Category Archives: c. The Six Orthodox Systems

Maya: The Concept of Illusion

Maya is the term for “cosmic/worldly-illusion,” “multiplicity,” “that which is not” within the Hindu religion. Though Maya’s etymology is unclear, we can trace through the ancient scriptures and texts to discover its origin and its myriad of meanings and uses.

In early Vedic literature, specifically the Rg Veda, we see the term is used to represent “intelligence,” (prajna/buddhi) “extraordinary power,” and “deception” (kapata) in its simple and compound forms. This idea was developed and conveyed to humanity by the God Indra, who took on many forms with his Maya or “extraordinary willpower”, in which he did marvelous things that mortal humans could not comprehend. Since his “extraordinary willpower” defies normal human understanding, it is considered a phenomenon and we accept it as a form of “deception” from what we think we know as true, or what we are familiar with (see Shastri 10-11). In other Vedic scripture such as the Atharvaveda, the term has more influence as a supernatural element, portraying Maya as “great illusion” and “magic” in which embodies a person and the world. In the Brahmanas the word is again used for “intelligence” (prajna/buddhi). In the Upanishads, the grand philosophical texts that have been sometimes used to describe the esoteric values of the Vedas as a whole, we see the term expand its illusionary meaning to “cosmic illusion”. The Upanishads also recognize Maya as something the Atman creates and controls, thus being deluded by multiplicity that arises from within the self. There is only one true reality, and all plurality and multiplicity is Maya which the Atman creates. The Sankhya philosophy identifies Maya with Prakrti (primordial matter) as the source of the universe, with the distinct difference that the latter is real. It is the equilibrium of the three qualities of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. (Shastri 29). The Sankhya philosophy tells us that Maya’s influence on humankind is through the use of the three gunas. Maya appeals to our senses, and through the three gunas we become deluded by matter, energy, mass and mistakenly take them to be something on their own.

Maya was conveyed in early Vedic literature, specifically the Rg Veda and Atharvaveda, by describing “the one reality” “Brahman,” and “Atman”. The term is conveyed not through literal use at first, but by the representation of multiplicity, deception or illusion from the one true reality, Brahman. Maya is something that embodies the Atman and deludes it by believing that we are something entirely on it’s own, independent of Brahman. The early story of Svetaketu is a prime example; it shows how after Svetaketu completed his sacred education, he remained conceited, pedantic and opinionated. As this was also apparent to his father, his father asked him firstly whether he learned anything about the unheard being heard, the unseen being seen. Svetaketu failed to respond and asked for his fathers knowledge, his father said, “My son, as everything made of clay is known by a single clump of clay, being nothing more then a modification of speech, a change, a name, while the clay in the only truth” (see Gough 43). Maya embodies Atman and Brahman, and creates an illusion to the cosmic perspective. Knowing the many is being deluded, knowing the one is vanquishing the many. Every atom, molecule, cell, being, planet is all multiplicity from the One. As Indian philosophers say: if we know Brahman, we know all things (Gough 43). In the Upanishads Maya is the appearance that distinguishes all from true reality. He who sees as it were a plurality actually existing is never saved, but is over and over the subject to the pangs of birth and death in this samsara. The conception of Maya exhibits itself in such passages clearly, and yet many do not see it (Shastri 56). A high point of the Upanishads was that the reference to an “other”, which was a broad reference to anything in our daily natural lives, which is in turn multiplicity, was meant to be meaningless because anything that which is multiplied cannot be Brahman or the One. It also perceived that with multiplicity, no one true meaning can exist. For something to exist independently of Brahman would imply that it has another purpose or meaning that Brahman does not, which is false because Brahman is the only true reality (see Shastri 38-39)

The Atman is the ultimate goal and reality in life within the Hindu tradition. The Atman is the true self and the only self. It is said to be waiting just beneath the skin, waiting to be discovered. Maya embodies Atman and deludes the self into believing our natural realms of multiplicity are independent from the self. Not only does Maya’s illusion extend externally, it also confuses humans to recognize with their bodies and their identities, mistaking them as our own and independent from the One true reality. In the Upanishads, Atman is sometimes used to represent the earth, water, wind, men, and the natural world. This unity shows how all beings, elements and things are Atman. Atman can be seen as pure consciousness, unifying your conscious with the one of Brahmans, which is true consciousness. This means that all things exist only so far as they are my consciousness, which is a unity; hence the multiplicity, which seems to exist independent of my consciousness, is not real but only a mere name (Shastri 63). Maya embodies Atman, because all cows, earth, men, wind are portions of our conscious, but Maya confuses our Atman into believing they are entirely creations and beings on their own. This extends into our interaction with people, believing that being is completely independent from you. We believe he is he, she is she, they are they, I am only I, and all I can ever be is I. This is false, we are all Brahman, and we are deluded into seeing and believing plurality. Maya inspires a chain of events that are extremely hard to stop once they have begun. We begin becoming attached to the elements, such as fine metal and jewels, our aesthetics, what makes us unique and individual, where we reside, what we eat, how we are represented, how others think of us, the clothes we where, our status, etc. All these things are brought on by our multiplicity and continuously take us farther and farther away from the true One reality. People who latch onto plurality or multiplicity do not achieve liberation, and will continue the cycle of samsara until their lives are filled with understanding and desire to unify one self.

It is by a multiple concentration that the one self assumes the aspect of a multitude of selves, and it is by a multiple exclusive concentration that it loses sight, in each self, of its identity with the other selves and with the self of all selves. The result is avidya, the great ignorance, the thick veil hiding from us not only our true self but also a broad tangle of subliminal influences both acting on us and exerted by us (Mohrhoff 6).

Avidya is used in Vedic philosophy subjectively to represent the natural form and matter of the world that we perceive, distinguishing self from non-self, and then leading into preferences, likes and dislikes, egoism and more. Avidya is different from Maya because it is referring to the process of not knowing our true self, being ignorant and unwise due to Maya’s illusion, and not representing the illusion itself, only the process of forgetting our true nature. When one discovers his Atman, Avidya is destroyed along with Maya freeing himself from the cycle of samsara and realizing one’s true self.

Moksa or Mukti is the central concept in Hinduism and refers to the liberation from Maya’s illusion, the freedom of the cycle of samsara and the unification with Brahman. Thus all things melt into the original self, as the darkness faints and melts away before the rising sun. Its fictitiously limiting mind with all its modes has been dissolved, and the soul is the Self again; the jar is broken, and the ether that was in it is one with the one and undivided ether, from which the jar once seemed to sever it. The sage has seen the Self, and passed into oneness with it, lost like a drop in water (see Gough 60). Moksha is also known as Nirvana in the other heterodox Indian philosophies such as Buddhism and Jainism. Once a person is liberated, enjoying the glory of enlightenment, they seek to help others also unify with the self. Thus liberated from metempsychosis, but still living in the body, the sage is untouched by merit and de-merit, unsoiled by sinful works, uninjured by what he has done and by what he has left undone, unimplicated in his actions good or evil (Gough 61).

Maya is an extremely crucial and frequently misunderstood concept within Hinduism. Maya is the cosmic illusion which arises from the self’s consciousness which uses the three gunas of nature to delude us from what we truly are, giving us the idea that we are entirely independent and separate from anything else. Maya is multiplicity on every level, from a microscopic level of atoms to the universal size of planets; it is all in some shape or form, a variation and change to the “One” true reality and given its own identity. Maya develops ignorance, termed Avidya, which signifies the descent into the delusion, where we are completely lost from our Atman, even though he is just beneath the skin. Maya encompasses Brahman, therefore it encompasses our whole existence, everything we perceive is a creation of Maya and only with mental fortitude and spiritual willpower may we free ourselves from this ever-repeating cycle of samsara and illusion from the one. Once Maya has faded from our perception and we are finally realizing Atman and seeing the true reality of existence, we have achieved the state of moksa, the highest state of consciousness and existence within most Hindu religions. Maya is the necessary opposite to moksa, for without the delusion, there is nothing for one to realize.

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Bhaskar, Roy (2000) From East to West: Odyssey of a Soul. Oxfordshire: Taylor & Francis Books.

Dallapiccola, Anna (2002) Dictionary of Hindu lore and legend. London: Thames & Hudson.

Gough, Edward (1979) The Philosophy of the Upanishads and Ancient Indian Metaphysics. New Dehli: Cosmo Publications.

Johnston, Charles (1912) The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. New York: The Quarterly Book Department.

Morhoff, Ulrich (2007) “The Veil of Avidya” Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education.

Shastri, Prabhu Dutt (1911) The Doctrine of Maya. London: Luzac and Co.

Simoni-Wastilla. Henry (2002) “Maya and Radical Particularity: Can Particular Persons Be One with Brahman?” International Journal of Hindu Studies Vol. 6, No. 1 (April): 1-18.

Sivanada, Sri Swami (2000) The Bhagavad Gita. Himalayas: The Divine Life Society.

Straight, G Carroll (2001) “Quantum Underpinnings of Religious Currents.” The World & I  Vol. 16, No. 1 (January): 154.

van Buitenen, Johannes Adrianus Bernardus (1964) “The Large Atman.” History of Religions Vol. 4, No.1 (Summer) 103-114.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Moksha

Avidya

Brahman

Samsara

Atman

Upanishads

Rig Veda

Atharva Veda

Vedanta Philosophy

Sankhya System

Jnana Yoga

Sannyasa

Three Gunas

Prakrti

Svetaketu

Noteworthy Websites:

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/maya.asp

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/essays/maya.asp

http://www.yogabasics.com/learn/the-3-gunas-of-nature/

http://www.dlshq.org/download/bgita.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_%28illusion%29

http://www.oocities.org/neovedanta/a87.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jnana_yoga

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moksha#S.C4.81mkhya.2C_Yoga_and_mok.E1.B9.A3a

Article written by: Forrest Freihaut (March 2015) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

Jivanmukti

Supported by writings as early as the Brhadaranyaka, the Hindu concept of Jivanmukti is gaining knowledge that one’s self is the non-dual, Brahman. It is knowing even further that the body is not the Ultimate Reality and the self was never actually embodied. It is in the destruction of this binding form of thought that brings about liberation; the destruction of the body does not. Freedom from the cycles of rebirth, the ultimate goal of liberation (moksa), places a distinct emphasis on the desirelessness which brings about immortality, bodilessness and the Ultimate Reality (brahman) (Fort 3-5). This release comes from the understanding and accession that humans are already liberated and the soul is free.

