There are a few concepts in Raja Yoga that are necessary to understand in order to get the most out of Raja Yoga Meditation.
[ The Self-The Soul | God | The Human Tree | The Story of the Rise and Fall of Human Souls ]
1. The Self - The SoulWith the advent of technological developments and science man has been able to acquire answers to millions of questions. But still there are various questions, the answers to which are yet not available. There are questions like Who am I? What am I? , What is my real identity? How to make my mind powerful? Why do we come under emotions, feelings, tension and stress? And many more.
In order to attain the answers to all these questions, it becomes very important to get a complete understanding of the self that has remained a mystery that has eluded scientists, philosophers, great thinkers and many other intellectuals.
Soul and Body
The human body is a complex pattern of physical energies. Atomic particles build together to form organic structures and inorganic minerals, which perform the body`s chemical interactions, thus forming the basis of the hormonal and nervous control of the body.
What we see as the old or young, ugly or beautiful, male or female, are also the differing levels of physical energies. However marvelous a machine the body may be, it is the presence of the non-physical conscious energy, the soul, which makes it function. The soul, like the driver of a car, drives the body and enables it to perform various functions. Just as without a driver the car is a waste body of metal, the body without the soul is a waste of flesh.
What Am I?
I am a living entity different from the body! Just as a person who speaks with the help of a telephone or listens to a call with the help of that instrument, has his entity different from that of the telephone - he himself being a living person who has the faculties or characteristics of feeling, thinking, willing and making effort. Similarly, the conscious entity in the body that uses the word "I" is different from the body, which has eyes, ears, nose etc. I am not the eyes, the ears or the mouth but I see with my eyes, speak through the mouth, hear with the ears and am their master.
I am a soul (Atma), eternal and immortal. The body is mortal; I use the body to do actions and to experience the result of my actions. I am the doer and the one who experiences.
The soul is like a driver in-charge of the body, which serves as a carriage to the soul. When the soul leaves the body, the body is declared `dead`. Then people set about cremating it because, there no longer exists its valuable owner, the soul, and the body is of no use.
Abilities of a Soul
The soul has three intrinsic abilities, which the body or anything else, made of matter, does not possess. These are
- The ability to think, wish or will.
- The ability to judge, understand or investigate.
- The ability to retain impressions of past thoughts in the form of attitudes, moods or habits.
The first of these is known as the Mind, the second as Intellect and the third as Samskaras, Resolves or the Latencies.
It is these abilities, which distinguish one man from another and determine the mental and moral state of a person. One who is given to violence and other evils is known as a sinner, the other who makes efforts to purify his thoughts, judgment and resolves is known as a Mahatma or an elevated soul whereas the one who has completely diminished himself, is called a devatma or a deity. It should thus be clearly borne in mind that it is the soul that suffers or enjoys because of its bad or good actions, for mind is not an entity separate from the soul; rather, it is the name given to the manifestation of soul`s consciousness.
The soul is a living or an observant being. It is said to be living because it can think and reflect; it can experience pleasure and pain, so also bliss and peace; it can bestir itself and make efforts and actions - good or bad. A soul has three faculties - mind, intellect and predispositions.
Mind is the thinking faculty of the soul. The mind thinks, imagines and forms ideas. The thought process is the basis of all emotions, desires and sensations. It is through this faculty that, in an instant, thoughts can be projected to a distant place, past experiences and emotions can be relived or even the future can be anticipated. It is the mind that experiences the variations of moods. The mind is a faculty of the metaphysical soul, not to be confused with the heart or the brain.
Intellect is used to assess thoughts. This is the faculty of understanding and decision-making that stands out as the most crucial faculty of the three. With the deepening and broadening of the intellect, clear understanding and the realization of knowledge become natural, and the power to decide and reason becomes clear. It is the intellect that remembers, discriminates, judges and exercises its power in the form of will.
Predispositions (called Sanskaras in Hindi) are the "impressions" or "subconsciousness" which is the record of all the past experiences and actions of the soul. Sanskaras can take the forms of habits, talents, emotional temperaments, personality traits, beliefs, values or instincts. Every action as an experience either creates a sanskar (this is how a habit begins) or reinforces an old one. Whatever impression is etched in the soul remains within it, forming a complete archive of all the experiences that the soul has had. When we speak of defects, specialties or virtues, we are referring to the sanskaras. The sanskaras are the basis of the individuality of the soul.
Seat of the Soul
The soul is located in the middle of the forehead in between the two eyebrows. This is the seat of the soul. The brain is the "control-room". Just as a driver controls the car using different parts of the mechanism seated at one place, the soul employs the brain to control the body. Brain is the machine by means of which the soul thinks, remembers, receives messages from or gives directions to the sense organs. The brain is the meeting place of all nerves, which carry sensations from all parts of the body to the brain which functions like a control-room and makes the body to work. It is in the brain that the soul, through the nerves, puts the body to work and experiences physical sensations, pleasure and pain or happiness and sorrow. But, the brain is separate from the soul; brain is a complex thing made of matter whereas the soul has the life-principal or consciousness.
