Talk:Means to Liberation
All practices in yoga are a training consciously given by the seeker to his mind so that it may learn to control the production, the quality, the quantity, and the nature of the flow of thoughts in it. Four distinct routes are laid out and everyoone of them leads to the same sanctum of Truth.
The paths, treading which the integration of personality can be effectively brought about, are called:
- The Path of Devotion
- The Path of Knowledge
- The Path of Karma
- The Path of Mysticism
The goal reached by all these paths is one and the same and the main scientific theory working in all techniques is also the same. Even in the rules of life, laid out for the practitioner there is uniformity everywhere.
Different paths are provided in order to accomodate the different tempraments and the moods of people. All men are not the same character or temperament. Each person has his own tastes. In order to satisfy all of them, the great Rsis of old divided humanity into four groups:
- Men of heart
- Men of head
- Men of head and heart
- those that do not fall in any one of thse above theree categories. In short, men with not a fully developed head and heart
These types, to an extent, in terms of the modern psychology, fall into the groups termed as:
- the emotional
- the intellectual
- the active
- the mystical
To the emotional is advised the Path-of-Devotion. The devotee, temperatmentally an individual rich in love, is advised to love the Lord through constant remembrance and meditation. To a love-heart, there is no greater vocation than to live brooding over the beloved. Thus, the mind is constantly made to revel with the form, glory, and the divine nature of the beloved. In direct proportion to the intensity of its love, it becomes single-pointed, ruled by one unbroken thought. At that stage of single-pointed mental integration, the devotee experiences the Lord of joy-madness, the devotee roams about in the love-gardesn of his mind which is sweetly scented by all-pervading Spriti of Love. This stage is called Parā Bhakti, Supreme Love.
A devotee in the Parā Bhakti stage, at the culminating point of his Prem, comes to ask a question unto himselv, "All around I see the All-0pervading Lord. I am his love. He, my beloved. I see nothing else, I see only him. I see him everywhere, but, then, who am I?"
This is the flame that comes to be applied to the prepared pile of emotions and in a blinding flash of illuminations-Supreme, the entire bundle of māyā disturbances and māyā equipments gets, once for ever, blasted into nothingness. With this supreme question, the devotee looks within. At that stage of devotion-prepared-intensity he can see nothing but he Lord whether inside or outside and in that inward gaze, he meets Himself, his own devoted beloved: he the devotee ends in the conflagration--the Lord alone thereafter exists, as Eternally Full as ever--that rises with this Divine experience.
But to a Man of Intellect, this method is not available. He has no heart to melt and flow out in an endless gush of love for a Lord with a form and a name. The intellect, as it were, clogs the heart holes. To him, the great Ṛṣī-s gave the molten essence of reasoning that could burn down even mountainous doubts and cut out a trailing road through the depest jungles of confusions and despairs lit by Light-of-Knowledge, held aloft at the peaks of the Śrutī-s, the adventurer on the uphill Path-of-Knowledge moves steadily onward, higher and higher, from teh low animal passions and egoistic values of sense-life. men of Intellect as they are, the devotees of philosophy have carefully evaluated the life of urges and passions and have discovered for themselves their imperfectionsand false glitterings. Since they have no desires, their minds are not running away into the world of sense-ojects. Thus, even before they reach the portals of philosophy, they have already gained to a ertain degree of mental integration. And when they are made to contemplate intensively and continuously upon th eendless logic and pure reasoning in the pregnant Upaniṣad formulae, their minds, lifted to the white-heat of intense meditation, volatilizes, as it were, leaving behind only the gorgeous experience of the Supreme Reality.
There is a great section of men, at all times, in all societies, who are temperamentally ever vacillating between the heart-values and the head-0principles. They are att one moment perceptibly emotional and yet at the following moment they prove themslves to be acutely rational. To such men of "mixed temprament" is advised the Karma Yoga: the Path of Selfless-Action. Karma Yoga in fact is a happy blending of the emotional joys of devotion with the intellectual valuew of Vedanta. When the love element of bhakti gets mixedd well with the Non-dual, Eternal-Perfection-0idea of Vedānta, we have theperfect technique of selless sevā. Haṭha ysoga is a method by which, through highly evolved scheme of exercises, the body sheath and the vital-air sheath are so turned up, that a fully evolved and highly integrated mind is generated within. This prepared mind is directed towadrs the contemplation of the mystic power 'Kunḍalinī lying dormant in the seeker. Here again mental development, purification of thoughts, regulation of desires and a final integration of all thoughts are achieved.
