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Yog Sadhana

Posted 25 March 2014 by Swami Muktanand Puri

MantraYog an Introduction

Posted 25 March 2014 by Swami Muktanand Puri

Extract from article on Mantrayog

It has been the quest of humankind as a whole to develop itself to achieve higher goals and to raise its level of consciousness. Each person with a raised consciousness has given humankind a very valuable legacy, be it in the field of the sciences or the arts. No scientist can work without higher inspiration nor can any artist produce any worthwhile piece of art without a deep inspiration as well as a higher level of consciousness. There is an unsaid agreement amongst intellectual humans that we must work to expand our potential for all positive works, deeds, language, speech, art, culture, thoughts, and philosophies for the betterment, the benefit and evolution of humankind. It is not just to expand that potential but to rapidly expand it. From one perspective we can term the spiritual quest as the drive for all things of higher intellectual consciousness. Intellectuality can be understood as the ability to create something original. In most humans the capacity utilisation of the brain is very limited, normally between 10- 15 % capacity only. So from another perspective we may term spirituality as the realisation of the full potential of the human mind, of hundred percent. We could also say complete consciousness, perfection in deeds (karma), realisation of the self or god realisation. Each person seeks to expand his or her intelligence, to be full of love, to be happy; that is the aim of all spiritual practices.

Often, not understood by most is the fact that spirituality and spiritual practices are really a means to expand one's potential. The techniques used in yog and tantra are meant to cause rapid change in the practitioner to enable them to successfully utilise their expanded capabilities. The western world, western system of education and most people educated within this system are unable to appreciate why the Hindu system of Yog and Tantra is strongly linked to god. God in one sense is the representation of Knowledge and Compassion. Power without compassion is a brute; such brute power can never benefit this world. The world needs power and strength that are constructive, therefore the wise ancients realising this linked everything to god, to knowledge and compassion.

Another point that is mostly not understood by most sections of all societies is that spirituality and spiritual techniques belonging to different traditions including all religions and cultures is an ancient work that is a summation of the spiritual development of centuries; it is the heritage of all of Humankind; that these traditions need to be preserved and used for the benefit of Humankind as a whole. Unless, to the contrary, there is cause for concern and reason, where in the name of spirituality, there are practices that are destructive, gory, or inhumane; there should be no attempt to destroy or disturb traditions especially in the name of religion or for political ends. Religion is a socio-political structure whereas spirituality is the search for self realisation. Hinduism is not one unified structure but it is a basket of spiritual practices and philosophies to help one become self-realised.

The word Yog can be understood as an event, from the spiritual point of view, an event where the individual consciousness merges into the higher levels of consciousness or where the individual jivatma (individuated self) merges or experiences the paramatma (the permanent self). As we all know there are numerous paths that lead to perfection. One can follow any one or a combination of practices from Jnana yog (The path of Knowledge), Bhakti yog (The path of Devotion), Dhyan Yog (Meditation), Raj Yog (The path of liberation through unattached karma done for others), Hatha yog, Ashtang Yog, Laya Yog (The yog of dissolution), Mantra yog and so on. Here we focus on the practice of mantra yog. Mantrayog has been considered as one of the seven paths to reach perfection or Siddhi. Possibly in Hinduism, mantrayog can be considered as the most popular system of spiritual development having the largest number of practitioners and Mantra Yog has a very sound base of thousands of practitioners who have reached perfection. In short, it is a tried and tested spiritual practice as well as a very popular spiritual practice. Mantra yog in terms of actual practice is the repetition of certain sounds or words. Now how does this work?

Very simply put, words have enormous power over our lives. Call a person by their name and they will appreciate you. Put their name on a board and they love it. Each person is so attached to their name. People can go to any extent to promote their name. Praise a person and they will love you, but call a person with an insulting word and see the negative reaction. This is a simplistic explanation of the effect of word.

However, from the perspective of Mantrayog, the mantra is considered a conscious vehicle that makes one take a specific pathway to develop certain qualities, all the while taking one towards perfection. Any-One mantra alone has the power to take one to enlightenment and liberation.

