“Ashtanga Yoga” [ Eight limbs of Yoga]~ Part-1

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Disclaimer: 

The article is purely based on my studies, my thoughts, my concept, my beliefs, my experiences and self realization.
☆I found some link between modern science and teachings of ancient sages as mentioned in Vedanta, regarding Universe, Supreme Consciousness or the Ultimate truth , the Ultimate Reality whatever we say.
☆ The term “MAN” wherever used in this entire text is intended to consider as “HUMAN” irrespective of gender differences.
♡ Having gone through the Vedanta/ancient texts, commentaries, translated by different writers, translators, publishers on the same topic, I have tried my best to share the subject matter as I understood and convinced too. My intention is to reach to you with the topic that I found very useful for human lives. I am not good in English literature. Please give your valuable suggestions for the improvement and valuable inputs to make the text beneficial for mankind. 
☆ The Spiritual context is purely based on ancient sacred texts.  There is no discrimination against any religion, race, cast or creed.  Your positive feedback will be highly appreciated. I am sure that the subject matter is highly logical and does not bring any conflict. Hope you will enjoy reading. Regards. NAMASTE.

Introduction:

“mana eva manushyanam karanam bandhamokshaya bandhaya visayasaktam muktam nirvisayam smritam”  which means that for  man , mind alone is the cause of bondage and mind alone is the cause of liberation. Mind absorbed in sense objects is the cause of bondage and mind devoid of desire for objects is the cause of liberation. [brahmaBindu upanishad-verse-2

“Ashtanga Yoga” .. in English we call it as Eight limbs of Yoga. “Yoga Darshan” means philosophy of Yoga which is one branch among six systems of Hindu philosophies. Ashtanga Yoga was formulated by Maharshi Patanjali ,through his Yoga Sutras (aphorisms). According to scholars, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra was compiled around 2200 centuries back. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are classified as a classical text of ancient psychology of East, because the text guides how control of mind to achieve the goal.

We know that Sigmund Freud [1856-1939], was an Austrian neurologist and founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association and discovered transference, establishing it’s central role in the analytical process. He described the evolution of his clinical method and set out his theory of the psychogenetic origins of hysteria. In 1899 he published ” The interpretation of Dreams”. His analysis of dreams as wish fulfilments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the underlying mechanism of repression.”  Concept of the Unconscious mind was central to Freud’s account of mind. He ensured that unconscious mind theory receives a scientific recognition in the field of psychology.  When people think of psychology , they recall contribution of Sigmund Freud. His contributions in the field supported the belief that not all mental illness have physiological causes, rather difference in environment have an impact on psychology and behavior. His research work contributed towards understanding the development of human personality, clinical psychology and abnormal psychology. But long before Sigmund Freud , the concept was known to the scholars of East.

Now, in the present condition of society , worldwide, people are passing through difficult time, particularly due to pandemic situation. Human life has become miserable with diseases like cancers, diabetes, depression, and bitter relationships, betrays, unlimited unfulfilled desires and it’s implications, poor economy, failed marriages, immoral activities, political rivalries , corporate rivalries, fights, terrorism and what not? Unable to bear with the sufferings, people are committing suicides, going for killing or else finishing their lives with diseases as a result of unwanted outcome of worst relations, bad life events, mental shocks due failures in life etc. As a result people are rushing to Psychologists for better well being in the life to carry on. Psychologists help people to cope up with life events and relationships by understanding their behaviors and emotions.  Psychologists have their systematic methods to support the sufferers and bring them a better human life.

But long long ago, when there were no phycologists, there existed a method adopted by religious teachers of different ages who guided humankind to overcome miseries, sufferings. Before religious teachers there existed the philosophies of Vedanta. Also existed philosophies of Yoga. // Yoga means union. Union of inner self with higher Self. Yoga brings perfection, peace, harmony in life. It will help in leading a disciplined successful life with good health and mind. Through Yoga one can have a calm mind and peaceful sleep. And these are all normal achievements.  If followed properly what Maharshi Patanjali has taught us, we can raise our nature to a divine nature.//

The practice of Yoga will bring you to the trance state. A state where you can experience increased insight in yourself and others. You will have the ability to access information from higher beings. Definitely there will be  a continuous changing of states from a normal state of consciousness. You will find some calling from unknown sources. I have my own experiences in this life journey which I will share some other time in some other space, because I would like to share my concept about Yoga and particularly Raj Yoga which comes from Patanjali Yoga Sutras. I hope that this article will help you to awaken your ability to access altered state of consciousness.  

