Yoga, Its Theory and Practice is a new and unpublished book, containing nine illuminating lectures on Yoga, delivered by Swami Abhedananda at different times between 1901 and 1915, in America. Three book of the Swami on Yoga, dealing with psychology, science and philosophy have been published before under the titles of How to be a Yogi, Yoga Psychology and True Psychology.
The present book deals with the Yoga theory and practice in a very systematic way, showing their utility and importance in the practical life of men, The Swami is of the opinion that until and unless science, or philosophy, or psychology, or any other subject of knowledge, is applied in the practical life, they are useless. So, yoga must be studied, learnt and practiced for the practical purposes of human life.
The first chapter of this book deals with the aphorisms of the Raja Yoga and their importance. The aphorisms explain the constitution and nature of the mind, the modifications of the mind as well as the scientific methods of controlling them. In Sanskrit, mind is known as the manas, and Swami Abhedananda has compared it with an ocean having a vast sheet of water. When it remains calm, it is known as the mind, and when it is agitated by the wind of desires and passions, it takes the form of different modifications (vrittis). The modifications are also known as the modal consciousness, as they import some kind of partial knowledge about something. In Vedanta, the tranquil, calm and balanced state of the mind is known as the Antahkarana or the internal organ, though some of the Vedantists do not admit it as an organ (indriya). Vedanta says that when the Antahkarana is tinged with different object, it takes the forms of them. The same Antahkarana again functions in four different ways of doubting or thinking, discriminating or determining, reflecting or remembering and self-conceiting in the forms of manas, chitta, buddhi and ahamkara, as the same primordial energy or Prakriti manifests as the qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas. It is commonly or rather erroneously believed that the four vrittis, or the modal forms, constitute the stuff of the Antahkarana ( in the Western psychology and philosophy, the Antahkarana is commonly known by the word, mind ), but, in reality, those psychic forms are the manifestations of the same Antahkarana. The desires and passions are the cause of disturbance of the mind ocean. The desires and passions disturb the balance, or the state of equilibrium of the mind substance and create sorrows and sufferings in the life of man. The practice of Yoga controls the mind, and brings balance in the mind. It causes the mind to be concentrated upon some desired thing and thus prepares the ground of meditation as well as of the attainment of the superconcious state or samadhi, in which the individual soul finds its permanent consolation and peace, and attains to God-consciousness.
The Raja Yoga, or the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, explain and describe many things about the mind and its functions, and teaches us the means and methods of suppressing (nirodha) the modifications of the mind, the ways of bringing the mind to its simplest form, or to its causal state, and to transform it into its real form which is no other than the self-shining consciousness (chit). So, the function of Yoga is very important and useful. Swami Abhedananda says that there are different kinds of methods of practicing yoga, and mainly they are known as the Raja Yoga, the Bhakti Yoga, the Karma Yoga and the Jnana Yoga. These are regarded as different paths towards the same goal which is no other than the realization of the Atman, and different Sadhakas select them and practise them according to their tastes and likings. As different rivers, coming down from the same snowy mountain, run in different ways, and fall at last in the same ocean, so different practices of yoga lead the different Sadhakas towards one and the same goal, and enable them to reach the same universal ocean of the Absolute.
Swami Abhedananda says that the Raja Yoga is regarded as the 'royal road', or the best and the highest method. It teaches the methodical or systematic practices of Yoga which lead to the ultimate goal of the human beings. It teaches the gradual methods in practice, by which a Sadhaka reaches the state of concentration through the pranayama, or the controlling of the breath or prana. From concentration he reaches meditation and from meditation, the superconscious state or samadhi, the ultimate goal of the yogic sadhana, is reached. The Swami says that by the practices of the Raja Yoga when a Sadhaka dives deep into the ocean of meditation, his mind is absorbed in that ocean like the salt-doll, and is transformed into the pure consciousness and becomes one with the Atman in samadhi.
The second chapter deals with the practice of Yoga. Swami Abhedananda says that those who practise the Raja Yoga with its proper knowledge of science and theory as well as of psychology and philosophy, gain sound health and perfect mind along with the living inspiration of entering into the states of concentration and meditation which prepare the ground for entering into the superconscious state. It has been explained that there happens the divine communion of the jivatman with the Paramatman, where a Sadhaka realizes his oneness with the Atman, or the Brahman. But Sankara has criticized this yogic idea of oneness. He has said that in the yogic idea of oneness there remains a duality in a causal form, whereas in the advaita vedantic sadhana, a Sadhaka realizes the Atman as one without the second, and there remains no duality which is no other than the nescience or maya. For that reason Sankara has called the followers of the Sankhya and the Nyaya as dualists (cf. the commentaries on the Vedantasutras. Yukti or tarka-pada). But viewing from the standpoint of Yoga or the yogic sadhana, one should reduce his mind to its simplest form, and should concentrate it on the Atman, and then through meditation, he will attain ultimately to the state of samadhi, and will reach perfection.
