by Acarya Gunamuktananda Avadhuta
There's a story that when the cockroach sees another
insect trying to attack it, it becomes so mortified with fright
that the image of that insect freezes in its mind. Due to the intense
ideation of the form of its enemy, the enemy actually sees the cockroach
as one of its own kind. In other words, the vibration emanating
from the cockroach's mind influences its enemy's mind into thinking
that it is a member of its own species. Thus the cockroach is saved
from death, since the insect will not attack one of its own kind.
You may well ask, "How has this got anything remotely to do with
The fundamental meaning of the word "yoga" is to
unify. Hence the English word "yoke." To mix sugar and sand means
to unite the two. But it's more than that. True unification is like
mixing sugar and water: the two become one. Yoga is the unification
of the individual existence with the Cosmic existence; the individual
sense of awareness with the Cosmic sense of awareness; the individual
experience of limited pleasures and pains with the Cosmic experience
of the unlimited: infinite happiness; perfect peace and contentment
bliss. That's what we are all inextricably attracted to;
it's the reason for all the things we do. We can never be satisfied
with limited things. They may give us pleasure for a while, but
never long-lasting satisfaction. So consciously or unconsciously,
we all want bliss and we are all trying to achieve it. But how are
we supposed to achieve it? The only way is to think about it, and
that means to think about the Infinite; to expand one's awareness
to infinity; to transcend the mind and enter the realm of the Cosmic:
endless and eternal. Enter our friend the cockroach. "As one thinks,
so one becomes." This powerful psychological principle is not only
the lifesaver of our little friend; it is also the mainstay of yogic
practice. By ideating regularly on the thought of infinite happiness,
one's mind will gradually expand; and if that ideation becomes constant
enough, that expansion will continue until eventually the merger
of one's limited sense of individual existence into the Cosmic existence
will transform one's experience of pleasure and pain into the constant
experience of Cosmic bliss, just as a river attains total freedom
when it merges with the sea.
We all want to expand; to become something greater
than what we already are; to achieve something more than what we
already have. "There is in the living being a thirst for limitlessness."
It is the fundamental spirit of humanity. Since the beginning of
human civilization people have been aspiring towards that, and it
is this human yearning for supreme expansion that eventually led
people to discover the techniques of yoga.
These were originally systematized by Shiva 7000
years ago. Although Shiva has now become a "god" of Hinduism, he
did actually live as a great guru at that time. And he taught many
things that we have since come to take for granted: the system of
marriage, medicine, music and science, not to mention the subtle
science of yoga and spiritual fulfillment.
Over time, the original systematization of yoga
was distorted, and some aspects were misunderstood or lost. An attempt
was made by Patanjali about 2100 years ago to reclassify the techniques
into what he called Ashtanga ("eight-limbed") Yoga.
Swami Vivekananda more recently called it Raja Yoga ("the
yoga of kings"), raja meaning "royal", implying that the
yogi never feels subjugated by anyone.
There is, however, a more extensive and comprehensive
form of Ashtanga Yoga called Rajadhiraja Yoga ("the yoga
of the king of kings"). It was first named as such by Ashtavakra,
a great saint who wrote the Ashtavakra Samhita over 2000
years ago. The present-day form uses Patanjali's eight-limbed structure
as its basis, but includes techniques of the original system which
were lost or overlooked clarifying and correcting misinterpretations
and with recent additions brings the whole practice into
relevancy for modern-day life and human psychology.
This Rajadhiraja form is now the most complete;
an all-round systematic and scientific process for the development
of the body, of the mind, and of the soul; leading to the total
experience of the Infinite what in yoga is called "self-realization."
It is a synthesis of processes for the evolution of mind towards
the supreme spiritual flow, the essence being the practical and
continual expansion of mind. Its goal is the all-round elevation
of human beings, both individually and collectively. It is a total
response to human longing and aspiration.
