A little Essay for those who practise Yoga
Excerpts from the book ‘The Crown of Life,’
by Kirpal Singh, 1894–1974
The mind, by sheer force of habit extending over ages upon ages, has acquired a tendency to run after pleasures. The pleasures of the world may be categorised into five classes as follows:
Rup and rang – or beautiful forms, designs, and colours which may attract the eye.
Shabd – or melodies, tuneful and enchanting, as may capture the ear.
Ras – or delectable victuals and viands as may captivate the palate.
Gandh – or fragrant scents as may directly appeal to the olfactory sense.
Sparsh – or physically pleasing sensations as come from touch.
In walking state with the senses alert, one enjoys the physical aspects of the pleasure as enumerated above. In a dream state, which is more or less a reflex of the astral or subtle, one enjoys sound the most, for in that state it has a direct appeal to the mind. In the dreamless and deep sleep state, which is a reflex of the causal or seed state, one gets cognition of deep absorption.
One has, therefore, to draw himself within to the heart centre by means of tratak on different elemental colours connected with ether, air, fire, water and earth, and they will grow in enchanting refulgence. By regular practice, the yogins acquire supernatural powers and capacities to taste all five pleasures mentioned above in their subtle form from a far distance. These powers come naturally with the coincidences of pranas with the mind.
The practice of pratyahara and dharna can be still further developed with the help of tratak, until one can move and recede inwards and upwards from the heart centre to the thyroid or throat centre, kanth chakra, and thereby contact the cognitive plane. This movement from a lower centre to a higher one results from the practice both of pratyahara, which enables one to leave the centre below, and of dharna, whereby one takes hold of and gets absorbed in the next higher centre. This process continues until one reaches aggya chakra, which is located behind and between the two eyebrows, the headquarters of the soul as it functions in the physical world in the waking state.
As the sensory currents collect together and gather at this centre, and one, forgetting about himself, rises above body-consciousness, there dawns in him by degrees, the Inner Spiritual Light, which with great absorption or dharna grows into greater effulgence.
With perfection in dharna or complete absorption at this stage, all the centres down to the mul or guda chakra at the rectum, become illumined.
In this connection, we may here refer to the physiology of the yoga system.
The cerebro-spinal system in the mainstay of the body. The spinal column in yogic terminology is called Meru or Brahm Danda. According to the Shiva Samhita, there are in the human system as many as 350,000 nadis, and out of these, the following ten play an important part:
- Ida – starting from the lowest plexus, guda chakra, on the right side of spinal column, it extends spiral around the sushmana and goes as far as the left nostril.
- Pingala – starting from the same chakra on the left side of the spinal column, it extends spirally as far as the right nostril.
- Sushmana or Sukhmana – is the central nadi in between the ida and pingalal nadis and runs through the spinal column from the guda chakra to the Great Aperture, known as Brahmarendra, behind and between the eyebrows.
- Gandhari – comes to the left eye, after rising from the front of the central nadi.
- Hastijivha – comes to the right eye, after rising from the rear of the central nadi.
- Pushpa – comes to the right ear from the central nadi.
- Yashvini – comes to the left ear from the central nadi.
- Alambhush – stretches to the root of the arms.
- Kuhu or Shubha – it goes down to the tip of the generative organ.
- Shankhni – It goes down to the rectum.
The first three, the ida, pingala and sushmana nadis, are the most important. The ida and pingala nadis, before entering into the base of the nostrils, cross each other and are known as gangliated cords.
The third one, the sushmana or sukhmana, or the central nadi, passes through the spinal column and runs through six plexuses or centres as follows:
Muladhara, Basal Plexus – with a four-petalled lotus, extending on four sides.
Svadhishtana, Hypogastric Plexus – with a six-petalled lotus, extending on four sides plus one below and the other above.
Manipuraka, Solar Plexus – with an eight-petalled lotus, having four additional sides in between the original four sides.
Anahata, Cardiac Plexus – with a twelve-petalled lotus. It is a lotus of the Unstruck Sound as the name denotes.
Vishuddha, Phryngeal Plexus – with a sixteen-petalled lotus, being an all-pervasive ethereal lotus. It is a center of great purity as the name indicates.
Aggya, Cavernous Plexus – with a two-petalled lotus, also called Ajna Chakra, meaning the centre of command.