In the third chapter, Swami Abhedananda has explained the importance and value of correct breathing. Here controlling the breath means to conserve the vital energy or life - force, which enables one to enter into the supreme state of samadhi and to realize the Atman.
In the fourth chapter, the Swami deals with the culture and knowledge of the healing power of the breath or prana. When the prana is controlled or balanced in a man, he acquires some psychic powers (siddhis) which bring success in the material plane. Swami Abhedananda says elsewhere that Patanjali has regarded these powers as the obstacles. These obstacles obstruct the path of spiritual illumination, and entangle men in the den of delusion. So, the Swami warns all the followers of Yoga and also all the seekers after the highest Truth not to run after the trivial psychic powers which delude and always mislead, but to dive deep into the blissful state of the superconsciousness, where the Sadhaka attains to the Atmajnana.
In the fifth chapter, Swami Abhedananda has given a beautiful exposition of some salient aspects of the Vedanta philosophy and the science of breath and has shown as to why the former encourages the study of the latter. The Vedanta philosophy, one of the oldest systems in the world, is not only a philosophy, but it has also laid the foundation of a system of religion which is truly universal, having no sectarian name, creed or dogma. It has given the highest ideals of life as well as the most logical explanations of the phenomenal world and the universe which perfectly harmonise with the latest conclusions of modern science. The phenomenal world is described in Vedanta as the expression of one supreme Being, the eternal Existence, which is One, though men call it by various names and worship it under various forms. This highest Truth was realized by the ancient seers of India long before the Christian era; and the ultimate goal of every soul, which is essentially one with the supreme Being, is to attain to the realization of this Truth. It is on the foundation of this eternal Truth that the whole structure of the philosophy and religion of Vedanta stands.
Vedanta has no room for anything which does not appeal to reason or is not based upon practical truths. So it embraces the various branches of science describing different systems under different names, by knowing which we can benefit ourselves. Each of these systems is called in Sanskrit 'Yoga'. By the process of observation and experiment, the ancient seers of Truth discovered the laws which govern our lives. These laws as well as the finer forces of nature are described in the various branches of the science of Yoga.
The most important among these is the science of breath. Breath is a part of our life. We cannot live without breathing. Our physical health, growth, development-all depend entirely upon the breathing system. The study of the science of breath, with regular and correct breathing exercises, can give marvellous results and keep us in perfect health, free from all diseases. Besides, breath has a close relation to mind also. Correct breathing quietens the modifications of the mind, makes it spiritually inclined and gradually leads the soul toward realisation of its true nature and its relationship with the cosmic Soul as envisaged in Vedanta. So the Vedanta philosophy welcomes the study of the science of breath which can enable us to realise the highest Truth, the ultimate goal of human life.
