By An Anonymous Nath Panthi Of The Twentieth Century
The ultimate goal of human life is to realize God and become one with Him. We may go further and say that it is the birthright of every human being. Swarajya [absolute freedom] is also our birthright no doubt, but the greatest efforts are required to regain the Swarajya which we have lost. Swarajya is really our own, but a great endeavor has to be put up for removing the obstacles in the way, and the endeavor has to be carried on from generation to generation. Similarly, in the case of the human spirit mukti or liberation or perfect independence is not a thing which has to be obtained and brought from outside. It is there all along with the soul itself. But the spirit has lost its independence by faults of its own. It has become the slave of prakriti and entirely dependent upon it. The purpose of Dhyana Yoga is the freeing the spirit from this slavery or bondage. Dhyana Yoga has the power to transform a beast into a human being and a human being into God.
The acquisition of the Four Sadhanas is an infallible weapon for destroying dependence and for attaining liberation or moksha. They are:
- Discrimination between eternal and non-eternal things; deeply to think over what is eternal and to distinguish it from things non-eternal; to have a clear idea about what is everlasting and what is evanescent; to distinguish between the Self and the non-Self.
- Disinterestedness regarding enjoyments in this as well as the next world; to look upon all enjoyments in this world and also all enjoyments in swarga or heaven as the means of bondage.
- Possession of the six virtues:
- Internal steadiness;
- Control of the external senses;
- A tendency to suffer calmly any evil or calamity;
- A keen desire for liberation (moksha), just as a person who is without food for a week keenly desires food. This mumukshutwa however, cannot arise without the acquisition of the first three sadhanas.
It can be said that the desire to obtain liberation, is possessed by almost everyone to a greater or smaller degree. The reason is that no one likes bondage, because there is misery in bondage and happiness in freedom. Moksha has been defined in the Vedanta as the complete cessation of pain and the acquisition of the highest bliss. He alone acquires this moksha or liberation, he alone acquires this highest bliss, who has a keen desire for it. When will this keen desire be generated? It will be generated only when there will be intense consciousness of the misery brought on by the bondage of worldly existence. When a person keenly feels the pangs of misery, then only will he feel a keen desire to get himself free. This keen desire to be free is known as mumukshutwa.
The human spirit no doubt has a desire to get free from bondage and to obtain everlasting happiness, but finds itself unable to manage the task. Saints come into this world for the uplift of such human spirits. They point them to the summit of Self-realization and the way to attain it. Such saints who have real experience themselves and who can show others how to experience Self-realization are very rare indeed. To meet such saints shows great good fortune and is the fruit of great merit acquired in previous lives. Otherwise even if such saints are near at hand it becomes very difficult to understand and recognize them. There is another reason also which is at present operating to a great extent: the presence in the world of false saints who have been themselves deceived by a false saint or who have deceived themselves into considering themselves saints. Such “gurus” claim to divulge the “secret path” known to them for attaining moksha only to those who make proper submission to them and accept “initiation” at their hands. Such is not the case, however, with teachers of the Nath Panth (Path of the Nath Yogis). If they meet someone who is sincere and willing to make the necessary effort, they lend him a helping hand and lead him to the proper path. The do not consider him a disciple or themselves a guru. Rather, they refer to their students (a proper term) as their friends.
Nearly one hundred percent of the “yoga” taught in India (and now abroad) is not true yoga at all in the definition of the authentic Nath Panthis, the true Nath Yogis. Rather it is nearly all nothing but hatha yoga and tantric practices somehow cobbled together. This is especially true of the breathing methods called “pranayama.” Certain of the less physical breathing methods of both hatha yoga and tantra are often presented as Raja yoga or “the subtle Raja yoga,” when they are nothing of the sort. Only the meditation on Soham, mentally intoning “So” when inhaling and Ham (“Hum”) when exhaling in time with the natural and spontaneous breathing, is true Dhyana Yoga or Raja yoga.
This is demonstrated by the case of Dr. Krishnaji Govind Kurdukar, an Ayurvedic physician who was studied in the early part of the twentieth century. A longtime practitioner of hatha yoga, for three months he lived on only quart of cow’s milk a day. Then for six months he only took syrup of dried grapes, and after that for 108 days he remained only on water. When he sat for meditation, his whole body would rise up a little more than two feet from the ground and remain there without any support. At the end of those 108 days he was examined by Dr. Bhandarkar, a Civil Surgeon, who found that the regimen had produced no adverse effect upon his mental condition or health, although at the same time he had been engaging in physical work according to his bodily strength. This shows that perfect health and wonderful powers can be acquired by the practice of hatha yoga. But there is another thing which becomes very clear from this case. Whatever benefits a person may derive from the practice of hatha yoga as far as bodily fitness or even some miraculous feats are concerned, hatha yoga is of no use in attaining the real bliss of the Self which lies beyond body consciousness.