Mantras or the practice of repetition of words has been used for centuries in all traditions including Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Christian, Muslim and other traditions. Over the centuries, the science of Mantra has developed into an enormous body. Possibly it may take an individual several lifetimes to achieve a true understanding of this gigantic science. The explanation of an individual mantra alone can be at the least a few pages of writing, while the entire science itself, perhaps several volumes. One of the often heard complaints is that somebody did a certain mantra practice and did not achieve any results or did not achieve the desired results. As with every scientific experiment there are certain factors and conditions that need to be fulfilled to reach the desired result. In the practice of Mantra there are up to 32 such factors that may be needed to be taken into consideration to reach the desired results. A mistake in any one place is enough to ensure failure of an experiment. As with all traditional knowledge belonging to the Hindu tradition especially the Spiritual tradition, one of the primary factors is the grace of the Guru. The mantra must be received through the grace of the Guru. We have a saying in India "That which is inert will not increase consciousness, only the conscious will increase consciousness". So an inert book will never give one what can be received by the grace of the Guru.

On the other side of the coin, another frequently heard complaint is the reaction caused by the mantra. Many people are unable to tolerate it. If your experiment is not controlled by an able Guru, it is destined for failure. At the same time the practitioner too needs to have a mature understanding of the effect of the mantra. The mantra works by starting a process of purification at the subtle level and from there the process continues.

To wish to become perfect means first to accept that you are imperfect and need to be transformed. Just like Gold is melted to be transformed into beautiful ornaments similarly a spiritual person has to tolerate the fires and the forces of change. Only such a willing, courageous and fearless person will make it across through the fires of transformation. True spirituality is like walking barefoot on a razor sharp sword through a fire, towards light and bliss. In Hinduism mantras are divided into various categories and classes. The divisions have been explained later in this article.


Posted 14th October 2011 by Swami Muktanand Puri

The Effects of Pranayam on Emotional Well Being

Posted 25th December 2015 by Swami Muktanand Puri
(Pranayam in very simple words can be described as breathing techniques belonging to the ancient yogic tradition.)
On one hand, emotions are the main force of life that leads the average person to take decisions about their life. However, on the other hand, emotions that are not in one’s control cause much pain and create reactions. Some people find that they are very strongly under the sway of their emotions and behave in a reactive manner, often unbefitting the situation, so for these people, these unwanted reactions are the rough edges of their personality that prevent them from leading a happy, fulfilling and successful life. However, even successful people can find that the emotional content of their mind disturbs them. From a practical perspective, emotions can be understood as the reactions of the mind to outer stimuli but they are also the coloring of the mind that make the mind see things, not as they actually are, but distort the reality. Most of these unwanted reactions and incorrect perceptions are caused by certain previous negative conditioning, incorrect learning, bad habits, lifestyle and unhealthy experiences all of which leads to stress. Whenever there is an excess stress on the mind it will show up in various forms. Some of these are experiencing a feeling of incompleteness, mood swings, bad moods, emotional upsets, and sharp negative reactions to people, anger, sadness, depression, freezing, feeling of pain, of actual bodily pain, of certain health problems, diseases as well as other similar reactions.
Often, the person himself or herself experiencing these reactions wants to get rid of these reactions but does not know how to do so. The mind centered in a state of calm can be an individual’s best friend while a disturbed or unbalanced mind is a cause for problems and pain. But how does one work on these reactions and thoughts to get rid of them?
There are numerous techniques to purify the mind. From the practical point of view there are four broad methods to work on these negative reactions and stress. These are:
  1. Working with the thoughts (for example psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, but not limited to it),
  2. Working with energy (such as healing techniques, mantras, meditation, etc),
  3. Working with the pain by using herbs, medicines, massage, physiotherapy and other techniques,
  4. Working with the breath (Pranayam, breathing techniques).

