Monday, 3 October 2016

Hatha Yoga and Raja YogaThese 2 yoga systems are related. To understand both, one needs to understand the subtle energy called “Kundalini” which falls under the category of Tantra, an ancient Indian concept based on the intertwining of Siva with Shakti. Generally, since Siva is the static element, the practice centers around Shakti, the mobile and creative principal and this practice is called “Srividya”. The practice of Srividya revolves around the awakening of the Kundalini from its position in the mooladhara and guiding it to its union with Siva at the sahasrara. Both yoga systems have much in common but both use different approaches to moksha or Samadhi. Both systems use asana, pranayama and dhyana as tools to reach Samadhi. But, the preparatory system is very different.
The difference between Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga are given below;
Hatha Yoga
Raja Yoga
External system of preparation, also called kaula marga (noble path)
Internal system of preparation, also called samaya marga (time path)
Coerces kundalini from mooladhara to sahasrara
Coaxes kundalini from mooladhara to sahasrara
Kaula marga considers Siva static, worships Shakti, the creative energy.
Samaya marga advocates the sameness of Siva and Shakti.
Individual’s preparation consists of shatkriya, mudra, yantra, beej-mantra.
Individual’s preparation consists of yama and niyama
Based on 64 tantras
Based on 8 steps or ashtanga
At an extreme level, this also includes practices such as kapalika, ksapanaka and other tantric practices.
There is no extreme level in Raja Yoga
Hatha Yoga – (Hatha = coercing + yoga). Hence Hatha Yoga is a form of yoga practice where the Kundalini is coerced to move from the mooladhara to the sahasrara.
This is a metaphysical system of achieving salvation. The major difference between this system and other systems of Yoga is that, while in the other systems the identity is slowly funneled into isolation; in Hatha Yoga, the body, mind, endocrine/ circulatory and nervous systems are toned and honed, after which the kundalini energy is forced through the central channel or sushmnanadi across various subtle vortices to the sahasrara. There is no western equivalent or logic which can explain the functioning of this form of Yoga.
Some of the important cleaning tools in Hatha Yoga are:
Shatkriya: or Shatkarma (shat = 6 + kriya = actions) are 6 cleaning actions which are meant to purify the body. They are neti, dhauti, nauli, trataka and kapalabhati. To understand why these 6 exercises are considered important hatha yoga cleansing exercises, one should understand the vayus. Vayus are forces or energies which control certain bodily functions. The table below shows the correlation between the vayus and the Shatkriya
Spinal area

Ingestion and life
Excretion & sexuality

Mudra: Mudra’s control the flow of prana. It’s important to recognize that prana, like any flow, operates in a circuit. When it reaches the ends of the body, it has to either flow out or back into the body. When it flows out, it is lost, when it is directed into the body, it acts like a capacitor, increasing prana levels in the system. The hands and legs are partitioned to affect certain parts of the body. So, when certain parts are touched, the prana flow is drained, redirected or congested, like any electrical system.
The major locations from where prana can be redirected are hands, feet, tongue and tip of the nose. The hands have many types of mudras to redirect prana, depending on where the phalanges meet or are joined. The legs are used in asana position to redirect the flow of prana. For the tongue, kechari mudra is used, and for the nose, nasikagra mudra or nasikagra drishti, which means gazing at the tip of the nose is used. Another worthwhile mudra for the nose is the positioning of the fingers in nadi-shuddhi pranayama, where the the flow of prana is facilitated by the mudra.
Yantra: The use of Yantra is more difficult to explain. Yantra are diagrams which have specific meanings for delivery of certain results.
Mantra: Mantras are very relevant to development in Hatha Yoga. Mantras are used to isolate the visual and kinesthetic elements of consciousness by use of repetitive audio stimuli.
There are a series of syllables and sounds which activate certain chakras. These are called beejakshara mantras and are learned under a Guru.
Raja Yogatranslates to Yoga for a King, more because it is a more practical way to reach salvation and can be integrated into normal living. Raja Yoga consists of 2 parts – Kriya Yoga or Action Yoga and Samayama Yoga or Salvation Yoga. The first part or Kriya Yoga is primarily focused on integrating one’s personality with action, bring physical fitness and with it increased awareness after which the identity is slowly isolated from the environment through progressive denial of stimulus of any kind. I am maintaining a blog on the Kriya aspect of Raja Yoga and more details can be read at the link given herein -
What you should know after reading this blog;
Ø  What is Hatha Yoga? What is Raja Yoga?
Ø  What is kundalini? What is prana?
Ø  What is common and what are the differences between Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga?

