Awakening a Greater Potential (Part 1)

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

To speak about yoga is to speak about kundalini yoga. In the last two or three decades yoga has become very popular because scientists and philosophers have interpreted yoga as yoga therapy. But therapy is a by-product, a side effect of yoga. That is not the main purpose of yoga. It is by no means that I criticize yoga therapy, because I teach yoga as yoga therapy. But we have to know the purpose and the theme of yoga. In this great country and by our great ancestors, yoga was discovered in order to discover the higher domains of man's evolution. By our ancestors' own experience and by their own methods of discovery, they could know that the human consciousness could be enlarged beyond the frontiers that are now known.

The subject of yoga

Therefore, for many, many centuries the subject of yoga was discussed and practised in this country and also in other countries for the discovery of higher consciousness which is dormant within the framework of individuals.

The awakening of spiritual powers, the transcendental or higher consciousness was the purpose of yoga that our ancestors spiritualised with their practices. These practices were known as yoga, of which hatha yoga is one path. It does not mean that hatha yoga alone represents the whole cycle of yoga. Raja yoga, jnana yoga, bhakti yoga, karma yoga, all these are forms and aspects of yoga. When I talk to you about yoga, I mean the whole of yoga, not one aspect of yoga.

In the last two or three decades we have been hearing from all over the world that yoga is a panacea. It can cure diabetes and hypertensions. There is no doubt about these things, but that alone is not the ultimate purpose, attainment or achievement that man has to go through. It is the very expression of man's incompetence to handle life and situations.

Once you are able to advance to the light, you are able to handle diseases. Diseases do not drop from the body, originate or live in the body, but they play a part. Disease comes up from the depth of the human personality, from the depths of human awareness.

Ida and pingala of hatha yoga

Let us see how yoga talks about it. Hatha yoga makes it very clear. It says there are two material forces in the form of shakti in this physical body. They are known as prana shakti and manas shakti, the vital power and the mental power. Everybody can understand it. You have light in your body first and therefore live, move and are able to act. You have a mind, you have thinking ability and you have awareness.

These are the two great forces also known in yoga as ida and pingala. These are the two main roads. Ida represents the mind in total. Pingala represents the stamina and vitality. Harmony between ida and pingala is harmony between manas and prana. Disharmony between ida and pingala means disharmony between manas and prana. Ida represents the mind, the consciousness and if ida represents the consciousness, prana represents the life.

These two forces interact with each other at every level of human existence. This harmony takes place between the two. When ida nadi, manas shakti, is predominant, the prana is subservient. The mental diseases show up in the body. When the prana is predominant, and the mind is subservient then the physical diseases come up in the body. These physical and mental diseases are known as adi and vyagi. Adi means psychic disorder and vyagi means physical disorder. When put together these two are known as psychosomatic disorders.

Third nadi

Ida and pingala are the two nadis that flow within the framework of the spinal column. These two nadis flow from the bottom of the spinal column to the top of the spinal column in the medulla oblongata behind the eyebrow centre. They distribute prana and consciousness. They distribute life and the thinking process throughout the body. Thinking is one of the most important processes of the body. Similarly prana is also life.

In between the two nadis ida and pingala there is a third nadi known as sushumna. Ida and pingala operate constantly. For one hour ida operates and for another hour pingala operates, simultaneously and singularly sometimes. Sushumna is a dormant nadi, there is no function. It is known as the sleeping consciousness in man.

With the advent of man the sushumna has come into existence. In all other living beings, sushumna is not present. With the evolution of this human brain and this human life, sushumna nadi has come into existence. Sushumna nadi flows from the bottom of the spinal column and goes right up to the top. There is no concern with the body. In time there is a psychic awakening, also known as dhyana awakening. Sushumna nadi is known by various names. Some say it is kundalini and others say it is Devi and Durga, but it is a force that awakens within the framework of sushumna nadi. The purpose of yoga is to awaken this sushumna.

Mild awakening

Thirty years back when I was living with Swami Sivananda, my guru, I was typing some of his articles on yoga asanas and pranayama. There was one passage that I had to type which stated, 'In sarvangasana awakening takes place in vishuddhi chakra.' I did not believe that so I went to him and asked him, "Asanas are physical in nature, Swamiji, and sushumna and kundalini are not physical in nature, so how can you say that sarvangasana awakens vishuddhi chakra?" He just said to me, "They give a mild awakening."

Years have rolled by and during these later years I have witnessed many fantastic scientific experiences on the awakening of chakras and have found that when you practise asanas there is an awakening in the chakras in the sushumna passage.

The electrical impulses can be registered when you practise sarvangasana, bhujangasana or sirshasana or any other asana, almost in all of them. During these postures scientists have recorded the electrical impulses issuing from these particular centres.

The lowest centre is mooladhara chakra and the highest is ajna chakra. In between these there is vishuddhi chakra, anahata, manipura and swadisthana chakra. Now, these chakras are psychic centres and awakening has to take place in these centres, and awakening takes place with the practice of asanas, pranayama, mudras and bandhas.

It is true that with the practice of dhyana yoga, meditation, awakening takes place with greater force. But the purpose of hatha yoga is to assist you to practise raja yoga in a more efficient way. There are people who believe that hatha yoga is merely physical in practice and has a physical effect. It is not so. Pranayama is not a physical practice and it is not a breathing exercise. It brings total purity, it brings total awakening in these nadis. So when we talk about the awakening of kundalini, we are talking about the awakening of sushumna. The purpose of all the yoga practices is to effect this awakening.

Another vehicle

In the last ten or twelve years while we have been teaching yoga in India and other countries, a lot of observation has been going on. In those days people used to believe that awakening of kundalini is something of a crazy experience. They said, "What is kundalini, oh you go crazy." But now the whole situation has changed. Man has different varieties of intelligence. There is a higher form of intelligence which can be expressed, and this intelligence is buddhi, it is chaitanya, it is guru, it is pragya.

Man can transcend the limitations and barriers of the mind. Our senses are limited. Our eyes can only see a particular distance. Our mind can think to a certain point, beyond that it cannot. That does not mean that man can go to that point and not go any further.

Is mind the ultimate boundary of man's vistas? Is mind the ultimate attainment of man? Is it not possible to go beyond mind? Is it not possible to exist without this mind and live a different life? In order to function in life you have one vehicle, the mind. You have another vehicle, the body and the senses. But can't you have any other vehicle? Should you travel only by bullock cart? Can't you take a train, a car or a boat?

In order to achieve things, in order to experience life, in order to know the dimensions of time and space, it is possible to do away with this vehicle and have another vehicle. What is that? That is what yoga talks about. What has happened to the west in the last twenty to thirty years? The thinkers there have come to the conclusion that man can have a much more efficient way than thinking through the mind.

—27 April 1980, Constitution Hall, Delhi, India

To be continued in YOGA, October issue.