Besides the above plexuses, there is the Antahkaran – consisting of chit, manas, budhi and ahankar –, with a lotus of four petals, thus making in all fifty-two petals, corresponding to the fifty-two letters of the alphabet in Sanskrit, the mother of all languages.
We have, however, to rise above all Akshras to a state beyond called Neh-akhshra para, which is eternal and every-abiding and of which Kabir says:
The three lokas and the fifty-two letters are one and all subject to decay, but the Eternal and the Everlasting Holy Word is quite distinct from them.
Each of the two plexuses together make a granthi or a tie and these are: Brahma Granthi, Vishnu Granthi and Shiva Granthi.
The path of the yogins as described above is concerned with meditation at these six centers, beginning from the lowest and gradually rising from one to the next higher by means of pratyahara and dharna as already explained. In this process, one also calls to his aid the kundalini shakti, or the great serpentine power lying dormant in three and a half folds in the vagus nerve, in a coiled state like a serpent. This latent energy or power is awakened with the help of pranayam.
A yogin tries to collect together all the vital airs in the body at the centre of the naval plexus and in this process awakens the latent power as well. From the Ajna Chakra he takes hold of the anahat sound and reaches Sahasrar, the highest heaven of the yogins. It is quite a long, tedious, and difficult path.
At each of the centres, one has to work hard for years before one can successfully subdue and pierce through it and ascend to the next higher center. One cannot take to this arduous discipline without a strong and robust physique, capable of withstanding a sustained a strenuous effort for a long time.
As a preliminary step, a yogin has to cleanse the Augean stables with herculean strength and for this, recourse is to be had to hatha yoga kriyas, or exercises like dhoti, basti, neoli, gaj karam and vajroli, etc., with a strict diet control. Again, for the control of the mind, he has to take to pranayam or well-regulated breathing exercise such as puraka, kumbhaka, rechaka and sunyaka, all of which requires great care, attention and skill, under the guidance of an adept.
The yoga process, as described above, is fraught with innumerable difficulties. It is a process akin to that of controlled death, a forcible extraction not only of the spirit current from one centre to the other, but of the pranas as well, which makes it all the more difficult. It actually follows the process of dying, being the reversal of the life current as it descends from centre to centre, in the process of creation.
In the death process, the earth element rises up from guda chakra to the indri chakra and gets dissolved in the water there, thus rendering hands and feet lifeless. When the water elements rises up to the nabhi chakra, it is transformed into a vaporous state by the fire at the naval region and the generative organ gets paralysed; next the fire element itself gets extinguished in the air element at the heart plexus, rendering the region below the heart stark cold. When the air element gets etherialised at the kanth, the seat of the ether, it renders the heart and the pulse motionless.1
Even in the practice of the Sehaj yogic system, one has to traverse and to follow through exactly the same process, except that the second method is natural, while the first method is deliberate and controlled and therefore extremely difficult to perform. Each of the tatvas in turn gets merged in its source; the anna in the pranas, the pranas in the manas, the manas in the vigyan and the vigyan in the kanth plexus.2
Instead of this difficult reverse process of yoga from the basic plexus backward and upward to Sahasrar, the region of the thousand-petalled lights, how much easier it would be to ignore the pranas – as we do in our everyday life –, collect the sensory current at the seat of the soul at the ajna chakra, where we always are in our awakened state, and move upward straightaway with the help of the Sound Current – to which the yogins gain access after a hard-won battle over the six ganglionic centres in the pind or body – to reach Sahasrar. The Sound Current has a magnetic pull, too difficult to resist, when the soul rises above body consciousness under the guidance of some able and fully Competent Living Master, capable of awakening the Life-Impulse within us.
Part I, Chapter II, 2., VI:
Dharna as a form of Yoga (Mansik Yoga)
Dhyan or meditation is of two kinds: gross and subtle. It is well-nigh impossible to take to subtle meditation all at once. One has therefore to start with gross meditation in the first instance, before taking to the practice of subtle meditation.
The gross or objective meditation consists in meditating on the personal aspect of God, Isht, a Godman or a Guru – the Living Master-Saint.
