More Light on Yoga

Speech by Swami Satyananda at Unitarian Church, Chicago, 1968

Yoga is not a new subject to all of you, but still some thing remains to be told about it.

It was thought for centuries and centuries that Yoga was a path, a form of religion. Therefore, people used to fear the path of Yoga, but this age old myth has been exploded by recent scientific investigations. People from all over the world are now trying to rediscover this lost heredity of mankind.

The latest researches and investigations have revealed the great potentiality of the Yoga methods, apart from the spiritual values, apart from the psychic phenomena, that Yoga can develop in man. The claims made about Yoga are rather miraculous and it appears that when psychology has failed Yoga will come to the rescue.

In psychology we have heard about different dimensions of consciousness. Also we know that the diseases and illnesses in the physical body originate from the depth of human personality, but what is the method by which one may be able to go deep into his own consciousness? There must be some method, there should be some method by which it would become possible for us to dive deep into the depth of our own personality and find the errors.

In Yoga we appreciate these different dimensions or states of consciousness. Through different techniques and different methods, we lay out an operation, we decide on the technique and the consciousness as a whole is comprehended. It is, therefore, in the mental disorders, in the psyche and in logical errors that Yoga can be safely utilized. After all the power is in us, it is not outside. It can be called peace, rest, tranquillity. These attributes are not imported from the outside, they are all within us. There should be a method through which we should be able to express our own self and it is in this context where the value of Yoga lies.

Yoga comes as a method through which we express or manifest the deeper reasons or realms of our personality. In the various techniques, various methods are to be employed.

It is also thought that Yoga is a path of renunciation. It is not so. It is an act through which we go inwards. It is a process of communion, to unite the two different and distant spheres of the personality. It appears that there is a great distance between the inner and outer personality. This distance between the two dimensions of our consciousness is the one reason why we are unhappy, why we float in ignorance.

The light is far off and we do not know which way to go through to it. It is not only as far as the spiritual life is concerned, it is always like that, in the daily life of everyone it is like that. The conscious mind and the super conscious state, they are so far from each other that we are never in touch with the super conscious state.

As you know, the human consciousness or the individual consciousness has three lower dimensions and the transcendental dimension. The three lower dimensions are termed the gross, the subtle and the causal. It may also be called conscious, sub-conscious and unconscious. Included in these three states of consciousness are the waking - the sensual dream, the astral - the sleep state and the unconscious state. These are the lower dimensions of our personality. But higher than these three and transcending all these three is the fourth one called super-consciousness - transcendental consciousness or Samadhi, as it is called in Yoga.

This state of consciousness, this state of awareness, can be achieved by everyone. It is a very difficult task, because the individual awareness finds it difficult to leave the centre of human gravity. Attachment, body consciousness, fear of death and so many other factors are there, which keep this individual consciousness bound to the lower plane. Even if you act for meditation, even if you are able to transcend the limitations of time and space, still you will have to come down to the centre of human gravity.

The conscious plane, in which we live, is the centre of gravity to which the mind comes back to again and again. Yoga is a technique through which we execute two methods, rather we accomplish two paths. One, to throw the mind into the depth of the personality; Two, to see that it does not return to the centre of gravity.

It is very easy to meditate. I can teach you meditation in about a week's time. Perhaps, if your practice becomes suitable, you may be able to have certain experiences within a few months. But please remember, the individual consciousness which leaves this conscious plane, this plane of senses, this plane of external experiences, immediately comes back, because it is so much used to the sense experiences, to the sense world. So there must be a method by which the attraction to the point of gravity can be cut off. It is only possible if your mind gains momentum, if it gains higher frequencies and a higher range.

In order to confer high frequency, the momentum in the mind, it is necessary that the mind must have certain practices followed by meditation. Therefore, in Yoga practices, it is not only meditation which is important but also it is the concept, it is the Yogic philosophy, that is important. Otherwise anybody, even an atheist, could meditate. An agnostic can meditate. He may not meditate on God but he can meditate on a star. He can meditate on a flower.

