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.

To overcome Monotony and Distraction in Yoga !

Svādhyāya and Yoga

Series 1 – Post – 2

This is the second post in the series of Verses from Sage Vyāsa’s commentary to Yogasūtras. In the previous post a unique invocation to Sage Patañjali was presented with paraphrased meaning.

The next verse that appears in the commentary of Sage Vyāsa is in Sūtra 1.28 – tajjapas-tadartha-bhāvanam . This presents a unique method to keep the mind always focused in the state of Yoga.

Sometimes while practicing Yoga – monotony sets in. The same āsana , Same set of prāṇāyāmas and so on. Monotony itself is a distraction. Monotony leads to boredom, lack of interest and ushers lack of mindfulness. And this defeats the purpose of Yoga – mindfulness. The verse given below gives hints to overcome monotony in the practice of Yoga.

स्वाध्यायाद्योगमासीत योगात्स्वाध्यायमामनेत्।

स्वाध्याययोगसंपत्त्या परमात्मा प्रकाशते ॥

svādhyāyād yogamāsīta yogāt svādhyāyam āmanet।
paramātmā prakāśate ॥ 

Meaning of the Verse 

With svādhyāya one should practice Yoga. And with Yoga one should practice svādhyāyā. Only by the combination of the svādhyāyā and Yoga the Supreme consciousness shines forth

Going by the context of the Sūtra- the term Svādhyāya here means Japa. Repetition of Mantras. This underlines the importance of utilization of recitation of mantras in the practice of Yoga. Shri Krishnamacharya and Shri TKV Desikachar are pioneers in integrating Mantras with the practice of Yoga. Chants in the practice of Yoga removes monotony. Brings in more mindfulness. The mind resonates with the vibration of the chants and also the meaning of them. Thus Chanting helps in the practice of Asanas and pranayama.

The vice versa is also beneficial. Rather merely sitting and chanting, it will be more beneficial to synchronize body, breath and mind along with the Mantras. Samantraka practice of āsana, prāṇāyāma and dhyāna have always been preferred over their practice bereft of mantra.

The idea of Samantraka-dhyāna is highlighted by Sage śaṅkara in his commentary as follows –  

In śaṅkara vivaraṇa we see that – the mental Japa of praṇava directed towars īśvara is presented as Svādhyāya and meditation on īśvara is Yoga. This suggestions works in the practice of Dhyāna. Many a time a practitioner sets out to meditate and rather than focusing on the chosen object ends up exhausted chasing various thoughts influenced by his previous Vāsanas. This practice helps overcome it.

Another important input from the same commentary is worth noting. It is stated that – mānaso’bhijapaḥ praśasyate dhyānasyāsannataratvāt – mental repetition of mantras are closer to meditation. Hence by mental repetition of ‘Om’ and then focusing on the qualities of īśvara presented in Yoga-sūtra the goal of Yoga is reached.

Yoga vārttika adds some more insights on this verse. It is stated that – yogajapayorekadā na saṃbhava iti yogasyādyantayorvyutthānakāle japa uktaḥ

Meditation and Japa/repetition of the ‘om’ are not possible to do simultaneously. Hence in the beginning and also at the end of the ‘Yoga’ – meditation, the repetition of Om can be done when the mind will be distracted (before Yoga or after Yoga when mind will be descending into chaos/distraction).

Further, pātañjalarahasya , a sub-commentary to Vācaspatimiśra’s Tattvaiśāradī presents another perspective. A verse is quoted there -“when one is tired of repetition of Mantras (Japa), one should meditate upon śiva (Dhyāna). If one is tired of meditation repetition of  the mantras (Japa) should be done. 

The Bhāsvatī Commentary presents yet another perspective. It is stated that by Svādhyāya – which is continuous repetition of ‘Om’ one should attain Yoga – which is one-pointedness (ekāgratā) of the mind. And by Yoga – the insights attained by the one-pointedness of the mind on ‘om’ one should intensify repetition. In this manner by symbiotic effort between Yoga and Svādhyāya the absolute truth shines forth.

Thus, as can be seen, the two tools Svādhyāya and Yoga used in tandem can keep a practitioner focused on Yoga even when there is wave after wave of distractions and distress caused by our various day to day transactions.

Further a combination of two tools, one aiming at the periphery (Svādhyāya – in the form of Japa) and the other focusing on the core (Yoga – meditation) in tandem can keep monotony in practice of Yoga at arms length.

Svādhyāya and Yoga are two tools shown as a sample. It is an indication that other mutually complementary tools in Yoga can be intelligently used in tandem or in combination to continually maintain focus and sustain interest.