Yoga is a system of discipline whereby the union of the individual soul with God is made possible, and its central aim is to make the contact of the finite individual self with the Infinite God. Yoga is the spiritual self-culture leading to the realization of the nature of the Supreme Reality.
Yoga embraces the threefold nature of man, his mental or intellectual, physical and spiritual elements. It is for this reason that stress is laid upon the physical well-being as well as the mental aspect of the individual. Yoga is a scientific system which endeavors to transform the animalistic nature in man and make him aware of his true inner being, his spiritual nature.
योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः ।Today man has various ways in which to enjoy the material and sensual pleasures of life. He has advanced with giant strides in the scientific sphere commanding unlimited material and technological power and has ushered in the Space Age and the Age of the Computer. These achievements, however, have given him neither mental peace nor inner happiness. For peace of mind and inner tranquility man must turn toward spiritual life and the practice of yoga. It is for this reason that the lessons of yoga will be specially beneficial to modern man.
Yoga seems difficult as it lays stress upon self-discipline and sacrifice and not on pleasure, a life of ease and luxury.For an ordinary man, what is required in the practice of yoga every day, and this is not difficult to achieve. Through constant daily practice one advances gradually along the path and the final stages of yoga, which are concentration and Consciousness, may be attained only after a long time ( one or several births), through faith, perseverance and patience.
YAT TADAGRE VISHAM IVA PARINAAME `MRTOPAMAM
Many regard Yoga as nothing more than the last two. But these are only the external means of Yoga conducive to purity of body. It is only after these stages have been realized that Yoga proper begins.
The eight scientific steps of yoga are:-
MORAL OBSERVANCES which consists of five commandments:
PHYSICAL DISCIPLINE ~ which consists of another five commandments:
These ten commandments are important not only in Yoga but also in life, providing for the support of life itself. Without them there can be no progress whether individually or socially, for character is built out of them. Whether one believes in God or not the observance of morals is essential, because without them nobody, even a scientist or a scholar, or a genius, can be called a true human being. Without observing morals there can be no control of the mind. And, as the aim of yoga is mind-control, morals must be observed.
Many aspirants have fallen by the wayside because they did not pay sufficient attention to morality. Moral precepts play an important part in concentrating the rays of the mind. For instance, when a person is established in the practice of nonviolence, not even under provocation will he become angry. Scriptural studies help one in establishing concentration and gradually purify one’s mind.
EXERCISE ~ is a system of making all parts of the body strong, healthy and supple. Even those not practicing the mystical aspects of yoga may do exercise to improve health. Exercise regulate breathing, ensure proper digestion of food and increase longevity. Exercise strengthen the nervous system, having a salutary effect on the brain centers and spinal cord. Exercise relaxes the five systems that make up the physical body:-
The elementary matter is the medium through which the soul entertains these feelings. It is only when the physical body is in perfect health that the mind can concentrate.
DEEP-BREATHING ~ The vital forces, which are the media through which the soul acquires all kinds of knowledge, carries on all the mental processes, and performs all its actions, are:-
It is a special method of breath-control by which the life-force is brought under control and made regular. This is achieved by controlling the incoming and outgoing breaths.
It is not the normal way we breathe but something else. It is the subtle life-force behind the breathing function. Breath is only a gross manifestation of the subtle energy we call breathing. In fact, all functions of the body have air as their life-force. For instance, breathing, flickering of the eyelids, the heartbeat and circulation, and digestion, all have as their life force. Breathing is a conscious life-force in all living beings and is derived from air, sunlight, water, vegetation and minerals of the earth. It works together with the soul in all animals.
The correct practice of Deep-Breathing controls the governing powers of the body which are the nose, mouth, eyes and ears; in the lower abdominal region, waste material are expelled via the kidneys and intestines; the region around the navel promotes the proper digestion of food and its seat is within the heart and in the veins and arteries which propel the proper circulation of the blood; the blood is the vitalizing force in the nerve centers and in the brain and it is this force that is responsible for the reincarnation of the soul by serving as a guiding vehicle. It stills and steadies the restless mind thus making concentration and meditation easier to achieve.
