On Yoga, Past and Present (HH 207)

A Talk by Alok Pandey from “Tuesday Talks” series (AUDIO)


21st June has been declared as the International yoga Day, thanks to the initiative by the Indian Prime Minister and the collaboration of may member nations of the United Nations. It is nearly sixty years after the formation of Auroville that the many nations came together for a constructive work of this nature. Yet we are still far to go before we enter the spirit of Yoga. Nevertheless, like all things, it is a good beginning. In fact yoga itself has evolved and changed as humanity has evolved and changed. For each Age there is a yoga appropriate to the Age. It is in this context that we try to trace in brief the evolution of various yogic systems.


 

Words of Sri Aurobindo

The evolution of man has been upwards from the body to the spirit, and there are three stages in his progress. He bases himself upon body, rises through soul and culminates in spirit. And to each stage of his evolution belong certain kinds of sadhana, a particular type of Yoga, a characteristic fulfilment. There was no aeon in man’s history, no kalpa, to use the Indian term, in which the Yoga was withheld from man or fulfilment denied to him.

But the fulfilment corresponded to his stage of progress, and the Yoga corresponded to the fulfilment. In his earlier development he was realising himself in the body and the divinity of the body was his fulfilment. He is now realising himself in the heart and mind, and the divinity of the heart and mind will be his culmination. Eventually he will realise himself in the spirit and the divinity of his true spiritual self will round off his history…..

The pure Hathayoga is the means of the fulfilment through the body. Its processes are physical, strenuous, colossal, complex, difficult. They centre in Asana, Pranayam and the purification of the body. The number of Asanas in the modern or mixed Hathayoga is limited, but even then they are numerous and painful; in the ancient or pure Hathayoga, they were innumerable and the old Hathayogins practised them all. The Asana means simply a particular position of the body and is perfect or “conquered”, in the technical language, when a man can stay in a single posture, however strained or apparently impossible, for an indefinite period without being forced by strain to remember the body. The first object of the Asana is to conquer the body,—for the body must be conquered before it can become divine,—to be able to lay any command upon it and never be commanded by it. The second object was to conquer physical nature, by developing the four physical siddhis, laghima, anima, garima, mahima. By perfect laghima man can rise into the air and tread the winds as his natural element; by perfect anima he can bring the nature of the subtle body into the gross body, which the fire will no longer burn, nor weapons wound, nor want of air stifle, nor the waters drown; by perfect garima he can develop an adamantine steadiness which the shock of the avalanche cannot overbear; by perfect mahima he can, without muscular development, outdo the feats of a Hercules. These powers in their fullness are no longer visible in men, but in some degree they belong to all adepts in Hathayoga. Their existence no one can doubt who has gone deep into Yoga at all or had any personal experience of siddhis. The third object is to develop in the body Yogic force, which is called tapah or viryam or the fire of Yoga. The fourth object is to become urddhwaretah, that is to say, to draw up the whole virile force in the body into the brain and return so much of it as is needed for the body purified and electricised.

Pranayam is the mastery of the vital force, the mobile energy which keeps the universe going. In the human body the most noticeable function of the prana or vital force is the breathing, which is in ordinary men necessary to life and motion. The Hathayogin conquers it and renders himself independent of it. But he does not confine his attention to this single vital operation. He distinguishes five major vital forces and several minor, to each of which he has given a name, and he learns to control all the numerous pranic currents in which they operate. As there are innumerable asanas, so there are a great number of different kinds of Pranayam, and a man is not a perfect Hathayogin till he has mastered them all. The conquest of the Prana confirms the perfect health, vigour and vitality gained by the Asanas; it confers the power of living as long as one pleases and it adds to the four physical siddhis, the five psychical,—prakamya or absolute

keenness of the mind and senses including telepathy, clairvoyance and other faculties commonly supposed to be supernormal; vyapti or the power of receiving other men’s thoughts, powers and feelings and projecting one’s own thoughts, feelings, powers or personality into others; aiswaryam or control over events, lordship, wealth and all objects of desire; vashita or the power of exacting implicit and instantaneous obedience to the spoken or written word; ishita, the perfect control over the powers of nature and over things inert or unintelligent. Some of these powers have recently been discovered in Europe as phenomena of hypnotism or will-force; but the European experiences are feeble and unscientific if compared with the achievements of the ancient Hathayogins or even with those of some of the modern. The will power developed by Pranayam is, it should be noted, psychical and not spiritual.

