PRANAVA YOGA AND RAJA YOGA
Pranava yoga is a name given to the classical method of meditation outlined in the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is also called Om yoga and Om yoga meditation. It is, simply put, fixing the mind on the sound of the mantra “Aum” – the sacred syllable that both symbolizes and embodies Brahman, the Absolute Reality – as the mantra is constantly repeated in unison with the breath. The purpose of pranava yoga is to become free from suffering and limitation.
The purpose is well stated in the Upanishads: “What world does he who meditates on Aum until the end of his life, win by That? If he meditates on the Supreme Being with the syllable Aum, he becomes one with the Light, he is led to the world of Brahman [the Absolute Being] Who is higher than the highest life, That Which is tranquil, unaging, immortal, fearless, and supreme.” – Prashna Upanishad 5:1,5,7
Aum, according to Hindu philosophy, is the primordial sound from which the whole universe was created. Aum, also called the Pranava, is the original Word of Power, and is recited as a mantra. A mantra is a series of verbal sounds having inherent sound-power that can produce a particular physical or psychological effect, not just something that has an assigned intellectual meaning. The word mantra derives from the Sanskrit expression ‘mananaath thraayathe’ which loosely means “a transforming thought”; literally, “that which, when thought, carries one across [the worldly ocean of sorrow]”. The power of a mantra lies in its ability to produce an objective, perceptible change in the yogi who repeats it correctly.
In the yoga tradition, Aum is the most sacred of holy words, the supreme mantra. Aum is also called the Pranava, a Sanskrit word which means both controller of life force (prana) and life-giver (infuser of prana). “That which causes all the pranas to prostrate themselves before and get merged in the Paramatman, so as to attain identity with Him, is for that reason known as the Pranava.” – Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:10a. Aum is called the Shabda Brahman – God as Sound/Vibration. According to yoga theory, the universe has emanated from this primal movement in God. By following the thread of Aum back in meditation to more and more subtle levels of awareness, the yogi regains union with Brahman.
The Upanishads (both the major and minor) are full of references to Aum and meditation on Aum. Below is a small sampling:
* "He who utters Om with the intention ‘I shall attain Brahman’ does verily attain Brahman." - Taittiriya Upanishad 1.8.1 * "The Self is of the nature of the Syllable Om...Meditate on Om as the Self" - Mandukya Upanishad 1.8.12, 2.2.3) * "The form of meditation that came to manifest as the foremost of all, for the regeneration of all seekers, was the First Word, indicative of Brahman [God]: the Syllable Om. Meditation on Om should be resorted to by seekers after liberation. This Syllable is the Supreme Brahman." – Atharvashikha Upanishad 1:1,2 * "God is the Syllable Om, out of Him proceeds the Supreme Knowledge." – Svetasvatara Upanishad 4:17 * "Om is Brahman, the Primeval Being. This is the Veda which the knowers of Brahman know; through it one knows what is to be known." – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.1.1 * "One should meditate on this Syllable [Om]." – Chandogya Upanishad 1.1.1 * "The Syllable Om is the bow: one's self, indeed, is the arrow. Brahman is spoken of as the target of that. It is to be hit without making a mistake. Thus one becomes united with it [Brahman] as the arrow becomes one with the target." – Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.4
Speaking from the perspective of the Infinite Being, enumerating his major manifestation-embodiments, Krishna says: "I am the syllable Om."(Gita 7:8) He also says the same thing in 9:17 ("I am...the sacred monosyllable") and 10:25 ("Among words I am the monosyllable Om").
What to "do" with aum is then outlined by Krishna: "Engaged in the practice of concentration... uttering the monosyllable Om--the Brahman--remembering Me always, he...attains to the supreme goal. I am easily attainable by that ever-steadfast Yogi who constantly and daily remembers Me."– Bhagavad Gita 6:13; 8:12-14
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the most ancient and authoritative text on Yoga, outlines the purpose and process of yoga as follows:
"Ishwara [God] is a particular Purusha [Spirit, Person] Who is untouched by the afflictions of life, actions, and the results and impressions produced by these actions. In Him is the highest limit of omniscience. 36 Being unconditioned by time He is teacher even of the ancients. His designator [vachaka] is the Pranava [Om]. 37 Its japa [constant repetition] and bhavanam is the way [or: should be done]. From it result [come] the disappearance of obstacles and the turning inward of consciousness. Disease, languor, doubt, carelessness, laziness, worldly-mindedness, delusion, non-achievement of a stage, instability, these cause the distraction of the mind and they are the obstacles. [Mental] pain, despair, nervousness, and agitation are the symptoms of a distracted condition of mind. For removing these obstacles [there should be] the constant practice of the one principle [the japa and bhavanam of Om]." – Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1:24-32
Masters of wisdom on Aum
* Sri Anandamoyi Ma
“Remembrance of the Pranava] must become so automatic that you cannot breathe without remembering It.”
