Despite the fact there is a pronounced tendency towards world negation in Classical Yoga, the yogic path advocated by patanjali is not devoid of all social values. Under the heading of yama or ‘restraint’ are subsumed five ethical rules which can be considered the fundamental property of all major religious.
- ahimsa – non – hurting
- satya – truthfulness
- asteya – non – stealing
- brahmacarya – brahmanic conduct
- aparigraha – non-possessiveness
These constitute the ‘great vow’ (maha–vrata) and in the Yoga Sutra are enjoined to be practised irrespective of place, time, circumstances and one’s particular social status. They are meant to being under control man’s instinctual life, which is seen as the root – cause of his confusion, distress and suffering.
Ahimsa or ‘Non-Hurting
The most fundamental of all moral injunctions is ahimsa or ‘non –hurting’. The usual translation of this Sanskrti term with ‘non – killing’ does not convey its full meaning. It is in fact non – violence in thought and deeds. It is the root of all other ethical norms.
Satya or truthfulness
No virtue is more excellent than truthfulness, no sin greater than (telling) the untruth. Therefore the (virtuous) man should seek refuge in truthfulness with all his heart. Without truthfulness the recitation (of sacred mantras) is useless, without truthfulness austerities are as unfruitful as seed (which falls on) barren land.
Asteya or Non – Stealing
Asteya or ‘non – stealing’ is closely related to non – harming, since the unauthorized appropriation of thing of value from another causes that person pan.
Brahmacarya or Chastity
Brahmacarya or ‘chastity’ is considered of vital importance in Yoga. It is defined as the abstention from sexual activity, either in deed, thought or verbally. Some authorities, like the Darsana – Upanisad, relax this rule for the married yogi. Sexual stimulation interrupts the continuous directedness of the yogi mind towards the Absolute and feeds his hunger for sensory experience.
Aparigraha or Greedlessness
Aparigraha or ‘greedlessness’ is defined as the non – acceptance of gifts because of the various disadvantages arising out of the possession of material things, such as one’s attachment of them or one’s fear of less.
Each of these five rules is thought to procure, when mastered, certain powers. Thus, perfect non – harming yields suspension of all enmity in the yogi presence. Perfect truthfulness maker come true whatever he says. Perfect abstinence from theft brings him effortlessly treasures of all kinds. Through perfect abstinence from gifts he acquires insight into the conditions of his former existences and his present birth. And sexual abstinence increases his vigour and vitality.
- Niyama – Self – Discipline
whereas the five rules of yama are designed to harmonize the social relationships of the yogi and purity his mind from the three ‘gates to hell’, viz desire, anger and greed, the five rules of niyama or ‘self –discipline’ are intended to regulate his relationship to the transcendent Reality. The five norms are:
- sauca – purity
- samtosa – contentment
- tapas – austerity
- svsadhyaya – self – study
- isvara – pranidhana – devotion to the Lord
Sauca or Purity
Sauca or ‘purity’ covers a wide range of practices. It is cleanliness in the widest possible sense, as bodily and mental purity. It heightens the yogi sensitivity, leads to a certain distance towards one’s body and is accompanied by the desire to avoid close contact with other beings as much as possible. The yogi whole being must become as pure as the eternally undefiled self (purusa).
Samtosa or Contentment
Samtosa or ‘contentment’ results from the yogi detachment from worldly objects. In as much as he cares not for the accumulation of securing of possessions, nor expects anything from anybody he is sufficient unto himself. He rests content with whatever comes his way, his mind being concentrated solely on the supreme good of emancipation. Samtosa is closely on the supreme or ‘equanimity’ as taught in the Bhagavad–Gita. Its highest manifestation is the all – embracing ‘vision of sameness’ (sama – darśana); everywhere and in everything the yogi beholds but he one.
Tapas or Austerity
Tapas or austerity covers such archaic practices as fasting, exposing oneself to extreme heat or cold, standing erect and still for a long time or keeping absolute silence for a certain period of time. These techniques derive from the oldest sutra of yogic experimentation. Tapas must not, however, deteriorate into senseless self – torture. Patanjali states plainly that properly executed, tapas strengthens and perfects the body.
