About the Book
This book forwards the laws and principles as well as methods of Yoga-practice, based on the teachings of Patanjali.
Swami Abhedananda was a practical Yogi, and he got teachings and inspiration on Yoga from his beloved Master, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa. The Swami has, therefore, dealt with the subject on Yoga from his personal experience, and has disclosed its methods and truth with the most scientific and rational explanation. His writing on 'Was Christ a Yogi' is a very interesting and historical one.
About the Author
Swami Abhedananda, an apostle of Sri Ramakrishna-Born October 2, 1866-Spent his early life among the brotherhood in Baranagar monastery near Calcutta in severe austerity-Travelled barefooted all over India from 1888-1895 - Acquainted with many distinguished savants, including Prof. Max Muller and Prof. Deussen - Landed in New York and took charge of the Vedanta Society in 1897 - Became acquainted with Prof. William James, Rev. R.H. Newton, Prof. Josiah Royce of Harvard, Prof. Hyslop of Columbia, Prof. Lanmann, Prof. G.H. Howison, Prof. Fay, Mr. Edison, the inventor, Dr. Elmer Gates, Ralph Waldo Trine, W.D. Howells, Prof. Herschel C. Parker, Dr. Logan, Rev, Bishop Potter, Prof, Shaler, Dr. Jaynes, the chairman of the Cambridge Philosophical Conference and the Professors of Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Barkeley and Clarke Universities - Travelled extensively all through the United States, Canada, Alaska and Mexico - Made frequent trips to Europe, delivering lectures in different parts of the Continent- Crossed the Atlantic seventeen times - Was appreciated very much for his profundity of scholarship, intellectual brilliance, oratorical talents, charming personality and nobility of character - Made a short visit to India in 1906- Returned to America- Came back to India finally in 1921 - On his way home joined the Educational Conference, Honolulu-Visited Japan, China, the Philippines, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Rangoon - Started on a long tour and went as far as Tibet in 1922 - Established centres at Calcutta and Darjeeling - Left his mortal frame on September 8,1939.
How to be a Yogi is a book on science and practice of different types of Yoga, which are interconnected with religion and philosophy and should be called into practice. These lectures were delivered by Swami Abhedananda before the American students of Yoga and philosophy and were published in book form from the Vedanta Ashrama, San Francisco, California, U.S.A.
In this book, Swami Abhedananda has consecutively surveyed the science and practice of Yoga as a whole. This book contains nine illuminating chapters on different types of Yoga along with their philosophy, psychology, and science. In the introductory chapter, the Swami has defined what a true religion is. He says that true religion is not based on mere theory or speculation but on practice. Religion really prepares the ground of divine spirituality which does neither depend on mere reading of the scriptures, nor on the theological and speculative discussion of the shastras, and not on intellect and reason, but on divine realization or immediate awareness of the unchangeable Reality.
Swami Abhedananda has said that he had the good fortune to be acquainted with a divine man, whose name is Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He never went to any school, neither read any of the scriptures and philosophies, yet had reached perfection by realizing the absolute Brahman. From this it is understood that true spirituality and God realization do not depend on any book knowledge, nor on the intellectual apprehension, but on the sincere spiritual practice of Yoga which makes a man commune with the Absolute. Swami Abhedananda also says that self knowledge is acquired neither by sense perception, nor by reading of the shastras, but by studying one's own nature, and by practicing different branches of Yoga.
The second chapter deals with the discussion on What is Yoga. In this chapter, the learned Swami has given the eleven definitions of Yoga. In the eleventh definition he says that Yoga means the restraint of all thought actions through concentration and meditation. 'Yoga' is derived from the Sanskrit root, juj, which means 'to join', i.e., to join the jivatman with the Paramatman. The practitioners of Yoga are mainly divided into three classes, and among them the born Yogis are included in the first class, the half awakened souls are included in the second class, and the aspiring souls are included in the third class.
The third chapter is devoted to discussion on Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the science, which teaches to conquer the worldly thirst, sleep, diseases, etc. Some Hatha Yogis practise trataka, and fix their eyes in the centre of the eye-brows for gaining concentration and meditation and psychic powers.
