Paramahansa Yogananda’s Comments on the Goal of Yoga
Patanjali begins his Yoga Sutras with the definition of yoga as “the neutralization of the alternating waves in consciousness” (chitta vritti nirodha—I:2). This may also be translated as “cessation of the modifications of the mind-stuff.” I have explained in Autobiography of a Yogi, “Chitta is a comprehensive term for the thinking principle, which includes the pranic life forces, manas (mind or sense consciousness), ahamkara (egoity), and huddhi (intuitive intelligence). Vritti (literally ‘whirlpool’) refers to the waves of thought and emotion that ceaselessly arise and subside in man’s consciousness. Nirodha means neutralization, cessation, control.”
Patanjali continues: “Then the seer abides in his own nature or self” (I:3). This refers to his true Self, or soul. That is, he attains Self-realization, oneness of his soul with God. Patanjali explains in sutras I:20-21: “[The attainment of this goal of yoga] is preceded by shraddha (devotion), virya (vital celibacy), smriti (memory), samadhi (the experience of God-union during meditation), prajna (discriminative intelligence). Its attainment is nearest to those possessing tivra-samvega, divine ardor (fervent devotion and striving for God, and extreme dispassion toward the world of the senses).” (God Talks With Arjuna p.70)
Patanjali says that the goal of yoga is nearest (that is, is reached most quickly by) those who possess tivra-samvega. This intense dispassion is not a negative disinterest or deprived state of renunciation. The meaning of the word rather encompasses such an ardent devotion for attaining the spiritual goal—a feeling that stirs the devotee into positive action and mental intensity—that longing for the world is transmuted naturally into a fulfilling desire for God. (God Talks With Arjuna p.73)
Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutras, defines yoga as the dissolving of the scintillations or vrittis (alternating waves of thoughts, desires, emotions) in the chitta or primordial feeling (the totality of individualized consciousness), arising from the likes and dislikes produced from the contact of the mind with the senses. Yoga has also been defined in the scriptures as the forsaking of all desireful thoughts, and as the attainment of a state of “thoughtlessness.” These definitions fit the achievements of both the man of renunciation and the yogi. Real renunciation consists in the ability to dismiss thoughts and desires at will. Supreme yoga ecstasy bestows the “thoughtless” state. It is not a mental coma (in which the mind is unconscious of external sensations and internal perceptions), but is a state of divine equilibrium. Its attainment proves that the yogi has entered the Vibrationless Being—the ever blissful, ever conscious Divine Void beyond phenomenal creation. No one can be a yogi, maintaining a state of mental equilibrium, free from inner involvement in planned desireful activities, unless he has renounced identification with his ego and its unsatisfiable lust for the fruits of actions. Only he who has reached samadhi can be spoken of as no longer working for the ego.
Of course, if a devotee does not plan his activities according to a definite divine purpose, he will be stumbling at every step. The true yogi fills himself with God and intelligently performs all actions inspired by Him. If, for example, he builds a hermitage for his disciples, he is not to be accused of planning with a selfish motive. The aim of all his actions is to please God. He is not inert nor insensitive, but is one who works in the world, doing all activities for God, without personal desires about anything. He sees and appreciates God in all manifestations of goodness and beauty. A true yogi may admire a beautiful horse, for instance; but those who feel a wish to possess the animal become entangled in sankalpa, ego-instigated desires. He is a yogi who can remain in any material environment without being involved in likes and dislikes. When a yogi can remain completely free from personal desires during inner or outer activity, then he is a successful man of renunciation. And when a man of renunciation is able to renounce all outer and inner activities by an act of will and merge his consciousness in the perception of God, he is the same as a yogi who can remain immersed in God by ecstasy, dissolving by yoga all the scintillations of feelings. (God Talks With Arjuna p.592)
Pranava, the sound of the creative Aum vibration, is the mother of all sounds. The intelligent cosmic energy of Aum that issues forth from God, and is the manifestation of God, is the creator and substance of all matter. This holy vibration is the link between matter and Spirit. Meditation on Aum is the way to realize the true Spirit-essence of all creation. By inwardly following the sound of Pranava to its source, the yogi’s consciousness is carried aloft to God.
