This is the first time I am speaking publicly on laya yoga. It may not be the first time that you are hearing something on laya yoga and its various techniques, but what you will now hear from me will challenge your own convictions.
The Sanskrit word laya means dissolution, or melting into something. All the yogas should lead to a higher state where the dissolution of lower consciousness takes place. So, in a sense every yoga is laya yoga. Whether you practice pranayama or kriya yoga or meditation on God or your guru, when your individual consciousness merges into superconsciousness, it is in a state of dissolution, or it is in a state of laya. But laya yoga is still a yoga by itself and this must be understood.
Laya is different from samadhi or superconsciousness. In a superconscious state, one does not become unconscious. One does not lose one’s individual consciousness but remains completely aware of all that is happening inside as well as outside. On the path that leads to superconsciousness one has to proceed with great alertness so that one’s individual consciousness does not get suspended or dissolved. But in the practice of laya the individual consciousness is made to lose contact with the internal as well as the external.
The elements of prakriti, or the elements of nature, formed by the three gunas, sattva, rajas and tamas, bring about disturbances or movements in the patterns of human consciousness. There are two ways of combating this: either you transcend the gunas, transcend them so completely that you enter the level of superconsciousness, or you withdraw from them through laya and for some time you will be in meditation.
In laya yoga the centres in the physical brain, nervous system and the centres of consciousness within the brain are brought to a state of unconsciousness, consciously. You have complete and voluntary control over the process of dissolution of consciousness, that is of your ‘I’. Just as you are able to close the eyes, and open them, close them again, and open them again, in the same way the practitioner of laya yoga is able to manifest his consciousness outside in his daily life and at any time he can withdraw the whole consciousness and pass into complete unconsciousness and a state of dissolution.
So there are two types of yoga: one where nature or the gunas are transcended, and another where nature, prakriti or the three gunas in the patterns of consciousness or in the general body of consciousness, are dissolved. In a superconscious state you are aware of awareness, but in laya you are aware of unawareness. Superconsciousness is really difficult to achieve and it depends on your personal spiritual evolution, but this state can be forced on you. Through the practices of laya you can do this and bring about the desired changes in your physical, mental and spiritual condition. Laya is of course a very short-cut method which must be learned with a teacher so you don’t make mistakes.
Those who want to practice laya yoga must first prepare with hatha yoga. This is very important. I do not mean asanas and pranayamas. Classically, hatha yoga has nothing to do with them. Hatha yoga consists of a series of cleansing techniques to bring about a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
There are six systems: neti, basti, kapalbhati, dhauti, trataka and nauli. Neti is very important for the practitioner of laya yoga. It is not just cleaning of the nose, but it also acts to irrigate and cool the optical system, the frontal brain, the entire glottis and the whole mouth. By the practice of neti, whether you use water, a rubber catheter, milk, butter or clarified butter, you awaken a certain gland situated in the interior of your nose behind the mucous membrane. Dhauti is the process of drinking water and vomiting it out. Basti uses water as a form of cleansing bringing everything out through the anus thereby you clean your system so completely that finally you pass only the water you take in.
The next kriya is kapalbhati in which one hundred breaths are done at one stretch. After the hundred rounds you exhale completely, retaining the breath out, and practice moola bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha. Then do another one hundred rounds. Finally concentrate on chidakasha, the inner space which you see on the inner wall of your forehead. Generally kapalbhati is practiced incorrectly with very hard expulsions; this is not the method used in laya yoga. Practicing one hundred rounds of kapalbhati is extremely simple provided you know how to do it correctly. I think everyone does it every morning unconsciously whey they sniff to clean their nose. This is kapalbhati. If you practice kapalbhati you will discover that after one hundred rounds practiced thirty-six times, the mind merges. Kapalbhati should be practiced either in siddhasana or padmasana in order to maintain absolute control over the abdominal system. The body should not move. Your body should be like a statue. The kapalbhati breath must proceed very gently. You should do it gently for one hundred rounds and if you do it now you may achieve the first stage of laya here, in our Divine Life Society. But it is better, if you want to try it, to prepare for my next visit in August, and your preparations should start one month before.
There is another misunderstanding I would like to clear up. People think that moola bandha is the control or the contraction of the anus but it is not. It is contraction of the perineum. The complete name of moola bandha is ‘mooladhara bandha’. Mooladhara is a chakra or psychic centre and bandha means control. Ashwini mudra and moola bandha are two different methods, not one and the same. Ashwini mudra is the contraction of the anus, whereas mooladhara bandha is control of the perineum in the male body, and in the female body it is control over the lowest part of the uterus. You should practice mooladhara bandha first; then go on to kapalbhati.
Jalandhara bandha must also be learned properly where the chin is pressed against the chest, not standing but sitting in either lotus pose or siddhasana. I am telling you the correct techniques with reference to laya yoga, and in your daily practice you may do what you like. In this way jalandhara bandha will bring about total control of the thyroid gland, which is necessary for the practice of laya yoga.
