My View on Hatha-Yoga and Raja-Yoga
I am surprised at the condemnation of other methods of Yoga, especially Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga. Are these methods not as divine as BHAKTI Yoga?…
I have seen in many books published nowadays and have also heard about the method of attaining oneness with SHRI KRISHNA. That method is the method of BHAKTI.
Attaining oneness with Sri Krishna is certainly NOT the method of Bhakti. Bhakti means love. To develop a loving relationship there has to be two people. You can’t have a loving relationship with yourself and exchange loving relationships with yourself…
I am sure you are familiar with the Vedanta-sutra The Vedanta-sutra consists of four chapters. The first two chapters discuss the relationship of the living entity with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is known as sambandha-jnana, or knowledge of the relationship. The third chapter describes how one can act in his relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is called abhidehya-jnana. This relationship with the Supreme Lord is described by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu as jivera ‘svarupa’ haya krsnera ‘nitya-dasa’. “The living entity is an eternal servant of Krishna, the Supreme God. Therefore to act in that relationship one must perform sadhana-bhakti, or the prescribed duties of service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is called abhidheya-jnana. The forth chapter describes the result of such devotional service (pryojana-jnana). This ultimate goal of life is to go back home, back to Godhead. The words anavrttih sabdat in the Vedanta Sutra indicate this ultimate goal.
The culmination of all kinds of yoga practice lies in bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are but means to come to the point of bhakti-yoga. Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga; all other yogas are progressions toward this destination. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization. Karma-yoga executed without fruitive desires, is the beginning of this path. Then when karma-yoga increases in knowledge and renunciation that stage is called jnana-yoga [raja-yoga]. When jnana-yoga increases in meditation on the Supersoul [paramatma] by various physical processes, and when the mind is on Him, one has reached the stage called astanga-yoga. And when one surpasses astanga-yoga and comes to the point of serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, one has reached bhakti-yoga the culmination.
Factually, bhakti-yoga is the ultimate goal, but if one analyzes bhakti-yoga minutely he can understand the other, minor yogas. The yogi who is progressive is therefore on the true path of eternal auspiciousness, whereas one who sticks to a particular point and does not make further progress is called by that particular name: karma-yogi, jnana-yogi, raja-yogi or astanga-yogi. If one is fortunate enough to come to the point of bhakti-yoga, it is to be understood that one has surpassed all the other yogas. Therefore to become Krishna conscious is the highest stage of yoga. Just as, when we speak of the Himalayas, we refer to the world’s highest mountains, of which the highest peak, Mount Everest, is considered the culmination.
If someone practicing Raja-yoga thinks that he is finished, that is wrong. He has to make further progress. For example suppose you want to go to the highest floor of a building–say the hundredth floor–by walking up a staircase. You will pass the thirtieth floor, the fiftieth floor, the eightieth floor, and so on. But suppose when you come to the fiftieth or eightieth floor you think, “I have reached my goal.” Then you are unsuccessful. To reach your destination you have to go to the hundredth floor. Similarly, all the processes of yoga are connected, like a staircase, but we shouldn’t be satisfied to stop on the fiftieth floor or the eightieth floor. We should go to the highest platform, the hundredth floor–pure Krishna consciousness.
Now, if somebody who wants to reach the hundredth floor is given a chance to use the elevator, within a minute he will be able to come to the top. Of course he may still say, “Why should I take advantage of the elevator? I shall go step by step.” He can do this, but there is a chance he may not reach the top floor. Similarly if one takes help from the “elevator” of bhakti-yoga, within a short time he can reach the “hundredth floor”–the perfection of yoga, Krishna consciousness.
Krishna consciousness is the direct process. You may go step by step, following all the other yoga systems, or you may take directly to Krishna consciousness. Lord Caitanya has recommended that in this age of Kali-yuga, since people are very short-lived, disturbed and full of anxiety, they should take up the direct process. And by His grace, by His causeless mercy, he has given us the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, which lifts us immediately to the platform of bhakti-yoga.
However, I am surprised at the condemnation of other methods of Yoga, especially Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga. Are these methods not as divine as BHAKTI Yoga? Does it imply always that RAJA Yogins do not have Bhakti Bhava? In fact, RAJA Yoga is called RAJA Yoga because it encompasses all the methods of attaining God consciousness. It is a very divine and graceful method, since it has been propounded by Lord Krishna himself in the sixth chapter of the Bhagvad Gita and I do not think that RAJA Yogins are in any way INFERIOR to Bhaktas, because to practise RAJA Yoga, one has to be a Bhakta first. It is necessary that a RAJA Yogi has to be a believer and worshipper of God to start with.
Where is the question of Bhakti when your first statement is “Bhakti means to attain oneness with Sri Krishna”? You do not even know what Bhakti means! Of course it is not possible to practice any yoga system at all without at least a tinge of bhakti. However it is possible to practice bhakti-yoga without practicing any other yoga system as it is the culmination of all yoga systems, it includes all other yoga systems.
