Samyama – part 2
ASHTANGA YOGA SERIES
What if someone told you there was a simple set of practices that could help you manage every aspect of your daily life, and at the same time take you to a level of human potential beyond your wildest imagination? Would you be interested? Most people would at least be curious. That is in fact an accurate explanation of the practices of Yoga, but most people don’t realize it. Yoga includes a holistic set of practices for overall self-development and the well-being of the body, mind and soul. A few thousand years back, the great sage Patanjali compiled the current yogic practices of that time into a simple framework consisting of eight parts or limbs, and that framework is still used today. It is known as Ashtanga Yoga.
But the practices of Yoga have evolved since Patanjali was alive, in response to the needs of the time and especially during the last 150 years. So in this series DAAJI explores each limb of Yoga in the light of the modern day yogic practices of Heartfulness. He shows us how to integrate inner spiritual practices with living in the world and refining our personality, so as to create that true state of Yoga – skill in action and integration of the spiritual and worldly aspects of life.
SAMYAMA – part 2
Dharana • Dhyana • Samadhi
Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are the final three limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. There is no clear separation or definition among them, as they weave together to define the inner spiritual practices of meditation, known as Raja Yoga. These three limbs focus on the real purpose of Yoga and they are the practices of the inner journey known as the spiritual yatra. In the remaining articles of the series on Ashtanga Yoga, DAAJI helps us to understand the role of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi, and how they take us to the culmination of Yoga – union or osmosis with the Ultimate Existence.
So far we have been exploring Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi as different limbs or aspects of Yoga, but this is only for the purpose of understanding; in reality they are not separate. In fact all the techniques and methods of Yoga have been designed for one purpose alone, and that is how to use the mind. The mind can be used for freedom or for bondage: when the mind is used with right purpose it is clear and wise, with an expansive consciousness leading to liberation and beyond; when it is not used with right purpose it is confused, chaotic, emotionally turbulent and self-destructive, and consciousness contracts in on itself like a black hole, leading to misery. So by integrating all the limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga, the mind can realize its rightful purpose; they create the foundation for the mind to come to its original state of infinite potential.
The first six limbs contribute to that journey in the following way:
- Yama is the process of removing all the unwanted tendencies, behaviors and thought patterns that limit consciousness and therefore destiny;
- Niyama is the process of infusing noble inner qualities and the appropriate attitude and inner focus for the inner journey;
- Asana is the focusing of the physical body inwards, so that it participates in this evolution, facilitating the inward flow to the Center in meditation;
- Pranayama is the regulation and stabilization of the energy field, bringing it into alignment and purifying it, so that it also participates in this evolution;
- Pratyahara is the turning of our attention away from the external pull of the senses, inwards to the field of consciousness; and
- Dharana directs the flow of thought towards the goal, and then continues to hold and nurture that intention while we meditate.
But it is Dhyana or meditation that provides the real opportunity to dive inwards into the field of consciousness; to go deeper into the heart and master the mind. This is the realm of Heartfulness, of Raja Yoga. In fact, in the Heartfulness system, Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi are all taken up simultaneously during the course of meditation. Meditation in due course leads to the concentrated state of Samadhi.
Ram Chandra of Shahjahanpur describes it as follows: “We have spoiled the mind ourselves by allowing it to wander about aimlessly during leisure hours. The practice has continued for years and it has now become almost its second nature. If we now try to control the mind by putting it under restraint, we meet with little success. The more we try to suppress it by force, the more it rebounds and counteracts, causing greater disturbance. The proper method to control the activities of the mind is to fix it on one sacred thought, just as we do in meditation, and dispel from it everything unwanted or superfluous. Over the course of time, after constant practice, the mind becomes disciplined and regulated, and much of the inner disturbance is eliminated.”
Eventually the mind becomes so refined that it is a useful instrument for the heart, guided by the soul, and everything settles into its rightful role.
Eventually the mind becomes so refined that
it is a useful instrument for the heart,
guided by the soul, and everything settles
into its rightful role.
This approach of Heartfulness is completely in tune with Patanjali’s worldview, as he describes the purpose of Yoga in the first Sutras:
1.1: Atha yoga anushasanam
Now, after prior preparation through the course
of life and other practices, the training and
practice of Yoga begins.