Advaita means “non-dual”. The school of Advaita Vedanta is named as such for it does not disassociate “us” or the universe as separate from the Ultimate Reality; they are one in the same or non-dual. The school of Advaita Vedanta relies heavily on three forms of knowledge transference being: (1) revelation, (2) reason and (3) teachings of beings who are in a state of living embodiment through the realization of Brahman (Sharma 13). This system is intrinsic to the Advaitic core teachings of living liberation, in contrast to all other schools of Hinduism which believe that for one to experience freedom from the cycle of birth and death (samsara) they must actually experience the death of the physical body in order for the enlightened soul to escape the physical bondage holding it to this place of existence. Only at the point where there is no physical bondage polluting the soul can it attain the Ultimate Reality which is Brahman (Mishra 293-297). Though this key aspect which varies in schools, there are more similarities than not regarding samsara and the attainment of Moksa or Jivanmukti. Attainment of Brahman liberation in mostly performed in the renouncer stage (sannyasa) of Hindu life. The renouncer is one who practises a solitary path conducive to self-realization. Through the ritual performance of multiple Yogic practises [For a more in depth look at various forms of Yogic rituals see Fort (1998)], especially that of Jnana Yoga, a renunciate is able to still one’s passions and attain a form of Nirvana liberation (Indich 108-112). The mind is cleared and kept clear by meditation. The Yogic actions are performed to purify both the body and the mind, freeing one from conscious and unconscious attachment. Through this continued practise one is able to completely withdraw into a meditative state required to attain and maintain a state of a Jivanmukti (Fort 79-83)

Jivanmukti is possible because after the onset of knowledge the body still persists. The persistence of the physical body after the release of the soul is for the purpose of being given the opportunity to teach those who have yet to experience Brahman. A Jivanmukti is said to be actionless in that there is no residual effect from actions, for actions are not performed due to desire-seeking, for a Jivanmukti cannot have a desire when everything that may have been wanted has already been fulfilled, thus leaving all acts performed for the purpose of example setting or maintenance of the body (Shah-Kazemi 110). Through liberation one is able to remove the cosmic principle which is the cause of world illusion (avidya), though a trace of this illusion persists through the continued existence of the physical body. Though as a body in time will be extinguished, all traces of avidya will fade as well (Chari 170). The body-soul relationship of a Jivanmukti was likened in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisads as that of a sloughed off skin and the remaining body of a snake, it is a housing which has been cast off and discarded, yet still exists in the physical universe (Fort 23). Sankara worded the continued existence a bit more eloquently in the overall loss of karmic experience in the transition to liberation. There are three forms of karma which a non-liberated individual is affected by: karma which has been accumulated throughout past existence, accumulating to one’s total cosmic debt (sancite), instant karma which is created in one’s current life time, which may be added to and worked on through daily action (kriyamana) and the portion of sancite karma being worked upon in one’s current life time (prarabdha). When looking into forms of karma, sancite and kriyamana karma respectively deal with actions performed in the past which have yet to affect the present; and actions performed in the present which have yet to affect the future (Indich 110-111). When one experiences Brahman these two karmas are burned away in the fires of knowledge (jnana). Because prarabdha is solely working away at a past life’s karma its path will not be affected by jnana and so it remains even throughout liberation (Indich 110-111) and will remain until “final peace”, being the death of the physical body in which the Jivanmuki remains alive and is then subject to the unfolding of their prarabdha karma (Shah-Kazemi 213). In the Advaitic teachings Moksa is what is considered to be the final release; Moksa allows for the state of omniscience to manifest completely when the spirit is no longer bound by karma (Chari 172-173).

 

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Fort, Andrew O (1998) Jiivanmukti in Transformation: Embodied Liberation in Advaita and Neo-Vedanta. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Sharma, Arvind (2004) Advaita Vedanta. New Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Ltd.

Mishra, Kamalakar (1999) Kashmir Saivism: The Central Philosophy of Tantrism. New Dehli: Sri Satguru Publications.

Indich, William M (1980) Consciousness in Advaita Vedanta. Columbia: South Asia Books

Shah-Kazemi, Reza (2006) Action and Prarabdha Karma. Paths to Transcendence: According to Shankara, Ibn Arabi, and Meister Eckhart. Bloomington: World Wisdom, Inc.

Chari, Srinivasa S. M (1976) Advaita and Visistadvaita: A Study Based on Vedanta Desika’s Satadusani. New Dehli: Motilal Banarsidass.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Atman

Bhagavad Gita

Bhakti Yoga

Bhamati

Brahman

Darsana

Deep Sleep

Dhyana

Dreaming

Jiva

Jivanmukti Yoga

Karma Yoga

Maya

Neo-Advaita

Neo-Dualism

Neo-Vedanta

Nine Schools

Parinama-Vedanta

Prasthanatrayi

Shankara

Vairagya

Vivarana

Waking State

Yoga

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.swami-krishnananda.org/moksha/moksh_10.html

http://beyond-advaita.blogspot.ca/2010/02/jivanmukti-and-videhamukti.html

Advaita is Simple

http://www.stillnessspeaks.com/advaita_vedanta/

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Complete_Works_of_Swami_Vivekanana

http://www.bergen.edu/phr/121/ShankaraGC.pdf

http://www.stillnessspeaks.com/sitehtml/jamesswartz/advaita1.htm

 

Article written by: Laura York (April 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

Swami Chidvilasananda

“Gurumayi’s striking beauty rivets attention wherever she goes…[H]er energy seems inexaustible. Her grace, delightful wit, and respectful regard for the needs of each devotee have expanded Siddha Yoga’s appeal beyond what even Muktananda achieved.” (Brooks 136)

 Swami Chidvilasananda, often referred to as Gurumayi Chidvilasananda or simply Gurumayi is the current leading guru of Siddha Yoga. Gurumayi is a female Guru, who was born in India, who now resides in the United States of America. After studying yoga under the leadership of her own guru Swami Muktananda, she became the head guru of Siddha Yoga when he passed on his title to her in a five day fire ceremony called a yajna; which was celebrated during the time of his birthday in 1982 [Swami Muktanananda passed away later in that same year]. (Caldwell 27) Siddha Yoga is a form of yoga that is very much about finding energy inside one’s soul and discovering personal inner peace through meditation and connection with their guru.

Siddha Yoga has become a major trend in North America, and the SYDA or Siddha Yoga Dham of America that was created by Swami Muktananda, and has been carried on by Swami Chidvilasananda, is a non profit organization that has dealt with a great deal of controversy (Harris 92). Siddha Yoga’s claim to fame is an extremely intense meditative state known as guru”shaktipat“. Shaktipat is described as a cosmic orgasm that one feels after they connect with their guru (Neimark 60). There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the practice of Siddha Yoga, and the gurus that lead this spiritual activity. There is much controversy surrounding how much money the SYDA appears to have. The SYDA owns more than three hotels worldwide and has a variety of wealthy celebrity followers (Harris 92). Some have gone so far as to call it a cult; others have questioned the sexual integrity of the gurus; however there are valid arguments on both sides of the spectrum. Some criticize Swami Chidvilasananda of not living a truly pure and holy life; claiming that she, and other Siddha Yoga Gurus are simply concerned with money and fame, and others regard her as one of the most powerful and influential yogic gurus of her time.

Born in Mumbai India in 1955 under her given name Malti Shetty, Gurumayi experienced shaktipat at the age of fourteen and at age fifteen began studying under her guru Swami Muktananda. She moved to the ashram (a hermitage in which she studied religion and yoga) to study yoga seriously. Swami Chidvilasananda accompanied her Guru on many tours as his English translator, and in 1982, both Shetty and her brother, Subhash Shetty were appointed to be the successors of their guru; however in 1985 her brother stepped down, leaving Gurumayi to be the sole successor of Swami Muktanananda or Baba, as he was called by his students and devotees. [Baba meaning father.] Some have criticized Gurumayi for the “falling out” that she had with her brother, claiming that it is not spiritual or holy to have a relationship fall apart, and that it is just as it is in secular life; criticizing the way she dealt with the situation (Healey 12). Gurumayi is the current Guru of Siddha Yoga, which has two main ashrams for people to learn the practices in; one in India, and one in New York. There has been controversy surrounding the practice of Siddha Yoga, claiming that it has a likeliness to that of a cult-like religion, (Healey 5) however Gurumayi’s students seem to feel a deep appreciation for the fact that she not only lives her life purely, but truly tries to bring her teachings into every day-to-day life. She has many interactions with her students and spends a great deal of time with them to offer guidance and teachings (Brooks 159). Gurumayi is known for her kind heart, and her caring attitude towards all human beings. Her students respect her greatly and put her at the center of their spiritual lives. (Brooks 136). Siddha Yoga places emphasis on self-evaluation and tries to eliminate personal negativity, and negative tendencies within one’s life.

The practice of Siddha Yoga was first introduced to the West in 1970 by Swami Muktananda during his first excursion out of India. Siddha Yoga, the word Siddha meaning perfect master (Healey 6) is a practice of yoga in which its main purpose is to achieve shaktipat through the guidance, chants and presence of a Guru. Shaktipat is the ancient method of awakening the kundalini energy, which creates enlightenment at the base of the spine, and sends the body into an orgasm-like state, that causes the body to shake and pulsate upon achieving this sacred energy. When people experience shaktipat through the practice of Siddha Yoga they lose all control over their physical selves, often screaming, pulsating, or physically moving around the room. This energy can only be achieved through the presence and touch of the Guru; and through shaktipat it is said that one can truly achieve self-realization and Atman. Contrary to controversy about Siddha Yoga and its sexual nature; it is said that if one finds a true guru, one who is fully devoted to the art of Siddha Yoga, that it is not about sexual pleasure, but about losing touch between the inner and outer self, and experiencing a more divine power and ecstasy. Achieving shaktipat is said to be the feeling of “seeing the Divine in different forms” (Tymn 180). Gurumayi herself said that “When you experience it, you see light everywhere, you find joy in everything. You experience happiness in times of happiness, but you are also able to experience happiness in the midst of sorrow. This is the greatness of meditation.” (Chidvilasananda 46)

Another important aspect of Siddha yoga is the importance that its devotees place on grandiose ceremonies, such as yajnas. Yajnas are extremely important and have helped to characterize Siddha Yoga. Swami Chidvilasananda holds yajnas many times a year, that attract Siddha Yoga students and Brahmins from all around the globe. Brahmins travel from India to attend Swami Chidvalasananda’s yajnas, as months of hard work and preparation go into preparing for them. During these sacred fire ceremonies, Gurumayi sits and observes, while Brahmin priests adorn her with garlands and perform sacred rituals. Gurumayi holds herself with great dignity and always puts her position as great Guru first and foremost. (Brooks 135) In Gurumayi’s yajnas food and gifts are offered to the Gods and burned in a sacrificial fire. Yajnas and yoga are said to be alike in the sense that yoga offers sacrifices to the Gods as well; however the fire of the yajna; in yoga is an internal flame. Gurumayi has taught numerous courses in the ashram, which emphasize the importance of sacrifice in ones day-to-day life. She teaches that sacrifice is the secret to fulfilling a pure and whole life. (Brooks 136) Love, peace, patience and self awareness are very important aspects of Siddha Yoga, often taking a great deal of time and inner reflection to truly master.

Gurumayi places a great amount of importance on love, calmness, happiness, and inner peace. A young man that attended a retreat led by Gurumayi in Mexico said that “These two weeks were the happiest weeks of my whole life. They gave me a new vision of myself and the world we live in. Never in my life had I experienced so much love, nor did I know that so much love was possible. We just sat down to talk about the day and it was pure ecstasy. Or sometimes we just sat in silence looking at each other and we cried out of love” (Brooks 140). Siddha Yoga focuses on the simplicity of life and helps people to understand what happens within themselves to create pure ecstasy throughout any aspect of life. Another practice that is unique to Siddha Yoga is guruseva which helps a student to gain wisdom by working under the instruction of their guru. The idea of working to gain wisdom is important in Siddha Yoga. For example students of Gurumayi have volunteered to chop vegetables for hours at a time; while chanting throughout the whole process. The idea behind the work is that “unselfish action purifies the mind.” (Brooks 144) Guruseva can take form in any day to day activity; for example washing dishes, doing chores, creating art are all forms of Guruseva. The use of work to diminish ego and create a connection to the gods is extremely important to Siddha Yoga devotees, but only if the work is done with no thought or expectation of reward. The acts of Guruseva must be done selflessly in order to reap its rewards. Guruseva is comparable to the feeling of kundalini in that it creates a deep interior experience. Students who do guruseva experience realizations within themselves, and intense feelings of calmness and love (Brooks 144).

