Why do we call Yoga transformational? In Yoga, as you reach a certain milestone, a new one appears on the horizon. But the journey is not just from one stage to another. On the way, almost as a precondition, everything changes. You are transforming every nanosecond. The cell-level changes alter your personality that manifests itself in profound changes in your self-view and the world-view. The world of matter is seen as the world of mind, and when even the mind is transcended, the self is realized as nothing else but Self, the soul.
In this inner evolution, the Yoga practices cause change on the cellular, molecular, and electronic planes in the brain, mānas, and buddhi as well as in the body structures respectively. And of course, this does not happen overnight or accidentally; the culmination is a steady progression consciously brought about by the deliberate following and perseverance of Yoga’s eight-fold practices. So, what is the eight-fold yogīk path?
The eightfold practices ultimately cause all the soul-eclipsing inner impurities to wither away by eliminating the five states of mind modifications. Even correct knowledge, a long-cherished goal of successful living, is now seen limited and instead true knowledge is seen manifesting unhindered from direct perception. To shake off the anchor in correct knowledge you need courage that comes only from first-hand experience of the potency of true knowledge.
The effulgence of knowledge grows as impurities vanish making an individual mind as omniscient as the Universal Mind. Finally a state of illumination occurs when discriminating knowledge that creates an artificial and relatively untrue difference between your ‘self and not-self (the rest of the world)’ makes way for discerning knowledge.
The discerning knowledge dissects each object (including your own self) with an awareness of Self as distinct from not-Self, the Spirit distinct from matter. You witness with this raised awareness an amazing connectivity in all the objects with the inherent Self as the common link. This knowledge is discerning—neither theoretical nor dogmatic but experiential—and it would steer you successfully through the worldly activities since your “I” stance dissolves in the process.
Yoga philosophy is inclusive. As mentioned again and again in the Yoga-Sūtra, the elevation of awareness is not accomplished by abandoning the lower self even when subtle bodies are discovered, purified and aligned. Instead, this brings you face-to-face with the mystery of subtle life. A practitioner should realize that a causal body is as conscious an experience for a yogī as a normal physical body is for a seeker. Patience is needed until that actually happens. And however gross it is, a seeker needs a physical body for the eight-fold practices.
The aṣtāṃga (eight-fold) yogīk path comprise:
• the first four limbs Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prāṇayāma are for a concurrent practice until pratyāhāra the break-through; after which dhāraṇā, dhyāna, samādhi follow linearly
• concentration leads to dhāraṇā, meditation leads to dhyāna, and contemplation leads to samādhi; they are not pairs of synonyms.
The first four limbs of Yoga are done concurrently. They are preparatory Secondary Means of Yoga. They are complementary as real success accrues only as their cumulative result. This is why one can go only so far in the practice of popular Yoga, the “fitness” version of āsana and prāṇayāma, while long-lasting peace and happiness may remain elusive unless supported by yama and niyama. They are not vague directives but are designed to purify the bodies to support the huge, real and permanent change Yoga brings to your life.
On this eightfold path, the importance of non-attachment in pratyāhāra, is enormous. It is a breakthrough point after the cumulative success of the first four limbs. The fundamental non-attachment occurs here between the mind and the brain when the mind remains a catalyst and does not attach itself to the thinking process. Our normal thinking process, driven as it is by myriad incoming impulses, is indispensable on the physical plane. Only a trained and tuned mind can be gradually willed to stay non-attached. These moments of non-attachment pave the way for a steady vision of the spiritual Self. Eventually, one loses any desire for object-induced gratification and there is a physical non-attachment toward objects, in the form of a relaxed indifference.
After pratyāhāra, the three remaining limbs represent advanced states and processes. These three limbs are, in a sense, the Primary Means of Yoga. While the Secondary Means are practiced concurrently, the Primary Means occur linearly. Many authors use the word ‘concentration’ to mean dhāraṇā. But, there is a difference between concentration that occurs in the objective context and dhāraṇā that happens in a direct perception mode. The same applies to the other two stages of dhyāna and samādhi. This important point is often lost in translation.
Pratyāhāra is a take-off experience that suspends the object-dominated reflex thinking and enables direct perception to yield intuitive knowledge not ordinarily accessible. Physical, emotional, intellectual response and even objective thinking are still mind-assisted processes. So even when the skills of concentration, meditation, and contemplation are honed in the objective domain, the pratyāhāra take-off is needed eventually to launch the same skills as dhāraṇā, dhyāna, and samādhi in the direct perception mode. The latter three are substantially different and much harder to achieve.
However, achieving samādhi is not the end of the path. While becoming a yogī and mahayogī you will have to continue with the rigorous practice of saṃyama—a state of dhāraṇā, dhyāna, and samādhi occurring at once and not linearly. The initial experiences of samādhi are prompted by a desire to remain in the Īshwara consciousness. That is still a desire. Finally, you have to give up even that last desire and just await a state of samādhi, the ultimate Union, a state of spiritual enlightenment, illumination, or total absorption.
If this creates a picture of a regimented exercise routine that promises to deliver such and such results in certain timeframe, it is a misconception. It needs to be repeated often enough that on this path you will undergo a transformation. Yama-Niyama, for example, though deliberate efforts initially, should change into effortless restraints and reflex observances. Only this way you really master them. In fact, as Sathya Sai Baba always says, in true yama, restraints would hardly leave traces of deprivation; in fact, one would abide in the consciousness that needs no restraint, and observances would rather become offerings of love to Īshwara whose characteristics are inherent in true niyama. The eight-fold path itself is an embodiment of Yoga’s basic premise: what appear as eight different “limbs” are ultimately One in essence!
[I]From the soon to be published book, “The Making of a Yoga Master” by Suhas Tambe[/I]