Monday, April 25, 2011

8-Fold Path - Step 5 - ETHER!

The 5th Stage of Patanjali's 8-Fold Path is called PRATYAHARA and is associated with the element of ETHER. Ether refers to what we more commonly refer to as "space." Space is the invisible element in which objects appear and appear as separate from each other. The time-space continuum posits a relationship between objects and the space they inhabit and the concept of time.

All objects appear on the invisible fabric of space. Space is created by vibration. This magic-mirror show has two sides: one that seems to show that all objects are separate, and another that reveals they are all connected and part of the same underlying reality.

Isolation and loneliness are potential steps towards personal disintegration and even suicide, if not the more common despondency and depression which is all but epidemic. One of the many benefits of meditation is a sense of connection with the people and world we inhabit. We could say that mental health presumes a feeling of connection with the space we inhabit. Our "space" includes all objects and all people of co-inhabit that space.

Space being invisible is ethereal, or non-material. And as experiments in quantum physics with sub-atomic particles reveals, matter, or particles, appear out "of the thin air" of supposedly "empty" space. In the popular book, "The Holographic Universe," the author quotes a scientist as saying that there is more latent energy in one cubic foot of empty space than has been calculated to exist in all the visible matter of the known (estimated) universe. (Even to me, the claim seems over the top, but even if it's only fractionally true, the essential point remains.)

From a meditative point of view, indeed, from the point of view of consciousness, it is out of the empty space of quietude that ideas, thoughts, images and feelings appear, even unsought or unexpectedly. The greatest creative triumphs are always a process of "something coming out of nothing." This "nothing" is far from nothing even if it validly can be said to be no-thing.

The point here is that this stage of spiritual awakening represents the realization of mind-space, or consciousness as a reality that precedes thought and precedes the reactive process of the lower chakras and their powers of perception and knowledge. Ether is the foundation for the grosser elements. It is also the invisible precondition for the appearance of the tangible creation and reactive, feeling consciousness.

While the 8-Fold Path necessarily describes the stages of ascendency, by definition, it describes the process of descent into creation as well. This stage emanates deep calmness, the eye at the center (or the beginning) of the storm of maya (waves of feeling, action, reaction and movement). Like the television screen whose blue image immediately precedes the images and words which subsequently can appear across its face, space and calmness are neutral and yet expansive and inclusive such that all things which follow depend and are connected to it.

Paramhansa Yogananda wrote "God's body is space. If you want to feel God, feel space within you and all around." He gave the visualization of one floating in deep space with millions of miles below, above, and all around you. While to some, this visualization would seem cold and lonely, the reality of the experience is that it invites us to have a sense of connection and oneness with all creation. The result is a calm, confident, and knowing level of consciousness.

In India's epic story the "Mahabharata" (of which the famous scripture, The Bhagavad Gita is but a chapter), the elder son (Yudisthira) sets an important stage for a part of the story when he gambles away his (and his younger brothers') kingdom. We humans gamble away our happiness when, thinking we can play in delusion simply because we can see that it is delusion and because we are, at present and as yet, unattached to it. But we gamble and we lose our perspective, our calmness, and our wisdom because the magnetic power of maya (delusion) exists in the macrocosm and is bigger than any individual perception. For the dice of life are loaded for those foolish enough to think they can play the "great game" without getting caught.

Many a devotee reaching certain insights of divine wisdom feels the exhilaration and sweeping vista of that wisdom and gets caught again because he pauses, entranced by the view below. He forgets to keep "climbing" upward along the spiral, spinal staircase, gazing steadily ahead to the goal and thus falls again as if mesmerized. By now you can sense how subtle this stage is and how fraught with spiritual danger it can be. Without the support of others of like mind and especially a true guru, the truthseeker easily falls prey to temptation.

This stage carries with it the meditative power to shut off the five sense telephones (represented by the chakras below it and itself.) Full realization of pratyahara and the power of the ether element is to cut off at will the sense stimuli and signals of the five senses by concentrating the mind into perfect stillness beyond the intrusion of restless thoughts.

