From the book "The crown of life", written by Sant Kirpal Singh
All the great teachers of humanity, at all times and in all climes – the Vedic Rishis, Zoroaster, Mahavira, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Nanak, Kabir, Baba Farid, Hazrat Bahu, Shamas Tabrez, Maulana Rumi, Tulsi Sahib, Swamiji and many others – gave to the world but one sadhna or spiritual discipline. As God is one, the God-way too cannot but be one. The true religion or the way back to God is of God’s own making and hence it is the most ancient as well as the most natural way, with no artifice or artificiality about it. In its practical working, the system needs the guidance of an adept or a teacher well versed in the theory and practice of Para Vidya, the Science of the beyond, as it is called, for it lies beyond the grasp of the mind and of the sense-faculties. Where the world’s philosophies end, there the true religion starts. The scriptural texts give us, at best, some account of the path so far as it can be put into imperfect words, but cannot take us tco the path nor can they guide us on the path.
The spiritual path is essentially a practical path. It is only the spirit – disencumbered and depersonalized – that can undertake the spiritual journey. The inner man, the soul in man, has to rise above body-consciousness before it can traverse into higher consciousness or the consciousness of the cosmos and of the beyond. All this and more becomes possible through the Surat Shabd Yoga or the union of "self” in man (Surat or consciousness) with the Shabd or Sound Principle, through the grace of the Master-soul.
In order to have a clear idea of the teachings of the Masters from the hoary past right to the present time, it would be worth our while to study the nature and extent of the Surat Shabd Yoga and its teachings in relation to the various yogic systems as taught by the ancients, and also the principles of Advaitism as propounded by Shankaracharya.
The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj which means meeting, union, communion, consummation, abstraction, realization, absorption or metaphysical philosophizing of the highest type, that promises to bring close proximity between the soul and the oversoul (jiva-atma and Parmatma or Brahman). Patanjali, the reputed father of the yoga system, after the fashion of his progenitor Gaudapada, defines yoga as elimination of vritis or modulations that always keep surging in the mind-stuff or chit in the form of ripples. He calls it chit vriti nirodha or the supression of the vritis, i.e., clearing the mind of the mental oscillations. According to Yajnavalkya, yoga means to effect, or to bring about, at-one-ment of the individual soul with Ishwar or Brahman. The yogins generally define it as the unfoldment of the spirit from and disrobing it of the numerous enshrouding sheaths in which it is enveloped in its physical existence. Sant Mat or the Path of the Masters, far from denying any of these objectives of yoga, accepts and endorses in full all that is said above and, in some measure, agrees to the aims and ends thereof, but regards them at best as mere pointers to the goal. It does not rest there, however, but goes beyond and tells us the "Way Out” of the mighty maze of the universe and the "Way In” to the heavenly home of the Father, the spiritual journey that the spirit has to undertake from death to life immortal. (Fana to Baqa), by rising above body-consciousness by means of a regular system of self-analysis and withdrawal of the spirit currents from the body and concentrating them at the seat of the soul (Tisra Til), and then passing through the intermediary centers beyond Bunk-naal, the inverted, tube-like passage, until it reaches the final stage of consummation and attains at-one-ment with its Source.
Here one might ask the question as for the need of union between the soul and the Oversoul, when the two are essentially the same and are already embedded one in the other. Theoretically speaking, this is correct, but how many of us are consciously aware of this and work practically in the light and life of this knowledge and awareness? On the other hand, the soul is always following the lead of the mind, the mind that of the senses, and the senses that of the sense-objects, with the result that the soul, by constant association with the mind and the senses for ages upon ages, has completely lost its own individual (undivided) identity and has for all practical purposes become identified with the mind. It is this veil of ignorance which has become in between the soul and the oversoul that has to be removed to enable the soul to come into its own, to realize its inherent nature and then to seek its real home and gain life eternal. All religions were originally designed by man solely with this end in view but unfortunately in the course of time man gradually drifts away from reality and becomes the slave of his own handicrafts and religions, as religions deteriorate into institutionalized churches and temples, rigid codes of moral and social conduct, lacking the living touch and the pulsating life-impulse of their founders.