Svadhyaya or Self Study
Svadhyaya or ‘self study’ has a double aspect. It stands for the absorption into the sacred literature and for the simultaneous mental concentration and introversion. It means literally ‘one’s own going into’. It is meditative recitation, either silent or aloud, of the holy texts. Later authorities, like king Bhoja, simply interpret it as ‘recitation of mantras’. Like tapas, ‘self study’ is an archaic element of Yoga.
Isvara –pranidhana or Devotion to the Lord
Isvara –pranidhana or ‘devotion to the Lord’ is defined in the Yoga – Bhāsya, as the ‘offering up of all deeds to the supreme teacher’, which is the idea of Karma yoga as expressed in the Bhagavad – Gita. The supreme teacher is of course the ‘lord’ (isvara-purusa) among the multiplicity of transcendental self monads. Elsewhere in the Yoga – Bhasya (I.23), the word pranidhana is explained as a ‘special love’ through which the yogi gains towards emancipation. The strange concept of the ‘lord’ will be dealt with more dully in the section on theology.
- Asana or Posture
The first two members of the eightfold path, yama and niyama, strictly regulate the yogi social contacts and his personal life. This is intended to reduce the production of unwholesome volition which would only increase his stock of karma involving him further in conditioned existence. His sole goal is to eradicate completely all karma stored in his depth consciousness in the form of subliminal impressions (samskara). For this transformation of consciousness maximum quiet is called for. The yogi has to establish himself in a place where his inner work will not be interrupted by external stimuli.
The first step is to immobilize the body in one of the many ‘postures’ prescribed for meditative absorption in the yoga texts. The posture or asana keeps the body steady and relaxed. By withdrawing and folding together his limbs, the yogi achieves an immediate change of mood which greatly aids his single – mindedness. The history of the meditative postures reaches far back into the past. Probably the earliest depiction of as asana is on a seal found during the excavations of Mohenjo Daro in the Indus valley. It is impossible to say when and where they yogic ‘posture’ first originated. It is presumably a natural development of the crouched position so common among eastern people who generally chairs.
Asana meant at first only meditative seat. During the rise of Tantrism, however at first, when the body moved more into the focus of attention, the physiological side –effects of asana began to be seriously investigated. The heyday of the asana as a meditative and health – giving practice was connected with the emergence of Hatha yoga. The asana was made up into instrument for strengthening and perfecting the physical frame so that it might endure the stress of the vigorous spiritual exercises demanded in Tantrism. The description of a particular ‘posture’ in the yoga texts is often appended with the refrain tat – sarva – vyādhi – vinasakam or ‘this is the destroyer of all diseases’. Pataajali prescribes no special posture but emphasizes that it should be steady and comfortable.
- Pranayama or The control of the life – force
The asana, when practised successfully, affects a marked internalization of consciousness. Therefore it is said to make the yogi insensitive to the impact of the ‘pairs of opposites’ (dvandva) such as heat and cold, light and darkness, quiet or noise, etc. The next step consists in the ‘energizing through the practice of pranayama or the ‘control of the life force’. Prana should not be identified with mere breath. It is the all – penetrating energy which sustains all organic life, breathing being merely its external aspect. That rhythmic inhalation and exhalation as well as aspect. That rhythmic inhalation and exhalation as well as prolonged retention of the breath have a powerful effect on the mind must have been discovered early in the history of Yoga, presumably in connection with ritual chanting. In the Atharvaveda already the various ‘functions’ of Prana are distinguished. In subsequence times pranayama became one of the chief means of checking the ever-fickle mind. As the Yogasiksha – Upanisad declares.
Consciousness (citta) is connected with the life force indwelling in dwelling in all beings. Like a bird tied to a sting so is this mind. The mind is not brought under control by many considerations. The (only means for its control is nothing else but the life force.
In addition to its ‘energizing’ function, pranayama is also meant to cure the normal irregularities of breathing which disturb the yogi concentration. Greatest focalization of consciousness is achieved in the state of suspended breathing (kumbhaka). This is the moment between inhalation (puraka) and exhalation (recaka). Patañjali speaks furthermore of a ‘fourth’ rhythm of breathing which probably refers to the involuntary respiratory activity during deep absorption and ecstasy.
