What Is Yoga?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 44


Gurudeva stresses the importance of cultivating devotion to Siva incorporating the yamas and the niyamas, performing atmartha puja. Through meditation and devotion, step outside of ahamkara (ego). Sit without moving and breathe. You are awareness. You have the power to move into that state of consciousness where peace and bliss always exist.

Path to Siva, Lesson 44.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.

Yoga's Forgotten Foundation.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. This morning we're reading from Path to Siva, Lesson 44.

"What Is Yoga?

"Yoga, meaning 'union,' is Hinduism's system of yoking our individual consciousness with transcendent or divine consciousness. Yoga was described by Sage Patanjali in his 'Yoga Sutras' over 2,000 years ago as a system of meditation with eight limbs or stages. Hence it is known as ashtanga (eightfold) yoga. It is also known as raja yoga. Patanjali defined it as 'the restraint of mental activities.' Stages one and two are yama and niyama. These define the spiritual lifestyle we need for success in meditation. The third limb is asana, meaning 'seat' or 'posture,' learning to sit comfortably for long periods without moving. This is achieved through hatha yoga, the postures of which balance the energies of mind and body, promoting health and serenity. The fourth stage is pranayama, regulated breathing. This is the science of controlling prana (subtle energy, through breathing techniques. Stage five is pratyahara, withdrawing awareness from the senses, emotions and thought. Like a tortoise who withdraws its head and legs into its shell for protection, the yogi withdraws his awareness from the outside world and discovers the infinite world within. The sixth stage is dharana, concentration, focusing the mind on a single object or line of thought, not allowing it to wander. Stage seven is dhyana, true meditation. Gurudeva described it as 'a quiet, alert, powerfully concentrated state wherein new knowledge and insight pour into the field of consciousness.' A good meditation teaches us something new about ourselves or the world. The eighth and final stage is samadhi. This is the goal of yoga, a state in which the meditator and the object of meditation are one. Over time, specialized forms of yoga have been developed. For example, kriya yoga focuses on breath control, mantra and mudra; karma yoga transforms work into worship; bhakti yoga is union through devotion; and in some forms of hatha yoga, bodily perfection is the goal."

And we have Gurudeva's quote:

"If you just sit without moving, and breathe,...awareness is loosened from limited concepts and made free to move vibrantly and buoyantly into the inner depths where peace and bliss remain undisturbed for centuries."

I have two aspects of Gurudeva's approach which are unique to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. The first is his stress on the importance of the yamas and the niyamas. In other words, lots of teachers of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras talk about the yamas and niyamas but they don't write a few hundered pages about them. That's what Gurudeva did, that's in Living with Siva, we have that material. We also have it in a separate book so important, called "Yoga's Forgotten Foundation." It goes through each of the ten yamas and each of the ten niyamas in great detail to make sure we can understand it and after understanding it, of course, apply it to our life. Two step process. What is it? Then, How can i incorporate this better in my life, in my daily life? Very excellent material.

As part of that, he stresses the niyamas, religious observances and their relationship to cultivating devotion. This is right in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Patanjali talks about how we can achieve samadhi, which is the goal. He says: Well you can achieve it through consistent practice, or, devotion to Ishvara. Slips that in there. Ishvara is a shortcut. Don't have to wait as long for samadhi. So devotion to Ishvara is a way you can achieve the goal of yoga, samadhi. And most teachers don't develop that idea because, of course, if you develop that idea, devotion to whom? And then you have the question of religion. Devotion to whom? Try devotion to Ishvara. Who is Ishvara? Well to us of course Ishvara is Siva cause we're Saivites.

And in our listing of the niyamas, we have ten and the niyama that relates to that is Ishvara pujana. Which of course means performing our own puja. We don't stop at attending the puja in the temple as a way of cultivating devotion, we also learn to perform, meaning that family people learn to perform atmartha puja in the home shrine. So, I look at it that we attend the puja in the temple and that's a training, kind of an informal training as to how to perform puja in our own home. One naturally leads to the other. And the goal in both is the cultivation of devotion.