Each system of philosophies has it’s own method of teachings.  In this article we will concentrate on Yoga philosophy of Patanjali.

Key words: Consciousness, Ashtanga yoga, Meditation, Mind

Before proceeding further, I would like to emphasize on the word ” Consciousness”. What is consciousness? According to science ( reductionism) consciousness exists only in the brains of highly evolved organisms.  It has become a great challenge to the scientists to understand consciousness. How brain produce consciousness?  At present this topic is an debatable and interesting issue of interdisciplinary fields of Quantum physics, Cosmology, neurology etc. Research is going on at higher levels throughout the world to find out what the consciousness is.  Philosophers argue that consciousness is beyond the physical workings of Brain. After the discoveries of Quantum physics and quantum Biology modern scientists and cosmologists started believing that Consciousness is a mystery and it is so deep that can be compared to Quantum theory which is equally a deep mystery. Almost one century have been spent by the scientists to understand consciousness from the perspective of our current scientific paradigm, but no significant progress has been made. What ever has been understood by the scientists, through research and recent studies, outcome is not accepted universally. However we have clear concept on Consciousness according to Vedanta Darshan or Yoga Darshan. In this article we will discuss on Consciousness in the perspective of Yoga Darshan. 

There are many paths , many religions. All the religions have one goal which is almost similar in one way. All adopt the religious path to reach ultimate goal that is to know the Supreme Knowledge (Supreme Consciousness) and to be united with the infinite Being. As such the enquiry should arise from the heart of the seekers to know the Supreme Consciousness.

Main Topic: Ashtanga Yoga:- 

The Yoga sutras of Patanjali is the science of joy and a blue print for living a deeply satisfying life. It presents a holistic systematic approach towards the elimination of sufferings and attainment of spiritual liberation. Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths. These teachings are for all genders of all ages, races, faiths and positions. The teachings include theory and practice. Maharshi Patanjali integrated and simplified the science of Yoga concisely in his Yoga sutras. There are 196 sutras presented in four sections know as PADA. Four PADAs (4chapters) are divided as follows:-

  1. Samadhi Pada: 51 sutras: Samadhi refers to that state of the Yogi, where his Self-identity is absorbed into the pure consciousness collapsing of three categories of Self (witness, witnessing and witnessed). Beyond this state it is “Kaivalya” (Liberation). The essence of Patanjali’s Yoga sutra is in the second sutra: “Yogas citta-vritti-nirodah” which literary means “Yoga is the stilling of the modifications of the mind” . Target is to achieve the state of mind which is calm, tranquil and free of distortions. It is the control of thought waves in the mind. One must not have conflicts in the mind.

2. Sadhana Pada: It has got 55 sutras: Sadhana means practices. Author describes two systems of Yoga.
1. Kriya Yoga which includes following steps: 
a) Tapas (Austerity) ;
b) Svadhyaya; (Self study of scriptures);
c) Isvara pranidhana- devotion to God or pure consciousness.
2. Ashtanga Yoga

3.Vibhuti Pada: This section has 56 sutras:

This chapter describes about “Siddhi” (supra normal powers) which can be acquired by the practice of Yoga.

4. Kaivalya Pada: 34 sutras: Describes the process of liberation (isolation) which is commonly known as emancipation (moksha) too.

Maharshi Patanjali  divided the path of Yoga, also known as “Raja Yoga” into eight levels (Eight limbs) named “Ashtanga yoga”.

Eight limbs are as follows.

1. Yama – Restraints.

2. Niyama – Observances.

3. Asana -Physical postures.

4. Pranayama – Control of Prana (Breathing control).

5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses.

6. Dharana – Concentration

7. Dhyana – Meditation.

8. Samadhi – Absorption.

In the next part, I will elaborate on each of these Eight limbs. All the steps are highly logical , essential and very important too . One can not skip any of the steps. To achieve the goal, one has to follow each step with full sincerity and honesty. Initially you may find the steps as difficult one. But truly, they are not. Path of Yoga Darshan is very simple and clear. Personally ,I have experienced and observed changes in my Mind my, perceptions. It is a continuous process. It is like gaining heights. You have to be cautious too, because there are chances to fall back to the previous level. Also it has to be believed that the experience, knowledge gathered will be stored for next life. 

My sincere request to the esteemed readers to share their opinion or queries. My mail ID is :   arun7663@gmail.com 

Thank you  NAMASTE !