14.11.1 The Supreme Yoga
Once, sage Shaunak asked Sutji about the reasons behind man’s sorrow. Sutji told him that man’s ego and his attachments to this mortal world were the two most important causes for his sorrow and until he gets rid of them he will continue to suffer. Sutji said-‘ The ‘Tree of ignorance’ sprouts from the seed of ‘Egotism’ and it receives its nutrition from sensual pleasures. Only those who possess the ‘Axe of knowledge’ are successful in felling this ‘Tree of ignorance’ and experience the ecstasy of Divine bliss. Once a man has experienced this divine bliss he not only becomes free from all kinds of sorrow but is also freed from the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. This divine link which a man establishes with the Almighty is called ‘Mahayoga’ (The supreme Yoga). But, those unfortunate people who have not experienced this divine bliss continue to get trapped by the worldly illusions leading to their countless births and deaths.’ Sutji then went on to describe the means by which a man can have a pure heart and said-‘ Austerities like meditation, worship, fasts, oblations, charity, etc., certainly helps a man in getting rid of all kinds of impurities.’
14.13 Salvation Through Yoga
This chapter contains 2 sections as follows:
Sutji told sage Shaunak that the ultimate aim of a man’s life was to attain salvation. A man can not attain salvation until and unless he has seen through the trappings of the worldly illusions. Sutji said, ‘Practice of Yoga helps a man to live in this world with a sense of detachment and to successfully avoid the allurements of this mortal world.’ Yoga comprises of six organs:
Pranayama (building of lifeforce),
Pratyahara (restraining sense organs),
Dhyana (meditation) and
Samadhi (deep meditation).
Not running after sensual pleasures by having self-control helps a man in diminishing his sins and diminishment of sins pleases the deities who give blessings. Blessings of deities help a man to attain salvation. Pranayama, an important part of Yoga is of two types-‘Garbha’ and ‘Agarbha’. Pranayama, done with simultaneous chanting of a mantra is called ‘Garbha’ whereas in ‘Agarbha’ Pranayama mantras are not chanted.
It is natural for a man to get attracted by worldly pleasures and checking this tendency of the mind is called ‘Pratyahara’. It is not easy to control the mind and concentrate on anything for a long time but ‘Dharana’ helps a man to do that. When a man has successfully controlled his sensual desires, then it becomes very easy for him to concentrate his mind. A concentrated mind finds it easy to meditate. When he has mastered meditation it is not much difficult for him to enter into the deep state of meditation i.e. ‘Samadhi’. In the state of ‘Samadhi’, all sense of dualism cease to exist as one establishes divine link with the Almighty, which helps him in experiencing indescribable divine bliss.
14.13.1 Self Realization
Once, on being asked by sage Narad about the means that helped a man in attaining self realization, Lord Vishnu told him that only those privileged few who have understood the impermanent nature of this world and have successfully controlled their sensual desires can attain self realization. All the mysteries of this Universe are unraveled to a man of self-realization and he attains salvation. Lord Vishnu said-‘ It should be the prime objective of a man to make incessant efforts so that he can experience this divine knowledge of self realization-the real knowledge, for every other kind of knowledge is superficial and of least significance.’
Lord Vishnu went on to describe how self-realization could be attained:
‘YADASARVE VIMUCHYANTE KAMA YESHYA HRIDI STHITAH;
TADAMRIT TWA MAPNOPATI JIVANNEVA NA SANSHAYAH.
When there is no desire left in the heart then a man is certain to experience the divine taste of this nectar (self realization) in his life time– and there is no doubt about it.
Unraveling the mystery of Universe to sage Narada, Lord Vishnu said-‘ ‘Brahma’ is the cause behind this universe and one who has understood this fact can be rightly called a man of self realization. A man being under the influence of his sensual perceptions falsely believes this world to be real and is unable to understand the real cause behind the existence of this world, which is not the case with a man of self-realization. Instead of searching ‘without’ a man should seek ‘within’ because within him exists the Universe just like our sense organs perceive them externally. The whole mystery of Universe is unraveled to a man who makes incessant efforts to undertake this inner journey for if his efforts are made with a pure heart and a firm determination then he is sure to reach his goal of self realization one day or the other. The soul (Atma) is ‘Brahma’ but this fact becomes apparent only to those privileged few, who have attained self-realization. Self realization illuminates the soul in the same way just as a lightning illuminates the dark sky at night.’
