Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi on Jnana-Astanga
- Question: What are the eight limbs of knowledge
M: The eight limbs are those which have been
already mentioned, viz., yama, niyama, etc.
but differently defined.
Of these -
(1) Yama:-This is controlling the aggregate
of sense-organs, realizing the defects that
are present in the world consisting of the body, etc.
(2) Niyama:- This is maintaining a stream of
mental modes that relate to the Self and rejecting
the contrary modes. In other words, it means
love that arises uninterruptedly for the supreme Self.
(3) Asana:- That with the help of which constant
meditation on Brahman is made possible with
ease is asana.
(4) Pranayama:- Rechaka (exhalation) is removing
the two unreal aspects of name and form from the
objects constituting the world, the body etc., puraka
(inhalation) is grasping the three real aspects,
existence, consciousness and bliss, which are
constant in those objects, and kumbhaka is retaining
those aspects thus grasped.
(5) Pratyahara:- This is preventing name and form
which have been removed from re-entering the mind.
(6) Dharana:- This is making the mind stay in
the heart, without straying outward, and realizing
that one is the Self itself which is
(7) Dhyana:- This is meditation of the form
'I am only pure consciousness'. That is, after
leaving aside the body which consists of five
sheaths, one enquires 'Who am I'?, and as a result
of that, one stays as 'I' which shines as the Self.
(8) Samadhi:- When the 'I'-manifestation also
ceases, there is (subtle) direct experience.
This is samadhi.
For the pranayama, etc., detailed here, the
disciplines such as asana, etc., mentioned in
connection with yoga, are not necessary. The
limbs of knowledge may be practised at all places
and at all times. Of yoga and knowledge, one may
follow whichever is pleasing to one, or both,
according to circumstances. The great teachers
say that forgetfulness is the root of all evil,
and is death for those who seek release*; so one
should rest the mind in one's Self and should
never forget the Self : this is the aim. If the
mind is controlled, all else can be controlled.
The distinction between yoga with eight limbs and
knowledge with eight limbs has been set forth
elaborately in the sacred texts; so only the
substance of this teaching has been given here.