YOGA - Practical Disciplines for Knowing the Self
The word Yoga (Y in short) is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means ‘to unite’. Y system provides a methodology for expanding one’s individual consciousness to universal Consciousness. There are various schools of Yoga – example Bhakti Y, Jnana Y, Karma Y and Kundalini Y. But in this chapter only Patanjala Y will be reviewed because it is the most comprehensive school of Y. Patanjali was the first sage to systematize the philosophy and practice of Y. His work is known as Patanjala Yoga Sutra. There are profound commentaries on this text, Vyasa’s being the most ancient and profound.
The Y system is highly practical, it discusses the nature of mind, its modifications, impediments to growth, afflictions and the method for attaining the highest goal of life – kaivalya (absoluteness). Since this method is described in eight steps it is also called Astanga Yoga, the eightfold path.
The Yogic View of Mind
According to Patanjali, Y is the control of the modifications of the mind. The mind leads a person to bondage or liberation, is the link between the consciousness and the physical body. For this reason Patanjali places great emphasis on the study of the mind and provides for all possible means to control its modifications and unfold its power for higher attainment.
Theoretically, the Y system is based on the same tenets as Samkhya philosophy and it also assimilates the teachings of Vedanta. In the Samkhya philosophy, the mind is categorized into three functions or parts, lower mind, ego and intellect. In Vedanta the mind is divided into four parts lower mind, ego, intellect and citta or the storehouse of memories. In Y, however, the mind is studied holistically and the term citta is used to denote all the fluctuating and changing phenomena of the mind. According to Y, the mind is like a vast lake, on the surface of which arise many different kinds of waves. Deep within the mind is always calm but one’s own thought patterns stir it into activity and prevent it from realizing its true nature. The more one is able to calm one’s thought patterns, the more the inner state of the mind is unveiled. It is not very difficult to calm down the thought patterns on the surface of the lake of mind, but it is very difficult to calm those thought patterns that arise from the bottom. Memories are like time bombs buried in the lakebed that might explode and disturb the entire lake.
There are two main sources for the arising waves of thoughts, sense perceptions and memories. When the lake is clear one can see the bottom of the lake, likewise when ones thought patterns are quieted, one can see the innermost potentials hidden deep within the mind. Because the mind is an evolute of Prakriti (see the previous chapter on Samkhya philosophy) it is composed of the elements of sattva, rajas and tamas. The relative proportion of these three qualities determines the states of citta, the mind.
Five Stages of Mind - The mind is described in five stages, disturbed – ksipta, stupefied – mudha, restless – viksipta, one-pointed – ekagra and well-controlled – niruddha. The predominance of rajas and tamas causes the mind to be disturbed. Rajas makes it hyperactive while tamas makes it loose the quality of discrimination. In the second stage, the mind is dominated by tamas, which means by inertia, sleep, ignorance, sleep and lethargy. Here the mind looses its ability to think properly and becomes negative / dull. In the restless stage there is a predominance of rajas, the mind runs from one object to another but never stays anywhere consistently.
These three stages are negative and act as constraints in the path of growth. At this level one experiences pain and misery but the next two stages are more calm and peaceful. In the one pointed state there is a predominance of sattva, the lighter aspect of Prakrti. This is a tranquil state near to complete stillness in which the real nature of things are revealed. This is conducive to concentration and the aim of the Y system is to develop or maintain this state of mind for as long and as consistently as possible. In the well-controlled state of mind there is a pure manifestation of sattvic energy. When all the modifications cease and the state of stillness is acquired, then Purusa (Consciousness) sees its real nature reflecting from the screen of the mind.
The Modifications of the Mind - The Y system categorizes the modifications of the mind into five classes: valid cognition, invalid cognition, verbal cognition, sleep and memory. All thoughts, emotions and mental behaviors fall into any one of these five categories which are further sub-divided into two major types, those that cause afflictions – klista and those which do not cause afflictions – aklista. False cognition and sleep always cause afflictions. Valid cognition and memories (depending on their nature) are not considered to be the causes of affliction.