Yoga teaches us two things, the method through which we can elevate our consciousness very high and the method by which our consciousness can remain up. We are not tempted, we are not thrown back by anything. So the consciousness has to soar higher and higher. It goes on as if on a pilgrimage and during the pilgrimage, it passes through different regions of consciousness - the sub-consciousness, the unconsciousness and so on.

You may even feel, you may even understand, this is the journey of the soul, the journey of the individual awareness during the period of meditation. This life is a great pilgrimage, where you come across different cities, lawns, gardens, rivers, oceans, men, cultures, difficulties and pleasures.

It appears, and it is true, that in us there is not one universe, but there are many universes, in microcosmic form. It is also a fact that we are not only what we appear to be, there is another life in us. If I can express it this way: there is another life beyond the life, which we apparently see. There are many planes of life in us and each one more subtle than the previous one and each one broader than the previous one, more expansive.

This physical body, which is so short, is just the gross body. Behind this gross body, transcending this gross body, is the subtle body or the subtle sphere of consciousness, which is vaster than this, which is more powerful than this. This is why some people have been able to develop the subconscious body, the astral body, have been performing so many miracles. The great miracles that have been performed are clairvoyance, telepathy, psychomatri, they are just manifestations of the second layer of your consciousness. They are not the communication of the Highest Consciousness. They are the communications, they are the boon or rewards of the manifestation of the second layer, into which you can go any time you like, that is, if you like to do so.

The conscious mind is active. It operates through Buddhi, intelligence, intellect, reasoning, memory and by thinking, cognitating and by feeling. These are the four mediums, through this mind of this body, this conscious mind, this conscious body moves. There are four vehicles: the thinking, the reasoning, the remembering and the feeling. But in the super-conscious state it is not like this. Subconscious completely functions on the plane of samskaras, impressions of the mind.

When the intellect is completely withdrawn, at that moment in meditation, by constant practice of meditation, for months and weeks together, you develop the psychic personality. Rather than operating from the intellectual plane, you begin to operate from and through the subconscious plane. This is how the individual consciousness, Atman as it known in Hindu philosophy, the individual awareness, moves on, keeps on changing.

There is a stage when it passes through the unconscious and this, the unconscious state, is called the casual body. We call it the formless body. This unconscious body or this unconscious awareness, where there is no outer consciousness is actually a great force. Those who are able to develop this unconscious force or this unconscious awareness by patience, by persistent efforts and by constant meditation, they become what they call Siddhas or the perfect beings. They are able to control the elements, nature. This unconscious state may be said to be the lower manifestations of God.

The manifestation of this unconscious body is possible only through one method. That method is known as Kundalini Yoga. Those who have heard about Kundalini Yoga, know that it is a phenomena in which the snake rises up from the bottom plexus, Mooladhara Chakra. It is also said that this awakening of power from Mooladhara is the awakening of the unconscious force in the individual. At that moment the individual does not remain in his normal sense. He is completely out of from all forms of awareness. It is a difficult period and for that reason one needs an expert teacher who can guide the spiritual aspirant right through that difficult passage. When the individual awareness passes through this unconscious passage or this channel of unconsciousness, he, the individual awareness, does not know which way to go through, because there is absolute suspension of consciousness. As such there is one person, there is only one person, who can lead the aspirant through this dark lane. That man in Yoga is known as Guru. Guru is composed of two words in Sanskrit, Gu means darkness and Ru means dispelling. He who dispels the darkness. And this darkness is not the darkness in terms of ethics and morality, it is the spiritual darkness, a darkness which pertains to the state of individual awareness in the higher regions.

To talk of it in practical terms, if you sit down in meditation and hold on to a particular form, a symbol, your Guru or anything, if you keep on concentrating, if you succeed in concentration, so many things from your subconscious personality will come up. You will develop your second realm, the second part of your consciousness. Then if you keep on meditating for months and years together, there will come a period when concentration will completely slip into blankness. You will not know where you are and you will find a boundary, a wall. You will try every day to penetrate through that dark area. The moment you go there, you are unconscious half an hour, one hour, may be more or less, then you come out. You are able to go through the passage so long as conscious, semi-conscious, partially conscious or even if there is only a fraction of consciousness. But when you are unconscious, who to lead the individual awareness? If you are unconscious who will lead whom? There is no consciousness. There must be some conscious force who should lead that unconscious individual awareness through that dark pavement of unconscious state. Such a man, such a powerful man, is known as Guru.

