The Aṣtāṃga (Eight-fold) Yogīk Path

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]

Full understanding of the 8 fold path, especially for the western mind, can be overwhelming. Thank you for making it more accessible and understandable.
Namaste Suhas.

thank you Suhas…I second what Lotusgirl has put…I cant wait to read your book xx

I’ll buy that book

Thank you for such a thoughtful explanation. I especially appreciate the notion that one can transform through repetition, and not a rigid routine.


potentially true, but not nearly as absolute as it is presented…nothing is absolute, and certainly yoga teaches us that.

each yogis path is unique.

use no way as way, allow no limitation as limitation…

What is described here is a ‘path’. It guides the ‘walk’ but doesn’t define it or limit it. Walk may be brisk, lazy, wayward, circuitous, back & forth, stagnant or anything; path remains as it is. So, if it is implied that each yogi’s walk is unique, it is true.

Again, a walk on the path brings about a transformation in a yogi. To transform is absolutely necessary if you follow this path (there are many more paths) but how, how soon and with what results is not absolute at all.

A path doesn’t constrain, mind makes us think that it does.

Perhaps what is described is “a path”, yet it presents as if it is “the path”, this is wonderful information yet can also be a great disservice to yoga if it is presented too absolutely. Words like ‘need’, and ‘should’ define absolutes; when one states that things should be “practiced concurrently,” or will “occur linearly” it can create a perception that this is a strict formula. When one presents that certain aspects of yoga are “much harder to achieve” it sets a precedent that perhaps alters, delays, or suspends a process that might have happened easier and faster for some practitioners.

Yoga is not a static body, it is a fluid and dynamic art that can be discovered and experienced in infinite, and very individual means and modes. I feel that if this information is not also shared along with the long-standing, preconceived notions about yoga, one is mystifying an amazing healing, transforming modality and placing its potentiality upon some far off distant shore that may not be reached simply because it has been given this elusive perception.

Truth is in the moment, and one who follows anothers truth (in regard to yoga) is not honoring their own truth, and in my mind, not truly practicing yoga at all, for yoga is about presence in the moment, discovering the true self. Yoga, like life, I believe is a very personal experience, one with no boundaries, no limitations, no definitions. Yes there is good information to share about yoga, and many have helped me along my yogic path, but always and always it is what I have discovered within that has allowed growth and transformation! And that has never been discovered because of, or according to any formula, text, or documented teaching, it has happened in MY timing, exactly as it will and always has…

If you truly wish to inform about yoga, I feel it is imperative to share that yoga is a personal path, along the way guides (teachers, books, students…) may point off in one direction or another, but it is up to the individual to see, to experience all the wonderful bounties one discovers along this path. This may happen concurrently, or linearly, or backwards according to someones idea of how it “should”. It simply matters that one discover their path, and walk the path with intent, open to experiencing all that path presents…the rest, it seems to me, is just someone else’s ideas or experience that could be informative and helpful, or could cloud and distort my experience…

not saying I am right, just sharing my personal perspective…

it seems that is what this site is all about yea…

Aloha, T

Very well presented Suhas Tambe. Enlightening description of the Eight-fold path.

with respect, I found that enrichingly deep.Thank you very, very much. I would also likely buy the book.

What is found in the words you shared, for me, is something that points to the individuation while drawing it’s relationship to the singularity. There is little else to understand philosophically - only what isness to live. So while another book is about as necessary as a thorn in the foot, I will likely buy it and recommend it if anything like that excerpt. It IS quite late however… we’ll see how this meets me again in the morning :wink:

Suhas Tambe, Speaking of transformation, is there any excerpt you can share specific to Kundalini rising?

Thanks for your interest.

In my experience and according to my guru, Kundalini is often seen ill-understood. At Muladhara chakra, energy gets created by fusion (splitting of atoms) and at Swadhisthana by fission. This process begins at birth and is kicked off with the first breath. This is fine energy responsible for our early growth. However, after we start experiencing the world, we inherit from our near & dear, tendency to attract more emotional baggage that creates residue in our subtle bodies. In youth, emotional swings are joined by physical drives that start blocking the sushumna channel and extinguishing Muladhara. Whatever energy still produced is wasted on material life.

Spiritual practices, particularly breathing and pranayama exercises, clean up the energy channels. Prana energy that had degenerated into vayus now gets purified and vayus start moving again. Udana vayu is upward bound and it pushes prana energy up sushumna. As it rises, it reactivates higher chakras and they in turn regulate the energy flow. (This process is crudely associated with kundalini which creates a misleading impression that one-day it suddenly rises. If it really does rise suddenly it will be very harmful for the unprepared body.)

When sushumna channel is fully capable of carrying the energy uninterrupted it creates a closed-loop - from Muladhara to Sahasrara and returning to anahata via ajna and down to muladhara. Advanced Yoga masters, thus keep this energy rotating and completely shut themselves from the external environment by even stoppage of breath. Kundalini needs to be understood thus as rejuvenation of prana.

There are many valid interpretations of kundalini rising and practices that make that happen. It is a lifetime process any which way.

I appreciate the response and sense it is genuine and with lack of pretense. Good information. Thank you.

At Muladhara chakra, energy gets created by fusion (splitting of atoms) and at Swadhisthana by fission.

Yes, brother. That’s what makes you a [I]star[/I]!

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 first hand experience of the potency of true knowledge is like the song of the mythical Siren. When heard it’s nearly impossible to go in any other direction.