The sources of valid cognition are perception, inference and authoritative testimony which have been described in the earlier chapter on Samkhya philosophy. False cognition is ignorance or avidya. Ignorance is mistaking the impure for the pure, misery for happiness etc. Ignorance has four offshoots i.e. asmita which is generally defined as I-am-ness, raga or attachment, dvesa or hatred and abhinivesa or fear of death which is the urge of self-preservation.
Verbal cognition is the attempt to grasp something that does not exist but is one’s own projection for eg the fantasy of marrying a winged fairy and together flying off to a paradise.
Overcoming the Modifications - The modifications of the mind are causes by nine conditions namely sickness, incompetence, doubt, delusion, sloth, nonabstention, confusion, nonattainment of the desired state and instability in an attained state. These disturb the mind and produce sorrow, dejection, restlessness and a unrhythmic breathing pattern. Yoga provides a method for overcoming these problems. Patanjali says that the mind and its modifications can be controlled through practice – abhyasa and detachment – vairagya. The former means a particular type of effort through which the mind maintains stillness. Methods of practice would be discussed in conjunction with the eight limbs of yoga. The latter or vairagya does not mean to detach the world, rather it means to eliminate identification with the evolutes of nature and to understand oneself as pure Self, as a self-illuminating conscious being.
Patanjali also describes another method, called Kriya Y to help students attain a higher consciousness while dealing with the restless mind. Kriya yoga, which means the yoga of purification, is a three-fold discipline composed of the practice of austerity, study of scriptures and surrender to God. Austerity does not mean torturing the body or suppressing thought patterns, rather it means practicing choice or control in selecting actions that will be helpful in attaining liberation. The greatest austerity is to perform one’s duties skillfully without any intention of enjoying the fruits of action. Study of Scriptures helps one discover ways he can deal with effectively with himself and explore all his potentials within and without. It also includes self-study and japa (repetition of a mantra). When one can perceive all activities as part of a grand ritual that is being performed on the altar of life in the worship of Divinity, the actual practice of surrender to God begins. There remains only love for all creatures which radiates its light of bliss and knowledge in every mental and physical action.
The Eightfold Path of Yoga
Different paths like Karma Y, Bhakti Y, Jnana Y, Kundalini Y, Mantra Y, Hatha Y and so on are not mutually exclusive but merely emphasize different aspects and are interconnected likes spokes of a wheel. Patanjala yoga, a highly scientific path, combines many different practices in a systematic way through which one can develop voluntary control over one’s desires, emotions, thoughts, body and subtle impressions that lie dormant in the unconsciousness mind.
The eight limbs of Patanjala Yoga
1. Yamas (five restraints)
Ahimsa or nonhurting.
Satya or nonlying.
Asteya or nonstealing.
Brahmacharya or sensory control.
Aparigraha or nonpossessivenss.
2. Niyamas (five observances)
Sauca or purity.
Santosa or contentment.
Tapas or zeal
Svadhyaya or Study part of Kriya Yoga
Isvara pranidhana or Surrender part of Kriya Yoga
3. Asana (posture)
4. Pranayama (control of vital force)
Prana, apana, samana, udana, vyana.
Paths 1 to 4 are part of HATHA YOGA.
5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses).
6. Dharana (concentration). part of Samyana
7. Dhyana (meditation). part of Samyana
8. Samadhi (spiritual absorption). part of Samyana
According to my email Guru, a learned exponent of Vedanta, the Ten Commandments in the Bible are nothing but the yamas and niyamas. According to Patanjala yoga, attachment to worldly objects is the archenemy of the individual who wants to understand the inner self.
1. Yamas (restraints) - to fulfill the above conditions, Patanjala Yoga begins by prescribing an ethical code designed to calm one’s relationship with oneself and others. The five yamas replace imperfections with virtues and together make up a code of social and moral laws that regulate one’s relationship with others.