You are quoting from Sri Krishna’s Bhagavad-gita but why stop at the sixth chapter where Krishna describes the meditational yoga system to Arjuna? There are eighteen chapters in the Bhagavad-gita. If one wants to understand the Bhagavad-gita in completeness he has to read the entire book, not just the first six chapters. And have you not realized even though Krishna explained the meditational yoga system in the sixth chapter Arjuna was not able to follow it?
cancalam he manah krsna
pramathi balavad drdham
tasyaham nigraham manye
vayor iva suduskaram
We can not imagine how exalted and qualified Arjuna was. Five thousand years ago Arjuna was born in the royal family and was a great warrior. He was so qualified that he could talk to Krishna as an ordinary friend. But he said to Krishna, “Krishna, I cannot execute this yoga system. It is not possible.” cancalam he manah krsna pramathi balavad drdham, tasyaham nigraham manye “My mind is so disturbed that controlling my mind is like trying to control the wind.” Suppose there is a very strong wind and one tries to stop it by spreading his hands, is it possible? It is not possible. Arjuna has given this example, pramathi balavad drdham. The mind is so uncontrollable.
A personality like Arjuna was advised by Krishna to practice this meditational yoga system. But he declined saying, “I cannot execute the yoga system. So Krishna pacified Arjuna, telling him indirectly that he was the best of all yogis because he was always thinking of Krishna.
yoginam api sarvesam
sraddhavan bhajate yo mam
sa me yuktatamo matah
And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshipping Me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately related with Me in yoga and is the highest of all.
Krishna certainly explained the meditational yoga system to Arjuna in the Bhagavad-gita [sixth chapter] Compared to us, Arjuna was very qualified. He was Krishna’s personal friend and was living 5,000 years ago in a time much more suited to meditational yoga practice. But Arjuna never practiced the yoga system Krishna describes in the sixth chapter at all. In fact, Krishna spoke the last verse of the sixth chapter I have quoted above to reassure Arjuna that he did not need to practice Raja-yoga or Jnana-yoga at all as he was already practicing Bhakti-yoga which is the “highest of all.”
Also, I hear about the feeling that RAJA Yoga cannot be performed in the current age. This also, I think, is a bit too pessimistic. There are some people who are capable of practicing it even today. Hence, I think that instead of completely sweeping away this divine path, it would be better to look correctly into it. The problem lies not in the path or method, but in the attitude that modern people tend to take towards it. The RAJA Yoga path has to be divine, since it has come from the mouth of the Great Lord, The Lord of Yoga (Yogeshwara), Bhagvan Shri Krishna himself. What is the problem, then, if this path is followed with perfect devotion to God and self-surrender to the Guru?
The problem is you are giving us so many nice words, but you are not at all following the path of yoga Krishna has delineated in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. If one carefully studies that chapter he will find that system of yoga can not be practiced in a city. One has to go to a sacred, sanctified place like the Himalayan mountains or the bank of the Ganges. Then there are so many regulations about the sitting place, the method, etc. But I don’t think you are sitting on the bank of the Ganges or in the Himalayan mountains at all so you are not following the system Krishna recommends in the sixth chapter.
Pranayama is very important. The hatha-yogis and astanga-yogis practice pranayama, but generally they do not know the purpose behind it. The purpose of pranayama, or mystic yoga, is to stop the mind and senses from engaging in fruitive activities. The so-called yogis who practice in the Western countries have no idea of this. The aim of pranayama is not to make the body strong and fit for working hard. The aim is worship of Krishna.
The minds of those who are addicted to fruitive activity are always filled with unclean desires. Fruitive activities are symptomatic of our polluted desire to dominate material nature. As long as one continues to be subject to polluted desires, he has to accept one material body after another. So-called yogis, without knowledge of the real purpose of yoga, practice it in order to keep the body fit. Thus they engage themselves in fruitive activities, and thus they are bound by desire to accept another body. They are not aware that the ultimate goal of life is to approach Krishna. In order to save such yogis from wandering throughout various species of life, the sastras warn that in this age of Kali-yuga such yogic practice is simply a waste of time. The only means of elevation in this age is the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra.
In this age of Kali the practice of yoga is misunderstood by fallen souls who are not capable of practicing anything. Consequently the sastras enjoin: kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha. The conclusion is unless the karmis, jnanis and yogis come to the point of devotional service to Lord Krishna, their so-called austerities and yoga have no value. If Hari, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is not worshipped, there is no point in practicing meditational yoga, performing karma-yoga or culturing empiric knowledge. As far as pranayama is concerned, chanting of the holy name of the Lord and dancing in ecstasy are also considered pranayama. The actual aim of pranayama is to strengthen the mind and senses in order to engage them in devotional service. In the present age this determination can be very easily acquired simply by chanting the holy names–Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
The moment itself is divine, when one thinks of following the RAJA Yoga path for attaining God consciousness. It should be a matter of duty for us to implement this great ancient Yoga of our motherland, at least for those whom it is possible.
Your desire, as you revealed at the beginning of your letter, is to “attain oneness with Sri Krishna.” This desire is completely incompatible with Bhakti-yoga, which aims at reestablishing our original relationship as SERVANTS of Krishna. You want to become “one” with the master whereas a bhakta wants to become the servant of Krishna… You have completely misunderstood bhakti and Krishna’s teachings in the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gita so how can you “implant this great yoga of our motherland” to others? First we have to understand the message of Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita AS IT IS ourselves and then we can impart it to others. I would strongly recommend you seriously study Srila Prabhupada’s Bhagavad-gita As It Is You will find it amazingly enlivening and enlightening and simply by studying this one book you will understand all systems of yoga and if you put the teachings into practice in your own life you will easily rise to the topmost platform of yoga in a very shout time.
So, I request you to please comment on the above and send me your reply at the earliest.
OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAYA.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!!