"I know no disease of the soul but ignorance,” says Ben Jonson. How to remove the veil of ignorance is the problem of problems. We have allowed it to grow into an impervious rock too hard to be blasted. Still, the sages have provided various means to rend the otherwise impenetrable veil, such as Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga and other methods. The light of true knowledge, as visualized by Jnana Yoga, may be able to dispel the darkness of ignorance, just as a lighted candle may dispel darkness from a dark room. By Bhakti Yoga one may be able to change the course of hatred, separateness and duality into that of love for all, at-one-ment and oneness with all living creatures and thereby be established in the all-embracing love for all. Finally, by means of Karma Yoga one may be able to root out feelings of selfishness, egocentricity, self-aggrandizement and self-love and engage in charitable deeds of philanthropy and similar activities, which may be beneficial to mankind in general, and acquire fellow feelings and love for all, see the reflex of the universe within his own self and that of his self in all others, and realize ultimately the principle of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. These are, in the main, the three paths, or rather three aspects of an integrated path of head, heart and hand, whereby one may achieve the desired end, the union of the soul with the oversoul. They may for convenience be briefly termed the process of self-mastery, self-sublimation and self-sacrifice, leading ultimately to "Cosmic Consciousness”, or awareness of the all-pervading reality as the basis of all that exists.
The objective in each case is the same and each aims at the same target, though the initial elementary stages each of them starts from dualistic considerations. It is from dualism that one starts, and in non-dualism (advaitism) that one ends; and for this one may take to the path of divine knowledge, of universal love and devotion or of selfless service of humanity.<p
Though the archers aiming at it may be so many.
In Jnana Yoga, for instance, one has to develop the faculty of discrimination, so as to be able so as to distinguish between agyan and gyan, i.e., ignorance and true knowledge, the illusiory character of Maya and the reality of Brahman. When he is convinced of the latter he gets glimpses of nothing but Brahman pervading everywhere in its limitless essence, immanent in all forms an colors which take their design and hue from that essence alone. This perception is the dawning of true knowledge and divine wisdom.
In Bhakti Yoga, likewise, we begin with the twin principles of Bhagat and Bhagwant, or the devotee and the deity, and the devotee gradually loses his little self and sees his deity all-pervading, and his own self expands so as to embrace the totality as does his own Isht-deva. "Whoever enters a salt-mine, tends to become salt.” As you think, so you become.
Again, in Karma Yoga, one may enter the Karma Kshetra or the field of actions, under some impelling force to begin with, but in course of time he learns the value of selfless Karma. Karmas when performed for their own sake without any attachment to the fruit thereof, cease to be binding, and by force of habit one gradually becomes Neh Karma (actionless in action), or still a point in the ever-revolving wheel of life. In this way, when one from the circumference of his being reaches the center of his being, he acquires inaction in action and is freed from the binding effect of Karmas.
Vritis: What they are
When a current emanating from the spirit strikes any object, such as a physical thing, a mental feeling, an idea, or a sensory sensation, and returns to its source, it is called a vriti. The vriti produces a modulation in the mind-stuff. All our knowledge of the world without and within comes from vritis or rays of thought. A ray of light, reflected from or originating from an object, passes through the eyes to the brain, where it is converted into thought impressions making us aware of the object.
Vritis are of five kinds:
Parman: The relationship between the pure soul and Prakriti or Nature is called Parman. In every manifestation, the pure soul finds its own essence at the core and nothing is apart and distinct from it.
Vipreh: The relationship between the knowing soul and Prakriti or nature’s object is called Vipreh. It takes in and accepts the manifested form as it is, but remains sceptical of the one and active life-principle at the core of it.
Vikalp: It is the relationship that the mind-ridden soul has with the objects, producing doubt and delusion as to the objects themselves, their existence, their intrinsic nature and life-essence at their core.
Nidra: It is the relationship that the prana-covered soul has with the objects. It embraces in its fold the twin states of dream and deep slumber, regardless of the existent surroundings.
Smriti: It is the relationship of the embodied soul with the objects of the world on the physical plane.
