Understanding Popular Forms of Modern Yoga

The sacred Nanda Devi and Sunanda Devi peaks in Himalayas. In the modern era, the peak Sunanda Devi earlier termed Nanda Devi east by British explorers was identified by the author of this note. Jai Ma Nanda, Jai Ma Sunanda

Yoga is a means of evolution for the soul that dwells within each living body. A soul acquires a body at birth in keeping with its state of evolution at birth. As a human, it is possible for a soul to consciously make an effort to evolve and although one is stuck with one’s body for life, the soul within is free to evolve. There are many symptoms of an evolved soul with the most obvious one being its reaction to light. Since the Universal consciousness is a creator of light, souls closer to it emit and reflect more light from their faces and bodies than less evolved human souls who absorb light instead. During living, the state of a being changes from time to time and they are described as glowing when in evolved states. They may even remove themselves from the eye of a camera when in low states of evolution. An aura may be observed around the most evolved of all souls even in the darkness of night since they become net emitters of light just as the universe in its constant state of creation is. On the other hand a deep darkness surrounds depressed and unhappy souls.

The father of yoga, Patanjali has described yoga as consisting of eight parts in his outline text on Introduction to Yoga. It is a compact text consisting of four chapters. After describing fundamentals of yoga, he defines the eight parts in the 29th verse of the second chapter through Sanskrit terms, the language of the text, as – Yam, Niyam, Asana, Pranayam, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyan, Samadhi.

The subject matter of the eight parts of yoga may be understood briefly as follows

First Part: This is to do with basic morality and shunning of animal instincts such as violence, lying, stealing, lust devoid of love etc.

Second Part: This is to do with cleanliness, order, discipline, shunning greed and having trust in God. God is not defined in the sense of religions or in a sense on which different religions appear to have special monopoly on, but simply as the Supreme Infinite power of the universe accessible not just to persons of all religions on earth but throughout the universe to all life, of all religions and to those without a religion too.

Third Part: This is to do with physical perfection and physical movements of the body the soul occupies

Fourth part: Is to do with breathing and practices connected to it

Fifth Part: Is to do with detachments from desires, worldly goals and things

Sixth Part: Is to do with mastering the mind and thought processes and developing the ability of concentration

Seventh Part: Is to do with meditation and practices connected to it

Eight Part: Is the final state of evolution, undoubtedly reached by a few rare enlightened souls only when the body the soul occupies, a vehicle for the journey, is no longer necessary.

These eight parts are viewed as eight steps by some but that is an incorrect interpretation although undoubtedly each part is more advanced than the previous one. They are not steps because perfection in none of the steps is possible without perfection in the others and final perfection is attained by full perfection in any of the steps. That is, they all lead to the same point, the final state of evolution that any living soul is capable of. Another highly revered text by the Hindus, the Gita focuses on practices emerging from the second part terming it as Karma Yoga, the Yoga of action as also on the seventh part – Terming it as Sankhya Yoga. It says clearly that final attainment and goal is the same by both steps but the second part is within the reach of most humans while the seventh part is not easy for most. While the text by Patanjali contains only the briefest of definitions and summaries ( known as Sutras in Sanskrit) the Gita elaborates on Karma yoga giving in details the steps required to bring it into practice.

Patanjali too has clearly stated that a human may reach final attainment through a perfection of the second part which he terms as Kriya yoga or in fact even from a third part of the Kriya Yoga, a complete surrender to Universal Will and consciousness. The Gita too in its last chapter has affirmed this as the ultimate secret of spirituality and being.

While The Gita is a Hindu text, Patanjali lived in a spiritually vibrant time on earth stretching in the old world then from Greece to China, where there were many debates between theists and atheists, Buddhists and Hindus etc. but it seems he regarded himself as aloof and above these religious and philosophical divides. Buddhists have developed practices emerging from the fourth part - mindful breathing- in to a fine art, a practice that is relatively easy to follow as compared to other meditative practices yet with profound  results.

As said, since final attainment is possible through any of the eight parts, it is also possible through the third part, the primary focus of modern yoga. According to Patanjali this final state is achieved when thoughts emerging from the mind cease, and the soul unites with its origin, the Universal consciousness.

The word Yoga means to unite. A soul may carry on with the body it attained at birth as long as life remains but it would not get new bodies after that if it attains the peak of evolution, unless it chooses to do so temporarily for a service in the universe (something that Bodhisattvas of Buddhism, gods and devas of Hindus or Angels of Christianity and Islam might do) and instead become a part of the infinite as Buddha described.  The Hindu saints on the other hand in their final state of the eighth part, Samadhi, consciously and willingly shed off their physical bodies. For most souls, however, evolving implies reaching higher and more joyous states of being in their journey of countless lifetimes through the universe. While popular forms of modern yoga focus on the third part of yoga as described by Patanjali, it has also freed it from religion as Patanjali intended, free from religions and their mythology, rituals, regulations etc. but not free of the Almighty Supreme Being and Creator. The description 'OM" is a part of the ancient Aryan tradition adapted by the Hindus just as the word Allah is of Semetic tradition or God of western tradition. None of these Names occur in the text on yoga by Patanjali.

From the Author of "The Babaji Affair"


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