There are different yoga systems, like I said. Hatha yoga is a part of a system, known as astanga yoga. You start off regulating your life; you clean up your act, so to speak. You stop your bad habits; you start regulating your schedule, when you get up and so on. Dropping off the bad habits – sometimes it’s called Yama and Niyama. You give up the bad stuff, niyama, and you start observing the yama – the regulations of life that are beneficial to yoga.
Then you come to the next stage, Hatha yoga Asana, and this is to work on the body. But first it’s just to get your lifestyle a little better and now you’re working on the body. You try to work it out so your body is not going to be an obstacle to you and you don’t always have to meditate on aches and pains and inabilities of one kind or another.
Then, after that – Pranayam, the breathing exercises to still the mind, to still the life air inside and do many things that pranayam does. Yoga breathing, this is more benefiting the mind, and helps you to regulate your senses more, calm you down.
Then there is Pratyahara, this is actually very strict sensual control. You very much control your senses, you don’t let the senses tell you anything. You tell the senses everything.
The senses are saying:
-I want to eat this.
-I want to go there.
-I want to see it.
It is very strict, and this is where most people give up on this path because it is very, very rarely that a person is ready for this. No pleasures at all, complete celibacy. And if you can do that, now you’re very much detached from all your material pleasures and then you take up the next step, which is after Pratyahara, it is called Dharana, and this is concentration. Now you begin to develop the ability to concentrate. Maybe you light a candle and focus on the candle flame just to be able to concentrate without the mind being over here and over there and wandering around. You can focus it on anything, so you can actually focus the mind, “Wshhhh…” It is very, very difficult but this is the next stage.
Then you come to Dhyana, which is meditation. This is where meditation actually begins in this process; it’s way down the road. Remember how much you’ve done prior even before you enter into the meditation? According to the Vedic system, meditation means concentration on God. It does not mean focusing on the void, trying to blank everything out, become zero, that’s the meditation that is promoted by many ‘yogis’ today. No, true meditation means focusing and concentrating on God. That becomes the object and that is the Lord in the heart.
Remember, the Lord is in the heart. So the yogi, who has achieved this, can actually see the Lord in the heart. It is an internal vision and he sees the Lord in the heart. And it’s so wonderful, a vision; it’s a wonderful experience. As he is drawn more and more to this meditation he enters into Samadhi, which means trance. Now he is in absolute trance, the external world for him doesn’t exist, he’s completely absorbed inside.
This is the eightfold yoga system. It’s called Astanga yoga.
They now teach a yoga called Astanga yoga, which is not exactly this yoga. I can tell you, it’s a modern Astanga. The yoga system that I’ve just described is not recommended for this current age, we do not have the capability to do it; this is for other ages. People who are trying to do this now are out of sync with the time period. There are certain spiritual practices for certain ages and that was for the Satya yuga, which is the most perfect age. People were so spiritually advanced then in that age that this is a suitable method for them, but not now. We cannot do it in the way I’ve described.
Another yoga system is Jnana yoga, where you empirically speculate upon the Absolute Truth. Basically, Jnana yoga is eliminating all of the negatives of life. And when you eliminate all the negatives… one negative according to this path that the yogi experiences would be, “Oh, so much trouble in relationships, let’s get rid of relationships.” Even physical forms are also a problem; my form is a problem, my body. “Get rid of the form, get rid of the body. No attachments, I don’t want to be attached to anything, every attachment is a problem.” And it goes on like this about everything that causes any kind of difficulty. Other people; “don’t want any other people to exist, I just want it to be nothing.”
Ultimately, he is into the idea that perfection is zero, when you become completely nothing or completely everything. This is basically two sides of the same coin; so this is their goal in life and they can achieve it. This is a big topic but they can merge into the effulgence of the Supreme Lord, known as the brahmajyoti, and just merge into a state of unconsciousness, spiritual unconsciousness. It’s like getting knocked unconscious physically; you completely lose awareness of anything. You don’t know who you are or who you’re married to, what is your job, what hit you in the head – nothing. You have no awareness; you’re just unconscious. So Jnana yoga perfection is like that – spiritual unconsciousness.
But there is no pleasure for the soul, there is just negation of the negative. It’s far, far above all the disturbances in the material world, but there is no true pleasure for the soul. The soul needs action; the soul needs love. So that yogi, after a time in this merged condition, will come out of this spiritual merging and come back down into the material world, and take on another material body. Now he’s back on the wheel of birth and death, struggling with the senses and the mind, and on and on. That’s not it.