Various powers are acquired by practicing different forms of concentration. In the Fifteenth Chapter of the Eleventh Skanda of the Srimad Bhagavatam, Sri Krishna has described to Uddhava at full length the various kinds of siddhis (miraculous powers) which can be thus acquired. There is no doubt that these powers can be obtained. But they are obstacles in the path of Self-realization. Sri Krishna says, “He who desires to obtain greatness in the world will undergo the trouble of acquiring these siddhis, while he who has a firm desire to reach Me will never turn towards them. I have described at great length the various siddhis and the methods of acquiring them only to make you understand that siddhis are only obstacles on the path leading to Me” (Sri Eknathi Bhagwata, Chapter XV).
The greatest goal to which the human being can aspire is the realization of the highest bliss in the attainment of Self-realization. The Bhagavad Gita describes it as, “beyond the senses and capable of being grasped only by the intellect.” This happiness falls to the lot of saints and devotees alone. It is therefore necessary for a sadhaka to try to obtain Self-realization which is the highest bliss. This is the real aim of human life. Sri Krishna explains the method of reaching this goal in the following words: “A sadhaka who concentrates his pure mind on me, the Brahman without attributes, obtains the highest bliss in which state all desire comes to an end” (Srimad Bhagavatam, Eleventh Skanda, Chapter XV). By contemplating upon Brahman, the sadhaka obtains the highest bliss and all his desires become merged into that bliss. Sri Eknath says: “When the highest bliss is obtained, all desires become merged just as at the rise of the sun, all the stars and the moon disappear. All the innumerable desires of the sadhaka get merged in the vast ocean of the Supreme Bliss, while all idea of sensual pleasures is ashamed to show itself and instantaneously dwindles away.”
The actual experience of this supreme bliss can be obtained by following the instructions of a sadguru. A true sadguru is one who shows the disciple how to realize the Sat: the Absolute Reality–Brahman. For this reason alone should someone be considered as a sadguru. The sadguru merely points out to the aspirant the place where his own treasure has been hidden and shows him how to realize his Self. “Your treasure is very near you. Only you have forgotten the place where it is lying” (Tukaram). Sadgurus never think that they have given to the disciple anything of their own, nor do they consider that that disciple is in any way obligated to them. On the contrary they feel as it were a sense of relief in having safely returned the deposit to the rightful owner, and thus have only done their duty. Sadgurus who fully know the divine laws have these characteristics.
“To say that the guru and Brahman are on the same level or of the same kind is not really true. The idea of the two being similar or on the same level has no foundation to stand on” (Eknathi Bhagwata, Chapter III). Brahman is pervading everywhere–inside as well as outside a human being. Yet the human spirit suffer so many agonies, smothered in the circle of births and deaths. Why? The reason is that although Brahman is all-pervading, still It is of no use as It remains unknown. Hence moksha is not obtained by means of Brahman, but it can be obtained only by the knowledge, the knowing, of Brahman. The way to this knowledge of Brahman is imparted by a sadguru. For if the desire of an aspirant is really keen, the Supreme Self arranges for his meeting with a sadguru.
Dhyana Yoga as Taught by the Nath Panth
If we look at the original meaning of the word “yoga,” it appears to mean the union of two similar things or ideas, so that ultimately the two things or ideas merge into one another and become one. Thus the jiva (the human spirit) and Shiva (the Supreme Spirit) who appear to be separate in the dual state ultimately become one. But if the jiva is considered to be a part of Shiva, then how can the human spirit and the Supreme Spirit become one? To say so will not stand the test of logic and reason. Yogis, however, have written down their experiences in the state of samadhi in which the jiva experiences that he is nothing but Shiva. The duality, therefore, is merely an appearance and not real. Thus they have written down their experiences in order to help seekers of truth.
