Systems of Yoga, Methods of Yoga and
Verifiability of Yogic Knowledge
A study of different systems of yoga such as Raja yoga, Hatha yoga, Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga and Karma yoga, will reveal to us the effectivity of yogic methods, and the results obtained by the pursuit of these methods can be compared with each other, contrasted in regard to their differences and can be verified, repeated and utilized, not only in their psych- ological or subjective aspects, but even in terms of physical aspects, if that is so willed and if the pursuit is carried out to a certain extreme or expanding limit.
Raja yoga,26 for instance, depends on the perception and experience that, after sufficient mastery over the bodily posture that can bring about ease and comfort in the stability of the bodily condition (āsana), and after adequate mastery of the movements of breathing, (prānāydm), one can realize the relationship between movements of life-breath and movements of sensations, impulses, emotions and thoughts. Raja Yoga moves forward and utilizes this knowledge in arriving at great control and mastery of one's thought- movements, and one can arrive even at a total cessation of all the movements of the stuff of consciousness (chitta-vritti).
Raja yoga further underlines the aid that can be obtained from the formation of certain physical and conscious habits which can be regulated, modified and changed according to the needs of the attainment of the control and mastery over the thought movement. Here the methods of Raja yoga require regular and persistent pursuit of the principles of physical and psychological purification, and scrupulous practice of truths, harmony, continence and renunciation of desires to covet and possess material or other objects of the world.
But the central method of Raja yoga is a method of concentration, several steps of which have been discerned and prescribed for regular practice. Preliminary exercises include a persistent effort at the withdrawal of normal psychological tendency to wander about under the pressure of sensations or battery of suggestions that pour in our mind from outside. This practice of withdrawal is accompanied by the practice of an effort at gathering all energies on a particular point that may consist of any part of the body or a figure or a syllable or an idea. A sufficient capacity, it is found, develops by regular practice so that as soon as one is seated comfortably, certain quietude is felt effortlessly, and one is able to withdraw from external pressures and one is able to gather all the energies rapidly and focus them on the preferred point of concentration. But this is the first step of the central process of concentration. This step is technically called Pratyāhāra. The next step, which is called Dhāranā, consists of adequate dwelling on the point of concentration, and by regular practice, it is found that one can rapidly and effortlessly gets concentrated on the fixed point of concentration and one can remain in that state of dwelling on the fixed point of concentration for adequate duration. If Dhāranā, is practised for a sufficiently long period over days
or weeks or months, one is enabled to be not only concentrated but so absorbed that it becomes difficult or disagreeable to easily come out of that state, and even if one comes out of that state, the memory of that absorption and the ease and lucidity and joy of that state lingers, and one is able to return to that state with little effort or even at will. That state of absorption or absorbed concentration on a fixed point or idea or figure or image is what is properly called dhyānā or meditation or contemplation. A remarkable result of the development of the state of Dhyānā is that there occurs a development of mental faculties: understanding becomes sharpened, awareness becomes alert, freshness in perception or in understanding becomes vivid, and the world begins to be felt in its aspects of mystery and wonder. One experiences unusual penetration of consciousness so as to grasp more and more easily the knowledge of secrets, and one begins to develop powers of influence and even the powers of telepathy, telekinesis and other allied powers.
The yoga-sūtra of Patanjali27 speaks of development of extraordinary powers of consciousness, vibhūtis. One perceives that psychological functionings can be more and more readily discerned, separated or dissolved, and one can even combine the functions and forces of consciousness in new forms, and they can be set to novel and formerly impossible workings; even faculties of poetry or art or philosophy begin to grow and develop and they arrive at a rapid pace of flowering. Health begins to flourish, and curative powers of the body begin to be activated. But more importantly, states of quietude, calm, tranquility and peace begin to predominate even during active life. And as one advances, one becomes capable of entering into states of Samadhi, states of gradual cessation of modifications of consciousness. At last, the state
of Total Silence is achieved, and in that state of silence a true spiritual experience is obtained, the experience of a being, utterly unmoved, immobile and immovable, that stands un- affected even while it witnesses outer movements. This experience can be repeated, and one can be settled in a state of realization where the witness self (Sakshi Purusha) becomes a normal state, and one feels liberated forever from the turmoil of the thought and fleeting impressions of the multiplicity of the objects of the world.