Whereas the fire element relates to right posture and fixity of body for meditation, and the heart center for purification of desire into devotion, the ether element represents focus of the mind in one-pointed concentration. Hence, step by step, control of body, emotions, and thoughts! These are the prerequisites to the higher stages of the 8-Fold Path which follow as one ascends.
There is a vibratory connection, too, between the fifth chakra (ETHER ELEMENT) and the practice of watching the breath. Paramhansa Yogananda taught this technique with the mental repetition of the mantra HONG-SAU. Hong Sau is the seed mantra for the Sanskrit words "Aham Saha," which means "I am He." The mantra resonates with the astral sound of the pran and apan currents of prana as they move through the ida and pingala nadis (channels) and impel the physical body to breath in and out. The calming of the breath by concentration upon it lifts us toward the breathless state where thoughts cease and pure self-awareness begins. This is the ether soul consciousness upon which all thoughts, feelings, and actions subsequently play unceasingly in the storm of duality (maya).

Yogananda put it this way: "When motion ceases, God begins." This stage of ETHER then is the doorway to the higher stages of the soul consciousness.

Practice watching the breath in meditation. When the breath enters mentally chant HONG. When the breath goes out of its own, mentally chant SONG. The full technique is taught at Ananda meditation classes in person, online, or in books published by Crystal Clarity Publishers, Ananda's publishing division.

Feel space in the body and all around you. Feel the space between the words and sound you hear. Everything you experience is being projected from the invisible ether of space without which the appearance of separate existence could not be intuited.

Blessings, and until we meet again at the 6th Stage of Enlightenment!

Nayaswami Hriman

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Resurrecting Easter from the Dungeon of Dogmatism!

I read in TIME MAGAZINE recently of a famous and popular fundamentalist pastor who has said that he feels Christianity is on the brink of great changes. Well, I, for one, hope so and I am happy to hear someone like him say as much, too! As Paramhansa Yogananda put it back in the Thirties and Forties, tongue-in-cheek, "Jesus was crucified once, but his teachings have been crucified daily ever since."

I do not intend to put down other sincere truthseekers and their credos. My purpose in these thoughts is to walk a fine line between "I come not to destroy the law and the prophets but to fulfill them" and "I bring not peace, but a sword." [Both are the words of Jesus Christ.] Truth is often at the center line between opposites. No one formulation of truth can be anything but an effort to explain a reality that is intuitive and unitive, and therefore, by its actual revelation, it "is, and it is NOT" (to quote the Indian woman saint, Ananda Moyi Ma).

We live in a world that contemplates vast vistas of time and space: the years of humankind's existence on earth keeps enlarging backward in time to millions of years. Space has become so vast in our calculations that it defies anything but the conclusion that the odds of advanced life forms such as exist on earth are nothing less than 100%.

So how can one have one foot in the modern "religion" of science and another foot in the religion of our grandfathers without falling flat on one's metaphysical face? How can one man who lived 33 years over 2,000 years ago on one lonely outpost of a planet on the fringe of one galaxy (of billions) be the savior of the world when most of the world before, during, and after this man's life never heard of him?

How can one misguided act committed in error, ignorance, passion, or delusion and in the minuscule boundaries of earth time and space condemn one's invisible spirit to an eternity of torture and suffering? Worse yet, for the simple fact of not having ever heard about this one man called Jesus Christ?

Is it possible we can embrace Jesus, his life and teachings, without condemning the rest of the beings of this planet and universe to hell? Each of us has for our neighbors and co-workers, people from other nations, races, and religions. Can we not see the obvious unifying needs and nature of all peoples as essentially no different than our own?

How, then, can true and original Christianity be resurrected from the tomb of ignorance? If Jesus truly lived, died, and was resurrected as the New Testament and its saints, martyrs, and sages down through ages proclaim and have given their lives to attest, surely, he must have been bigger in scope than so many of his self-proclaimed followers insist? There must be somewhere to be found a bridge, a life raft, to bring Jesus into the modern world and ever-expanding universe?