Besides these two great practices the Hathayogins have numerous others such as the extraordinary means by which they clean out daily all the physical impurities of the body. By these numerous and difficult physical practices they attain an extraordinary power, vitality, virility, longevity, and are also able to attain knowledge transcending the ordinary human bounds, leave the body in Samadhi and, in one word, exercise every mere power that comes by Yoga. But the practice of unmixed Hathayoga generates a colossal egoism and the Yogin seldom exceeds it. The modern Hathayoga is mixed with the Rajayoga and, therefore, neither so virile and potent nor so dangerous as the ancient. …..

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Man fulfilling himself in the body is given Hathayoga as his means. When he rises above the body, he abandons Hathayoga as a troublesome and inferior process and rises to the Rajayoga, the discipline peculiar to the aeon in which man now evolves. The first condition of success in Rajayoga is to rise superior to the dehatmak bodh, the state of perception in which the body is identified with the self. A time comes to the Rajayogin when his body seems not to belong to him or he to have any concern with it. He is not troubled by its troubles or gladdened by its pleasures; it has them to itself and very soon, because he does not give his sanction to them, they fall away from it. His own troubles and pleasures are in the heart and mind, for he is the rajasic and psychical man, not the tamasic material. It is these that he has to conquer in order that he may realise God in his heart or in his buddhi or in both. God seen in the heart, that is the quest of the Rajayogin. He may recover the perception and enjoyment of the body afterwards, but it is only to help the enjoyment of God as Love and God as Knowledge.

The processes of the Rajayoga are mental and emotional. Patanjali’s science is not the pure Rajayoga; it is mixed and allows an element of the Hatha in its initial processes. It admits the Asana, it admits the Pranayam….

The pure Rajayogin dispenses therefore with the physical practice of Asana…..

Now Pranayam in its proper sense, the mastery of the vital force in oneself and Nature, is essential to every Rajayogin, but it can be brought about by much simpler methods. The only physical process that the Rajayogin finds helpful enough to be worth doing, is nadishuddhi or purification of the nerve system by regular breathing and this can be done while lying, sitting, reading, writing, walking. This process has great virtues. It has a wonderfully calming effect on the whole mind & body, drives out every lurking disease in the system, awakens the yogic force accumulated in former lives and, even where no such latent force exists, removes the physical obstacles to the wakening of the Kundalini shakti.

But even this process is not essential. The Rajayogin knows that by tranquillising the mind he can tranquillise the body, by mastering the mind he can master both the body and the prana. This is the great secret of the Rajayoga that mind is the master of the body, creates it and conditions it, body is not the master, creator or lawgiver of the mind…..

Rajayoga is of three kinds, sachesta, salpachesta and nischesta, with effort, with little effort, and without effort. Patanjali’s, the only systematised kind, though each is quite methodical, is sachesta, involving great strain and effort throughout. We may best compare the systems by taking each of Patanjali’s steps separately and seeing how the three kinds of Rajayogins will deal with them. In the present article we shall deal with Patanjali. The first step is the preparation of the moral nature, the discipline of the heart, its perfection in the four great qualities of love, purity, courage and calm, without which siddhi in the Rajayoga is impossible. Patanjali prescribes the practice of the five yamas or regulating moral exercises, truth, justice and honesty, harmlessness, chastity and refusal of ownership, and the five niyamas or regulating moral habits, cleanliness and purity, contentment, austerity, meditation on Scripture, worship and devotion to God. In order to establish these habits and exercises and remove the impurities of the heart it is evident that Patanjali intends us to use the method of abhyasa or constant practice. Anyone who has made the attempt will realise how difficult it is to compass all these qualities and how long and tedious a discipline is required to establish them even imperfectly. Patanjali seeks to purify and quiet the life while the mind and heart are yet impure and restless, a system possible only to hermits in an asrama. For this reason the Rajayoga has fled from the homes of men and taken refuge in the forest and the cavern…..