Nature of Soul
A soul is a tiny, metaphysical, living point of spiritual light. There are a finite number of souls. Each soul is eternal. They were never created, and will never be destroyed. Each soul is unique. We are all souls, unique and different and remain so eternally. As such, souls are invisible to the naked eyes, but one can experience its presence. A soul has no gender.
Qualities of a Soul
The intrinsic qualities of the soul are that of love, peace, happiness, truth, bliss, knowledge, power and purity. Therefore, souls always desire for experiences that provide these qualities. These are the qualities that naturally emerge when the soul is aware of it, or in other words, is soul-conscious.
Body consciousness is the root cause of all evils in the world. A person is in body conscious when he/she identifies himself or herself with the physical body that is when the thinking, feeling, actions and behaviors are with the awareness that he or she is a body. Being in body conscious is the root cause of all the evils in the world because the vices like lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego are all having their roots in body - consciousness.
Soul - Consciousness - the key for a blissful life
When a person is in the state of awareness that "I am a Soul and not this physical body", then he/she would be in soul consciousness. In other words, the person thinks, feels, acts, behaves, compares etc. with the awareness that he or she is a soul, the master of the body. When in soul-consciousness, the original qualities of a soul naturally emerge. Then it is possible to experience lasting peace and bliss.
There are times when thoughts of distress and tension raise their ugly head. There are situations when a person searches for right answers. Here are some typical examples - Why are we here? Why was I born? Why do I look ugly? Why do we die? Why is there so much suffering?
The answers lie in one eternal truth - based on the Law of Karma or the Karma Philosophy - that no one can escape the result of his or her karma. Depending on the bad or good karma or action, one will suffer or enjoy, either in this or in the next life. No one can escape the result of his or her karma. The law of Karma is unchallengeable. So everyone must act with a sense of responsibility. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. So we must acquire right knowledge of what is good and what is bad action.
The moral of the story -
I have to do the right karma for my benefit; it is not for showing
it to anyone outside.
Every human action has a moral aspect. If a person`s certain act is morally good, the person gets ultimately benefited. If, on the other hand, his acts are morally bad, he suffers. It would require a lot of space to express what is morally good and bad.
But in one sentence, it may be said that, if a person acts under the influence of hatred, anger, lies, prejudice, greed, ego, partiality, lust and such other acts under the influence of body-consciousness, then his actions are bad or negative. These create disharmony, conflict, and sufferings in the society.
On the other hand, if a person has a balanced judgment, stability of mind, peace of the spirit and acts with the feeling of love, justice, sympathy, humility and such other actions in soul-consciousness, then his acts are good because such acts promote harmony, peace, unity and happy feelings.
The Power of Thought
The most powerful instrument that mankind possesses is the power to think. Thoughts build our consciousness and shape our attitude. One needs to know how important thoughts are. Every human creation we see in this world is due to the powerful thoughts in human minds. Thoughts shape the world. Thoughts are fertilized by knowledge. A person with a certain kind of knowledge usually creates thoughts in harmony with that knowledge. Knowledge gives wisdom; a person without knowledge is a person whose thoughts will be formed in ignorance.
Every action is preceded by thoughts. The quality of thoughts determines the quality of our karma. The karma in turn has good or bad effect on us. This again influences our thinking. So right thinking based on right knowledge is essential for leading a peaceful and contented life. Raja Yoga meditation helps us in doing the right thinking that leads to righteous actions. This also helps in remaining mentally strong amidst turbulent situations.
Existence of God
In this world, many beliefs exist about God. As a result, people understand God in their own way and often in their own imagination. But what is required is the understanding of God as He is, what He is and how He is.
There are some who don`t believe in the existence of God, often the reason being that His existence cannot be proved like that of human beings. But just because we cannot see God with the gross eyes, doesn`t mean that God doesn`t exist. Just like wind, which cannot be seen but can be very felt, it is possible to experience God`s presence through Godly knowledge and meditation.
Who is God and what is His form and name?
The term `Supreme Soul` means He is supreme among all souls. It implies that, He is also `a soul`, though He is the Highest of all. He is above birth and death. God is the Supreme Father-Mother, Supreme teacher and Supreme Preceptor to all the human beings and He himself has no father-mother, teacher and preceptor.
God is a subtle, infinitesimal point of Light. He is not visible to the naked eye but it is very much possible to experience His presence and proximity in meditation. He is incorporeal in the sense that he does not have a body of his own. He is not a human being nor does He have any other form. He is immune to pleasure and pain unlike human beings.