Fortunately, there is such a bridge, and surely not only one. But one such wayshower is the world renown yogi from India, Paramhansa Yogananda. His life story, "Autobiography of a Yogi," inspires, delights, and educates millions on every continent from the day it was published in 1946 to this day, today. Yogananda represents a teaching and revelation that goes back beyond the dim veil of recorded history in the world's oldest continuous spiritual tradition: that of the rishis of India.

When the first English translations of India's hoary Vedas and other scriptures reached the shores of America in the early 19th Century, the so-called Transcendentalists (Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman) recognized the overarching wisdom and termed it a philosophy, not a religion. More correctly it should be called revelation, for philosophy is only intellectual speculation about reality, truth, and ethics. In India this body of wisdom has long been termed "Sanaatan Dharma," the "eternal truth (or "religion"). It implies that what is handed down is as universally applicable as the law of gravity which does not depend on man's belief or awareness to hold sway.

In accordance with aspects of all faith traditions and the teaching of metaphysics everywhere, this world and universe is said to be a dream, a visible manifestation of the consciousness of the Creator who remains as yet untouched by the dream, just as a playwright is no more good nor evil owing to the characters of his creation. The playwright's intention is to entertain and to educate. Both the audience and the actors know that it is but a play but the actors strive, nonetheless, to play their role as best as they can and according to the script and intention of the playwright.

All is God, there is none else. This doesn't deny the relative evil we encounter or enact, but that evil is evil because it takes our consciousness further from the experience and realization of God as the only reality behind all seeming and appearances. Evil is an affirmation of separateness. So, too, are ego-affirming attitudes, emotions, and self-gratifying or seeking actions. Good is good because it expands our awareness to realities larger than ego.

The only begotten son of God, therefore, is that spark of divine realization that is crucified by selfishness and resurrected by goodness. It appears in every age, as the rishis of India have proclaimed since time immemorial, in the living person of those beings who, in past lives (many lives), achieved the final victory of permanent realization of their Oneness "with the Father." Their appearance, as saviors, or avatars, is a personal and dynamic promise of immortality and the proclamation, once again, of the "good news" of our souls as children of God.

Jesus used the personal pronoun "I" in proclaiming his Oneness with the Father and for that affront to the ego-entrenched priesthood of his time, paid the ultimate (human) price: persecution and death. His bodily resurrection, like that of many similarly God-realized souls, gave tangible testimony to those with "eyes to see" that we are not the body but we are the Infinite soul, existing since eternity ("Before Abraham was, I AM").

The time has come to realize this divinity through the science of meditation and to put aside divisive dogmas and creeds. To recognize other Christ-like masters is not to diminish the God-realization of Jesus, but merely to make it truly "catholic" ("universal") and personal to each and every one of us though it take many lifetimes. This is the promise of sages down through ages and the promise of our soul's immortality that can be resurrected by our recognition of the Guru-preceptors who come to awaken our memory.

Let us not hesitate, therefore, to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, knowing that it stands forever, today and yesterday, as a beacon of light, faith, and hope for all truthseekers everywhere.


Nayaswami Hriman

Monday, April 18, 2011

AIR ELEMENT-STAGE 4 of the 8-Fold Path of Patanjali

And now we come to the middle step on the eight-fold Path of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. We are half-way, as it were, to the goal of life: cosmic consciousness (Oneness, or samadhi). The elemental aspect of step 4 is AIR. The Sanskrit name of the fourth stage is PRANAYAMA. So let’s do some exploratory digging:

Pranayama. This term is comprised of two basic Sanskrit terms: prana, and, yama. Prana refers to the intelligent energy which activates and underlies everything in creation. In the practice of yoga it is associated with the breath and its many qualities and manifestions such as movement (in, out, up and down, restrained, expelled) or qualities (warm, cool, energizing, calming, oxygenating, detoxifying and so on). The physical breath is prana’s most visible, most material manifestation. Hence if a person is breathing we say “He is alive.” If he’s not breathing, we say “He is dead.” In the deeper or more advanced practices of yoga (meditation), prana refers less to the physical breath and much, much more to the astral (or subtle) energy which moves in the central astral spine known as the sushumna.