Lord Vishnu went on to describe himself in the following words-‘ I am Pure and beyond the limits of human intelligence. I am beyond the confinement of three basic qualities (Satva guna, Rajas guna and Tamas guna). Only he can experience ME who possesses an enlightened soul because I manifest MYSELF in the heart of every individual as a divine effulgence in order to drive away the darkness which engulfs it.’
14.7 Different Kind of Austerities
This chapter contains 15 sections as follows:
Describing the various types of austerities, Lord Vishnu named few of them
14.7.1 Yama (Restraining Passion)
This particular austerity comprises of ten virtues- Celibacy, Forgiveness, Meditation, Truthfulness, Honesty, Non-violence, Not stealing, Gentleness and Self control.
14.7.2 Niyama (Daily Routine)
This austerity stresses the importance of purity: both of the body as well as of the mind. It comprises of the following activities: bathing daily, contemplation, observing fast, performing oblations, self study, abstinence, penance, avoiding anger, being respectful towards teacher and purity.
14.7.3 Mahasantapana Vrata
This particular austerity comprises of specific rituals related with the usage of ‘Panchagavya'(a mixture of cow milk, curd, ghee, cow urine and cow dung). On the first day of the austerity a devotee should have only milk, on the second day curd, on the third day ‘ghee’, on the fourth day ‘gomutra'(cow urine), on the fifth day ‘gomaya’ (cow dung), on the sixth day he should live only on ‘kushodak'( drinking water from a vessel in which ‘kusha’ grass have been kept) and on the last day of the austerity he should observe complete fast.
14.7.4 Parna Krichchha Vrata
Separate solutions of ‘Palasha’ (Butea frondosa), ‘Gulara’ (Ficus glomerata), ‘Kamala’ (lotus) and ‘Bael’ tree (wood apple) are prepared after boiling the leaves of respective vegetation mentioned above. On the first day of the austerity a devotee should have only ‘Palasha’ solution while on the second day he should have ‘Gulara’ solution. On the third day he should have ‘Kamala’ solution while on the fourth day he should live only on ‘Bael’ solution. On the fifth day of the austerity he should live only on ‘Kusha’ grass solution and nothing else. This is the manner in which the austerity of ‘Parnakrichchha vrata’ is observed.
14.7.5 Tapta Krichchha Vrata
A person observing this austerity should begin by having hot milk on the first day followed by tepid ghee and lukewarm water on the second and third day respectively. He should observe a complete fast on the fourth day.
14.7.6 Pada Krichchha Vrata
This particular austerity lasts for four days. On the first day a devotee should observe ‘Ekabhakta vrata'(having food only once a day in the noon). On the second day he should observe ‘Nakta’ vrata(having food only once a day in the night). On the third day he should break his fast by having whatever is available with him because anything that has been provided by others is strictly prohibited. He should observe a total fast on the fourth day. When a devotee observes these cycles of austerity for three times then it is called ‘Prajapatya krichchhra vrata’.
14.7.7 Ati Krichchha Vrata
Rituals of this austerity is more or less similar to that of Prajapatya krichchhra vrata with a slight difference- here fast is broken with a handful of cooked food. When this particular ritual is observed for four days then it is called Atikrichchha vrata.
14.7.8 Krichchha Atikrichha Vrata
Observing the rituals of Atikrichchha vrata for twenty-one days living only on milk and water is called Krichchhakrichha vrata.
14.7.9 Paraka Vrata
Observing complete fast for twelve continuous days is called Paraka vrata.
14.7.10 Chandrayana Vrata
It’s an important austerity lasting for a month which commences on First day of the bright half of a month by observing fast for the whole day and breaking it in the night with one morsel of food. On the next day, i.e. ‘dwitiya’ one morsel of food is increased which means that instead of one morsel of food now two morsels are taken. This way one morsel of food is increased on each of the following days till the fourteenth day (chaturdashi) when the fast is broken by having fourteen morsels of food. A total fast is observed on ‘Amavasya’ (dark moon). On the next day i.e. first day of the dark half of the month one morsel is decreased which means that the devotee should break his fast with thirteen morsels of food. This way one morsel is decreased on each successive day till ‘chaturdashi’ when a devotee breaks his fast by having only one morsel of food. This is the way, how a Chandrayan vrata should be observed.
