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The Path Of Yoga
(Raja-Yoga) The Yoga of Meditation

"Raja-Yoga is the raja (the king) of Yogas, and as a sign of royalty it is often spoken of as YOGA  without any further qualification or designation. Although Raja-Yoga is self-sufficient in its own sphere, it also plays the part of a preparatory school to the supreme Yoga of Knowledge" -Romain Rolland

A brief introduction to the Path of Yoga

From The Mahabharata, Santi Parva
Sections CCXXXIX and CCXL
Translated by sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli

[Note: What is the path of Yoga? Sage Vyasa  provides
the definition of the word 'YOGA' as follows:]

The uniting together of Intellect and Mind, and all the Senses, and the all pervading Soul is said to be Knowledge of the foremost kind.

[Vyasa further explains the path of Yoga:]
That Knowledge should be acquired (through the preceptor's aid) by one that is of a tranquil disposition, that has mastered his senses, that is capable (by meditation) of turning his gaze on the Soul, that takes a pleasure in such meditation, that is endued with intelligence and pure in acts. One should seek to acquire this Knowledge by abandoning those five impediments of Yoga which are known to the wise, viz., desire, wrath, cupidity, fear and sleep.

[Note: The following texts from The Mahabharata cover the subject matters that appear in The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 5 called ‘The Yoga of Renunciation of Action’ and Chapter 6 called ‘The Yoga of Meditation’. Some of these Shlokas (verses) from the Gita are reproduced below after the text from The Mahabharata].

( The text from The Mahabharata in detail ):

Suka, (the son of Vyasa) said: By what means does one possessed of wisdom, conversant with the Vedas, observant of sacrifices, endued with wisdom, and free from malice, succeed in attaining to Brahman (The Supreme Reality) which is incapable of being apprehended by either direct evidence or inference, and unsusceptible of being indicated by the Vedas? Asked by me, tell me by what means is Brahman to be apprehended?

Is it by penance, by Brahmacharya (celibacy), by renunciation of everything, by intelligence, by the aid of the Sankhya philosophy, or by Yoga? By what means and what kind of singleness of purpose be attained by men, with respect to both, viz., the mind and the senses?

The doctrine of knowledge as
expounded in the Sankhya system

Vyasa said: No man ever attains to success by means other than the acquisition of knowledge, the practice of penance, the subjugation of the senses, and renunciation of everything. [Note: The commentator points out that by these four words the four modes of life are indicated].

The great entities (elements), five in number, represent the first or initial creation of the Self-born. They have been very largely placed in embodied creatures included in the world of life. The bodies of all embodied creatures are derived from earth. The humours are from water. Their eyes are said to be derived from light. Prana, Apana and the three other vital breaths have the air for their refuge. And lastly, all unoccupied apertures within them (such as the nostrils, the cavities of the ears, etc.) are of space. In the feet of all living creatures is Vishnu. In their arms is Indra. Within the stomach is Agni (digestive fire) desirous of eating. In the ears are the points of the horizon (or the compass) representing the sense of hearing. In the tongue is speech which is Saraswati (goddess of speech).

The ears, skin, eyes, tongue and nose forming the fifth, are said to be the sense of knowledge. These exist for the purposes of apprehension of their respective objects. Sound, touch, form, taste and scent forming the fifth, are the objects of the five senses. These should always be regarded as separate from (or independent of) the senses.

Like the charioteer setting his well-broken steeds along the paths he pleases, the mind sets the senses (along directions it pleases). The mind, in its turn, is employed by the knowledge sitting in the heart. The mind is the lord of all these senses in respect of employing them in their functions and guiding or restraining them. Similarly, the knowledge is the lord of the mind (in employing, and guiding or restraining it). The senses, the objects of the senses, the attributes of those objects represented by the word nature, knowledge, mind, the vital breaths, and Jiva (the embodied soul) dwell in the bodies of all embodied creatures.

Primordial Nature is the refuge of the knowledge
Which exists only in the form of a sound.

The Soul also is not the refuge of the knowledge.
It is Desire that creates the knowledge.

The body, within which the knowledge dwells, has no real existence. The body therefore, is not the refuge of the knowledge.Primordial Nature (Prakriti) having the three attributes of Goodness, Passion and Darkness (Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas), is the refuge of the knowledge which exists only in the form of a sound. [Pranavah or AUM or OM]. The Soul also is not the refuge of the knowledge. It is Desire that creates the knowledge. Desire, however, never creates the attributes. The man of wisdom, capable of subduing his senses, beholds the seventeenth, viz., the Soul, as surrounded by six and ten attributes, in his own knowledge by the aid of the mind. The Soul cannot be beheld with the aid of the eye or with that of all the senses. Transcending all, the Soul becomes visible by only the light of the mind’s lamp. Divested of the properties of sound and touch and form, without taste and scent, indestructible and without a body (either gross or subtile) and without senses, it is nevertheless beheld within the body.

