Yoga Darshan - Yoga of Maharshi Patanjali
Who was Maharshi Patanjali?
Maharshi Patanjali was a great Indian saint who believed to have lived 5th century BC. Though yoga was practiced much earlier from the time Patanjali was born but he is the one who is credited with compiling and codifying it and presenting it to us in the form of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra- A book on Patanjali Yoga Darshan. He presented the entire discipline in a systematic and step by step approach.
Maharshi Patanjali was not only a self realised saint but he was also a great Psychiatrist, Sanskrit grammarian and an Ayurvedic physician- a multi faceted personality. His research on understanding of mind and it’s working was deep and insightful. His treatise on yoga is considered as most authentic and classical texts on yoga which has been translated in all major languages of the world. Today yoga has become synonymous with Patanjali.
How Yoga has been defined by Maharshi Patanjali?
Ancient sages were concerned with who am I, from where have I come and what is my relationship with God and how to attain liberation. The yoga philosophy of Patanjali considers cessation of all mental fluctuation as the primary goal as in that state only we can be in our true self. योगश्चित्त वृत्ति निरोध: Cessation of all mental fluctuations or thoughts is how Patanjali defined yoga. This would mean complete stoppage of activities of mind - thoughts, desires, passions, emotions etc.
How to bring this thoughtless state?
Now the question is how to bring about this situation and for that he has suggested eight limbs or eight stages (Ashtang) of Yoga. We will look into each one of them briefly.
Out of these eight limbs, first five are considered to be Bahiranga (external) yoga, as they are external practices. Last three constitute Antaranga yoga.
They are rules governing our interaction with the society. They are in the nature of DONT's. They are restraints. They are the building blocks of yoga sadhana. If we are firmly established in Yama, then only, we can make progress on the path of spiritual journey. They were relevant then and they are equally relevant now. Most of the problems we face in life are because of non-observance of yamas. They are five in number.
1. Nonviolence (Ahimsa)
This is the principle suggested in all world religions. अहिंसा परमोधर्म: (Non-violence is the biggest religion). The practice of ahimsa means, we don't harm anybody physically, not even in speech and in thought. If we criticize some body or have a bad feeling or an evil thought about somebody, it is also breach of ahimsa. It is not an outward act, but it is by nature that you should abhor violence. If we understand this from a different angle, it means, love each and every creature and love begets love. And if one loves all, how can one think of harming others.
In practice, we can see, that, if we harbour ill feeling against somebody, it is our mind that gets disturbed. If we slap someone and there was no reaction, no retaliation from his side, even than we feel disturbed, there is a feeling of guilt inside.
It is said that one who is established in Ahimsa, in his presence even ferocious animals lose their cruelty. Such is the power of ahimsa.
2. Truth (Satya)
You should always speak the truth. Truth is as you have seen and witnessed and not coloured by your vision and prejudices. One speaks the truth when ones thought speech and actions are in perfect congruity. Truth avoids agitation and disturbance in mind. And of course, it avoids embarrassment which one might face when he tells a lie.
It is said that when one is established in truth, whatever one says comes true.
3. Non stealing (Asteya)
Asteya is non- stealing of things belonging to others. Asteya is just not about physical things, which of course we seldom do, but it is also about stealing somebody's ideas or taking credit of good work done by somebody else. It is more about remaining satisfied with what one has.
A person who is established in Asteya he receives knowledge of past, present and future.
4. Celibacy (Brahmacharya)
It is all about sacredness in your relationship with the opposite sex. One must have complete control over his senses, not only about the matters relating to sex but also food and other cravings. Swami Vivekanand said that continence gives wonderful control over mind. This is how you can subjugate your wandering mind. In today's world it should be about equal respect for the opposite sex and respecting their individuality and directing all your energy towards higher things and purposes in life.
5. Not to amass objects (Aparigraha)
Aparigraha is about lack of desire. It is about remaining contented with whatever one has, and not to be greedy to acquire more. This is very relevant in today's times. We have clothes, but we always desire some more; we have shoes but still we need more just to fill our wardrobe in terms of colours, varieties, fashion and latest designs. There cannot be an end to it. It fills our mind with frustration and tension. It is also about not accepting gifts. If the mind doesn't crave for more, naturally it will be much calmer and in a relaxed state.
Second step in the eight-fold path is Niyama. Niyamas are observances; something that you do. These are DOs in life. They are about our own self. They are also five in number.