All these vritis constitute so many hurdles in the way of the soul seeking to understand its true and essential nature., which in reality is nothing but that of God. Kabir therefore says: "Soul is of the same essence as that of God.”
Similarly, the Muslim divines express the same idea when they speak of the soul as Amar-i-Rabbi or the fiat of God.
If one could but clear the chit of the vritis (chit vriti nirodha, as it is called), nothing would be left except the pure essence of Godhead. Hence we have the oft-repeated famous dicta on yoga, as in the following:
oscillations) is the essence of yoga.
At-one-ment of the soul and the Oversoul is yoga.
YajnavalkyaExtrication of the soul from the materials of life by
disrobing it of the enshrouding sheaths, is yoga.
Machhandra Nath and Gorak Nath
The easiest, the most ancient, and the most natural way to gain the fruits of yoga, as taught by Kabir, Nanak and others before and after them, is that of Shabd Yoga or Sehaj Yoga, as given by all the Master saints from time immemorial. When the spirit is able, by practice of the spiritual sadhna, to cast off, one by one, the various coverings, it becomes a pure spirit, complete in itself, a conscious entity, self-existent and self-luminous, ever the same and eternally free. According to the saints, yoga is communion of the soul with the holy Word (God into expression), the power of God or the spirit of God: Sruti, Sarosha, Kalma, Naam [For detailed explanation of these terms, please refer to the book Naam or Word by the same author.] or the Holy Spirit as variously designated by the various sages each in his own particular time.
Soul and oversoul
Soul is the reality and the essence. It is one as well as a totality. In one there is always the delusion of many, and the totality does signify the existence therein of so many parts. The ideas of a part and of the whole go cheek by jowl, and both the part as well as the whole are characterized by the similarity of the essential nature in them.
The essence of a thing has its own attributive nature and the two cannot be separated from each other. Just as the essence is both one and many, so is the case with its attributive nature.
The essence of a thing is its Johar, its very life breath. It is the only primal principle that pervades everywhere and is the reality behind all forms and colors. This active life principle is the very source of creation and goes variously by the names of Prakriti in the subtle, Pradhan in the causal, and Maya or matter in the physical world.
- The attributive nature of a thing is its integrated part and parcel in which its nature inheres. Just take the case of light. Can light be conceived of as apart from the sun, or radiant vitality apart from a gloriously healthy personality? One does not exist without the other as two are inseparable and fully embedded in each other.
Any attempt to consider the two – nature and its essence – as separate, even if only in imagination, is bound to bring in the idea of duality. It is only in terms of this duality that one can conceive of the creation as distinct from the creative principle as being the result of the outer play of the twin forces of spirit, called matter and soul. The scientific investigations too have now come to the irresistible conclusion that all life is one continuous existence at different levels and what we call inert matter is nothing but energy at its lowest stage. In nature itself, both in the subtle and causal planes, these two principles are always at work: God and Prakriti in the subtle, God and Pradhan in the causal, and soul and matter in the physical universe. The creation everywhere is but the outcome of the impact of the one on the other.
Soul then is the life-principle and the root cause at the core of everything, for nothing can come into manifestation without it. It has a quickening effect, and imparts its life-impulse to the seemingly inert matter by contact with it. It is by the life and light of the quickening impulse of the soul that matter assumes so many forms and colours with their variety of patterns and designs which we see in the universe.
This life current or soul is extremely subtle, a self effulgent spark of Divine Light, a drop from the Ocean of Consciousness, with no beginning and no end, and eternally the same, an unchangeable permanence, boundless, complete in itself, an ever-existent and all-sentient entity, immanent in every from, visible and invisible, for all things manifest themselves because of it. Nothing is made that is not made by it.
The One remains, the many change and pass,
Life like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity.
Just as the sun spreads out its rays in the world, as an ocean carries on its surface bubbles, ripples, waves, tides and currents, and as a forest is made up of innumerable trees, so does the Oversoul or God, when looked at through His creation, appear to be split into so many forms, exhibiting and reflecting the light and life of God in a rich panorama of variegated colors. Yet His spirit runs through all alike, just as a string through so many beads, while He, unconcerned, remains apart from all in His own fullness.