Ø  What are shatkriya, mudra, yantra and mantra?

Friday, 23 September 2016

Karma Yoga:
To understand karma, one needs to understand rinn (debt).
All action is a manifestation or one’s identity. When we act, we anxiously await the result of our action because, without feedback our action would have no value. When the action is acknowledged, we experience an enormous feeling of achievement, action or ownership, all manifestations of our sense of identity or of our values and conditioning. Should we have to separate the action from these feeling of outcome, there can be tremendous loss in motivation or ability to act (karma).
Characteristics of the bond (bandana);
Existential bond: The first acknowledgement of our actions results in the validation of our existence in the situation. Our immediate goal thereafter is to ensure that this validation continues and to ensure this, we immediately build a bond with the entity which acknowledges our manifestation and try to maintain the bond to ensure that our actions are readily acknowledged.
Transactional bond: Once our presence in the situation is validated, we begin to transact in the situation and the bond thus generated is a transactional bond which occurs when we act.
Transactional bond can be of 2 types;
Sambandana (equal bond) in Sanskrit (sama = equal + bandana = bond). Equal bonds exist when give and take occur in equal measure. This generally occurs in a marriage, where give and take is a continuous process. This is why marriage in India is called Sambandh and in-laws are called Sambandi or Samdi.
Rnanubandana or bond of debt in Sanskrit (rnanu= that of debt + bandana = bond). All bonds other than sambandana fall into this category. Rinn or rn or rna occurs when one give or takes more from the other, which occurs in almost all cases. The debt created has to be liquidated and if it is not completed in this life, it will spill over to the next. This is the basis for logic of rebirth.
The dissolution of debt involves 2 terms which need to be understood;
Since all the karma accumulated is often not liquidated in a single transaction, the balance debt is accumulated and this is called sanchita karma (accumulated karma in Sanskrit)
The debt coming up for liquidation is called prarabda karma or undertaken karma in Sanskrit.
When we find in ourselves able to act without attachment to the outcome or when we are able to isolate our action from our sense of identity, then the residue is often called duty, philanthropy, altruism etc. All mean the same thing – liberation or moksha. This is Karma yoga.
What you should know after reading this blog;
Ø  What is Karma Yoga?
Ø  What are the elements of Karma yoga and how do they impact yoga?
Ø  How is Karma Yoga implemented?
Ø  How is Karma Yoga used in daily life?
Ø  What are the different types of bonds?

Ø  What is rinn or debt?