Ahimsa - literally means non-injury or non-violence. Generally one thinks of non-violence as merely restraining from physical act of violence, but in Yoga scriptures nonviolence is to be practiced through thought, speech and action. Actually, the real practice of nonviolence necessitates expressing a spontaneous flow of all-encompassing love. Thus, the core teaching of ahimsa reveals the light of unity in all creation and teaches one how to expand his personality.
Satya - truthfulness is the most important morality and social law. According to Patanjala yoga, one should be truthful to oneself and to others in thought, speech and action. The field of truthfulness is very vast and encompasses every aspect of life. The Yoga student is taught to speak what he thinks and to do what he says. By Satya he gains inner strength through which he casts away the insecurity in his life.
Asteya - nonstealing provides a great opportunity for the practice of nonattachment and nonposseivesness. Such a person whatever he has as sufficient and does not allow himself to disturb social peace and harmony in order to attain desired objects by illegitimate means. The Yoga system advises that nonstealing be practiced mentally, verbally and physically. An honest writer writes original thoughts, and if some material is borrowed from others, the author honestly and respectfully gives references.
Brahmacarya - literally means to walk in Brahman. One who dwells in Brahman is called a brahmachari. The word brahmachari is commonly translated as sexual abstinence but celibacy is only a partial explanation of this word. Sexual continence in itself is not the goal; the goal is to control the senses in order to achieve deeper levels of awareness. Patanjala Yoga takes brahmacarya in a wider sense to mean selectively performing only those activities that are helpful in achieving the highest goal of life. Such a state of consciousness is only possible if the mind is free from all sensuous desires, including the sexual urge, which is the most powerful and can be destructive if not directed or channeled properly. Sensual activity in excess also leads to loss of vital energy that could be utilized for the attainment of higher consciousness. For achieving this goal Y advises one to organize all the sensuous forces and to utilize them in a beneficial way.
Aparigraha - nonpossessiveness is misunderstood to mean denying oneself all material possessions, but the word actually indicates an inward attitude rather than an outward behavior. The feeling of possessiveness is an expression of dissatisfaction, insecurity, attachment and greed. One who desires for more continuously can never be satisfied. Non-possessiveness does not mean that one must not plan for the future or that one should give away all one’s money, it simply means that one must not be attached to what he has.
2. Niyamas (five observances) - regulate one’s habits and organize the personality, allows a person to be strong physically, mentally and spiritually.
Sauca - refers to both physical and mental purity. The former protects the body from diseases while the latter prevents mental energy from being dissipated. Mental purity depends on positive thinking, mindfulness and discrimination. The Y system plays emphasizes on mental purity because concentration and inward exploration are impossible without it.
Santosa - contentment is a mental state in which even a beggar can live like a king. Santosa does not mean one should be passive or inactive, for the practice of contentment must be coordinated with selfless action,
Tapas - austerity means generation of heat which is a symbol of strength, purity, light, knowledge and those actions that generate heat, strengthen will power and enlighten the heart are known as tapas. The Bhagavad Gita states that Y is not for one who indulges neither the flesh nor one who tortures it. In practicing tapas, one is advised to inspire oneself with spiritual warmth, to burn with zeal for enlightenment. A simple life free from sensuous indulgences, a regulated diet and the performance of all one’s actions in the service of humanity are a part of the practice of asceticism.
Svadhyaya - includes studying the scriptures, listening to saints and sages and observing lessons from one’s own experiences. One must select only the gems of the teachings from available sources and then assimilate them into his own philosophy of life. If one were not selective in the study of scriptures it would mean reading lots of books thereby leading to mental conflict. The skillful study of reliable scriptures enhances one’s understanding and gradually leads to the unfoldment of his potentials.
Isvara pranidhana - surrender to the Ultimate Reality is the highest method for protecting oneself from the enemies of attachment, false identification and the idea of doership. Surrender is possible, however, only with infinite faith and dedication. Ego is the greatest barrier resisting such complete surrender, but when one begins to feel and realize the ever-flowing knowledge and peace from the Ultimate Reality, he starts to surrender his ego and eventually become free from all passions.