Much of Swami Chivalasananda’s time is spent traveling the globe, spreading the word of Siddha Yoga, through the use of chants, workshops and intensives. There are approximately three hundred Siddha Yoga meditation centers worldwide, located in Europe, North and South America, India and Australia to name a few (Brooks 143). Gurumayi is said to be such a powerful leader of Siddha Yoga, that her devotees do not have to be in her presence to feel her spirit and teachings. Many of her students have seen her through focused and intense meditation. Devotees have said that Gurumayi has appeared in meditation and in dreams where she has provided guidance to them. Many of Gurumayi’s students have felt her presence when she was not physically with them. For example a school teacher in Perth Australia was struggling with a young student’s behavior, when she saw Gurumayi walk through the door and smile lovingly at the boy, giving hope to the teacher (Brooks 147).

Regardless of where Gurumayi is in the world, her presence is honored by her devotees. When she appears at conferences, workshops or intensives often she is greeted with a great amount of emotion and joy from her students.   She works hard to prove that she is a strong leader, and tries to live her life in a way that shows example to her students of how to achieve peace and harmony with ones self. Gurumayi provides a realistic approach to her work in the fact that she also talks about inner turmoil. Siddha Yoga requires personal work and sacrifice to find oneself and she has displayed acts of sacrifice in her own life to teach her devotees.

“Where is heaven? Where is Hell? Within us. Each one can create a heaven, each one can create a hell…Look within. Meditate. It just happens. You find your own joy, you find your own inner peace.” (Chidvilasananda 49)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Caldwell, Sarah (2001) “The Heart of the Secret: A Personal and Scholarly Encounter with Shakta Tantrism in Siddha Yoga” Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Vol. 5, No.1:9-51

Haruni, Elisa Santos, Ferreira Dourado Rueda, Adriana Amelia Benedito-Silva, Ana Leite De Moraes Ornellas, Felipe Leite, Jose Roberto (2008) “Evaluation of Siddha Samadhi Yoga for Anxiety and Depression Symptoms: a Preliminary Study.” Psychological Reports, Vol. 103, No. 1: 271-274.

Healy, John Paul (2011) “Involvement in a New Religious Movement: From Discovery to Disenchantment.” Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, Vol. 13, No. 1: 2-21

Harris, Lis (1998) “O guru, guru, guru.” New Yorker, Vol. 70, No. 37: 92

Neimark, Jill (1998) “Crimes of the soul.” Psychology Today, Vol. 31, No. 2: 55

Mutananda, Swami and Chidvilasananda, Gurumayi (1991) Meditate. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Durgananda, Swami Muller-Ortega, Paul E Mahony, William K Rhodes Bailly, Constantina Sabharathnam, S.P. (2000) Meditation Revolution: A History and Theology of Siddha Yoga Lineage. Muktabodha Indological Research Institute.

Tymn, Michael E. (2006) “Secrets of Shaktipat.” Journal of Spirituality & Paranomal Studies. Vol. 29, No. 3:179-180.

 Related Topics

PRASAD

Swami Muktananda/Controversy surrounding his practices

Siddha Yoga vs. other forms of Yoga

Gurumayi’s various projects

 Related Websites

http://www.siddhayoga.org/

http://www.siddhayoga.org/gurumayi-chidvilasananda

 

Article written by Jaimee Jarvie (April 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

Samadhi (Contemplative Absorption)

Samadhi, or contemplative absorption, is the highest state of mental concentration thought possible by Hindus while still existing in the cycle of samsara, and is achieved through yogic meditation. Samadhi is a state undisturbed by all emotions and thoughts originating with the ego, and the achievement of such mental clarity is said to indicate significant progress in one’s meditation practices (Sarbacker 57). Samadhi, literally meaning “together—joining” (Kesarcodi-Watson 79), has been described as the means by which one “goes beyond the human condition” (Eliade 52) and is finally able to achieve the liberation that Hindus ultimately aim for. Some have described the objective of yoga as the development of a consciousness qualitatively different from one’s normal state of mind that is able to thoroughly understand metaphysical truth (Eliade 51); this new consciousness is samadhi. Other terms used to describe this mental state include “enstasis,” “ecstasy,” and “supreme concentration.”

The concept of contemplative absorption was first described as one of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutra written by Patanjali, who is sometimes equated with the famed Sanskrit grammarian of the same name, but was probably a different person (Eliade 13). The Yoga Sutra consists of four books, each of which is devoted to a unique topic: “yogic ecstasy,” realization, “miraculous powers” (siddhi) and isolation (Eliade 13, 100). One of the critical features of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is the description of the eight limbs of yoga as a path to liberation. These eight limbs (astanga) are discipline (yama), restraint (niyama), posture (asana), breath control (pranayama), sense-withdrawal (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and ecstasy (samadhi) (Feuerstein 2002:324). The final three limbs are sometimes grouped together and called “constraint” (samyama) because concentration, meditation and ecstasy are considered phases of a single process of mental deconstruction (Feuerstein 2002:335). Patanjali understands this eight-limbed path of yoga as the path to achieving liberation, more often referred to by him as kaivalya, from samsara or the cycle of rebirth (Kesarcodi-Watson 78). An understanding of the eight limbs of yoga is important to be able to recognize the position of the attainment of samadhi in one’s journey towards liberation from samsara, because it allows one to recognize that samadhi can only be achieved once the turnings of the mind (vrtti) have been restricted through the other aspects of meditation (Feuerstein 2002:335).

The diversity of ways in which samadhi can be experienced is as varied as the multitudes of people who will experience it, and it has been said that no amount of description could convey the nature of this condition (Feuerstein 2002:335-336). However, samadhi can be defined informally (Feuerstein 2002:336) and there are certain generalizations that can be made about the experience of samadhi as a whole. Firstly, those who have actually experienced the various states of samadhi claim that mental lucidity is inherent to the experience, despite some perceptions of the experience as a state of trance or unconsciousness. In fact, spiritual teachers state that any instances in which unconsciousness is a factor cannot be considered a form of enstasis (Feuerstein 2002:335). Samadhi is also said to always include a feeling of “suprawakefulness” and is a progression towards the greater reality or good, despite some critics describing contemplative absorption as a “diminution of consciousness” (Feuerstein 2002:336). Physically, the experience involves bodily rigidity and a cessation of visible breath in the yogi (Feuerstein 1972:27). Other feelings described as associated with this experience of mental ecstasy include wakefulness, a “mood of bliss” or a sense of “pure existence” (Feuerstein 2002:336).

Although the concept of samadhi can be described as a whole, yogis also describe multiple types of samadhi and ways it can be experienced. Patanjali and his commentators differentiated among many types and stages of this supreme form of concentration (Eliade 93). The two varieties of samadhi discussed by Patanjali were samprajnata samadhi, that which is achieved with the assistance of an object or a thought, and asamprajnata samadhi, which is achieved without any relation to a physical or mental aid (Eliade 93). Asamprajnata samadhi is considered to be of a higher level of accomplishment than samprajnata because it is the only means by which one can recover awareness of the transcendental self (purusa) and its eternal freedom (Feuerstein 2002:337). While asamprajnata samadhi is said to exist in only one type, samprajnata samadhi can be experienced in various forms (Feuerstein 2002:336). As one achieves succession through the various stages of samprajnata samadhi, they begin to achieve the capacity for the absolute knowledge that will lead them to the accomplishment of asamprajnata samadhi, the achievement of contemplative absorption without the use of a meditation thought or object (Eliade 100).

Samprajnata samadhi, sometimes referred to as enstasis “with support,” is said to involve an inhibition of all mental functioning with the exception of the portion of cognition that focuses on the object by which samadhi was attained (Eliade 93). There are various forms of this type of samadhi, which bear the designation “coincidence” (samapatti) because the subject and the object on which they meditate are said to coincide (Feuerstein 2002:336). The least complex of these forms is vitarka-samapatti, which is said to occur when the subject unifies himself or herself with the “coarse” aspect of the meditation object (Feuerstein 2002:336). Once the subject is able to end all ideation about the object, they purportedly enter nivitarka samadhi (Feuerstein 2002:336). The next, deeper level of “ecstatic unification,” gurus claim, comes when the meditator is able to understand the subtle aspects of the object and experience themselves on a progressively less different plane of existence with the object. This condition has two forms, which are dependent on whether or not spontaneous thoughts are present. The two forms are reflective (savicara) and suprareflective (nirvicara) ecstasy (Feuerstein 2002:337). According to an interpretation of the Yoga Sutra outlined by Vacaspati Mishra in his work Tattva-Vaisharadi, four additional levels of this unification with the subtle aspects of the object exist. They are: coincidence with bliss (sanandasamapatti), coincidence with “I-am-ness” (sasmitasamapatti), coincidence beyond bliss (nirananda-samapatti) and coincidence beyond “I-am-ness” (nirasmita-samapatti) (Feuerstein 2002:337). Succession through each of the stages is marked by progressive loss of mental awareness as the participant begins to lose access to memory and abandons any attempts at reason or logical thought, accepting that their meditation object cannot be possessed and must be grasped as concrete fact rather than positioned in relation to the rest of the physical world (Eliade 95-96). It is questionable whether the scholar Mishra actually experienced these types of samadhi for himself or whether he inferred their existence, and it must be noted that the adept yogin Vijnana Bhikshu rejected the types of samadhi that Mishra described (Feuerstein 2002:337).

In addition to the types of samadhi discussed in the Yoga Sutra, some gurus have developed their own teachings on the different ways samadhi can be experienced. For example, the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy used a system of classification that divided different experiences of samadhi into major and minor types (Chinmoy 257-260) and was based on Vedanta philosophy (Feuerstein 2002:336). This system, listed in order of increasing accomplishment, includes: savikalpa, nirvikalpa, and sahaja samadhi, which Chinmoy claims is the highest state of consciousness achieved by most spiritual masters (Chinmoy 257-260). Other sources explain that the attainment of nirvikalpa samadhi is synonymous with liberation itself (Feuerstein 2002:529), but according to Chinmoy it is the attainment of sahaja samadhi that indicates, “one has become the soul . . . and is utilizing the body as a perfect instrument” (Chinmoy 259). Within each of these levels of consciousness, there are varying “grades” of experience and each of the samadhi can be attained at “higher” or “lower” levels. Chinmoy differentiates between these different types of samadhi based on the varying degrees of consciousness and abilities to interact with the physical world experienced by the participant in each form of contemplative absorption (Chinmoy 257-260). Studying the teachings of gurus can be a very effective means of understanding the multitude of diverse ways that samadhi is experienced. [For information regarding other classification systems of various types of samadhi, consult individual discussions of yoga by spiritual teachers.]

Although some gurus claim that there are no specific methods to attain this supreme form of consciousness (Chinmoy 261), in the Yoga Sutra Patanjali discusses some of the challenges one must overcome in order to achieve samadhi. One of the primary obstacles preventing one’s attainment of supreme consciousness is the interfering mind (Kesarcodi-Watson 85). Certain scholars, such as Ian Kesarcodi-Watson (1982), state that it is difficult to explain the steps leading to samadhi because these steps occur at a level of being that is difficult for rational minds to grasp. The state which samadhi inhabits is considered one where there is no “making;” a state that is difficult to affect (Kesarcodi-Watson 89). However, it is stressed in discussions of this state of supreme consciousness that samadhi cannot be achieved through a mere exertion of will, but rather, requires the subject to empty themselves and become open to the higher reality beyond their own ego (Feuerstein 2002:337). Experts on the subject explain that actions taken to achieve samadhi can be attempted, but there is little to be said about how, or even if, they will work (Kesarcodi-Watson 89) because the extraordinary condition that is samadhi is one for which “there is no reference point in our everyday life” (Feuerstein 2002:336).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Chinmoy, Sri (1989) Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction. Jamaica: Aum Publications.