In the sixth chapter, the Swami has described about different methods of pranayama. The word pranayama connotes the idea of controlling (ayama) the breath (prana, or the vital energy). When a Sadhaka sufficiently conserves his energy or the vital force in him, he is fit to gain the power of concentration, and concentration gradually brings unto him the state of meditation and samadhi, where he finds the real value of his life, and realizes the supreme Soul. It should be mentioned in this connection that the practice of the pranayama is not indispensable in the Advaita Vedantic sadhana, which advocates the practices of shravana, manana and nididhyasana. This shravana is not merely the hearing of the mahavakyas, but it is accompanied with, or supported by, the acts of discrimination (viveka) and ratiocination (vichara). The supporters of the Vivarana School advocate shravana alone for realizing the absolute Brahman, because, according to them, this shravana goes along with the act of ratiocination or the Brahman-vichara, and so manana and nididhyasana are not necessary there, and it is a fact, say the Advaita Vedantists, that in the practices of shravana, manana and nididhyasana or by the practice of shravana alone, the mind is automatically controlled and balanced, and is concentrated upon the cherished object, the Atman; is purified; and is transformed into pure consciousness. Besides the vedantic sadhana, the mind is controlled and concentrated in the yogic sadhana too without the help of the pranayama, as the function of controlling the breath or pranayama automatically goes on at that time. So it will not be correct to think that concentration and meditation are the result, or the product, of the act of the pranayama because if anyone practices concentration and meditation without taking any help of the pranayama, his breath or prana is also suspended or controlled and well - balanced. It is a law of nature that as the mind is distracted and divergent when the breath or respiration is rapid and irregular, so when the mind remains very active, or is engaged in different objects, the breath or the respiration is also rapid and irregular, so when the mind remains very active, or is engaged in different objects, the breath or the respiration is also rapid and irregular, because the activities of both the mind and the breath are inter-connected. So Swami Abhedananda says that those who are inclined to practise Yoga for attaining to perfection follow the process of the pranayama. When their mind is sufficiently controlled and balanced i.e. silenced, they enter into the state of concentration (dharana). When their concentration is ripe and deep, they enter into the state of meditation (dhyana); and when their meditation is well - accomplished, they attain to the state of the superconsciousness (samadhi), which is the ultimate goal of the yogic sadhana. It has been said before that in the superconscious state, the individual soul (jivatman) communes with the cosmic Soul (Paramatman).
In the seventh chapter, Swami Abhedananda has beautifully discussed about the meaning of the universal word or sound, Pranava, which is commonly known as OM. The Swami says that the word or sound OM is constituted out of the three unifying letter, A-U-M, that represents the states of jagrat (waking), svapna (sleep) and sushupti (deep sleep) as well as the stages, gross (sthula), subtle (sukshma) and causal (karana). The Mundaka and the Mandukya Upanishads have beautifully explained these states. The Atman, or the Brahman, is beyond these states and also of the three stages. The universal word or sound, OM includes all the words, letters and sounds of the universe. It is the pointer, indicator, or discloser, of the indeterminate (nirguna) Brahman: "tasya vachakah pranavah". Vedanta calls this sacred universal sound OM as the determinate (saguna) Brahman, as it determines the indeterminate Brahman, which cannot be expressed by word, deed and thought. It is also a fact that the Sadhakas aim at the absolute Brahman, yet they begin their vedantic and yogic sadhanas from the determinate Brahman, or through some mediums, because the determinate Brahman, or the symbol, or the medium can be thought of, can be meditated upon and can be taken as a means to an end. The Grammarians and the musicologists call this 'OM' as the Shabdabrahman, or the Sphota, from which all the letters, words, thoughts and everything of the phenomenal world evolved. The Tantrikas call it the mundamala, composed of fifty matrikas or letters. However, the Yogashastra calls this Om (Pranava) as the sign or symbol (pratika) as it indicates, directs or determines the absolute Brahman, which is beyond thought, speech and words. The intention of Yogashastra is that the Sadhakas shall reach the formless Atman through the medium of the form.
Swami Abhedananda has elsewhere said: "So long as the devotee thinks of God with a form and believes that He is outside of the soul and of the universe, he can make mental picture of Him and worship the divine Ideal through the form, or he may deep before him some symbolic figure like the cross which reminds him of the Ideal at the time of devotion. ** Gradually as the bhakta approaches God, he will rise above such dualistic conception and realize that his Beloved is not only transcendent, but also immanent in nature, that nature is His body, and that He dwells everywhere** The bhakta then reaches that state which is called qualified non-dualism. " And from the state of qualified non-dualism the bhakta gradually reaches the state of non-dualism or Advaita (cf. Swami Abhedananda: How to be a Yogi, the Bhakti Yoga). Patanjali has prescribed the symbol (vachaka) Pranava as a means to reach the end, the transcendental Atman. So Swami Abhedananda has advised to scientifically study and meditate upon the sacred word or sound, OM.
In the eighth chapter that deals with concentration, Swami Abhedananda's discussions are remarkable and unique. There the Swami says that when our mind is controlled and concentrated upon a cherished object, we withdraw our mind or the divergent modifications of the mind from the organs of the senses. The different organs of the senses have different portions in the brain, where they view certain sensations. There is a self-conscious entity which is known as 'personality', and that entity really translates every molecular change that happens in the brain in the form of vibrations. The modern scientists have described these changes as the states of consciousness. This consciousness is recognized as the light that illumines all objects in this universe. But if we try to know what consciousness is, we cannot do it, because consciousness cannot be an object of knowledge; or if we try to know consciousness, we know it by the help of consciousness. Again, existence is inseparable from consciousness, as we exist and our existence depends upon our consciousness. Further, it is also a fact that there is no other second consciousness by which we can understand the nature o our own consciousness. Therefore, consciousness is unique and one, and this one consciousness manifests as sensations, conceptions, emotions, feelings and knowledge. In other words, the expansion of the range of consciousness discloses all kinds of knowledge, sensation and experience.
