Meditational Yoga — The Prerequisites
To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kusa-grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should neither be too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogi should then sit on it very firmly and should practice yoga by controlling the mind and the senses, purifying the heart and fixing the mind on one point. (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, Verses 13-14)
Today yoga has become fashionable and popular in big cities. However what goes on in modern so-called yoga studios has nothing to do with the real yoga system. In this Sixth Chapter of Bhagavad Gita Krishna, after explaining to His friend Arjuna the importance of controlling the mind, is explaining the meditaional yoga system as a way for him to control his mind.
The yoga system Krishna is teaching Arjuna is the pure and original form of what we know today as Hatha Yoga or Astanga Yoga. However from this introduction by Krishna we can understand that meditaional yoga can not be performed in a group. It is solitary engagement. One has to go to a sacred secluded place and make a sitting place by laying kusha grass on the ground and then covering it with deer skin and a soft cloth. Then the yogi must sit on this asana, or sitting place, and practice yoga by controlling his mind and senses, purifying his heart and fixing his mind on one point.
“Sacred place” refers to places of pilgrimage. In India the yogis, the transcendentalists or the devotees all leave home and reside in sacred places such as Prayaga, Mathura, Vrndavana, Hrsikesa and Hardwar and in solitude practice yoga where the sacred rivers like the Yamuna and the Ganges flow. But often this is not possible, especially for Westerners. The so-called yoga societies in big cities may be successful in earning material benefit, but they are not at all suitable for the actual practice of yoga. One who is not self-controlled and whose mind is not undisturbed cannot practice meditation.
One should hold one’s body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus, with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life. (Bhagavad Gita Chapter 6, Verses 13-14)
Here Krishna is informing us an important prerequisite for practicing yoga is one must be completely free from sex life. Most modern so-called yoga societies teach the exact opposite, generally they teach that by practicing yoga one can improve his sex life. But the mind can never be peaceful if it is hankering after trying to satisfy the senses. So one who is still addicted to sex life can not have a peaceful mind and therefore can not practice yoga.
The idea that one can satisfy the senses is false. The actual substance, the actual bliss, is not there in any sort of material sense gratification. Even if there is some momentary pleasure the soul is not looking for momentary pleasure. Our soul is hankering after eternal pleasure. We can not reach the platform of eternal pleasure without making the mind peaceful and the mind can not be peaceful if we are trying to satisfy our senses.
Therefore the greatest enemy of the yogi is sex desire. Sex desire is the most bewildering aspect of maya and it is the shackles or chains that bind us to the material world and force us to take birth and die over and over and over again… The endless cycle of samsara that we can never escape from without become free from the sex desire.
Another important point we learn from Krishna is the object of meditation in yoga. Modern yoga schools are very vague about this. But here Krishna clearly says “one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” So the object of mediation for a yogi is Krishna who is present within his heart as the Paramatma or Supersoul. And the perfection of yoga is to come to the platform of Krishna consciousness.
The goal of yoga is to know Krishna, who is situated within the heart of every living being as Paramatma, the four-handed Visnu form. The yoga process is practiced in order to discover and see this localized form of Visnu, and not for any other purpose. The localized visnu-murti is the plenary representation of Krishna dwelling within one’s heart. One who has no program to realize this visnu-murti is uselessly engaged in mock-yoga practice and is certainly wasting his time. Krishna is the ultimate goal of life, and the visnu-murti situated in one’s heart is the object of yoga practice.
To realize this visnu-murti within the heart, one has to observe complete abstinence from sex life; therefore one has to leave home and live alone in a secluded place, remaining seated as mentioned above. One cannot enjoy sex life daily at home or elsewhere and attend a so-called yoga class and thus become a yogi.One has to practice controlling the mind and avoiding all kinds of sense gratification, of which sex life is the chief. In the rules of celibacy written by the great sage Yajnavalkya it is said: “The vow of brahmacarya is meant to help one completely abstain from sex indulgence in work, words and mind–at all times, under all circumstances, and in all places.” No one can perform correct yoga practice through sex indulgence.
Brahmacarya is taught, therefore, from childhood when one has no knowledge of sex life. Children at the age of five are sent to the guru-kula, or the place of the spiritual master, and the master trains the young boys in the strict discipline of becoming brahmacaris. Without such practice, no one can make advancement in any yoga, whether it be dhyana, jnana or bhakti.
One who, however, follows the rules and regulations of married life, having sexual relationship only with his wife (and that also under regulation), is also called brahmacari. Such a restrained householder brahmacari may be accepted in the bhakti school, but the jnana and dhyana schools do not admit even householder brahmacaris. They require complete abstinence without compromise. In the bhakti school, a householder brahmacari is allowed controlled sex life because the cult of bhakti-yoga is so powerful that one automatically loses sexual attraction, being engaged in the superior service of the Lord. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said: “Whereas others are forced to restrain themselves from sense gratification, a devotee of the Lord automatically refrains because of superior taste. Other than the devotee, no one has any information of that superior taste.”
Krishna also stresses that to practice yoga one must be fearless. One cannot be fearless unless one is fully in Krishna consciousness. A conditioned soul is fearful due to his perverted memory, his forgetfulness of his eternal relationship with Krsna. The Bhagavatam says that Krishna consciousness is the only basis for fearlessness. Therefore, perfect practice is possible for a person who is Krishna conscious. And since the ultimate goal of yoga practice is to see the Lord within, a Krishna conscious person is already the best of all yogis. The principles of the yoga system mentioned herein are different from those of the popular so-called yoga societies.
The practical problem for a would-be yogi in this age of Kali is hardly anyone has an undisturbed and controlled mind and very few people can go to a sacred and secluded place and live there alone to practice yoga and it is very difficult to find anyone who is free from sex desire… And one who is not self-controlled and whose mind is not undisturbed cannot practice meditation. Therefore, in the Brhan-naradiya Purana it is said that in the Kali-yuga (the present age) when people in general are short-lived, slow in spiritual realization and always disturbed by various anxieties, the best means of spiritual realization is chanting the holy name of the Lord.
harer nama harer nama harer namaiva kevalam
kalau nasty eva nasty eva nasty eva gatir anyatha
“In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.”
So the perfection of yoga, and the only practical yoga system for this age of Kali yuga is the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra can be performed anywhere, in any place and at any time. There are no hard and fast rules in regard to this. And the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is so powerful that a sincere chanter can get all the results of yoga very quickly by this simple method. So chant Hare Krishna and be happy!