14.7.11 Anang Trayodashi Vrata
This austerity is related with the worship of Lord Shiva and commences on the thirteenth day of the bright half of the Hindu month Margashirsh and lasts for a year. It concludes exactly after a year when ‘Rati’ and ‘Anang’ are worshipped with appropriate rituals. Ten thousand offerings are made in the sacrificial fire. Brahmins are fed and donations made to them. One who observes this austerity is blessed with health, wealth and good fortune.
14.7.12 Akhand Dvadashi Vrata
This austerity is related with the worship of Lord Vishnu. It commences on the twelfth day of the bright half of the Hindu month Margashirsh and lasts for a year consisting of three phases. One important characteristic of this austerity is that after four months, which is the first phase of the austerity, five vessels filled with food-grains are donated to Brahmins. In the second phase of the austerity consisting of four months and commencing from the Hindu month Chaitra, pots filled with parched grams are donated to Brahmins. Similarly, in the third and final phase of the austerity pots filled with ghee are donated to Brahmins.
14.7.13 Shiva Ratri Vrata
This austerity is related with the worship of Lord Shiva and a fast is observed on the fourteenth day of the dark half of the Hindu month Falgun. A devotee should observe fast in the night and worship Lord Shiva by chanting ‘Om Namah Shivay’. He should perform ‘havan’ with black sesame seeds and worship Lord Shiva at midnight, in the third and the fourth ‘prahar'(one prahar equals three hour) with appropriate rituals. One who observes fast on this day gets all his wishes fulfilled and attains salvation as well. A devotee who observes Shiva Ratri fast for twelve successive years acquires knowledge, wealth, success and happiness. Such a man also attains to Shiva loka after his death.
14.7.14 Virtues of Observing Fast on Shiva Ratri Night
During ancient times there lived a hunter named Sundarsen in the province of Arbuda. One day, he went deep into the forest in search of his prey but unfortunately he found none. He wandered all over the place but in vain. When evening came, he climbed up a wood apple (Bael) tree to protect himself from the wild animals. Sundarsen was worried that his family would have nothing to eat that night. Engrossed in his contemplative mood, he kept on plucking leaves from the ‘Bael’ tree and throwing them down. There was a Shiva linga just under the tree and the leaves, which Sundarsen threw, fell down on it. Next morning while Sundarsen was climbing down the tree, his arrow fell down. While picking up his arrow, he touched the Shiva linga. Sundarsen was unaware of the fact that it was Shivaratri night and he had worshiped Lord Shiva with appropriate rituals albeit inadvertently-he had offered Bilva patra to Lord Shiva and had touched the Shiva linga. He attained to Shiva loka on account of the virtues attained by his inadvertent worship of Lord Shiva.
Agni Purana 10.9.3 Yoga
Yoga is the way to circumvent the miseries of life. True knowledge is that which informs one about the true nature of brahman or paramatman. The atman or jivatman is that which characterises an individual. Yoga means union, it is the union of the jivatman with the paramatman. Yoga concentrates one’s mind on the paramatman.
The first prerequisites of yoga is non-violence. A non-violent person is always righteous. The second requirement of yoga is truthfulness. The third prerequisite is celibacy. The fourth is controlling one’s senses and the last is the worship of god. One who practices yoga should not go around collecting material possessions. A piece of cloth, a covering against the cold, and a pair of sandals are possessions enough for him.
Before meditating on the true nature of the paramatman, one has to seat oneself in a proper asana (posture). The piece of cloth on which one is to sit should be placed in a clean place. One sits on such a seat and tries to purify one’s atman by controlling one’s mind and senses through yoga. The head and the neck should be held straight up, motionless. The point of vision should be directed towards the tip of one’s nose. One should not look in any direction. The arms should lightly rest on the folded thighs and the right hand should be placed, palm upwards, on the left palm. Padmasana (lotus position) is one such recommended posture.