Prana has many other manifestations on the subtle astral realm such as light (seen in the forehead in meditation), as sound (heard inside the right ear and expressed in human vocalization as AUM), bliss, calmness, love, peace, vitality, and wisdom.

Yama we have seen in the first article as the term for the first stage of the 8-Fold Path. It means, simply “control.” Control here is more than the “grit-your-teeth-I-am –in-control.” Rather it means that one has an inner awareness of the realities of consciousness that gives one access, realization, and power over their innate qualities.

Now before we go to the qualities of the AIR element, we have some more work to do. No single blog article can do this stage justice. Pranayama also describes the basic thrust of many, if not most, yoga practices. We have breathing techniques which are described by this term. For example, the alternative breathing technique, sometimes referred to as nadi shodamam is a pranayama.

We have the advanced meditation technique of kriya yoga, popularized by Paramhansa Yogananda in his “Autobiography of a Yogi,” and it, too, is a pranayama. The term “pranayama” refers (like the term “yoga” itself) to BOTH the practices and the goal of the practices. A deep lesson is thus implied for while we seek the goal (of union), the goal is already there, just behind our seeking!

The fourth stage of the 8-Fold Path also is characterized by the heart’s quality of feeling. The most central feeling of our nature is love. Here, at the half-way point to cosmic consciousness, the feeling aspect of consciousness, known as chitta¸ must make a decision (from moment to moment, day to day). Should our feeling descend the subtle spine and go out through the lower chakras to identify with and seek fulfillment through the senses and the world of sense objects? Or, do we ascend the upward path that dissolves our ego-body-identified consciousness and expands toward Infinity? Do we love because we feel more joy in loving than in judging? This upward feeling of love moves toward Love itself, which is to say, more practically speaking, towards devotion to God, one of His aspects, deities, or through the guru.

And now, at last, the element of AIR. I confess that in relation to the importance of both pranayama (practices) and devotion to God, the aspects of AIR seem less vital or relevant to me than in the three chakras which precede this one. Still I offer some thoughts in our contemplation and meditation upon the AIR element.

Air is vital to life. Its relationship to pranayama (seen now as breathing techniques) is obvious. This chakra controls the vital functions of heart, lungs and the strength and mobility of arms and hands. Through our arms (and hands) we grasp the world, we hug our loved ones. But air gives to us (physically) our very life. If we think of air as encircling the earth in a blanket of life-sustaining oxygen, we see air as the very basis, however invisible it is to us, of our life. And what is life, without feeling? Without love? Surely life has no meaning without love?

An eagle soaring high above the earth sees the earth in a perspective unlike that of earth-bound mortals. This eagle sees all life in its interdependence, seeing both its diversity and its unity. Thus air gives life and the eagle of life appreciates, respects, and loves all, as parts of a greater whole. This eagle, if truly wise, looks upward to the heavens to the Giver of Life, to the source of Love itself. For we do not invent love, nor yet the impulse to seek and express it. It is an inextricable aspect of life itself and cannot be separated. Life, love, breath have a relationship that cannot be merely understood, but only experienced.

The more we live in the pure AIR of love that is without attachment or condition, the greater satisfaction we can experience. For love with attachment is bound to suffer. Rarely is true love found in the earth-bound, desire driven egos of humans. Death itself, if not betrayal or disillusionment, robs us of the object of our love. It is Love, Life, and Air (as a symbol of the others) that silently draws us onto Itself.

For those of us in our practice of meditation who employ pranayamas, we would do well to bring to the table of our practice the quality of devotion and feeling, lest our will-direct breathing techniques become dry and mechanical. Even hatha yoga can be performed as an act of devotion. Love life, love each breath, as the invisible manifestion of Spirit in human form. Worship, then, if you will, if you dare, on the altar of Spirit, in the temple of silence, in the flow of the Breath of Life.


Nayaswami Hriman

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

8-Fold Path - 3rd Stage - FIRE!