“Om is the root of all sounds. Every other sound is contained in That, and It is used to take one beyond all sound.”
* Sri Aurobindo
“OM is the mantra, the expressive sound-symbol of the Brahman Consciousness in its four domains from the Turiya to the external or material plane. The function of a mantra is to create vibrations in the inner consciousness that will prepare it for the realisation of what the mantra symbolises and is supposed indeed to carry within itself. The mantra OM should therefore lead towards the opening of the consciousness to the sight and feeling of the One Consciousness in all material things, in the inner being and in the supraphysical worlds, in the causal plane above now superconscient to us and, finally, the supreme liberated transcendence above all cosmic existence. The last is usually the main preoccupation with those who use the mantra.” Letters on Yoga, Vol. II, p. 745-46
* A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
“If you are a serious student of Vedic mantras, you will chant Om because Vedic mantras begin with Om. Om, or the Omkara, is Krishna. Many people are fond of chanting Omkara. That is also nice, because Omkara is Krishna. If we simply remember, ‘This Omkara is Krishna,’ then we become perfect, because the goal is to become Krishna conscious. So you can become Krishna conscious while chanting Om.”
* Swami Dayananda Saraswati
“Om is the highest Name of God, and comprises many other Names of God. It should be borne in mind that Om is the Name of God exclusively–and of no other object material or spiritual–while the others are but descriptive titles and not exactly proper names.”
“This is the Ultimate Word: but can any express its marvellous savor? He who has savored it once, he knows what joy it can give. Kabir says: Knowing it, the ignorant man becomes wise, and the wise man becomes speechless and silent.”
* Lahiri Mahasaya
“Constant japa of the Pranava, Omkar, Which is self-revealing, and constant focus on It as the form of Ishvara, and dedicating all actions to It as if you are not the doer yourself; is Kriya Yoga.”
* Avadhuta Nityananda Paramhansa
“Following the path of discrimination, let the pure mind be firmly fixed in Om.”
* Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa
“‘What will you gain’, some sages ask, ‘by merely hearing this sound?’ You hear the roar of the ocean from a distance. By following the roar you can reach the ocean. As long as there is the roar, there must also be the ocean. By following the trail of Om you attain Brahman, of which the Word is the symbol. That Brahman has been described by the Vedas as the ultimate goal.”
* Ramana Maharshi
“The purport of prescribing meditation on the Pranava is this. The Pranava is Omkara…the advaita-mantra which is the essence of all mantras…. In order to get at this true significance, one should meditate on the Pranava. …The fruition of this process is samadhi which yields release [moksha], which is the state of unsurpassable bliss.
Rāja Yoga ("royal yoga", "royal union", also known as Classical Yoga or simply Yoga) is one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of Hindu philosophy, outlined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras. Raja yoga is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation (dhyana) to further one's acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation.
The term Rāja Yoga is a retronym, introduced in the 15th century Hatha Yoga Pradipika to distinguish the school based on the Yoga Sutras from the new current of Hatha Yoga. The term was later used to describe the entirely unrelated meditation practice of the Brahma Kumaris involving the focus of one's mind and surrender to a channelled entity they believe to be the Supreme Soul.
Raja Yoga is sometimes referred to as Aṣṭānga (eight-limbed) yoga because there are eight aspects to the path to which one must attend. This is not to be confused with the Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga of K. Pattabhi Jois.
Raja Yoga is so-called because it is primarily concerned with the mind. The mind is traditionally conceived as the "king" of the psycho-physical structure which does its bidding (whether or not one has realized this). Because of the relationship between the mind and the body, the body must be first "tamed" through self-discipline and purified by various means (see Hatha Yoga). A good level of overall health and psychological integration must be attained before the deeper aspects of yoga can be pursued. Humans have all sorts of addictions and obsessions and these preclude the attainment of tranquil abiding (meditation). Through restraint (yama) such as celibacy, abstaining from drugs and alcohol and careful attention to one's actions of body, speech and mind, the human being becomes fit to practise meditation. This yoke that one puts upon oneself (discipline) is another meaning of the word yoga.