The eight limbs:
1. Yama and 2. Niyama (principles
3. Asana (yoga postures)
4. Pranayama (breath control)
5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of mind)
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (suspension of mind in the goal)
1. Yama and 2. Niyama
The principles of morality are the basis of a proper
life system. But they are not the goal. They are instrumental in
creating the frame of mind to perform the higher practices of concentration
and meditation. Just as a young tender plant must be protected as
it grows, so too must the tender and sincere attempts of the new
practitioner be protected by moral guidelines. In ancient times,
gurus used to demand that disciples first prove themselves in morality
and altruism before teaching them further practices. There is a
story that one particular disciple only managed to convince his
guru to teach him when he was found almost drowned while attempting
to block a hole in a local damn with his whole body, preventing
it from bursting and flooding a nearby village. In fact, the principles
of Yama and Niyama perfectly illustrate how one should deal with
the surrounding world. To treat everything and everybody in the
proper manner requires a certain amount of control over the propensities
of the mind, and this is achieved by Yama controlled conduct
with others and Niyama regulation of one's personal
habits. In other words, Yama is control of oneself in relation to
the external environment, and Niyama is the regulation of one's
internal environment. Yama is social morality; Niyama individual
Yama has five parts:
1. Ahimsa: Non-harm in thought, word and action. This means maintaining
the least harm in any given situation. It does not, however, exclude
the possibility of using physical force to defend oneself or others
if necessary. This is the first important area in which Rajadhiraja
Yoga differs from the more traditional understanding of Raja Yoga.
When Mahatma Gandhi was once asked if there was any circumstance
in which he would kill a cobra, he replied that there was not. A
more practical interpretation of Ahimsa would suggest that under
certain circumstances it may be necessary to use force in order
to protect others or oneself from harm. It’s the intention
that’s important. While walking down the street you may inadvertently
squash a bug, but it was never your intention to harm it.
2. Satya: Benevolent truthfulness. This is the use of mind and words
in the spirit of welfare. The emphasis is on "helpful"
truthfulness. Buddha once said the first priority for words is that
they should be helpful to others. The second priority is that they
should be true. And the third priority is that they should be sweet-sounding.
So again, the spirit of this principle is to promote the greatest
welfare possible, this time through one’s thoughts and words.
3. Asteya: Non-stealing. Not to take what belongs to others without
their permission. It also means not to deprive others of what you
owe them. For example, to pay an employee less than what you think
she or he deserves, or to get on the train without buying a ticket,
is against the spirit of asteya.
4. Brahmacarya: Universal thinking. To consider everything as an
expression of the Cosmic Consciousness. This cultivates love for
others, regardless of race, nationality or ethnicity, by promoting
the feeling that we are all part of the same cosmic family. The
benefit to society can readily be appreciated. There’s an
amusing story to illustrate this principle: A man used to always
say that everything is God. Whatever happened, he said it was God.
His friends were accustomed to hearing this all the time, and used
to joke about it amongst themselves. One day they saw him being
chased by a bull, and shouted out to him, "If everything is
God, then the bull is also God, so why are you running away from
it?" As he was running for his life, he shouted back in mid-stride,
"My running away is also God!" This feeling is important
to cultivate. In Raja Yoga it is done without the aid of a scientific
technique, but in Rajadhiraja Yoga there is a special mantra which
increases the effectiveness of achieving it in everyday life. Cosmic
ideation while performing any action assures the success of that
action, as well as preparing the mind for meditation.
5. Aparigraha: Simple living. Not to accumulate more than you need
for a reasonable standard of living. This has personal as well as
social consequences. We can never be satisfied with what we have
while we accumulate possessions unnecessarily, because the mind
will always be distracted by the possessions and by the process
of accumulating them. On the social side, the physical wealth of
this world is limited, so by accumulating excessive physical wealth
one would be depriving others of their necessities.
Niyama also has five parts:
1. Shaoca: Purity of mind and cleanliness of body. To keep the body
clean not only means externally. Internal cleanliness depends on
what we eat, and other things we ingest.
2. Santosa: Mental ease and contentment. Only when the mind is at
ease is it possible to be satisfied with one’s life, and to
infuse others with one’s cheerfulness and enthusiasm. This
depends to a large extent on Aparigraha above.