In Hatha yoga pranayama plays a dominant role, where it is employed both a means of internalizing consciousness and as a medical tool to cure illnesses according to the tantric maxim that and bhakti or spiritual life and worldly enjoyment are not opposed to each other.
- Pratyahara or Sense – withdrawal
Both ‘posture’ and the ‘control of the life –force’ lead to a progressive desensitization to external stimuli. When the mind has become completely sealed off from the objective environment, the condition of perfect sense – withdrawal or pratyahara occurs. The Sanskrit texts compare this process to a tortoise contracting its limbs. In the Mahabharata, sense withdrawal is pertinently described in these words;
The self (atman) cannot be perceived with the sense which disunited scatter to and fro and are difficult to restrain for those whose self is not prepared.
Clinging thereto (i.e to the highest reality), the sage should, through absorption, concentrate his mind to one point by ‘clenching’ the host of the sense and sitting like a log.
He should not perceive sound with his ear, not feel touch with his skin. He should not perceive form with his eyes and not taste tastes with his tongue.
Also, the knower of Yoga should, through absorption, abstain from all smells. He should courageously reject these agitators of the group of five (sense).
- Dharana or Concentration
As a direct continuation of the process of withdrawal from external reality, concentration is the ‘holding of the mind in a motionless state’, as the Trisikhi – Brahmana – Upanisad (3I) defines this advanced practice. Concentration means the focusing of one’s total attention to a given point (desa), which may either be a particular part of the body (viz cakra) or, more rarely, an external object (viz image of a deity).
Concentration or dharana, from the root dhr (‘to hold’), is ‘one pointedness’ (ekagrata) of the mind directed towards a definite object which is intended to be grasped in its essential nature through the process of meditative absorption and ecstatic identification (samādhi).
The Endeavour to internalize and four consciousness deer not come naturally but requested effort. The yoga – sutra (I.30) mentions a number of ‘obstacles’ which are apt to occur in the course of one’s attempt to bridle the mind. These are illness, languor, doubt heedlessness, slothfulness, dissipation, meditative absorption and the inability to abide in these states. Pain, dejection, trembling of the body and erratic breathing are the natural concomitants of faulty practice,
- Dhyana or Meditative absorption
Prolonged and depending concentration leads to the state of meditative absorption of dhyana in which the object held in he mind fills the entire consciousness ‘space’. All arising ideas (pratyaya) gyrate round the object of concentration and are accompanied by an emotive disposition which can be described as ‘peaceful’ or calm, The is no loss of lucidity, rather the sense of wakefulness appears to be intensified. The purpose of meditative absorption is to intercept the flux of ordinary mental activity (vrtti), which comprises the following five categories:
- pramama – right knowledge derived from perception, inference or testimony
- viparayaya – wrong knowledge
- vikalpa – conceptual knowledge
- nidra – sleep
- smirti – memory
The first two kinds of mental activity are disposed with by the practice of sense -withdrawal. The tendency for conceptualization gradually diminishes as the absorption deepens. Memory, which feeds the mechanically arising thought fragments, is the last to be blocked out. However, its full elimination takes place only its full elimination takes place in the highest type of ecstatic realization realization when the ‘unconscious’ material (i.e., the subliminal impressions or samskaras) is completely transformed into Being Awareness. This ‘memory’ can be said to have two aspects, a ‘gross’ one which is rooted out at the culmination of the ecstasy devoid of object mental activity, called asamprajnata – samadhi.
This means that the ‘restriction (nirodha) of the mental whirls takes place on three distinct levels:
- Vriti-nirodha-restriction of the five categories of gross mental activity in meditative absorption;
- Pratyaya-nirodha-restriction of the presented ideas in the object-oriented ecstasy (samprajnata-sanmadhi);
- Samskara-nirodha-restriction of the subliminal impressions in the subject-oriented ecstasy (asamprajnata-samadhi).
- Samadhi or Ecstasy
In the same way in which concentration, when sufficiently cute, leads to meditative absorption, the ecstasy state (samadhi) ensues when all ‘whirls’ (vrtti) of the ordinary waking consciousness are fully restricted in absorption. Thus concentration, absorption and ecstasy are phases of a continuous process of mental unification, and when related to an object, are collectively called samyama or ‘constraint’.