Dasgupta, S.N. (1979) Yoga Philosophy in Relation to Other Systems of Indian Thought. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.

Eliade, Mircea (1975) Patanjali and Yoga. New York: Shocken Books.

Feuerstein, Georg and Jeanine Miller (1972) Yoga and Beyond. New York: Shocken Books.

Feuerstein, Georg (2002) The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. New Dehli: Bhavana Books & Prints.

Fort, Andrew O. (2006) “Vijnanabhiksu on Two Forms of ‘Samadhi’.” International Journal of Hindu Studies 10 #3 (December): 271-294.

Kesarcodi-Watson, Ian (1982) “Samadhi in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.” Philosophy East and West 32 #1 (January): 77-90.

Osho (1976) The Path of Yoga. Pune: Tao Publishing Pvt Ltd.

Sarbacker, Stuart Ray (2005) Samadhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Venkatesananda, Swami (2008) The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.

 

RELATED TOPICS FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Asamprajnata Samadhi

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Guru

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Nirvitarka Samadhi

Sahaja Samadhi

Samprajnata Samadhi

Savikalpa Samadhi

Vitarka-Samapatti

Yoga

Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Yogi/Yogin

 

NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES RELATED TO THE TOPIC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhi

http://www.expressionsofspirit.com/yoga/eight-limbs.htm

http://religiousbook.net/Books/Online_books/Eco/ecopsychology_35.html

Enlightened Master Acharya Shree Yogeesh explains his understanding of samadhi:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yySC3ZLwGs

Spiritual Teacher Sri Chinmoy demonstrates his experience of samadhi:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv0_njLTfy8

 

Article written by Madison Martens (April 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

Samadhi In Yoga

Samadhi, or contemplative absorption, is the highest state of mental concentration thought possible by Hindus while still existing in the cycle of samsara, and is achieved through yogic meditation. Samadhi is a state undisturbed by all emotions and thoughts originating with the ego, and the achievement of such mental clarity is said to indicate significant progress in one’s meditation practices (Sarbacker 57). Samadhi, literally meaning “together—joining” (Kesarcodi-Watson 79), has been described as the means by which one “goes beyond the human condition” (Eliade 52) and is finally able to achieve the liberation that Hindus ultimately aim for. Some have described the objective of yoga as the development of a consciousness qualitatively different from one’s normal state of mind that is able to thoroughly understand metaphysical truth (Eliade 51); this new consciousness is samadhi. Other terms used to describe this mental state include “enstasis,” “ecstasy,” and “supreme concentration.”

The concept of contemplative absorption was first described as one of the eight limbs of yoga outlined in the Yoga Sutra written by Patanjali, who is sometimes equated with the famed Sanskrit grammarian of the same name, but was probably a different person (Eliade 13). The Yoga Sutra consists of four books, each of which is devoted to a unique topic: “yogic ecstasy,” realization, “miraculous powers” (siddhi) and isolation (Eliade 13, 100). One of the critical features of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is the description of the eight limbs of yoga as a path to liberation. These eight limbs (astanga) are discipline (yama), restraint (niyama), posture (asana), breath control (pranayama), sense-withdrawal (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana) and ecstasy (samadhi) (Feuerstein 2002:324). The final three limbs are sometimes grouped together and called “constraint” (samyama) because concentration, meditation and ecstasy are considered phases of a single process of mental deconstruction (Feuerstein 2002:335). Patanjali understands this eight-limbed path of yoga as the path to achieving liberation, more often referred to by him as kaivalya, from samsara or the cycle of rebirth (Kesarcodi-Watson 78). An understanding of the eight limbs of yoga is important to be able to recognize the position of the attainment of samadhi in one’s journey towards liberation from samsara, because it allows one to recognize that samadhi can only be achieved once the turnings of the mind (vrtti) have been restricted through the other aspects of meditation (Feuerstein 2002:335).

The diversity of ways in which samadhi can be experienced is as varied as the multitudes of people who will experience it, and it has been said that no amount of description could convey the nature of this condition (Feuerstein 2002:335-336). However, samadhi can be defined informally (Feuerstein 2002:336) and there are certain generalizations that can be made about the experience of samadhi as a whole. Firstly, those who have actually experienced the various states of samadhi claim that mental lucidity is inherent to the experience, despite some perceptions of the experience as a state of trance or unconsciousness. In fact, spiritual teachers state that any instances in which unconsciousness is a factor cannot be considered a form of enstasis (Feuerstein 2002:335). Samadhi is also said to always include a feeling of “suprawakefulness” and is a progression towards the greater reality or good, despite some critics describing contemplative absorption as a “diminution of consciousness” (Feuerstein 2002:336). Physically, the experience involves bodily rigidity and a cessation of visible breath in the yogi (Feuerstein 1972:27). Other feelings described as associated with this experience of mental ecstasy include wakefulness, a “mood of bliss” or a sense of “pure existence” (Feuerstein 2002:336).

Although the concept of samadhi can be described as a whole, yogis also describe multiple types of samadhi and ways it can be experienced. Patanjali and his commentators differentiated among many types and stages of this supreme form of concentration (Eliade 93). The two varieties of samadhi discussed by Patanjali were samprajnata samadhi, that which is achieved with the assistance of an object or a thought, and asamprajnata samadhi, which is achieved without any relation to a physical or mental aid (Eliade 93). Asamprajnata samadhi is considered to be of a higher level of accomplishment than samprajnata because it is the only means by which one can recover awareness of the transcendental self (purusa) and its eternal freedom (Feuerstein 2002:337). While asamprajnata samadhi is said to exist in only one type, samprajnata samadhi can be experienced in various forms (Feuerstein 2002:336). As one achieves succession through the various stages of samprajnata samadhi, they begin to achieve the capacity for the absolute knowledge that will lead them to the accomplishment of asamprajnata samadhi, the achievement of contemplative absorption without the use of a meditation thought or object (Eliade 100).

Samprajnata samadhi, sometimes referred to as enstasis “with support,” is said to involve an inhibition of all mental functioning with the exception of the portion of cognition that focuses on the object by which samadhi was attained (Eliade 93). There are various forms of this type of samadhi, which bear the designation “coincidence” (samapatti) because the subject and the object on which they meditate are said to coincide (Feuerstein 2002:336). The least complex of these forms is vitarka-samapatti, which is said to occur when the subject unifies himself or herself with the “coarse” aspect of the meditation object (Feuerstein 2002:336). Once the subject is able to end all ideation about the object, they purportedly enter nivitarka samadhi (Feuerstein 2002:336). The next, deeper level of “ecstatic unification,” gurus claim, comes when the meditator is able to understand the subtle aspects of the object and experience themselves on a progressively less different plane of existence with the object. This condition has two forms, which are dependent on whether or not spontaneous thoughts are present. The two forms are reflective (savicara) and suprareflective (nirvicara) ecstasy (Feuerstein 2002:337). According to an interpretation of the Yoga Sutra outlined by Vacaspati Mishra in his work Tattva-Vaisharadi, four additional levels of this unification with the subtle aspects of the object exist. They are: coincidence with bliss (sanandasamapatti), coincidence with “I-am-ness” (sasmitasamapatti), coincidence beyond bliss (nirananda-samapatti) and coincidence beyond “I-am-ness” (nirasmita-samapatti) (Feuerstein 2002:337). Succession through each of the stages is marked by progressive loss of mental awareness as the participant begins to lose access to memory and abandons any attempts at reason or logical thought, accepting that their meditation object cannot be possessed and must be grasped as concrete fact rather than positioned in relation to the rest of the physical world (Eliade 95-96). It is questionable whether the scholar Mishra actually experienced these types of samadhi for himself or whether he inferred their existence, and it must be noted that the adept yogin Vijnana Bhikshu rejected the types of samadhi that Mishra described (Feuerstein 2002:337).

In addition to the types of samadhi discussed in the Yoga Sutra, some gurus have developed their own teachings on the different ways samadhi can be experienced. For example, the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy used a system of classification that divided different experiences of samadhi into major and minor types (Chinmoy 257-260) and was based on Vedanta philosophy (Feuerstein 2002:336). This system, listed in order of increasing accomplishment, includes: savikalpa, nirvikalpa, and sahaja samadhi, which Chinmoy claims is the highest state of consciousness achieved by most spiritual masters (Chinmoy 257-260). Other sources explain that the attainment of nirvikalpa samadhi is synonymous with liberation itself (Feuerstein 2002:529), but according to Chinmoy it is the attainment of sahaja samadhi that indicates, “one has become the soul . . . and is utilizing the body as a perfect instrument” (Chinmoy 259). Within each of these levels of consciousness, there are varying “grades” of experience and each of the samadhi can be attained at “higher” or “lower” levels. Chinmoy differentiates between these different types of samadhi based on the varying degrees of consciousness and abilities to interact with the physical world experienced by the participant in each form of contemplative absorption (Chinmoy 257-260). Studying the teachings of gurus can be a very effective means of understanding the multitude of diverse ways that samadhi is experienced. [For information regarding other classification systems of various types of samadhi, consult individual discussions of yoga by spiritual teachers.]

Although some gurus claim that there are no specific methods to attain this supreme form of consciousness (Chinmoy 261), in the Yoga Sutra Patanjali discusses some of the challenges one must overcome in order to achieve samadhi. One of the primary obstacles preventing one’s attainment of supreme consciousness is the interfering mind (Kesarcodi-Watson 85). Certain scholars, such as Ian Kesarcodi-Watson (1982), state that it is difficult to explain the steps leading to samadhi because these steps occur at a level of being that is difficult for rational minds to grasp. The state which samadhi inhabits is considered one where there is no “making;” a state that is difficult to affect (Kesarcodi-Watson 89). However, it is stressed in discussions of this state of supreme consciousness that samadhi cannot be achieved through a mere exertion of will, but rather, requires the subject to empty themselves and become open to the higher reality beyond their own ego (Feuerstein 2002:337). Experts on the subject explain that actions taken to achieve samadhi can be attempted, but there is little to be said about how, or even if, they will work (Kesarcodi-Watson 89) because the extraordinary condition that is samadhi is one for which “there is no reference point in our everyday life” (Feuerstein 2002:336).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Chinmoy, Sri (1989) Meditation: Man-Perfection in God-Satisfaction. Jamaica: Aum Publications.

Dasgupta, S.N. (1979) Yoga Philosophy in Relation to Other Systems of Indian Thought. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.

Eliade, Mircea (1975) Patanjali and Yoga. New York: Shocken Books.

Feuerstein, Georg and Jeanine Miller (1972) Yoga and Beyond. New York: Shocken Books.

Feuerstein, Georg (2002) The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice. New Dehli: Bhavana Books & Prints.

Fort, Andrew O. (2006) “Vijnanabhiksu on Two Forms of ‘Samadhi’.” International Journal of Hindu Studies 10 #3 (December): 271-294.

Kesarcodi-Watson, Ian (1982) “Samadhi in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.” Philosophy East and West 32 #1 (January): 77-90.

Osho (1976) The Path of Yoga. Pune: Tao Publishing Pvt Ltd.

Sarbacker, Stuart Ray (2005) Samadhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Venkatesananda, Swami (2008) The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.

