1. The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root word ‘Yujir’ meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke two or more than two objects or concepts. The tradition of Yoga in India is quite old when we find yoga descriptions in ‘Rigveda’, ‘Upanishads’, ‘Geeta’, etc. In simple words yoga means “to concentrates one’s attention or directs one’s energy in search of ultimate truth”. It is a too abstract a notion to be easily understood, therefore it is difficult to define these concepts. Each man has interpreted them according to his understandings.
Lord Shri Krishna in Bhagvad Geeta has explained exhaustively various faculties of yoga where ‘yoga’ literally means union or join i.e. union with divine consciousness.
meaning thereby ‘Mantra’, ‘Laya’, ‘Hatha’, and ‘Raj’, yoga are the four folds of yoga , called ‘Yoga Chatushtang’, and all four together makes ‘Mahayoga’.
Amrit nadopanishad says:-
izR;kgkjLrFkk /;kua izk.k;keks∙Fk /kkj.kkA
Patanjali postulated concept of ‘Ashtang yoga’ where he defines yoga as:-
1-2 yogah chittavrtti nirodhah
Yoga is the cessation of movements in the consciousness.
It is the art of studying the behavior of Consciousness, which has three functions; cognition, conation or volition, and motion. Yoga shows ways of understanding the functioning of mind, and helps to quite their vehement, leading one towards the undisturbed state of silence which dwells in the very seat of the consciousness.
Among various definitions of yoga it is unanimously agreed that ‘yoga’ is the unification of body, mind and soul.
2. Before proceeding further it is essential to know the fundamental nature of these three components i.e. body, mind and soul which are purported to be united in the yoga.
(a)Our body which seems us tangible is not so tangible. Its constituent units are cells along with various chemical compounds. Cells and chemical compounds are nothing but few agglomerate of atoms i.e. electrons, protons and neutrons. If we go beyond atom we will find fundamental particles like – neutrino, fermions, muons, quarks, mesons, photons, positron, boson, antimatter etc. These particles continuously movement and emit energy without touching each other. According to quantum theory, if by chance or accidentally two particles come in contact with each other, they are fused and enormous amount of energy is released and their existence is ceased. Thus our body is nothing but the agglomeration of few fundamental particles which constantly emit energy.
These fundamental particles are not stationary but always remain in motion and constantly emit radiations. They never touch each other. If by chance or due to any other reason any two particles come together and touch each other their existence is ceased and enormous amount of energy is released. Therefore whatever tangible we see, nothing is tangible and no two objects virtually touch each other. If by chance they touch each other their existence is ceased and enormous amount is energy is released.
(b) There is no universally agreed definition of what a mind is and what its distinguishing properties are but it is agreed that the mind is a set of cognitive faculties including consciousness, perception, thinking, judgment and memory. It holds the power of imagination, recognition, and appreciation, and is responsible for processing feelings and emotions, resulting in attitudes and actions.
Our minds are created within relationships – including the one that we have with ourselves. Each of us has a unique mind: unique thoughts, feelings, perceptions, memories, beliefs, and attitudes, and a unique set of regulatory patterns. These patterns shape the flow of energy and information inside us, and we share them with other minds.
Thus mind is an abstract component of man which along with brain and nervous system and sense organs, process and regulates the flow of information and energy.
(c) the soul which has no documentary scientific evidence so far is believed to be some kind of energy by most of the communities world over. The Vedanta philosophy considers soul or atman a special type of fire or energy and is a spiritual essence of all creatures. The following shloka of Kathopanis (2.2.9) describes atman in the following ways:-
The above brief discussion of body, mind and soul clearly explain that they are nothing but various forms of energies.
3. Now question arises why this unification is needed at all? To answer this question we have to consider the nature of above these three objects which are to be united. All are energies. If these energies are not united they will work against each other and negate each other. The phenomena can be explained in a simple way like this – when three or four musical instruments are played in a harmony they make music. The quality of sound and music will depend on the perfection of harmony and synchronization of sounds coming from these musical instruments. If these instruments are played independently at different pitch and frequencies, they produce noise which irritates all. Likewise, these three energy components in man should remain in a minimum harmony otherwise his existence will come to an end. Our fitness, efficiency, output etc. will depend on the degree of unification of these three energies. As much as unification of these energies, the man will be perfect.
3. After knowing the fundamental nature of body, mind and soul and significance of their unification a further question arises how this unification can be achieved? Answer to this question is yoga and particularly ‘Ashtang Yoga’ of Patanjali. He describes eight appendages of Yoga - the way through which one may reach to the ultimate goals of the Yoga in following shloka:-
II.29 yama niyama asana ‘Prana’yamaa pratyahara dharana dhyana samadhayah astau angani.
• Yama-Restriant calls for the cultivation of five values :
(a) Non-violence-Ahimsa it does not mean merely abstinence from killing, but also refraining from injuring others either by word, through or deed.
(b) Truthfulness-Satya this also means to be true is one’s thoughts, words and deeds under all circumstances.
