An Essay on
© 2008 by Academic Services International, Los Lunas, NM, USA
Definitions - Continued
Yoga means "union." What is implied here is a Union of the mundane awareness and the primordial consciousness.
There are several forms, styles or schools of Yoga:
This is the style that comes most to mind when westerners hear the word "Yoga." It mainly consists of various asana positions (poses or postures), that can often be somewhat "pretzel-like" and are intended to promote flexibility, fitness and health.
It is a specific system of Yoga introduced by Yogi Swatmarama in 15th century India. He compiled the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
In this text, he describes Hatha Yoga as "A stairway to the heights of Raja Yoga," thus identifying it as a preparation, consisting of physical purification, intended to make the physical body fit for the undertaking of meditation.
It has been suggested that Hatha Yoga is a "black art." This is because the practitioner's focus is upon the physical body, and such focus then takes precedence over the mental body where the true goal is to be pursued.
Bhakti is a Sanskrit word that means devotion. For Hindus, this word is used to signify devotion to a deity or an aspect of God..
As a style of Yoga, Bhakti is described in the Bhagavad Gita, where it is depicted as the supreme form of divine expression, for which all other practices should be discarded.
The word Bhakti comes from the root Bhaj, which means "to be attached to God." There is neither selfish expectation nor fear involved. The devotee simply feels, believes, and directly experiences his deity to be an Ocean of Love.
There is no bargaining or expectation of any rewards. The result is indescribable. It simply and sincerely must be experienced by the devotee.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Jnana Yoga (sometimes spelled Gnana Yoga) is described as "Knowledge of the Absolute." Jnana means "knowledge" and forms the basis of the Greek word Gnosis (a state of "knowing").
Often thought of as "working off one's karma," this style of Yoga is actually a bit more subtle. It involves performing the normal, daily tasks of living, with any fruits of the labor being dedicated to the devotee's deity. It is thus a form of Bhakti Yoga.
Kriya Yoga is a very specific style of Union. Paramahansa Yogananda introduced it into contemporary public awareness in his book Autobiography of a Yogi. This style includes several yogic practices that are intended to accelerate a practitioner's spiritual development and to encourage a deep sense of tranquility and communion with God.
Kriya practices emphasize the connection between the breath and the mind. This relationship reveals techniques that results in control of the mind. The "breathlessness" stage is a "deathlessness" stage that leads to the state of samadhi, the realization of the primordial consciousness.
The discipline of fire, causing the awakening of the serpentine power (kundalini ) through the joint action of mind (manas) and life force (prana). Agni Yoga is a synthesis of many yogas, especially Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga. Agni is the Sanskrit word for Fire.
also see: Kundalini Yoga
Guru Yoga is a form of Bhakti Yoga, wherein the devotee assigns his consciousness to the devotion of his or her Guru ("Master" or "Teacher").
The Guru may be the practitioner's actual contemporary teacher or may be an historical master of the spiritual art. Some western students choose to be devoted to a (thus-called) "ascended master" like Saint Germaine or the master Morya.
In some applications, the devotee creates a mental image of the Guru (through Dharana or "concentration") and places it in a special compartment that is located in the lower part of his or her own heart chakra.
Constant devotion to this image is intended to bring about a state of Dhyana (meditation) or "oneness with" the Guru, thus transmitting the consciousness of the teacher to the practitioner by overshadowing or union.
This style of Yoga aims at "raising the kundalini," which is the "serpent fire" that resides in the lowest (base) chakra. The ascent of this force burns off all dross in the other chakras and when it reaches the highest chakra at the crown, the practitioner experiences illumination or union with the primordial consciousness.
There are many cautions in the Yogic literature that warn against the dangers involved in the premature raising of the kundalini. This can be accomplished with a variety of drugs, some sexual techniques, or simply by concentrating specifically on the kundalini without the benefit of moral discipline, devotion, and many other factors.
The raising of the kundalini is supposed to be a natural occurance that is brought about by progress in meditation or devotion. Forced ascent of this primal life force is said to literally burn physical tissue, disrupt the etheric body, lead to obsession or insanity, and is suspected of being the cause of "spontaneous combustion" wherin people are turned into ashes.
Because of an extensive range of practices included in the term tantra, it is necessary to review the tantric principles
The common rituals (puja) might be composed of any of the following pracices:
Mantra and Yantra: Mantras are words or phrases that are continuously repeated aloud or mentally. A Yantra is a geometric design that is viewed or internally visualized, and may involve focusing on a Yantra or on a Mandala that is associated with a deity.
Indentifying with Deities: Practitioners either visualize themselves as the deity or experience a darshan (vision) of the deity.
Secret Rituals: These might include the elements of ordinary ritual or may be substituted with other sensual rites such as, a feast, coitus, charnel grounds, and bodily functions like defecation, urination, and vomiting.
Sexual Rites: These have been commonly associated with Tantra in its entirety in the West, but sexual rites were only practiced by a minority of sects in India. Beyond the physical plane, a fusion of Shiva and Shakti energies takes place resulting in a united energy field. On an individual level, each participant experiences a fusion of their own Shiva and Shakti energies.
The constant repetition of a word or phrase, either aloud or mentally, is designed to constrain the mind to a single concept, process or realization.
This is a process that our mind practices on a regular basis, with or without the conscious discipline of Mantra Yoga. It has such a wide range of applications that we will examine it much closer, in its own chapter, later in this Essay.
An ancient form of Meditation is called Raja Yoga. This art has eight branches:
- Restraint ("thou shalt not...")
- Observances ("virtues")
- Asana ("control of posture")
- Pranayama ("control of breathing")
- Pratyahara ("introspection")
- Dharana ("concentration")
- Dhyana ("meditation" - the result)
- Samadhi (an "expanded" result).
These "branches" or "limbs" are found interwoven amongst all of the styles of Yoga that have been described above. Let's take a closer look at each of these elements on the next page ...