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Bhakti yoga – is the technique of transferring the sense of identity from the self to an external object. The transference can be to a personal deity (ishtadeiva) or a Guru/ master/ teacher or even a concept such as any religion, communism etc. Over time, the individual’s sense of identity gets subsumed by the identity of the deity which is worshipped. As the aspirant progresses, there is conscious and unconscious suppression and isolation of personal behavior, value system leading to breakdown of one’s conditioning (svadharma) into the identity of the deity. This process leads to exposure of one’s own identity and liberation.
The Bhagavata Purana (chapter 7.5.23-24) propounds nine primary tools: of bhakti, as explained by Prahlada:
\ Sravana (listening to achievements of the deity) – here the deity’s life is analysed as a role model, an ideal way of living. One then tries to emulate these qualities in one’s own life. A classic is a sticker on the back of many cars which reads.. “what would Jesus do”, exhorting Christians to live as Jesus might in a similar situation.
\ Kirtana (praising the achievements of the deity) – here, one subordinates ones achievements to that of the deity. Many forms of prayer use this method, examples being bhajans in Hinduism, hyms and psalms in Christianty or quawwali in Islam.
\ Smarana (retaining an image of the deity at all time) – this element has 2 parts; retention of the deity in and external form and another within the memory as an image. The objective is to ensure “top of mind recall” at all times so that the sense of personal identity is subsumed over time.
In society, this is used extensively – nations use flags, companies use brands and logos; only here the transference of identity is nominal, to the extent of building and retaining a bond for a specific purpose.
\ Pada-sevana (padafeet + sevana = service) – pada sevana can mean washing the feet, which requires that one subsumes the sense of identity to another. It can also mean service at the feet of the other, which can be interpreted as service as expected by the deity or guru/ master, essentially subsuming one’s personality to serve the deity.
In society, this can mean any service rendered to a cause which is not intended to increase one’s sense of identity; this will include all religions, communism, nations, cults and causes.
\ Srchana (worshipping the deity with hyperbole) – Almost all prayers, no matter which religion, deal in hyperbole. This gives the deity an unassailable position, lending credence to the worshippers surrender.
Leaders and dictators around the world often use this technique to become larger than life – Hitler was called fuehrer, Mao Zedong was actively quoted through his little red book, the Kim family of North Korea etc.
\ Vandana (worshipping the deity) – Whilst Srachana is worshipping with hyperbole, vandana is deep integration of the deity with the self with the intent of integrating the personal identity with the deity. All prayers of all religions have this as the intent, the ultimate dissolution of the personal sense of identity into that of the deity.
\ Dasya (servitude) – Dasya comes from the root “dasa” or servant. The yogi serves the deity as a master and dedicates all his actions and outcomes to the deity, thus negating the sense of personal achievement, opinion and identity.
This is an intrinsic part of the Gurukula form of teaching in Oriental societies. Here, the yogi or student stays with the teacher and slowly imbibes non-verbal teaching through service. There is a famous story in the 1950’s regarding the 2 famous Quality Guru’s Deming and Juran when they were invited to Japan for training the Japanese on Quality. Many of the delegates were found trying to mimic Deming and Juran in their walk, talk and eating styles. Their intent was to imbibe the character of these masters in it’s fullest.
\ Sakhya (retaining a base of friendship) – Maintaining momentum in such an endeavour is always difficult, especially as the personal identity will not get subordined so easily. Company of likeminded individuals helps in feeding off enthusiasm between the group and maintaining momentum.
\ Atma – nivedana (atma=soul + nivedana = state of no schism) or state where there is no difference between the yogi and the deity. Initially, the aspirant always views the deity as different, but when the practice of the above techniques reaches an advanced stage, the aspirant sees no difference between himself and the deity.
All major religions subscibe to mysticism and mystic experiences, where the practitioner sees no difference between the self and the deity.
A classical example in India is Meerabai who was a mystic devotee of Lord Krishna.
Sufism, a branch of Islam is very similar to Bhakti Yoga, prescribing – Dhikr or remembering God, Sema which is a form of devotional music and dance like a combination of srachana and smarana, muraqaba or meditation which is akin to vandana with the aim of experiencing ecstatic states (hal), purification of the heart (qalb), overcoming the lower self (nafs), extinction of the individual personality (fana), communion with God (haqiqa), and higher knowledge (mrifat).
Other religions, such as Buddhism, Christanity, Sikhism and Judaism also proscribe to mystic, with techniques similar to Bhakti Yoga.
It is important to remember that the direction of Bhakti can be to a deity or a person. In the case of a person, when the influence of the master overwhelms the aspirant, it can result in the formation of a cult or a society dominated by an individual.
What you should know after reading this blog;
Ø  What is Bhakti Yoga?
Ø  What are the elements of Bhakti yoga and how do they impact yoga?
Ø  How is Bhakti Yoga implemented?
Ø  How is Bhakti Yoga used in daily life?