The third stage of Patanjali's 8-Fold Path towards enlightenment is called, simply, ASANA. (Patanjali is the rishi in ancient India who wrote the "bible" of the yogic path in what is known as the Yoga Sutras, or Aphorisms.) Most readers know this word in the context of yoga postures, known generally (in the plural form) as ASANAS, or postures.

Since only a superficial interpretation of the 8-Fold Path would imagine Patanjali was suggesting that to achieve enlightenment one must practice yoga postures, what wisdom is being offered to us here? For one (and I mean that literally), ASANA is singular, not plural. So right away we know that this isn't about yoga postures. But it IS linked to right posture, at least as a symbol.

But here Patanjali, in the great tradition of hoary sages down through ages, throws out a red herring (actually, as I understand it, he didn't eat herring. Perhaps if he had encountered a red herring, he would have thrown it out. Well, no sense speculating.) Indeed, one of the almost tongue-in-cheek aspects of these bearded sages is the use of words that have not just multiple meanings but meanings that might throw you off the scent unless you have a wise teacher or developed intuition!  (Omar Khayyam, in the Sufi tradition, used images of wine and romance to disguise his true wisdom.)

To be consistent with my prior two articles, let us find the key by examining the third stage from the point of view of its elemental quality: FIRE. If we think literally of fire (as in "How do you combine earth and water to produce fire?"), we might miss subtler points. Think, instead, of the fire at the center of the earth. In this molten chamber, the molten (liquid-water) meets the earth in high temperatures. As the stomach converts both beverage and meal into energy at the center of our being, the third stage, ASANA, is aligned with the third chakra, opposite the navel. FIRE then refers to the otherwise unseen, INNER energy that vitalizes all atoms and molecules, whether of earth or water (meaning anything in liquid form). (Did I mention in the previous two articles that the first stage, YAMA (earth), has its energy center (vortex or chakra) at the base of the spine? And, that NIYAMA, the second stage (water), is opposite the sex organs?)

Fire in the belly in relationship to the word ASANA (posture) hints at the straight posture of the meditator. It is this inner fire of energy which is reflected in the straight spine and conveys alertness, energy, vitality, and the drive and self-initiative of one who stands tall and walks and talks straight.

Whereas with the first two stages of our path toward enlightenment we are struggling with overcoming the hynosis of matter attraction, ego affirmation or protection (YAMA), and with establishing good habits and becoming self-sufficient (NIYAMA), the inner path of Self-realization through meditation could be said to begin in earnest at the third stage, ASANA. Paramhansa Yogananda taught that there exists at the manipur chakra (opposite the navel) a subtle passageway known as the brahmanadi which is the doorway to our soul consciousness. This article is too brief to explore this vast and technical subject more than superficially, but suffice to say the deeper meaning of the inner fire is that we go within, seeking ot unite with the prana (Life Force) within ourselves as the object of our aspirations.

When the intelligence and energy of ASANA spills one-sidedly out into the world of the senses we exhibit anger, ruthlessness or controlling and abusive tendencies. It is the destructive aspect of fire. The straight spine with a vengeance, so to speak, creating hell on earth for everyone around you. But turned within, this is the fire and energy of prana. It can serve as a lantern to guide our path upward in the labyrinth of the inner path and spine. It offers us zeal and strength, self-control and yields the fruits of health and vitality.

On the level of daily life, it has been well documented, even if anecdotally, that a straight spine adds years of healthy, zestful living to one's life. One with correct posture tends to think straight and act with honor and virtue. It represents that stage of maturity where values, mores, and good habits have been internalized and made our own. No longer is our behavior the product only of outward influences, reward and punishment.

Let's not forget that the practice of yoga postures can contribute to both a straight spine and the deeper aspects of vitality and self-awareness suggested by the third stage of the 8-Fold Path. Whereas the aspect of self-control exhibited by the power of YAMA is in relation to the objects of senses, the Self-control of the FIRE element relates to our determination and enthusiasm for Self-realization through meditation. ASANA is the power to control the body in order to be still (and "know that I AM GOD").

