Is Oneness With The Universe, a Super Conscious State. Yoga is an ancient art which goes far beyond the practice of asanas – positions. It’s a philosophy that goes back to the days before the religions existed over 2,000 years back. It’s a doctrine that talks about marriage. It talks about marriage between all human beings and about marriage with a larger energy that itself joins us all.
What is Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient art with the purpose of bringing the professional back to the authentic self. The ancient scriptures inform us that the authentic self is the condition of bliss. It’s a state of inner joy. The sage Patanjali who wrote the ‘Yoga Sutra’ – an early recorded text on yoga codifying the system so far – gave the definition of yoga as ‘Yoga chiti vriti nirodha’. This translates from the original Sanskrit into English to significance that yoga is the stopping of the changes of the mind. Historically there have been two major avenues of yoga — raja yoga and hatha yoga – and these both ultimately target for control over the brain. Asana practice – the practice of yoga postures – was created in order to stabilise us for sitting during meditation. Yoga was made finally to bring us into meditation and hence deeper states of consciousness.
The next question arises what is meditation or dhyana in Sanskrit? Meditation is the stilling of the mind by the stilling of the human body.
Also pranayama – the breathing techniques of yoga – aim to the breath and hence still the brain.
Our meditational practices in yoga help us to conquer the ego. The ego is identity. But in reality we’re all connected and with yoga we realise this link. The definition of yoga is union. Through the practice of yoga one realises the marriage between the one who you think you are, that is your personal consciousness, and the one who you are – that is you’re part of a supreme consciousness. So as to transcend between the individual consciousness and the ultimate consciousness one wants to overcome the self. And so as to overcome the self we want what the Upanishad texts describe as Vivek Chudamani. This is the crown jewel of this power of discrimination over what’s real and what’s not. Hence we will need to have the ability to see that really there’s no I but that we’re all connected.
We will need to establish what it means to return to the authentic self – or what’s self realisation. Self realisation is in essence identifying yourself as peace and happiness. Once you have made this authentic identification you may just radiate peace and happiness.
One way of looking at yoga is in regard to the chakras (energy points inside us). Now yoga aims for the best functioning of all of the chakras within us. This lifts us from individual consciousness to supreme consciousness.
Now the Vedas – the scriptures which discuss knowledge – state there are three flaws in the mind. These are mala that is dirt, waste, excessive thoughts and emotions. Then there’s vikshep that is instability and then there’s avaran which means cover. The existence of avaran means it is extremely tough for us to find the reality.
The ancient doctrine of India was called Sanathana Dharma that can be interpreted as meaning the eternal law. It saw everything in the world as being linked, as having a religious marriage – that’s man, animals, nature, the entire universe. In Vedic times – the times where the Vedas were composed – the world was known as Vasudevakudambakam which means one family. When we think about the world as one family, we experience true spirituality. The world then was seen as being outside the differences caused by race, religion or country. Spirituality is about seeing the unity in all things.
The Paths of Yoga
Moving on from this understanding, it’s necessary for us to realize that there are numerous distinct paths of yoga all of which lead us back to self realisation or internal happiness.
Karma yoga is the yoga of action. It’s about removing mala. There are two unique varieties of actions or karma. Sakam involves searching for the fruit of one’s actions whereas nishkam is purer. It involves not searching for the fruit of one’s activities but acting through a pure heart and pure thoughts with no idea for anticipation. Living a life of nishkam karma contributes to a happier, more well balanced and peaceful life.
Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. There is conditional devotion, however unconditional dedication is what’s required to eliminate vikshep or instability.
Gyana yoga is the yoga of knowledge. It exists so as to eliminate avaran or cover. Gyana yoga talks a whole lot about the nature of consciousness. Now the essence of consciousness could be described as ‘sat chit anand’. ‘Sat’ is truth or existence. We’re all immortal in the sense that we are spirits and the soul is immortal. This is our true nature. We’re all in search of our true immortal selves – our souls. This is why we always aim to live a more life – we’re attempting to connect with our true selves – our immortal souls. ‘Chit’ is wisdom – hence we are all searching for wisdom, we’re searching for the wisdom that inherently is inside each one of us. ‘Anand’ is bliss. Happiness is what we’ve all always looked for and at the deepest core of our beings we are essentially happiness or bliss. On the basis of sat chit anand we are all searching for self realisation or internal happiness through knowledge.
Raja yoga is the kingly path. As a king brings law and order to his realm, the professional of raja yoga principles the kingdom within – the realm of the senses, so instead of being mastered by the senses, the yogi is in a state of calmness and has his/her senses in check. The yogi brings law and order inside.
After the Vedic period of Indian philosophy, the Vedantic period started. Vedanta means the end of the Vedas – the time where knowledge ceases and self realisation starts.
