Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Upadesa Sarah of Ramana Maharshi – Raja Yoga (Control of mind)

Maharshi in the next five slokas discusses the Raja Yoga or the path of control of the mind.

Raja Yoga or simply yoga is one of the six philosophical systems in Hindu religion. This system or darshana was propounded by Sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.
There are many Upanishads which propound this system of Yoga.

Yoga darshana emphasizes on the practical aspect towards ultimate reality or Absoluteness or Kaivalyam. The system tells that this can be achieved only through control of the mind and removal of the thoughts from the mind-stuff. Such a person who has controlled his thoughts and the prana or vital force is called a Yogi.

In the very second sutra of Yoga Sutras, Patanjali defines Yoga as
“Yogah chittah vrittih nirodhah” – Yoga is the removal of thoughts from the mind or the internal equipments (consisting of Mind, Intellect, Ego and Memory)

What is the use of the removal of the thoughts from the mind? Will not that lead to sunyam or voidness because if I don’t think anything, then wont I cease to exist???? Patanjali answers this in the next Sutra as
“Tada drishthuh svaroope avasthaanam” – At that time (when all thoughts are removed), the Self or the Seer remains in his natural state of eternal bliss.

When the thoughts are completely removed, what remains behind is the thinker because the thinker can never cease to exist.

Vedanta proclaims that it is thoughts that lead to sorrow and suffering. The real nature of the Self or pure Consciousness or “I” is eternal bliss alone. But this Self is veiled by ignorance. This ignorance causes projection of the Self into other things & thereby thoughts arise. These thoughts therefore veil the Self and eternal bliss of the Self. Hence, sorrow and sufferings can be ended if thoughts are eliminated. These thoughts are what is projected as the objects which we see. The objects have no existence apart from thoughts. The moment I think that “I am typing through a keyboard” – keyboard gets its existence. The moment I renounce the thought of “keyboard”, keyboard ceases to exist.

This only goes to show that all objects have no existence apart from thoughts. This means the objects are only thoughts and not different from them. These thoughts themselves depend on the thinker for their existence. Suppose, the thinker decides not to think anything and he thinks nothing, then thoughts cease to exist. This again shows that the thoughts are nothing but illusions superimposed on the thinker alone. If the thinker or pure Consciousness is not there, there are no thoughts. If Consciousness is there, there are thoughts. But if thoughts are not there, still Consciousness exists. This is what everyone experiences in the state of deep sleep where thoughts cease to exist, but still the thinker exist who after waking up proclaims that “I slept happily”.

Therefore, thoughts are the cause for bondage and liberation. These thoughts bundled together are termed as the Mind or Manas. There is no mind without these thoughts.

Therefore Upanishads proclaim
“Man eva manushyaanaam kaaranam bandha mokshayoh
Bandhaaya vishayaasaktam muktaih nirvishayam smritam”
Mind alone is the cause for bondage and liberation.
When the mind is craving for external objects or it is full of thoughts, it is in bondage.
When the mind is free of craving or it is free of thoughts, it is in liberation (such a mind is termed the Self or the pure thinker devoid of any thoughts).

Such a state where there is no thoughts, but the thinker alone is the ultimate aim or goal of human life. This is what is called as Moksha or Mukthi or Kaivalyam. This ultimate goal is what is also achieved through the path of knowledge and other paths. The ultimate reality is that there is no duality, there is no differentiation between the thinker and the thoughts – but only the thinker exists. The thoughts are nothing but superimpositions on the thinker – and they exist due to ignorance alone. When ignorance about the Self or the thinker is removed, all thoughts cease to exist – and only the ultimate reality of ONENESS is realized. When a person realizes that the object he is seeing is not a snake but a rope, the snake ceases to exist. At that time, he also realizes that there never was a time when the snake existed – it was just an illusion in the reality or substratum of the rope.

Similarly the Self or Consciousness alone is the reality or substratum for the seemingly existing world. The world is just an illusion on the Self. When the Self is realized, one realizes this reality that there neither were any objects nor the objects, but only the Self existed (beyond time, space and causation).

One path to this ultimate reality of Drik or Seer without any drishya or seen is the path of knowledge wherein the Self or reality is realized (which is both drik and drishya – and it is ignorance that causes the differentiation between both). Another path to this reality is removal of the thoughts which will make the thinker alone to exist (without any thoughts). This ultimate or absolute state of thinker alone is termed as Samadhi in Yoga philosophy as well as in Vedanta.

Raja Yoga or the yoga philosophy puts forth the eight fold practice to attain this kaivalya or the state of oneness. This eight fold yoga or ashta anga yoga is also accepted by Vedantins like Sankara and others as a practice or sadhana to the ultimate reality. This eight fold yoga is what is generally meant by Yoga. But in various yoga centers only two or three steps of this eight-fold yoga is taught and such a yoga which concentrates only on asanas or physical postures is called Hatha Yoga. The Yoga or raja Yoga that Maharshi is going to explain is not mere hatha yoga or physical exercises but it is control of the mind through the eight fold practices or steps.

One should constantly remember while learning Raja Yoga that the ultimate aim of Yoga is control of mind and not mere siddhas that might come to the person practicing this.

The eight steps of Yoga are

Explanation or description of Raja Yoga will require lot of time, hence we will just see each of these steps briefly and how a person should put it into practice.

Yama and Niyama
These are 5 + 5 = 10 qualities which each person should try to implement or follow in his life. These are prerequisites for the control of the mind and attaining the kaivalya state of eternal bliss.
The five qualities of Yama are Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-acceptance), Brahmacharya (celibacy) and Aparigraha (non-acceptance).

