Tag Archives: Upanishads

The History of Yoga

The fundamental aim of all Yogic methods is the diversion of the Prana (breath) which normally circulates in the Ida and Pingala channels into the central Sushumna channel, as was elucidated in a previous post.  Numerous yogis across the Indian sub-continent over several centuries perfected a multitude of methods to achieve this common goal.  If you ever wanted to read all about it in one place, the “History of Yoga” (editor: Satya Prakash Singh) is for you.  This is a massive work comprising 40 chapters spanning about 900 pages written by 19 subject experts which traces the origins and development of Yoga starting from the Vedas to the modern times.  It is not possible to do justice to such a large comprehensive volume in a short article.  Instead, I will present some interesting tidbits that I gained from the book.

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Introduction to the Upanishads

This is a decent 15-minute video overview of the Upanishads produced by the Dr Sumit Kesarkar. The video below does not cover Sri Aurobindo’s commentary.  To read that, see the page on Upanishads

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The phenomenon of double consciousness

It is a seminal phase in the spiritual path when, after years of arduous practice, the surface personality becomes subdued and the inner being(subtle body) begins to awake.  It is then that one has the palpable feeling that there are two different beings within – a stable inner part and an insecure outer part.  One begins to live in the vast calm of the sturdy inner being even as one observes the action of the restless outer personality as it reacts to phenomenal events based on pre-conceived mental and emotional constructs.  In this condition, we gain living proof of the observation noted in various scriptures that “there are two birds sitting on the tree of life; one eats the fruit while the other eats not.” (Rig Veda 1.164.20,  Mundaka Upanishad 3.1, Shwetashwatara Upanishad 4.6).

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Vidyas in the Upanishads – part 2

The Upanishads feature  koans for contemplation called Vidyas(literally means knowledge).  They are meant to trigger the mind into perceiving yet another facet of the Divine Reality thereby guiding the aspirant into deeper grades of meditation.   In a previous post Vidyas in the Upanishads, five such Vidyas were covered: Bhuma, Prana, Shandilya, Madhu and Vaishvanara.  The book Supreme Knowledge by Swami Brahmananda [3] lists an astounding 101 Vidyas drawn from the Upanishads.  This post discusses a few Vidyas drawn from this book.

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PanchaTattva Dharana : contemplation on the five elements

This post supplements a previous post  Videha Dharana : fixing the mind outside the body, which discussed a method called Videha Dharana as per  Sri Anirvan.   The method is drawn from the Upanishads and can also be called PanchaTattva Dharana or contemplation on the five (pancha) elements (tattva) – namely earth, water, air, fire, ether.   There is a similar technique in the Tantra texts called Bhuta-Shuddhi which is also outlined  here.

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The subtle sounds which indicate progress in Yoga

When the Yoga enters into deeper states of trance, the heat of the Kundalini begins to course through the body, the  subtle body is activated and the brain experiences a reverberating natural silence. The Yogin experiences a sense of purity, rejuvenation and alertness within.   At this point, one may hear subtle sounds in the ear, smell burning incense or floral fragrances (which have non-worldly origin) and gain sight into the occult worlds.  The sounds which the Yogin hears tend to vary depending on the inner plane of consciousness to which one is currently attuned.  This post is a collection of these subtle sounds as noted in various ancient scriptures.  As we see, there is lot of similarity in these descriptions.

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Meditation techniques from the Yoga Upanishads

One of the techniques Sri Aurobindo and the Mother recommended for meditation was contemplating on Akasha or Space. This has been discussed in the section on Widening of consciousness. The source of this technique lies in the Yoga Upanishads. Out of the 108 Upanishads, there are 21 which are known as the Yoga Upanishads. These contain various methods of Dharana (i.e. one-pointed concentration). This post contains a brief overview of these techniques as given in the book Dharana Darshan by Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati of the Bihar School of Yoga.

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