Yoga, however, is not to be taken to mean the experience of the unity of the jiva and Shiva, but the path which leads to this experience. Hence yoga may be defined as denoting all those actions, mental or physical, which have to be systematically performed in order to know the real internal Principle in man, the jivatman, and then to experience it as nothing else but the supreme spirit, the Paramatman; in other words, to experience the unity between the human and the supreme spirits. According to Vedanta, chaitanya (consciousness) is the real nature of the jiva. It is not really fettered in any way but it falsely feels that it is fettered. If the spirit had not been really free, moksha would have been an impossibility. Hence moksha is verily nothing but its own traditional wealth kept as a deposit. The jiva is nothing but the Supreme Spirit, but owing to illusion created by Maya he feels himself separate. When this illusion is dispelled by real knowledge, one gets the experience that jiva and Shiva are really one.
The word “jnana” or knowledge is used in two senses: (1) the knowledge of the true nature of things, and (2) the knowledge of the actions which are necessary to be done. The ultimate goal of all yoga is to obtain the first kind of knowledge. The second kind of knowledge tells us what particular mental actions are required to be done in order to obtain the first kind of knowledge. To try to get a clear idea of what is Brahman and what is not Brahman, what is atma and what is not atma, then to concentrate one’s mind entirely on the spirit or atma and to practice this concentration almost continuously until the aspirant becomes one with Brahman, are the actions meant. This being one with Brahman is known as swarupajnana. That mukti which is obtained by various yoga practices but which falls short of swarupajnana is not real mukti but what is known as kramamukti–merely a progressive stage of mukti. It is also called Ishwarasayujya mukti, liberation through union with Ishwara. In this stage the sadhaka or aspirant gets help from Ishwara and ultimately obtains oneness, with Brahman.
But a human being is not endowed only with intellect. He has faith, devotion and he has also a body. Hence actions, some physical some mental, have been prescribed. The body and mind are necessary in order to get experience in the world and these very experiences leave their deep-rooted impressions on the mind which then assume the form of desire and prevent the human spirit from realizing itself. Hence it is necessary in the first place to remove these obstacles. It is, therefore, incumbent to obtain control over the mind and breath by means of yoga practices, because God will be realized only when the mind and the breath acquire steadiness. The acquisition of this steadiness is what is known as the state of samadhi. A person will be able to experience this state only, when all ideas and doubts will vanish owing to the mind and the breath being entirely controlled.
A person can be said to have realized himself only when in the state of samadhi the distinction between jiva and Shiva vanishes and they become one. Till then the flow of ideas will continue and the perception of “I” and “you” will remain. Just as a pinch of salt, if thrown into water, soon loses its separate existence and becomes one with the water, similarly, in the state of samadhi the jiva (human spirit) loses itself and becomes one with Shiva (the Supreme Spirit).
In the highest developed state of meditation there is no consciousness of space. There is a limitless ocean of light and there is complete quietude. This state has been described by various names. Some call it the state of unity between the jiva and Shiva, some call it immortality, some call it the attainment of the highest goal, some call it the state of oneness, some call it swarajya: self-rule; independence; freedom; absolute freedom, the state of self-dependence (not depending upon anything else), some call it the state of absolute purity (niranjanawastha), some call it jivanmukti (state of moksha while living in the body), some call it sahajawastha (always being as we are: one with the Supreme Spirit) and some call it turiya, the fourth state beyond the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. All these different names, however, point to the same meaning: the state in which the flow of ideas and desires is stopped, the mind goes beyond pleasure and pain, joy and sadness and becomes entirely free from all passions. If a person attains this state while he is in this body, then after he leaves the body, he obtains oneness with the Supreme Self which is known as videhakaivalya mukti.
In order to attain this state, four different paths of yoga have been prescribed. They are:
- Mantra yoga
- Hatha yoga
- Laya yoga
- Raja yoga
Although the goal of all these paths is the same, still the methods followed in each of the paths are different.
You may go by any path but one thing must be firmly borne in mind, viz. that there can be no realization of Brahman unless the flow of ideas has been stopped and control obtained over the breath, because all thoughts, doubts and desires arise from chitta and prana.
Eight different kinds of practices are there in the different kinds of yoga, but the goal of all is the same. This fact has been repeatedly mentioned here because otherwise it is likely to be lost sight of. The samadhi attained in mantra yoga is known as mahabhava, supreme love and yearning for God; that in hatha yoga as mahabodha, the great awakening; that in laya-yoga as mahalaya, total union of the jiva with Shiva; and that in raja yoga as kaivalya mukti, liberation while living in the body.
