Sunday, June 21, 2015

Yoga - Removal of Afflictions of Consciousness

There is a huge build up towards another commercialized annual day of remembrance.
This is the "International Day of Yoga ", which coincides with the summer solstice on 21 June.
The true meaning of Yoga (the Sanskrit word yoga which is "to add", "to join", "to unite", or "to attach" from the root yuj) has been lost and it is only the Asanas (postures), the one limb of Ashtanga (eight limbed) yoga, that is promoted as the practice of Yoga probably with Pranayama (controlled breathing) thrown in as an exotic addition. It is hugely commercialized in the west.

As Patanjali, in the very second verse of "Yoga Sutra', says “Yogaś Citta Vtti Nirodha”, which means, when the chatter of the mind ceases, yoga happens. The cause for this constant chatter of the mind is the result of the afflictions (Kleshas) of one's consciousness.
“Klesha” means taints or afflictions. A klesha is something like a filter that diminishes or distorts our consciousness, this creates illusion, bringing misery and pain in some form. It also hinders clarity which is a natural property of the mind and thus preventing us from rising to the state of calm, clear concentration and samadhi.

This cause for these afflictions are:
The lack of awareness of Reality [avidya], the sense of egoism or ‘I-am-ness’ [asmita], attractions [raga] and repulsions [dwesha] towards objects and the strong desire for life [abhinivesha] are the great afflictions or causes of all miseries in life.

This article is to emphasize the fundamental importance of another limb of the eight limbed yoga which is the key element and has to be practiced by most of us. This practice then opens up the portal of our inner self to cleanse the various afflictions (Kleshas) of our consciousness

There are five Niyamas (Niyama literally means positive duties or observances) namely; Sauca, Santhosha, Tapas, Svādhyāya, and Ishvara Pranidhana which must be adhered to in order to weaken the kleshas, literally fading them out, washing them away, for they are accretions that have nothing to do with the eternal nature of our Self.

·         Sauca means inner purity. It is the constant practice of maintaining peak bodily health through ingesting Sattvic food, inhaling pure air and maintaining purity of mind and thought.
·         Santhosha is about cultivating contentment. A surrender to all that comes in our way through a perception of equanimity.
·         Tapas means a passion for disciplined practice.
·         Svādhyāya is the mode of self-study. Though one may read numerous spiritual texts and be guided by a Guru, it is the subjective meaning that one derives from these inputs that matter. and finally,
·         Ishvara Pranidhana is about surrendering to the divine. This does not mean that we surrender to some external authority but realize that not only the practitioner but the entire objective world is given to us to realize the deep truth of the all pervading Divine and to let go of causative and accusative thinking when one encounters a life event.

Note that diminishing the kleshas is enough to bring about samadhi, which will then itself erase them completely. So we are not facing a herculean task but a constant application.
As Krishna tells Arjuna:

“Even a little practice of this yoga will save you from the terrible wheel of rebirth and death [ mahato bhayat–great fear]” .................Bhagavad Gita 2 : 40

The Raja Yoga path, defined by the Ashtanga Yoga, is not for everyone but as indicated in this text a constant attempt to remove one's afflictions of consciousness through just the practice of Niyamas would set in motion the inner process of purification.

Combined with Niyamas and Fundamental to the practice of Ashtanga Yoga and the path that leads to this inner journey is the stilling of the mind through the three stages of Pratyahara (withdrawing of the mind from the senses), Dharana (concentration) and Dyana (deep meditation).  
This can be achieved through constant meditation to increase the awakening of our consciousness. There are innumerable studies which have been done, both on the scholarly and spiritual disciplines, on the benefit of meditation both on the mind and the body.
When the body and is in a pure state and the mind is in a state of awakened consciousness, the Divine spirit finds a resting place.
The Buddhist and the Vedic chanting and meditation, the contemplative tradition in Christian mysticism, Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning) is a form physically active meditation which originated among Sufis, are all aimed at the mind focus to do away the contamination of objective duality.

Do not be discouraged by distractions at the initial phase.
The Trappist monk and influential writer Thomas Merton was strongly influenced by Buddhist meditation, particularly as found in Zen and he was a life time friend of the Vietnamese monk and peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. His method of contemplative outreach is as follows:
In preparation for meditation choose a holy word and in the process of meditation his suggestion is to follow the 4 Rs:

1. Restrain no thought,
2. Retain no thought,
3. React to no thought and
4. Return to the holy word.

Let me conclude this short article with the observation of Chogyam Trungpa who founded Shambhala Buddhism:

"There is no such thing as an ideal state of meditation. Awareness allows us to relate to our mental processes and to see the fundamental expression of mind as it is, including our thoughts. The meditator may find that many thoughts recur during the meditative state. These thoughts could be seen as waves on the ocean. They are part of our intelligence. When they aren’t armed or heavy-handed anymore, they have a transparent quality. Thoughts also develop an evenness when we recognize that, fundamentally, nobody is trying to fight against anything."
...................From the book "Mindfulness in Action" by Chögyam Trungpa

Let us celebrate the "International Day of Yoga" as a day of eternal beginning of inner awakening through daily meditation.


Love to you all

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