The Y system does not suggest forcing oneself to master these restraints and observances but encourage one to be gentle in practicing them as sincerely as one can. They can help calm one’s mind, prevent the mind from being distracted and help the body regain its physical strength. Y places importance on them while advising the practice of other practical yogic disciples as well.
3. Asanas or Posture - ensure physical health and mental harmony. They are used in conjunction with the yamas and niyamas and other limbs of Patanajala Y, for without the other elements of the system, mere physical exercise cannot provide the desired benefits. Nowdays, a number of students do not understand this, thus, yogic postures have largely degenerated into a system of physical culture. The aim of Y is however, attainment of spiritual goals, to attain the highest state of samadhi. That is why Y places great importance on the meditative postures, which enables one to sit comfortably and steadily for a long time with the head, neck and trunk properly aligned.
The postures are broadly divided into two categories, one for physical well-being and two postures for meditation. There are eighty-four classical postures, but only four of these are suggested for practice & meditation. These are sukhasana – the easy pose, svastikasana – the auspicious pose, padmasana – the lotus pose and siddhasana – the accomplished pose. In all meditative postures, the emphasis is on keeping the head, neck and trunk straight. The physical postures are designed to enhance physical well-being, suppleness and control. They activate specific muscles, organs, glands and nerves, and provide specific therapeutic effects. In the Y system complete physical harmony is considered to be an essential prerequisite for achieving one-pointedness of mind. Thus asanas are preparatory training for the higher rungs of Y.
4. Pranyama - Control of the Vital Force - After practicing physical exercises the student becomes aware of a deeper level of personality – prana, the life force functioning in the body. The word prana is derived from the Sanskrit toot ana and the prefix pra. Ana means to animate or vibrate and pra means ‘first unit’. Thus prana means ‘the first unit of energy’.
This vital force animates all the energies involved in the physical and mental processes, and thus it is prana that sustains and activates the body and mind. Later writings of Y explain a highly advanced science of prana, which yogis claim establishes the link between body and mind and vitalizes both. Because the breadth is the grossest manifestation of this vital function, the science of prana is also called the science of breath. Continuous regulation of the breath strengthens the nervous system and harmonizes all mental activities.
Yoga texts say that prana is the creator of all substances and the basis of all functions. The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says that the thread of prana (vayu) runs through and holds together the whole universe. This thread is the cause of the creation, sustenance and destruction of all substances in the world. As long as prana is in normal condition, the cells and tissues remain healthy and perform their functions properly, but the moment its vitality starts decreasing, the cell begins to decay. The intrinsic nature of prana is to be active and to move, and this is the very quality that distinguishes the organic world from the inorganic. Life begets life from the life force prana, it is because of this life force that cells live and multiply, transmitting the same vitality to new cells and tissues. Prana is the link between individual and cosmic beings. The breath is the thread through which prana travels from the cosmos to the individual and vice versa.
Depending on its function in different organs, prana is divided into ten types. They are prana, apana, samana, udana, vyana, naga, kurma, krkala, devadatta and dhananjaya. Of the ten, the first five are most important.
Prana - here is used to designate a specific type of prana, the vital force of inspiration. In this context the word prana means ‘ that which draws or takes in’. The life force that receives fresh cosmic vitality from the atmosphere, activating the diaphragm, lungs and nostrils is called prana. The head, mouth, nostrils, chest (heart and lungs), navel and big toes are said to be the centers of prana. This important vital force resides in the brain and governs the functions of the senses and the process of thinking. Primitive instincts, emotions, intelligence, self-control, memory, concentration and the power of judgment are manifestations of prana. As long as the prana is in normal state, all the organs function properly. Bodily toxins, intoxicants, malnutrition, fatigue and mental shocks disturb the vital force. When the vitality of the mind starts to decay due to such conditions, then higher abilities such as intelligence, memory, concentration and patience begin to diminish and the lower instincts or emotions become predominant.
In the cosmos and in the body there is a continuous flow of solar and lunar energy, also referred to in Y texts as positive and negative energy, as pitta and kapha, fire and water, light and darkness. When prana is predominated by solar energy, it is active and the right nostril is open. But when lunar energy predominates, it is passive and left nostril is open. The flow of prana through the right or left nostril provides specific conditions and changes in mood and behavior.