To attain the state of samadhi, to experience the unity between the jiva and the Shiva, is the highest of all yogas from the point of view of a sadhaka. In raja-yoga predominance is given to buddhi, in mantra-yoga it is given to worshipping and to repeating the mantra with firm faith and devotion, in hatha yoga to certain external (physical) and internal (mental) actions, and in laya-yoga, which is a higher form of hatha-yoga, to dharana and to the awakening of kundalini, the primordial power within the individual. But these different kinds of yoga are not absolutely independent of each other. In each kind of yoga help is freely taken from methods of other yoga paths.
There are certain things which a sadhaka is required to do as a preparatory stage, in order to qualify himself for any kind of yoga. They are called the eight branches or parts of yoga. They are: (1) yama; (2) niyama; (3) asana; (4) pranayama; (5) pratyahara; (6) dharana; (7) dhyana and (8) samadhi.
- Yama. This includes:
Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
Satya: truthfulness, honesty
Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
- Niyama. This includes:
Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
Swadhyaya: introspective Self-study, spiritual study
Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God
These things are absolutely necessary for a sadhaka who wishes to take up the practice of yoga. He must have complete control over his mind, otherwise he will have a downfall. A man who cannot control his mind is not fit to enter the path of yoga.
- Asana. This is the practice of sitting comfortably in any one posture for a length of time.
- Pranayama. This includes three processes. To take in a full breath is known as Puraka, then to keep it in for some time is known as Kumbhaka, and then to give it out completely is known as Rechaka. These three things are to be done in a certain limit of time fixed for each. Pranayama, however, has importance only in hatha yoga.
- Pratyahara. This means to acquire steadiness of mind by controlling the senses in their natural attractions towards external objects. The mind is very fickle by nature. It as it were takes the external objects inside, through the senses and then becomes engrossed in the contemplation of these objects. Hence it is necessary to gradually draw the mind away from the contemplation of these external objects perceived by the senses and to fix it on some small point, and then to direct its attention towards the spirit or Self.
- Dharana. This means fixing the mind on any mental object or on a part of the body such as a chakra.
- Dhyana. Meditation itself on a single thing which results in consciousness of the yogi’s individual Self within the Supreme Self.
- Samadhi. The state in which the mind becomes one with the spirit-Self in the same manner as salt is dissolved in water and becomes one with it. The state of complete samadhi is union with Brahman the Absolute.
These are steps on the path leading to complete concentration of the mind. First control must be obtained over the body by means of yama, niyama and asana; then over the breath by means of pranayama and then over the senses with the help of all the four. When dharana, dhyana and samadhi are added to the previous four things, the mind ceases to function and buddhi alone continues to work. Owing to continuous practice, after some time the yogi acquires a firm sense of detachment from the world and then his buddhi also becomes merged and he attains Self-realization. In that state the jiva (human spirit) becomes free from all dross, becomes full of knowledge and merges in the Supreme Self or Brahman and becomes one with it just as salt is dissolved in water or as camphor is burnt away without a trace.
In the passing of centuries in this land the pure science of dhyana yoga continued to be studied and practiced in the Nath Sampradaya. Every yogi of the Nath Pantha completely knew dhyana yoga–raja yoga–which is the most important of the yogas, but he also knew something about the other kinds of yoga. With the object that aspirants may gather some useful information regarding all the four kinds of yoga, an attempt is made here to describe them in brief.
(1) Mantra yoga: The main object in this yoga is to bring under the control of the mind all things in the world having a name and form, by going through certain practices. All things in the world are capable of being understood by the mind–sound, touch, form, taste and smell. The mind quickly becomes one with what it sees–it is carried away. This is what is known as the vritti of the mind.
The mind is never free, even for a single moment, from ideas and sentiments. Whenever an action is done, it is the sentiment which determines its value as high or low, good or bad. That is why it is necessary to have our ideas or sentiments pure. Just as a man who has fallen on the ground takes support of the ground itself in order to rise, similarly in order to sever the bondage of the human spirit, it is necessary to put oneself under certain restrictions and bonds. The mind becomes unsettled through name and form and it is therefore through name and form that it must be brought to steadiness.
In mantra yoga a sadhaka is asked to meditate upon some object having a name and form, care being taken that the object is such as to give rise to pure ideas and sentiments. This is known as meditation on the saguna (made of the five elements) form of deities. In addition to this the sadhaka has to observe six out of the eight sadhanas: (1) Yama; (2) Niyama; (3) Asana; (4) Pranayama; (5) Pratyahara; and (6) dharana.