Here we will discuss about working with the breath. From a practical perspective working with the breath cannot be separated from energy work as there will essentially be an element of the energy in the practice. So in a certain sense it is both, however the techniques are based on the breath.
Recently, during my visit to the west, in Germany, I happened to meet some very nice people, however, some of them were suffering from strong emotional problems. During my stay there, I noticed that many of them seemed to heal very fast by spending some time with me as well as due to the form of Pranayam I teach. These observations got me thinking and I decided to test out the techniques on persons with more serious problems. So I asked an acquaintance in Russia who is a Psycho organic analyst to bring some of her patients for my seminar on Pranayam. She agreed and brought some of her patients. This for me was quite a challenge, as the usual groups of people that I get are spiritual persons, many of whom have already been practicing spiritual techniques for some months atleast, if not for years. When these people arrived I realized that their energies were quite different from the people I was used to. Their energies were quite scattered and somewhat disturbed. For a moment I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew. But once I had started and involved myself in the process, there was no looking back. Anyway, I was quite confident I would be able to help them.
The seminar was for a total of 11 hours divided into 3 days. The first and third day was for 3 hours each while the second day was for 5 hours. On the first day as we started, after about one and a half hours I could observe that all the people had calmed down as their energies seemed to be getting balanced. The remaining one and a half hour went well and by the end of the first session I could see the positive effect it had on all these people. On the second day, when they arrived, there was a distinct change in their energies. They already felt like spiritual people who had been doing some spiritual practices. Since it was an intense five hour practice, the effect had to be quite strong. I observed that the people were able to sit quite comfortably for all these hours with small breaks. This was quite an achievement since most of these people had probably never in their lives sat cross legged for so long. I attribute this to the techniques which remove the negativities thereby healing and making it easier for individuals to perform the practices. On the third day, when they arrived I could already feel a great change in the people. They had become much calmer, more centered, much more rested and looked happier. There was a distinct positive change in their mood, behavior and composure. The third day of practice strengthened the results of the previous days. People left the seminar feeling very elated, light, happy, positive and full of life and energy. The results of the experimental seminar were very positive and successful. My colleague, the Psycho organic analyst was pleased with the results.
Here I must point out certain things. The term Pranayam is very generic in nature and covers a vast range of different traditions and techniques. Each tradition or school has its own approach & system. Each school stresses on certain selected techniques & methodology, so there can be enormous differences in the actual practice. Whereas, most Yogic schools that teach pranayam teach traditional Hatha yoga techniques that are aimed at quieting the mind or in my understanding, as I would put in simple words, muting the mind. This works very well if one wants to meditate as it will result in a calm mind and allow one to meditate well. However, it has a negative in that the emotional content of the mind is not cleaned out but is suppressed.
The techniques we follow have two aims. They do not silence the mind but are directed at purifying the mind and releasing the negative emotional content or load of the mind. And the second objective is to make the mind very subtle so that the person is able to feel spiritual vibrations throughout the body. The second objective will be completed only when the mind becomes quite subtle and clears a big part of the negative content of the mind mainly the emotional disturbances. It is important to clear these emotional disturbances as they do not allow the intellect to function well. Negative emotions prevent one from taking rational and logical decisions, while stress has a way of dulling the mind, hence not allowing it to function effectively.
For a simple understanding the mind can be considered to have two parts. One which is the working memory (prarabdha and kriyaman karma) much like the RAM in a computer and the other is the stored memory (sanchit karma) where all the information is stored. Some of these memories or files may not be open yet so they do not disturb the mind; however, they will open when the opportunity presents itself. In a certain sense these closed files are out of reach, therefore, we can work with the open files or the working memory. The techniques cleanse out the negative emotions and calm the mind; however one must understand that the source of the problems often lies deeper within the mind. So some part of it will remain and only by regular practice will many of the deeper disturbances be completely removed. This negative content of the mind is formed due to:
  • The collected past deeds (Sanchit Karma) (Stockpile of Deeds) from many lifetimes,
  • Those files or deeds that have now become active (Prarabhda Karma),
  • The deeds that we have done in this life time which may have been inspired by our stockpile of past Karma that have become active,
  • Those deeds that we are doing currently (Kriyaman Karma).

(The term Karma simply means deeds which are of three types.  These are physical, vocal and mental.)(Sanchit Karma are stored in the Causal Body whereas the Prarabhda and Kriyaman are working in the subtle body. It is easy to work with the subtle body but not with the causal body).
So as we go about living our lives, it is our lifestyle and deeds that we commit which influences the stress level of our minds. (For example working in a stressful job, too much public interaction, travelling in a crowd, financial insecurity, etc). Regular practice of these breathing techniques keeps the mind calm while allowing us to regularly remove all the negative impurities that arise from this stored memory and due to our deeds.

The techniques by themselves are very easy and not strenuous designed to be compatible with the modern individual & lifestyle. There is a very specific set of rules to be followed while doing the techniques. In the beginning there are certain techniques to correct the breathing as most people breathe incorrectly. A certain part of the time, in the beginning of each day, is spent on techniques to condition the mind. Along with this, a specific explanation is given during the seminar to correlate the ancient yogic techniques and modern scientific studies to give an in-depth understanding of these techniques. Since the techniques are designed to release pain and emotional disquiet, with each passing hour the person feels better and lighter. However, it is important to do the whole program as it is designed as a program, for only then does the complete effect of the techniques makes itself visible. After completion of the seminar and upon learning the techniques properly, one can practice these techniques on one’s own.

Spiritual Principles

Posted 14th October 2011 by Swami Muktanand Puri