Within the Vedantic tradition of doctrine, we see that there are five layers over the consciousness which prevent us from identifying with who we are. We’re all actually so caught up in these 5 layers which we think we’re these 5 layers. These layers are known in Vedanta as the ‘panch kosha’. The term’panch’ means the term’kosha’ means sheets or envelopes over our consciousness. With the practice of yoga we proceed towards the innermost layer.
The first layer is called the food body or the body. This is referred to as the annamaya kosha. It’s our physical body composed of the nutritients we’ve eaten – protein, minerals etc. Many times we differentiate ourselves with the body and don’t look beyond that. Even if we are only taking a look at the physical body it’s necessary to realise that the food we eat makes up our body and our mind. Therefore by eating healthily and by exercising we keep a healthy and hence joyful physical and psychological condition.
The second layer is referred to as the pranamaya kosha and this is the energy or etheric body. Prana can be referred to as breath, oxygen or vital energy and is related to the chi of Chinese philosophy. Oxygen is required for every single cell of our body. Trees and plants release oxygen hence we feel alive when we’re surrounded by and at one with nature.
The third layer is referred to as the manomaya kosha or the body. From this understanding we can appreciate the mind and the body are linked. This is the reason we are more healthy while we maintain a positive outlook. Laughter and happiness consistently create good health.
The fourth layer is the gyanamaya kosha or instinctive body. This is where we encounter our sixth sense. The answers to all our questions are observed in fact in the fourth layer.
And to maintain the consciousness of the fifth layer is our final goal as yogis — this is the bliss body -or anandmaya kosha. We experience this when we’ve transcended the ego completely and have become conscious of who we truly are and our relationship with everything. Yoga is a journey that takes us from annamaya kosha into anandmaya kosha. Once we’ve attained anandmaya kosha we then reside in the bliss body.
It can be stated that meditation is a practice that enables us to go beyond the mind and senses to the deeper levels to find out who we truly are.
Within the practices of yoga, asanas work on the body, pranayama works on the energy body and dhyana or meditation works on the body. Hence the three methods of yoga push us further and further towards the deepest kosha.
A ‘turiya’ is someone that has surpassed the five koshas. The Turiya state is the itself. It’s not influenced by anything – neither likes nor dislikes. It’s in a balanced state. When we achieve this state – when we’re in the bliss body – then we are beyond both pain and pleasure. We practice yoga so as to steer away from becoming the body, the mind and the breath and only move to being the person on the inside.
The raja yoga of Patanjali talks about controlling the brain and therefore the breath and therefore the body. It’s eight limbs attached to it – the asthanga. The term asht means the term anga means limbs. The initial steps of this asthanga are yama and niyama. Yama are societal rules and regulations and niyama are private rules and regulations. Just both of these limbs are enough to give one self realisation. The other paths of yoga also require you to self realisation. To explore these further, yama includes ahimsa (non violence), satya (truth and honesty, asteya (non stealing), bramacharya (working according to the ultimate consciousness – that contributes to behaving in equilibrium ) and aparigraha (non accumulation or an awareness of non ownership ).
Niyama includes sauch (cleanliness such as mental cleanliness), santosh (contentment), tapa (austerity or self discipline), swadhyaya (self study) and Ishwar parnidhan (belief in the Supreme or viewing the Supreme in all ).
The eight limbs of yoga, the asthanga, are as follows – yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharna, dhyan and samadhi.
Dharna is 1 pointedness where one is so concentrated on the object of concentration that all other ideas vanish.
Pratyahara is withdrawal from the senses. Continuous practice of asanas and pranayama brings you to pratyahara. All of the methods of meditation are pratyahara.
Samadhi is oneness with the world. Once one has crossed dhyan and attained Samadhi, the consciousness of ‘I’ disappears. There’s only oneness with the focus of your meditation, and finally with the world. At Samadhi the ego disappears and there’s a realisation that we are all linked.
Within Samadhi there is savikalpa samadhi where some seeds of ‘I’ are abandoned and there’s nirvikalpa samadhi where no seeds have been abandoned. In yoga the objective is to move towards nirvikalpa samadhi.
According to Patanjali the ultimate purpose of yoga is towards kewalya in which there isn’t any return from samadhi. This is the state of oneness with the world in which there is not any sense of self, no sense of’I’, no self and no comprehension of it to go back to. It’s merely a country where we realise how we are all connected and it’s a state of bliss as it is where we’ve overcome all of the attachments of the joys and pains that attachment to the material world brings. It is where we associate with the ultimate self and experience our natural state of bliss. It’s at this point where we’ve realised our authentic self through the practice of yoga.
Yoga goes beyond the mere practice of asanas, beyond even meditation and pranayama and actually brings us nearer to our first state of self realisation.
Yoga teaches us to go deeper within ourselves and within this deeper awareness there’s a excellent sense of shanti or peace we could all draw from. Ultimately as good yoga students it’s this feeling of peace within that we are all looking for.