Yoga and Meditation

Meditation on Water by MarioI’ve described how important transcending was for awakening here. But let’s explore a bigger context.

The Yoga Sutra describes 8 “limbs” or approaches to gain Yoga or union and discover our true nature.

The first two limbs are the Yama and Niyama, approaches to daily life like non-violence, spiritual study, and honesty.

The next five are practiced together to create Raja or Royal Yoga, a path that combines aspects of the other yogas or paths. The result of these 5 is the last limb, Samadhi, when we step into Yoga. Because some of these are done sequentially, the limbs are often described as a ladder. But this has led to the impression that you have to perfect truthfulness, etc. before you can proceed to the rest. However, as limbs, they are like legs of a table. You pull one and the others follow.

1) Asana: effortless postures done to help relax the body and loosen it up physically and energetically. Often not as taught in yoga studios. With an exercise approach, there is often strain to perform or excess.

2) Pranayama: breathing exercises. Common is Sukh pranayama or gentle alternate nostril breathing to balance the 2 sides of the physiology. Again, effortless.

Together these 2 are an excellent preparation for meditation.

The Sutra then lists 3 more steps:

3) Pratyahara: retirement of the senses. Effortless pranayama begins this process. Then with the first step of meditation, we close the eyes and turn within. As the inner is more charming, it draws our attention further away from the world. Not long after learning to meditate effortlessly, pratyahara happens automatically when we sit and close the eyes.

4) Dharana: steadiness of the mind. The second step of meditation when the attention stabilizes on the object of meditation like a mantra. The mind steadies and comes to a point of focus effortlessly when transcending.

Dharana is often translated as concentration but any effort is ego control and will keep you in the mind. It also makes it difficult and diminishes results, reducing our desire to practice.

5) Dhyana: meditation, flowing attention. The third step and the result of correct meditation practice. The attention flows within. Then purification brings the attention back out. Then the attention flows within again.

Note that in an effortless practice, these “steps” are NOT the technique. The steps are an analysis of what happens naturally with right practice. The technique itself is traditionally taught directly by a teacher so the experience is guided and the practice is correct. A single, simple technique covers all three steps.

The result of correct meditation is transcending or samadhi, the 8th and last limb. Samadhi cultures Yoga or Union. Yoga prepares the ground for Kaivalya, what Yoga calls Self Realization.

This is why I recommend effortless asana, pranayama and meditation. This is the royal road to Yoga.

Samyama
As a bonus, yoga mentions another combination called Samyama. Samyama means “evenness of desire” and is composed of 3 parts: Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

Essentially, when your meditation practice is established, you’ve been transcending into samadhi many times. On that basis, you can rest in samadhi (silence) while having thoughts. You can then introduce a seed idea (from Dharana) into the flow of awareness (Dhyana). The Yoga Sutra then describes various formulas or siddhis you can use as seeds to get a certain result.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought out a program in the 1970s to use the siddhis to help open up the various energy channels or nadi’s in the physiology to speed up evolution. They then discovered that the effects on group consciousness of people practicing the siddhis in groups was much greater than the effect of people meditating in the community.

They describe this in some detail in the Yoga Vasishtha, although not in the translation I’d previously read. In the story of Cudala, she becomes enlightened but her husband doesn’t believe her, thinking her description was deluded. Eventually, she learns to fly to prove herself. In the meantime, Vasishtha describes how to create an enlightened society with 5% meditating, then with a much smaller number doing the siddhis in groups.

I’ve since observed an even more potent effect. When groups of people in Unity stage and higher gather, it creates an even more vibrant group coherence. And further, Lorn Hoff has been training the awake how to enliven Divine Shaktis. Because the Shaktis are the power behind laws of nature, they’re even more potent than the siddhis. This is helping accelerate the decent of the Divine.

We live in remarkable times. Ancient understanding and deep power is being progressively revived, accelerating the transition to a higher age.
Davidya

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14 Comments

    1. Yes, the hatha yoga and related exercises we see today came much later.
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      There are quite a few interpretations of the ashtanga or 8 limbs. As a preparation for meditation, I can see why meditation posture was emphasized. However, I’ve found sitting comfortably is all that’s needed. Anything else can introduce control, enlivening the ego.
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      The Yoga Sutra v2:46+ says:
      Asana is steady pleasantness.
      Through relaxation of effort or absorption in the infinite posture is perfected.
      From that comes freedom from (non-disturbance by) the pairs of opposites. (hot and cold, etc)
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      Similarly, the perfection of pranayama is in the suspension of breath in samadhi and the uncovering of the inner light.
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      And then the mind is fit for steadiness, Dharana.
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      In other words, these are not descriptions of the technique. They’re descriptions of the perfection of the practice. As are the siddhis and much of the other content.