Apana - is the excretory vital force. Expulsive movements occurring in the bowels, bladder, uterus during defecation, urination, menstruation and all other kinds of excretions are due to the function of apana. The penis, anus, thighs, ribs, root of the navel and the abdomen are said to be the abode of apana. When the excretory vital force which functions through the thoracic and abdominal muscles, is disturbed, then symptoms such as sneezing, asthma etc are observed.
Samana - is the digestive and assimilating force that makes food suitable for absorption and then assimilates it. This vital force is seen in the entire body. Because of samana’s presence in the skin, vitamin D can be absorbed from the ultraviolet rays of the sun. The region between the heart and the navel center is predominantly involved in the digestion of food, and this part of the body is considered to be the main center of this vital force. Absence of this assimilating force results in nervous diarrhea or retention of urine, constipation etc.
Udana - means ‘ energy that uplifts’. It is the force that causes contraction in the thoracic muscles, thereby pushing air out of the vocal cords. It is thus the main cause of the production of sound. All physical activities that require effort and strength depend on this vital force. It is said to be situated in the larynx, the upper parts of the pelvis, all the joints and the feet / hands.
Vyana - is the contractile vital force. It pervades the whole body and governs the process of relaxing and contracting the voluntary and involuntary muscles. It is involved in the opening and closing of the eyes and glottis. The ears, neck, eyes, anjles, nose and throat are said to be the vital force in the body.
Food and breath are the main vehicles through which prana enters the body. One can live a few days without food but not without breath. This is why the Y system places so much stress on the science of breath. The regulation of the movement of the lungs purifies and strengthens the nervous system, which coordinates all the other systems of the body. Yogis have developed a most intricate and deep science related to the nervous and regulatory systems. The science of breath is related to subtle energy channels called Nadis.
According to the yogis, the body is essentially a field of energy of which a large part is dormant. With the help of pranayama a student can unveil that energy field, expand it and channel it to explore higher levels of consciousness. Yogic texts say ‘ One who knows prana knows Veda’s highest knowledge’. The science of prana and breath are thus of central importance in the Yoga system.
According to Patanjali, pranayama means to regulate and refine the flow of inhalation and exhalation. He does not advise the practice of pranayama until one has achieved a still and comfortable posture. Posture that removes physical tension and provides stillness are therefore prerequisites to pranayama. He lists four kinds of pranayama - external – bahya vrtti in which the flow of prana is controlled during the exhalation, internal – abhyantara vrtti in which the flow of prana is controlled during inhalation, and intermediate – bahya-bhy-antara-visayaksepi in which the other two pranayamas are refined and the fourth – caturtha in which pranayana is transcended. The first three pranayamas must be regulated within space and time, but the fourth is highly advanced and transcends these limitations.
When the internal and external pranayama become very subtle, then, because of intense concentration in a relaxed state, one loses awareness of time and space, and thus the fourth pranayama happens automatically. In this state the breath is so fine that an ordinary breathing movement cannot be observed. The first four stages of Y discussed so far, yama, niyama, asana and pranayama are collectively known as Hatha Yoga.
5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the Senses - is a technique through which a student acquires the ability to voluntarily draw his attention inward and keep his mind from distractions (external objects). Patanjali describes Pratyahara as the withdrawal of the senses from their objects and their establishment in the mind. The senses are constantly wandering from one object to another, and the mind also wanders with them, although the mind is subtler than the senses. The senses are the vehicles of the mind as it travels but the mind is the master of the senses because without it, the senses could not contact or experience any objects. Withdrawal of senses actually means withdrawal of the mind.
Relaxation is actually the practice of pratyahara. When one wants to relax a limb of his body, he simply disconnects the communication of the mind and the senses to that particular limb. This is called releasing of tension. When one has mastered relaxation in this way, he attains perfect control over the senses and mind, there is no scattering of forces of the senses & mind and one enters a state of concentration.