Besides this he is asked to observe certain rules of conduct and he has to perform the worship of a deity, using some form or depiction as the object of his worship and meditation. The sadhaka has to repeat the mantra while worshipping or meditating upon the form of the deity, etc. This in due course leads to samadhi which is known as mahabhava samadhi. This yoga is easier than other three. In this yoga attention is required to be paid to different forms of worship, to the different duties prescribed to be observed by the sadhaka.
(2) Hatha yoga. In this yoga the main efforts are directed towards bringing the physical body under control. But as the physical body is very closely linked with the astral body, if the physical body is controlled it inevitably leads to the gaining of some control over sentiments, desires and reason. This is because the physical body has been so constructed that it is a proper abode for experiencing the fruits of actions done in previous births which the astral body brings along with it in each incarnation. When the astral and the physical bodies join together, there is no doubt that they are interdependent on each other and hence efforts directed towards the physical body have an effect over the astral body. When, therefore, the physical body is brought under control by certain physical practices, the astral body can also be more easily brought under control by certain mental practices.
To bring merely the physical body under control is not yoga, although it may be useful in keeping the health fit. All the different eight branches of yoga, yama, niyama, etc. have to be practiced in hatha yoga. Meditation is, however, practiced upon light or upon the flame of a lamp. The samadhi in hatha yoga is known as mahabodha samadhi. Steadiness of mind is acquired by means of pranayama. The word “Hatha” consists of two syllables, “Ha” and “Tha.” They respectively mean the Sun and the Moon or the prana vayu and the apana vayu. The prana vayu which abides in the heart is always drawing towards it the apana abiding in the muladhara, while the apana is similarity drawing the prana towards itself. These two Vayus, therefore, are as it were fighting with each other and obstructing each other in leaving the body. When, however, they become friendly with each other, they help in leaving the body. These two Vayus become one in the sushumna nerve. The prana which is in the individual body is merely a part of the universal prana (vishwaprana). Hence efforts must first be directed towards bringing about the union between the individual prana and the universal prana. This leads to perfect health and brings about steadiness of mind and concentration.
Pranayama has been given great predominance in hatha yoga. In the other three yogas–mantra, laya and raja yogas–it is of secondary importance. To take the prana upwards to the brahmarandhra (the chakra at the top of the head) through the sushumna, and to experience the state of samadhi there is considered as moksha by the hatha yogis.
In acquiring control over the physical body certain practices have to be done. They include restrictions regarding the place of abode, eating, drinking, sleeping, sitting and sexual intercourse.
(3) Laya yoga. This yoga is only a higher stage of hatha yoga. This yoga is to be practiced after the practices of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana and dhyana are completed. In every human being there always dwells the One Existent, Living and Blissful Shiva and His Consort Shakti. But owing to the net of desires accumulated in innumerable births which envelops this pure being, the human spirit is not conscious of its own real nature. In laya yoga the yogi first obtains control over his mind and then he gets the power of matter merged into the power of the spirit, and the five elements in the human body then become united with the five elements in the universe. It is a well-established principle in all yoga philosophy that whatever is found in the universe is also to be found in the human body.
Just as certain actions have to be done in the mantra and hatha yogas for helping the sadhaka in his progress, similarly certain actions have to be done in this yoga also. In laya yoga the extremely minute nature of the organs of knowledge, their position in the body, the effects which they produce on the astral body, their powers and the inner world which is in the human body are all taken into consideration. Different deities dwell in the different plexuses in the body. The sahasradala is the place of Shiva, the Supreme Self, who is self-existent, life and bliss, and of his Shakti, and the muladhara is the place of the kundalini, which is the power of prakriti. The goal of this yoga is to obtain control over this prakriti and to get it merged in the power of the spirit and thus to attain the state of samadhi.
Just as in hatha yoga the state of samadhi is attained by meditation upon light and in mantra yoga by meditation upon some object having a name and a form, similarly in laya yoga, samadhi is attained by meditating upon the reflection of the kundalini in the form of light which appears at the center between the eye-brows, the ajna chakra. This reflection appears only after kundalini is awakened.