The breath of life (prana vayu) has to be controlled. This process of control is known as pranayama. A finger is placed on the nose when the breath is being exhaled. The entire breath should be exhaled from the body. Since rechana means exhalation, this process of control is known as rechaka. When the breath is inhaled, the inhalation should be such that it fills the entire body. Since puraka literally means ‘that which fills’, this process of control is known as puraka. When the breath is neither being exhaled nor inhaled, one sits completely still like a kumbha (pot) and this is known as kumbhaka. Pranayama makes one healthy, swift, enthusiastic, strong and collected. Since the senses are controlled, one goes to heaven and avoids going to hell. Material pursuits are like the strong current of a river. The atman drowns in it.
Pranayama alone is not enough. It has to be supplemented with dhyana of japa (meditation and contemplation). One contemplates the true nature of the paramatman. The body is like a chariot. The senses are its horses, the mind is the charioteer and pranayama is the bridle. An individual who dies while performing dhyana is immediately assimilated with Vishnu.
Dhyana involve four different things, all of which must be in complete harmony. The first is the meditator, the second is the act of meditating, the third is the object that one is meditating upon and the fourth is the reason why one is performing the mediation. One does not have to; sit in a rigid posture for dhyana to be possible. It can be done while one is walking, sitting or even sleeping. The important aspect is to establish the object of one’s meditation in one’s heart.
There are different ways of establishing one’s concentration. As an object of meditation, one can meditate on three concentric circles which are black, red and white. In the centre of the circles is a divine lotus. The lotus has eight petals. One thinks that detachment is the stem of the lotus and praying to Vishnu its stamen. Right in the centre of the lotus is a pure spark of fire and that is the paramatman. Alternatively, one can visualise the paramatman in a blaze of light, in the centre of the lotus. Dhyana is far far superior to any yajna that one might perform.
One particular form of deep and intense meditation is known as samadhi. The meditator is then completely still, as calm as the ocean. He loses all track of the outside world. He does not hear, smell, see or touch. His mind has no wishes and feels nothing. He is completely united with god. Such a meditator automatically gets to know all the knowledge that can be gleaned from the Vedas or the shastras. He can obtain all the material possessions that he wants, but he regards them all as no more important than a blade of grass.
Such a meditator attains supreme knowledge. If you look at various pots full of water, you will find that the same sky is reflected in them all. Supreme knowledge tells one that, exactly similarly, it is the same atman that is everywhere. It is the atman which is the same as the paramatman, it is this atman that is in the water, in energy, in water, in the earth and in metals. Atman is everywhere.
Ahalya was created by Brahma, the god of creation, as the most beautiful girl; She was desired as a wife and lover by all men, creatures and gods of the world. The name Ahalya signifies without any deformation; That’s why Brahma took so much pride in her being his creation. To choose Ahalya’s husband, Brahma a condition had to demand: The one who crossed the three worlds first should take Ahalya’s hand.
Indra was in love with Ahalya and wanted to make her his wife; He used his powers to cross the three worlds faster than you could count up to five. What Indra didn’t know was that Gautama had already crossed the three worlds; When he saw Gautama with Ahalya he said: “Beware of what your future holds.”
In order to carry out his plan and make his union with Ahalya take place, Indra used his powers to disguise himself as Gautama, having his looks and grace. While making love Indra and Alahya by Gautama were caught; They were punished for this act, which a curse to their lives brought: Ahalya, the woman of immeasurable beauty, was converted to stone, while a thousand female genitals on Indra’s body were shown.
Because Alahya begged for forgiveness and regretted her mistake so soon, Gautama felt empathy for her and decided to grant both Indra and Alahya a boon. Gautama decided to turn the female genitals on Indra’s body into a thousand eyes; Even though Indra deceived Ahalya and got her into bed with nothing but lies.
Gautama told his wife that one day she would be able to return to human form; With the touch of Rama’s feet back into a beautiful woman she would transform. When Rama was on his way to Mithilapuri and his feet finally touched the stone, It changed into the beautiful Ahalya, who was now pure and as a woman had grown. Even though Ahalya made the mistake of cheating and her husband offending, the love story of Ahalya and Gautama has ultimately a happy ending.
The moral of this story is that if you truly love someone with all your heart, You have to be willing to forgive and forget in order to have a fresh start.
The story of Rama and Surpanakha in the Ramayana was a story of love unrequited; She would walk through fire for him but he did not even know she existed.