1.2: Yogash chitta vritti nirodhah
Yoga is the restraining of the field of
consciousness from fluctuating and taking
1.3: Tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam
At the time [of meditation], the Seer rests in
its own original essence, its own true nature.
1.4: Vritti sarupyam itaratra
At other times, the Seer appears to take on
the characteristics of the fluctuating forms
associated with thought patterns.
1.5: Vrittayah pancatayah klishta aklishta
Those thought patterns (vrittis) are of five
different types, of which some are painful and
impure and some are agreeable and pure.
1.6: Pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah
The five types are: right knowledge and
cognition, misconception and not seeing
clearly, verbal delusion and imagination, sleep,
1.7: Pratyaksha anumana agamah pramanani
There are three ways to develop right
knowledge: direct perception, inference and
competent evidence from others.
1.8: Viparyayah mithya jnanam atad rupa pratistham
Misconception or illusion is false knowledge
that results from perceiving a thing as other
than what it is.
1.9: Shabda jnana anupati vastu shunyah vikalpah
Verbal delusion and imagination result from
words having no grounding in reality.
1.10: Abhava pratyaya alambana vritti nidra
Sleep is the vritti that embraces the feeling
of nothingness, the absence of other thought
1.11: Anubhuta vishaya asampramoshah smritih
Memory is when the thought patterns of
previous impressions have not been removed,
and they then return to consciousness.
1.12: Abhyasa vairagyabhyam tat nirodhah
All these vrittis are mastered by practice and by
the letting go of attachment.
In this sequence of Sutras, Yoga is described as the refinement and purification of consciousness to its original balanced state, known as Samadhi, and Patanjali explains that this happens through meditation, so as to master the fluctuations that disturb consciousness from its original state.
It is useful here to understand what chit or consciousness is, and how the vrittis or fluctuations in the chit lake disturb the mind and create imbalance. Imagine the field of consciousness as a canvas or a lake. In its original natural state, consciousness is still and pure, like a completely blank canvas or a still crystal clear lake. Vrittis are the fluctuations caused by thinking and feeling. They cause turbulence, disturbing that stillness and purity. They are the play of energy, as chit absorbs some of the universal energy of prana and sends it out as thought. These vrittis are the waves or ripples of energy that form upon the lake of consciousness when external things affect it, and this happens because we take in so many impressions through our senses.
In its original natural state,
consciousness is still and pure,
like a completely blank canvas or
a still crystal clear lake.
Swami Vivekananda explains it very simply: “Why should we practice? Because each action is like the pulsations quivering over the surface of the lake. The vibration dies out, and what is left? The samskaras, the impressions. When a large number of these impressions are left on the mind, they coalesce and become a habit. It is said, ‘Habit is second nature,’ but it is first nature also, and the whole nature of man; everything that we are is the result of habit. That gives us consolation, because, if it is only habit, we can make and unmake it at any time. The samskaras are left by these vibrations passing out of our mind, each one of them leaving its result. Our character is the sum total of these marks, and according as some particular wave prevails one takes that tone. If good prevails, one becomes good; if wickedness, one becomes wicked; if joyfulness, one becomes happy. … Never say any man is hopeless, because he only represents a character, a bundle of habits, which can be checked by new and better ones. Character is repeated habits, and repeated habits alone can reform character.”
The chit is also always trying to re-establish its original stillness, purity and simplicity, and that is why the mind is constantly throwing off thoughts. It is removing the heaviness and turbulence created by the accumulation of vrittis both in the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind. It is attempting to calm the waves and ripples so that the chit lake becomes like a still clear pond where we can see to the bottom, to the soul.
That is also why we dream – in that relaxed sleepy state the mind is trying to purify the canvas of consciousness by throwing off impressions from the subconscious so that it can dive into the deep sleep state to touch the soul. Dreaming is an obvious prelude to deep sleep. But dreaming is generally not enough to purify the chit, as most of us accumulate more impressions than we can remove. We create an imbalance because our sensory organs draw us outwards into mental and emotional stimulation. The more hectic our lives, the less stillness in our lives, the more stimulation we crave, the more desires we want fulfilled, the greater the load of impressions we will accumulate, so the more muddy and turbulent the water is in the lake.
