THE SUPPORTIVE TEACHINGS

SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

RAJA YOGA | CHAPTER 2 | CWSV 1

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THE COMPLETE WORKS | VOLUME 1 | SWAMI VIVEKANANDA

|| SECTION 3 | RAJA YOGA | CHAPTER 2 | THE FIRST STEPS ||

Raja Yoga is divided into eight steps . The first is Yama — non-killing , truthfulness , non-stealing , continence , and non-receiving of any gifts . Next is Niyama — cleanliness , contentment , austerity , study , and self-surrender to GOD . Then comes asana , or posture ; Pranayama , or control of Prana ; Pratyahara , or restraint of the senses from their objects ; Dharana , or fixing the mind on a spot ; Dhyana , or meditation ; and Samadhi , or Superconsciousness .

The Yama and Niyama , as we see , are moral trainings ; without these as the basis no practice of Yoga will succeed . As these two become established , the Yogi will begin to realise the fruits of practice ; without these it will never bear fruit . A Yogi must not think of injuring anyone , by thought , word , or deed . Mercy shall not be for humans alone , but shall go beyond , and embrace the whole world .

The next step is Asana , posture . A series of exercises , physical and mental , is to be gone through every day , until certain higher states are reached . Therefore it is quite necessary that we should find a posture in which we can remain long . That posture which is the easiest should be the one chosen . For thinking , a certain posture may be very easy for one , while to another it may be very difficult .

We will find later on that during the study of these psychological matters a good deal of activity goes on in the body . Nerve currents will have to be displaced and given a new channel . New sorts of vibrations will begin , the whole constitution will be remodelled as it were .

But the main part of the activity will lie along the spinal column , so that the one thing necessary for the posture is to hold the spinal column free , sitting erect , holding the three parts — the chest , neck , and head — in a straight line . Let the whole weight of the body be supported by the ribs , and then you have an easy natural postures with the spine straight . You will easily see that you cannot think very high thoughts with the chest in .

This portion of the Yoga is a little similar to the Hatha Yoga which deals entirely with the physical body , its aim being to make the physical body very strong .

We have nothing to do with Hatha Yoga here , because its practices are very difficult , and cannot be learned in a day , and , after all , do not lead to much spiritual growth .

Many of these practices you will find in Delsarte and other teachers , such as placing the body in different postures , but the object in these is physical , not psychological . There is not one muscle in the body over which one cannot establish a perfect control . The heart can be made to stop or go on at one's bidding , and each part of the organism can be similarly controlled .

The result of this branch of Yoga is to make one live long ; health is the chief idea , the one goal of the Hatha Yogi , who is determined not to fall sick , and never does . The Hatha Yogi lives long ; a hundred years is nothing ; being quite young and fresh at 150 , without one hair turned grey . But that is all . A banyan tree lives sometimes 5000 years , but it is a banyan tree and nothing more . So , if a human lives long , one is only a healthy animal . One or two ordinary lessons of the Hatha Yogis are very useful . For instance , some of you will find it a good thing for headaches to drink cold water through the nose as soon as you get up in the morning ; the whole day your brain will be nice and cool , and you will never catch cold . It is very easy to do ; put your nose into the water , draw it up through the nostrils and make a pump action in the throat .

After one has learned to have a firm erect seat , one has to perform , according to certain schools , a practice called the purifying of the nerves . This part has been rejected by some as not belonging to Raja Yoga , but as so great an authority as the commentator Shankaracharya advises it , I think fit that it should be mentioned , and I will quote Shankaracharya's own directions from the commentary on the Shvetashvatara Upanishad :

" The mind whose dross has been cleared away by Pranayama , becomes fixed in BRAHMAN ; therefore Pranayama is declared .

First the nerves are to be purified , then comes the power to practice Pranayama .

Stopping the right nostril with the thumb , through the left nostril fill in air , according to capacity ; then , without any interval , throw the air out through the right nostril , closing the left one . Again inhaling through the right nostril eject through the left , according to capacity ; practicing this three or five times at four hours of the day , before dawn , during midday , in the evening , and at midnight , in fifteen days or a month purity of the nerves is attained ; then begins Pranayama . "

Practice is absolutely necessary . You may sit down and listen to me by the hour every day , but if you do not practice , you will not get one step further . It all depends on practice . We never understand these things until we experience them . We will have to see and feel them for ourselves . Simply listening to explanations and theories will not do .

There are several obstructions to practice .

The first obstruction is an unhealthy body : if the body is not in a fit state , the practice will be obstructed . Therefore we have to keep the body in good health ; we have to take care of what we eat and drink , and what we do . Always use a mental effort , what is usually called " Christian Science " , to keep the body strong . That is all — nothing further of the body . We must not forget that health is only a means to an end . If health were the end , we would be like animals ; animals rarely become unhealthy .