(c) Non-stealing-Asteya– non-claiming anything that does not belong to one. This means to control the propensity of the mind for greed.
(d) Continence-Brahamacarys - It is observation of chastity in thought word and deed. Continence re-creates the body, mind and thoughts, infusing them with a new vigour.
(e) Non-receiving of gifts-Aparigraha - remaining free and independent from the influence of others.
• Niyama-Discipline - consstitutes five observances:
(a) Cleanliness-Sauca - not only external but also internal
(b) Contentment-Santosa-remaining satisfied with a few material necessities procured without great effort.
(c) Austerity-tapah-practicing control of body, speech and mind. It increases will power.
(d) Study of sacred books-Svadhyaya-study those books which help you to understand the reality of the absolute.
(e) Self-surrender to God-Isvarapranidhan by surrendering the fruits of actions to the Divine one, grows in devotion, which culminates in concentration on the chosen ideal.
• Asana-posture-Raja Yoga stresses on a steady and pleasant posture with the limbs of the body remaining restful, and conducive to concentration and meditation. In health Yoga, however there are 84 postures of sitting as means to the practice of Yoga. Some of them are beneficial for the physical body. The idea is to gain control over the body.
• Pranayamaa-Control of breath- the derivative from of Pranayamaa is Prana and ayama i.e. a definite dimentions to Prana. The Prana signifies the life force and ayama means specific dimention. The breath supplies power to all parts of the body. When the breath is regulated the mind becomes calm. Pranayamaa consists of breathing in-puraka, restraining the breath-Kumbhaka and breathing out-Recaka in proper proportion.
• Pratyahara-Withdrawal of mind - It consists of training the mind to detach itself at will from each sense organ. When we are a perfectly concentrated state of mind, we would not be influenced by any external noise.
• Dharana-Concentration - It means the gathering of mental energies that are scattered in all directions and focusing them on an object for a certain length of time without interruption.
• Dhyana-meditation - When concentration becomes effortless and continuous there begins meditation. Patanjli says “Meditation is the uninterrupted concentration of thought on its object. This itself turns into Samadhi when the object itself shines and the thought of meditation(and of the mediator) is lost as it were”
• Samadhi-Absorption - It is attained when meditation becomes constant and continuous and the mind merges in the object of meditation.
By merely perusing these first six appendages of ashtang yoga it is very much clear that they are basic and primary tools or procedures or methods meant for disciplining oneself. Therefore Patanjali begins like this:-
अथ योगानुशासनम II
Atha yoganushasanam II
It is the first shloka of Patanjali which says that now we should discipline ourselves with the yoga. It means that yoga is intended to discipline ourselves. Without discipline man is a beast. Discipline makes us man.
The core component of yoga is ‘Dhyana’ which ultimate culminate in Samadhi. The first to six appendages are meant to facilitate Dhyana. What is this Dhyana? Before answering this question, the following related questions need some clarifications-
• When a teacher says to his students – beta dhyan se padho – read with dhyana or attention.
• When a mother says to his son – beta dhyan se kaam karo – do the job with dhyana or attention.
• Drive on road with dhyana or attention to avoid accident.
• Dhyan se meri baat ko suono – listen me with dhyana.
• Sahee samay ka dhyan rakhana – keep proper or right time in mind.
• Dhyaan se kaam na karane se baat bigad gayee – task spoiled due to not working with dhyana.
• Dhyan se na padhane ke karan voh fail ho gaya – he failed because he did not study with dhyana.
In above phrases what does dhyana means which we taught to observe at all steps in our day to day life and without its observance we fail. Is this dhyana is different from the dhyana described in the yoga text? Can we perform anything without dhyana, if not then it is important to know what this dhyana is and how it can be achieved?
There can be no two types of dhyanas. It is impossible that dhyana in day to day routine works may be different from the dhyana of yoga. But one thing is very clear that our performance and output is directly related with the intensity of dhyana used in performing a particular task. We do not see the events occurring in front of us or do not listen what is said, if our dhyana is somewhere else. In brief more dhyana more accurate performance, less dhyana results may be otherwise. In nut shell it can be said that nothing can be performed without ‘dhyana’.
How this dhyana can be defined? In simple words dhyana is to keep or fix mind or consciousness in the present moment or in what we are doing at present. We cannot do anything if our mind or dhyana is not involved in the act. For instance if we study with perfect dhyana we can do mastery on a topic in a single reading otherwise it may require multiple readings. Reading without dhyana will be a waste of time and energy. Likewise our all actions and acts are dependent on dhyana. In fact we cannot perform any thing if we do not do it with dhyana. This is the significance of dhyana in our life.
Now we may ask how this dhyana can be achieved or attained. The first six appendages of ‘Ashtang Yoga’ are the tools or means to attain a definite stage of dhyana. This process is simplified in the following figure and ultimate dhyana culminates in the ‘Samadhi’.