3. Tapah: Social service. Working for the welfare of others. This
means to help others in need without expecting anything in return.
There is a flow of love within us all that we can only express when
we give willingly and selflessly to others. Note that it means to
others in need. Giving money to a rich person is not service!
4. Svadhyaya: Inspirational reading. To read uplifting books, understanding
their underlying meaning. This is best done after meditation, when
the mind is most receptive to deep ideas and higher thinking. Of
course, in our modern-day society "books" can also mean
other media of education, such as the Internet, CDs, tapes, etc,
but the important point is that, whatever the source, it is uplifting
and elevating for the mind.
5. Iishvara Pranidhana: To meditate on the Cosmic Consciousness.
This gives the realization that you are one with that Infinite Consciousness,
and it is this realization that gives the greatest fulfillment in
human life. In Rajadhiraja Yoga, there is a specific mantra and
point of concentration for each person – depending on one’s
individual mental vibration – that is instrumental to achieving
In the West we have come to equate the term "yoga"
with yoga postures, but in fact they form only a small albeit
important part of the whole system. In Sanskrit, yoga postures
are called asanas. Asana means a "posture giving physical comfort
and mental composure." Asanas affect the glands, nerves, muscles
and all the organs of the body. There are many physical benefits:
flexibility, improved respiration and circulation, the prevention
and cure of diseases, etc, but the main effect is on the mind, through
pressure on the endocrine glands and the subsequent balancing of
the hormones secreted from those glands. The relation between the
physical body and the mind is very close, and it's the endocrine
hormones that determine one's emotions. If the hormones are balanced,
the emotions will also be balanced, facilitating concentration and
meditation. But without that balance there will be tendencies of
mind that distract us from deeper ideation, and despite having a
sincere desire to live a constructive and fulfilling life, it may
be that we are unable to because of those extroversial tendencies.
We may understand that we should meditate, but if we cannot concentrate
the mind it will be very difficult. So it is important to rectify
the defects of the glands. Asanas help in this to a very large extent.
There are more than 50,000 asanas, but only a few
of those are necessary. Many asanas are named after animals, because
certain animals have specialized propensities of one sought or another.
For example, by doing the Peacock (Mayurasana) one develops
fearlessness and a strong digestion both characteristics
of the peacock. The tortoise can easily retract its extremities,
and if one practices the Tortoise Posture (Kurmakasana) the
mind can more easily be withdrawn from the external world. The Hare
(Shashaungasana) puts pressure on the crown of the head and
stimulates the pineal gland to produce melatonin, the hormone which
gives the feeling of well-being and bliss. This is especially important
in meditation. The Shoulderstand is called Sarvaungasana
in Sanskrit, meaning "whole body," indicating its effect on the
thyroid gland, which controls the whole body's metabolism. Other
asanas such as the Mountain (Parvatasana) and the Wheel (Cakrasana)
are named after the physical structures they resemble. There is
even a relatively recent one (Matsyendrasana) named after
the king who invented it. Asanas such as the Lotus (Padmasana),
Perfect Pose (Siddhasana) and Brave Pose (Viirasana)
directly place the mind in a state beneficial for meditation, so
it is these meditation postures (Dhyanasanas) that we use
in concentration and meditation. Mudras are similar to asanas,
but usually incorporate some kind of ideation. Their effect is on
the nerves and muscles rather than the glands.
Before asanas the body should be cool and calm,
and this is achieved quickly and conveniently in Rajadhiraja Yoga
by what is called the Half-bath. Asanas should be done on an empty
or at least not full stomach. The room should be clean
and warm, with no draught or smoke. Except for the meditation postures,
asanas should not be practiced during menstruation or pregnancy.
There are more guidelines to ensure that asanas are practiced without
damage to the health, and they require a deeper commitment. For
example, strictly speaking with the exception of the meditation
postures and a few other simple asanas such as the Cobra
vegetarianism is important, as is breathing through the left nostril,
as opposed to the right, while practicing asanas. These are little-known
finer points which Rajadhiraja Yoga brings to light, the reason
for them being the protection of the physical and mental constitution.
