The Secret Of Yoga

induced by fasting, or a period of confinement in a place of darkness and complete silence." At another place he adds: "Milarepa in his Himalayan cavern, and the anchorites of the Thebaid followed essentially the same procedure and got essentially the same results. A thousand pictures of the Temptations of St. Anthony bear witness to the effectiveness of restricted diet and restricted environment. Asceticism, it is evident, has a double motivation. If men and women torment their bodies, it is not only because they hope in this way to atone for past sins and avoid future punishments, it is because they long to visit the mind's antipodes and some visionary sightseeing. Empirically and from the reports of other ascetics, they know that fasting and a restricted environment will transport them where they long to go,"

These passages reveal an intellectual confusion, common among some scholars and people in general, about the sublime experience of the genuine mystical state. This confusion has prevailed from time immemorial, with the result that the rigid ascetic who starved himself or employed other methods of self-mortification to induce a hallucinatory state of mind, by causing alterations in the physiological balance of the body, has often been mistakenly bracketed with the true mystic or the illumined sage. In actual fact the two conditions are poles apart. One denotes a decline and the other a high degree of enhancement of the mental faculties. This is a point of paramount importance to be kept in mind in determining the value of Yoga or any other healthy form of spiritual discipline. The vision of God or contact with Cosmic Consciousness to be genuine must signify a step forward and not a recession the mental condition of the seeker. The reason for some taking hallucinatory drugs or employing other methods to gain visionary or illusory experiences springs from a misconception of the value of genuine mystical phenomena. If the urge to Divinity or have access to higher planes of being, which has been a powerful influence in the life of man from earliest times, has as its final aim the fantasmic states induced by hormone-derangement, starvation, or drugs, it clearly points to an unwholesome impulse at work in the human psyche which, under the guise of leading man to his Maker, draws him into a world of appearances and apparitions, only slightly removed from the borderline of insanity.

Referring to the consciousness produced by intoxicants and anaesthetics, especially by alcohol, William James says*: "The sway of alcohol over mankind is unquestionably due to its power to stimulate the mystical faculties of human nature, usually crushed to earth by the cold facts and dry criticisms of the sober hour. Sobriety diminishes, discriminates, and says no; drunkenness expands, unites and says yes. It is in fact the great exciter of the Yes function in man. It brings its votary from the chill periphery of things to the radiant core. It makes him for the moment one with truth. . . . The drunken Consciousness is one bit of the mystic Consciousness, and our total opinion of it must find its place in our opinion of that large whole." .. . "Nitrous oxide and ether," he continues, "especially nitrous oxide, when sufficiently diluted with water, stimulate the mystical consciousness in an extraordinary degree. Depth beyond depth of truth seems revealed to the inhaler. This truth fades out, however, or escapes, at the moment of coming to, and if any words remain over in which it seemed to clothe itself, they prove to be the veriest nonsense. Nevertheless, the sense of a profound meaning having been there persists, and I know more than one person who is persuaded that in the nitrous oxide trance we have a genuine metaphysical revelation."

The confusion is due to the fact that a standard, clearcut picture of what a true mystic experiences in the highest flights of ecstasy is not available anywhere. In the first place the condition is incommunicable and, second, its range of expression is so vast and there are such enormously varied accounts of it that it is extremely difficult to locate the boundary at which the spurious forms, induced by hallucinogens, etc., cease and the genuine oc

* Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, Longmans, Green, New York, 1903.

currences begin. This issue will find clarification in another chapter of this volume. In India the genuine Yogis with a transformed consciousness usually met instant recognition throughout the past. The learned scholar, the miracle-worker, and the one prone to drugs also had their place among the holy men, but they were in the lower ranks. The Hindu scriptures are categorical in their emphasis on a regulated life and a disciplined mind for one practicing Yoga. The extremes of the type that lead to morbid states of the mind or to foods and drinks that cause unhealthy reactions in the body have to be eschewed. In fact, some of the caste restrictions about food arise from the scriptural injunctions that food, being the builder ofprana, must be pure and wholesome.