In this yoga, kundalini is awakened by taking the help of hatha yoga and of the general eight branches of yoga–yama, niyama, etc. Predominance, however, is given in this yoga to dharana. The kundalini power holds and supports the human body and is the main support of all the practices in yoga. Just as we open a door by opening the lock, similarly a yogi awakens the kundalini by certain practices and thereby opens the door of moksha. In the human body the highest power is represented by the kundalini. In this power all other powers are centered. If strict celibacy is observed, this power instead of producing matter and thereby degrading itself, produces ojas (subtle vital power) which ascends, along with the power of breath, to the abode of Shiva and Shakti situated in the sahasradala. A person who succeeds in obtaining complete control over the sexual energies becomes free from all bondage.
All the seventy-two thousand nadis of the human body start from the Muladhara as the base of the spine.
Kundalini is also called prana shakti (the power of breath) and Shabda-Brahman (Brahman manifested in the form of sound). All mantras are but the manifestations of the kundalini and hence the kundalini is considered as the presiding deity of all mantras.
He who thoroughly knows this kundalini or prana shakti and brings it under his control is a real yogi and such a yogi alone can attain moksha. All others have been tied and caught in the snares of this world for ages together. The kundalini shines like lightning. Mantras are groups of letters and hence the sounds of mantras are but manifested forms of the kundalini. Even the Supreme Self as observed in the dwaita or dual state is a manifestation of the kundalini. Hence the repetition of mantras is necessary in order to awaken the kundalini.
The essence of mantras is full of life. Mere letters are dull matter, but the power centered in them is vital and full of life. Although this divine power dwells in every human being, still in order that it should produce an appreciable effect in the physical world, it is necessary to tread the path of yoga. When the capability of a sadhaka is joined with the inherent power of a mantra, then only does the spiritual power of the spirit become manifest.
Although this kundalini has its abode at the muladhara chakra in every human being, still it throws light on all yogic principles and makes them manifest in the heart of a yogi alone; and the kundalini of a yogi alone then as it were dances with joy. The Vedas, mantras, the sun, the moon and the fire are nothing but the manifestations of this kundalini power. The kundalini is the mother of the whole universe. All the six chakras and the sahasradala are tricks performed by this conjurer. It may be considered as the universal spirit or Shiva himself. Hence the main point is to awaken it by the repetition of mantras, to take it up to the brahmarandhra and to unite it with the power of the Supreme Self there. When this kundalini merges into the power of the Supreme Self, there is real Self-realization. Hence awakening of the kundalini is the first stage, and then taking it upwards and uniting it with the sahasradala is the next stage which is complete Self-realization.
(4) Raja yoga. Raja yoga stands supreme among all the yogas. In the other three yogas–mantra, hatha and laya–the sadhaka gradually acquires purity of mind and becomes worthy of attaining the state of savikalpa samadhi. It is only in raja yoga that he attains the state of nirvikalpa samadhi. A yogi who has attained savikalpa samadhi but has not experienced the state of nirvikalpa samadhi has to be born again and again in this world. In the nirvikalpa samadhi which is attained only by means of raja yoga all desire is absolutely rooted out and the yogi feels himself completely detached from the world, and hence he does not come back when he becomes one with Brahman. The first three yogas prepare the ground for raja yoga. Mahabhava is attained by means of the samadhi in mantra yoga. In hatha yoga the sadhaka gets complete control over breath and goes into the state of samadhi. He becomes as it were dead to all external objects. In the samadhi of mantra yoga the sadhaka is unconscious of the external world and experiences a feeling of joy. But the real perfect samadhi is that which is attained in raja yoga. There is only the consciousness of the Divine Existence in that state and the sadhaka then attains complete mukti or liberation.
Vairagya (detachment) is of four kinds: (1) mild, in which there is absence of attachment towards things of the world off and on; (2) middling, in which here is a desire to enjoy worldly pleasures if they are available, but the desire is not keen enough to produce any unpleasant feeling if they are not available; (3) adhimatra, in which a sense of disgust for worldly pleasures is produced owing to experiences of such worldly pleasures often resulting in misery; and (4) paravairagya, in which there is a complete turning away from the world and objects in it. In the mantra, hatha and laya yogas only the first kind of vairagya, the mild, is necessary. It is only in raja yoga that the sadhaka must have complete or paravairagya. Although in every kind of yoga great emphasis is laid on the preparation of the mind, still it is in raja yoga alone that this preparation of the mind is considered as the only essential thing.
To ascertain and know clearly what the truth is and what is not the truth, what the spirit is and what is the non-spirit, what is eternal and what is non-eternal, by reasoning and by the thoughtful and close study of the shastras, the Vedas, the Upanishads and works of philosophy, then to realize that God is self-existent, that he is life and that he is bliss and then to go into the state of nirvikalpa samadhi and to become one with God, the Supreme Self, is in short the aim of raja yoga.