Yama, niyama, asanas, pranayam, pratyahar and dharna all facilitate dhyana. Without their practice and adoption in daily life no dhyana can be achieved and our mind will remain instable and flickering. Without dhyana we cannot do anything, we cannot perform any thing and our existence as a man shall be ceased because we are not in a position to perform any act on his own. So that dhyana is most essential component in our life without which we cannot remain a man. Adherence to these six components of Ashtang yoga makes us man.
Now think – how long we may proceed if we always adhere to untruthful means. Our violent acts will make others revengeful and ultimately our existence may be endangered. We cannot survive for a long period on anything which does not belong to us or on stolen objects, articles and things. Amassing of wealth, fortunes, money etc. often degrade or degenerate us. Non-observance of celibacy will degrade us mentally, physically, morally and ultimately socially. Think seriously can we survive without adhering to the principles of ‘Yama’.
Likewise observance of ‘Niyamas’ is mandatory for us to remain a man. Cleanliness or ‘Saaucha’ is an integral part of our life. No one likes a person who is mentally or physically dirty. No one likes an un-clean person. Contentment stabilizes our personality. The austerity or ‘Tapah’ improve our personality. And surrender to Divine stabilizes us in society.
Can anyone claim that I never followed or adhered to these principles? Can anyone think his existence without adhering to these principles? Anyway, degree of adherence may vary from time to time or place to place or person to person but zero adherences are impossible. The degree of humane in a man is directly proportional to the degree of adherence to these principles i.e. more humane we are if we greatly adhere to these principles. Man will remain man till he observes these principles and as soon as he does not follow them he ceases to be a man.
The asanas make our body strong and sturdy, maintain flexibility and improve stamina. They are the excellent procedures and exercises for muscular flexibility, for various joint movements and for ideal body stretching without causing any damage or harm. Suppose we have to work for three to four or five or more hours in sitting or standing posture and our body is not able to sustain that duration; is it possible for us to work with equal and stable efficiency. We cannot work with full and required attention or dhyana if our body does not physically fit or get pain while working in a definite pose. It is only and only the consistent and persistent practice of asanas makes it possible to do our various jobs efficiently without any distraction, pain or sufferings and with full perfection because full ‘Dhyan’ is possible only when our body is strong and sturdy.
Pranayam is not a mere breathing or retention of breath for some time. We do not inhale oxygen or gases present alone but we inhale all which is present in cosmos i.e. all gases, all particles, matters, radiations, energy etc. are taken inside our body during in-breathing. In the process we inhale cosmic energy which is termed as ‘Prana’. The ‘Prana’ is a kind of cosmic energy which is needed to keep us alive. An optimum amount of ‘Prana’ is always needed in the body and various parts of the body.
Asanas and Pranayam they are two tools which carry ‘Prana’ to various organs of body. The chitta and prana, they co-exist i.e. where chitta will go automatically prana will reach there and opposite to it where prana is chitta will be there. Further chitta is attracted by the strain or stress in the body. If any stress is present anywhere in our body automatically chitta will go there and consequently prana will reach at the point of stress because they co-exist. This trio, i.e. strain – chitta – prana is responsible for the movement of prana in our body. During practice of various asanas we exert some bearable strain on our various body parts for a definite period so that chitta reaches there which ultimately carry prana with itself.
The above paragraph explains the true meaning of ‘Pranayam’ i.e. to give a definite dimention to prana.
Pratyahar is simply to detach ourselves from worldly affairs. If we are constantly and deeply remain attached to various worldly affairs all the time how can we concentrate ourselves on what we are doing at present moment. We cannot perform anything successfully if we do not detach ourselves from other affairs and concentrate on the activity of the present moment. Therefore pratyahar is must and essential for the activities of day to day life.
Dharana i.e. concentration - means the gathering of mental energies that are scattered in all directions and focusing them on an object for a certain length of time without interruption. When we focus our mental energies on some tasks or projects only then it can be performed. Without focusing performance is impossible rather to say the accuracy or perfection in performance is directly related with this concentration. The concentration or dharana cannot be accomplished without practicing pratyahar. That’s why dharana and pratyahar are said to be twin together.
Thus these six tools or appendages of ashtang yoga are made to keep us in the present moment. What we are doing in present moment can be done perfectly only if we concentrate on it. The all six appendages facilitate concentration or dhyana. Without mastery over them no dhyana can be achieved and without dhyana nothing can be performed. The dhyana separates man from other creatures. A man without dhyana is insane. He cannot perform anything on his own and he needs help of others for his routine jobs.
Finally, absolute dhyana turns in to Samadhi i.e. complete unification of body mind and soul. In this moment individual’s entity is lost and he is merged with the supreme cosmos.
Thus it is very clear that the life of every man on this earth is based on the principles of yoga. However adherence to these principles varies from man to man. No man can claim that his adherence is zero in this regard because zero adherences will convert a man to insane or beast. More adherences more humanness, less adherences is less humanness. So it is we who can only determine the humanness in us by following and adhering to the principles of yoga. If we keep away from these principles or we are not yogi we cannot claim us to be a man. To be a perfect man it is mandatory for us to incorporate these principles of yoga in daily life or we should lead a life style which is based on the yoga because it is a basic and fundamental life style meant for man.