The knowledge that arises in the state of realization carries with it this certainty of self-consciousness and this state of self-consciousness abides uninterruptedly. As Swami Vivekananda points out,28 this entire process is methodical, one moves upwards step by step, and in this process, one is not required to hold dogmatic belief or to practice rituals or ceremonies. This process is entirely psychological, independent of religious beliefs and practices. It is a process that is scientific in character, it is experimental and it yields to the processes of verification by personal experience and verification not only in oneself, but in anybody else who undergoes the same methodical process of psychological concentration.
Hathayoga consists of another scientific process of perception, practice and experience. In Hathayoga,29 the primary and predominant attention is not on the mind and the powers of the mind but on the vital forces and functions and on the instrumentality of the physical body. Methods are centered on physical postures (asanas) and on the control of breath (pranayama). The science of Hathayoga lays down a methodical development of the control and mastery of the body and vital forces. This science depends on the perception
and experience that the vital forces and functions, to which our life is normally subjected and whose ordinary operations seem set and indispensable, can be mastered; these operations can be changed or suspended with results that would otherwise be impossible and seem miraculous to those who have not seized the rationale of that process. Hathayoga is able not only to demonstrate that the capacity of our total consciousness far exceeds that of our organs, the senses, the nerves, the brain, but that even for our ordinary thought and consciousness these organs are only their habitual instruments and not their generators. Consciousness uses the brain which its upward striving has produced; brain has not produced consciousness, nor does it use the consciousness. In abnormal instances of Hathayogic accomplishments, it can be shown that our organs are not entirely indispensable instruments, —that the heartbeats are not absolutely essential to life, any more than is breathing, nor the organized braincells to thought.30
Power of attaining physical immobility is as important in Hathayoga as the power of mental immobility in Rajayoga or in several forms and disciplines of the yoga of knowledge. The Hathayoga practices of the asana show that yogic passivity of the body is a condition of the greatest increase, possession and continence of energy, just as the practices of Pratyahara, Dhama and Dhyana and Samadhi show that the yogic passivity of mind is the solid base for the greatest increase, possession and continence of mental energy. It is seen that the body of the perfected Hathayogin is capable of feats of endurance, force, unfatigued expenditure of energy when the practices of asana are combined with those of Pranayama; the body acquires an immense power of health; its tendencies of decay, age and death are arrested. The
Hathayogin has a much greater power of longevity, and since the body is the instrument for increasing growth of consciousness and possession of spiritual experience, this power of longevity is a matter of great importance. There is an enormous variety of asanas in Hathayoga, running in their fullness beyond the number of eighty. This variety of asanas serves to alter the relation of the physical energy in the body to the earth energy with which it is related. It is seen that the heavy hold of the earth can be counteracted by the process of the lightening of the heaviness of the human body; and this can produce the phenomenon of utthāpanā or partial levitation. Powers developed by Hathayoga culminate in the extraordinary powers of garimā (heaviness), mahimā (greatness), animā (capacity to reduce the body to atomic size), and laghimā (the power to shorten the body).31
The power of pranayama which can be developed by the exercises of breathing brings about a purified and unobstructed state of the nervous system as a result; the Hathayogin is able to direct the vital energy to any part of the body and in any way or with any rhythm of its movement. According to the science of Hathayoga, it is possible to direct the different powers of the vital energy through various nerve channels, and one becomes aware of its action in the six Chakras or ganglionic centers of the nervous system. And one is able to open it up in each beyond its present limited, habitual and mechanical workings. But even a complete mastery of the body and the life and a free and effective use of them established upon purification of their workings is considered to be a mere basis of the more important matter of the psychical and spiritual effects. According to Hathayoga, there is an intimate connection between the body and the mind and spirit and also between the gross and the
subtle body. It is at this point that Hathayoga admits the methods of Rajayoga, and a point is reached at which a transition from Hathayoga to Rajayoga can be made. Hathayoga, thus, combined with Rajayoga, leads to the spiritual experience which Rajayoga provides, but the advantage of the Hathayogin is the power of physical health and longevity, which have their own utilities for the growth and sustenance of spiritual experience.32
Yoga of Devotion
The yoga of devotion, as also the systems of yoga of works and knowledge, have methods and succession of the steps of development, but they are more intuitive and less mechanical. The yoga of devotion, by methods of purification of feelings and emotions, and by sublimating them through the processes of remembrance, adoration, offering, submission and surrender, leads to those spiritual experiences in which one gets united by the power of divine love with the supreme divine consciousness and its delight in states of supernal ecstasy. The methods of the yoga of Devotion, when followed with regularity and constancy, confirm the repeated experiences and realizations of the human individual with the universal consciousness and with the consciousness of the Lord of the universe.33
Yoga of Knowledge
The yoga of knowledge34 has also its own specific methods where the powers of intellect are purified and subtlised to such an extent that the intellectual distinctions between appearance and reality are heightened into Gxperiential realizations by regular and sustained processes of meditation. The object of knowledge is made the object of
prolonged concentration, and this process is strengthened by śravana, manana and nidhidhyāsana (hearing of the object of knowledge, reflection on the object of knowledge and contemplation in which the object of knowledge is dwelt upon repeatedly and insistently, and eventually, effortlessly), and these processes end in a state of experience of the Spaceless and Timeless Reality, and this experience can be heightened into a permanent realization; the appearances of the world or the phenomenal reality of the world seem unsubstantial or become sublated on account of stabilization of consciousness in the identity of the ultimate reality which is experienced to be eternally permanent. The yoga of knowledge (Jnānayoga) utilizes the power of meditation that can transform mental thought into experience or into knowledge by identity. Two particular meditations are pursued in Jnānayoga, negative and positive. In the negative meditation, one develops and concentrates on the thought that the One or the internal Self is alone real and not the body, life-force and the mind; one becomes detached and disassociated from the identity that one has in ordinary consciousness with the body, life and mind. This negative process is supplemented by the positive process of meditation in which thought is centered on the ultimate reality and by constant meditation thought is sought to be transcended in experience of the universality and transcendental consciousness of the spaceless and timeless.