 

RELATED TOPICS FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION

Asamprajnata Samadhi

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Guru

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Nirvitarka Samadhi

Sahaja Samadhi

Samprajnata Samadhi

Savikalpa Samadhi

Vitarka-Samapatti

Yoga

Yoga Sutra of Patanjali

Yogi/Yogin

 

 

NOTEWORTHY WEBSITES RELATED TO THE TOPIC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samadhi

http://www.expressionsofspirit.com/yoga/eight-limbs.htm

http://religiousbook.net/Books/Online_books/Eco/ecopsychology_35.html

Enlightened Master Acharya Shree Yogeesh explains his understanding of samadhi:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yySC3ZLwGs

Spiritual Teacher Sri Chinmoy demonstrates his experience of samadhi:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv0_njLTfy8

 

Article written by Madison Martens (April 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

 

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika

The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is one of the most renowned and accessible texts written on the ancient practice of hatha yoga. Believed to have been written in the fourteenth century C.E. by Svatmarama Yogin, speculation surrounds the true authorship of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika since some of its elements coincide with hatha yoga guides attributed to other authors of the time (Burley 6). In the Hatha Yoga Pradipika Svatmarama melds together the practice of raja yoga and hatha yoga. A disagreement persisted in the early yogic scriptures about which form of yoga was more superior to the other, but by combining raja and hatha yoga practices as well as claiming their dependency upon one another in his work, Svatmarama disbanded this dispute (Birch 527). The Sanskrit word hatha originates from its two roots, ‘ha’ and ‘tha’. The root ‘ha’ refers to properties such as “passion, heat, and positivity,” the root ‘tha’ refers to elements like “cool, receptive, and negativity” (Sivananda Radha 3). Hatha is the incorporation of two extremes while yoga (meaning union) is the bringing together of these polarities (Sivananda Radha 3-4). The Sanskrit word pradipika ‘that which sheds light’, when put into a metaphor helps the reader better understand the context of the title and how it refers to shedding light on the subject of hatha yoga (Burley 6). One who practices hatha yoga would be considered a yogi and yogis are the main reader audience of this particular text. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika contains 389 slokas (Sanskrit verses) and is divided into four upadesas or chapters (Burley 7). The first chapter is titled “Asanas”. In this chapter proper etiquette is revealed for the practice of hatha yoga as well as the yoga postures or asanas. “Pranayama” is the title of the second chapter; it includes emphasis on ‘harnessing’ of fundamental energy and elucidates various techniques or kumbhakas of breath retention that can be utilized to achieve this discipline. Svatmarama also includes six different detoxifying acts called karmans that aid the practice of pranayama in this second chapter. The third chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika focuses on the subject of mudras, which are ritual gestures, and the final chapter entitled “Samadhi” centers on the ultimate goal of hatha yoga, the deepest level of meditation (Burley 7). Exploration of this classic text that is a part of the Hindu tradition gives one an understanding of the goals and regimens of the ancient practice of hatha yoga.

Svatmarama outlines in the first chapter of his text various imperative observances that the true yogi must adhere to in order to properly perform hatha yoga. The practice of hatha yoga is explained to be sacred and should be practiced in reverence and secret in order for it to maintain its purity; the full potential of this form of yoga is most accessibly achieved in this way (Svatmarama 4). The fulfillment of the hatha yogi is emphasized as to be completely individual and further instructions of how the practitioner should live and eat, as well as adherences and avoidances is explained to keep their practice on the right path. According to Svatmarama yoga flourishes under acts such as “enthusiasm, openness, courage, knowledge of truth, determination and solitude” and it succumbs to undertakings of “overeating, overexertion, talking too much, performing painful austerities, socializing and restlessness” (6). The first chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika also includes important instructions on the proper execution of asanas or yoga postures. An example of an explanation of an asana called Bhadrasana is as follows: “grasp the feet, which are motionless on their sides, firmly with the hands and remain motionless,” this pose is claimed to be “the destroyer of all diseases” (Svatmarama 26). Enthusiastic, involved practice is emphasized in the first chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika as to be the most important part of the accomplishment of asanas.

The practice of pranayama, according to Burley is the “control of ‘vital force’” (31). This act of harnessing energy is done through techniques of breath retention. The importance of this discipline as outlined in the second chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is that the result of pranayama is to create steadiness in the yogi and in turn, steadying their hatha yoga practice (Svatmarama 33). Svatmarama in the Pradipika alludes to the philosophy of breath and how it links life and death and highlights the importance of the control of breath (33). The mention of nadis, or vital channels, and ways of controlling them (kumbhakas), aids in the explanation of the process of pranayama (Burley 7). The practice of pranayama is explained to weaken diseases in the body; other techniques that contribute to the wellness of the body are karmans, purifying actions (Svatmarama 38). There are six karmans named in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika: dhauti, vasti, neti, trataka, nauli and kapalabhati. These karmans are for the most part physically trying and Svatmarama even mentions that the practice of them are not recommended by all hatha yogis (Svatmarama 42). Instructions on various kumbhakas through pranayama aim to enable the student of hatha yoga to achieve success in their practice.

The third chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika entitled “Mudras” includes guidelines on various seals or sealing postures. Svatmarama stresses the sacrosanct quality of mudras and that the practitioner must keep them to themselves as something to be revered (Svatmarama 54). Mudras, like pranayama, are to be utilized to prevent disease and bring physical and spiritual well being to the yogi undertaking them. In this third chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, soma ( “the immortal nectar”) is encouraged to be consumed (Burley 23). Along with the encouragement to ingest soma, a significant stress is placed on the importance of the yogi preserving his semen and keeping it within his body. This suggestion is based on the idea that semen is equivalent to life, so in order to avoid death, one must preserve the life or semen within them (Svatmarama 73). These different strategies are resorted to alongside mudras in order to employ authenticity to the hatha form of yoga.

The final chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika concentrates on the final goal of hatha yoga, “Samadhi,” it is the “state of unity” (Svatmarama 85). Samadhi is the collective intention of the yoga practice outlined in the Pradipika. With the combination of the practices of asanas, pranayama and mudras, Svatmarama illuminates the achievement of this deep state of meditation. This last chapter again focuses on the utilization of controlled breath to bring the yogi to their ultimate goal of Samadhi. Svatmarama repeats the importance of blending the practices of raja and hatha yoga gives instructions to follow for the proper execution of sound meditation. The focus for meditation is urged to be placed on nada, which refers to inner sound and leads to absorption of the mind (Burley 99). The Hatha Yoga Pradipika closes on this last speculation on the ultimate goal of its practice.

Yogi Svatmarama’s early work in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika continues to carry on meaning to practitioners of the modern day. The information it expounds in areas of yoga postures (asanas), breathing control techniques (pranayama), sacramental gestures (mudras) and the final goal of realization (Samadhi) gives the reader an explanation of the ancient practice of hatha yoga. Examination and understanding this classic text that is based on the fundamentals of one of the most common forms of yoga creates an interpretation of the mentality or intention attached to the practice of yoga in the Hindu tradition.

 

 Sources Consulted and Bibliography

Svatmarama (2004) The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Translated by Brian Dana Akers. Woodstock: Yogavidya.com.

Burley Mikel (2000) Hatha-Yoga: Its Context, Theory and Practice. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.

Sivananda Radha, Swami (1987) Hatha Yoga The Hidden Language: Symbols, Secrets, and Metaphor. Porthill: Timeless Books.

Birch, Jason (2011) “The Meaning of hatha in Early Hathayoga.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 131 Issue 4: 527-554.

 

Related Topics for Further Invesitgation

Raja Yoga

Jyotsna

Gheranda-Samhita

Goraksa-Sataka

Siva-Samhita

Tantra

Asanas

Pranayama

Mudras

Samadhi

Kundalini

Shakti

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.mahavidya.ca

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hatha_Yoga_Pradipika

http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/hyp/index.htm

http://www.puroyoga.no/Hatha+Yoga+Pradipika+(en+del+av+pensum).9UFRfQWe.ips

http://jivamuktiyoga.com/teachings/focus-of-the-month/p/hatha-yoga-pradipika-1

 

This article is written by Kwynn Nelson (April 2013), who is solely responsible for its content.

Bhakti Yoga as Described by the Bhagavad Gita

One of the fundamental aspects of Hinduism revolves around the spiritual paths one must take in order to reach a state of Moksa or enlightenment. As Moksha is the ultimate goal for any practitioner of the Hindu tradition, it is obvious that concerns over the correct way to achieve this end are approached in a wide variety of ways. Bhakti Yoga is one such path to achieving enlightenment within orthodox Hindu teachings. Bhakti Yoga, also commonly known as the Path of Devotion, teaches that Moksha is achieved by means of selfless and utter devotion, love, and trust towards a particular deity. Those on the Path of Devotion often listen to stories about God, sing devotional hymns, recite mantras, worship at temples and shrines at the home, and undergo pilgrimages in hopes of becoming closer to God. The word bhakti is made up of two parts, the root bhaj, meaning service and the suffix ktr, which means love. However, bhakti is a very flexible word which also means to be attached to, to be devoted to, or to resort to (Michael 250). Bhakti Yoga is a multi-faceted practice which requires both a commitment to God as well as a commitment to loving fellowship of those around oneself in order to succeed. In order to achieve Moksha following this pathway, one must have a pure devotion to God, as having other desires leaves one incapable of fully devoting themselves to God. Bhakti is additionally dualistic in that the term may describe both the path by which one realizes enlightenment, as well as the ultimate goal of enlightenment itself (Michael 250).

The Bhagavad Gita is a part found within the epic the Mahabharata that introduces the concept of the Yogas [spiritual paths that worshippers may take in order to reach a state of salvation or unification with God]. The Bhagavad Gita takes place during the middle of the Mahabharata, when the third Pandava Arjuna is filled with doubt when forced to fight blood relatives in the war of Kurukshetra. Through the course of numerous philosophical and theological discussions between Prince Arjuna and Krsna, the concepts and application of the Yogas are introduced. Despite the very influential nature and important contents of the Bhagavad Gita, it is not considered Sruti [divine in origin], but as Smrti [remembered verses], as it is a part of the Mahabharata. As the introduction of the Yogas is a foundational aspect of many varying sects of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita is still seen as one of the more important Smrti in the Hindu tradition. These spiritual paths have become significantly prominent aspects of the Hindu tradition and in many ways serve to define many of the different sects of Hinduism in the modern day.

The concept of Yoga that was introduced in the Bhagavad Gita specifically refers to the primary ways in which practitioners of Hinduism may achieve unification between themselves and God. There are three main paths that are described within the Bhagavad Gita as ways to achieve enlightenment. The first is Karma Yoga, also known as the Path of Action. This Yoga consists of proper and selfless action, the control or suppression of selfish desires, and providing selfless services to those who require it. The successful completion of these deeds are thought to be transformed into worship. This is best characterized by the saying of Yogaswami of Sri Lanka “All work must be done with the aim of reaching God” (Veylanswami 10). The second path is Jnana Yoga, otherwise known as the Path of Knowledge. This path is based on the attainment of philosophical knowledge and discrimination between what is real and unreal (Veylanswami 10). To attain this knowledge, a combination of listening to scripture, thinking or reflecting upon that scripture, and then deep, meaningful meditation is often the course of action of followers belonging to this path. The ultimate goal of this path is to determine the differences between the real and the unreal, giving one an understanding of their true identity within true reality. Bhakti Yoga is the third path that is seen as a means to salvation, by committing yourself entirely to the love and devotion of a specific deity. [Krsna and Siva are two of the more commonly worshipped deities within the Path of Devotion]. Bhakti Yoga is brought to light in the Bhagavad Gita when Krsna explains to Arjuna that those who manage to remain concentrated on him, worship him with unfaltering faith, are rescued from the cycle of life and death. This escape from the struggle of life and death that Lord Krsna refers to is commonly known as Moksha or enlightenment. A more recently conceived spiritual path that has been gaining significant following in recent history is known as Raja Yoga or the Path of Meditation. The inception of Raja Yoga is not considered to be from the Bhagavad Gita, but from the Yoga Sutras credited to Patanjali. Raja Yoga follows an eight tiered system that focuses on ethical restraint, religious observance, proper posture, breathing control, withdrawal, meditation, and a sense of oneness (Veylanswami 10). These eight features are practiced in hopes of concentrating one’s mental awareness, which is deemed essential to the tradition.