In raja yoga alone all the results of actions done in former births are nullified, karma really comes to an end and the yogi attains complete mukti even though he may be living in this world in the human form.
Note: The information regarding yoga given above is not complete in all details, the main object being to give the reader a general idea of the subject.
Dhyana Yoga As Taught By the Nath Panth
Although during the last thousand years or so the human mind has been in a state of degradation, still at least one man in a thousand could be found, who tried to obtain some knowledge, superficial though it may be, of yoga. Perhaps one man among ten thousands actually practiced yoga. Such men, however, who practiced yoga, generally only practiced certain postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama). They did not observe yama and niyama. Perhaps one man in a million goes through the different stages of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara and meditation on some object. This state of things demonstrates the truth of Sri Krishna’s words in the Gita, “Among thousands of men perhaps one makes any efforts to accomplish yoga.”
The Nath Panth has certain fixed standards of his own by which to judge the aptitude of any person with whom they come in contact. If an aspirant has the following qualities in him: (1) good moral character; (2) respect for social ties; (3) a sort of disgust of the worldly life and its ways; (4) faith; (5) devotion and (6) belief in God, a Nath Panth teacher blesses him by giving him the ajapa-japa practice of the Soham mantra which has been handed down from the great Sri Matsyendranath himself.
As this Soham Mantra is the mantra of all the Nath Siddhas, and as it is also the mantra signifying the action of the breathing of all creatures, an aspirant who takes to it is sure to make progress in this very birth and to get experiences showing his progress.
Nowadays there are many so-called gurus giving some mantra to others and there are thousands who receive such mantras and become their disciples. Such persons, however, have no real desire to get moksha. They are more or less bent upon obtaining worldly pleasures. Occasionally perhaps one among a thousand is a real aspirant. But it would be difficult to find that a mantra given by a guru whose mission in life is to obtain money from his disciples rather than to guide them on the spiritual path leading ultimately to real peace of mind has contributed towards at least the purification of the disciple’s mind. There have been hundreds of cases where persons, being deceived by external appearances and worldly erudition, have continuously kept going to a guru for years together and have made absolutely no progress from a spiritual point of view.
A guru who really takes care to see whether the disciple is spiritually progresssing is very rare. An aspirant’s progress can be ascertained by marking whether there has been any change in the tendency of his mind since his receiving instruction from a guru. If he finds that his mind is gaining in calmness and its attraction respecting external things is becoming less and less, he can be sure that he is progressing.
It will be appropriate at this point to give in short the teachings of the Nath Panth regarding dhyana yoga.
Though it is not necessary in dhyana yoga, as it is in hatha yoga, to do certain bodily and mental actions in order to obtain control over the mind, still if a person does the mental repetition of Soham in time with the natural, spontaneous breath–intoning So while inhaling and Ham while exhaling–he very soon succeeds in acquiring concentration. In hatha yoga control is obtained first over the breath by pranayama and then control over the mind becomes easy. In dhyana yoga mind becomes concentrated by means of the japa and then control over the breath follows automatically.
In hatha yoga, one has first to do purakha (taking in full breath) and then kumbhaka (holding in of the breath), while in dhyana yoga owing to the concentration of the mind kumbhaka results without the necessity of purakha. This kumbhaka is known as kevala kumbhaka. In that state of deep concentration, the action of breathing is there but it is very subtle and slight. It is so subtle and imperceptible that if a piece of cotton is held close to the nostrils no motion can be perceived. That means that there is the action of breathing only sufficient to carry on the functions of the living body, but otherwise there is kumbhaka. Thus one important stage of hatha yoga is naturally acquired in dhyana yoga without any special efforts directed towards it.
The most important thing in yoga, however, is to awaken the kundalini which is really the pranashakti, and having opened the entrance to the sushumna nadi, to “inhale” and “exhale” prana in the sushumna. The yogi should not try to bring this about according to his imagination of it, but to wait and experience this in time by his simple and direct practice of Soham sadhana. It will occur spontaneously.