In the microcosmic universe of the body of man, the Aum vibration works through the vital activities in the astral spinal centers of life with their creative vibratory elements (tattvas) of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. Through these, man’s body is created, enlivened, and sustained. These vibrations emit characteristic variations of Pranava as they operate. The devotee whose consciousness becomes attuned to these inner astral sounds finds himself gradually ascending to higher states of realization. (God Talks With Arjuna p.116)
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Aum (Om) is spoken of as the symbol of Ishvara or God. This great authority on yoga refers to Aum as a Cosmic Sound continuously flowing in the ether, unutterable by any human voice, and fully known only to the illuminated. Further, Patanjali says that deep concentration on Aum is a means of liberation.
Many people who do not understand the inward meaning of the scriptures think that by softly or loudly chanting Aum they can reach the superconsciousness. The Hindu scriptures, however, point out that one whose mind is identified with the kaya or body cannot possibly perceive the true Aum sound. (…)
Patanjali meant that only that yogi can attain God whose mind is superconsciously fixed on the Cosmic Sound, the external Divine Manifestation. Such a yogi is an accomplished brahmachari. His heart is overflowing with the sacred joy that follows perception of Aum. When a devotee experiences the bliss of God (the comfort of the Holy Ghost) behind the Cosmic Sound, his heart becomes serene; he loses all fear of ever being diverted from his exalted state or of becoming entangled in material sensations. A yogi who has united his soul with the Cosmic Sound and thereby experiences its ineffable bliss is spoken of as united to the Lord. His heart, filled with divine joy, is no longer subject to likes and dislikes, as is the ordinary person’s heart during the contacts with matter and its essential oppositional states. (…)
The Hindu Bible (Bhagavad Gita), the Christian Bible, and the greatest book on yoga (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) unanimously declare the Cosmic Sound to be the outward manifestation or witness of the Lord in creation. Krishna, Jesus, and Patanjali all taught that man must receive the Holy Ghost (the Comforter) in order to reach the Christ Intelligence within it and God the Father existing beyond it (beyond Aum or vibratory creation). All souls have descended into matter from God the Father beyond creation, God the Son or Christ Intelligence, and God the Holy Ghost. Every soul has therefore to ascend to the Spirit (Unmanifested Absolute) through the stages of Its triune manifestation— Holy Ghost, Son, and Father (Aum-Tat-Sat of the Hindu scriptures). (God Talks With Arjuna p.615)
* Aum, being a spiritual vibration, is not heard physically, but felt spiritually Patanjali meant that only that yogi can attain God whose mind is superconsciously fixed on the Cosmic Sound, the external Divine Manifestation. Such a yogi is an accomplished brahmachari. His heart is overflowing with the sacred joy that follows perception of Aum. When a devotee experiences the bliss of God (the comfort of the Holy Ghost) behind the Cosmic Sound, his heart becomes serene; he loses all fear of ever being diverted from his exalted state or of becoming entangled in material sensations. A yogi who has united his soul with the Cosmic Sound and thereby experiences its ineffable bliss is spoken of as united to the Lord. His heart, filled with divine joy, is no longer subject to likes and dislikes, as is the ordinary person’s heart during the contacts with matter and its essential oppositional states.
Yoga Sutra I:20-21
Patanjali says, “The yogi who makes keen efforts without being impatient—he who possesses devotion, vital energy, recollection of his true self, discrimination, and calm persistence in deep meditation— achieves emancipation in a short time.” Pedestrians in the path of yoga may take many lives to reach the goal, whilst fast spiritual travelers may arrive in one life.
CONCENTRATION: ITS SPIRITUAL USES
1. Now concentration is explained.
2. Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Chitta) from taking various forms (Vrttis).