In the subtle meditation, the attention is fixed on the bindu or the Single Eye, the still point in the body behind and between the two eyebrows. It is the intersection of time and the timeless where the Unmanifest becomes manifest. Its reflex is in the pind or the lower region of the body, i.e., the guda chakra, where lies the coiled energy in a locked up condition. After some practice at the bindu, the dark spot becomes illuminated and gradually the Inner Light assumes the Radiant Form of the Master. From here begins what is termed the luminous contemplation.
When in meditation, the Godman appears within, one sees the secret of Eternity like an open book.
While in gross contemplation one meditates on the perceptible form, swarup, of the Ishtdeva or of the Guru, in subtle contemplation one meditates on the arup – formless –, or the dark point of concentration between the eyebrows, which gradually flowers into radiance.
Here we may sound a note of warning to the seekers after Truth. We cannot have any appreciable results by meditation on the forms of the past Masters Who, having discharged Their Divine Mission on earth of contacting Jivas or souls in Their own time, are no longer in touch with the physical world. Again, we have to be our guard in our search for a Perfect Master, for any meditation on the form of an imperfect master will not bear fruit. To avoid all pitfalls, it is much safer to put aside meditation on any form whatsoever, whether of a past or a Living Master.
It is better that one should carry on the sadhna according to the instructions given, and if the Master is a Perfect One, His Radiant Form will of itself appear within and take charge of the individual soul as soon as it rises above body consciousness. God Himself manifests within in the form of a Guru Dev provided of course that the Guru is really embedded in God-Power. These remarks apply mutatis mutandis to meditation on Ishtdevas as is generally done. To meditate on the Formless is beyond human conception, in as much as one cannot conceive of the Reality beyond all comprehension. One may in such a case get glimpses of subtle elements, which by themselves cannot lead us anywhere.
The reading of Scriptures and other Sacred Books is not of much avail on this Path except in arousing one’s interest. The greatest teacher of mankind is man.
It is enough if one knows how to open the pages of the great living book of the human heart – heart here signifies the seat of the soul, i.e., aggya or ajna chakra –, which is the only inexhaustible treasure-house of all knowledge and all wisdom. One has simply to close his eyes, withdraw the senses, enter into the sanctuary of his heart and merge his very being into the Supreme Soul in the innermost depths within.
He, the Ever-Existent, the Self-Luminous Light, complete in Himself, and eternally the same, dwells in the temple of the human body, and he who wishes to know Him and to reach Him shall have to delve deep within himself, and everything will undoubtedly be revealed to him.
Knock and it shall be opened,
is the saying of sages and seers in all times and in all climes.
This dip within gives the soul an integral experience of all that exists, whether visible or invisible, a direct intuitive knowledge and Divine Wisdom, all of which are the gift that come of themselves, freely and in abundance, if one forgets the world, forgets his friends and relations, forgets his surroundings, nay forgets his very bodily being. Voluntary forgetfulness is the greatest Spiritual Sadhna. Forgetting all else one must rise above body consciousness, for this is the primary condition of right meditation.
Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.
St Mark 12:30
By deep and silent meditation, one must merge his very being in the sweet contemplation of the Beloved within and lose himself in the Great Soul of the Universe.
This is the highest contemplation, and it leads to the most coveted goal of samadhi.
Part I, Chapter II,
2., VII: Dhyan
Again, the highest heaven of the yogins is Sahasrar, the region of the thousand-petalled lights, and that of the Yogiswars is Trikuti, the headquarters of the Brahmand, the origin or the egg of Brahman itself. Most of the prophets of the world descend from this region, which is a half-way house between the physical and the purely Spiritual Realms, and at times refer to the beyond as Par Brahm only.
The Path of the Saints and the Masters, however, goes beyond these, for They speak definitely of Sat Lok, the abode of the True One, the realm of pure spirit, and of regions even beyond thereto: Alakh, Agam and Anami.
Part I, Chapter III, VIII:
Yoga of Mysticism
Liberation cannot be achieved except by the perception of the identity of the individual spirit with the Universal spirit. It can be achieved neither by yoga, nor by Sankhya, nor by the practice of religious ceremonies, nor by mere learning.
Part I, Chapter III, X:
Yoga and the outer Sciences
Explanation: 1) It may be pointed out that under this system, heart failure does not mark the end of life but only precedes it. 2) It may be mentioned that the Vaishnavites and Kabir Panthies wear tulsi leaves and the Shaivites wear shiv-ling around the neck, to remind themselves of the kantha chakra which they set up as their goal.