Surpanakha met Rama during his exile in the Dandaka forest Where he was living with his wife as if they were Ayodhya’s poorest. Surpanakha knew that it was bad luck to fall in love with a human being but she could not believe what her heart was feeling and her eyes were seeing. The rakshasi Surpanakha fell in love with Rama’s beauty; She would do anything to make him love her, she made that her duty. To conquer Rama’s heart she disguised herself as a beautiful lady but he could tell right away that she was not honest but rather shady. The power of maya may have hidden Surpanakha’s pot belly and crossed eyes but not even this illusion could put the ugliness of her soul in disguise. She proposed marriage to Rama who was already taken but she hoped he would choose her and let Sita be forsaken.
Surpanakha asked Rama why he would not start with her a new life; He replied, “Because my heart is taken and it belongs to my wife.” To attack Sita due to jealousy Surpanakha came really close but Lakshmana jumped in and chopped off her nose. After all the pain and degradation she was still a demoness in love; That’s the thing about love, there is no switch to turn it on and turn it off. With tears running down her noseless face to Lanka ran Surpanakha to tell her brother Ravana what had happened in the forest of Dandaka. Her humiliation and jealousy led her to develop a wicked plan: She told Ravana, “Go kidnap Sita because if I can’t have Rama then no one can.” I cannot help but to feel sorry for Surpanakha sometimes. After all, it was her passionate love for Rama that inspired her to these crimes. Her biggest mistake was to love Rama like no one would ever love her but was this a good reason for Rama to make her suffer? As an ugly and cruel demoness to Surpanakha we can refer but I wonder, was it because of looks that Rama did prefer Sita?
The story of Rama and Surpanakha showed us that love has two faces: A love that one gives and the other rejects and a love that one gives and the other embraces.
A.K.A. Why life is not about happiness and desire fulfilment
Human beings and animals have the same urges. They eat and sleep and copulate and besides, the feelings of fear are common to both. What, then, is the difference between the two? It is adherence to Dharma that distinguishes human beings from animals. Without Dharma to guide him man would be no better than an animal.
When a man thinks of the objects of sense, attachment to them is born; from attachment arises desire; and from desire arises anger. Anger causes delusion and from delusion springs loss of memory; loss of memory leads to the destruction of the sense of discrimination; and because of the destruction of his sense of discrimination man perishes.
Dattatreya says- O king! With the attainment of knowledge, people come to conjugate with the Supreme Almighty and which results into dispersion of their ignorance. To attain Moksha, it is necessary for a man to shun attachment first of all. Only after that, he will become free from sorrows.
When he becomes free from sorrow, he unites with the supreme almighty. This phenomenon is known as Yoga. Unification with the supreme almighty enables a man to attain knowledge and finally Moksha (salvation). It is therefore essential for the all those seeking salvation that first of all they should renounce affection and attachment for the worldly objects including their near and dear ones.
Knowledge and renunciation are nothing but two sides of the same coin and one is necessary to give rise to the other. Home is nothing but the place for staying, food is nothing but the energy required sustaining our body and knowledge is nothing but an aid to attain salvation. Anything that caused obstacles in the way of salvation is ignorance. A living being is bound to receive the fruits of action no matter whether they are good or bad. Hence one should carry out his duties without bothering for the results. With the attenuation of the results of the action performed in the previous births, a living being becomes free from the cycles of life and death. With the attainment of Yoga, Yogis take refuge in none other than Brahma. But the path of attaining Yoga is indeed difficult, if not impossible. One has to conquer his soul first of all because the soul itself is regarded as invincible. Control of physical impurities with the help of Pranayama, sins by determination, lust by self-restrains and contemplation on God are the ways to conquer the soul.
7.7.5 Perfection in Yoga
Dattatreya says-During the process of conquering the soul, different kinds of allurements begins to divert the mind of the Yogis. It is imperative for the Yogi to keep his mind busy by observing fast, worshipping and contemplating in God. It is the duty of the Yogi to always contemplate on God, only then he can seek solace in Him. Thus, after controlling his senses, a Yogi ought to eat and sleep less, attain unification with the Supreme Being. O king! A Yogi unifies with Brahma once his physical and mental faults are removed. Then, he never separates from the Supreme Being.
