Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gyana Yoga or Yoga of Knowledge

Gyana Yoga or Yoga of Knowledge
One of the paths by which the union of the Individual soul with the Supreme Soul can be achieved is Gj4na Yoga. Gyana means the realisation of the true nature of the Supreme Soul, the individual soul and the Prakriti. Knowledge as we ordinarily comprehend, comprises of ideas assimilated by the human mind by means of the various sense organs, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the palate and the skin. This may be obtained by direct contact with the objects of the world or by being narrated by a reliable person who has first hand information. In modem Science various gadgets are being used to gather information, which are not obtainable directly through the sense organs. With all the aids available at present or which scientists, might invent later, the information we gather is all about the inert materials of the universe. We might succeed in collecting all the knowledge of the inert material world but the conscious elements can never be known by using inert instruments. Only conscious entities can delve into the realms of the conscious. Though the consciousness of the Supreme Soul pervades all matter, inert as well as conscious, it can-only be known by the conscious entities like the individual souls. Thus, a complete knowledge (Gyana) is not possible through the sense organs, the mind or the intellect. They are capable of knowing only the material universe. The conscious elements like the Atma and the Paramatma being subtle are capable of complete knowledge. The Atma (individual soul), though it activates, and illuminates the mind and sense organs, has so to say, forgotten its potentiality and lost its subtlety in association with the inert mind, body and intellect. It has the nature of identifying itself with the individual mind and through it to the organs of the body. It takes part -in the various actions and has to bear the fruits of the actions. When the mind leads it to pleasurable actions, as a natural sequence, it takes part in the painful part of the effect also. It thus carries this burden of actions from one body to another by the inexorable law of Karma. The Atma thus keeps on identifying itself with the different embodied forms and does not, realise its free conscious nature, In this state it does not have the capacity to grasp the true character of the Supreme Soul which remains the unknowable, incomprehensible entity as described by the different scriptures, When the Atma realises its true nature which is free from the mind and body, in an unalloyed conscious form, it is quite capable of comprehending the Supreme Soul which always stays in its pure form unaffected by actions and-mental processes even though pervading everything. In this pure state the Atma gains correct knowledge of the phenomenal world also as an observer. This is the process of Gyana Yoga. The complete knowledge of the phenomenal world by all possible scientific means leaves our knowledge only incomplete. By all these means, the conscious field is not touched at all even though its presence cannot be denied in everyday working of the phenomenal world.
The final step in Gyana Yoga is, therefore, to free the Atma from its affection by the mind which is ever turbulent. The different systems of yoga aim at making the mind tranquil. This may be achieved by different methods of concentration but this achievement is only temporary. The mind springs back to activities as soon as concentration ends and tends to run towards the objects of sensual gratification. It is only when the mind is taken to its source of energy, the Akshara (Hiranyagarbha), that it calms down and then only the Atma can free itself from its association with the mind. The Atma in its pure state of consciousness, then, is able to conceive the true nature of the Supreme Atma as well as the phenomenal world and gets true knowledge (Gyana).
Gyana Yoga has meant differently to diverse schools of thought. One school starts with the assumption that the Supreme Almighty, Immanent Soul is the only reality and the rest of existence is an illusion, Maya According to them, the individual souls are non-existent and so is the universe. In that we have to deny whatever we perceive by the senses or intellect as well as our own existence. If we are already the Sat-chit-ananda, there should not be any illusion or suffering which seems to be as real as the palms of our hands. Why should the all knowing Supreme Self-have any illusion at all? Maya can only occur to a soul who is not omniscient. To ascribe ignorance to the Almighty Supreme Soul is the very denial of His powers. If the individual soul is supposed to be just a chunk of the Supreme Soul, it should possess all the qualities of the Supreme Soul just as a drop of water has the same properties as a river from where it is taken. In actual fact we find that the human soul suffers pleasure and pain so long it is attached to the body. A chunk of sat-chit-ananda should not suffer any pain by its very nature. In that case any effort to reach the Supreme Soul should be meaningless and all the concentration and meditation becomes superfluous.
Another school of thought practices denial of everything perceived through the senses and through a process of self hypnosis tries to establish soul's oneness with the Supreme Soul. It is a purely mental process. The effect of self hypnosis can but be temporary while yoga aims at permanent liberation of the soul and its attachment to the source of eternal bliss, the Sat-chit-ananda.
Our mind and intellect have to be used only to reach at the probable units of existence of reality. The vast universe of which we do not know even a fraction, the orderly movements occurring in the distant stars and planets for ages, only point to a conscious force which pervades, regulates and encompasses everything. No name will explain it adequately but its processes can be felt within ourselves provided we are aware of it. Otherwise what halts a person from committing a crime for the first time? What prevents a horse from treading on a toad on the road?