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This was the defect of the old yoga – the mind and the Spirit it knew, and it was satisfied with the experience of the Spirit in the mind. But the mind can grasp only the divided and partial; it cannot wholly seize the infinite and indivisible. The mind’s means to reach the infinite are Sannyasa [Renunciation], Moksha [Liberation] and Nirvana, and it has no others. One man or another may indeed attain this featureless Moksha, but what is the gain? The Brahman, the Self, God are ever present. What God wants in man is to embody Himself here in the individual and in the community, to realize God in life.

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God always keeps for himself a chosen country in which the higher knowledge is through all chances and dangers, by the few or the many, continually preserved, and for the present, in this Chaturyuga at least, that country is India. Whenever he chooses to take the full pleasure of ignorance, of the dualities, of strife and wrath and tears and weakness and selfishness, the tamasic and rajasic pleasures, of the play of the Kali in short, he dims the knowledge in India and puts her down into weakness and degradation so that she may retire into herself and not interfere with this movement of his Lila. When he wants to rise up from the mud and Narayana in man to become once again mighty and wise and blissful, then he once more pours out the knowledge on India and raises her up so that she may give the knowledge with its necessary consequences of might, wisdom and bliss to the whole world. When there is the contracted movement of knowledge, the yogins in India withdraw from the world and practise yoga for their own liberation and delight or for the liberation of a few disciples; but when the movement of knowledge again expands and the soul of India expands with it, they come forth once more and work in the world and for the world. Yogins like Janaka, Ajatashatru and Kartavirya once more sit on the thrones of the world and govern the nations……

It is only India that can discover the harmony, because it is only by a change—not a mere readjustment—of man’s present nature that it can be developed, and such a change is not possible except by yoga. The nature of man and of things is at present a discord, a harmony that has got out of tune. The whole heart and action and mind of man must be changed, but from within, not from without, not by political and social institutions, not even by creeds and philosophies, but by realisation of God in ourselves and the world and a remoulding of life by that realisation. This can only be effected by Purnayoga, a yoga not devoted to a particular purpose, even though that purpose be Mukti or Ananda, but to the fulfilment of the divine humanity in ourselves and others. For this purpose the practices of Hatha and Raja Yoga are not sufficient and even the Trimarga will not serve; we

must go higher and resort to the Adhyatmayoga. The principle of Adhyatmayoga is, in knowledge, the realisation of all things that we see or do not see but are aware of,—men, things, ourselves, events, gods, titans, angels,—as one divine Brahman, and in action and attitude, an absolute self-surrender to the Paratpara Purusha, the transcendent, infinite and universal Personality who is at once personal and impersonal, finite and infinite, self-limiting and illimitable, one and many, and informs with his being not only the Gods above, but man and the worm and the clod below.

The surrender must be complete. Nothing must be reserved, no desire, no demand, no opinion, no idea that this must be, that cannot be, that this should be and that should not be;—all must be given. The heart must be purified of all desire, the intellect of all self-will, every duality must be renounced, the whole world seen and unseen must be recognised as one supreme expression of concealed Wisdom, Power and Bliss, and the entire being given up, as an engine is passive in the hands of the driver, for the divine Love, Might and perfect Intelligence to do its work and fulfil its divine Lila. Ahan˙ka¯ra must be blotted out in order that we may have, as God intends us ultimately to have, the perfect bliss, the perfect calm and knowledge and the perfect activity of the divine existence. If this attitude of perfect self-surrender can be even imperfectly established, all necessity of Yogic kriy ¯a inevitably ceases. For then God himself in us becomes the sadhaka and the siddha and his divine power works in us, not by our artificial processes, but by a working of Nature which is perfectly informed, all-searching and infallibly efficient. Even the most powerful Rajayogic sam˙ yama, the most developed pra¯n. a¯ya¯ma, the most strenuous meditation, the most ecstatic Bhakti, the most self-denying action, mighty as they are and efficacious, are comparatively weak in their results when set beside this supreme working. For those are all limited to a certain extent by our capacity, but this is illimitable in potency because it is God’s capacity. It is only limited by his will which knows what is best for the world and for each of us in the world and apart from it.