6. Dharana – Concentration - having withdrawn the senses and the mind from external objects, the mind must then carry a single thought pattern in a desired direction. Concentration, is the process through which one withdraws the mind from all directions and focuses its powers for further journey inward. To facilitate this process, one selects a suitable object for concentration, such as a mantra – form – center in the body to name a few. In daily life one unconsciously concentrates in many ways. In extreme happiness or sorrow, the mind becomes concentrated on a single thought pattern. But such concentration is motivated by emotion, instinct or impulse and is therefore not considered to be yogic concentration.
There are four factors that are helpful in bringing the mind to a state of concentration. One is developing interest in the object on which one wants to concentrate. With interest attention can be developed. Two is Practice. Regular repetition of definite techniques and processes that help the mind to flow spontaneously without a break helps form the habit of concentration. Three using the same straight, steady and comfortable seated posture every time one practices and using a smooth, deep and regular diaphragmatic breathing pattern helps one keep the mind and body calm yet alert. Four a calm mind is necessary because an emotionally disturbed mind cannot concentrate. An attitude of detachment from external objects and of witnessing one’s own physical and mental activity calms the mind and develops emotional maturity.
When a student practices concentration, he is advised not to exert undue effort because effort leads to tension and tension disturbs the nervous system and senses / mind.
There are various kinds of concentration, gross and subtle, outer and inner, subjective and objective. According to Vyasa’s commentary on the Yoga Sutras, one can concentrate internally on some point within the body such as the cardiac center, the base of the bridge between the nostrils or the tip of the tongue or any selected object. Using a mantra or the breath for the object of concentration is considered to be the best method of learning to focus the mind one-pointedly in preparation for attaining a meditative state.
In the words of Swami Rama “Without concentration energy of the mind is dissipated in vague thoughts, worries and fantasies. A disciplined man expresses himself more clearly through concentration; a man of ordinary intellect with highly developed concentration is more creative than a highly intellectual man of poor concentration. Through concentration a direct link with the cosmic mind is established so that the mind can attend to several things simultaneously. Concentration is no substitute for labor or action, but it does assist the individual in gaining unique experiences and truths hidden in the deeper recesses of the mind.
Patanjali gave elaborate treatment to the science of concentration, for he realized its utility in calming an agitated mind. Modern scientists now concur with his view and are convinced that only through concentration can one gather together scattered forces and emotions and resolve conflicts. With steady practice the nervous system and the mind are relaxed, and the mind becomes steady, one-pointed and free from the shackles of desire. The aspirant is thus led, through concentration, to the superconscious state where he experiences the bliss divine”.
7. Dhyana - Meditation - is an advanced state of concentration in which one single object of concentration flows without interruption. In this state, the mind becomes fully one-pointed, and this one-pointedness starts expanding into a superconscious state. Ultimately there comes a state of samadhi – complete spiritual absorption. This is a spontaneous expression of the unbroken flow of Supreme Consciousness.
The process of withdrawal of senses, concentration and meditation can be compared to a river that originates when many small streams gather and merge into one large flow of water. The river then flows through the hills and valleys without being stopped by bushes and rocks, and it then finds the plains, where it flows smoothly, passing through forests and villages until it reaches its final destination and merges with the sea. So is the process of meditation. At the initial stage, the senses and mind are withdrawn and made one-pointed. Then that one-pointed mind flows constantly towards one object without being distracted by petty emotions, thoughts, memories and anxieties. Then it enters into the smooth, uninterrupted flow of the meditative state in which siddhis (supernatural powers) are experienced. These are analogous to the villages through which the river flows undistractedly. At last the mind ultimately enters Samadhi and merges with the ocean of Supreme Consciousness.
8. Samadhi – Spiritual Absorption - The word samadhi is closely related to the word samahitam which means ‘the state in which all questions are answered’ or ‘ the state in which one is established in one’s true nature’. Out of curiosity regarding the basic questions that the mind wants to solve, the mind flirts from one thought to another and becomes restless. But the moment the mind finds its answers, it has no reason to wander and thus it naturally establishes itself in its true nature. Then the mind is in a state beyond the concept of language in which it is accustomed to think and produce modifications.