Now from this it is understood that there is a common principle, of which consciousness and existence are the two inseparable manifestations or phases, and this common principle is the Atman, or the Soul. The Western philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Schelling, Fichte, Nietzsche and others have admitted the inseparability of consciousness and existence, but they have missed to discover the fountain - head of them. The Vedanta philosophy and the Yoga psychology of India have been able to find out that missing link of the Western philosophers, and have said that the all-knowledge and all-intelligence Atman is the source of consciousness as well as of existence. So the Vedanta philosophy and the Yoga psychology have instructed all the seekers after truth to concentrate and meditate upon the Atman and when the mind loses its separate existence and dissolves into the ocean of the Atman-knowledge, all things in this universe are known to the realized souls: "yasmin vijnate sarva-vijnanam bhavati". For that reason, the Yoga psychology has specially given stress upon the practices of concentration and meditation. It has said that through the practice of Yoga one can control and calm down his mind, and can transform the mind into pure consciousness, and can realize the Atman as non-different from his own being.
About the Author
SWAMI ABHEDANANDA, an apostle of Sri Ramakrishna-Born October2, 1986--Spent his early life among the brotherhood in Baranagar monastery near Calcutta in severe austerity-Travelled barefooted all over India from 1888-1895-Acquainted with many distinguished savants, including Prof. Max Muller and Prof. Deussen-Landed in New York and took charge of the Vedanta Society in 1897-Became acquainted with Prof. William James, Rev. R. H. Newton, Prof. Josiah Royce of Harvard, Prof. Hyslop of Columbia, Prof. Lanmann, Prof. G. H. Howison, Prof. Fay, Mr. Edison, the inventor, Dr. Elmer Gates, Ralph Waldo Trine, W. D. Howells, Prof. Herschel C. Parker, Dr. Logan, Rev. Bishop Potter, Prof. Shaler, Dr. Jaynes, the chairman of the Cambridge Philosophical Conference and the Professors of Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Barkeley and Clarke Universities - Travelled extensively all through the United States, Canada, Alaska and Mexico-Made frequent trips to Europe, delivering lectures in different parts of the Continent-Crossed the Atlantic seventeen times-Was appreciated very much for his profundity of scholarship, intellectual brilliance, oratorial talents, charming personality and nobility of character-Made a short visit to India in 1906-Returned to America-Came back to India finally in 1921-On his way home joined the Educational Conference, Honolulu-Visited Japan, China, the Philippines, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Rangoon-Started on a long tour and went as far as Tibet in 1922-Established centres at Calcutta and Darjeeling -Left his mortal frame on September 8,1939.
From the jacket
This book, Yoga, Its Theory and Practice contains nine illuminating lectures on Yoga, delivered by Swami Abhedananda at different times between 1901 and 1915 in America. Three books of the Swami on Yoga, dealing with psychology, science and philosophy, were published under the titles of Yoga Psychology, How to be a Yogi and True Psychology.
In this book the Swami has dealt with the subject of Yoga theory and practice in a very systematic way, showing their scientific methods and importance in the practical life of men. The Swami is of the opinion that until and unless science, philosophy, psychology, or any other subject of knowledge are applied in our practical life, they are useless. So Yoga should be studied, learnt and practised with some purpose in human life and society. This book, Yoga, Its Theory and Practice is a sure guide to that end.
Back Of Book
The writings and speeches of Swami Abhedananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, were spread over a long period of spiritual ministration both in America and in India. His deep philosophical insight and unfathomed spirituality attracted the learned and the intelligentzia. All his writings and speeches are available in one set of eleven volumes entitled THE COMPLETE WORKS OF SWAMI ABHEDANANADA, the last volume being a Guide to the Complete Works, edited in full by the most renowned philosopher and writer Swami Prajnanananda, a direct disciple of Swami Abhedananda. We invite all lovers of philosophy, religion and culture to avail of the golden opportunity of collecting this set without delay.
Demy Octavo. Printed in good quality paper, cloth bound and covered with coloured jackets.
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