  1. Aaron

    Great article Davidya!

    I can attest to the incredible power of the enlivening of the Divine Shaktis. Very amazing things happening.

    Where can I find out more about the techniques of effortless asanas? I have been to Hatha Yoga classes that occasionally induce a supreme silence within, even though these classes were what felt like an intense workout.

    1. Hi Aaron
      I can send you the pdf. They used to offer them sometimes on retreats.
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      Right – so often, asana has become an exercise program. Good for you, but not the original intention.
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      If they’re done effortlessly they can be bliss producing as they create steady pleasantness. 🙂

  2. David,
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    I agree with all but one of your steps to union. If siddhis are understood as paranormal, supernatural, or otherwise magical powers then they are distractions, rather than enhancements.
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    Most of the hundreds of mystics who I have read, and the few whom I have met, considers siddhis to be either nonsense or, at the very least, overstated.
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    “Autobiography of a Yogi,” by A.C. Pramahansa Yogananda, have too many mentions of them.

    1. Hi Ron
      Yes, the siddhis are widely seen as magical and paranormal largely because of the age we’ve been in. Their success became quite rare. And some examples were created by more dubious arts. Also, a renunciate emphasis has dismissed them as distractions. And it is true that abilities of any kind can go to an ego’s head.
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      However, times have changed. Siddhis are arising naturally for many people. Those that require physical mastery are still rare because of the time it takes to clear the denser layers.
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      But there are ample historical records of people naturally performing them. Joseph of Cupertino, for example, was witnessed by hundreds flying many times, typically in ecstasy.
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      Another example, Milarepa, I wrote about here, including about the “dubious arts”.
      https://davidya.ca/2015/11/16/chasing-demons/
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      Of course, many of these stories are now dismissed as myths as few today have witnessed anything like it. It doesn’t make any sense from a materialist perspective.
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      But if we look to the texts themselves, the Yoga Sutra says: “Through mastery of samyama, the splendor of complete wakefulness dawns.” Is wakefulness paranormal? To me, it’s our true normal.
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      And I spoke of how Vasishtha gave Rama advice on creating an enlightened society by using groups of people practicing yogic flying. A distraction? There has been numerous studies done since the ’80’s on groups of yogic flyers going into a conflict zone with the correct number for that area and calming tensions while they were there. They did a demonstration project in Washington DC one summer, predicting in advance the crime rate would drop 25%, etc. The police chief said that would take a snow storm in July. But they exceeded the predictions.
      .
      Still, it’s outside most peoples paradigms for how the world works. And it’s been common understanding that the Siddhis are to be avoided. But it’s also been common understanding that you have to sit rigidly and concentrate on the mantra, avoid worldly entanglements, that the limbs were a ladder, and on and on. This is the nature of a dark age, shadow causing loss of understanding. And then teachers pass it on for generations.
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      It’s also why I write the blog. To try and correct some of these misunderstandings so that “complete wakefulness” becomes a real possibility for us.
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      Maharishi’s group isn’t the only one teaching the siddhis now. This understanding is spreading.

    1. Hi Michael
      Thanks. Tools like the siddhis enliven specific laws of nature. The shaktis are the power behind those laws of nature. Kind of like the saying that Shiva sleeps without Shakti.
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      We’d describe them more as fundamental qualities that have oomph.
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      To enliven them, you have to have ongoing awareness of where consciousness first starts becoming as this is the field they operate in.

  3. ‘Turiya’ is beyond waking, dreaming and deep sleep. It is direct awareness of divine oneness in absolute consciousness, constantly actuated during this life. That fourth is what I consider to be “complete wakefulness.” Few people have ever had it, although Ramana Maharshi and Ramakrishna were among the exceptions.