Samadhi is a state beyond thinking and feeling in which individual consciousness expands and becomes one with the Supreme Consciousness. In this state, the individual soul merges into the Supreme Soul, casts away all limitations and causations and enjoys eternal bliss and happiness. It is not a state of dissolution of individuality but rather of the expansion of individuality. When individual consciousness expands to its fullest, that is called Samadhi.
In different Y traditions, this state is called soundless sound, the state of sound, or the highest state of peace and happiness. There are two states of Samadhi - sabija and nirbija. The former means samadhi ‘with seeds’. In this state, the sense of individuality is retained and the seeds of desire and attachment still remain in latent form. Here the Yogi realizes the Truth while a sense of ‘I’ as different from that realized Truth is maintained. In the latter the individual consciousness is completely united with the Supreme Consciousness. Here the yogi expands the sense of ‘I’ and becomes one with the realized Truth within. This state of Samadhi with the state of dreamless sleep or death. In dreamless sleep there is a predominance of inertia (tamas) but samadhi is state beyond the concept of all the three gunas.
Samyama - Patanjali used this term to describe the combined state of concentration, meditation and samadhi. According to Patanjali, one can achieve whatever wants to though the practice of samyama because it expands human potentials and allows one to explore higher and higher states of consciousness. Through the practice of samyama it is said that one can develop supernatural powers or perfections called Siddhis, which are described in the third chapter of the Yoga Sutras.
Because the body is a miniature presentation of the cosmos, whatever exists in the cosmos is present in the body. Microcosm and macrocosm being one, an individual can thus have access to the powers of the universe. The practice of samyama upon any object brings perfection regarding that object. By practicing samyama on latent mental impressions (samskaras), for eg, one can realize their content and achieve knowledge of previous births. By the practice of samyama on the throat center, one can eliminate hunger and thirst or by its practice on the naval center, one can understand one entire’s physiology. By the practice of samyama on the distinction between Purusha and Prakrti, one can attain knowledge of Purusa, the Supreme Consciousness.
Many other kinds of supernatural powers, such as super powers of sight, sound; smell, lightness, greatness and lordship are also mentioned. One who attains these partial perfections still has to go beyond their charms and temptations to establish himself in the state of perfect bliss and happiness beyond these siddhis. Constant awareness and the grace of the guru and God, who are one and the same in Yoga, help one to cross these stages.
As Swami Rama says “ The transition from the one-pointedness of the conscious mind to expansion into the superconscious is possible, however, only through the grace of the guru, and without such grace the aspirant who, through concentration, stills the conscious mind, becomes aware only of the murkey depths of unconsciousness. This is a maze of diverse impressions, and one can lose himself in it so that he cannot transcend the unconscious to attain the superconscious state. Occult sciences, black magic, and so on, are based on this experience of the dark shadows of the unconscious – a state which represents a fall from the conscious to the unconscious rather than an ascent from the conscious into the purity of the superconscious”.
The Concept of God
Patanjali accepts the existence of God. According to him God is a perfect supreme being who is eternal, all pervading, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent. God is a particular Purusa who is unaffected by the afflictions the ignorance, egoism, desire, aversion, and fear of death. He is free from all karmas (actions), from the results of actions and from all latent impressions.
The concept of God can give hope to human beings, for when one overcomes all afflictions and does not allow himself to identify with his karmas or to reap their consequences, and when one becomes free from all samskaras, then he becomes a liberated soul and merges into God-consciousness.
Patanjali views the individual in essence as God, but because of the limitations produced by afflictions and karmas, one separates oneself from God consciousness and becomes a victim of the material world. There is only one God. It is ignorance that creates duality from the one single reality called God. When ignorance is dissolved into the light of knowledge, all dualities are dissolved and full union achieved. That perfect single Being always remains perfect and one. There is no change in the ocean no matter, how many rivers flow into it, and unchangeability is the basic condition of perfection.