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The road to ultimate self realization edit button Edit

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A.D Pradeep Kumar | calendar 03 March 2024 | 45

The Financial Express on Sunday April 23, 2000

ANCIENT India contributed to many branches of knowledge. Among these, the highest was the understanding of the Self. In his Yogasutras, Patanjali provides eight steps through which you can realize this highest knowledge.

The road to this self-realization is facilitated by a comprehensive, practical system of self-culture. This system develops your body, mind and psychic poten¬cies, ultimately leading to physical strength and spiritual consciousness. It is a way of life that endows perfect health—physical, mental and moral—so that what is ignoble in man is sublimated to the noblest in him. This is what Yoga is all about.

Initially Yoga insists on the daily practice of a code of universal ethics as a disciplinary training till the whole process of moral elevation becomes a part of your life. Yama (restraints) and Niyama (observances) are the first two preliminary steps to gaining mental and emotional stability. They are guidelines for recon¬ditioning attitudes and behaviour patterns, especially those that support concentration and inner balance. It is basically for the purification of the mind.

The Yamas include the five restraints of Ahimsa (restraint from violence), Satya (restraint from lies), Asteya (restraint from stealing). Brahmacharya (restraint from sex) and Aparigraha (restraint from acquisitiveness).

The Niyamas consist of Saucha (cleanliness). Santosh (contentment). Tapa (mental purification through meditation). Swadhyaya (self-study) and Ishvarpranidhana (surrender to a higher reality).

Asanas are considered the third step in Yoga. These establish you in a very firm and healthy physical foun¬dation. and allow you to concentrate and progress without physical disturbances and with abundant vital energy. Good health according to Yoga is a sacred duty. Yoga, therefore, insists on the primary need for day-to¬day good health (arogyamca dine dine). This has to be achieved through physi¬cal education, which pro¬motes moral and mental discipline and psychic absoluteness.

Hence the methodical study of the science of Yoga begins with postural training and rhythmic breathing, which are associated with preven¬tive measures and neurotherapy, the process of nerve purification. It also includes the tech¬nique of rejuvenation through hormonal- and humoural stimulation. eliminative and nutritive hyperenergia, followed by complete rest to all vital organs—a state of quasi-hibernation (khecari)

The fourth step in Yoga, Pranayama, is ultimately the control and regulation of the. body's bioenergy (prana). The Yogic system enables you to regu¬late your biological life through the conservation and control of your bio-energy.

The idea behind this is that your emotional and psy¬chic life are closely related to the flow of bio-energy in your body. This bio-energy manifests itself in the act of breathing. Thus, you can use special breathing tech¬niques to bring your feelings and emotions under con¬trol. Pratyahara is the next and fifth step. When your physiological activities are well-harmonized and under control, the next step is to restrain the senses from their overactive and disturbing outgoing tendencies, which affect your equanimity and peace of mind.

To achieve concentration, your senses need to be pulled in wards like a tortoise drawing its limbs under its shell. This is achieved through a series of graded physio-psychic exer¬cises in with¬ drawing the mind from the sensory world. At this stage, through auto suggestion, contemplation on negative and positive virtues (Dvandva), metaphysical reflections and similar tech¬niques of advanced Yoga, the would-be Yogi cultivates a universal outlook to life, rising above all conditioned reflexes, inhibitions and environmental influences common to human nature. The first five stages of the eight-fold path, which are the preparatory steps, are called Bahiranga or the external limbs of Yoga or Hatha Yoga. This works on the conscious levels of life experiences.

Hatha Yoga is the process of establishing perfect physical, mental, emotional and psychic equilibrium by manipulating the energies of the body.

It is through Hatha Yoga that you can prepare for the highest spiritual experiences. Your whole being, starting from the physical, has to be refined and strengthened so that it can act as a medium for a higher cosmic force.

The system of Hatha Yoga was therefore designed to transform the gross elements of the body so that they can receive and transmit a much subtler and powerful energy. Hatha Yoga prepares the body, mind and emo¬tions systematically, so there will be no difficulty when the aspirant is undergoing the higher states of con¬sciousness. Through Hatha Yoga, you can regulate body secretions, hormones, breath, brain-waves and prana till your mind automatically becomes harmo¬nious.

Hatha Yoga is the stairway leading to Raja Yoga. Once you reach the stage of Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga ceases to be necessary.

Yoga is defined as concentration in the Yoga Sutras. Concentration is the central feature in most Yoga prac¬tices. Through the practice of Yama and Niyama. the mind becomes peaceful and you can overcome negativ¬ity, which is the enemy of concentration.

Next, through the Asanas, you can progressively improve your concentration. In the next stage, through the sustained practice of Pranayama, your mind gath¬ers its forces and concentration improve considerably.

In the fifth stage, Pratyahara. there is control over the senses. At this stage, the senses follow the mind. making it fit for concentration for a longer period.

Through the preparation for these five stages, the mind is made ready for Dharana—the state where the mind is kept in a limited area without interrupt ion and for a long time. The process thus moves to the internal and more subtle or subconscious levels of experience. This is known as internal or Antaranga Yoga or Raja Yoga.

This three-fold process of internal Yoga consists of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. They are strictly correlated to one another as if they were one single process.

Through Dharana (concentration), you make the mental modifications to flow in a single direction. This when practiced over a period of time leads to the con¬tinued process of meditation, Dhyana, in which you enjoy total affinity with the object of meditation.

Finally, through the practice of Samadhi, you expe¬rience a state of trance-consciousness, which allows you close contact with your true nature or spirit, wherein you remain unmoved by physical and mental afflictions. It is the final stage of Yoga and has been described variously as a state of uninterrupted joy and peace, absolute consciousness and self-realization

This article is based on the principles advocated by The Yoga Institute, Santacruz. Mumbai.