Unmanifest and supreme, it dwells in all mortal bodies.Following the lead of the preceptor and the Vedas, he who beholds it hereafter becomes Brahman’s self. They that are possessed of wisdom look with an equal eye upon a brahmana (Priest) possessed of knowledge and disciples, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a chandala. Transcending all things, the Soul dwells in all creatures mobile and immobile. Indeed, all things are pervaded by it. When a living creature beholds his own Soul in all things, and all things in his own Soul, he is said to attain to Brahman (The Supreme Being). One occupies that much of the Supreme Soul as is commensurate with what is occupied in one’s own soul by Vedic sound. He that can always realise the identity of all things with his own self certainly attains to immortality. The very gods are stupefied in the track of that trackless man who constitutes himself the soul of all creatures, who is engaged in the good of all beings, and who desire to attain to Brahman (the Supreme Being) which is the final refuge of all things.

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The Yoga doctrine.
The Mahabharata, Santi Parva
Section CCXL

Vyasa said: O excellent son, asked by thee, I have told thee truly what the answer to thy question should be according to the doctrine of knowledge as expounded in the Sankhya system. Listen now to me as I expound to thee all that should be done (for the same end) according to the Yoga doctrine.

The uniting together of Intellect and Mind, and all the Senses, and the all pervading Soul is said to be knowledge of the foremost kind. That knowledge should be acquired (through the preceptor’s aid) by one that is of a tranquil disposition, that has mastered his senses, that is capable (by meditation) of turning his gaze on the Soul, that takes a pleasure in such meditation, that is endued with intelligence and pure in acts. One should seek to acquire this Knowledge by abandoning those five impediments of Yoga which are known to the wise, viz., desire, wrath, cupidity, fear and sleep.

Wrath is conquered with tranquillity of disposition. Desire is conquered by giving up all purposes. By reflecting with the aid of the understanding upon topics worthy of reflection, one endued with patience succeeds in abandoning sleep. By steady endurance one should restrain one’s organs of generation and the stomach (from unworthy or sinful indulgence). One should protect one’s hands and feet by using one’s eyes. One should protect one’s eyes and ears by the aid of one’s mind, one’s mind and speech by one’s acts. One should avoid fear by heedfulness, and pride by waiting upon the wise. Subduing procrastination, one should, by these means, subdue these impediments of Yoga.

One should pay one’s adorations to fire and the brahmanas (priests), and one should bow one’s head to the deities. One should avoid all kinds of inauspicious discourse, and speech that is fraught with malice, and words that are painful to other minds. …

Meditation, study, gift, truth, modesty, simplicity, forgiveness, purity of body, purity of conduct, subjugation of the senses, these enhance one’s energy, which when enhanced destroys one’s sins. By behaving equally towards all creatures and by living in contentment upon what is acquired easily and without effort, one attains to the fruition of all one’s objects and succeeds in obtaining knowledge.

Cleansed of all sins, endued with energy, abstemious in diet, with senses under complete control, one should, after having subdued both desire and wrath, seek to attain to Brahman. Firmly uniting the senses and the mind (having drawn them away from all external objects) with gaze fixed inwards, one should, in the still hours of evening, or in those before dawn, place one’s mind upon the knowledge. If even one of the five senses of a human being be kept unrestrained, all his wisdom may be seen to escape through it like water through an unstopped hole at the bottom of a leather bag. The mind in the first instance should be sought to be restrained by the Yogi after the manner of a fisherman seeking at the outset to render that one among the fish powerless from which there is the greatest danger to his nets.

Having first subdued the mind, the Yogi should then proceed to subdue his ears, then his eyes, then his tongue, and then his nose. Having restrained them, he should fix them on the mind. Then withdrawing the mind from all purposes, he should fix it on the knowledge.Indeed, having restrained the five senses, the Yogi should fix them on the mind. When these with the mind for the sixth become concentrated in the knowledge, and thus concentrated remain steady and untroubled, then Brahman becomes perceptible like a smokeless fire of blazing flames or the Sun of effulgent radiance. Indeed, one then beholds in oneself one’s soul like lightning fire in the skies.Everything then appears in it and it appears in everything in consequence of its infinitude. Those high-souled Brahmanas that are possessed of wisdom, that are endued with fortitude, that are possessed of high knowledge, and that are engaged in the good of all creatures, succeed in beholding it.