In general, asanas and mudras should only be practiced on the advice
of a proper teacher.
Also incorporated in the system of Rajadhiraja Yoga
are two specific exercises that most yoga teachers, let alone students,
are not yet acquainted with. One of these Tandava
was formulated by Shiva 7000 years ago. It is a vigorous
exercise (resembling to some extent the Russian Cossack dance) that
is extremely beneficial for developing courage and spiritedness,
as well as improving the memory. Because of its effect on the glands,
it is only for men. The second is a recent and innovative addition
to Rajadhiraja Yoga that is particularly beneficial for women. It
is called Kaoshikii. It instills in the mind the feeling
of self-confidence and awareness, encouraging self-expression and
creativity. It increases longevity, prevents and cures disease (including
many types of liver diseases) and eases the discomforts of menstruation
and childbirth. It is, in fact, a medicine in itself.
After practicing asanas, a skin massage should be
done before lying in deep relaxation (Shavasana) for at least
two minutes. The skin massage helps in the absorption of sebaceous
oils that are naturally secreted onto the skin surface. This increases
the suppleness and glamour of the skin, as well as relaxing the
nerves, increasing the blood and lymph circulation, and harmonizing
the energy (pranah) of the body. Deep relaxation gives the
body a chance to assimilate the positive energy gained from the
asanas. It also relieves stress, lowers the blood pressure, and
decreases the need for sleep.
Pranayama is the scientific technique used to control
the respiration and hence the mind. This is important for meditation.
There is a very close and direct relationship between the breath
and the mind. Mental flow depends on the flow of breath. If the
respiration is fast, concentration will be next to impossible. It
can be very difficult even to read the time on your watch if you're
out of breath. On the other hand, concentration is easy if the respiration
is calm and relaxed. It's an automatic process. While watching a
suspenseful movie, you sit on the edge of your seat with bated breath.
Why? Because the scene has you totally captivated. You're concentrating
fully, so your breathing automatically slows down, and may even
stop completely until the suspense is broken. This also happens
naturally during deep meditation if the concentration is intense
enough. Here there is no danger because the ideation is always positive.
But in pranayama the breath is forcibly controlled regardless of
the object of ideation. This can be dangerous. It can be very good
or it can be very bad, depending on the ideation at the time. The
thinking must be positive for it to have a positive effect. Conversely,
if the thinking is negative it will have a negative effect. That's
why pranayama should only be practiced when some control over concentration
of mind has already been attained. The pranayama itself will further
increase the degree of concentration, but there should already be
some degree of control before starting it. So it is even more important
than for asanas to learn pranayama at the correct time and from
a proper teacher.
In Rajadhiraja Yoga, pranayama is practiced at a
specific cakra (psychic energy center) with an appropriate mantra
and Cosmic ideation. So the ideational component is fully taken
into account. Indeed, pranayama without Cosmic ideation may lead
to the control of the breath, or even the complete suspension of
the breath, but that's of little use without higher ideation. Death
is also the suspension of the breath, and it doesn't help us much!
Pranayama controls the pranah (vital energy). It
allows the body to conserve more heat. It affects the glands, subglands,
nerves and all the liquids of the body. Special pranayama practices
can also be prescribed for specific diseases.
Pratyahara literally means "to take back what has
been given out." The mind projects outwards to the different objects
of the world, so it means to withdraw the unsteady mind from those
objects so that it may be directed internally for meditation. In
Rajadhiraja Yoga there is a very scientific system to do this. It
involves three phases, known as shuddhis: first the withdrawal of
mind from objective physicality (the external world); then from
subjective physicality (the physical body); and finally the withdrawal
of mind from its own internal thoughts.
Good company and environment are also important.