Though the four paths look to be different, they are only different in their early stages of application. In fact, all the four paths meet at one and the same junction, technically called pratyāhāra. Pratyāhāra is a stage wherein the seekers, treading the different ptahs gain for themselves mental capacity to withdraw the whole mind from its wanterings and to apply the entire mental energy at a single thought or a line of thoughts which the seeker has chosen for the mind to play upon. Having reached this stage of mental dexterity in its withdrawal and application, all the students of every yoga thereafter walk hand-in-hand in the spiritual path covering the same stages in their pilgrimage known as dhāraṇā (contentration), dhyāna (meditation) and samādhi (theinfal realization).
Pratyāhāra is the beginning point of personality-integration in man. A man is what his thoughts make him to be, and this has been fully explained in modern psychology too when it is declared 'thought is the man.' If there be an individual whose thoughts are running through disintegrated channels and are getting lost in a wondering maze of negative thinking, he becomes an impotent man with no dynamism at all in life. To rehabilitate such a man, to discover in him the full potency and strength, is the essential function of Vedānta. Through, according to Vedānta, "man is divine in his Self" with no limitations upon him, we find that he is in his thoughts, as available in this work-a0day world, an insignificant creatiure, perverted and crooked.
To persuade such an individual to give up his false values and to supply him with the right attitude of living, to help him to discover in himself the engergies required to live those new values, to encourage him constantly in his endeavor to grow himself thus-this constitutes the entire scheme of all religions.
In the modern available philosophies of the world, we rarely find the thinkiers peeping into human existence beyond the outer fringes of the intellect. In fact we find that the modern age has a lot of scientific data to give regarding its observations on the world outside and a fairly good amount of informationa bout the body. No doubt, the thinkers of the modern age have made some daring attempts to declare their obervations regarding the min; but even the best of them does not, according to me, seem to have penetrated sufficiently deep to touch even the outer fringes of pure intellectual life. May be, there are some exceptional few; but, the modern thkners conclusions are hasty and vague, their arguments weak and incompelte, their declarations uncertain and ill-defined.
After a full study of the modern availbale literature on the personality of man, when a serious student turns his gze on teh wealth of details available in the Upaniṣad-s, he discovers with relief that though the language may be unfamiliar and the style of epxpression rather tedious, in the descriptions of the Upaniṣad-s there is a complete analysis indeed more scientific than a science could ever be. According to his conclusions, he declares man as nothing but a Spiritual Existence, as it were, evveloped with concentric circles ofMatter with various degrees of intensity. He claims to prove that the innermost layer ius the subtlest while the outermost is the grossest Matter-envelopment aroud the SPirit.
According to the Ṛṣī-s of the scriuptures
Physiology considers man as a physical structure with a brain, having the capacity to think and feel. The spirituo-physical structure of man as visualized and estimated by the saints of the old, goes beyond the tehemes of the western biologiests. The theory propounded by the Vedāntik Seeers is as described in diagram XXX.
It is well known that a mere physical body will not move, grow, or act unless the Life-Principle presides over it. A dead body can no more smile, eat or walk, think or feel. When once Life has flown out, the body falls down and in a short time starts decomposing into the very elements from which it had come. This is true, hoever, great the man might have been while he was alive. This Life-Center in each one of us is the sacred spot from which all activities emanate.
This Divine-Spark-of-Life, the spiritual center--called the Ātman in Vedānta--is considered to have been enveloped by the various layers of Matter of varying degress of grossness. The outermost shell, the grossest is the body; and we almost all through our conscious existence go about conceiving ourselves to be only this body; very rarely a few of us may be aware of the existience of our mental and intellectual personalityeies and indee,d probably none of us is even remotely conscious of the Vital Centre of all Life and Bliss in us.
The Ātman or the Self is repsreented in teh diagram by teh sacred mystic symbol Oṃ. This is our Self, our Real Nature, Omnipotent and Omniscient. This Spark-of-Life has comed to be in a sense, enveloped by Matter and the various envelopments that are called in Vedānta as sheaths. The term 'sheath' indicates that just as the sword and hte sheath have between them no contact with each other, so too between the eternal Divine-Spark-of-Life and the Matter there is no contact: it only indicates that in the presence of the SPriti alone the matter coverings gain a similitude of life; just as the firmness and shaprness of the sword give status to the sheath.