That the mental condition induced by nitrous oxide is hallucinatory is obvious from the fact, mentioned by William James, that on emerging from the visionary state the words in which the truth witnessed in the trance condition clothes itself are found to be sheer nonsense. The return to normalcy from all the hallucinogens and intoxicants that cause a temporary inflation of personality is almost always followed by feelings of depression or lassitude. The aftereffects of genuine ecstasy are altogether different. The genuinely esctatic experience is revealed as if a heaven has been opened. The sublime nature of the vision, surpassing anything known or even imagined in the normal state, remains indelibly engraved on the memory, an unending source of inspiration and wonder which, even in the darkest hours of life, sustains the spirit with hope and cheer. Sometimes even one fleeting glimpse of the supreme state continues to shine in the depths of the heart as a beacon pointing to a glorious existence that does not belong to this daily world. St. Ignatius Loyola* has described one such experience that befell him in these words (He refers to himself in the third person): "As he was going to pay his devotions at the Church of St. Paul, about a mile out of the town of Manresa, and was sitting on the banks of the Cardenero, or as

Spiritual Exercises, translated from the Spanish by Anthony Mottolo, Garden City, New York, 1964.

some say of the Rubricato, his mind was suddenly filled with a new and strange illumination, so that in one moment, and without any sensible image or appearance, certain things pertaining to mysteries of the Faith, together with other truths of natural science, were revealed to him, and this so abundantly and so clearly, that he himself said, that if all the spiritual light which his spirit had received from God up to the time when he was more than sixty-two years old, could be collected into one, it seemed to him that all this knowledge would not equal what was at that moment conveyed to his soul."

The true prophets, mystics and Yoga saints constitute a class of men including in its ranks the founders of all religions, as well several great systems of metaphysics and philosophy, initiators of new lines of thought and conduct, adepts in the knowledge of the occult and originators or reformers of all systems of religious discipline and Yoga. Not one of them veiled his identity or hid himself and the Light he came to diffuse in a far-away mountain retreat, but, on the contrary, boldly fought the evils of his time and valiantly stood against the tyranny and wrath not only of reprobate kings and chiefs but also of powerful heads of corrupt religions and prevailing decadent creeds. These mystics proved an asset to the country in which they were born.

Misconceptions about this subject in the minds of the common people in this enlightened age are due to the fact that the modern world, though immensely rich in physical science, is deplorably lacking in knowledge of the occult and the sublime. The inherent tendency in the human mind to associate mystery and wonder with the Divine, for which there is a rational ground deprived of the proper nourishment, is driven to feed itself voraciously on a fictitious other-world, on the hair-raising tales of ghosts and haunted houses, on incredible stories of hypothetical miracle-working supermen and hierarchic Methuselahs living in inaccessible regions, which has done, and is doing, great harm by diverting the attention of the true seekers from the understanding of a mighty law of nature by which man can raise himself to a sub lime state in a most rational way as natural and as practical as the birth and development of a child. This unwholesome diet caused serious harm in several directions. On the one hand, it aggravates the mental condition and makes the appetite even more morbid and, on the other, draws the attention from the genuine ideals and diverts it toward persons or concepts of the occult and the Divine that are either fictitious and have no relation to reality or are not at all fit to form the models worthy of emulation by mankind.

Approached in a sane way the realm of the occult and supernatural will also be found to be crowded with the fictitious and the spurious, as in any worldly realm. Those who do so will find that, barring the experience of those prophets, mystics and Yoga sages, whose names are household words in the countries to which they belong, all the rest they have heard about such as the imaginary adepts and wonder-workers do not possess the seal of attestation either of those who were a witness to their extraordinary lives, or of the monuments they left behind to show that they were men or women of flesh and blood. The utmost they will discover of the occult, in the objective world, well attested and confirmed, will be the erratic and unpredictable phenomena produced by sensitives, mediums, hypnotized subjects, or some self-hypnotizing Yogis, but beyond that, nothing. If they try to bring before their minds the image of the most outstanding seer or Yogi they have ever heard of, out of the known and well-attested cases, they will find that he is something quite different from what they themselves would wish to be. They will also find that almost all the illuminati, about whom they have heard, had lives of suffering, of intense longing for the Divine, sometimes almost to the point of madness, of utter simplicity and self-denial, of detachment from the world and renunciation of its pleasures, of selfless service, often in the face of colossal odds and insurmountable difficulties, of complete immersion in the love of the Deity and entire absorption in the inner universe. They can easily gather from this that success in the quest, if ever attained, would add their names to the same category, and fill their minds with the same fires of passion, renunciation, love of the Divine, and service for humanity that characterized the illuminati.

