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Ramkrishna On Yoga - Philosophy

( Originally Published 1939 )

THERE are infinite ways which lead to the sea of immortality. The main thing is to fall into that sea; it matters not how one gets there. Suppose there is a reservoir of nectar, a single drop of which falling into the mouth will make one immortal. You may drink of it either by jumping into the reservoir or by slowly walking down along its slope. The result will be the same even if you are pushed or thrown into it by another. Taste a little of that nectar and become immortal.

Innumerable are the paths. Jnana, Karma, Bhakti are all paths which lead to the same goal. If you have intense longing you will surely reach God. Yoga (communion with God) is of four kinds: Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga.

Jnana Yoga is communion with God by means of right discrimination and knowledge in its highest sense. The object of a *Irani is to know and realise the Absolute. He discriminates between the Absolute Reality and the unreal phenomena by saying: "Not this," "Not this," until he comes to a point where all discrimination between the Real and the unreal ceases and the Absolute Brahman is realized in Samadhi,Karma Yoga is communion with God by means of work. It is what you are teaching. The performance of duties by householders not for the sake of obtaining their results but for glorifying the Supreme is that which is meant by this method of Yoga. Again, worship, repetition of the Name of the Lord, and other devotional exercises are also included in it, if they are done without attachment to their fruits and for the glorification of God. The end of Karma is the same as the realization of the Impersonal AbsoIute or the Personal God or both.

Raja Yoga leads to this communion through. concentration and meditation. It has eight steps. The first is Yama, which consists in non-injuring, truthfulness, non-covetousness, chastity, and the non-receiving of gifts. The second is Niyama, which includes austerities, forbearance, contentment, faith in the Supreme Being, charity, study, and self-surrender to the Supreme WiII. The practice of various physical postures is comprised in Asana, the third; while Pranayama or breathing exercises constitute the fourth step. The fifth is Pratyahara and consists in making the mind introspective and one-pointed. Concentration or Dharana is the next; Dhyana or meditation is the seventh, and Samadhi or the state of super consciousness the eighth.

Bhakti Yoga is communion by means of love, devotion, and self-surrender (Bhakti). It is especially adapted to this age.

The path of absolute knowledge is exceedingly difficult. The term of human life at the present day is short and entirely dependent on material food. Moreover, it is almost impossible to get rid of the idea that the soul is one with the body. Now a Jnani or philosopher may declare: I am not this body, gross or subtle; I am one with Brahman, the Absolute. I am not subject to the necessities and conditions of the body, hunger, thirst, birth, death, disease, grief, pleasure, pain." Such assertions, however, will not make him free from these bodily conditions so long as he is on the plane of relativity. He may be compared to a person who is suffering from the intense pain of a wound but who is trying to deny it by mere word of mouth.

When the Kundalini is awakened, true Bhakti, Divine Love and ecstasy are attained. Through Karma Yoga one can easily attain to various psychic powers. But when Karma Yoga Ieads to Bhakti Yoga, Divine realization comes. Then all duties, rituals, ceremonials, drop off like the petals of a flower when the fruit has grown. When a child is born, the young mother does not discharge any other duties, but fondles the child the whole day. As she is free from all household duties, so a Bhakta becomes free from the bondage of work after realizing God. The true Bhakta says: "O Mother, Karma with attachment I fear, for it proceeds from selfish motives, and as a man soweth so shall he reap. I see again that work without attachment is exceedingly difficult. If I work through attachment I shall forget Thee: therefore I do not desire such Karma. Grant that my work may become less and less so long as I do not attain to Thee. Till then may I have strength to do unattached the little work that is left for me, and may I be blessed with unselfish love and devotion to Thee! Mother, so long as I do not realize Thee may my mind be not attached to new works and new desires! But when Thou wilt command me to work I shall do it not for myself but only for Thee.