By Soham japa in time with the breath the yogi forms the habit of concentration and will be able eventually to remain in that state continuously. This helps the sadhaka a good deal in obtaining the stage of samadhi without making strenuous efforts. The concentration of the mind leads automatically to the control of breath. The sadhaka can sit in any easy posture. The mental japa of Soham should be done without moving the tongue, but only in the mind. Through the internal, mental repetition of the mantra there is natural control of the breath. The breath then begins going up through the sushumna. The mind and the breath then become united and begin to work in harmony. This is a very subtle experience and has nothing to do with the violent and dramatic “awakening of the kundalini” in tantric practices that is only neurological and profoundly pathological, leading to both physical and mental illness.
These things written so far on this subject are possible only through the yogi’s practice in this life or his previous lives. Some sadhakas begin experiencing these things quite soon, and others after some weeks or months. Much depends on how thoroughly the sadhaka is observing yama and niyama, and the total and permanent elimination of meat, fish, eggs, alcohol, nicotine and mind-affecting drugs.
During the practice of Soham sadhana the sadhaka may see light inwardly. This seeing is not done through natural faculty of seeing, but is the internal sight of the subtle energies of the mind and the subtle bodies. Its meaning should not be overestimated or exaggerated, but it is a sign that the mind has become calm and concentrated. In time the divine light is perceived and is a sign that the sadhaka is practicing correctly. But it does not mean he is enlightened–just on the right path to enlightenment. I mention this because the ego is always around waiting to lead the sadhaka astray by delusion and pride. The sadhaka should just keep up Soham sadhana and keep moving toward the Goal without distraction.
The sadhaka can experience many things through the internal senses such as sights, sounds, smells, sensations of lightness, heaviness, rising and falling and suchlike. They are only the experiences of subtle materiality, the subtle energies of the astral and causal bodies and senses. They are like signs on a highway. They indicate that the traveler is moving toward his destination, but not that he has arrived there.
Some Nath Panth teachers have the student sit in front of him and practice Soham sadhana. During the time they may have many kinds of experiences such as those listed above or the experience of seeing deities, siddhas, astral worlds, chakras and lights of many colors, or hearing many internal sounds such as bells, waterfalls, flutes, harps, and suchlike. All of these can be distractions from true sadhana and give rise to delusions and illusions–especially of counterfeit enlightenment. Therefore they are real dangers to the sadhaka. The teacher may have the student sit before him one or many times. After all this, the teacher tells him that all these were gateways to delusion, mere distractions from experience of the Real, of the Self and Brahman, and that from then on he will be able to make genuine progress in safety. Sometimes the teacher tells him that he no longer needs to visit him, that he can now proceed onward on his own. This is the way of freedom, of the true Nath Panthis who never make anyone dependent on them. This is why they refer to their students as friends and not disciples. For they are no one’s “master.”
Now let us see the real significance of Soham. All creatures are breathing in and out. The adept yogis have told us that the number of breaths taken in a day is twenty-one thousand and six hundred. The inhalation generates the sound “So” and the exhalation generates the sound of “Ham.” Thus the sound of “Soham” is being continuously generated in every creature, although very few are conscious of it. To consciously link up with this sound through the repetition of Soham in time with the breath–mentally intoning “So” when inhaling and “Ham” when exhaling–is the practice of Soham sadhana. Soham means I Am That, “That” meaning both our individual Self, the jivatman, and the Supreme Self, the Paramatman with which we are one. Soham sadhana reveals the oneness of the jiva (human spirit) and Shiva (Supreme Spirit). All knowledge has been centered in Soham. All the four Vedas, the Gita and the Gayatri Mantra tell us nothing except Soham. One can accomplish anything by meditating upon Soham: detachment from material bonds, the ending of all karma, release from the cycle of birth and death, and the realization of the Self. Everything can be obtained through Soham. This is the real dhyana yoga or raja yoga.
A worthy teacher of the Nath Pantha instructs an aspirant in the japa and meditation of Soham and thus puts him on the path of dhyana yoga. He tells him, “Where Light and Sound become one, there is the real Self. There is nothing more to be seen or told. Then consciousness of ‘I am Brahman’ also vanishes and only bliss, pure and simple, remains.” In dhyana the sadhaka enters into the internal world which is inside himself. According to each disciple’s efforts in practicing dhyana, he becomes easily accomplished in yoga. The spiritual experiences of various yogis differ. This is due to the differences in mental aptitude, intellect and practice already done in previous births. Ultimately the “Soham” consciousness merges in the Supreme Self and the sadhaka attains perfection.
The dhyana Yoga taught by the Nath Panth is the path by which all great saints of old attained Self-realization.