It is about cleanliness - both external and internal. External cleanliness would mean keeping our body clean, keeping our surroundings clean and putting on clean clothes. Internal cleanliness, which is rather more important is about keeping our mind clean with positive thoughts. Cleanliness had much wider connotations in olden times. They felt the necessity of clean environment and to ensure that they had a system of Yajna (यज्ञ) , havan or oblation( हवन) to purify the environment. They worshiped rivers (mother Ganga), mountain (sumeru and Kailash Parvat), trees (Peepal and banyan trees), animals (mother cow), birds (गरूड़) . For them everything was sacred. This protected the environment, which we have forgotten and paying heavy price for the same in terms of global warming, excess or deficient rainfalls, earthquakes, epidemics etc.
It is contentment not looking for more endlessly. What one may have is considered to be sufficient to keep one living and working. No doubt, mind craves for more but never stops at any particular point, so it is endless game keeping you always dissatisfied. Contentment is absence of any desire for anything physical or otherwise. But it would never mean that we should stop functioning for our growth and advancement. It merely indicates that objects can never be your source of happiness; so try to live with what you consider as necessary.
Making efforts, struggling to achieve something and making our will power strong is talked about here. Nothing worthwhile is achieved in life without struggle. These are the austerities we perform in order to achieve something. They could be in the form of keeping silence, fasting, working with single mindedness on a particular project, taking vow to get rid of some undesirable habit, whatever you think would make life meaningful is considered here.
Study of self/ Scriptures (Swadhyaya)
It is about studying self and also studying the scriptures. Vivekanand says that the higher you want to go, the harder is the practice. Reflect continuously about the self - what is desirable, what is undesirable and how to get rid of that undesirable.
Surrender to God (Ishwar Pranidhan)
It is about surrendering to God's will; whereby one surrenders all works to God without thinking of results. One does all activities with best of his ability but is unconcerned about the results, he accepts whatever God bestows upon him.
Most of us think yoga as some physical exercise or asanas only. And most of us are basically interested only in this part of yoga. For us it is just to make our body in shape or to lose weight or to correct some imbalance in body. We are too much concerned with the external because it is the only bit on display.
It is the third step of the yogic discipline. It is about doing asanas to make body a fit instrument for further spiritual practice. There are various types of asanas, twisting and stretching the body from different angles so that each and every part of the body (including internal organs) are massaged nicely; thus giving the body strength and flexibility.
Patanjali has used only three sutras out of a total of 195 while dealing with the asanas. He describes asana as a body posture which is steady and comfortable. स्थिरं सुख़म आसनम् । Patanjali goes on to say that while doing asanas our efforts should progressively reduce, that is asana performance should be graceful and mind should be concentrated. प्रयत्न शैथिल्य अनन्त समापत्तिभ्याम। And result of such practice will be that you will be free from dualities or conflicts of life. ततौ द्वन्दानभिघात । Today yoga is considered just asanas only, which is being ignorant about the whole discipline of yoga.
When asanas have become perfect, then the process of breathing exercises comes. It is very effective in making the mind stable and calm. There is close connection between body and mind. When the body becomes fit instrument by doing asanas, the mind also gets cooled and with further practice of pranayama the mind achieves stillness to a great extent. Patanjali says Pranayama happens when there is a break in the pace between inhalation and exhalation. Perfect practice of pranayama leads to uncovering of the veil of ignorance. तत्: क्षीयते प्रकाशावरणम् 2.52।
Pratyahara is all about controlling the senses from wandering on its objects. Our main problem is agitating mind, restless mind, ever wandering mind. The mind goes after sense objects and keep us agitated and disturbed. With the practice of pratyahara the mind is turned inward, and senses are subdued. Pratyahara forms the bridge between the first four limbs (bahirang yoga) and the last three limbs (antarang yoga).
Last three limbs of patanjali yoga are considered to be antaranga yoga. These are:
Dharna means concentration. Dharna is holding the mind on some particular object and keep it in that state.
Dhyana means meditation. An unbroken flow of knowledge in that object is Dhyana. It is continuing in the state of meditation. In Dhyana all the efforts are directed towards keeping the distractions away. When these efforts succeed and there are no distractions, the state of mind becomes the state of dhyana.
It is spiritual absorption. It is when one is in deep absorption, in meditation or dhyana, samadhi is attained. It is the most blissful state. When the self-nature is as if it is not there and the object shines forth or reveals itself. In Dharana and Dhyana, there are three elements - the meditator, the object meditated upon and the process of meditation. In samadhi only the object of meditation shines forth and the rest disappear.
Patanjali describes three types of samadhi - sabeej, nirbija and dharma Medha. The self is realised only in the last samadhi that is dharma Medha.
The three last limbs of yoga (Dharana, Dhyan and Samadhi) are called antarang yoga and is also known as samyama.