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Negation of stimulus is not easy because;
All stimuli force change, even miniscule. All change impact our sense of identity and induce anxiety and fear. Sometimes, the stimulus has a positive impact, but since that is not known when the stimulus occurs, there is always anxiety.
Stimuli can be active (such as an oncoming bus) or passive (such as a stationary car or umbrella) or subconscious (such as the sky, building or grass). Negation of active stimuli is as difficult as in the case of an oncoming bus, you have to react. Passive stimuli are slightly easier as the consequences of negation are generally less difficult to manage, like a stationary car may be the boss’s car where existential threat is muted. How do you negate the sky? How do you say, it does not exist? Or that the existence is an illusion. It will not be easy initially, but if one were to try and make the stimuli go from wherever it is in the awareness scale to irrelevant, the ability to negate increases.
Stimuli can also be graded by levels of distance from the identity, this being defined by the relationships we have;
l  A primary bond is one we have with our parents, children or spouses.
l  A secondary bond would include close friends, relatives etc.
l  A tertiary bond would include other one-on-one relationships.
l  A formal bond is one which is forged at work or when we work in any team.
l  A societal bond would be once which would impact our existence in society such as elections, world issues such as environment, national issues etc.
Obviously, each bond would assume importance in different situations. However, as the importance of a particular bond reduces, so will the attachment. Here, 2 clarifications need to be issued;
\ Negation of activity does not mean stoppage of activity. It means reduction of impact on our identity. As negation of stimuli progresses, it is possible that there is a lowering of the importance of the object of the bond which could lower the quality of transaction. For example, when working in a team, it is possible that when negating a stimulus, the person negates the activity. This is not the intent of the concept. The trick is in remaining engaged in the activity, yet completely conscious that it is illusory, maya or farce.
\ As one grows older, the importance of any bond changes. Achieving career objectives changes to maintaining quality of career as one grows older. Quality of transactions in becoming a Vice President often change after one becomes a Vice President. However, the images of achievements and situations leave residues which are not experience but remain imprinted in the memory. Purging this memory is very important for negation of stimulus because baggage is a source of inertia, demanding attention but contributing very little to the situation.
Start each day as a fresh day with no baggage (it’s very difficult. After 20 years of trying, I still can’t do it) – yesterday is dead and gone, tomorrow is out of sight. Present can mean 2 things – NOW and GIFT. Use the “now” as a “gift” and negate all images of the past or future.
\ The final goal is negation of existence of one’s own identity (Siva). As one begins the negation process from outside to inside – first, society is made irrelevant, as this occurs, events lose significance. Next, there is negation of those not in active touch or of stimuli which add no direct value, this includes exit from social media, TV, and over time – news. Finally, there is negation of ambition, imagination and expectation.
Summary of suggestions – The steps mentioned below need to be experienced, not just intellectually or emotionally but as a part of one’s identity.
ü  Learn to discriminate stimuli, isolate and negate what which is temporary or impermanent.
ü  Choose your battles, avoid the compulsion to react unless required.
ü  Accept change and its myriad uncertainties.
ü  Manage fear and anxiety by exercise, breathing and rationalizing.
ü  Negate conditioning or dharma – slowly, work towards a position where no situation is considered permanent without evidence – for example sensitive subjects such asmarriage, birth, death or even God. In such matters, while there is no evidence that one position is valid, there is also no evidence that a counter position is valid. This means accepting that a situation of ambivalence exists even though ones conditioning or dharma might dictate otherwise.
ü  Stop seeking solutions, accept whatever comes your way and work without attachment. Keep discarding baggage, attitudes and judgements.
ü  Finally, negate your own existence. This is incredibly difficult and might not occur while primary bonds exist.
ü  Be prepared for many and recurring experiences of a sense of loss, detachment and a lack of fit with the environment, called virakti.
What you should know after reading this blog;
Ø  What is Jnana Yoga?
Ø  What are the fundamentals of Jnana Yoga?
Ø  How does on integrate Jnana Yoga into daily life?
Ø  How does one cope with the stress of negation?

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