There is also a creative aspect to fire. The reproductive creativity of the WATER element (sacral center or swadhistan chakra whose intelligence guides the reproductive organs) is in relationship or in response to the world around us (especially people and circumstances). The creativity of the FIRE element comes from within. It manifests new ideas and new projects without necessarily any obvious outward influences or compulsions. It is just this kind of inner drive that is the necessary foundation for one who meditates. No one can meditate for you. Meditation is creative because it opens us to the world of endless possibilities and inspirations.

Very few people have good posture. You will find how good posture will help your digestion and convey that sense of vitality and righteousness that can help both your meditation and your life. There are yoga postures that can help ignite the fire in the belly. In chakra meditations there are "bandhas" (locks) used at the navel (manipur chakra) center that can stimulate the life-giving, uplifting intelligence prana of the third chakra whose awakening is the third stage of the 8-Fold Path: ASANA.

See you next week, with PRANAYAMA! 

Nayaswami Hriman

Saturday, April 2, 2011

8-Fold Step 2 - the Water Element

The second stage on the 8-Fold Path described by the sage Patanjali long ago in India is called NIYAMA. Literally the word means "non-control." (You had to be there.......ha, ha!) Seriously, the context is the opposite of the first stage, Yama (control). As my approach in this series is from the viewpoint of the elemental qualities, let's move to the WATER ELEMENT.

Whereas YAMA (Earth) is to embrace the Oneness and connection with all life, thus dissolving our sense of lack, the impulse to assert ourselves over others, the need to compete, to win, to put others down and so on, the WATER element nurtures life and provides a necessary element to the earth's fertility. This requires a deeper understanding from Patanjali's view "from above" or "from within."

WATER refers to the RIVER of LIFE in the spine. On the 8-Fold Path NIYAMA signifies our living "in the spine." This means: living centered within (not self-centered, however). So whereas with EARTH we dissolve material desires and attachments, with WATER we live in the flow of energy and divine grace within. When Jesus Christ was asked "Where is the kingdom of heaven?" (he was constantly telling parables that started "The kingdom of heaven is like ..... "), he replied simply (and for once without another parable): "The kingdom of heaven is within you."

The Bhagavad Gita says the astral body, or subtle spine, or "kingdom of heaven," is like an upturned tree. The Bible has repeated refences to the "river of life" or the "tree of life."

WATER also has specific qualities of consciousness both as the element of water on our planet and also as the grace of Spirit when it flows within and through us. Water symbolizes purity. Flowing to the lowest point and toward the sea, it is humble and offers itself in service and surrender. Water is necessary to life. Water that overflows the banks of EARTH can, however, become destructive and dissipated. EARTH could be said to be masculine and WATER, feminine. Yet both require strength: the one in relation to outer realities; the other, in relation to being inward. The male reproductive organ is outside the body; the female organ, withdrawn and within the body.

EARTH (Yama) can sometimes express itself as dogmatic, reflecting the beginning student's affirmation of rejection of material attachments and desire to establish himself in his spiritual practices. We should exercise forebearance around such people because this may be a necessary stage for them (provided they don't lapse into judgmental attitudes or worse). WATER (Niyama) reflects the calmness that comes from having established positive attitudes and actions and doesn't need to express its qualities outwardly in self-affirmation.

EARTH brings us peace, just as we feel peaceful in nature. Cessation of attachments and destructive behaviors brings great relief to the nervous system, our conscience, and our soul's love of peace. From that state of peace, the WISDOM of WATER floats to the surface of consciousness. It is only when we are peaceful that insights come to us. This is not unlike taking a vacation and, once away from one's routine, finding that new ideas for one's work come to you. When our actions proceed from non-attachment, we see more clearly what is true and needed.