The first process of the yoga is to make the san˙ kalpa of ¯atmasamarpan. a. Put yourself with all your heart and all your strength into God’s hands.Make no conditions, ask for nothing, not even for siddhi in the yoga, for nothing at all except that in you and through you his will may be directly performed. To those who demand from him, God gives what they demand, but to those who give themselves and demand nothing, he gives everything that they might otherwise have asked or needed and in addition he gives himself and the spontaneous boons of his love…..

You must put aside what you want and wish to know what God wants; distrust what your heart, your passions or your habitual opinions prefer to hold as right and necessary, and passing beyond them, like Arjuna in the Gita, seek only to know what God has set down as right and necessary. Be strong in the faith that whatever is right and necessary will inevitably happen as the result of your due fulfilment of the kartavyam˙ karma, even if it is not the result that you preferred or expected. The power that governs the world is at least as wise as you and it is not absolutely necessary that you should be consulted or indulged in its management; God is seeing to it……

It is said in the “Sanatsujatiya” that four things are necessary for siddhi´s ¯ astra, uts ¯aha, guru and k¯ ala—the teaching of the path, zeal in following it, the Guru and time. Your path is that which I am pointing out, the uts ¯aha needed is this anumati and this nitya smaran. a, the Guru is God himself and for the rest only time is needed. That God himself is the Guru, you will find when knowledge comes to you; you will see how every little circumstance within you and without you has been subtly planned and brought about by infinite wisdom to carry out the natural process of the yoga, how the internal and external movements are arranged and brought together to work on each other, so as to work out the imperfection and work in the perfection. An almighty love and wisdom are at work for your uplifting. Therefore never be troubled by the time that is being taken, even if it seems very long, but when imperfections and obstructions arise, be apramatta, dh¯ıra, have the uts ¯aha, and leave God to do the rest. Time is necessary. It is a tremendous work that is being done in you, the alteration of your whole human nature into a divine nature, the crowding of centuries of evolution into a few years. You ought not to grudge the time. There are other paths that offer more immediate results or at any rate, by offering you some definite kriya¯ you can work at yourself, give your ahan˙ka¯ra the satisfaction of feeling that you are doing something, so many more pr¯an. ¯ay¯amas today, so much longer a time for the ¯asana, so many more repetitions of the japa, so much done, so much definite progress marked. But once you have chosen this path, you must cleave to it. Those are human methods, not the way that the infinite Shakti works, which moves silently, sometimes imperceptibly to its goal, advances here, seems to pause there, then mightily and triumphantly reveals the grandiose thing that it has done. Artificial paths are like canals hewn by the intelligence of man; you travel easily, safely, surely, but from one given place to another. This path is the broad and trackless ocean by which you can travel widely to all parts of the world and are admitted to the freedom of the infinite. All that you need are the ship, the steering-wheel, the compass, the motive-power and a skilful captain. Your ship is the Brahmavidya, faith is your steering-wheel, self-surrender your compass, the motive-power is she who makes, directs and destroys the worlds at God’s command and God himself is your captain. But he has his own way of working and his own time for everything. Watch his way and wait for his time……

Churches, Orders, theologies, philosophies have failed to save mankind because they have busied themselves with intellectual creeds, dogmas, rites and institutions, with ¯ac¯ara´suddhi and dar´sana, as if these could save mankind, and have neglected the one thing needful, the power and purification of the soul. We must go back to the one thing needful, take up again Christ’s gospel of the purity and perfection of mankind, Mahomed’s gospel of perfect submission, self-surrender and servitude to God, Chaitanya’s gospel of the perfect love and joy of God in man, Ramakrishna’s gospel of the unity of all religions and the divinity of God in man, and, gathering all these streams into one mighty river, one purifying and redeeming Ganges, pour it over the death-in-life of a materialistic humanity as Bhagirath led down the Ganges and flooded with it the ashes of his fathers, so that they may be a resurrection of the soul in mankind and the Satyayuga for a while return to the world. Nor is this the whole object of the Lila or the Yoga; the reason for which the Avatars descend is to raise up man again and again, developing in him a higher and ever higher humanity, a greater and yet greater development of divine being, bringing more and more of heaven again and again upon the earth until our toil is done, our work accomplished and Sachchidananda fulfilled in all even here, even in this material universe. Small is his work, even if he succeeds, who labours for his own salvation or the salvation of a few; infinitely great is his, even if he fail or succeed only partially or for a season, who lives only to bring about peace of soul, joy, purity and perfection among all mankind.