DETACHMENT ~ This is the ability to withdraw the senses or internal organs form the centers of objects to which they are attached. The natural inclination of the senses towards the objects of enjoyment leads the mind astray. When children in a classroom hear some loud noise outside they immediately look through the window and do not pay attention to their studies. But if their minds were engaged in their studies no noise or distraction would have the power to lead them astray. So the ability to withdraw the senses from the objects of attachment is detachment. Just as a tortoise withdraws all its limbs in the face of danger, so must an aspirant completely withdraw his senses from their objects.
When you have become the master of your mind, the mind is controlled, and simultaneously all senses are under control also. When heaven is spoken of, it is meant to be a place, whether it is in some location in the sky or here on earth, of perpetual happiness. Therefore, isn’t it natural to assume one has to qualify for it? Those who chose to become doctors have to do so in theory and practice. They have to conquer all errors and weaknesses. They know that one mistake can be very fatal. As a matter of fact, they must be qualified before their practice. Like wise it is reasonable to assume that one has to enjoy perpetual happiness before going to heaven. That means one has to conquer all unhappiness and discomforts in life here on earth before departure. Some of those discomforts are hunger, sleep, heat and cold, sex, anger and inanition.
CONCENTRATION ~ When the mind is withdrawn from outside objects and is totally fixed on an idea or a center it is said to be concentrated. In concentration all the rays of the mind are collected and fixed on a center or idea. No artist, sculptor, musician, sportsman, or student can hope to succeed if his mind is not engaged in the task on hand. So in yoga also, concentration is most essential.
COMMUNION~ When the mind is fully engaged in a particular thought or idea without interruption, it is said to be in communion. In this state a person forgets his surroundings, his body or anything that is connected with him. Even the pleasures that interest him at other times or his pet fancies, or worries or tensions of his daily life do not trouble him whatsoever at this time. In yoga, because the object of concentration is God or the Absolute, all the powers of the mind are directed in the contemplation of God.
The mind of the yogi in the state of meditation is compared to the light of a lamp which burns without flickering. In this state the mind is calm and enjoys immense bliss, a foretaste of the uninterrupted bliss and boundless joy which is inherent in the very nature of God or the Supreme Consciousness. Concentration should be focused on the Characteristics, Attributes and Nature of the Supreme Being and only a deep study of the Scriptures (Vedas) can enable us to focus that attention.
8. SUPREME CONSCIOUNESS
SUPREME CONSCIOUSNESS or Self-Realization ~ The final step in meditation or contemplation brings us to experience the oneness with God. The achievement the Supreme Consciousness is the true meaning of yoga. This final union with God confers supreme bliss, felicity, and end of all sorrows. This state transcends all thought and all logical processes such as thinking, reflecting and calculating cease to function. It is the final experience in which the yogi attains a state of perfection, the crowning glory of success on the spiritual realm. This is yoga.
A clean and solitary places is necessary for the engagement of communion. Get comfortably seated and practise breath control, restrain the senses from the pursuit of outward objects, fix the mind on one of the following:~ the navel, the heart, the throat, eyes, the top of the head (forehead) or the spine. Discriminate between the soul and the Supreme Spirit, get absorbed in contemplation of the latter and commune with Him.
When these practices are followed the mind as well as the soul becomes pure and imbued with righteousness. Knowledge and wisdom advance day by day till salvation is obtained. If one hour of contemplation to the Deity is practiced daily, there will be spiritual advancement. When the results are being felt by constant practice, the feelings can aptly be described as:
“No tongue can describe that bliss which flows in communion with the Supreme Spirit, into the soul of that man, whose impurities are washed off by the practice of Yoga, whose mind being abstracted from the outside world is centered in the Supreme Spirit, because that happiness is felt by the human soul in its innerself alone.” Upanishad.