Yoga of Divine Works
In the yoga of divine works (Karma yoga),35 the methods and processes insist on the utilization of the activities which are centered on the production of results or fruits of action. The principal method is to purify the element of desire which
is the normal motivation of human action that is constantly engaged in the production of results and in the enjoyment that results of action provide. The aim in Karma yoga is the realization that is attainable through the methods of Karma voga: the realization of the divine will; and this realization is attained by a methodical elimination of desire and ego which are ordinarily inseparable from human action. The first step of the method of Karma yoga is to become engaged in action with a constant thought and eventual experience that even though every action is result-oriented, one has no right to the enjoyment of the result of action — karmanyeva adhikāraste, mā phaleśu kadācana — (one has right only to action and not to its results or fruits). This process is aided by the development of a state of offering or a state of sacrifice, as a result of which the element of desire and of the enjoyment that is derived from the satisfaction of desire get gradually diminished. This is further aided by the knowledge that grows in the individual of the processes of energy, processes of action, and processes of relations between actions and results. The action, it is realized, proceeds from a vast universal engine, —from a universal dynamo of action, Prakriti. It is further realized that the idea that action proceeds from oneself does not correspond to the reality of the processes of action, that the ego which seems to be the originator and determiner of action is found to be an error, considering that even the ego is an instrument and a knot fashioned by the universal energy and therefore entirely derived from and dependent on the universal Prakriti. One also perceives that there is a rhythm in the working of the universal Prakriti and that there is a law of constant exchange of forces, and that this law is fulfilled when the forces of action which seem to be proceeding from the ego are offered to higher and higher levels offerees. The whole world is then
seen to be an exchange of offerings, an exchange of sacrifices. This is a major but not the final result of Karma yoga. By the process of offering to higher and higher forces of energy and action in the world, one begins to discover that there is a supreme originator of action, a supreme originator even of the universal Prakriti. The offering of one's action then is directed to that supreme originator, to the divine will. By constant offering of one's actions to that supreme will, the personal will and desire of action get ultimately eliminated, and the sense of egoistic doership is also annihilated. One becomes free from desire and ego, even though the flow of energy and action continues to operate. When that flow of action is devoid of desire and ego, the very nature of that flow of action gets changed. One finds that that flow of action is a spontaneous flow of the divine will and that one's individuality, which is freed from ego, is only a channel of the divine will and divine action. One acts in the world thereafter, but not out of desire nor out of the sense of doership, but as a simple and effortless instrument through which the divine will is manifested and accomplished. These are the methods and processes of Karma yoga. The realization of the divine will and the realization of the divine consciousness behind that will become attainable by rigorous and continuous employment of the relevant methods and processes.
Validity of Yogic Knowledge
It will be seen that, in the light of the body of the knowledge of the methods and results obtained through the processes of the methods, spiritual experiences are not or need not remain occasional or random or sporadic phenomena. Just as in physical sciences, validity of know-
ledge is obtained by verification of repeated production of the same phenomena by the employment of the same methods, even so, in the science of yoga, the validity of yogic knowledge is obtained by verification of repeated production of the spiritual phenomena by the employment of the same and identifiable methods. In both the cases, the knowledge is objective; yogic experiences and realizations cannot be dismissed as mere subjective phenomena.