Withdrawal and concentration are made easier if the senses are receptive
to subtle sensations, and the motor organs directed towards subtle
There is a further technique in which the "colours"
of the mind that is, all the different tendencies and propensities
are offered to the Cosmic Mind. This frees one from the attachment
to those propensities, because it promotes the realization that
one's individual mind is also a part of the Cosmic Mind. With this
realization comes the development of intuition and creative insight,
as one gradually gains more access to the vast storehouse of Cosmic
knowledge past, present and future.
Dharana means "to uphold the mind at a particular
point." That means concentration to concentrate on one thing.
It gives the ability to direct one's mind wherever wanted. The undisciplined
mind is like a wild horse: if you let it out in an open field it
will run all over the place. But dharana tames the wild horse of
the mind so it can be ridden anywhere. This is essential for meditation.
Rajadhiraja Yoga incorporates two types of dharana.
The first is Tattva Dharana concentration on the cakras
with the help of the root (biija) mantras of those cakras.
This gives control of the physical factors of the body, because
it is the cakras themselves that control the factors that make up
the body. For example, dharana done at the Muladhara Cakra
(base of the spine) gives control over the solid factor and makes
the body light. When dharana is done at the Svadhisthana Cakra
(base of the genitals), one will feel fresh and clean as if just
having taken a bath, because this is the controlling point of the
liquid factor. It also gives the ability to bear thirst. Dharana
done at the Manipura Cakra (navel) gives control over the
luminous factor, so one can withstand extreme heat or cold. In fact,
dharana gives the strength of mind to withstand all types of pain.
The cakras are like knots that bind the flow of
energy up the spine. By stabilizing the mind at particular cakras,
these knots are loosened and the energy channels flow more easily.
Tattva Dharana also diverts the flow of energy towards the subtle.
When the breath flows predominantly through the right nostril, the
energy channel for crude expression is open. This is best for physical
activity, digestion of food and crude thought. When air flows through
the left nostril, the mind tends to focus more on subtle thought
and less on physical activity. Air flowing through both nostrils
concurrently is best for psycho-spiritual practices such as meditation.
Tattva Dharana allows the mind to detach from things
of transitory and limited character, leading to the development
of conscience and true wisdom. It is done in Viirasana because this
posture gives short and intense concentration, as well as preventing
hair loss if it is done properly.
The second type of dharana in Rajadhiraja Yoga is
a recent innovation called Cakra Shodhana, literally meaning
"purification of the cakras." By purifying the cakras and
all the nerves, glands and energy channels connected to them
meditation is made a lot easier. It infuses all the cells of the
body with the most positive ideation. So while Tattva Dharana gives
strength to the mind, Cakra Shodhana gives joy to it, instilling
optimism and positivity. This type of dharana can be done in any
asana, including the relaxation pose, or Shavasana. The only stipulation
is that as with all other lessons of meditation the
spine is kept straight.
Dhyana means meditation in the real sense of the
term. Concentration is merely the initial stage or jumping-off
point of meditation. While dharana is the stabilization of
mind at one point, dhyana is a flow of mind: an uninterrupted flow
towards the one object of ideation just as oil flows continuously
in one unbroken flow.
So dhyana literally means "to direct the mind in
an unbroken flow towards the supreme goal." When the practice of
meditation was introduced into China from India, the Sanskrit word
"dhyana" was distorted into "chan." From China to Korea it changed
to "chen." Then finally from Korea to Japan it became "zen." Hence
the tradition of Zen!
In Rajadhiraja Yoga there are two types of dhyana.
The first is the practical aspect of Iishvara Pranidhana mentioned
previously in Niyama. It employs the use of a cakra and mantra specific
for each person according to the individual's personal vibration
to direct the flow of mind towards the goal. The second uses
the highest and most subtle of ideations to direct the mind towards
the Supreme. It is called Anudhyana, meaning "to follow"
the supreme flow. This constant ideational flow leads one to the
realization of the unity of all existence; leads the mind from form
to formless, to the complete transcendence of itself into pure,
"The one formless, beginningless and infinite Parama
Brahma (Supreme Entity) is the only entity to be attained by
Shrii Shrii Anandamurti
Iishvara Pranidhana is practiced in Padmasana (Lotus
Posture). If not accustomed to Lotus, Ardha Padmasana (Half-Lotus)
or the simple cross-legged position (Bhojanasana), can be
used. Anudhyana is practiced in Padmasana for women and Siddhasana
for men. Dhyana generally makes the skin smoother, and enhances
its glow and effulgence.