God is the Supreme Father of all. He is called the creator. He is oceanic in his virtues - the ocean of peace, the ocean of love, the ocean of bliss, the ocean of knowledge, the ocean of happiness, the ocean of mercy, etc. He is the truth. He is the Almighty and Authority. He is reputed to be the preserver or sustainer of virtues and the destroyer of all evils. He is also the liberator, the guide, and bestows salvation; therefore he is called the sadguru. He dispels sorrow, bestows joy. God is perfect in all ways and absolutely detached and loving. He is very benevolent and helpful. When in sorrow and losing all hope, souls turn to him intuitively and inevitably.
Many are the religions and paths that souls take in their quest for reaching God. Many wars have been waged in his name. However, he does not exclusively belong to anyone. He belongs to everyone equally.
The Supreme Father of all Souls
God is the father of all souls in this world. It is observed that all religions have images, idols or memorials bearing one name or another to represent the form of Light that God is. All over India, the images of the form that Shiva has is found installed; these images are without any human form, in the form of linga, which is the symbol of an incorporeal Being. At Mecca, in the holy place of Kaaba, a stone image with oval form is called "Sang-e-Aswad". The devotees who go for Haj kiss this holy stone. Jesus Christ said, "God is Light". Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism also sang the praise of Him who is `All-Light` (Ik Onkar) and is incorporeal. In olden days, the Jews held a stone in their hands while taking a solemn oath and it is believed that Moses had vision of this form of God when he saw a flame behind the bush. The Zoroastrians worship God as fire. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun as God. A Buddhist sect in Japan focuses the mind on a small oval shape. They call it Karni, the peace giver.
It seems therefore that human beings, without realizing, have all been worshipping and trying to discover the same God. There is only one God and His form is a point of light. He is called by different names in different religions.
The Divine Home of God
Where does God live? Is there somewhere one can go to see Him and be with Him? God is a subtle point of light, and He does not pervade the physical universe. Nor does he live in the heart of any human being or in any matter. Neither is He omnipresent; nor is He having a human form. His home is the incorporeal world, an infinite expanse of golden-red light, which is beyond this physical world we live. It is the original home of all souls as well. The incorporeal world is known as Paramdham or Brahmlok. Knowing where the Supreme Father is, we can establish connection with Him through thoughts during meditation.
The Divine Descent of God
God descends into this world when it is under the spell of extreme darkness of ignorance, unrighteousness, moral turpitude, spiritual lassitude and religious decrepitude. This is described in the scriptures as "Dharma Glani". Looking at the state of affairs today, it should not be difficult for us to conclude that the time the world is undergoing at present is indeed the Dharma Glani or Kalyiug. This is the period of darkness when sins and crimes of all kinds usually take place; when man wanders around for want of clear vision. It is at this time that God intervenes in the affairs of mankind. The divine intervention takes place at the darkest hour of human history when the human soul is wandering in the darkness of ignorance about the self, the creator and the creation; when the souls are blinded by the vices of lust, arrogance, anger, greed and attachment.
It is in this time that God descends in the body of an ordinary man to reveal the Godly Knowledge, which paves way to victory over vices and cultivate divine qualities in life. This enables human beings to transform into divine beings again.
3.The Human Tree
It is a fact that religion has an important influence on human mind. Along with the religion, the race, the language, the nationality, the culture, the ancestry with which a person identifies himself or herself has got a great bearing on his/her personality, beliefs, outlooks, attitude, consciousness and thinking. These are often the reasons for so many conflicts in this world. So it is necessary to understand the original religion and culture of mankind.
In order to elucidate the growth of this world and to illustrate the world developments, this world is compared with a tree that may be called `the Genealogical Tree of mankind`. It is also known as kalpa tree because it depicts the history of the whole kalpa (one full cycle of all eras), the beginning the mid-period and the end of all the religio-political dynasties of the world.
In the beginning, depicted by the trunk, there was only one religion, which is the religion of the deities, and there was only one dynasty, called the sun dynasty. There was the deity-sovereignty, which set in vogue all righteous traditions and customs. The masses were, like their rulers, vice less and possessed divine qualities. Because they did good actions, even the nature was perfectly under their control. There was no fury of nature, neither ill health nor want of money or food. All the elements were clean and excellent and therefore were instruments of happiness. Since there was complete purity, peace ad prosperity in that Age.
Kings, queens, and their righteous subjects had a halo of light around them. They were called deities because they were naturally holy, habitually righteous and instinctively spiritual and vice less. There was such great mutual regard and love in those days that it is said that in that age, a lion and a goat together drank from the same stream. There was unlimited wealth. Since people in that Age led vice less lives, they lived long and there was no case of premature death. They willingly gave up the body when they had reached old age. In other words, death never laid its hand on them.