The first downward projection of the spiritual current, as it emanated from God, brought into manifestation ether (akash), which is the most subtle of the elements and spreads everywhere in space. This has two aspects. One is that of the spirit or soul remaining unmanifest in the ether, and the other that of the manifest ether, wherein the two forces, positive and negative, which are inherent in it, further combined and brought into manifestation air (vayu) and exactly in the same way the manifest air gave birth to fire (agni) and the manifest fire produced water (jal) and the manifest water led to the formation of earth (prithvi), while the spirit of each element which is essentially the same remained unmanifest throughout.
In the same way as above, what we call God has an essential Godhood, absolute and imageless, the life and spirit of the Universe, and at the same time the Universe with its varied creations full of and manifesting so many forms and colors, appearing and disappearing like ripples in the sea of life. The unmanifest and impersonal God is free from all attributes, while His individualized rays, as manifested in countless forms and colors by constant contact with Maya, Prakriti and Pradhan (physical, subtle and causal) feel themselves, through ignorance of their true nature, as limited and separate from each other and are thereby drawn into the ambit of the inexorable karmic law or the law of cause and effect, which entails a consequence for every deed, every word and every thought. What is unfulfilled in one life is fulfilled in another, and thus the giant wheel of life and death once set in motion goes on perpetually by the force of its own inexhaustible momentum. Herein lies the difference between the individualized soul on the one hand, and the great soul of the universe (called God) on the other, the one being bound and limited, the other being without bounds or limits.
Prakriti or matter
The term Prakriti is a compound term and is derived from the Sanskrit root pra meaning "first”, and kar signifying "to act” and thus Prakriti stands for "original matter” (latent energy) which, when acted upon by positive spirit force, brings into being the many forms, patterns and designs in the vast creation of the great creator. This is called Maya, and all that can be seen or felt by any of the senses falls in the category of matter or Prakriti. Matter, as explained above, is latent energy at its lowest level, which is quickened into activity (activated) and made to assume the many different forms that we perceive as patent. This process from passivity into activity of energy leads to creation, or manifestation of the hitherto spirit force.
Brahman or spirit force comes into being only through a gross covering (kaya):
Just as the totality of the seemingly individualized souls goes to make the oversoul (God), so also the mighty maze of the created beings and things with different forms and colors in their totality, is called Prakriti.
Prakriti itself can neither be felt by the senses nor has it any existence itself, but comes into manifestation only when acted upon by the spirit force. Just as the rays of the sun have no existence apart from the sun and appear only when the sun rises on the horizon, so does Prakriti, in conjunction with the life-impulse, assume innumerable shapes and forms beyond the human ken, and the one invisible soul seems to get diversified into individualized parts, with different names and varied species that baffle description and solution. Still, the yogins have taken into account the five koshas or the enshrouding sheaths that have come to cover up the spirit current in its downward descent, and have devised and formulated ways and means to remove them. These koshas or coverings may briefly be described as:
Vigyan-mai Kosh: Covering of the mental apparatus or intellect with its two phases: one concerned with knowledge (gyan) on the physical plane and the other with enlightenment (vigyan) on the spiritual planes. This is the first covering in which the spirit gets wrapped as it comes in contact with the subtle matter called Prakriti. The light of the soul, as it reflects in the intellectual center, brings into motion what is commonly known as intellect, consisting of inner spiritual perception and outer cognition. The soul, along with this reflected intellectual ability, becomes both cognitive and perceptive.
Man-o-mai Kosh: This is the second covering or sheath that the intellectualized or the cognitive soul wraps around itself by further intensive contact with Prakriti, which now begins to reflect the mind-stuff as well; and with this added faculty the soul becomes inclined toward the mind and gradually becomes mind-ridden.
Pran-mai-Kosh: The covering of the pranas (the vital air) constitutes the third sheath around the soul. As the thinking (cognitive) and mind-bound soul presses still further upon Prakriti (matter), it begins to vibrate with pranas, which are of ten types according to their different functions. This makes the cognitive and mind-bound soul to be pran-mai, or impelled by a quickening effect.