The second obstruction is doubt ; we always feel doubtful about things we do not see . One cannot live upon words , however one may try . So , doubt comes to us as to whether there is any truth in these things or not ; even the best of us will doubt sometimes : With practice , within a few days , a little glimpse will come , enough to give one encouragement and hope . As a certain commentator on Yoga philosophy says ,

" When one proof is obtained , however little that may be , it will give us faith in the whole teaching of Yoga . "

For instance , after the first few months of practice , you will begin to find you can read another's thoughts ; they will come to you in picture form . Perhaps you will hear something happening at a long distance , when you concentrate your mind with a wish to hear . These glimpses will come , by little bits at first , but enough to give you faith , and strength , and hope . For instance , if you concentrate your thoughts on the tip of your nose , in a few days you will begin to smell most beautiful fragrance , which will be enough to show you that there are certain mental perceptions that can be made obvious without the contact of physical objects .

But we must always remember that these are only the means ; the aim , the end , the goal , of all this training is liberation of the soul . Absolute control of nature , and nothing short of it , must be the goal . We must be the masters , and not the slaves of nature ; neither body nor mind must be our master , nor must we forget that the body is mine , and not I the body's .

A god and a demon went to learn about the Self from a great sage . They studied with the sage for a long time . At last the sage told them ,

" You yourselves are the Being you are seeking . "

Both of them thought that their bodies were the Self . They went back to their people quite satisfied and said ,

" We have learned everything that was to be learned ; eat , drink , and be merry ; we are the Self ; there is nothing beyond us . "

The nature of the demon was ignorant , clouded ; so the demon never inquired any further , but was perfectly contented with the idea of being GOD , that by the Self was meant the body .

The god had a purer nature . The god at first committed the mistake of thinking : I , this body , am BRAHMAN : so keep it strong and in health , and well dressed , and give it all sorts of enjoyments . But , in a few days , the god found out that that could not be the meaning of the sage , their master ; there must be something higher . So the god came back and said ,

" Did you teach me that this body was the Self ? If so , I see all bodies die ; the Self cannot die . "

The sage said , " Find it out ; thou art That " .

Then the god thought that the vital forces which work the body were what the sage meant , but after a time , found that when eating , these vital forces remained strong , but , when starving , they became weak . The god then went back to the sage and said ,

" Do you mean that the vital forces are the Self ? "

The sage said , " Find out for yourself ; thou art That " .

The god returned home once more , thinking that it was the mind , perhaps , that was the Self . But in a short while the god saw that thoughts were so various , now good , again bad ; the mind was too changeable to be the Self . The god went back to the sage and said ,

" I do not think that the mind is the Self ; did you mean that ? "

" No , " replied the sage , " Thou art That ; find out for yourself " .

The god went home , and at last found Self , beyond all thought , one without birth or death , whom the sword cannot pierce or the fire burn , whom the air cannot dry or the water melt , the beginningless and endless , the immovable , the intangible , the omniscient , the omnipotent Being ; that It was neither the body nor the mind , but beyond them all . And so was satisfied ; but the poor demon did not get the truth , owing to fondness for the body .

This world has a good many of these demoniac natures , but there are some gods too . If one proposes to teach any science to increase the power of sense enjoyment , one finds multitudes ready for it . If one undertakes to show the supreme goal , one finds few to listen . Very few have the power to grasp the higher , fewer still the patience to attain to it . But there are a few also who know that even if the body can be made to live for a thousand years , the result in the end will be the same . When the forces that hold it together go away , the body must fall . No one was ever born who could stop the body one moment from changing .

Body is the name of a series of changes .

" As in a river the masses of water are changing before you every moment , and new masses are coming , yet taking similar form , so is it with this body . "

Yet the body must be kept strong and healthy .
It is the best instrument we have .

. . . Returning to our subject , we come next to Pranayama , controlling the breathing . What has that to do with concentrating the powers of the mind ?

Breath is like the flywheel of this machine , the body . In a big engine you find the fly-wheel first moving , and that motion is conveyed to finer and finer machinery until the most delicate and finest mechanism in the machine is in motion . The breath is that flywheel , supplying and regulating the motive power to everything in this body .

There was once a minister , to a great ruler , who fell into disgrace . The ruler , as a punishment , ordered the minister to be shut up in the top of a very high tower . This was done , and the minister was left there to perish .

The minister had a faithful spouse , however , who came to the tower at night and called to the minister at the top to ask what could be done to help . The answer was to return to the tower the following night bringing a long rope , some stout twine , pack thread , silken thread , a beetle , and a little honey . Wondering much , the good spouse obeyed , and brought the desired articles .

