What is Yoga as per the Garuda Purana
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.’