Hence, in the Golden age the souls were complete in all respects.
In the silver age, there was a slight decline in divine qualities. But even then there was supremacy of complete peace and happiness.
Copper age follows the Silver Age. By this time, the souls, who had transmigrated through several lives, became body-conscious. The vices like lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego had cast their shadows on them. And they had thus fallen from the state of purity and worthiness and became vicious and unworthy. As they forgot their true selves and broke with purity, natural laws came to be violated. Even nature deviated from its usual course, and started harming them in the form of floods, storms etc. It is in this age that various religions were established. A good many faiths began appearing like branches coming forth from the World-Tree. Abraham founded Islam; Budha founded Buddhism; Jesus Christ founded Christianity; Shankaracharya established the class of recluses and hermits; Mohammed Prophet established Islam. The population also increased considerably. Whereas in the beginning, everything was one, now there were many religions, many kingdoms, languages, cultures and dynasties. Thus grew mutual strife, divisions and disunity and this state of affairs continued.
In the Iron Age that follows the Copper-Age, problems, difference of views and disputes begin to increase. The souls in this age got over-powered by vices and darkness of ignorance. They became vicious and impious. There was a crop of dissensions due to religious, communal and sectarian difference. Women were treated with utter contempt. Nature became instrumental in causing distress to man. Disease, grief, old age, premature death, death by accident, etc. afflicted mankind.
When all the religions reach their lowest level, and all people, men and women become diabolic, there is misery and uproar. This is the time of wickedness and irreligion. People are given to sensual pleasures; they acquire bad qualities, ready to cause bloodshed on the score of differences in languages, views, politics, faiths, castes and states. Fighting among the nations brings about a great destruction in the world. Instead of behaving like brothers, people look upon one another as so many different beings and, therefore, they deal with each other as enemies. Being guided wholly by the feelings of nepotism, unrighteousness, lawlessness, selfishness, attachment, adulteration and bribery they desire to lay their hands on others` possessions by any means. People discard all the feelings of mutual love and fight like demons.
What happens next?
The world will not go on like this forever. Somebody has to put an end to all these evils. Otherwise the state of the world will be incomprehensible. This task is beyond the reach of any human being and only one Almighty God can establish lasting peace on earth. Incorporeal God Shiva descends in the body of an ordinary person and through him, gives the Godly Knowledge and teachings to human beings through easy Meditation and yoga. He shows the path by which anyone can become completely vice less and most righteous.
In this way, God purifies the human beings of the old, impious world and transmutes them into pious beings, creating the Golden Age again.
4. The Story of the Rise and Fall of Human Souls
It is a wonderful story of how the souls, who once were deities became the devotees and very ordinary human beings. It also explains how they lost the divine virtues, spiritual and moral values and developed devilish tendencies. Initially, human souls had complete purity, peace and prosperity and they became defiled and peace less with time. It is now time to again inculcate those lost virtues.
The first or the initial period is called the Golden Age or the Satyuga. This age is completely righteous. Shri Lakshmi and Shri Narayana and their dynasty rule the world that is free from disease, sorrow, worry and vice. The people then have truly virtuous nature and outlook. During this period of 1250 years, the average age of humans is 150 years. In this era, there are divine souls, excellent persons who are completely vice less and are invested with all good qualities and live under the Divine Law. These people are considered to be the class of deities.
Next comes the Silver Age. In this era of 1250 years, the average age of a person varies from 100 to 125 years. All are happy in this period as well. They have the rank of what are called Kshatriyas because they are not as pure as their predecessors - the deities.
Then in the Copper Age, they become body-conscious and are led to vices. So they have a fall, from a deity`s position, which is worship-worthy exalted position to be just supplicant men or poor worshippers. Their rank is of middle class or Rajopradhana type. Their position is that of `Vaishyas` -mediocre.
After this comes the Iron Age (Kaliyuga). In this epoch, Maya, which symbolizes the vices, has grown in power over the world. In Iron Age, tamoguna, the basest form in man - is pre-dominant. All the persons are ranked as Shudras. In this epoch of 1250 years, there are 42 births. In this era, we see disputes based on want of respect for authority and differences in ideology, religion, states and languages. People do not look upon one another as spiritual brothers and are thus turned away from God, who is the Supreme Father.
At present, we are in the Confluence Age - the confluence is the end of the Kaliyuga and the dawn of Satyuga or the Golden Age. This is the time to receive Divine Knowledge from God and practise spiritual discipline and Yoga and re-acquire deity status. When the Iron Age is very near to it`s end, unrighteousness and the wicked people are eliminated to make room for Righteousness (Dharma) and the deity-world. With this comes the Golden Age.