Therefore in Yoga, the word Guru does not mean what we usually understand by the word here. In Western countries mostly, and sometimes in Eastern countries also, a person from whom you learn Asanas, he cannot be your Guru, I mean Hatha Yoga. A person from whom you learn Vedanta, he cannot be your Guru. Even if I give you the intellectual knowledge on different sciences, I am not your Guru, I am your teacher.

The Guru is a powerfull man who is able to penetrate into the depth of each disciple's consciousness. When the disciple is sitting in meditation and in the depth of unconsciousness, the Guru emerges. He just sprinkles the light of consciousness. Through the light, with help of that light, being guided by that light, the awareness of the disciple passes further, walking into that light, and then comes the final stage called super consciousness.

Super consciousness has nothing to do with the lower dimensions of consciousness. Super consciousness is beyond mind, all forms of consciousness, it is a state by itself, it is a world by itself where there is complete knowledge, where there is complete awareness.

Therefore, the purpose of Yoga is to expand, or rather the purpose of Yoga is to remove, the veil of ignorance. The purpose of Yoga is to remove the veil of ignorance which hides your consciousness, the real consciousness. As and when you keep on removing the veils, one after the other, the light shines, the light shines, the consciousness expresses itself.

This phenomena has been expressed differently in different religions, by different religious saints.

The purpose of Yoga is to develop the awareness in man and this awareness is already there in man, it is the heredity of every man.

Animals do not know what they are doing, but man knows what he is doing. I am giving you a discourse on Yoga and I know it. I am aware of it and I can remember it. This particular awareness is, of course, not complete awareness but a fraction of awareness. It is a part of awareness. The awareness through which you know that you are aware, this faculty is to be developed, point by point, stage by stage. Finally, this awareness, through which you are aware of what point is being discussed, this awareness through which you remember that you heard a speech on this and that, this awareness is to be developed through the practices of Yoga. The real purpose of human life is to experience this awareness and nothing else.

So far as eating, sleeping, fear complexes and procreation are concerned, they are common to all man and animals. But there is one thing, which is special in man and that is awareness. That awareness should de developed. Full development of awareness, in its fullness, is Samadhi. The development of awareness in all its fullness is God realisation. The development of awareness in all its infinite comprehension is called 'becoming one with God'. You may say communion with God and communion with God is Yoga.

The God of religions and the super conscious state of yoga are the same, they are not different. This is how it is explained and this is how we understand it. There can be no point of difference in this. What Yogis attain, the same religious people can attain, but it must be practiced. That is the difference. It is so difficult to be regular in your practice.

A lot of research has been done. People came forward with their prescriptions or recommendations. Prescriptions for the development of awareness to the Supreme, to attain Moksha or Nirvana or Samadhi or Kaivalya or God realization or God communion or maybe becoming an instrument of the divine spirit or the holy Ghost, anything it may be. They came with their prescriptions and one prescription was Bhakti Yoga, the Yoga of devotion.

Bhakti Yoga is not much different form the devotion of Christianity. There is a slight difference, in that they consider Kirtan, the singing of the name of god, continuously for hours together, sometimes for forty six hours at a stretch, to be one of the methods of getting in communion with that part of your personality. For twenty four hours they keep on singing continually and they go on with such great rhythm that sometimes many people will fall into a trance and they attain an ecstatic state.

But people have complaints that Bhakti Yoga has some limitations. Who has the time to sing continuously for twenty four hours? Who has that much of energy to sing with such ecstasy for twenty four hours? How many people are free from these kinds of limitations that they would go on singing for such a period of time? So this was one of the greatest limitations.