Hatha Yoga deals entirely with the physical body. It describes the methods by which the internal organs can be purified and perfect health can be acquired. It teaches how to conquer the various powers of Prana and the muscles, organs and nerves of the body. But in Hatha Yoga the mind must always be concentrated on the physical body. A Hatha Yogi possesses many powers, such as the power of levitation; but all these powers are only the manifestations of physical Prana. There was a Juggler who in the midst of his tricks suddenly turned his tongue upward and drew it back into the post-nasal canal, stopping respiration. Instantly all the activities of his body were suspended. People thought that he was dead, so they buried him. For several years he remained buried in that state. In some way the grave was opened and he regained consciousness. Immediately he began to repeat the same conjuring words with which he had been casting the spell before he lost consciousness. So the practice of Hatha Yoga will bring the control over the body, but it will carry one only so far. Raja Yoga, on the contrary, deals with the mind and leads to spiritual results through discrimination, concentration and meditation.

Perfect concentration of the mind is necessary in the path of Raja Yoga. Mind is like the flame of a lamp. When the wind of desire blows, it is restless; when there is no wind, it is steady. The latter is the state of mind in Yoga. Ordinarily the mind is scattered, one portion here, another portion there. It is necessary to collect the scattered mind and direct it towards one point. If you want a whole piece of cloth, you will have to pay the full price for it. Yoga is not possible if there be the least obstacle in the way.. If there be a small break in the telegraphic wire, the message will not reach its destination. A Yogi controls his mind, the mind does not control him. When the mind is absolutely concentrated, the breath stops, and the soul enters into Samadhi.

THE six Lotuses mentioned in the Science of Yoga correspond to the seven mental planes mentioned in the Vedanta. When the mind is immersed in worldliness, it makes its abode in the lowest lotus at the end of the spine. Sexual desires rise when the mind is in the second lotus,the sexual organ. When it is in the third, the navel, the man is taken up with things of the world eating, drinking, begetting children. In the fourth mental plane the heart of the man is blessed with the Vision of Divine Glory and he cries out: "What is all this! What is all this!" In the fifth plane the mind rests in the throat. The devotee talks only on subjects related to God and grows impatient if any other subject comes up in the course of conversation. In the sixth plane the mind is localized between the eyebrows. The devotee comes face to face with God; only a thin glass-like partition, so to speak, keeps him separate from the Divine Person. To him God is like a light within a lantern, or like a photograph behind a glass frame. He tries to touch the vision, but he cannot. His perception falls short of complete realization, for there is the element of self-consciousness, the sense of "I," kept to a certain extent. In the Iast or seventh plane it is perfect Samadhi. Then all sense-consciousness ceases and absolute God-consciousness takes its place.

A RAJA YOGI also seeks to realize the Universal Being. His object is to bring the finite human soul into communion with the infinite Spirit. He tries first to collect his mind, which is scattered in the world of senses, and then seeks to fix it on the Universal Spirit; hence the necessity of meditating on Him in solitude and in a posture which causes no distraction.

WHEN Karma Yoga is so difficult to practice, one should pray to the Lord in this manner: "0 Lord! Do Thou reduce our Karma to a minimum, and the littIe work that we daily perform, may we do it with non-attachment by Thy grace. O Lord! Do not let our desire for work increase in number and bind us to worldliness."


SLEEP is that modification of the mind which ensues upon the quitting of all objects by the mind, by reason of all the waking senses and faculties sinking into abeyance.

MEMORY is the not letting go of an object that one has been aware of.

THE meditative state attained by those whose discrimination does not extend to pure spirit, depends upon the phenomenal world.

IN the practice of those who are, or may be, able to discriminate as to pure spirit, their meditation is preceded by Faith, Energy, Intentness (upon a single point), and Discernment, or thorough discrimination of that which is to be known.

THE attainment of the state of abstract meditation is speedy, in the case of the hotly impetuous.

IGNORANCE IS the notion that the non-eternal, the impure, the evil and that which is not soul are, severaIIy, eternal, pure, good and soul.