7.7.6 Daily Routine of a Yogi
Alark says- O lord, now kindly narrate about the daily routine, a Yogi should abide by in order to preserve his piousness.
Dattatreya says- O king! Respect and insult are the two reasons for love and hatred. Yogis attain perfection by understanding insult as respect and vice versa. A Yogi should therefore never attend social functions like Shradha, marriage ceremonies or other festivities. He should not accept the hospitality of others and should shun unnecessary journeys. A Yogi should seek alms only after the householder and his family has dined. A Yogi should accept alms only from those households whose inmates are gentle, religious and free from blemishes and should accept things like whey, milk, fruits, edible roots, gram flour etc. Before going to dine, a Yogi should offer his food to the deities reciting he following mantras-
After reciting these mantras one by one and offering food to the deities who are present in his body as different forms of air, the Yogi may now proceed to dine. Control of senses and greed, celibacy, renunciation and non-violence are the five resolutions of a Yogi. Control of anger, service to the Guru, sanctity, eating less and studying Vedas regularly are the five norms for a Yogi. A Yogi must practice meditation at a desolate place, forest, cave or peak of a mountain. A true celibate has full control over his speech, mind and action. Iron and gold have equal worth in his eye; he loves no one and hates no one.
7.7.7 Description of Omkar
Dattatreya says- Those Yogis who abide by their resolution are never degraded from their supreme position. Such Yogis always recite Om while contemplating on the eternal God. ‘A’, ‘U’ and ‘M’, these three syllables constitute the body OM or AUM. These three syllables represent the virtues (gunas) of Satva, Tama and Raja respectively. Thus, by contemplating on God and reciting Om, a Yogi ultimately achieves unification with that eternal spirit. But there are still some disastrous traps that a Yogi should guard himself against, otherwise his entire penance might turn futile at the time of death. Hence every Yogi must be aware of these disastrous traps.
7.7.8 Description of Disastrous Traps
Dattatreya says- A person who is unable to see the path of the deities, or the heavenly bodies like- Dhruv, Shukra (Venus), Soma (Moon), or his own shadow or Goddess Arundhati, must understand that his death is near. For those people to whom, the Sun appears without radiance but fire appears as the Sun, die within eleven months. Sighting of gold and silver in urine or stools signifies death within ten months. Those who see ghosts, Gandharvas and gold tree in the dreams live for nine months only. Those who become fat or thin suddenly live for eight months more. Those Yogis whose heels appear cracked while walking on sand or mud die within seven months. Getting perched on the body by volatile birds like vulture, pigeon, owl, crow etc. indicates that the concerned person will live for only six months. Those who see their shadow in opposite direction live for four or five months more only. Those who sight lightning without clouds or rainbow during the night time, in their dream live for two or three months more. Those who cannot see their reflection in ghee, oil, water and mirror die within a month. A person whose body smells like a cadaver die within fifteen days. Those whose hands and feet remain dry even after taking bath and dry even after taking light refreshments live only for ten days. Those who sight hair, cinders, ash, snakes and dried rivers in the dream, die on the eleventh day. Those who feel hungry even after eating to their fill also die soon.
O king! There are many more disastrous symptoms that indicate death. A Yogi must always be alert regarding these signs. Whenever a Yogi perceives the appearance of all or some of these disastrous symptoms, he must at once take to Yoga to minimise the effects. Brahmagyan- A Yogi experiences extreme joy when he meditates while doing Yoga. Only then can he experience Brahma. Physical body is ephemeral; hence a true Yogi does not mourn over the loss of physical body. Hence, a Yogi must train his mind in Yoga ignoring sorrow or affection. This is indeed a difficult task to achieve. Alark says- O Brahmin! By your blessings, my ignorance has ended. Now I will do everything so that ignorance does not grip me once again. Then taking Dattatreya’s permission, Alark went back to the king of Kashi and said- ‘O king! You have a desire for the kingdom, so take this kingdom and enjoy its luxuries yourself or give it to Subahu.’ The king of Kashi asked Alark as to why he was renouncing the kingdom without fighting a war. He also tried to instigate Alark by saying that his conduct did not suit the Kshatriyas. Alark said- ‘Only Brahma is truth, all the other things are false. Now controlling my senses, I will attain perfection in Yoga.’