- Anna-mai Kosh: When the cognitive, mind-bound and impulsive soul works upon Prakriti, it forges therein yet another type of covering, that of anna-mai. This is the last of the five sheaths, and for its maintenance it begins to feel a continuing need for anna or foodstuff, and other sense objects.
This anna-mai covering is just an inner lining of the physical body (gross matter), which in fact is its outer manifestation; and it continues to wrap the soul even when its outer form, i.e., body, declines, decays and disintegrates.
The existence of this coarse physical body depends upon the healthy condition of the Anna-mai Kosh on the inside of it.
Some of the souls, even when they cast off the outer physical body, still hanker after food because of the Anna-mai Kosh, hunt after pleasures of the world and continue to haunt human habitations in their wanderings for satisfaction of their innate cravings. It is to satisfy these cravings of the physically disembodied souls that the Hindus perform pind dan and saradhs, and make propitiatory offerings to the manes or the departed souls so that they may find rest and peace.
- However, it is Anand-mai Kosh (Bliss) that is the first and the foremost of these Koshas or coverings. This is almost an integral part of the soul itself. It is the most subtle sheath, like that of a thin covering over a lighted candelabra. One experiences a little when in deep and dreamless slumber (sushupti), for on waking up he retains a hazy idea of the anand or bliss that he experienced in that completely undisturbed state of rest.
Then there are the five koshas or hijabs (curtains or covering mantles) as the Muslims call them, and they cover the soul, fold within fold. The aim or purpose of all yogas is to gradually disentangle the soul from these coverings one by one, until it is finally disengaged from all of them and is restored to its original and pristine glorious state of self luminosity (Swayam Jyoti), which is no less than that of several suns put together. This is the stage of Aham Brahm Asmi or "I am Brahm,” and when attained, one not only feels himself to be at oneness with God, but actually hails God with the words – Ayam Athma Brahma – "Oh God! I am of the same essence as Thou art.” Most of the yoga systems take this to be the be-all and and-all of all spiritual endeavors. This in fact is the highest and the last stage of self-realization, but is yet a halfway house on the spiritual journey – a stage of no mean consequence, for it is from here that a rare soul starts toward the much coveted goal of complete realization of God, since it is Khud Shanasi (Self-knowledge) that gradually leads on to Khuda Shanasi (knowledge of God).
Self-knowledge and actual self-realization is the culminating point in the process of self-analysis, without which one cannot proceed Godward and enter into the Kingdom of God. In this process of inversion and withdrawal of the spirit within by rising above body-consciousness and freeing the spirit from the tentacles of the body and mind, the easiest, quickest, and surest process is by communion with the Shabd or the Sound Current (the Holy Word), and this is the only means for God-realization. It is the most ancient way the world has known, coming down as it does from the dawn of creation itself. It is coeval with Man from the day he became separated from his Father in Heaven. All the great Masters of mankind gave this Word to their disciples. This is baptism with the Holy Spirit, as Christ put it.
Relationship between the three bodies and the five koshas
The human body exists of three raiments: physical, astral or subtle, and the causal seed-body.
In the physical body we have all the five koshas or coverings, and this is why we, in our waking state, get some knowledge and experience of all the five things: bliss, cognition (inner and outer), mindfulness (chit and its vritis or mental modulations), pranic vibrations and the physical system.
As one rises into the astral or the subtle body, one loses consciousness of the physical existence, while the soul mentally experiences the rest of the four states, viz., bliss, cognition, mindfulness and pranic vibrations.
As the spirit travels higher on into the causal body, even the mental apparatus itself drops off and only the power of smriti (remembrance) remains, and it witnesses and gives an account of the bliss experienced in that state.
Division of creation according to the koshas
All beings from gods to man, as well as the other forms of life, including plants, are classified into five categories in relation to the preponderance of one or the other of the faculties:
Purely cognitive beings, like Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, etc.
Beings endowed with mind-stuff: Indra and other deities, gods and goddesses, etc.
Beings endowed with pranic vibrations: Yakshas, Gandharbas and other spirits, etc.
- Physical beings: Men, animals, birds, reptiles and insects, etc.