THE tenacious wish for existence upon earth is inherent in all sentient beings, and continues through all incarnations, because it has self-repro. ductive power. It is felt as well by the wise as the unwise.

BUT to that man who has attained to the perfection of spiritual cultivation, all mundane things are alike vexatious, since the modifications of the mind due to the natural qualities are adverse to the attainment of the highest condition; because, until that is reached, the occupation of any form of body is a hindrance, and anxiety and impressions of various kinds ceaselessly continue.

THE Universe, including the visible and the invisible, the essential nature of which is compounded of purity, action, and rest, and which consists of the elements and the organs of action, exists for the sake of the soul's experience and emancipation.

THE soul is the Perceiver; is assuredly vision itself pure and simple; unmodified; and Iooks directly upon ideas.

ALTHOUGH the Universe in its objective state has ceased to be, in respect to that man who has attained to the perfection of spiritual cultivation, it has not ceased in respect to all others, because it is common to others besides him.

IN order to exclude from the mind questionable things, the mental calling up of those things that are opposite is efficacious for their removal.

WHEN harmlessness and kindness are fully developed in the Yogi (him who has attained to cultivated enlightenment of the soul), there is a complete absence of enmity, both in men and animals, among all that are near to him.

WHEN covetousness is eliminated there comes to the Yogi a knowledge of everything relating to, or that which has taken place in, former states of existence.

FROM purification of the mind and body there arises in the Yogi a thorough discernment of the cause and nature of the body, whereupon he loses that regard which others have for the bodily form; and he also ceases to feel the desire of, or necessity for, association with his feIIow-beings that is common among other men.

FROM purification of the mind and body also ensue to the Yogi a complete predominance of the quality of goodness, complacency, intentness, subjugation of the senses, and fitness for contemplation and comprehension of the soul as distinct from nature.

BY means of this regulation of the breath, the obscuration of the mind resulting from the influence of the body is removed.

RESTRAINT is the accommodation of the senses to the nature of the mind, with an absence on the part of the senses of their sensibility to direct impression from objects.

FIXING the mind on a place, object, or subject is attention.

THE continuance of this attention is contemplation.

THIS contemplation, when it is practiced only in respect to a material subject or object of sense, is meditation.

WHEN this fixedness of attention, contemplation, and meditation are practiced with respect to one object, they together constitute what is called concentration.

WHEN the mind, after becoming fixed upon a single object, has ceased to be concerned in any thought about the condition, qualities, or relations of the thing thought of, but is absolutely fastened upon the object itself, it is then said to be intent upon a single point -- a state technically caIIed Ekagrata.

A KNOWLEDGE of the occurrences experienced in former incarnations arises in the ascetic from holding before his mind the trains of self-reproductive thought and concentrating himself upon them.

THE nature of the mind of another person becomes known to the ascetic when he concentrates his own mind upon that other person.

BY performing concentration in regard to the properties and essential nature of form, especially that of the human body, the ascetic acquires the power of causing the disappearance of his corporeal frame from the sight of others, because thereby its property of Satwa which exhibits itself as luminousness is disconnected from the spectator's organ of sight.

BY performing concentration in regard to benevolence, tenderness, complacency, and disinterestedness, the ascetic is able to acquire the friendship of whomsoever he may desire.

BY performing concentration with regard to the powers of the elements, or of the animal kingdom, the ascetic is able to manifest those in himself.

BY concentrating his mind upon minute, concealed or distant objects in every department of nature, the ascetic acquires thorough knowledge concerning them.

BY concentrating his mind upon the sun, a knowledge arises in the ascetic concerning all spheres between the earth and the sun.

BY concentrating his mind upon the moon, there arises in the ascetic a knowledge of the fixed stars.

BY concentrating his mind upon the polar star, the ascetic is able to know the fixed time and motion of every star in the Brahmanda of which this earth is a part.

BY concentrating his mind upon the solar plexus, the ascetic acquires a knowledge of the structure of the material body.