Every thought, feeling, perception, or memory you may have causes a modification, or ripple, in the mind. It distorts and colors the mental mirror. If you can restrain the mind from forming into modifications, there will be no distortion, and you will experience your true Self. - Swami Satchidananda
Patañjali's Yoga Sutras begin with the statement yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (1.2), "Yoga limits the oscillations of the mind". They go on to detail the ways in which mind can create false ideations and advocate meditation on real objects, which process, it is said, will lead to a spontaneous state of quiet mind, the "Nirbija" or "seedless state", in which there is no mental object of focus.
Practices that serve to maintain for the individual the ability to access this state may be considered Raja Yoga practices. Thus Raja Yoga encompasses and differentiates itself from other forms of Yoga by encouraging the mind to avoid the sort of absorption in obsessional practice (including other traditional yogic practices) that can create false mental objects.
In this sense Raja Yoga is referred to as the "king among yogas": all yogic practices are seen as potential tools for obtaining the seedless state, itself considered to be the starting point in the quest to cleanse Karma and obtain Moksha or Nirvana. Historically, schools of yoga that label themselves "Raja" offer students a mix of yogic practices and (hopefully or ideally) this philosophical viewpoint.
Raja Yoga aims at controlling all thought-waves or mental modifications. While a Hatha Yogi starts his Sadhana with Asanas (postures) and Pranayama, a Raja Yogi starts his Sadhana with the mind, although a certain minimum of asanas and pranayamas are usually included as a preparation for the meditation and concentration.
Eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga
The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are:
* Yama - code of conduct, self-restraint * Niyama - religious observances, commitments to practice, such as study and devotion * Āsana - integration of mind and body through physical activity * Pranayama - regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body * Pratyahara - abstraction of the senses, withdrawal of the senses of perception from their objects * Dharana - concentration, one-pointedness of mind * Dhyana - meditation (quiet activity that leads to samadhi) * Samadhi - the quiet state of blissful awareness, superconscious state.
They are sometimes divided into the lower and the upper four limbs, the lower ones - from yama to pranayama - being parallel to the lower limbs of Hatha Yoga, while the upper ones - from pratyahara to samadhi - being specific for the Raja yoga. The upper three limbs practiced simultaneously constitute the Samyama.
Yama consists of five parts: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-covetousness). Ahimsa is perfect harmlessness and positive love also. This removes the brutal nature in man and strengthens the will.
The scientific basis of the Yama instructions may be explained in this way.
The five directives of Yama lay down behavioral norms as prerequisites for elimination of fear and angst and contribute to a tranquil mind. Nonviolence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satyavachana), non-stealing (astheya), child-like behavior (brahmacharya), and moderation in setting goals (aparigraha), prevent situations that evoke fear in human interactions and contribute to peace of mind.
Ahimsa (non-violence) helps to avoid conflicts with fellow human beings that normally occur because of competition for eating and mating. Hurting a person physically or mentally leads to fear of retaliation which disturbs peace of mind.[citations needed]
Satyavachan (truthfulness) helps peace of mind by eliminating fear of discovery of lies. Untruth implies maintaining two versions of an event, possibly in the same set of neurons, thus causing confusion and mental disturbance.[citations needed]
Astheya (non-stealing) eliminates the anxiety of discovery of theft, potential reprisal by the owner and/or punishment by state. Brahmacharya (celibacy or stage of life devoted to seeking knowledge) averts conflict associated with search for mates, eliminates fear of strife, enhances scholarship and upgrades equanimity.[citations needed]
Aparigraha (moderation in setting goals) prevents angst of potential failure, promotes self-control and poise.[citations needed]
Niyama is observance of five canons: Shaucha (internal and external purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of religious books and repetitions of Mantras), and Ishvarapranidhana (self-surrender to God, and His worship).
He who practises meditation without ethical perfection, without the practice of Yama-Niyama cannot obtain the fruits of meditation. Purify your mind first through the practice of Yama-Niyama. Then practice regular meditation. Then you will attain illumination.
Science underslying Niyama can be presented as follows.
Niyama unlike Yama prescribes mental exercises to train the mind to control emotions: (Saucha), (Santosha), (Tapaha), (Svadhyaya) and (Ishwara pranidhanani).
Saucha (Purity of thought) requires active monitoring of the mind from being obsessed with material or corporeal desires.
Santosha (Contentment) prevents desire to obtain, experience and /or accumulate objects of pleasure.
