by Acarya Ganadevananda Avadhuta
“If you want to know all, know One.”
Interesting concept isn’t it? It is one of the many realizations coming from the ancient wisdom of yoga.
Deep realizations are the product of synthesis, often stimulated by practical experimentation, and yoga falls pretty much within this type of reality, in which bookish knowledge has a very relative importance.
Today many people are intellectually sharp due to their education and the complexity of modern life and yet, this precious wisdom remains elusive, just like it was thousands of years ago.
What is that “one” the pearl of yoga wisdom is talking about? It is your own inner “I”.
How do you know that you exist? When you think, “I know that I exist.” That inner “I” which knows of it, is the consciousness within you, which is eternal and can’t be limited.
By deeply concentrating the mind, we can go beyond the normal state of awareness, and reach deeper levels of consciousness. This journey within ends when we reach the realization that our own consciousness is the very same endless Consciousness that pervades the entire Cosmos. This feeling of complete unity with the creation is the ultimate goal of yoga and it is a state of unimaginable joy or bliss, which is called “Ananda” in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India.
What is “Ananda Marga” Yoga?
Well, you already know what is ‘Ananda’ so we just need to translate Marga’ which means ‘path’. “The path of bliss” is primarily a philosophy, a practice and a movement that offers physical, mental and spiritual practices capable to lead sincere seekers toward deeper inner realizations. It is also a service-oriented movement dedicated to the all-round welfare of humanity, animals and plants. Only when we make a balanced effort between self-realization and service, then our ultimate potentiality is gradually fulfilled.
Ananda Marga yoga teachings are based on the system of Tantra Yoga first systematized by Sadashiva 7000 years ago. “Tantra” literally means, “that which liberates from darkness”. The techniques of Tantra gradually liberate one from physical, psychic and spiritual bondages through the expansion of consciousness.
Tantra yoga’s concepts and practices have been inspiring countless human beings to achieve all round progress perhaps also because it supports no blind belief, religious doctrine, ritual or dogma. It follows a subjective approach yet remaining adaptable enough to allow external adjustments. You can learn Tantra only through your personal experience and, in this sense, Tantra is 99% practical and 1% philosophical.
The main characteristic of Tantra is that it represents a continuous fight with our own weaknesses. This is because without a meaningful effort it is impossible to conquer a crude idea and to replace it with a subtle one.
Human beings exist on three levels: physical, mental and spiritual and to fulfill their existential purpose, need to constantly grow in each one of them. Ananda Marga Yoga incorporates practices and exercises that help develop all three levels and thus is considered the most complete yogic approach.
The Yoga of Biopsychology
As with everything that has been evolving for so long, Yoga has many branches or approaches to reach its Goal, and probably the most known here in the West is its use of special postures, called “Asanas” in Sanskrit.
Yoga postures can help you in controlling, through their subtle effect on the glandular system, the many propensities of the mind. This is because our minds, our thoughts and our emotions have an indisputable relationship with our bodies and actions, and vice versa. This is the subject study of biopsychology, a new and yet ancient science that is an integral part of Yoga practices. Let’s see what is this science all about and why the regular practice of Asanas can help you become a more balanced and happier human being.
There are seven energy centers in the body, which are the controlling point of the 50 main human emotions. These centers are called ‘cakras’ (or chakras) which means ‘nucleus’ and they are the controlling nuclei of the human body.
Where are the cakras located? You know, the spinal cord seems to be one entity, but there are actually three channels connected with it, containing three subtle nerves. One central nerve descends from the brain, passing directly through the spinal cord to the base of the spine. The second and third start at the root of each nostril respectively and twist and twine around the central nerve, crossing at five points in the trunk of the body until they reach the base of the spine.
Where these three nerves cross each other within the spinal cord marks the location of the first five cakras and around each of them there are a number of cluster glands
The first cakra is located two fingers above the anus, the second is located at the root of the genital organs, the third at the navel, the fourth cakra is found at the center of the chest, and the fifth is at the vocal cord. Of the other two cakras, the sixth cakra is located at the pituitary gland and the seventh and highest cakra is located at the crown of the skull where, as a baby, our skull was soft.
