Wednesday, September 12, 2007

#75, Four Yogas discussion

While writing a comment at a blogpost by name "Thomases Road to Realisation" at blogspot.com, I thought that it is necessary to review the whole concept of God and Self-realisation for the benefit of my Vivekananda Yb readers.

Readers will please recall that Swami Vivekananda through his books introduced the Yogas a) Raja Yoga (Path of a king) b) Bhakti Yoga (Path of Devotion) c) Karma Yoga (Path of Action).

The Path of Devotion is common both to Hinduism and Christianity. The names of the Godhead may be different. Jehova in Christianity and Paramatma (Supreme Spirit/soul) in Hinduism. Hinduism has some flexibility in the sense that it allows any number of names and forms. For example, in Bhagavad Gita, the Supreme spirit may be depicted as Krishna. In Ramayana, he may be Rama. For Vivekananda it may be the Mother Goddess Kali. Others may call himher S`iva. Whatever name is used, essentially in the path of devotion, a person prays God; wants to be proximate to himher or even dissolve himherself into the God. In Hinduism, according to the scriptures, God permits this dissolution and integration of the human soul into the Supreme God only if the human soul exhausts the effects of all his good/bad deeds by enjoyment/sufferings. The Bhagavad Gita allows a concession: A person who does hisher duties as stipulated by his caste without expecting fruits of the actions, while keeping his mind yoked to the God is discharged. Sin does not attach to himher. In Christianity, a person who takes shelter under Jesus, is promised a saving from hell. ON the other hand, hell is guaranteed to a non-believer. Hence, essentially the preachings of Christianity and Gita are nearly same. Thus this discussion clears both the path of devotion (Bhakti Yoga) and the path of action (Karma Yoga).

Raja Yoga (Path of Kings*)
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In his booklet "Raja Yoga", Vivekananda discussed the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and its eight fold path consisting of

1. Self restraint (Yama) 2. Niyama (Adherence to discipline and rules) 3. Aasana (physical exercises of special postures) 4. Breath control (Pran`aayaama) 5. Withdrawal of senses from external objects (Pratyaahaara) 6. Concentration and memory retention power of mind through close attention (Dhaaran`a) 7. Meditation (Dhyaana) 8. Ecstatic State of mind owing to its Absorption in meditation (Samadhi).

It may be most of these are tools or means in training of an individual. They are not the goals in themselves. These tools train the body and the mind well, just a soldier in an army is meticulously trained to keep hisher body trim and well oiled. Nothing beyond that.

There are two interpretations of the name Raja Yoga.

1. *Calling this the path of kings is a misnomer, because the tools can be used by anybody including warriors and kings. Definitely this meaning is not intended.

2. Calling this path as the king among several paths. Then the proper wording ought to have been : Yooga Raaja (King among Yogas).
The literal meaning of "yoga" is yoking or Union with God. Controlling the senses and the mind is definitely a key element in shaping an individual. It helps himher in achieving hisher goals. If a person learns Yoga or the Eightfold Patanjali for controlling hisher body and mind, it makes him an accomplished person in the sense that he becomes a cavalier whose horse is under control. Yet Raja Yoga does not complete the self-realisation process.

Gnaana Yoga (Path of Knowledge)

Bhagavad Gita discusses the Path of Knowledge in its chapter 4. Shankaracharya also laid great emphasis on the Path of Knowledge. Though Vivekananda preached Vedanta labelled to be of Sankaracharya, there was not much discussion. There were sessions of meditation for beginners. Here I discuss it threadbare:

a) Bhagavad Gita's Path of Knowledge is dualistic. Human Soul and the Supreme Spirit are separate. Human Soul should yoke to the Supreme Spirit and in the end merge in it. This is also called Special Monism (Visisht`aadvaita).

b) Shankaracharya introduced two elements Purusha (Supreme Spirit) and Nature (Prakriti). The Purusha represented the male God i.e. Dakshina Murty. The Nature represented the female or the Mother Goddess. He supported Equated balanced path (Samayachara).

c) Vivekananda and Ramakrishna practised Kali worship using the leftist path (vaamachara) which involved use of liquor (madyam), meat (maamsam), woman (maguva), mantram (special verse chant) etc. Vivekananda cautioned his Southern head of Ramakrishna Math, Chennai Ramakrishnananda (Sashi)against using the leftist path in Madras, as such practises are not respected in South India.

d) The philosopher Shankaracharya was different from the Devotional Shankaracharya. According to the philosopher S`ankaracharya, a knowledgeable person (gnaani) knows that he and the Universal spirit are one and the same. HeShe is aware that heshe himselfherself is the Supreme Soul itself (Aham Brahmasmi). But Sankaracharya also believed that the Supreme Spirit was the Creator, Protector and Destroyer. To that extent Shankara is not atheistic. A knowledgeable person behaves differently because he does not identify himherself with the body and heshe is aware of hisher role only as a witness (outsider).


The atheist philosophy goes even beyond Shankaracharya and the Bhagavad Gita. (I do not reckon Vivekananda here because during his lifetime itself he slipped to an ordinary form of Kali worship and sacrifice of animals. He brought out Vedanta to the Western Platform because presenting Ramakrishna and Kali worship on the American and British stage would not have sounded "novel" because there was no complexity. On the other hand the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and Sankara's Philosophy has some novelty and attraction as marketing devices).

For a long time, the ancient atheist preacher Chaarvaka was considered as representative of the Department of Atheism in Hinduism. But reading his philosophy, one gets an impression that he supported a materialistic and Epicurean lifestyle of enjoying it upto its brim. The scriptures discouraged both the Charvakan atheists and the Buddhist atheists classifying them as Paashaand`as and treated them as outcastes.

1. The word "God" needs a Universal generic definition.

2. The existence of God in the meaning of a/some "super-human force(s)" may not be disputed. Science also agrees that there are superhuman forces. Some of these ma be conquered/overcome by science in future.

3. Religious prayers are made for protection or fulfilment of desires. A God who protects only those who pray or who fulfils the desires of only those who pray cannot be called impartial or divine. Jesus or other Gods in other religions are viewed as saviers from sins. A person who does not have desires, sins, enemies will have no business with God.

4. Searching for the God or trying to realise himher serves no purpose.

5. Hinduism and Christianity have everything in common except that Hindus believe in rebirth. Christianity straightaway threatens condemnation of sinners to hell and what happens to the soul after that, it seems to be silent. The hell cannot be eternal. Hinduism believes that fruits of actions (good/bad) are to be enjoyed/suffered in subsequent births. Hindu philosophers are enamored of three objects: 1. Deliverance from the cycle of births, deaths and rebirths. (Mooksha) 2. Equanimity to pleasure and pain. 3. Seeking proximity/identity with God. (In Christianity it may be taken as reflected in lamb and the throne of the God in God's abode).

6. Unfortunately, Swami Vivekananda did not deal completely with "what happens after a person gains knowledge of the Supreme Soul" . Even the founder of Monism, Shankaracharya has some vagueness.

7. Shankaracharya's monism, if properly understood, should lead to atheism. A person who integrates himherself with the Nature and Universe (the separation of body from the Nature by a thin membrane called "skin" loses its value to the holder of the body), becomes nature itself. Such person cannot have fear. His State will be something like it: Heshe will not be afraid of animals. Nor animals will be afraid of himher.
They will be rubbing their bodies against hisher body. He becomes nearly mad, but not really mad. The world cannot understand himher. Nobody in this world including Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, or other Godpersons known in the world history has reached this State.

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