Tapaha (Austere or ascetic life style), by practicing self-denying and austere life style controls fondness for desire-generated emotions.
Svadhyaya (Study about self) enlightens the true nature of human nature and facilitates healthy thoughts.
Ishwara pranidhanani (Surrender of ego to God) makes it easier to be not self-centered by aiming at higher goals.
Thus Niyama instructions prepare the mind to control animal (reptilian brain- generated) and human (cerebral) emotions.
Any easy, steady, comfortable pose is Asana. Asanas steady the body. Posture is mastered by releasing tension and meditation on the unlimited.
Asana and Pranayama recognize the intimate connection between body and mind. Asana are a series of gentle physical exercises designed to keep muscles in tone, joints supple and nerves in tune.
Pranayama checks the outgoing tendencies of the mind. It is often misunderstood for breathing exercises. Prana means life force, while yama means to gain control.
Pranayama is the prelude to concentration of mind. Pranayama brings the involuntary breathing cycle under voluntary control by regulating inhalation, exhalation and holding breath static either in the lungs or out of them for periods which could be long or short. Active regulation of breathing naturally requires concentrating on the process, a prelude to control of thinking process the final goal of Raja yoga.[citations needed]
Pratyahara gives inner spiritual strength. It removes all sorts of distractions. It develops will-power.
The objective of Prathyahara is to disrupt the communication from the sense organ to the brain. Light, sound, smell etc. stimuli received by the sense organs are blocked from the brain centers and thus could not distract from concentration of the mind.[citations needed]
Real Yoga starts from concentration. Concentration merges into meditation. Meditation ends in Samadhi. Retention of breath, Brahmacharya, Satvic (pure) food, seclusion, silence, Satsanga (being in the company of a guru), and not mixing much with people are all aids to concentration. Concentrate on Trikuti (the space between the two eyebrows) with closed eyes is preferred. The mind can be easily controlled, as this is the seat for the mind.
Sleep, tossing of mind, attachment to objects, subtle desires and cravings, laziness, lack of Brahmacharya, gluttony are all obstacles in meditation. Reduce your wants. Cultivate dispassion. You will have progress in Yoga. Vairagya thins out the mind. Do not mix much. Do not talk much. Do not walk much. Do not eat much. Do not sleep much. Do not exert much. Never wrestle with the mind during meditation. Do not use any violent efforts at concentration. If evil thoughts enter your mind, do not use your will force in driving them. You will tax your will. You will lose your energy. You will fatigue yourself. The greater the efforts you make, the more the evil thoughts will return with redoubled force. Be indifferent. Become a witness of those thoughts. Substitute divine thoughts. They will pass away. Never miss a day in meditation. Regularity is of paramount importance. When the mind is tired, do not concentrate. Do not take heavy food at night.
The mind passes into many conditions or states as it is made up of three qualities-Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Kshipta (wandering), Vikshipta (gathering), Mudha (ignorant), Ekagra (one-pointed), and Nirodha (contrary) are the five states of the mind.
By controlling the thoughts the Sadhaka attains great Siddhis. He becomes an adept. He attains Asamprajnata Samadhi or Kaivalya. Do not run after Siddhis. Siddhis are great temptations. They will bring about your downfall. A Raja Yogi practices Samyama or the combined practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi at one and the same time and gets detailed knowledge of an object.
Control the mind by Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya (dispassion). Any practice which steadies the mind and makes it one-pointed is Abhyasa. Dull Vairagya will not help you in attaining perfection in Yoga. You must have Para Vairagya or Theevra Vairagya, intense dispassion.
Meditation on OM with Bhava and its meaning removes obstacles in Sadhana and helps to attain Samadhi. Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-Dvesha (likes and dislikes), Abhinivesha (clinging to mundane life) are the five Kleshas or afflictions. Destroy these afflictions. You will attain Samadhi.
Samadhi is of two kinds:
* Savikalpa, Samprajnata or Sabija; and * Nirvikalpa, Asamprajnata or Nirbija.
In Savikalpa or Sabija, there is Triputi or the triad (knower, known and knowledge). The samskaras are not burnt or freed. Savitarka, Nirvitarka, Savichara, Nirvichara, Sasmita and Saananda are the different forms of Savikalpa Samadhi. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Nirbija Samadhi or Asamprajnata Samadhi there is no triad.
A Bhakta gets Bhava-Samadhi, a Jnani gets Badha-Samadhi, a Raja Yogi gets Nirodha Samadhi.
In a lay-persons terms, Samadhi would be described as enlightenment.