ASHTHANGA YOGA

WRITER: DR BALVIR ACHARYA || TRANSLATOR: DR. TULSI RAM SHARMA 2016-05-11


The first reference to the principles and practice of yoga is found in the Vedas. Subsequent literature, namely the Brahman Grantha, Upanishad, and other Vedic literature also contain the principles of yoga. Maharishi Patanjali has given uniformity to this knowledge by creation of yoga darshan. On the basis of these principles, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati has detailed the principles of yoga very well for the benefit of humanity at large, as he had realized God.

When a person is able to control the faculties of mind, the atma becomes pure, is free from input from senses and can experience God. . This is yoga (yogashchitta vratti nirodhah). Kathopnishad, while mentioning the qualities of yoga, states that when five senses, as well as mind and intellect, become fully peaceful and stable, this condition is called yoga (Kathopanishad, Chapter 2 vallee 3.10-11). Gita defines yoga as the state in which one is able to fulfill his or her duties in life successfully without being attached to the fruits of action and remain sthith-pragyaa (even-tempered) in all situations (yogaha karmasu kaushalam Gita 2.50, Samatvam Yoga Uchyate- Gita 2.48).

It is clear, therefore, that the practice of yoga has 2 goals: spiritual and metaphysical. The spiritual aspect of yoga is to control the senses and attain moksha through realization of the Supreme Being. The metaphysical goal of yoga can be achieved by fulfillment of one’s responsibilities in life to the best of one’s ability while remaining unaffected by loss/gain, unhappiness/unhappiness, respect/disrespect, hot/cold, and other difficulties.

Various types of yoga have been described.

Sankhya Yoga - yoga through proper knowledge of God, soul and nature.

Karma Yoga - fulfillment of one’s responsibilities while remaining unattached from fruits of action.

Bhakti Yoga - total surrender to and meditation upon God.

Mantra Yoga - recitation of mantra like gayatri mantra or names like OM.

Laya Yoga - to be absorbed in thoughts about God.

Hatha Yoga - Ha is right nostril breathing and Tha is left nostril breathing. Thus, alternate right- and left-nostril breathing is hatha yoga.

Ashthanga Yoga - This is the main yoga and consists of yama, niyama, aasana, pranaayama, pratyaahara, dharnaa, dhyana and samaadhi. The goal of this type of yoga is to attain the supreme reality by being able to achieve the state of samaadhi.

Yama is the social code of conduct through the practice of

1. ahinsa, or the ability to treat everyone with compassion and love,

2. satya, or to state the facts as they are,

3. asteya, or not to steal,

4. bhrahmacharya, or the ability to control sensuous desires and

5. aparighiha, or the ability to avoid accumulation of un-needed material things and negative thoughts.

Niyama is the personal code of conduct through the practice of

1. shauch or cleanliness of body and mind,

2.Santosh or to be content with only those things which have been accumulated and achieved with hard work honesty and practice of dharma.

3. Tapa is fulfilment of one’s responsibilities in life while dealing with states of gains/losses, respect/disrespect, heat/cold, happiness/unhappiness etc.,

4. swadhyaya or to study the vedic scriptures, japa of “Om” and introspection and finally

5. Eeshwar Praanidhan or to perform all actions or duties in life whle avoiding the desire for the fruits of action and surrender to God.

Aasana are practice of postures in which state of meditation can be achieved.

Pranayama to practice control of breathing to achieve control of mind.

Pratyahar To control mind and senses

Dhaarna To be able to concentrate and focus mind on one particular object or part of body and meditate upon supreme reality“Om” with its meaning.

Dhyan To be able to focus the mind without any wavering at a point where it was focused in Dhaarna and being able to be absorbed in thoughts of God

Samaadhi This is the last stage of meditation. In this state, the soul is able to experience God completely and is able to be away from all external influences. Actually, the soul comes in its original form.

(Tadev Arth maatra nirbhasm svaroop shoonya miv samaadhih. Yoga Darshan 3.3)

In Yoga Darshan, dhaarna, dhyaan and samaadhi are called saanyam, or self-control. Regarding this issue, Swami Dayanand Saraswati writes that mind is focused at the same location in body during dhaarna, dhyaan and samaadhi in ascending order. The progress from one stage to the other is very quick and the end result is state of bliss. Rgvedadibhaashya bhumika upaasana subject.