The five qualities of Niyama are Saucha (purity – both internal and external – external means having good clothes, taking bath and all. Internal means purity in thoughts – one should always try to think righteous thoughts and not thoughts which spoil one’s nature and exhausts one’s energy), Santhosa (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaaya (self-learning – devoting oneself to the study of the scriptures which speak about the ultimate reality and trying to analyze the things propounded in the scriptures) and Ishwara Pranidhanaani (Devotion towards Almighty).

These are not mere qualities to be just spoken of in lectures and forgotten after that. These should be strictly followed at all times, in all situations, at all places (Says Patanjali in one of the sutras).

Only when a person follows these qualities, one preserves the energy in the body and mind for spiritual progress. Spiritual study requires tremendous energy because it is trying to learn about oneself, it is trying to learn about the Self (which is beyond words and mind) and because it is removal of thoughts (which requires energy proportional to the number of thoughts).

Removal of thoughts cannot be performed at all places. A seeker can never get concentration if he is a liquor shop or in a cinema movie. Therefore, the right place is important for performance of Yogic practices. It is also necessary to have a right posture while trying to perform control of mind & removal of thoughts. A person cannot practice this while is lying down (because at that time, there will be no thoughts because he will doze off J). Therefore, posture is important in Yoga.

The basic postures told as Sukha asana (just sitting normally), Padmasana (cross folded sitting), Siddhaasana (one leg cross folded sitting). One important point to be noted here is that the back should be kept straight. One can easily understand that a person who doesn’t keep his back straight has the natural tendency to sleep and his mind doesn’t remain vigil. Also in yogic practices, the kundalini shakthi or serpent power is said to reside dormant or sleeping in the bottom or muladhara part of a person (personal part of a person). When this shakthi raises up through the sushumna or spinal cord and reaches the head or sahasraara, the person is completely liberated as then there are no thoughts but only the thinker. Therefore, it is essential to keep the back straight while trying to do yogic practices or control of the mind.

But according to Vedanta, for the path of enquiry or knowledge, no such limitations of place, time, posture is there. It can be performed anywhere, anytime and by anyone.

The last few steps in this Yoga also don’t require space and time limitations for a Vedantin (one who has read the scriptures) because a Vedantin always has his back right & his mind is always under the control of the Intellect and the Self.

Once position is maintained properly, the yogi now tries to control the prana or vital force through breath control. Mind and prana are very much related. When the prana is controlled, mind becomes controlled.

Chandogya Upanishad tells that mind has its root in prana only. Therefore when prana is controlled, mind also is controlled. Prana can be controlled through control of the breath because breath is the prana inside a person’s body.

There are various types of pranayama which should be performed under the guidance of a proper Guru alone or it will lead to adverse effects.

The simple pranayama or breathing out and breathing in (with awareness) can be performed by everyone. One notices that when a person gets angry, his breath becomes fast – this breath can be slowed down if breathing in and out is done with awareness and with long duration.

One of the breathing exercise that my Guru, Mata Amritanandamayi Devi tells is uttering in the mind “MA” while breathing in and uttering in the mind “OM” while breathing out the air. Breathing out removes all the impurities in the body and mind, and breathing in takes in fresh prana and the body gets energized. (such should be the thought or visualization while doing this pranayama).

This pranayama can be done daily, in any place and time. It is useful if person does it daily twice for 3 minutes. One should sit straight and close the eyes while doing it.

What is the use of controlling the prana???? The mind gets controlled. Therefore now the mind is able to divert the sense organs from external objects into the inner Self. The sense organs are always extroverted and these in turn perceive objects and create all sufferings out of dual-perception, likes and dislikes. Therefore, introverting the sense organs or turning the sense organs from their objects to their respective origin is the next step called Pratyahara.

This step is focusing the mind to their respective source and diverting them from their respective organs or objects. Only when the sense organs are retraced from the objects and put into their respective sources of the mind, the mind will be able to concentrate on the Self and thereby remove all thoughts. This is the step where a person eliminates objects and starts towards elimination of the thoughts.

Dharana or Concentration
When the sense organs are not extroverted towards the sense objects, the mind is free to concentrate on the Self. This step is trying to concentrate (where the mind is not fully focused on a object and not completely concentrated but trying to concentrate). This step involved fixing the mind on a single object. In this step, a person tries to concentrate on the object through effort.

Dhyaana or Meditation
When the concentration becomes one-pointed and only the object remains, it is called Meditation. Meditation is persistence of a single thought continuously. The normal dhyaana that we all perform is not dhyaana but only dharana.

When meditation becomes perfect, the object alone exists without any distinction between the subject and object (only ONE remains). This state of Oneness is called SAMADHI or absorption.

When absorption becomes natural it is called Sahaja Samadhi – this is the natural state of the Self. At that state, all objects are perceived as not objects but as the reality of Consciousness alone. This is the state where the thinker becomes a pure thinker or the Self without any thoughts or objectless Subject.

This is termed in Yoga as Samadhi or Kaivalyam (the Yoga philosophy speaks about different types of Samadhi also which cannot be dealt in day or two. Interested people can read through the Yoga Sutras translation by Swami Prabhavananda (published by Ramakrishna Mutt) or search the net for translations of Yoga Sutras.

The various philosophies, the various paths everything is for realization of the Self alone. These scriptures, texts and philosophies become mere intellectual things if they are not implemented to realize one’s own real nature. This real nature of oneself as the Consciousness is the reality behind all seemingly existing or illusory objects (our even objects which seem to be real).
This realization of the Self is what Maharshi was implementing fully in his life. In order to make others realize this reality, Maharshi gave advice in the form of questions and answers and this work of Maharshi is where all the different paths are dealt with. Hence, this work if learnt completely will lead one to eternal bliss (that which is being searched by everyone in the external world).


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