The Yogas that are spoken of in the Bhagavad Gita are in many ways interconnected. A commonly practiced approach to the Yogas is to choose one primary path to follow, while still observing the practices of the other Yogas in a secondary manner. While those who seek Moksha shall undoubtedly lean towards one particular path, true knowledge cannot be attained without at least a fundamental understanding of the remaining paths (Veylanswami 11). An approach to the Yogas that has gained traction recently is undertaking Bhakti, Karma, or Raja Yoga prior to taking Jnana Yoga to ensure that one has a real understanding of what it is that they learn and speak of along the Path of Knowledge. This concept is best illustrated by the words of Swami Vishnudevananda: “Before practicing jnana yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths—for without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for Self Realization can become mere idle speculation” (Veylanswami 11).

While there is a strong degree of interconnectivity between the varying Yoga pathways, there are a number of fundamental differences between each practice, which inevitably leads to strong differences between the practitioners of each yogic path. The way in which the personality of an individual meshes with the fundamental principles of each path are a strong determinant as to which path an individual will choose. For those who are emotional, Bhakti Yoga is commonly recommended, for the physically active Karma Yoga is frequently suggested, while Raja Yoga is considered most appealing to meditative personalities, and Jnana yoga is deemed best suited for a more intellectual individual (Veylanswami 10). In addition to differences in general doctrine and follower personality, the selection of each Yoga path is also strongly related to the deity that an individual worships. Those who are affiliated with Krsna worship will have different views and affinities towards one path than those who worship Siva. [Vaishnava sects tend to promote Bhakti Yoga for their followers, while some Vedantic sects promote Jnana Yoga as the dominant means of salvation] (Veylanswami 11).

There are many ways in which the Bhakti Yoga path may be followed, with a near infinite number of ways to devote oneself to, unconditionally love, and otherwise worship a deity. Some may choose frequent temple worship as a primary means of connecting with God, while others may feel that the utterance of sacred mantra is the ideal way to worship. As there are many differences between practitioners of Bhakti yoga, naturally there is a large degree of variation within Bhakti yoga itself. These variations may be the result of regional variability, the plethora of deities that are available for worship, or even socioeconomic and social differences that exemplify the traditional caste (jati) and class (Varna) system of Hinduism. These differences are not static, but instead dynamic, changing over time and space. The methodology and frequency of forms of worship change continuously over time.

There are very notable differences when comparing varying sects of bhakti worship. In Bengali Shakta Bhakti yogic rituals are designed to bridle the uncontrolled passion and emotion that followers. The yogic rituals performed are meant to provide appropriate times and places for practitioners to have encounters and experiences with the goddess. In Gaudiya Vaisnava Bhakti, yogic rituals in which worshippers relive mythical and historical occurrences of great emotion are performed in order to increase devotion and provide understanding of the worshipper role that each person has to Krsna or Radha (McDaniel 54). While both of these sects follow the Path of Devotion, they perform different rituals for different purposes. Each of these traditions provides worship to their deity uniquely, in large part to the personality type of those who follow each tradition. Within the Gaudiya Vaisnava tradition, members are taught and perform different ways of serving god. It may be entertaining guests, collecting water, or frequent prayer at a home shrine. A guru is often consulted to teach members what acts they can do to best serve their God, however once these methods have been learned and ultimately perfected over time, innumerable variations may be made to individualize the act of worship (Haberman 133). Thus, we can see variation not only between traditions but within traditions.

While many differences between bhakti traditions are relatively minor, there are occasions where practices can differ wildly from one group to the next; this can best be seen when comparing the diminishing practice of Sahajiya bhakti and the rituals of the Bauls with mainstream Gaudiya Vaisnava traditions. The Sahajiya believe that Krsna and Radha may come down from the heavens and enter the bodies of worshippers. As a result, the Sahajiya perform a sexual ritual so that members may experience the “love” of their deities. The Bauls, a group of wandering singers seek the love of Krsna and Radha and perform rituals involving the ingestion of taboo substances. By making the impure substance pure through the act of the ritual, members hope to become rasika (those who are able to see divine presences) (McDaniel 54). Both the Sahajiya and Baul traditions are subcultures of the Gaudiya Vaisnava bhakti, however the rituals, members, and ideals of the groups are in many ways opposed to one another. Historically, Bhakti Yoga became a popular choice for people to follow due to the open nature of the path. Any who felt that they could devote themselves to God were capable of following the path. This can be seen in the members of the bhakti movement previously in history; the heads of bhakti sects were not just Brahmin males as was custom for other paths, but those of high or low castes, male or female. The language used for bhakti literature such as doctrines and poetry were written not just in Sanskrit but in vernacular languages as well (Rinehart 51). This literature showed a great degree of variability between writers as well as regions; some wrote of gods not only reverently but negatively at times as well, while some questioned the appearances of the gods or their manner of speech (Rinehart 52). The large degree of differences found between traditions of various regions and sub cultures, both modern and historical serves to demonstrate the significant number of different manners in which Bhakti Yoga may be performed. Given the broad backgrounds from which members arise, the large amount of deities that are worshipped, and the incredibly broad manner in which an individual may choose to express his or her devotion to God. It is little wonder that the Bhakti Yoga tradition has become such a broad and encompassing division of Hindu tradition.

 

References and Further Recommended Reading

Bodhinatha Veylanswami, Satguru (2012) “Which Yoga Should I Follow?” Hinduism Today (Jul-Sep): 10-11.

Haberman, David (1988) Acting as a way of Salvation: A Study of Rāgānugā Bhakti Sādhana. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass.

McDaniel, June (2012) The Role of Yoga in Some Bengali Bhakti Traditions: Shaktism, Gaudiya Vaisnavism, Baul, and Sahajiya Dharma. College of Charleston.

Mehta, Varun (2011) “The Need for Balance in Faith” Hinduism Today (Jan-Mar): 9.

Michael, Pavulraj (2011) Bhakti Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita — An Easy Way for all to Search and find the Will of God. Rome: Pontificia Universita Gregoriana.

Rinehart, Robin (2004) Contemporary Hinduism: Ritual, Culture, and Practice. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Rosen, Steven (2010) Krishna’s other song: a new look at the Uddhava Gita. Santa Barbara: Praeger.

Kumar, Shashiprabha (2005) Self ,society, and value: reflections on Indian philosophical thought. Delhi: Vidyanidhi Prakashan.

 

Related Topics for Investigation

Jnana Yoga

Karma Yoga

Samadhi in Yoga

Dharana in Yoga

Krsna/Krishna and Arjuna

Cuntarar/Sundarar

The Bhagavata Purans

The Nayanars/Nayanmars

Ramprasad Sen

Campantar/Sambandar

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to Topic

www.bhagavad-gita.us/chapter-summaries-of-the-bhagavad-gita/

http://www.hinduwebsite.com/devotion.asp

http://www.krishna.com/karma-jnana-and-bhakti-yoga

http://www.indianetzone.com/1/bhakti_yoga.htm

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2002-12-14/edit-page/27319455_1_astanga-bhakti-yoga-yogic

 

Article written by: Andrew Gunderson (March 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

 

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is one of the methods for attaining liberation and union with God, prescribed by the incarnate god Krsna to his friend and disciple Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Jnana Yoga literally means “the path of union through knowledge (Prabhavananda 124).

The Bhagavad Gita (often shortened to the “Gita”) is a highly influential text embedded in the Mahabharata epic. It begins with the armies of the Pandavas and the Kauruvas assembled and ready for battle. The Pandava warrior Arjuna asks his friend and charioteer Krsna to drive between the armies so that he may survey his enemies before the battle commences. Arjuna sees among the rival army his friends, teachers, and other kin and is faced with a severe crisis, caught between his dharma (duty) as a ksatriya to fight and his wish to not harm his those he cares for (Theodore 27). Krsna chastises Arjuna, reminding him of his duty, and telling him that he should not grieve for those who will die, since only the body dies, not the soul which is eternal (Theodore 30). Arjuna remains uncertain and asks Krsna to become his guru and instruct him on how he should properly act (Theodore 29). What follows is a conversation between Krsna and Arjuna on such spiritual topics as the nature of the soul, reality, God, and the attainment of moksa (liberation), which occupies the remainder of the Gita.

During the course of the discussion, Jnana Yoga is described as a method for attaining spiritual liberation, along with Karma Yoga (the path of action), Bhakti Yoga (the path of devotion or love), as well as Raja Yoga (the path of meditation) (Prabhavananda 124). Jnana Yoga emphasizes focused contemplation, the object of which is the Divine (Theodore 106). The Jnana Yoga practitioner (jnani) must become adept at discriminating between the real and unreal. Our experiences and perceptions are impermanent and fleeting, having both beginning and end. The only abiding reality is that of Brahman (Absolute Reality), which is equated with the Atman, the Supreme Self (Prabhavananda 125). Krsna discusses what he terms “the Field” and “the Knower of the Field”. The “Field” includes the body, senses, and mind/ego. The knower of the field is the true Self, the Atman (Theodore 104). The jnani learns the true self through relentlessly analyzing, separating and distinguishing the elements that make up reality (Torwesten 90). Jnana Yoga is fundamentally the practise of proclaiming neti, neti (not this, not this), a concept seen in the Upanisads: the jnani comes to realize the true Self by defining what it is not, specifically the body, mind, senses, and any object or experience (“the Field”) (Prabhavananda 125).

As the jnani strips away these false notions of self, through self discipline he should restrain his senses and withdraw from the sensual world, likened to a tortoise withdrawing its limbs into its shell (Theodore 37). Having so withdrawn, the desire for sensual pleasures will remain; however, once the jnani attains a vision of the Supreme, this desire will disappear (Theodore 37). The jnani should become detached and indifferent to the world. Krsna describes the ideal sage as such:

One not agitated despite all kinds of distress, whose apsiration for happiness is gone, and who is devoid of pass, fear and anger…He who is not attracted to anything, and having attained this or that, good or bad, does not rejoice but is not averse either – his wisdom is firmly established (Bhagavad Gita 2.55-57).

Thus the jnani must strive to become indifferent to good and evil deeds, to all desires, to pleasure and pain. Instead, he attains the greatest happiness in the Self (Prabhavananda 125).

The end goal of all of the Yogas is the attainment of moksa, or liberation. Moksa is freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth, samsara (Theodore 3). When the yogi has realized Brahman and is fully absorbed in it, meditating on Brahman at the time of his death, he will be liberated from the endless cycle of samsara:

He who leaves the body while pronouncing the single syllable which is Brahman, the Om, while meditating on me, reaches the supreme goal. O Partha, I am easily reached by the yogi who always remembers me, is constantly and fully absorbed in me, and is thus ever yoked. Having come to me, these great souls do not undergo rebirth into that transient abode of misery, as they have attained the highest perfection (Bhagavad Gita 8.13-15).