Then they get another recommendation. They said, you do Japa. Take a rosary and practice this rotation of consciousness. This has somehow sustained the challenges and the blows of all critics and even today, all over the world, millions and millions of people are continuing to practice this method. Therefore, I personally prescribe that this is one method through which you can, if not go beyond, you can at least transcend this consciousness. You can make a departure from the sense world. This method is called Japa. It has sustained the blow of the critics and it has met all the challenges with great success. It is called Japa Yoga.

But then some more people, who did not believe in God, who did not believe in the mantra and a revealed word of God, who did not feel that they should close their eyes and do the bead rotation in the early morning, they thought, 'what is the use of doing all these things? If we purify our hearts by service, sacrifice, by dedication, compassion detachment to all our fellow beings, do we not become pure? Do we not transcend the limitations of this mind? Do we not transcend the outer awareness?'

Especially in the Gita, you will find, again and again, that Karma Yoga has been emphasised. It is said work. Work for others without attachment, do not worry about the fruits of your actions. Serve all. Be compassionate and develop all the divine virtues that are possible. It is through this path, even without meditation, even without closing your eyes, you will see the development in your personality, from this normal individual personality to divine personality. You can attain the highest state, Godhood through Karma Yoga.

But everybody did not agree, because it is also a difficult path. How difficult is it to become compassionate? How difficult is it to be full of divine virtues? You cannot be that. The development of the divine virtues can take hundreds and thousands of years.

Then some people thought about another explanation. They came with the explanation of Vedanta and with it Swami Vivekananda brought the first message to the United States. The Self is one. We must keep on thinking that the Self is one, beyond the body. It is a philosophy by itself, but somehow, ultimately, this philosophy also failed because people thought that intellectual understanding, intellectual realization is not enough.

Even by knowing all about the conscious, the subconscious, the Super conscious states, we cannot attain it. If in a book it is written a hundred times water, water, water, by that book you cannot get water.

So finally people came to Raja Yoga. The Yoga of Patanjali. There is a beautiful book that he has written. English commentaries are available, written by various authors. But the one published by the theosophical society in Madras is complete in itself.

After Raja Yoga came through the east and the west people started practicing meditation, Asanas, Pranayama, purity in food, control in behaviour and many different kinds of techniques. As a result, the psychic movement in the west took place. Patanjali Yoga is very old. Even in books of Lord Buddha we find a clear cut reference to it. Lord Buddha himself practiced Patanjali's Yoga when he renounced. Earlier than that there are historical references to the texts of Patanjali. It should be not less than 500 to 600 years before Buddha and could date back over 3,000 years ago when this book came to existence. Even to this day, this is the only book which is considered to be the final exposition on Yoga. It only talks of one thing, isolate your awareness, the isolation of awareness from objective awareness, you isolate your awareness from objects. Finally your pure awareness remains free from objective experiences and that state is known as Samadhi.

In my opinion, Japa is allright, but one will have to practice Raja Yoga. This is the method through which, if you want to develop your psychic faculties, you can do so. One complete chapter is devoted on that. If you want to develop your spiritual awareness, not caring for your psychic personality or psychic faculty, you can do that as well. If you want conduct research on the psychic phenomena in man, then Raja Yoga will help you. If you do not want to attain Samadhi, if you do not want to attain Kaivalya, but if you just want to be a good man, a good member in the society, you can be that as well.

This Patanjali's Yoga in short, is divided into eight limbs, eight gradations or eight aspects, which can be practiced simultaneously. The first is discipline. The second is rules. The third is Asana - the postures, the fourth is Pranayama – the breathing. The fifth is Pratyahara, the method of withdrawal of the senses from the objects. The sixth is Dharana – to hold in the mind the form of image constantly i.e. concentration. The seventh is meditation, Dhyana and the eighth one is Samadhi - the final state.