Samadhi is not a practice in itself; rather it is
the result of all the previous practices. Samadhi literally means
"sameness (absorption, or oneness) with the goal." There are many
possible goals; physical, psychic or spiritual, but Rajadhiraja
Yoga recognizes only the spiritual goal, and hence only spiritual
samadhi; that is merger in the Cosmic Entity.
Although there are different types and styles of
spiritual samadhi, they can all be classified into two general categories:
savikalpa and nirvikalpa. Savikalpa means "with vikalpa," or "with
mental thought or feeling." So Savikalpa Samadhi is the state
of absorption in the Cosmic Mind. Because the essence of mind (even
the Cosmic Mind) is the "I am" feeling the existential "I-feeling"
there remains, therefore, in this samadhi the feeling of
existence, or "I am." It is the result of Iishvara Pranidhana.
Anudhyana takes the whole process to its conclusion
to the highest state of existence: Nirvikalpa Samadhi.
This is the state of non-qualified absorption, where the tendencies
of mind are completely suspended. Nirvikalpa means "without vikalpa,"
or "without mental thought or feeling." It is the state of absolute
bliss complete absorption in Cosmic Consciousness. This state
of absorption is known in Rajadhiraja Yoga as Kaevalya (the
only One) or Turiiya (the absolute state of non-duality).
It is not possible to come even close to describing
this state, let alone thinking about it, because it is beyond the
mind. The mind can analyze anything cruder than itself i.e.
anything physical but it cannot think of anything subtler
than itself, i.e. Consciousness. One's mind exists in and of Consciousness,
so it is not possible to even think about it, simply because it
is not possible to think of anything beyond the boundary of one's
own mind. True spiritual practice, therefore, is the process of
transcending the mind to the Consciousness within which it exists:
the Cosmic Consciousness. It is this transcendence of the "I-feeling"
that results in the supreme experience of the Absolute: "Where 'I'
is, 'He' is not; where 'He' is, 'I' is not." (Consciousness here
is arbitrarily assigned the male gender.) So rather than saying,
"I think therefore I am," closer to the truth in the deeper sense
would be to say, "When I stop thinking then I really am!"
Shrii Ramakrishna, the guru of Swami Vivekananda,
used to frequently slip in and out of Nirvikalpa Samadhi. Afterwards
his disciples would ask him what it was like, but he could never
reply because the answer was beyond the capability of his speech;
beyond even his memory. Thought, let alone words, cannot grasp that
state of existence. The only way of even recognizing that one has
been in that supreme state is the experience of waves of bliss in
the mind that follow it.
Doubtless the cockroach does not feel those waves
of bliss when it becomes frozen with fear at the sight of its enemy.
But its absorption is of a different nature. It is the absorption
of mind in a physical object; another physical body. And its cause
is fear. Spiritual samadhi, on the other hand, is not caused by
fear; it is the result of love: the love for the Supreme Entity
cultivated by the practice of all the aforementioned stages. This
love in yoga is called devotion, or bhakti in Sanskrit. Devotion
is love for the Infinite. It is said that when devotion is attained,
everything is attained, because it is through this highest love
that the supreme state of existence is attained. It is a lot easier
to think of someone when you love them. "One must not be God-fearing;
one must be God-loving." Just as the cockroach merges its
psychic existence with that of its enemy through fear, so it is
possible for us to merge our individual existence with the blissful
Cosmic existence through love, leading to the ultimate fulfillment
of our life.
"He is infinite.
He has no beginning and no end.
He is the unbroken flow of pure and serene bliss,
stretching from beginninglessness to endlessness."
Shrii Shrii Anandamurti