Despite its emphasis of renunciation, practising Jnana Yoga does not necessarily mean withdrawing from all actions in life. Krsna advocates employing the methods of Karma Yoga even as one follows the Jnana path (Theodore 42). Under Karma Yoga, actions adhering to dharma (rituals, sacrifice, etc) are still performed, but are done without attachment to the fruits of their outcomes (Theodore 34). Indeed, Krsna repeatedly proclaims that while both Jnana and Karma Yoga lead to liberation, Karma Yoga is the preferable path: “Both relinquishing activity and yogic activity lead to the highest good, but of the two, karma yoga or yogic action exceeds renouncing altogether” (Bhagavad Gita 5.2). This is because the renunciation of worldly existence in Jnana Yoga is difficult to achieve without the support of Karma Yoga, as it requires the maintenance of a negative attitude of aversion which actually keeps the mind focused on the world (Theodore 55). This can lead to increased attachment to the world, hindering the development of true indifference (Theodore 55). Instead, through practising selfless action devoted only to Brahman, the yogi develops a sense of inner satisfaction which makes the attainment of true detachment much easier (Theodore 57). Furthermore, while the jnani should practise asceticism, extreme austerities are to be avoided according to Krsna:

The hearts of those who practise dreadful austerities not ordained by the scriptures, are filled with hypocrisy and egotism as they are motivated by lust and attachment. Those fools, who torture the aggregate of elements in their bodies as well as me, who dwell therein, know them to have a demonic resolution (Bhagavad Gita 17.5-6).

Instead, moderation in sleep, drinking, eating, and recreational activities is advocated in pursuit of the Jnana Yoga path (Prabhavananda 128).

Most of the ideas in the Gita and the practises of Jnana Yoga are substantially similar to those found in other Hindu schools of thought. Many of the verses about Jnana Yoga are taken directly from some of the middle and later Upanisads, including the Mundaka, Katha, and Svetasvartara Upanisad (Torwesten 89). The concepts of Brahman, the Atman, and the attainment of moksa are rooted in the Upanisadic tradition (Prahavananda 55). The Upanisads say that in order to realize Brahman/Atman and attain moksa, one must first renounce all selfish desires, with all thoughts of the individual self snuffed out by the oneness of Brahman, the same as the detachment advocated in the Gita (Prahavananda 65).

Elements from the Sankhya philosophy are also used extensively for the division and analysis of reality featured in Jnana Yoga. The Sankhya dualism of Purusa and Prakriti, supreme consciousness and material nature, are mirrored in the Gita conception of “The Field” and “The Knower of the Field” (Torwesten 90). The Gita also discusses at length the three gunas which make up Prakriti, specifically tamas (darkness, dullness, inertia), rajas (ego-driven activity), and sattva (lumosity, purity) (Torwesten 91).

Advaita Vedanta, one of the major schools of Hindu philosophy, advocates the practise of Jnana Yoga in order to achieve moksa (Deutsch 104). Advaita Vedanta outlines four general qualifications to be fulfilled by one seeking liberation, as well as three stages they must pass through: first, the aspirant must be able to discern what is real from what is only apparently real. Second, he requires a complete disregard and indifference toward sensual pleasure and petty desires, willingly giving up all that which distracts him and prevents his attainment of self-knowledge. Third, he must cultivate self-control (dama), endurance (titiksa), dispassion (uparati), mental tranquility (sama), intentness of mind (samadhana), and faith (sraddha). Fourth, he requires complete dedication to his quest for true understanding, focusing all his desire upon it alone (Deutsch 105).

The first general stage for the Advaita jnani is known as sravana (“hearing”), which involves the study of advaitic texts, listening to sages, studying the mahavakyas (great sayings) of the Vedas and thinking on their true meaning. This stage provides a framework which can be used for interpretation of the aspiring jnani’s own experiences (Deutsch 106). The next stage is known as manana (“thinking”), which involves prolonged self reflection, incorporating the advaita philosophical principals into himself. Facilitated by a guru, the jnani aspirant learns about the nature of Brahman, and how to discriminate between the different levels of reality (Deutsch 107). He must analyze the ways in which his knowledge of the world and of himself is constituted, realizing how he has falsely identified himself with mere partial expressions of his self (Deutsch 106-107). The final stage is nididhyasana (“constant meditation”). In this stage the jnani actively pursues self-realization, maintaining intense concentration upon his own self as Brahman (Deutsch 108). Detached from all egoism and distractions, he cuts away all lower level experiences and false identifications standing between him and the true Self (Deutsch 109-110). Upon the true realization that he is Brahman and Brahman is everything, the jnani achieves moksa, becoming a jivanmukta, one who is liberated while living (Deutsch 110).

A notable practitioner of Jnana Yoga was Ramana Maharsi (1879-1950). Born to a Brahmin family in South India, he was initially educated in Madurai, where he showed little interest in his studies or inclination toward spirituality (Sivaraman 362). A major transformation occurred when at seventeen he was suddenly struck with a petrifying fear of death. Rather than seek help, he decided to try and solve the problem himself: laying down and making himself stiff as a corpse, he contemplated his mortality. He realized that death only applied to the body and not the “I” within. Ramana lost all fear of death then and became engrossed in contemplation of the Self (Sivaraman 363). Subsequently a major change in Ramana’s behaviour was noticed by his brother: he had become totally indifferent to the world as a renouncer would (Sivaraman 363). Following his realization he left his home and travelled to Tiruvannamalai, taking residence in a cave on the sacred hill Arunachala where he remained for 16 years (Rodrigues 250). Ramana is considered to have achieved a state of sahaja-samadhi (effortless absorption) in the Self (Sivaraman 363). Being acquainted with neither the teachings of the Upanisads or Advaita, he was nonetheless able to independently attain the highest goal of those traditions (Sivaraman 364).

Ramana believed reality to be one and non-dual, regardless of the term used (eg. Brahman, Atman, etc). He used the Tamil term ullatu (“that which is”) to describe this singular principle of reality (Sivaraman 365). The perception of reality as a plurality of entities (eg God, man, and the world) was due to action of the mind or ego. When the ego ceases to function, the oneness of reality becomes evident (Sivaraman 366). Ramana advocated self-inquiry as the most direct means to ceasing the action of the mind/ego, relentlessly asking “Who am I?”, leading one to the source of the “I”, revealing the true Self (Sivaraman 371-72). This approach is different from introspection, where one takes stock of the contents of the mind, nor is it psychoanalysis, wherein the consciousness and unconsciousness are examined. The goal is instead to transcend the mind and discover its source (Sivaraman 374).

While Ramana thought self-inquiry was the most direct path to liberation, he acknowledged other methods as valid as well. Realizing that the same method may not work for everyone, he advocated paths such as Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, or Raja Yoga (Sivaraman 375). Ramana also did not think that living as a renouncer required giving up all of the activities of life. Rather, if these activities are performed with detachment, he believed that a householder could be considered a renouncer (Sivaraman 375). By following the path to enlightenment, Ramana believed that realization of the Self and liberation can be achieved here and now in life. Further, he believed the path of liberation is open to all, regardless of caste, class, race, or sex (Sivaraman 377).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Bhaktivedanta, Swami (1968) The Bhagavad Gita As It Is. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Deutsch, Eliot (1969) Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction. Honolulu: East-West Center Press.

Prabhavananda, Swami (1979) The Spiritual Heritage of India. Hollywood: Vedanta Press.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism – The E-book. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online, Ltd.

Sivaraman, Krishna (1989) Hindu Spirituality: Vedas through Vedanta. New York: The     Crossroad Publishing Company.

Theodore, Ithalmar (2010) Exploring the Bhagavad Gita: Philosophy, Structure, and Meaning.     Farnham: Ashgate Publishing Limited

Torwesten, Hans (1991) Vedanta: Heart of Hinduism. New York: Grove Press Inc.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Karma Yoga

Bhakti Yoga

Raja Yoga

The Bhagavad Gita

The Mahabharata

Moksa

Samsara

Krsna

Visnu

Arjuna

Advaita Vedanta

The Upanisads

Atman

Brahman

Samnyasa

Sankhya

Ramana Maharsi

Swami Vivekananda

Sankara

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jnana_yoga

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advaita_Vedanta

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhagavad_Gita

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoga

http://www.sivananda.org/teachings/fourpaths.html#jnana

http://www.dlshq.org/teachings/jnanayoga.htm

http://www.bhagavad-gita.org/index-english.html

http://www.bhagavad-gita.us/

http://www.asitis.com/

http://www.vedantaadvaita.org/

 

Article written by: Gordon Logie (April 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Mimamsa Darsana

The Hindu tradition is composed of a number of darsanas, or philosophical systems (Padhi and Padhi 221). This should not surprise the keen observer of Hinduism as the religion itself encapsulates a variety of theological, ritual, and philosophical schools of thought and practice. Among the latter is found the Mimamsa darsana, the philosophical school of Vedic interpretation and apologetics. The Mimamsa philosophical system is also important for underscoring the ritualistic nature of the early Vedic literature and for its rigorous epistemological contributions to Hindu philosophy to bolster the truth contained in the Vedas.

The earliest exposition of the Mimamsa darsana is that of the Hindu writer Jaimini. His Mimamsa-Sutra contains over 2,500 aphorisms and is estimated to have been written in 200 CE (Padhi and Padhi 222). Scholars do not credit Jaimini with the creation of the Mimamsa system, but do recognize his systematic presentation of the oral traditions and interpretations of Mimamsa as foundational to the philosophical school of thought (Dasgupta 370). Jaimini’s Mimamsa-Sutra is divided into 12 chapters, 60 sections, and covers nearly 1000 topics. In this significant work Jaimini espouses the general rules (nyayas) with which to distinguish dharma, that is, action in accord with the cosmic order, from adharma, action that is not in proper accord with the cosmos (Padhi and Padhi 222). As such, the Mimamsa-Sutra elucidates the number of sacrifices and rituals that existed in the Hindu tradition at that time. Perhaps the greatest contribution of Jaimini’s work, and of the Mimamsa darsana more generally, is its epistemological contribution to the understanding of knowledge as to how it can be interpreted and derived from the Vedas, the holy scriptures of the Hindu tradition (Padhi and Padhi 222).

The oldest extant commentary on Jaimini’s Mimamsa-Sutra is the Sabarabhasya (Bronkhorst 1). This work was followed by other expositions contained in the Slokavartika in the eighth century and the Prakaranapancika in the ninth century (Clooney 51). A more succinct expression of Mimamsa’s philosophical position was put forward in the Manameyodaya, which was begun by Narayanabhattatiri around 1590 and finished by Narayanasudhi a century later (Clooney 51). The system of Mimamsa articulated by Jaimini and developed by the aforementioned commentaries is also known as Purva-Mimamsa. The name reflects Jaimini’s interpretation (mimamsa) of the earlier Vedic texts, more specifically, the ritually oriented Brahmanas (Padhi and Padhi 219). This distinguishes Purva-Mimamsa from the hegemonic Hindu philosophy of Vedanta, which is also known as Uttara-Mimamsa for its interpretive focus of the chronologically later Vedic texts, namely the Upanisads (Clooney 53). Although scholarship suggests that there exists a great deal of continuity between Purva and Uttara-Mimamsa [For further discussion on the continuity between Mimamsa and Vedanta see Bronkhorst (2007)], the two systems are often studied separately (Clooney 53). Consequently, Vedanta philosophy shall receive cursory treatment in the present discussion.

As previously stated, the primary aim of Jaimini’s Mimamsa-Sutra is to address those actions that are conducive to the realization of dharma (Arnold np). In doing so, the Mimamsa darsana shifts the ideological focus away from the principal Hindu concern of liberation (moksa) from the cycle of rebirth, and toward an orthopraxis, or correct performance, of the brahminic rituals of the Vedic texts. With the attainment of heaven (syarga) and success in the life hereafter hanging in the balance, it becomes essential for the Mimamsa philosopher to establish the orthodoxy of the Vedic ritualistic injunctions (Bronkhorst 1). Jaimini maintains that the characteristics (laksana) of dharma can only be known by means of Vedic injunctions (codana) and testimony (sabda) (Arnold np). As a result, the secondary focus of the Mimamsa darsana is to function as an apologetic school in defense of the Vedic scriptures. As such, the primary concern of subsequent Mimamsa theorists is to demonstrate the intrinsic validity (svatah pramanya) of the religious truth contained within the Vedas (Arnold np). Consequently, the Mimamsa system is heavy laden with discussions pertaining to semantics and grammar (Hiriyanna 299). In their simplest form, the Mimamsakas attempt to uncover the very principles according to which the Vedas were written so as to reveal the truths contained within them (Hiriyanna 298).