The creatures endowed with physical bodies have all the five koshas or coverings in them in varying degrees of density (Anand-mai, Vigyan-mai, Mano-mai, Pran-mai and Anna-mai); while those endowed with pranic vibrations have but four koshas, dropping off Anna-mai. Similarly, creatures gifted with the mind-stuff have but three, dropping off Pran-mai as well, and again, cognitive beings have but two, namely Anand-mai and Vigyan-mai, as they are freed from the shackles of the mind, the pranas and the need for anna or foodstuff.
There is thus a very close correspondence between the five primary elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether), of which the bodies are made, and the koshas or coverings. In fact, the koshas themselves are, more or less, the effective result of the five basic elements and endow creatures with the five faculties enumerated above.
- The liberated soul (jivan mukta) has but a transparent veil of Anand-mai Kosh. Spirit in its pure and unalloyed form is the creator, for all creation springs from it, and is sometimes known as Shabd Brahm. it is the self-effulgent light, self-existent, and the causeless cause of everything visible and invisible. The spirit an God both are alike in their nature and essence, i.e., subtlety and bliss. This blissfulness is the very first offspring of the interaction of soul and Prakriti, and being the primal manifestation of the Godhood in the soul, remains the longest to the end in its fullness in spite of the other four coverings enveloping it and bedimming its luster. Blissfulness being the essential and inseparable quality of the soul inheres in its very nature. This is why the searching soul ever feels restless, and feels terribly the loss of its essence in the mighty swirl of the world. This is why Christ emphatically declared:
Persons with gross tendencies, animal instincts, and interested only in the body-building process and developing the Anna-mai Atma, successfully take recourse to Hatha Yoga.
Persons afflicted with wind or gastric troubles, due to obsessions with pran vayu in their system, can combat these with the help of Pran Yoga.
Persons with Mano-Mai Atma in the ascendant, and sufferings from mal, avaran and vikshep, i.e., mental impurities, ignorance and modulations of the mind, can with the help of Raja Yoga conquer and pierce through Mano-mai kosh.
Persons gifted with a strong intellectual bent of mind are ever engaged in finding the why and wherefore of things. Such aspirants take to the path of Vigyan of Jnana Yoga.
Those who are anxious to escape from the world and all that is worldly and seek bliss for its own sake have the path of Anand Yoga or the yoga of True Happiness, called the Sehaj Yoga.
Take heed that the light
which is in thee be not darkness.
Having thus lost sight of the inner bliss, we try to find happiness in the worldly objects and take momentary pleasures as a synonym for true happiness but very soon get disillusioned. This leads to the innate quest for real happiness. It is the eternal quest in the human breast, and from outward, ephemeral and evanescent pleasures one is forced to turn inwards in search of true happiness. This leads on to the beginning of the various yoga systems, one and all, according to the needs of the individual aspirants.
In the Sehaj Yoga, the aspirant does not have to undergo any of the rigorous disciplines characteristic of the other yogas. He must have a sincere and ceaseless yearning for the end of all ends, the goal of all goals, not content with a mere mastery of his physical and mental powers. And when there is such a longing, sooner or later he would find, as Ramakrishna found Totapuri, an adept to put him in touch with the vital life current within, and the current by its own force and attraction will draw him up without any excessive struggle or effort on his part. It is this that makes it in a sense the easiest of all yogas and thus it is often called Sehaj Yoga (the effortless yoga). It can be practised with equal ease by a child as well by an old man; by a woman as well as a man; by the intellectually gifted and ingenious as well as the simple hearted; by the sanyasin as well as the householder. It consists in attuning the soul to the spiritual current ever vibrating within, hence it is known as the Surat Shabd Yoga, or the Yoga of the Sound Current.
With these preliminary remarks, we are now in a position to discuss the subject of yoga with its various essentials as taught by Patanjali, to understand the part that each plays, the technique involved therein, how each step works out, and how far the yogic exercises help practically in achieving the desired result – liberation of soul from the bondage of mind and matter – so as to realize its own potential nature as distinct from body-consciousness, and then to rise into Cosmic Consciousness and further on into Super-Cosmic Consciousness. It is the freed soul that has to experience "awareness” at varying levels, from realization of the "self” to that of "Cosmic” and ultimately to that of "Super-Cosmic” or God.