Similar to YAMA, there are five distinct aspects to this second stage. CLEANLINESS (Saucha) is seen in all path traditions and spiritual paths in the more obvious forms of ritual cleansing, fasting, and dietary habits. Patanjali wrote from a higher point (but one that would endorse such wholesome practices, as well). For as Jesus put it in the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." Centered within, in deep meditation, the face of God is revealed as pure light, His heart as pure love, His voice as the sound of AUM (Amen), and so on. On a human or social level, being mindful of boundaries, avoiding gossip and judgment of others, avoiding the habit of rescuing people, interrupting their speech, helping in ways that are truly helpful (and not out of critique or one-upmanship) are examples of being clean. Cleanliness has its EARTH (yama) corollary in ahimsa (non-violence) discussed in the last article.

With perfection of Saucha comes the power (known as a siddhi) to transcend the physical compulsions of the body, its organs and functions. In a long meditation, perhaps of many days, one is free from hunger or the need for the bodily functions of elimination.

CONTENTMENT comes naturally to one who has given up material desires. It thus pairs naturally with the YAMA aspect of asteya (desirelessness). Bliss and joy bubble up from the deep waters of contentment, or SANTOSHA.

AUSTERITY (TAPASYA) is another aspect of NIYAMA, but one greatly misunderstood. This word in the English language conjures up hair shirts, self-flagellation, long fasts, lying on a bed of nails, wrapping wet sheets around the body sitting in the Himalyan snows and all sorts of less than inspiring images to modern sensibilities. First of all, its YAMA corollary is BRAHMACHARYA, self-control of the senses. That makes sense, of course. But as NIYAMA is grace and being centered in the Self within, AUSTERITY is the natural by-product of both BRAHMACHARYA and NIYAMA and it refers to the practice, habit, and state of remaining Self-aware in the midst of all activities. The true practices of tantra, including the famed powers over nature that can be summoned, proceed in part from the powers yielded over natural impulses and redirected inward where WISDOM and knowledge of all things is revealed to the inner sight. Indeed psychic power is the fruit of AUSTERITY.

SELF-KNOWLEDGE (Swadhyaya) arises from living more within. From this comes the power to commune with and be guided by astral, higher Beings. It pairs with Aparigraha: the YAMA aspect of non-attachment to one's body, possessions, or identification with ego. Whereas aparigraha brings knowledge of past lives, swadhyaya brings us in contact with astral Beings. Those who attempt to do this through short-cuts such as passive, trance channeling do so at great risk to themselves. Such can be sure that what they attract will not be saintly and high-minded souls. Often this aspect has been described in terms of studying the scriptures. As the Yoga Sutras are a scripture, no one could argue with this practice, for sure. But true Self knowledge, which is wisdom itself, comes in inner silence.

The fifth and final aspect of NIYAMA is devotion to God (Iswara Pranidhana). With the previous four aspects clearly focused upon living more inwardly and with non-attachment to senses and their objects, we may wonder how devotion fits in. The path to enlightenment as two basic stages: the first is to go within and break the hypnosis of matter identification and fulfillment. The second is more existential and relates to our sense of separateness (quite apart from personality traits, habits or anything outward) which remains with us until final liberation. The natural flow of WATER and the river of life in the spine is, or should be if enlightenment is the goal, UPWARD, moving progressively through the stages of awakening which follow and upward in the spine toward the highest centers where the soul resides and enlightenment comes. Giving ourselves to the Supreme Lord, the highest reality, Infinity, Love, Light itself is to aspire to return to the Oneness and the Bliss which is our Father-Mother and transcendent Truth. Devotion aligns with the yama aspect of truthfulness, for the highest truth is that God is the only reality.

Some of the practical manifestations of niyama include such things as regular fasting, calmness under all circumstances, keeping a part of mind in the watchful, Self-aware state at all times, having periods of silence, retreat, and seclusion, practicing active contentment even when desires are aroused, chanting, practicing the presence of God (through japa, mantra, inner chanting and mindfulness), enduring extremes of hot, cold, or other conditions that we cannot necessarily control in the moment, even-mindedness, cheerfulness, study of the scriptures and truth teachings, introspection, and seeking spiritual counsel from time to time or as needed.

Blessings to all,

Nayaswami Hriman