Rajayoga, retention of breath is four times as long as inhalation and twice as long as exhalation. The breath-control of the Rajayoga path is superior to other Self-Enquiry 37 kinds. If this breath-control is practised according to one’s capacity, without strain but regularly, the body gets fatigued in a way but becomes still and the desire to be in a state of Bliss gradually arises in the mind. Then pratyahara must be attempted. This unifies the mind and makes it one-pointed, so that it does not run after the external objects of name and form. Since the mind that has till now run after externals can rarely withdraw and steady itself, efforts are made to unify and steady it by holding it to a particular aim by the following means: pranava japa (the incantation of OM) and other incantations made mentally; fixing the attention between the eyebrows; concentrating on the tip of the nose; hearing the sounds arising within the ears alternately, i.e., striving to hear the sound in the left ear with the right ear and vice versa. Dharana (concentrated attention) must then be attempted. This means fixing the mind on a centre fit for meditation.EIGHTFOLD PATH: The heart and brahmarandhra (fontanelle of aperture in the crown of the head) are recommended as fit spots for dharana. The mind is fixed on either of these spots while conceiving of one’s personal deity in the form of a flame of light shining there. If one fixes one’s attention on the heart it is the eight-petalled lotus; if on the brahmarandhra it is also the eight-petalled lotus, though said to consist of sahasradala (a thousand petals) or 125 small petals. Thus concentrating, one must meditate that one is not a separate being from one’s deity and that that flame of light is the form of one’s Atma (Spirit or Self ). In other words, it is meditation on ‘I am He’. The scripture says that the all-pervasive Brahman itself is shining in the heart as ‘I-I’, the witness of the intellect. If one asks ‘Who am I?’ then He (the Deity or the Atma) will be found shining (throbbing) as ‘I-I’, in the lotus of the heart. Practising this is also meditation and is much better than the ‘I am He’ meditation. A man can practise whatever 38 Words of Grace comes easy to him. By practice of this kind of meditation, one becomes unaware of oneself and what one is doing and one’s mind gets absorbed in the Self. The subtle state in which even the pulsation subsides is the state of samadhi. Only, one must guard against sleep in this state. Then it will confer Supreme Bliss. If anyone practises this daily and regularly, God will bless him on the Supreme Path, on which he will attain perfect Peace. As there are elaborate treatises on the elements of ashtanga yoga, only as much as is necessary is written here. Anyone who desires to know more must resort to a practising yogi with experience and learn from him in detail. Pranava is incantation of OM with three and a half units, A, U, M, and a half unit of M. Of these A stands for the waking state, the gross body and creation, U stands for the dream state, the subtle body and preservation,EIGHTFOLD PATH: M stands for deep sleep, the self at rest in sleep, the causal body and dissolution. The half unit stands for the fourth state, the true state of the I or Self. The state beyond this is the state of pure Bliss. The fourth state obtained in meditation as one’s true State contains within itself A, U, M and the half unit and so is called the state in which all sound forms have subsided; it is also called silent incantation and non-dual incantation, which is the essence of all incantations. It is for obtaining this true experience of OM that in the stage of pratyahara, silent incantation, is prescribed. ‘The soul attains conscious immortality through medi- tating upon that principle ever shining like the flame of light possessing the effulgence of lightning, residing as All-Pervading in the midst of the heart lotus with eight-petals, the size of a thumb and described variously as kailasa, vaikunta, and paramapada’. The seeker is advised to meditate in accordance with this text.EIGHTFOLD PATH: A sense of inconstancy in the Self may appear to arise and also of differentiation between the meditator and what Self-Enquiry 39 he meditates upon. The seeker is advised to meditate upon his own Self because that flame which is throbbing as I-I is the Self. Therefore there need be no doubting this scriptural text. EIGHTFOLD PATH: Of all forms of meditation atma dhyana (meditation on the Self ), which has just been described, is the best. If that is achieved there is no need to attempt other forms of meditation, because all are included in it. Other forms are advised only to help achieve success in this. The form of meditation one follows will depend on one’s maturity of mind. Though the various modes of meditation may appear different, yet they all converge on the same point; there is no need to doubt this. ‘Knowing one’s own Self is knowing God. Not knowing the nature of him who meditates but meditating on God as foreign to one’s own Self is like measuring one’s shadow with one’s foot. You go on measuring while the shadow also goes on receding further and further.’ So say the scriptures. Hence meditation on the Self is the best, because the Self alone is the Supreme Self of all the gods.