The mind and intellect have limited capacity and have not been able to comprehend the vastness nor the subtlety of the Supreme Soul. Our sages have perceived the Almighty Soul during the stage of Samadhi when they have left the mind and intellect behind.
The individual souls are entities separate from the, Supreme Soul and have to strive hard to reach the ultimate goal, the Sat-chit-ananda. This, the soul is incapable of knowing through the medium of mind and intellect which are meant to work in the sphere of the phenomenal world only because they are a part of the Prakriti. Gyana Yoga or knowledge of the various conscious souls when it has broken the shackles of the mind and intellect and has become capable of reaching up to the Prakriti. The soul has to realise its true nature first before knowing the Supreme Soul and once it has known the supreme Soul, it knows everything about Prakriti also which is pervaded and enveloped by the Omniscient Supreme Being.
Bhakti Yoga Or Yoga Of Devotion
From time immemorial man has been worshipping one deity or another. Usually the deity was one, which was supposed to be powerful and capable of doing harm to human beings. Powerful forces of nature such as the sun, the rivers, fire, wind and rain were worshipped at sometime or another by means of different rituals. Sacrifices of animals were common as a means of propitiating these forces. The idea behind these rituals was to keep the deities appeased so that their anger may not cause harm to the human beings. The great thinkers, with their developed faculties of observation and inference from the working of nature, came to visualise an omnipotent force, which was not only regulating the working of nature, but influencing the working of the living beings also. They also indulged in the sacrificial rites and used foodstuffs and animals as offerings. Some thinkers like Mahavira and the Buddha revolted against the animal sacrifices and the dominance of the priests at the time and preached the doctrine of non-violence and correct conduct, eliminating all kinds of sacrifices. In its place they laid stress on humility of character and austerity in one's life. The followers of these saints started to worship their idols with all devotion. Since then worshipping of idols started as a common practice. Human beings started shaping their deities according to their imagination and bestowing all powers on these deities. The real nature of the omnipresent, omnipotent forces behind the working of the universe was beyond common human conception and hence the devotion to various forms of deities continued. Even those devotional practices have one virtue. They mitigate one's egotistic tendency if practiced sincerely and not as a mere rituals. Beyond this virtue little else can be achieved as well as the qualities attributed by such devotion as Bhakti. The idols and their pictures as well as the qualities attributed to them are the projections of the human mind and not representation of reality.
Unless the real nature of the Supreme Soul, the individual soul and the phenomenal world (Prakriti) is known, any devotion (Bhakti) is a delusion. Thus Gyana Yoga by which this knowledge is obtained is a sine qua non for the practice of Bbakti Yoga. On the other hand Gyana Yoga devoid of Bbakti stops the progress of the individual soul at a certain stage of development. This stage is known as Kaivalya Sharir when the soul has not shed off its egotism and identifies itself with the Supreme Soul proclaiming "Aham Brahmasmi" (I am Brahma). The soul is likely to have a fall at this stage again into the folds of Prakriti. The liberated soul (Jivana Mukta) should stay on in close contact with the Supreme Soul to enjoy the eternal bliss (Parama Anand). The individual soul in its innate nature must stay as a faithful servant of its masters the supreme soul. This cannot be achieved without unwavering Bhakti and devotion. Thus Gyana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga go hand in hand. Bhakti Yoga without Gyana Yoga is mere delusion and Gyana without Bhakti is an incomplete Yoga. Bhakti is the commonest form of worship or prayer being practiced in the world. It is usually an idol, a picture or a symbol, which is worshipped in nine ways v.i.z. By hearing of the divine attributes, singing His glories, remembrance of the Almighty, devotion to His feet, His adoration, His praise, thinking Him to be the Master and the devotee in the role of friend and complete surrender of oneself to the worshipped symbol. All this leads to annihilation of the ego of the devotee that way he attains peace of mind. In the Gita four kinds of devotees are described. Firstly those who are in distress and seek divine help secondly, those who long for wealth, thirdly those who are seekers of truth and fourthly the man of self-realisation. Of these four, the last, the Gyani has been described as the best. The other three also get what they want by sincere devotion and effort but it is the self- realised soul who gets nearest to the Supreme Soul and that is only possible through the medium of Gyana Yoga. Mere performance of rituals can at best be diversion of the mind from mundane worries for the time being. A real devotee does not forget his own self or the Supreme Self for a single moment and enjoys the ultimate bliss all the time.
