Clearing – the First Step

From Raja Yoga Yatra 1, Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The firststep in yoga is clearing, just as the clogged drains of the house have to be cleared for the water to pass through. The dirt that has accumulated over months and years is blocking the flowof water and that has to be cleared. Therefore, the firstcondition in yoga is shuddhi, purification. Even hatha yoga begins with shuddhi kriyas, the shatkarma, not with asana. In raja yoga, the clearing has to take place in the mind, in all the four faculties of the mind. The four aspects of the mind are ahamkara, the ego; chitta, the memory, buddhi; the intelligence; and manas, the reflective power. They are blocked as they are influenced by the three gunas: tamas, rajas and sattwa.

Three forms of ahamkara: The tamasic ego is self-obsession, 'me and mine, me and mine'. It is the self-oriented awareness, the selfish attitude in life.

Self-projection and narcissism is the rajasic ahamkara. In Greek mythology there is the story of Narcissus, who would look at his refection in the water and say, 'How beautiful I am!' That is rajasic ahamkara. Facebook is nothing but an expression of the rajasic ahamkara. If you like Facebook, you will not want to agree with me, but the fact is that self-projection in any form is rajasic ahamkara.

Sattwic ahamkara is connection with the higher awareness, 'me and my God', 'me and my guru', 'Thy will be done'. The connection with that inspiration represents sattwic ahamkara. Thus, if there is a block in ahamkara, it will be in tamasic and rajasic ahamkara, and that has to be cleared.

Three forms of chitta: The tamasic chitta dwells upon negative memories. 'This person is like that, that person is like that, he had harmed me, he had screamed at me.' Dwelling upon your negative memories about people and situations, which may be due to your own impositions, is tamasic chitta.

The rajasic chitta highlights memories of your achievements and attainments. 'This year I climbed Mount Everest which nobody around me has done', so you think about it and feel happy.

The sattwic chitta consists of memories that inspire you. 'My moments with my God when I shared an apple with Him.' That is a positive memory!

Three forms of buddhi: The tamasic buddhi is inactive, dull, and shows lack of appreciation.

The rajasic buddhi is the application of the intellect to satisfy one's own needs. The manipulations and justifications constitute rajasic buddhi.

The sattwic buddhi sees the whole picture. 'This person is like this due to this situation, condition, event, or interaction.' When the sattwic buddhi is active, you have the full picture; it is not a reactive picture.

Three forms of manas: Tamasic manas has a low capacity for analysis and rationality. When tamasic manas is predominant, there is no learning. You could be hearing the same lesson for thirty years, but it will not go in.

Rajasic manas represents excessive analysis. 'Why did that person say that?' and the mind goes on a whirlwind trying to make out every possible scenario. This over-analysis is the rajasic manas. For example, when you look at somebody and smile, their rajasic manas kicks in: 'Why did that person look at me and smile? Am I alright? Is my hair okay? Is something off?' Why not just accept that the person was simply happy and therefore he looked at you and gave a nice cheerful smile? When you try to findthe reason behind every small thing, twisting your mind in a knot, you are under the influenceof rajasic manas.

Sattwic manas is the balanced analysis arriving at the right conclusion.

Pratyahara as mental shuddhi

The three conditions of the three gunas exist at all the levels of the mind: ahamkara, chitta, buddhi and manas. The tamasic and the rajasic conditions block the mind, they become the rubbish inside the head. Therefore, shuddhi has to be applied at all levels in yoga. Shuddhi does not denote merely physical purification but also mental purification.

Mental shuddhi is pratyahara. Just as physical shuddhi is shatkarma, mental shuddhi is pratyahara in raja yoga. Before you can reach the state of dharana, concentration, you have to attain mental shuddhi through pratyahara so that the energy can flow without obstruction or distraction.

The principles of pratyahara should be applied in your normal day-to-day routine and also in your yogic routine. Just as there is a set of fiveor six specificrules for yoga nidra, for every practice of pratyahara there are specificrules and conditions that definewhere you have to go, what you have to acquire and become, and what you have to release. If you follow them in a systematic way, not follow the whims of the mind but the path given by yoga, then in a few years' time you will see a beautiful butterflyemerging from the cocoon.

—24 October 2016, Raja Yoga Yatra 1, Ganga Darshan, Munger