There are fifty sets of cluster glands producing fifty hormones or chemicals in the body. Each hormone or chemical activates a unique feeling, emotion or tendency within the mind, so there are a total of fifty mental tendencies. This chemical stimulation of the body affects the mind. Therefore, the cakras are physico-psychic; that is, the body influences the mind.
The three subtle nerves act as the extensions of the brain so when a particular thought, memory or idea or emotion arises in the mind, the glands respond accordingly and the corresponding hormone or chemical is released into the blood activating the particular emotion or tendency. So the cakra is also psycho-physical because the mind stimulates the chemical reaction in the body leading to emotional behavior.
Thus the cakras, with related glands, hormones and nerves, act like antennae capable of receiving the subtle vibrations that are constantly reaching us from each and every entity we come in contact with, and transmit through the nerves, a stimulating signal that activates the chemicals of a particular gland, prompting the mind to experience an emotion, feeling or urge as a result.
The Yoga of Knowledge (Jinana Yoga)
The yoga of knowledge consists primarily of meditation. It develops the feeling of oneness with the Cosmic Self. A concept that is almost synonym of meditation is the one of “Sadhana” which means “the effort to become complete”. Any effort made to express the potential of your life constitutes sadhana. So whatever activity you do, needs to be measured against this simple yardstick. Of course the most important aspect of sadhana is psycho-spiritual development.
Tantra is an intuitional science aimed at the realization of the infinite consciousness and meditation is its key practice. In meditation you make an effort to fully concentrate your intellect on the idea of the infinite. Eventually you develop a “pointed intellect” or “intuition”: a direct super-conscious knowledge.
Now that’s a challenge! How can you think of infinity? You have no comparative elements through which you can relate to it. Well, this too is an ancient question and, as such, for long time yogis have struggled with it. Fortunately they found a workable answer and certainly there is no need to re-invent this “wheel”.
The answer is the “mantra”. “Man” means mind, and “tra” means liberate. So “mantra” means “that which liberates the mind”. Mantra is a crucial part of meditation and in fact mantras, which are all in Sanskrit, are but symbols of the infinite. Hence, through the regular mental repetition of its acoustic form, and contemplation on its meaning, you can gradually develop sufficient intuition to realize the true nature of your inner self.
Along with the mantra, there are other techniques to be learned that are meant to help your mind withdraw from what keeps you distracted and unable to concentrate on the mantra. You can learn a simple meditation technique, that is if you are interested in exploring the uncharted waters of your mind. As you grow in experience, so do the tools of meditation at your disposal but you will have to learn them from a qualified teacher who will know when it ‘s time for you to know more.
In the West, the word ‘initiation’ has sometimes being given a sinister meaning but in Tantra it simply marks the first step on a spiritual journey within. During initiation, you learn a personalized meditation technique and a mantra that will be able to awaken your latent psycho-spiritual potential and continue vibrate the right cakras within you.
While explaining the concept of initiation, it is impossible not to mention who makes it possible, the realized teacher, in Sanskrit “Guru” which means “one who liberates others from ignorance”.
A Guru’s life and example should be impeccable. He must have complete and direct knowledge of the ultimate goal of life. Without the guidance of such a self-realized teacher, it will be an impossible task to overcome the many obstacles that anyone, seeking to know the inner self intimately, will encounter.
The Yoga of Service
The yoga of service creates the circumstances to apply the experience you acquire by meditation in day-to-day’s life, thus helping you establish the realization of the true essence of this vast Cosmos.
Service to others is a fundamental part of your spiritual progress. Without a service attitude, once having learned meditation you could develop a tendency to focus on just your own progress, thus constricting your individual ego instead of expanding it to its infinite potential.
Therefore you shouldn’t be satisfied with the personal progress that can be achieved in solitude rather, the mental expansion caused by your meditation will creates a natural desire within to see others grow. Hence, you can experience maximum happiness by actively contributing in social life and help bring happiness to others. In other words the radius of your concern will gradually expand until your outlook becomes universal.