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Most Yoga has for its aim one or other of two great ends, either the abandonment of the world and departure into some reality of supracosmic existence or some form of limited perfection, knowledge, bliss or mastery in the world. But there is a third objective of Yoga in which there is a harmony between world existence & supracosmic freedom. God is possessed; the world is not renounced or rather renounced as an aim in itself, but possessed as the play of God. A selfless and transcendent perfection in the divine existence is the goal in this path of Yoga.

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There are many Yogas, many spiritual disciplines, paths towards liberation and perfection, Godward ways of the spirit. Each has its separate aim, its peculiar approach to the One Reality, its separate method, its helpful philosophy and its practice. The integral Yoga takes up all of them in their essence and tries to arrive at a unification (in essence, not in detail) of all these aims, methods, approaches; it stands for an all-embracing philosophy and practice.

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What is the integral Yoga?

It is the way of a complete God-realisation, a complete Self-realisation, a complete ful®lment of our being and consciousness, a complete transformation of our nature, – and this implies a complete perfection of life here and not only a return to an eternal perfection elsewhere.

This is the object, but in the method also there is the same integrality, for the entirety of the object cannot be accomplished without an entirety in the method, a complete turning, opening, self-giving of our being and nature in all its parts, ways, movements to that which we realise.

Our mind, will, heart, life, body, our outer and inner and inmost existence, our superconscious and subconscious as well as our conscious parts, must all be thus given, must all become a means, a ®eld of this realisation and transformation and participate in the illumination and the change from a human into a divine consciousness and nature. This is the character of the integral Yoga.

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The supramental Yoga is at once an ascent of the soul towards God and a descent of the Godhead into the embodied nature. The ascent demands a one-centred all-gathering aspiration of soul and mind and life and body upward, the descent a call of the whole being towards the infinite and eternal Divine. If this call and this aspiration are there and if they grow constantly and seize all the nature, then and then only its supramental transformation becomes possible.

There must be an opening and surrender of the whole nature to receive and enter into a greater divine consciousness which is there already above, behind and englobing this mortal half-conscious existence. There must be too an increasing capacity to bear an ever stronger and more insistent action of the divine Force, till the soul has become a child in the hands of the infinite Mother. All other means known to other Yoga can be used and are from time to time used as subordinate processes in this Yoga too, but they are impotent without these greater conditions, and, once these are there, they are not indispensable. In the end it will be found that this Yoga cannot be carried through to its end by any effort of mind, life and body, any human psychological or physical process but only by the action of the supreme Shakti. But her way is at once too mysteriously direct and outwardly intricate, too great, too complete and subtle to be comprehensively followed, much more to be cut out and defined into a formula by our human intelligence.

Man cannot by his own effort make himself more than man, but he can call down the divine Truth and its power to work in him. A descent of the Divine Nature can alone divinize the human receptacle. Self-surrender to a supreme transmuting Power is the key-word of the Yoga.

This divinisation of the nature of which we speak is a metamorphosis, not a mere growth into some kind of superhumanity, but a change from the falsehood of our ignorant nature into the truth of God-nature. The mental or vital demigod, the Asura, Rakshasa and Pishacha, – Titan, vital giant and demon, – are superhuman in the pitch and force and movement and in the make of their characteristic nature, but these are not divine and those not supremely divine, for they live in a greater mind power or life power only, but they do not live in the supreme Truth, and only the supreme Truth is divine. Only those who live in a supreme Truth consciousness and embody it are inwardly made or else remade in the Divine image.

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The first word of the supramental Yoga is surrender; its last word also is surrender. It is by a will to give oneself to the eternal Divine, for lifting into the divine consciousness, for perfection, for transformation, that the Yoga begins; it is in the entire giving that it culminates; for it is only when the self-giving is complete that there comes the finality of the Yoga, the entire taking up into the supramental Divine, the perfection of the being, the transformation of the nature.