There is also a definite process for Practicing trataka, according to which you look at a candle flame, crystal or a black dot. Even if you practice trataka only for curing eye trouble or for curing your insomnia, it should be done correctly. Some, when Practicing trataka, see hell, monsters, ghosts and such terrible things that they stop altogether. They suppose these manifestations to be actually real, but in fact they are just an expression of what is suppressed within. Therefore you should practice trataka according to the right system so you do not develop psychic explosions. Though your eyes are open you see nothing in front of you, and the perception of the object disappears in toto.
The most important hatha yoga practice is nauli. Nauli is intended to recharge and awaken the navel centre, solar plexus, or manipura chakra, which is vital in laya yoga.
When you have completed your practice of hatha yoga you are ready for laya yoga. Only when there exists a complete balance of ida and pingala, the mental and vital energies, or the nervous systems in the physical body are you ready for laya yoga. Otherwise you will probably get nervous imbalance from your practice of laya yoga and a sort of schizophrenia. Only the practice of hatha yoga brings the right balance, harmony and equilibrium in these two great nervous systems, and if you feel you can get along without hatha yoga and do not practice, the nervous imbalance of the sympathetic or the parasympathetic system will certainly manifest in laya yoga. Either you will become an idiot or extremely violent.
Once you have achieved a balance in your nervous system, the practice of laya yoga involves a very important exercise that creates a state of total unconsciousness – voluntary unconsciousness. For this you must practice vajroli and two pranayamas known as moorchha and surya bheda pranayama.
For vajroli sit in siddhasana or in the lotus pose and close your eyes. First concentrate on the lowest part of the abdomen. Now contract your body in this area and go on contracting slowly so that the sexual organs are drawn upwards and pulled in. Do this stage by stage, starting with the pelvic region and slowly working upwards. Then release it as gradually as you withdrew it. Again you repeat the process. Vajroli should be practiced while retaining breath internally, in antar kumbhak, so you breathe in and retain the breath. But it is very important that jalandhara bandha or chin lock is performed at the same time. Continue Practicing this mudra, vajroli, as long as is practical for you or for as long as you have time.
After vajroli, practice moorchha and surya bheda pranayamas. You should remain seated throughout the whole of this practice. Next in your laya practice you should do a kriya known as naumukhi in the tantric system. After naumukhi you do another kriya, also part of the tantric system, but I cannot tell it to you at this stage. When you have done these two kriyas for about ten minutes with eyes closed, you make a sound that must end with humming. It cannot be just the name of God. Chant Om for instance and go on humming Ommm, Ommm. The mmm should be maintained continuously for half an hour or for as long as is possible. It is while humming Om that you lose individual consciousness, and will be aware you have become unconscious. You will have complete knowledge of the whole fact of unconsciousness taking place, but you will be unaware you are humming Om. To any spectator it will sound as if you are groaning gently and it will be a very mild sound because your consciousness is now dissolving.
When you sleep at night in deep slumber, it is laya yoga also, but in that slumber state of laya, the brain and mind and consciousness are in a submerged condition. They are not stimulated, awake. However in actual laya yoga, the brain and consciousness are awake at a very high level when unconsciousness takes place, and laya really begins here. The laya state is no different from kundalini yoga, as there are many methods that can be practiced and taught for the dissolution of individual consciousness at a very high level. When we say that an ordinary man sleeps on a bed but the yogi sleeps in heaven, we mean that the ordinary man becomes unconscious at a very low level of consciousness, whereas a laya yogi becomes unconscious at a very heightened and evolved level of his consciousness.
There are clear guidelines for the practice of laya yoga regarding preparation, diet and many minor instructions which I shall not discuss. But I will mention that laya yoga should not be practiced by unmarried persons, and if you are not married and you want to practice laya yoga you should marry first, and then practice it. You will have to unburden the posterior pituitary from those congested progesterone and oestrogen hormones and eliminate them so that the flower opens. There are certain toxins in the system, not only in the stomach, blood, heart, lungs, but also in your nervous system and brain. You have to eliminate all those toxins. It is only then that laya yoga is going to bring that serenity and total homogeneous dissolution. I teach laya yoga, but I never teach it to those who are celibate.
In the scriptures laya yoga is talked about with great respect, but laya yoga has one great disadvantage, and that is it takes you away from the self because it develops supernatural and extrasensory qualities in you. It may be due to the practice of kapalbhati, moorchha pranayama or vajroli, but laya definitely develops some of the ultrasonic or parapsychological brain centres, and siddhis are developed. All psychic powers, whether they are high or low in nature, divert the attention of human consciousness from the higher self, and siddhis constitute the greatest barrier. Therefore, laya yoga should only be practiced with a guru and in his presence.
—Divine Life Society, Paris 1970. First published in YOGA Vol. 11, No. 12 (December 1973)