Why is devotion important? Well it has to do with something called the ego. It's very easy in our meditation to go in but we get stuck in the ego, ahamkara. We don't, we're not able to step outside of it. It's like a shell that's too hard to get out of so we need to soften it. So we can step out, back in. Ego is needed when you're dealing with people of the world. If you don't have an ego they'll trample right over you and that doesn't feel good afterwards. So, in some instances we need an ego to protect ourselves but not in meditation. We want to be able to step out of it temporarily and we do that because it's been falsened through devotion. Nice way of looking at it.

And then the second aspect that Gurudeva stresses has to do with the word 'move.' I see it in his quote here. Not the first move, the second move here. "...If you just sit without moving and breathe, awareness is loosened from limited concepts and made free to move (that's the move) ...and made free to move vibrantly and buoyantly into the inner depths where peace and bliss remain undisturbed for centuries." So we're talking about the idea of moving awareness from one state of consciousness to another. In this case, moving it in to a state of consciousness where bliss and peace always exist. It's a very interesting way of looking at it. Normally, we think we have to create peace and bliss, have to do something. Peace and bliss don't exist twenty-four hours, 24-7 is what we say. They're not there all the time, peace and bliss, cause I don't experience them all the time. Therefore, they're not there all the time. Gurudeva's saying: No, they're there all the time. It's like you're in one room of the house and peace and bliss are in the other room of the house and you have to go down the hallway and into the other room. But they're always there. Isn't that a beautiful idea? So all we have to do is sit without moving and breathe and that loosens awareness enough that we can move into this other room where peace and bliss always exist.

When I did my study of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find how many times Patanjali makes that same point. I hadn't remembered shall we say that he did that. But once we see Gurudeva's idea, we have awareness and we have consciousness and awareness can move through various states of consciousness. Then when you look at Patanjali and if you use the word awareness in the translation you say: "Oh, Patanjali's saying the same thing." So I'll just read the first four verses.

"Now the exposition of yoga."

And then the classic one that everyone quotes.

"Yoga is the restraint of mental activities. Then awareness abides in its essential form. (Peace and bliss.) At other times awareness takes on the form of the mental activities. (Awareness identifies with consciousness.)

So, all of you have heard this before but it's good for the viewing audience so mention it again. Hold up the piece of paper and I say: "I see the paper." Makes sense, right? Everybody says: "I agree, yes, I see the paper too." If I say: "I am the paper." Say: "Wait a minute. I don't think that I am the paper. Paper's over there, I'm over here." So we're taught that what we perceive outside of us, is not us. That's just a common perspective. I see the paper, I am not the paper. But when it comes to what's going on inside of us we're not taught that. We say: "I am happy." That's just like saying: "I am the paper. I am happy." But the 'I' isn't happy. Happiness is the state of consciousness in which the 'I' is dwelling. 'I' being awareness. So we haven't been taught a consistent way of looking. We look at the external; we're not what we see. But we look at the internal and we think we are what we see.

So instead of saying I am happy and I am sad, what we should be saying, in Gurudeva's terminology is: "I as awareness am in the state of consciousness of happiness" or "I as awareness am in the state of consciousness of sadness." Can't say my awareness cause you are the awareness. That's you. So you have to say I, as awareness. I as awareness am in this state of consciousness or that state of consciousness. And the beauty of what Gurudeva said is the word 'move,' right? Move! If we don't like the state of consciousness we're in what can we do? We can move. How do we move? Through sitting quietly and breathing. Very simple.

So, we can imagine a big house with all these different rooms and each room is a different state of consciousness. So if we find ourselves in a state of consciousness in a room that we don't want to remain in the rest of the day, we have the ability to move. That's what Gurudeva's teaching us. We don't have to let life bounce us around like we're on a billiard table. You know, we're one of the balls and boom. We went over here. As somebody did something outside of us. And then somebody else does something and we end up going over there. Sometimes people live that way. You know, first something at home happens and upsets us. Then we go out in the world. Something in the world happens and upsets us and we're just being bounced around by external events, ending up in different states of consciousness. Gurudeva's saying: Well, you don't have to do that. You have the power to move awareness at any time into another state of consciousness, into another room in the house. If you just sit down, don't move for a while, then leave. You can move your awareness to where you want it to be.

Thank you very much. Have a wonderful day.

Photo of  Gurudeva
The conquest of karma lies in intelligent action and dispassionate reaction.
—Gurudeva