BY concentrating his mind upon the nerve center in the pit of the throat, the ascetic is able to prevent his body being moved, without any resistant exertion of his muscles.

BY concentrating his mind upon the light in the head the ascetic acquires the power of seeing divine beings.

THE ascetic can, after long practice, disregard the various aids to concentration hereinbefore recommended for the easier acquirement of knowledge, and will be able to possess any knowledge simply through the desire therefor.

BY concentrating his mind upon the true nature of the soul as being entirely distinct from any experiences, and disconnected from all material things, and dissociated from the understanding, a knowledge of the true nature of the soul itself arises in the ascetic.

FROM the particular kind of concentration last described, there arises in the ascetic, and remains with him at all times, a knowledge concerning all things, whether they be those apprehended through the organs of the body or otherwise presented to his contemplation.

THE powers hereinbefore described are liable to become obstacles in the way of perfect concentration, because of the possibility of wonder and pleasure flowing from their exercise, but are not obstacles for the ascetic who is perfect in the practice enjoined.

BY concentrating his mind upon the relations between the ear and Akasa (the ether), the ascetic acquires the power of hearing all sounds, whether upon the earth or in the ether, and whether far or near.

BY concentrating his mind upon the human body, in its relations to air and space, the ascetic is able to change, at will, the polarity of his body, and consequently acquires the power of freeing it from the control of the law of gravitation.

WHEN the ascetic has completely mastered all the influences which the body has upon the inner man, and has laid aside all concern in regard to it, and in no respect is affected by it, the consequence is a removal of all obscurations of the intellect.

THE ascetic acquires complete control over the elements by concentrating his mind upon the five classes of properties in the manifested universe; as, first, those of gross or phenomenal character; second, those of form; third, those of subtle quality; fourth, those susceptible of distinction as to light, action, and inertia; fifth, those having influence in their various degrees for the production of fruits through their effects upon the mind.

FROM the acquirement of such power over the elements there results to the ascetic various perfections, to wit, the power to project his innerself into the smallest atom, to expand his innerself to the size of the Iargest body, to render his material body light or heavy at will, to give indefinite extension to his astral body or its separate members, to exercise an irresistible will upon the minds of others, to obtain the highest excellence of the material body, and the ability to preserve such excellence when obtained.

THE ascetic acquires complete control over the organs of sense from having performed Sanyama (concentration) in regard to perception, the nature of the organs, egoism, the quality of the organs as being in action or at rest, and their power to produce merit or demerit from the connection of the mind with them.

THEREFROM spring up in the ascetic the powers; to move his body from one place to another with the quickness of thought, to extend the operations of his senses beyond the trammels of place or the obstructions of matter, and to alter any natural object from one form to another.

IN the ascetic who has acquired the accurate discriminative knowledge of the truth and of the nature of the soul, there arises a knowledge of all existences in their essential natures and a mastery over them.

IN the ascetic who acquires an indifference even to the last mentioned perfection, through having destroyed the Iast germs of desire, there comes a state of the soul that is called Isolation.

THE ascetic ought not to form association with celestial beings who may appear before him, nor exhibit wonderment at their appearance, since the result would be a renewal of afflictions of the mind.

THE knowledge that springs from this perfection of discriminative power is called "knowledge that saves from rebirth." It has aII things and the nature of all things for its objects, and perceives aII that hath been and that is, without limitations of time, place, or circumstances, as if all were in the present and the presence of the contemplator.

WHEN the mind no longer conceives itself to be the knower, or experiencer, and has become one with the soul the real knower and experiencer Isolation takes place and the soul is emancipated.

THE mind is not self-illuminative, because it is an instrument of the soul, is colored and modified by experiences and objects and is cognized by the soul.

THE mind, when united with the soul and fuIIy conversant with knowledge embraces universally all objects.

THE mind, though assuming various forms by reason of innumerable mental deposits, exists for the purpose of the soul's emancipation and operates in cooperation therewith.

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