The minister directed the spouse to attach the silken thread firmly to the beetle , then to smear its horns with a drop of honey , and to set it free on the wall of the tower , with its head pointing upwards . All these instructions were obeyed , and the beetle started on its long journey . Smelling the honey ahead it slowly crept onwards , in the hope of reaching the honey , until at last it reached the top of the tower , when the minister grasped the beetle , and got possession of the silken thread . The minister told the spouse to tie the other end to the pack thread ; and after the pack thread had been drawn up , repeated the process with the stout twine , and lastly with the rope . Then the rest was easy . The minister descended from the tower by means of the rope , and escaped .

In this body of ours the breath motion is the " silken thread " ; by laying hold of and learning to control it we grasp the pack thread of the nerve currents , and from these the stout twine of our thoughts , and lastly the rope of Prana , controlling which we reach freedom .

We do not know anything about our own bodies ; we cannot know . At best we can take a dead body , and cut it in pieces , and there are some who can take a live animal and cut it in pieces in order to see what is inside the body . Still , that has nothing to do with our own bodies . We know very little about them .

Why do we not ? Because our attention is not discriminating enough to catch the very fine movements that are going on within .

We can know of them only when the mind becomes more subtle and enters , as it were , deeper into the body . To get the subtle perception we have to begin with the grosser perceptions . We have to get hold of that which is setting the whole engine in motion . That is the Prana , the most obvious manifestation of which is the breath . Then , along with the breath , we shall slowly enter the body , which will enable us to find out about the subtle forces , the nerve currents that are moving all over the body .

As soon as we perceive and learn to feel them , we shall begin to get control over them , and over the body .

The mind is also set in motion : by these different nerve currents , so at last we shall reach the state of perfect control over the body and the mind , making both our servants .

Knowledge is power . We have to get this power .

So we must begin at the beginning , with Pranayama , restraining the Prana .

This Pranayama is a long subject , and will take several lessons to illustrate it thoroughly . We shall take it part by part .

We shall gradually see the reasons for each exercise and what forces in the body are set in motion . All these things will come to us , but it requires constant practice , and the proof will come by practice . No amount of reasoning which I can give you will be proof to you , until you have demonstrated it for yourselves .

As soon as you begin to feel these currents in motion all over you , doubts will vanish , but it requires hard practice every day . You must practice at least twice every day , and the best times are towards the morning and the evening . When night passes into day , and day into night , a state of relative calmness ensues . The early morning and the early evening are the two periods of calmness . Your body will have a like tendency to become calm at those times . We should take advantage of that natural condition and begin then to practice .

Make it a rule not to eat until you have practiced ; if you do this , the sheer force of hunger will break your laziness . In India they teach children never to eat until they have practiced or worshipped , and it becomes natural to them after a time ; a child will not feel hungry until having bathed and practiced .

Those of you who can afford it will do better to have a room for this practice alone . Do not sleep in that room , it must be kept holy . You must not enter the room until you have bathed , and are perfectly clean in body and mind . Place flowers in that room always ; they are the best surroundings for a Yogi ; also pictures that are pleasing . Burn incense morning and evening .

Have no quarrelling , nor anger , nor unholy thought in that room . Only allow those persons to enter it who are of the same thought as you . Then gradually there will be an atmosphere of holiness in the room , so that when you are miserable , sorrowful , doubtful , or your mind is disturbed , the very fact of entering that room will make you calm .

This was the idea of the temple and the church , and in some temples and churches you will find it even now , but in the majority of them the very idea has been lost . The idea is that by keeping holy vibrations there the place becomes and remains illumined .

Those who cannot afford to have a room set apart can practice anywhere they like .

Sit in a straight posture , and the first thing to do is to send a current of holy thought to all creation .

Mentally repeat ,

" Let all beings be happy ;
Let all beings be peaceful ;
Let all beings be blissful . "

So do to the east , south , north and west .

The more you do that the better you will feel yourself . You will find at last that the easiest way to make ourselves healthy is to see that others are healthy , and the easiest way to make ourselves happy is to see that others are happy .

After doing that , those who believe in GOD should pray — not for money , not for health , nor for heaven ; pray for knowledge and light ; every other prayer is selfish .

Then the next thing to do is to think of your own body , and see that it is strong and healthy ; it is the best instrument you have . Think of it as being as strong as adamant , and that with the help of this body you will cross the ocean of life .

Freedom is never to be reached by the weak .
Throw away all weakness .

Tell your body that it is strong , tell your mind that it is strong , and have unbounded faith and hope in yourself .

SOURCE | SATYAVEDISM.COM