What mistakes can we do when we practice Yoga? We practice only Yoga, we do not practice Raja Yoga because, by Yoga we always think, Samadhi and meditation, this is Yoga. If I ask you to practice a little Asanas and Pranayama you will immediately say ’no’, it is all physical, it is exoteric, I want to be esoteric. So many people lay all the emphasis on Hatha Yoga, and others completely decried: "It is not right”. I do not agree with those people who think that Hatha Yoga is everything in Yoga. At the same time it should be understood that these Asanas are not physical. They are not somatic. Though sometimes their effect may be seen in life as psychosomatic, they are purely psychic. In his book 'Yoga Asanas' Swami Sivananda has said this. Other writers on Yoga Asanas have said these things. By the practice of Sirshasana, migraine and headache will be cured. By the practice of this kriya, this disease will be cured. It is right, but diseases are not cured through Asanas. Diseases are cured by psychic healing.

One heals oneself, this truth will have to be told and this truth will have to be realised. When you practice sirshasana or pranayama or anything for the matter of that, healing does and will take place. Many diseases of the psychical body such as diabetes or high blood pressure can be cured. Any pathological doctor will agree to that. It is through sirshasana, it is true, that a fundamental change takes place in the psychic personality of man. That psychic personality has its base in the physical personality.

The pineal gland also gets affected and the pituitary gland undergoes a change. The endocrine glands in the system, thyroid, sex-hormones, pancreas and many more are affected. Those glands are influenced by the practice of Asanas. To give you an example of one Sarvangasana, the shoulder stand, brings about a condition, which stimulates the thyroid gland, the thyroid gland in turn has an effect on the whole nervous system. So, therefore, the disease is cured not because the thyroid gland begins to secrete extra fluid, but because through secretion of the thyroid gland, the nervous system was affected to a degree that it completely eliminates the diseases.

The nervous system is the link between the psycho and somatic, between the body and the mind, between the body the consciousness, it is the link that bridges both.

So the Asanas develop psychic awareness in man on the physical plane and by bringing about a change in the brain.

It is good idea that people practice Pranayama in this country, in the West, because your rooms are always closed, you are stuffed with bad air and you always feel lethargic. It is good to go in the open air and to practice Pranayama. By pranayama, you develop the power, the cosmic energy, the vitality or Prana as it is called, not the breath, but Prana – conscious energy, the vitality or Prana is developed throughout from the top to the toes, in the realm of the body and in the realm of the mind.

Pranayama should be practiced under the proper conditions. It is not possible that everybody can do all of these things. One has to learn the whole thing systematically. How the Pranas can charge the whole system? You will find even in the science of hypnotism, healing and other sciences then they have their own method of respiration and breathing and so on. Yoga has a system through which the inhalation is to be timed. There is a purpose behind this proportion. If you inhale one unit, you retain four times and you exhale two times. If you inhale for ten seconds, you retain for forty seconds and exhale for twenty seconds, because this purpose is immediately connected with the psychic phenomena.

Asanas and pranayamas are practiced but the other Hatha Yogic practices are not known in this country, and many people say to me, "Swamiji, I practice Hatha Yoga". I say that you practice Asanas and that is all. Hatha Yoga is not only Asanas. In Hatha Yoga there are six kriyas, the cleaning of the nose, the cleaning of the stomach, the cleaning of the intestines just like you do with the enema. The cleaning, the refreshing or energizing of the optic nerves, and also revitalizing Manipura chakra or the solar plexus. These are the six systems of Hatha Yoga. Asanas are just one point, one aspect of Hatha Yoga.

Also you might be surprised to hear that the word Hatha Yoga is not Yoga by force, but it means Yoga or communion of the two forces in man: lunar energy and solar energy. Ha and Tha in Sanskrit respectively mean the moon and the sun. Hatha Yoga does not mean a physical Yoga. Hatha Yoga does not mean the Yoga by force. Hatha Yoga means a technique by which you bring about a state of harmony between the two forces in the physical body, in the system, the lunar system and the solar system.

As such, the different methods of Yoga, Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Karma and Bhakti Yoga are practiced. But when you practice Raja Yoga it is necessary that so many of the conditions which are laid down by the teachers in the book should be followed as carefully as it is possible. And, whenever it is possible for you to reach a kind and benevolent Guru or teacher, study the whole subject of Raja Yoga from him. This much, in short, is a summary of Yoga for the development of your awareness.