It is well known that in both medieval and ancient times the men and women, who delved into the occult in order to become sorcerers, magicians, necromancers, wizards, or witches were never publicly applauded. They were forced to practice in secret, to form esoteric circles and brotherhoods, and to perform their weird rites far from the eyes of common men, in eerie spots and in the shades of night. Modern man, deceived by the fictitious accounts he has read, and filled with the glamorous images of hypothetical Master Yogis, is too often led to believe that a few years practice with certain secret methods would raise him to the same level, able to achieve impossible deeds with the power gained over the forces of nature, to conquer disease, to win domination over men, to know the deeper secrets of life, and to live in utter peace and bliss under all circumstances. How many men succeed in achieving these objectives can be gauged from the fact that in recent years out of the millions, who undertook the practice of Yoga, not one has claimed that he has gained even a fraction of the powers claimed for it or for other forms of esoteric discipline by the over-enthusiastic protagonists of these systems. Leaving miraculous powers aside, how many have plainly or implicitly made the assertion that they, in their person, have attained the transcendent state of Consciousness claimed for Yoga, and backed their assertions by a frank self-revelation in the same way as has been done by several well-known Christian mystics, Sufis, and Yoga saints in the past with a candour and sincerity that has made their works Immortal? If there is none or only one or two, it clearly points to the fact that the present way of approach to Yoga holds little promise of success for the legions who undertake it in these days.

By miraculous powers we mean the type of supernatural talents which legendary Yogis like Gorajah Nath are said to have exercised, that is, the type of powers mentioned by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras under the term siddhis and which are repeated in al most all the books on Kundalini- and Hatha-Yoga. This does not refer to uncontrollable psychic gifts, which hundreds of mediums possess, but to the power of will developed to an extent where one can exercise the occult faculties, under all circumstances and in full view of people in broad day light, and can repeat the same performance at any time at his choice. The interruption of breathing, of the heart action, or of other functions of the body, including the flow of blood, are merely physical phenomena and do not fall in the category of occult powers, referred to here. Many of the present-day concepts about the supernatural and the occult are purely mythical. But the myth is so prevalent and so concordant with our wishful thinking that, despite every indication to the contrary and the fact that hundreds of thousands of disillusioned seekers bear testimony to the repeatedly proven hollowness of many of these beliefs, a large number of those interested in the occult still persist in the quest. They convince themselves that had such extraordinary achievements not been possible, then countless men would not have devoted their lives to this pursuit from time immemorial. Others console themselves with the thought that were there not a substratum of truth in such episodes all these stories of supermen could not have found currency or commanded such wide acceptance.

As has been explained, the Yogi whose image has been projected on the public mind, especially in the West, by some modern exponents of the occult, exists nowhere in the world. There is no Yogi who readily changes from the physical into the astral body, conveys his instructions by mental projection, heals with a touch, transmutes base metals into gold, transforms his disciples into adepts, or performs other similar miracles while leading a happy unruffled life free from the cares of the world. At least history makes no mention of any such extraordinary spiritual prodigy or Yogi who in his own person rose above physical laws, performed miracles left and right, and lived a life of peace and happiness to the end. On the other hand, in all saints and mystics of the world we come across lives of spiritual storm and stress, of a raging

YOGA, TRUE AND FALSE

Lessons In Gnani Yoga The Yoga Of Wisdom

Lessons In Gnani Yoga The Yoga Of Wisdom

Students of Yoga are not only looking to reach peace within their bodies, but also their minds. The Yogi Philosophy may be divided into several great branches, or fields.

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