There are thus five distince sheaths--The Food sheath, the outermost, the Vital-air sheath lining ti internally, the Mental sheath within and still intereior the Intellectual sheath and lastly, the subtlest of all, the Bliss sheath.
The definition of interior in relation to sheaths is that an interior sheath is subtler than the sheath exterior to it. The subtlety of a sheath is measured by its pervasiveness.
The physical body is the grossest. The vital-air, that we take in, can be blown out to pervade a greater area than that which is occupied by the body; so the Vital-air sheath is subtler than the gross Food sheath. The mind can reach a distant place wehree the breath cannot reach and the intellect can, in its ivisions, reach places where the mind could not. Thus, the Mental and the intellectual sheaths are more and more subtle than their outer sheaths. The subtlest, thus is the Ātman and "It envelops all and non envelops It," say the Śrutī-s: "It is all-pervading."
The Food Sheath
That physical body which everyone is fully aware of during the waking-state-of-consciousness is termed as the Food sheath. It is called so because it has come up from teh essence of the food taken in by the father; it exists because of the food taken in and it ultimately after death, must go back to become food again. The substance of the physical structure being something that rises from food, exists in food and goes back to be food. Naturally, it is termed, as the Food sheath. The organs of knowledge and the organis-of-action exist in this sheath.
The Vital-Air sheath
The air that is breathed in, all gets mixed up with the blood and reaches every cell of the physical body. Even without much imagination, we can easily see how the oxygen of the air and we breath in constantly forms an inner silk-lining, as it were, for the outer physical ggross sheath. The Vital-Air sheath controls all the organis of action, and according to the different functions, it performs, the Science of Vedānta has classified it under five differnet names, the pañca-prāṇaḥ (the five vital-airs).
The Mental Sheath
Everyone is aware of the precense of the mind. The Mind is that seat which entertains doubts, joys, desires, and the like, and they constantly maintain the non-stop flow of the thought-lava. Mind is the doubting element, while intellect is the determing factor in each of us. Mind can go in its flight to things and places seen or heard and because of its vast reaches. It is considered subtler than all its outer envelopments we had examined so far.
The Intellectual sheath
In fact, in the Vedāntik literature, very often we find tha the mind and tee intellect are considered to be one and the same. Intellect is mind when it comes to a determined decision or a willed judgement. The intellect is considered as subtler than the mind because it adventures forth into realms further than what it had heard before or seen. The hitherto not experienced ar ethe field of its pleasures. And hence, we consider the intellect to be an interior sheath to that of the mind.
The Bliss Sheath
This is the sheath made up of negativeity or ignorance in which we exist during our deep-sleep-state-of-consciousness. It is considered blissful because, whatever be the condition in which individuals are in their waking and dream-states, once they reach the Halls-of-Sleep, be they rich or ppoor, successufl or disappointed, healthy or sikck, young or old, all of them experience the same undisturbed peace and bliss. To the ordinary gross intellect, this sheath is an unconscious state of "nothingness"...meaning, nothing of those things known to it as "things." In this deep-sleep-state of Consciousness man is experiencing a joyous condition whereijn, none of the known experience is repeated. But all the same, the joy felt is positively known that is, it is a nothing which means No-Thing.
The Life center
The subtlest of all is the Life-Center in us, which is the core of this five-sheathed structure. The five layers of Matter discussed above, along with the Eternal Life-Center as its core together constitute the spirituo-physical structure of men (and women). The clearer and purer are the Metnal and the Intellectual sheaths, the greater is the manifested Consciousness exhibited by the organism. The mind and intellect are almost absent in stone life and there is no awareness in them at all. In the plant-life, Vedānta, claims a rudimentary mind an dintellect and hence in that kingdom, we see a percentage of awareness in comparison to the dull and inter state of the stone life. Much more clearn and developed is the mind and the intellect of the animal and so they are definitely more aware. The suprmee development, of course is in man.
The purer the mind and intellect, the brigther will be the beams of Consciousness that shoot out from the individual and the saint or the prophet is the one with has the maxsimum awareness manifest in Him; the Sruti says "Bramavit Bhrahmaiva Bhagavan"--the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman. To realize the pure Awaareness, which is the Atman or the Life Center is thegoal of live. Theculmination of evolution the ffffffff