THE FIRST STEP IN YOGA
Because of this, the first step in Yoga is to restrain that outward pull of the senses and start the return journey inwards through meditation towards a purified consciousness. We start with meditation, and the other steps of Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahata and Dharana naturally come into play along with Dhyana.
When meditation is seen as a separate event
or activity of the day, it is rarely effective.
In contrast, when we prepare for
meditation the night before, and
then afterwards try to carry the condition received
in meditation into the rest of the day,
then its effectiveness is dynamic and life-changing.
When meditation is seen as a separate event or activity of the day, it is rarely effective. In contrast, when we prepare for meditation the night before, and then afterwards try to carry the condition received in meditation into the rest of the day, then its effectiveness is dynamic and life-changing.
PREPARATION FOR MEDITATION
It makes a very vital difference to the quality of meditation the next morning if we prepare the evening before. The first thing is to remove the impressions at the end of the workday, through the practice of Heartfulness Cleaning. In this practice, the chit is cleaned of the fluctuating vrittis, in the same way that taking a bath cleans the body. The fluctuations reduce, so that the canvas of consciousness moves towards a state of stillness, lightness and purity. This removal of these unwanted impressions is active Yama.
We continue with Yama by also removing the behavioral tendencies and habits that have developed as a result of these impressions. The heart and mind are often preoccupied because of the various emotions, interactions with others, habits and behavioral patterns that occur during any day. Someone may have hurt us, we may be jealous of someone else’s success, worried about money or children, or feeling resentful or fearful. We may even feel guilty about something we did or did not do. So the reflective, quieter time during the evening, before going to bed, is a wonderful time to scan the day’s activities, and decide not to repeat anything that we may have done wrong, even unintentionally.
This is also the time to connect with our fellow beings, acknowledging them all as brothers and sisters on this journey of life, no matter what they have done, in order to release all complexities in relationships. How can any resentment, jealousy or fear of others remain in our hearts when we accept everyone as one family?
Finally, the time just before sleep is perfect for connecting deep within the heart to the Self through the Heartfulness Prayer. As a result of this connection, sleep is also rejuvenative – physically, mentally and spiritually – and peaceful instead of mentally turbulent. It is like the difference between sailing on a smooth still lake and on a stormy sea.
Such rejuvenative sleep allows us to wake early and meditate in the stillness of Nature at dawn. That is one of the most profound and beautiful experiences any human being can have. The Center within us resonates with Nature’s still pure Center at that stationary cusp between night and day. We are able to dive deep.
Before starting the Heartfulness Meditation, we are conscious of first purifying mind and body. Then we sit in a comfortable inward-facing posture (Asana) and relax so that our breathing and all our energies are able to focus inwards (Pranayama and Pratyahara). Then we make the supposition (Dharana) that “the Source of Divine Light within my heart is drawing me inwards,” and through Dharana we hold and nurture that supposition in the heart as naturally and effortlessly as possible so that we slip into Dhyana. Pranahuti or Yogic Transmission facilitates this process of effortless inward focus towards Samadhi.
We make the suggestion in our heart, and it resonates with the surroundings of the Heart Region. This vibrationless vibration then expands further, extending to all the chakras of the human system and they all begin to glow. It goes on expanding, passing through region after region until they are all absorbed in the innermost circle. Sometimes we feel dazzling light at the region we have reached, and the dazzling light then fades as we journey forward. And eventually we cross the different stages of maya and find ourselves in a totally calm atmosphere. There are stages and stages after that as we journey to the Center.
Meditation is our means of approaching the Center. When we meditate, the central power we have remains in force, and it disperses the clouds and obstacles on the way. This can only be experienced practically. Eventually we find ourselves swimming in everlasting peace and happiness. At this stage the mind has automatically become disciplined and regulated, our senses naturally come under control, and we gain mastery over them. All this is the result of meditation on the heart with the aid of Yogic Transmission, pranahuti or pranasya pranaha.
Article by KAMLESH PATEL (DAAJI)
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