Engaged in the observance of austere vows, the Yogi who conducts himself thus for six months, seated by himself on an isolated spot, succeeds in attaining to an equality with the Indestructible. Annihilation, extension, power to present varied aspects in the same person or body, celestial scents, and sounds, and sights, the most agreeable sensations of taste and touch, pleasurable sensations of coolness and warmth, equality with the wind [Foot-note by the commentator and translator: Equality with the wind means speed of motion, power to disappear at will, and capacity to move through the skies. (Super natural powers known as ‘Siddhis’)]. Capability of understanding (by inward light) the meaning of scriptures and every work of genius, companionship of celestial damsels; acquiring all these by Yoga the Yogi should disregard them and merge them all in the knowledge.

[Note: By the practice of Yoga all these are capable of being acquired or attained. But then the Yogi who suffers himself to be led away by those valuable possessions is said to fall in hell, for the enjoyment of this kind is nothing but hell compared to the high object for which Yogis should strive].

Restraining speech and the senses one should practise Yoga during the hours after dusk, the hours before dawn, and at dawn of day, seated on a mountain summit, or at the foot of a goodly tree, or with a tree before him.

[Note: Chaitya trees or Peepul trees are sacred and large trees which stand firm on their roots and about which all round of each tree a platform of earth is raised. " In front of a tree" probably implying ‘under the shade of its spreading branches’].

Restraining all the senses within the heart, one should with faculties concentrated think of the Eternal and Indestructible like a man of the world thinking of wealth and other valuable possessions. One should never, while practising Yoga, withdraw one’s mind from it. One should with devotion betake oneself to those means by which one may succeed in restraining the mind that is very restless. One should never permit oneself to fall away from it. With the senses and the mind withdrawn from everything else, the Yogi (for practice) should betake himself to empty caves of mountains, to temples consecrated to the deities, and to empty houses or apartments, for living there. One should not associate with another in either speech, act or thought. Disregarding all things, and eating very abstemiously, the Yogi should look with an equal eye upon objects acquired or lost. One should behave after the same manner towards one that praises and one that censures him. He should not seek the good or the evil of one or the other. He should not rejoice at an acquisition or suffer anxiety when he meets with failure or loss. Of uniform behaviour towards all beings, he should imitate the wind

[Note: "Imitate the wind" by becoming unattached to all things].

Unto one whose mind is thus turned to itself, who leads a life of purity, and who casts an equal eye upon all things,- indeed, unto one who is ever engaged in Yoga thus for even six months,- Brahman as represented by sound appears very vividly. [Note: Refer to pages "Gayatri" and "Krishna’s flute" See the column on the left].

[Also refer to The Bhagavad Gita, Ch.6, Verse 8:
The Yogi who is satisfied with the knowledge and wisdom (of the Self), who has conquered the senses, and to whom a clod of earth, a piece of stone and gold are the same, is said to be harmonised (i.e., is said to have attained Nirvikalpa Samadhi).]

Beholding all men afflicted with anxiety (on account of earning wealth and comfort), the Yogi should view a clod of earth, a piece of stone, and a lump of gold with an equal eye. Indeed, he should withdraw himself from this path (of earning wealth), cherishing an aversion for it, and never suffer himself to be stupefied. Even if a person happens to belong to the inferior order, even if one happens to be a woman, both of them, by following in the track indicated above, will surely attain to the highest end.

[Note by the scholar and translator: The inferior order here referred to is, of course, the Sudra order. The Commentator points out that whereas only the three superior orders (Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya) are regarded to be eligible for the study of Sankhya and for inculcation of such Srutis as Tattwamasi (That Thou Art), here sage Vyasa lays down that as regards the Yoga path, all are eligible to betake themselves to it]. [ Refer also to Bhagavad Gita, Ch.9, Verse 32: "For taking refuge in Me, they also, O Arjuna, who may be of a sinful birth, women, vaisyas as well as sudras- attain the Supreme goal"].

He that has subdued his mind beholds in his own self, by the aid of his own knowledge the Uncreate, the Eternal Brahman,- That, viz., which cannot be attained except by fixed senses,- That which is subtiler than the most subtile, and grosser than the most gross, and which is Emancipation’s self.

[Note: ‘ Fixed senses ‘ i.e., when the senses are fixed on the mind and the mind on the understanding. Ajaram (a word in the original Sanskrit text) is immutable or unchanging or that in which there is no change for the worse or for the better. By subtility is indicated the incapacity of being apprehended, and by ‘Mahattaram’(Sanskrit) is meant infinity].

By ascertaining from the mouths of preceptors and by themselves reflecting with their minds

Upon these words of the great and high-souled Rishis spoken so properly, persons possessed of wisdom attain to that equality (about which the scriptures say) with Brahman himself, till, indeed, the time when the universal dissolution comes that swallows up all existent beings.

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From The Bhagavad Gita
Explanations based on the writings of Swami Shivananda
The Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Selected verses from The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 5 called
"The Yoga o