Which is the best Yoga?

There are so many kinds and versions of Yoga. Both Traditionally and also in the contemporary era we see so many thoughts and schools of Yoga. Which among them is the best? What kind of an approach will lead us to the best Yoga?

Do they Yoga texts have any inputs on this? Yes they do.

The Next verse from Sage Vyāsa’s commentary found in the Sūtra 1.48 – ṛtaṁbharā tatra prajñā offers an answer .

Vyāsa speaks about Uttama Yoga or Best Yoga in the Sūtra on ṛtaṁbharā prajñā.  ( ṛtaṁbharā tatra prajñā ॥ 1.48 ॥ ṛtaṁbharā  prajñā – is that state where the mind is brimming with clarity about the Puruṣa  – awareness/consciousness, who is ṛtam or the Truth, with very little distraction of the mind).

The verse on Uttama Yoga is as follows –

आगमेनानुमानेन ध्यानाभ्यासरसेन च।

त्रिधा प्रकल्पयन्प्रज्ञा लभत योगमुत्तमम् ॥

āgamenānumānena dhyānābhyāsarasena ca।

tridhā prakalpayanprajñā labhata yogamuttamam ॥

By knowledge attained from the Scriptures and the teachings of the teachers (āgama), by using the faculty of inference (reasoning) and also by the joy experienced by the practice of Dhyāna, the mind has to be prepared to attain Uttama yoga (the great Yoga – clear knowledge about Puruṣa -conciousness ).

In Tattvavaiśāradī, vācaspatimiśra suggests the following on the verse above āgama – refers to (the vedāntic self realization method of) śravaṇa – listening to teachings. anumāna – tallies with Manana and dhyāna is cintā (nididhyāsana) – contemplating or meditating and abhyāsa refers to practice of these again and again.

vijñānabhikṣu vārttika also adds the very useful input in connection with this verse – he states – In sabīja state (a state of Samādhi – absorption where refined single pointed-flow of thoughts exist) one has to refine one’s intellect with these three tools. The intellect thus refined coupled with higher vairāgya (Sūtra 1.16)(para-vairāgya)leads a person to the best yoga – Nirbīja-samādhi

It is very interesting to look at the well balanced nature of the three tools suggested to attain best yoga.

Firstly, Śraddhā (firm faith) about the Yogic Scriptural teachings,

then, using inference and applying one’s own reasoning faculty to ascertain the teachings. It does not end with ascertaining the truth with the one’s intellect.

It has to be experienced by practice. By practicing Dhyāna and the limbs of Yoga that will lead to the Joy of Dhyāna Experience. These are the tools that make our ordinary (laukika) Yoga – Uttama Yoga.

If we observe the three steps we can understand that these three are in accordance with human growth and development.

In Ancient times, Initially, children in Gurukulas received teachings (and follow it as it is), then, as their analytical faculty blossomed as they proceed in age, anumāna unfolds – they reflect on the teachings that they have received and the way that they are practicing it and then finally, in due course their abhyāsa/practice, changes into abhyāsa-rasa – blissful, meaningful and mindful practice of teachings (on every aspect of life) received. That culminates into anubhava – experience.

That is why we see so many thinkers, scholars and intellectuals emerging in ancient India and insight fully contributing to various disciplines.

Interestingly, in the current day Yoga we start with practice (abhyāsa) at the level of the body and the breath. If we are able to gradually build in the other two elements of āgama and anumāna – we are certain to reach Uttama Yoga.

Scaling the citadel of Clarity

Series 1 Post 3

The next verse that is quoted in Vyāsabhāṣya occurs in sūtra 1.47. nirvicāra-vaiśāradye’dhyātma-prasādaḥ.

It is a well known fact that – Yoga bestows clarity by regulating our thought processes – citta-vṛtti-nirodha.

There is a constant inflow of information through our senses. In the current era of Smart phones and social media, information inflow – in the form of news – fake and real, views – good and not so good, is at its unprecedented peak. We are always bombarded by constant messages on various networks and platforms online.

There is very little time to be free from their influence and think. Also, there is very little time to assimilate what we have received. The very need to assimilate what we received itself is not felt. Simply the share button is pressed and a sense of having done some social service, albeit virtually, is achieved.

Should we not stop and reflect? Should we not take two steps away from the flow of info and develop clarity!

It is in this context that Yoga becomes Vital. Basically, our daily session of Yoga practice, apart from the health benefits, helps us also to remain with ourselves and allows to look at our own self and understand where and how we are in life. It is in Yoga sessions, so to say, we are able to think. It gives us back to ourselves.

Simple practices of āsana, prāṇāyāma and a little chanting are themselves like an oasis of freshness and clarity amidst the dry flow of never ending information.

Higher states of Yoga that are achieved by systematic progress in Yoga in the long run – promise more clarity.

When we speak about very high states of clarity, one might feel that these are not applicable to me.

But don’t we hear this phrase “aim at the start and shoot at the sky” – only when we have a higher aim, can we progress to some level. If aim is very low, then there is every possibility that we always stay where we are and miss out manifesting the high potentials as human beings.

Further, there is also a possibility that we might deceive ourselves to believing that the clarity that we currently posses is the highest possible. Hence, it is worthwhile to look into textual wisdom that speaks about higher states of clarity, though not immediately achievable, that can be scaled by human intellect through Yoga.

Of course, it is stated as a disclaimer, that this star-gazing is to be done with our feet firmly placed on the ground (i.e being regular in our daily practice of Yoga)

So much for introduction. Now – the verse that is being presented in this post is quoted by Vyāsa to the sūtra that speaks about the excellent clarity of the mind that a Yogi reaches when mastery is reached in the state of  Nirvicāra Samādhi.

One may be aware that in the first chapter of Yogasūtras – four states of Samprajñāta-samādhis are stated –

  1. Savitarka – having any gross object (made up of five elements) as focus – where there is an admixture of word,object and (associated)knowledge.
  2. Nirvitarka – having gross object as focus – where only the object shines forth – bereft of word and associated knowledge.
  3. Savicāra – having subtle objects (beginning from Tanmātras to Prakṛti) as focus where there is an admixture or word, object and (associated) knowledge
  4. Nirvicāra – having subtle object as focus – where only the object shines forth.

As can be seen from the above, in Nirvicāra state, focus is at its pinnacle and distraction is at its nadir. Sattva is very dominant and Rajas and Tamas are highly weakened. Then prajñā – clarity – emerges.

This clarity that the mind experiences is beautifully described in the verse quoted by Sage Vyāsa –

प्रज्ञाप्रासादमारुह्य अशोच्यः शोचतो जनान्।

भूमिष्ठानिव शैलस्थः सर्वान्प्राज्ञोऽनुपश्यति ॥

prajñāprāsādamāruhya aśocyaḥ śocato janān।

bhūmiṣṭhāniva śailasthaḥ sarvānprājño’nupaśyati ॥

 A blissful, enlightened person who has scaled the citadel of clarity, sees very clearly the others who are in suffering, like a person on a summit watching others down below on the ground.

Thus far a Yogin had a notional understanding of the suffering of the world. This is the expression of direct perception about that. This strengthens his resolve to move towards Kaivalya and also to help others in the path.

It can be stated that the compassion of all our Yoga Acharya’s to the students stems from this level of clarity.