Words of Wisdom by Swami Satchidananda
- Meditation Takes Preparation
"Concentration is the sixth in the eight-step path
of Raja Yoga. When concentration becomes perfect,
then it becomes meditation. Yet people without any
preparation, without any discipline, without any control,
just go, sit, close their eyes and then say, `Oh, I
don't think I can meditate.' We can't jump into meditation
all of a sudden. We should have a lot of patience.
For many years, we allowed the mind to take the upper
hand. It takes a little time, but, once you train the
mind well, you'll have a wonderful instrument, a very
obedient, very powerful, dynamic instrument with which
you can achieve anything you want in this world. Let us
begin meditation with all the preparations, realizing it's
not to be achieved that quickly; it takes time. If we know
that, we won't be quickly disappointed, but we'll have
patience to continue more and more.
"God bless you. OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti."
Eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga
The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are:
Yama code of conduct, self-restraint
Niyama religious observances, commitments to practice,
such as study and devotion
Āsana integration of mind and body through physical activity
Pranayama regulation of breath leading to integration of
mind and body
Pratyahara abstraction of the senses, withdrawal of the
senses of perception from their objects
Dharana concentration, one-pointedness of mind
Dhyana meditation (quiet activity that leads to samadhi)
Samādhi the quiet state of blissful awareness, superconscious(?) state. Attained when yogi constantly sees Paramatma in his
They are sometimes divided into the lower and the upper
four limbs, the lower onesfrom yama to pranayamabeing
parallel to the lower limbs of Hatha Yoga, while the upper
onesfrom pratyahara to samadhibeing specific for the
rāja yoga. The upper three limbs practiced simultaneously
constitute the Samyama.
Main article: Yamas
Yama (restraints) consists of five parts: Ahimsa
(non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya
(non-stealing), Brahmacharya meaning sexual abstinence,
and Aparigraha (non-covetousness). Ahimsa is perfect
harmlessness, as well as positive love. The five directives
of Yama lay down behavioral norms as prerequisites for
elimination of fear, and contribute to a tranquil mind.
Main article: Niyama
Niyama is observance of five canons: Shaucha (internal
and external purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas
(austerity), Svadhyaya (study of religious books and
repetitions of Mantras), and Ishvarapranidhana (self-surrender
to God, and His worship). Niyama, unlike Yama, prescribes
mental exercises to train the mind to control emotions.
Main article: Asana
Asana in the sense of a posture that one can hold for
a period of time, staying relaxed and with normal (calm)
breathing (or, as some sources say, "without effort").
In English, the Sanskrit word asana means "seat", the place
where one sits; or posture, position of the body (any
position). Asanas (in the sense of Yoga "posture") are
said to derive from the various positions of animals' bodies
(whence are derived most of the names of the positions).
84 asanas are considered to be the main postures, of which
the highest are Shirshasan (headstand) and Padmasan (lotus).
The practice of asanas affects the following aspects or
planes of the human being:
physical (blood circulation, inner organs, glands, muscles,
joints and nerve system)
psychological (developing emotional balance and stability,
mental (improved ability to concentrate, memory)
consciousness (purifying and clarifying consciousness/awareness)
From the rāja yoga perspective, it is considered that
the physical postures and pranayama serve to prepare the
body and mind for the following steps: pratyahara, dharana,
dhyana and samādhi (withdrawal of the senses, contemplation, meditation, and state of expanded or transcendental
consciousness, where the activity of the mind ceases and
"The Knower and The Object of Knowledge Become One").
Main article: Pranayama
Prāṇāyāma is made out of two Sanskrit words (prāṇa = life energy; ayāma = control or modification). Breathing is the medium used to achieve this goal. The mind and life force are correlated to the breath. Through regulating the breathing and practicing awareness on it, one learns to control prana.
According to Rāja yoga, there are three main types (phases, units, stadia) of pranayama:
kumbhak (holding the breath); which appears as:
antara kumbhak (withholding the breath after inhalation)
bahar kumbhak (withholding the breath after exhalation)
keval kumbhak (spontaneous withholding of the breath)
There are numerous techniques of Pranayama, each with their specific goals. The main techniques are:
nadi shodhan (anuloma viloma)
combination of sheetkari and sheetali
All pranayama practice ultimately works toward purification of the nadis (energy channels) and the awakening of kundalini shakti at the muladhara chakra. The awakening of kundalini energy (also described as the awakening of divine consciousness or wisdom), and its ascent to the crown chakra is the final goal of rāja yoga.