3. At that time (the time of concentration) the seer (the Purasa) rests in his own (unmodified) state.
4. At other times (other than that of concentration) the seer is identified with the modifications.
5. There are five classes of modification, painful and not painful.
6. (These are) right knowledge, indiscrimination, verbal delusion, sleep, and memory.
7. Direct perception, inference, and competent evidence, are proofs.
8. Indiscrimination is false knowledge not established in real nature.
9. Verbal delusion follows from words having no (corresponding) reality.
10. Sleep is a Vrtti which embraces the feeling of voidness.
11. Memory is when the (Vrttis of) perceived subjects do not slip away (and through impressions come back to consciousness).
12. Their control is by practice and non-attachment.
13. Continuous struggle to keep them (the Vrttis) perfectly restrained is practice.
14. Its ground becomes firm by long, constant efforts with great love (for the end to be attained).
15. That effort, which comes to those who have given up their thirst after objects either seen or heard, and which wills to control the objects, is non-attachment.
16. That extreme non-attachment, giving up even the qualities, shows (the real nature of) the Purusa.
17. The concentration called right know-ledge is that which is followed by reasoning, discrimination, bliss, unqualified ego.
18. There is another Samadhi which is attained by the constant practice of cessation of all mental activity, in which the Chitta retains only the unmanifested impressions.
19. (This Samadhi, when not followed by extreme non-attachment) becomes the cause of the re-manifestation of the gods and of those that become merged in nature.
20. To others (this Samadhi) comes through faith, energy, memory, concentration, and discrimination of the real.
21. Success is speeded for the extremely energetic.
22. They again differ according as the means are mild, medium or supreme.
23. Or by devotion to Isvara.
24. Isvara (the Supreme Ruler) is a special Purusa, untouched by misery, the results of actions, or desires.
25. In Him becomes infinite that all-knowingness which in others is (only) a germ.
26. He is the Teacher of even the ancient teachers, being not limited by time.
27. His manifesting word is Om (AUM).
28. The repetition of this (Om) and meditating on its meaning (is the way).
29. From that is gain (the knowledge of) introspection, and the destruction of obstacles.
30. Disease, mental laziness, doubt, calmness, cessation, false perception, non-attaining concentration, and falling away from the state when obtained, are the obstructing distractions.
31. Grief, mental distress, tremor of the body and irregular breathing, accompany non-retention of concentration.
32. To remedy this practice of one subject (should be made).
33. Friendship, mercy, gladness, indifference, being thought of in regard to subjects, happy, unhappy, good and evil respectively, pacify the Chitta.
34. By throwing out and restraining the Breath.
35. Those forms of concentration that bring extraordinary sense perceptions cause perseverance of the mind.
36. Or (by the meditation on) the Effulgent One which is beyond all sorrow.
37. Or (by meditation on) the heart that has given up all attachment to sense objects.
38. Or by meditating on the knowledge that comes in sleep.
39. Or by meditation on anything that appeals to one as good.
40. The Yogi’s mind thus meditating, becomes unobstructed from the atomic to the Infinite.
41. The Yogi whose Vrttis have thus become powerless (controlled) obtains in the receiver, receiving, and received (the self, the mind and external objects), concentratedness and sameness, like the crystal (before different coloured objects.)
42. Sound, meaning, and resulting knowledge, being mixed up, is (called Samadhi) with reasoning.
43. The Samadhi called without reasoning (comes) when the memory is purified, or devoid of qualities, expressing only the meaning (of the meditated object).
44. By this process (the concentrations) with discrimination and without discrimination, whose objects are finer, are (also) explained.
45. The finer objects end with the Pradhana.
46. These concentrations are with seed.
47. The concentration “without reasoning” being purified, the Chitta becomes firmly fixed.
48. The knowledge in that is called “filled with Truth.”
49. The knowledge that is gained from testimony and inference is about common objects. That from the Samadhi just mentioned is of a much higher order, being able to penetrate where inference and testimony cannot go.
50. The resulting impression from this Samadhi obstructs all other impressions.
51. By the restraint of even this (impression, which obstructs all other impressions), all being restrained, comes the “seedless” Samadhi.