Karma Yoga Or Yoga Of Action
Karma, in common language, means action done by the individual soul on account of its contact with Prakriti and its Gunas. The tendency of all Karmas is to bind the soul to Prakriti so that the soul becomes more and more attached to Prakriti. The embodied soul has five coverings or Koshas. The first is Annamaya Kosha made of the gross matter of the body, which is formed, from the food that we eat; the second is these Pranas Kosha which is made of prana inside the body which is less gross than the outer body. Third is the Manomaya or the mental sheath which is subtler than the breath. The fourth is Vigyan Maya Kosha or the intellectual sheath. The last comes the Ananadmaya Kosha or bliss sheath, which is the subtlest form of the body.
The Karma affects all coverings according to its nature. As the soul is immortal, life is one continuous existence. When the body dies, the subtle body of the soul as its Sanchita Karma or Prarabdha Karma carries on the unfulfilled actions. The next body that the soul takes has to reap the fruits of Prarabdha Karma necessarily. It indulges in further Karmas with the body and mind, the Kriyamana Karmas, the fruits of which also have to be reaped either in that body or in future bodies. There is no action performed in association with the mind and body, which does not bear fruits. In spite of all, efforts made by the human mind to act without desiring the fruits of action, the desires and passions associated with the mind prevent it from unattached actions. The three Gunas of Prakriti force it to get attached to the desire for fruits of actions. It is only when the mind is not the guiding force behind action, that real unattached actions can be performed. Only such actions do not affect the different Koshas or layers covering the Atma and no further Kriyamana Karmas accumulate. The Prarabdha Karma, to fulfill which the soul takes on a particular body, has necessarily to be gone through. There still remains the bundle of Sanchita Karmas, which the soul has to carry. When the soul realises its pure free form by Gyana (knowledge of reality) the Sanchita Karma burnt out and the liberated soul becomes free from all the five Koshas (Layers of material body).
There is only, one way in which this liberation of the soul can be achieved. This is the way of Sahaja Yoga or Vihangam Yoga or Brahma Vidya. The practitioner of this yoga has to learn the art of service and selfless actions (Vikarma). The mind, at the same time; has to be tamed to become steady and unwavering. This unwavering mind has to be lifted up from the bonds of Prakriti by a Sadguru. Once the mind is lifted up, it merges with its source of energy, the Akshara or Hiranyagarbha. When the mind is lost in its source, the soul (Atma) is freed from the shackles of the mind and becomes free to ascend higher to the Supreme Soul. This is the Jivana Mukta stage of the soul. Now the soul can act using the mind and the body at its command (Akarma). It is only in this stage of development that real unattached actions (Akarma) can be performed. These actions are free from any passion and desire and are performed solely for the good of other souls. The Mukti (freedom) or Nirvana does not occur after the death of the body but in the body itself. This may not be possible in one life but the practitioner of Vihangam Yoga carries the experience through his subtle body to the next life where he starts at the point he left the previous body. The Sadguru is eternal and gives him further guidance. Thus the achievement is never lost.
The performance of unattached actions (Karma Yoga) is not possible unless the Atma (soul) frees itself from the bondage of Prakriti by Brahma Vidya or Vihangam Yoga and becomes a Jivana Mukta. Then it exercises full control over the mind and the body and is free from all selfish desires or passions. It resorts to only benevolent actions called Karma Yoga. Freed from all shackles, it becomes more powerful than ever and is capable of activities far beyond the capacity of ordinary mortals.
We read and hear of worldly great men being described as Karma Yogis by their admirers. They are usually workaholics who work for long hours just to earn more money or fame. Their insatiable desires goad them to strenuous work. They are just doing Sakama Karma. There are others who are devoted to social work. They are certainly a boon to society and they are loved and respected by society and it is for that reward that they work hard even neglecting their health and comforts. Much they desire to be selfless, this desire lurks in his type of action bears fruit whether done willingly or forced by circumstances. It is true that nobody can remain without indulging in some action, mental, verbal or Prakritic. Satoguna, Rajoguna and Tamsoguna force man to indulge in activity. In this state of helplessness it is best to choose actions, which have more of Satoguna than Rajoguna and Tamsoguna. By such actions, one moves on the right path of liberation. Such actions are called Vikarma. It is only when the soul stands as an observer and thinks of all actions performed by the influence of Gunas of Prakriti that is not attached to the fruits of actions and can be called Akarma Yogi. This is only possible after self-realisation.
Thus we find that three yogas i.e. Gyana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga are not really three fold paths to attainment of sat-chit-ananda unless the reality is known by Gyana Yoga neither Bhakti nor Karma Yoga is possible. The attainment of full knowledge leads automatically to Nishkama Karma (Unattached Actions) and the innate nature of individual soul in relation to the Supreme Soul being of a servant and master, full knowledge is only possible by unwavering devotion (Bhakti Yoga) to him.

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