Arnold astutely observes that the philosophical project of the Mimamsakas to prove the intrinsic validity of Vedic language using the Vedas themselves seems counterintuitive from the perspective of Western philosophy. Francis Clooney, however, argues that this is not surprising given the epistemological position of Mimamsa. Clooney clarifies that Mimamsa regards truth as right knowledge (prama), which may be known by way of pramanas (hereafter, means of right knowing) (Clooney 45). Jaimini himself conceded three pramanas: perception, inference, and verbal testimony. However, he contended that the word (sabda) of the Vedas alone is the only infallible means of knowledge (Padhi and Padhi 225-245). As such, Mimamsa theorists maintain that the ritual words of the Vedas are firmly intertwined with the ritual realities they endorse (Clooney 52). This is derived from Jaimini’s proposition that one should appeal to as few unseen realities as possible, a notion not all that unlike Occam’s Razor in Western philosophy. Consequently, religious truth is best understood in terms of what is observable, that is, the language and ritual directives of the Vedas. From this it naturally follows that the orthopraxis of said rituals serve as positive affirmation of truth in and among the community of believers (Clooney 51-52).

Although continuity exists between Mimamsa and the other Hindu darsanas, it does depart rather significantly from the Vaiseshika, Nyaya, Samkhya, and Yoga schools of philosophical thought (Padhi and Padhi 221). Mimamsa is set apart primarily by its emphasis on the sole authority of the Vedic scriptures as the epistemological source of eternal truth. In order to preserve the eternal status of the Vedas, Mimamsa largely does away with the Hindu doctrines of creation and dissolution as well as rejects the notion of deities external to the Vedas, resulting in a deification of the holy scriptures themselves (Padhi and Padhi 249). Francis Clooney recognizes that appeals to gods would move the authority of the Vedas to a source external to and higher than the scriptures. As such, Mimamsa apologists refute the existence of any such deities so as not to displace the sole authority of Vedic scriptures (Clooney 51).

The Mimamsa darsana is but one of many attempts to articulate truth and the nature of the cosmos in the Hindu tradition. Its epistemological insight grants the scholar a privileged view of truth as it relates to the sacred Vedic literature revered by Hindus. Understanding Mimamsa’s emphasis and exposition of orthopraxy is essential to understanding the complex nature of brahminic rituals in Hinduism. Although Vedanta in all its continuity has taken over the mainstream of Hindu philosophical thought, a comprehensive understanding of Mimamsa is essential to understand the complex interaction of truth and ritual in the Hindu tradition, as it has been both understood and practiced throughout history and as such practices evolve today.

 

References and Further Recommended Reading

Arnold, D. (2001) “Of Intrinsic Validity: A Study on the Relevance of Purva Mimamsa.” Philosophy East & West, 51 (1), 26.

Bronkhorst. Johannes (2007) Mimamsa and Vedanta: Interaction and Continuity. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited.

Clooney, Francis X. (2001) “From Truth to Religious Truth in Hindu Philosophical Theology.” In Religious Truth: A Volume in the Comparative Religious Ideas Project, edited by Robert Cummings Neville, 43-63. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Dasgupta, S.N. (1973) A History of Indian Philosophy. Vol. I. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hiriyanna, M. (1983) Outlines of Indian Philosophy. Bombay: Blackie & Son.

Moghe, S. G. (1984) Studies in the Purva Mimamsa. New Delhi: Ajanta Publications.

Padhi, Bibhu and Padhi, Minakshi (2005) Indian Philosophy and Religion: A Reader’s Guide. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd.

Prasad, H. (1994) “The context principle of meaning in Prabhakara Mimamsa.” Philosophy East & West, 44 (2), 317.

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Brahmanas

Brahmins

Hindu Epistemology

Nyaya School of logic

Vedanta philosophy

Vedic literature

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mimamsa

http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/383181/Mimamsa

 

Article written by Nikolas Miller (February 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Vaisesika Darsana

The Vaisesika darsana is a system of ontology – it is concerned with ordering and classifying the universe into fundamental components and categories. It is therefore pluralistic and also realistic. The term Vaisesika means “particularist” and is based on the term visesa, meaning “particulars” (Raju 143). Visesa is one of the seven categories into which Vaisesika thinkers organize the universe and figures prominently into its composition. The darsana was founded by Kanada, who authored the Vaisesikasutras circa 400 B.C. (Raju 143).

The doctrine espouses seven categories of reality, called padarthas, which comprise all objects that can be perceived through any means logical or sensory (Hiriyanna 231). They are dravya (substance), guna (quality), karma (motion or activity), samanya (generality or universality), visesa (particularity), samavaya (inherence) and abhava (negation) (Raju 143). Dravya, guna, and karma define the observable physical nature and capabilities of objects, while the existence samanya, visesa and samavaya is demonstrated by logical discrimination. They are also subdivided into further categories.

Dravya can be understood as “that in which qualities inhere” (Raju 143). Dravya is split into two classes of substance, the first of which comprise the nonmaterial world. Firstly there are dis (space), and kala (time), each of which is eternal, infinite and indestructible. There is the mind, manas, which is separate from consciousness and more accurately seen as the integration of the physical senses and the ability to focus on it or selective elements of it (Hiriyanna 231). It is believed to be atomic in scale as the elements are and also the sensory object responsible for emotion and some physical sensations (Raju 148). Finally, there is atman, variously translated as “Self” or “consciousness.” This is consciousness in the overarching sense that is separate and yet observant of the body, senses, mind and other constituent elements of a single person – for each individual, there is a unique atman (Raju 146). The atmans are regarded as infinite and not located in physical space.

The second class comprises the physical world. They are the elements (bhutas): prthivi (earth), apas (water), tejas (light/fire), and vayu (air), which are composed of infinitesimally minute particles called paramanu. Therefore, Vaisesika is also an atomic theory – it proposes the existence of indivisible, imperceptibly tiny component particles of all physical substances. Paramanu are too small to have mass. Accordingly, two combine into a dyad, three of which combine into a triad, which is the minimum observable particle with mass (Raju 145). In addition, each of the four types of paramanu have inherent qualities – prthivi corresponds to smell, apas to taste, tejas to colour and vayu to touch. These are explained as the universal phenomena that allow those senses to function – light, for instance, is seen as necessary to perceive colour. Akasa (aether) is also one of the elements, but is not atomic. It is singular, universal and indivisible like dis and kala. The first four are directly perceivable, but the fifth can only be inferred (Raju 144).

Gunas, or qualities, are traits inherent to dravyas. There are 24 in total: “[C]olor, taste, smell, touch, number, quantity, separateness, contact, disjoining, distance, nearness, knowledge, pleasure, pain, will, aversion and effort… heaviness, liquidity, oiliness, impression, fate [which includes merits as well as demerits, and therefore counts as two], and sound” (Bhattacharyya 143). The most significant are the dual qualities Bhattacharyya lumps together as “fate,” more accurately translated as merit (dharma) and demerit (adharma). These qualities are seen as inherent to substances, but it is possible to conceive of them separate of any object or substance. Colour can be conceived of formlessly, for example. As such, they are considered a distinct category of existence (Hiriyanna 232). Gunas may not have further gunas – there is a distinction made between a quality such as taste and a visesana (variance/mode), such as sweetness. Generally, the distinction is that things considered “qualities” that are attributed to gunas may be scaled – a taste may be sweet or sour, but sweetness and sourness cannot be conceived of without the category of taste – therefore they are subordinate to it (Raju 148).

Karma here refers to action, meaning types of movement. They are rising and falling motion, contraction, expansion and composite or combined motion (e.g. the motions of a human leg) (Raju 149). These are seen as properties of the dravyas as well, although dis, kala and akasa are said to lack motion as they are infinite (Hiriyanna 233).

Samanya translates as “generality” or “universality” and refers to the inherent identifying nature of things. That is, the generic nature of “dogness” that makes all dogs recognizable as such – the combination of dravyas, gunas and karmas unique to dogs (Kak 12). That combination is the same for all dogs – there is one samanya of dogs, which is distinct from the samanya of cows, and so on (Hiriyanna 233).

Visesa, particularity, is the quality that defines two otherwise indistinguishable objects as separate. It is not physically observable itself, but inferred from the fact that two identical things exist in the first place. This is not used lightly – it is only applied to truly indistinguishable objects, which are atomic in scale. While two physical objects can almost always be distinguished from one another by some variance in their gunas, this quality is what distinguishes one atom from the next (Hiriyanna 235). It is also how manases or minds are said to be distinct from one another, as they are also believed to be atomically tiny (Raju 152).

Samavaya proposes the relationships binding these other categories together in coherent manners. It means “inherence” and refers to definitional relationships between inseperable concepts. Substances have this relationship with qualities and with actions, as each (that is, the gunas and karmas) would cease to have value without the former. Likewise, for samanya to be distinct, there must also be visesa, so their relationship is inseparable and necessary (Hiriyanna 236).

The seventh category, abhava, is not an original component of Kanada’s Vaisesikasutras. The category of negation was added as a logical extension of the system. Essentially it addresses the absence of an expected phenomena, object or truth. For example, if an observer is seeking an object and finds that it is missing, the cognized absence of the object is considered a negation – the observer is conceiving of the absence of the object as a distinct phenomenon (Raju 153). Abhava outlines several distinct types of negation – pragabhava and dhvamsabhava refer to the conceptions of an object in the periods before it has been created (e.g. visualizing a home before it has been built) and after it has been destroyed (e.g. remembering a favourite childhood toy, or looking at the broken pieces of an object and recalling its former configuration) to name two (Hiriyanna 238).

The atomic explanation of the composition of the universe begs the question – how is the universe originated? What is the material cause of the paramanu themselves? Later Vaisesika proponents theorize the existence of a God, called Isvara, responsible for creating them – and therefore, the universe. God is conceived of with no identity in particular – it is not Siva, Brahma, etc. Rather, God is the product of logical inference – the universe itself must have a material cause, there appears to be physical order to it suggestive of a controlling “lawmaker,” and the apparent existence of moral order implies an entity dispensing justice (Hiriyanna 243). Kanada himself did not include God in the Vaisesikasutra, but later philosophers such as Sridhara and Udayana consider its existence necessary to explain origination (Hiriyanna 244).

 

REFERENCES AND FURTHER RECOMMENDED READING

Raju, P.T. (1971) The Philosophical Traditions of India. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

Hiriyanna, M. (1932) Outlines of Indian Philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

Bhattacharyya, S. (1961). “The Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika Doctrine of Qualities.” Philosophy East and      West, Vol. 11, No. 3: 143-151

 

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Atomism

Kanada

Mimamsa

Nyaya

Dravya

Atman

Manas

Gunas

Dharma and adharma

Rasavadam

 

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

http://www.unitedindia.com/laws_of_atoms.htm

http://www.preservearticles.com/2011082311421/essay-on-introduction-of-the-vaisesika-philosophy.html

http://www.publishyourarticles.net/knowledge-hub/philosophy/essay-on-padartha-and-abhava-according-to-vaisheshika-philosophy.html

http://nisargadatta-advaita-vedanta.blogspot.ca/2010/12/existence-and-non-existence-bhava-and.html

 

Article written by: Dan Phipps (March 2013) who is solely responsible for its content.