Importance of the Practice of Yoga

Mind is the main obstacle in the unfoldment of spiritual consciousness. It is the mind that acts as the greatest barrier in its various aspects, as craving, Vikshepa or unsteadiness, etc. If the mind is absolutely steady, the light of the Atman gets itself fully reflected. Ahamkara (ego), the self-arrogating little personality never allows us to realise our essential nature. The process of remembrance (Smriti) is also a great obstacle. Avichara-Buddhi along with the above various aspects of the mind taken together, is a great slayer of the Atman.

The Atmic consciousness is not allowed to manifest itself. There is an irresistible tendency for thought to become translated into action and every action becomes a habit in the nature of man, and when habits are constantly indulged in they become part and parcel of his nature.

All behaviour of man is based upon character. Every action becomes fruitful seed for reaction later on. As he lives, he builds up the whole superstructure of action which becomes his destiny. So, we find how the thought of man governs his destiny and also the importance of selected thought, right thinking and the avoidance of wrong thinking.

In the science of Yoga, the ultimate technique is aimed at the stoppage of all functions that are the root activities of the mind. But already we are in the grip of its wide ramifications in the form of likes, dislikes, imaginations, fancies and thoughts. Therefore, before we proceed to the root, we have to destroy these ramifications.

Suppose you want to give battle to a lion. First of all you have to travel in the jungle and ultimately come to its den. Chittavritti is the den of the lion of the mind and you have first to cut all its manifestations in the form of jealousy, hatred, etc., and the whole host of wrong actions, which are caused by wrong thoughts, have to be corrected. It is a process of narrowing down the range of our attack until we come to the target.

So in order to cut the mental functions in its extrovert far-flung manifestations, sage Patanjali took

up the exposition of Yoga and did it in a very scientific and methodical way. Apart from man’s nature as a rational being with a gross lower self pulling him downwards, there is his essential spiritual nature, and in between we have the Buddhiyukta Manushya, one who is capable of thinking being endowed with a mind.

So in the centre is the being endowed with thinking capacity as distinguished from the world of subhuman species which cannot think. Apart from the result of the study of man in his essential nature, sage Patanjali made a study of man as he is actually composed and he arrived at the above conclusion. He made the study of the universal man, not a Hindu or a Mohammedan, but the man constituted as he is all over when he is created upon earth and will continue to be till the last day of his existence.

He found out that first and foremost, he is of the nature of pure Existence essentially. Man is the Spirit essentially. He is a spiritual entity, and this is evident to everyone who thinks. The ultimate principle in man is his Being. No one can imagine his own non-being, for if you have to imagine your own nonbeing, there must be an imaginer to imagine that, and therefore, the imaginer is the ultimate Being. The ultimate undying principle of man is Being. He IS. I exist. I am pure Existence, pure Being, Kevala Sat, and this essential portion of man is the fundamental part of his personality. Sage Patanjali then found that this fundamental fact is somewhere inside, whereas the first thing that appears to man when he sees another man is his physical being. Our experience of human being is only a certain shape, appearance and features.

So sage Patanjali said, there is the physical, gross sheath of man. That is one aspect of man and within

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this there is the thinking man. There is the mental aspect of being, the mental sheath. Ideation occurs, thoughts come, and the being begins to think and out of the thought the body is made to act in order to give expression to the thought. The entire life of man is an expression of his thoughts, and these expressions are in the form of various actions, and so there is the thinking man.

He said that in between these there is a link. Between the thinking man and the acting man there is the

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power to act. There is a peculiar invisible, internal electricity, as it were, which makes a man act. This power which animates the human being, without which all the senses will be absolutely incapable of any activity, is Prana Sakti. The eye sees through the power of Prana. The ear hears through the power of Prana. The tongue speaks’ through the power of Prana.

At the time of death when the Prana is withdrawn, the process of departure commences. Death means the flying away of the Prana from the body. So actually we are all moving and talking corpses only. When the Prana goes away, we will become absolutely immobile, because the Prana is moving the body, is acting, eating, enjoying, etc. All this is due to Prana Sakti. This is the third aspect of man and behind it as the mover of all is the pure Self, ‘I am’.

But a peculiar confusion has occurred. You have got yourself identified with the mind, and you have thought yourself to be part and parcel Of the mind, though in rare moments unconsciously you assert your unattached, witness- nature. When you say, ‘My mind is restless’, you unconsciously admit that you are one and the mind is something which you possess. So you are different from the mind when you make such statements as: ‘My mind is restless’, ‘I cannot control my mind’, etc. These are the spontaneous expressions of your real nature.

So physical body sheath, vital Pranic sheath and mental sheath,—these three aspects of the being are temporary, passing, superficial and the non-essential aspects of the being, and the essential aspect is Being itself. You are yourself the pure Existence, unborn, eternal and ancient—Ajo Nityah Sasvatoyam Puranah. Long before the mind manifested itself you were.

Yoga is the only way to realise one’s real nature. The study of man as he is in reality, as a centre of pure Being covered up by mindsheath, Pranic sheath and the grossest physical body sheath is the process called the practice of Yoga.

Compiled from the teachings of Worshipful Gurudev Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj.