IMPERIENCE           DRKCV.ORG           SSS           


What is new

A Handbook of Hindu Religion: Sadhanas


The puruṣārthas or chief ends of life outlined in the next chapter have a religious value. Dharma, artha and kāma are not ends in themselves; they lead to the supreme end called mokṣapuruṣārtha. Mokṣa is freedom from avidyā and karma which bind the ātman to the world of saṁsāra. The ātman really belongs to God but somehow he has identified himself with the body made of twenty-four tattvas of prakṛtifrom time immemorial. Owing to this materialistic view he is subject to the changes of prakṛti and therefore to the cycle of births and deaths, pleasures and pains. At long last he comes to know that he has given up his permanent home in God, banished himself from God, became a wanderer in saṁsāra and therefore he longs to return to his home. God as the self and the saviour of souls also longs for reunion. It is in this light that the teaching of the Gitā as the book of yogic sādhanas is to be understood. Yoga is union with God and each yoga stresses this union. The chief yogas are Karma yoga, Raja yoga, Jñāna yoga and Bhakti yoga including Prapatti. They are generally arranged as steps in a ladder and every sect or system has its own way of attainment. There is another view that each yoga is independent and leads directly to mukti. In this work, the view of Śrī Vaisnavism is adopted and karma, jñāna and bhakti are treated as different stages in the pilgrimage to God. The will is first disciplined, then thought and finally feeling as bhakti is stressed. Prapatti is the easiest way to God as He Himself becomes the way and the end and mukti is thus attained by the grace of God.

Karma yoga is a moral discipline by purifying the will. Its object is to change kāmya karma into niṣkāma karma or duty for duty's sake. No man can be without doing karma and karma includes thought, speech and overt action. Every man as a bodily self ordinarily follows his animal inclination or desire for sense-objects. He not only seeks sense-pleasures but also desires some outside ends like success (jaya), profit (lābha) and name and fame. These are called kāmya karmas because they are based on the desire of the person in sense-objects and sense-pleasures. Such ends are not desirable morally as they make the person the slave of sensibility. Besides, kāma leads to krodha or anger when the desire is not achieved; anger leads to confusion and moral death. Therefore, the Gitā prescribes the way of niṣkāma karma as the way of moral life. Karma is done because it is impossible to be without doing it. But it ought to be done without caring for the fruits or consequences, as niṣkāma karma. It is duty for duty's sake. Then the karma yogin is not a slave of the senses, but is a victor thereof. Every man has a station in life and some duties pertaining to it. He ought to do them as duties irrespective of the consequences. He may succeed or fail, derive pleasure or suffer from pain; he should not care for them.

Karma has three meanings. In the scientific sense, every karma is an effect and it follows from a cause or set of causes. It also determines the future action. In this way it becomes a continuous series; and the theory may lead to fatalism. No man can escape his past and he is the slave of destiny. In a higher or moral sense, karma is the action of a kartā and the kartā is morally free: he has the will to shape his future, according to his conviction. But when once the action is done, he cannot escape its consequences. What a man sows, that he reaps and the moral law of retribution works with mathematical precision. Good deeds are never lost, so also bad deeds, and it is the deeds that determine a man’s character. But if karma is done by him as niṣkāma karma, he is free as he does not care for the fruits. The law of kāmya karmadoes not bind him. Virtue is its own reward; it has its own intrinsic values and character shines by itself. In a still higher sense, namely, the religious sense, every karma is the worship of God and then karma is done as kaiṅkarya or work dedicated to Him. The karmayogin now says: "Not I, but Thou, O Lord" and does his work as worship of God, "sarvam Kṛṣṇārpaṇam". Īśvara is the real kartā or actor in individual and social life. No doubt, the body, the senses, the mind and the soul more than all contribute to karma. But Īśvara is the ultimate agent and is the means and the end. In this sense, karma yoga is a direct way to mukti, but it is developed only in the final stage of religious life.

Rāja Yoga is mind-control (cittavrtti nirodha) and is a royal path to Brahman or God. The mind is ordinarily fleeting and frittered and it is the aim of the yoga to collect it and centre it in God. It is therefore a psychological method as different from the moral method of karma yoga. This yoga consists of eight stages, namely, yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyama, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇa, dhyāna and samādhi. Purity of body and mind are essential to the practice of this yoga. The first four stages refer to the cleansing of the body and breath-control. The next four stages refer to mind-control. At last, the mind expands, attains samādhi and śānti or peace. This expansion is explained in two ways both physically and mentally. It is the ascent of spiritual energy in the centres of the body from mulādhāra in the lowest part of the spinal cord to sahasrāra in the brain. From the mental point of view there is expansion of consciousness from the lowest stage to the highest state. There is expansion from the unconscious to the sub-conscious and the conscious to the super-conscious state of samādhi. The Yogin can acquire suddhis or miraculous powers like entering into the bodies of others and acquiring control over nature. But such siddhis are real obstacles to spiritual life and union with God, and they should therefore be given up. The chief value of this yoga is that it teaches us the way to self-knowledge and self-sovereignty.

Jñāna yoga is the philosophic method of enquiry into the nature of the Ātman and its relation to Brahman. It is not merely an intellectual but also a spiritual enquiry based on viveka, vairāgya and abhyāsa. By means of viveka, the yogin or philosopher distinguishes between the ātman that is eternal and the bodily self that is fleeting. By vairāgya he renounces the false feeling that he is the body and tries to give up egoity or ahankāra. Abhyāsa consists in practice of contemplation on the ātman,he attains ātma jñāna or self-realisation; attains santi. But such Jñāna is only a start and not a stopping place. It should lead to Brahma jñāna or God-realisation. Advaita has a different meaning to jñāna 'yoga and gives the highest place among the yogas. It says the jīva and Īśvara are identical and the consciousness of this identity is jñāna. But in religious path, bhakti is higher than jñāna.

Bhaktiyoga is the practice of devotion of God or Bhagavan. God is super-personal and impersonal or nirguna or arupa. As Ramanuja says in the beginning of his Bhasya to Brahma Sūtras, Brahman is the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe and He is the ruler. The Brahm of the Upaniṣads is Lord Śrinivasa who is divine as daya. The practice of bhakti according to him consists of seven stages, namely, viveka vimoka, abhyasa, kriya, kalyāna, anavasada ai anuddharsa. Briefly explained, they consist taking sattvic food, giving up desires for objects of the senses, practice of the presence God, performance of the duties as ordained vara, practice of virtues like truth and hospitality and freedom from the extreme feelings of elation and depression. The bhakta is initiated by the guru into upāsana or meditation on Brahman as Śriyahpati or Lord and Śrī in the light of the mūlamantras. Bhakti then becomes intense as paramabhakti and it becomes a thirst for divine union as in the case of Nammālvar. The bhakta may be a servant of God or dāsa like Hanumān, a friend of God like Arjuna; he may cherish motherly love as Yaśoda or Periālvār did for the divine child Kṛṣṇa, or may yearn for love like a nāyaki for her Lord as Āndāl did.

Bhakti yoga is Love lit by jñāna and a rigorous path which only the twice-born can follow. An easier method is adopted by Śrī Vaiṣṇavism and it is called prapatti. Bhagavan is Śriyahpati, the Lord of redemptive grace. He has incarnated as Rāma and Kṛṣṇa and is sarvalokaśaranya, the redeemer of all Jīvas. He is rakṣaka or śaranya as taught in the classic text of prapatti "Renounce all dharmas and take refuge at My feet. I will release you from all sins." Six conditions are laid down for prapattiyoga. The yoga consists on the whole in deathless faith in the saving grace of God and absolute surrender to Him in a spirit of contrition and humility and inner purity. Grace is said to be got by him whom God chooses as self surrender is not of the nature of a cause. Whatever it is, prapatti is for all irrespective of caste, creed, sex or profession and is therefore universal. The chief mantra for prapatti is dvaya which means refuge at the feet of Lord and Śrī. The classic example of prapatti is that of Nammālvār, the super-prapanna of Śrī Vaiṣṇavism who surrendered himself to the mercy of Śrinivasa with Śrī as His heart, and was blessed with mukti. All sects in India are, as it were, pilgrims to the Divine dayā in the holy Hill of Tirumalai. The Hill is sacred to the followers of Madhva who insist on service to Viṣṇu as the chief means and end of religion.

The Śaivite defines Śiva, his supreme God, as Love and refers to four ways, cariya, kriya, yoga and jñāna as means to the attainment of Śiva. They correspond to the four yogas of Vedānta. Even the followers of Śankara accept the existence of a Personal God for all practical purposes and the need for His grace. Thus all Hindus have faith in Brahman as personal God and seek with the aid of a guru His mercy to attain mokṣa or sayujya which is outlined in the next chapter.