    1. Hi Ron
      Sorry, but another misunderstanding. Turiya is a term from the Upanishad meaning the 4th, in the context of waking, dreaming, and sleeping. It is a temporary and passing state of being deeply rested but alert that has its own unique physiology. The Yoga term is samadhi.
      .
      Turiyatita means “beyond the fourth” and refers to awakening or Self Realization, when Turiya becomes established as ongoing, underlying the other 3 states. However, someone awake still steps into Turiya or samadhi in a meditation. Now the outer falls away rather than a “going within”.
      .
      Another issue is the assumption there is a single awakening and the various descriptions all point to the same thing. This is a mistake. Turiyatita is indeed becoming established in infinite consciousness but it is a dwaita or dualistic state of inner infinity distinct from the outer world. This is neither oneness nor Divine.
      .
      It does however become a platform for those to unfold on. I discuss these points in numerous articles here, at the SAND conference, and in the book.
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      “Complete wakefulness” means everything in your body is awake, not just consciousness. That means all the cells, all the laws of nature, everything. If anyone on earth was living this, we’d already be in a golden age.
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      However, there are thousands of people who are in Turityatita now. Some of them have moved into Unity and oneness. And somewhat fewer have begun to embody Divinity in the last few years.
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      People like Ramana have been a remarkable presence but were constrained by the collective. The collective has to awaken more before those laws of nature can even wake from slumber, let alone awaken.
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      We have been massively underestimating our potential.
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      (It’s worth noting the Yoga Sutra were written in Treta Yuga, the silver age. All of it was much more common than it has been in recent millennia.

      1. scott

        I think it is possible to hanker after, or fixate upon sidhhis ( once attained); but I wouldn’t call attainments that naturally arise along the path of spiritual cultivation as distractions 🙂

        1. Hi Scott
          Yes, it’s somewhat akin to the modern habit of chasing experiences, thinking thats spiritual in some way.
          .
          But it depends some on when they show up, even naturally. The latter reduces the entanglements but someone with an identified ego can get caught up in them, at least for a time.

      2. My two mentors were Swami Nikhilananda in New York in 1960 and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in Delhi in 1962. This is what they said about turiya.
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        Mandukya Upanishad Verse 7
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        Swami Nikhilananda
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        Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable, and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self [in the three states], It is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss, and non-dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Ātman, and this has to be realized.
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        Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
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        (Turīya is) not that which cognises the internal (objects), not that which cognises the external (objects), not what cognises both of them, not a mass of cognition, not cognitive, not non-cognitive. (It is) unseen, incapable of being spoken of, ungraspable, without any distinctive marks, unthinkable, unnameable, the essence of the knowledge of the one self, that into which the world is resolved, the peaceful, the benign, the non-dual, such, they think, is the fourth quarter. He is the self; He is to be known.
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        Mandukya Upanishad Verse 9
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        Swami Nikhilananda
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        The Fourth (Turiya) is without parts and without relationship; It is the cessation of phenomena; It is all good and non-dual. This AUM is verily Ātman. He who knows this merges his self in Ātman — yea, he who knows this.
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        Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
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        The fourth is that which has no elements, which cannot be spoken of, into which the world is resolved, benign, non-dual. Thus the syllable aum is the very self. He who knows it thus enters the self with his self.

        1. Hi Ron
          Why is called the fourth? As the Mandukya explains, the first three are waking, dreaming and sleeping. And yes, it takes you beyond the constraints of the first 3. But it is still a state that comes and goes. It’s not until Self Realization that the Self becomes established. Even after Self Realization, the 4 states continue to be experienced, including turiya in meditation.
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          And yes, pure consciousness is without content. It is simply alert.
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          “This is Ātman, and this has to be realized.” Exactly. Turiya by itself is not the realization. It’s still on the level of experience. We have to realize this pure consciousness within is Atman. That is Self Realization, when the awake Self within wakes up to itself. And that is Turiyatita, beyond the 4th. Atman is then constant, not coming and going like the 4th state.
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          The second verse is verse 12. And ditto there. It becomes known as the Self. But it is not Self Realization until Self knows it as itself, when he “merges his self in Ātman”
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          Later, there is a further discrimination and the field of primordial vibration (Aum) is recognized as an expression of Atman. Atman itself is pure, without phenomena (as quoted).
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          And further, the Self is recognized to be underlying all forms and phenomena, setting the stage for Unity. But this Upanishad doesn’t cover that.

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