Main article: Pratyahara
Pratyahara is bringing the awareness to reside deep within oneself, free from the senses and external world. The Goal of Pratyahara is not to disrupt the communication from the sense organ to the brain. The awareness is far removed from the five senses. Pratyahara cannot be achieved without achievement of the preceding limbs (pranayama, niyama, etc.). The awareness comes to rest deep in the inner space, and during this time the yogi's breath will be temporarily suspended. Pratyahara should not just be likened to concentration or meditation, etc. It is a yogic practice that takes on adequacy with the prior 8 limbs as prerequisites.
Main article: Dharana
Real Yoga starts from concentration. Concentration merges into meditation. Meditation ends in Samadhi. Retention of breath, Brahmacharya, Satvic (pure) food, seclusion, silence, Satsanga (being in the company of a guru), and not mixing much with people are all aids to concentration. Concentration on Bhrakuti (the space between the two eyebrows) with closed eyes is preferred. The mind can thus be easily controlled, as this is the seat for the mind.[clarification needed]
Main article: Dhyana in Hinduism
"Sleep, tossing of mind, attachment to objects, subtle desires and cravings, laziness, lack of Brahmacharya, gluttony are all obstacles in meditation. Reduce your wants. Cultivate dispassion. You will have progress in Yoga. Vairagya thins out the mind. Do not mix much. Do not talk much. Do not eat much. Do not sleep much. Do not exert much. Never wrestle with the mind during meditation. Do not use any violent efforts at concentration. If evil thoughts enter your mind, do not use your will force in driving them. You will tax your will. You will lose your energy. You will fatigue yourself. The greater the efforts you make, the more the evil thoughts will return with redoubled force. Be indifferent. Become a witness of those thoughts. They will pass away. Never miss a day in meditation. Regularity is of paramount importance. When the mind is tired, do not concentrate. Do not take heavy food at night.
The mind passes into many conditions or states as it is made up of three qualities: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Kshipta (wandering), Vikshipta (gathering), Mudha (ignorant), Ekagra (one-pointed), and Nirodha (contrary) are the five states of the mind.
By controlling the thoughts the Sadhaka attains great Siddhis. He becomes adept. He attains Asamprajnata Samadhi or Kaivalya. Do not run after Siddhis. Siddhis are great temptations. They will bring about your downfall. A Raja Yogi practices Samyama or the combined practice of Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi at one and the same time.
Control the mind by Abhyasa (practice) and Vairagya (dispassion). Any practice that steadies the mind and makes it one-pointed is Abhyasa. Dull Vairagya will not help you in attaining perfection in Yoga. You must have Para Vairagya or Theevra Vairagya, intense dispassion." Swami Sivananda from Amrita Gita
Main article: Samadhi
Meditation on OM with Bhava removes obstacles in Sadhana and helps to attain Samadhi. Avidya (ignorance), Asmita (egoism), Raga-Dvesha (likes and dislikes), Abhinivesha (clinging to mundane life) are the five Kleshas or afflictions. Destroy these afflictions. You will attain Samadhi.
Samadhi is of two kinds:
Savikalpa, Samprajnata or Sabija; and
Nirvikalpa, Asamprajnata or Nirbija.
In Savikalpa or Sabija, there is Triputi or the triad (knower, known and knowledge). Savitarka, Nirvitarka, Savichara, Nirvichara, Sasmita and Saananda are the different forms of Savikalpa Samadhi. In Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Nirbija Samadhi or Asamprajnata Samadhi there is no triad.
In the last sutra (4,34), Patañjali says the soul reaches its end in liberation, enlightenment, kaivalya.
- Watch your mind. Watch your breath. Become an observer, which is the key to Jnana Yoga. Don’t worry about particular techniques. Just sit back and observe the breath, mind, and thoughts. Just see what’s happening within you. Become a witness, which is a wonderful form of meditation. Be still and watch what is happening in your mind and in your body. Maybe you have been repeating a mantra or focusing on one object for a time. You may then relax and sit calmly and watch the mind; observe the peaceful vibrations that come. Listen to the silence completely. Observe your own brain. See how peaceful you are. The mind seems to be totally at rest. You might think the mind is almost asleep, yet you are still conscious of the whole thing. The body is resting. The breath has very much slowed. The mind is almost sleeping but you are aware of everything.
Ask yourself, “Who is aware of them? What is this awareness? Who knows all these things? That is You, the Knower. You are totally different from your body, from your mind. You are the witness—what you call the Self, the pure Self—the witness of the body and mind. If you could maintain this witnessing constantly, still knowing you are the witness all the time, you would reach Self-awareness or
Self-realization. Keep up this awareness, even in your day-to-day activities. When you are eating, when you are walking, and especially when you are distressed, you can still witness. You will constantly enjoy supreme peace. Through this practice you become the master of your own body and mind. You’ll walk through life like an undisturbed sage.