The Swami has defined different kinds of asana or sitting posture to be practiced by the Hatha Yogis, but at the same time he warns the Hatha Yogis not to practise Yoga which develops the psychic powers, and instructs them to practise that kind of Yoga which is helpful to the Raja Yoga, because the Raja Yoga leads the souls to realization of God-consciousness and perfect freedom.
In the fourth chapter, Swami Abhedananda has discussed the laws and science of the Raja Yoga, which is known as the royal road, or the surest path to perfection. The Raja Yoga deals entirely with the mind and its powers, and so it may be called the science of applied psychology. This best and grandest method of Yoga teaches to stengthen the will of the mind and to develop the powers of concentration and meditation, which lead to the state of super-consciousness.
The practice of Raja Yoga is divided into eight steps like yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharona, dhyana and samadhi. The asana is the posture of sitting. Patanjali says that a suitable and easy asana can be chosen for making the spinal cord straight and for taking the breath without any obstruction and difficulty. The Yogis say that the vital power of energy is stored up in the nerve-centres of the spinal cord, and is the cause of the motion of the lungs, which, in turn, produces respiration, and respiration is the cause of circulation of blood and of all other organic activities. So the spinal cord should be kept straight to help the current flow easily through the channel of the spinal cord. The pratyahara is the preparatory process for concentration. Concentration means to reduce the divergent desires or manifold modifications of the mind into their causal state and to make them concentrate upon one point. Samadhi is the state of super consciousness. Patanjali divided this supreme state into different classes, and said that nirvija or nirvikalpa Samadhi is the highest one, where all seeds of desire and cause of the cycle of birth and rebirth are eternally transcended. The process of concentration In the highest state of samadhi, a sadhaka gains the spiritual illumination, and cuts asunder the knots of nescience or avidya.
In the fifth chapter, the Swami has dealt with the Karma Yoga. The Swami says that the word 'Karma Yoga' connotes the idea of 'dexterity in work'. The spirit of worship must be the keynote of all kinds of work, and work with this divine spirit is known as philosophy of work. The Swami further says that, in truth, we do work through the inspiration cum dictation of the will of the mind, so if we purify our mind with the spirit of worship of God and give up all kinds of ego-centric idea from our mind, the mind is concentrated and enjoys tranquil peace and happiness. The Swami says: He who wishes to practise the Karma Yoga, should abandon the attachment to the fruits of his labours, and learn to work for work's sake. The teachings of the Bhagavad Gita is that you have the right to do the works, and not to ask or enjoy the fruits thereof. So the works with love for God and love for the humanity are known as the Karma Yoga which is the pre-condition of the Bhakti Yoga.
In the sixth chapter, Swami Abhedananda has described the main principles of Bhakti Yoga. The bhakti Yoga is the path to devotion for God and also the path of love for all the creatures of the world. The Swami says: The word bhakti means devotion', while Yoga, in this case, signifies the union of the individual soul with God. Hence the Bhakti Yoga is the method of devotion by which true communion of the soul with the supreme Deity is accomplished. There are mystics all over the world who devote their lives in the holy service to beloved God. The Christian mystics, the German mystics, the Spanish mystics and other mystics of other nations are like the Vaishnava mystics of India and the Sufi mystics of Persia and Arabia. All of them worship their ever-beloved friend, God, through love and devotion, and they want the Divine communion with God in ecstasy which makes them forget their consciousness of the body and the world.
Swami Abhedananda says that a Bhakta never forgets his relation to his beloved. His mind is concentrated and one-pointed, and consequently, meditation becomes easy for him. True devotion or continuous remembrance of the divine Ideal leads him to unceasing meditation, and ultimately lifts his soul to samadhi, where it realizes God, and communes with Him, undisturbed by any other thought, feeling, idea or sensation. Becoming dead to the sense phenomena, it lives on the spiritual plane of God consciousness. In fact, a true bhakti Yogi does everything in this world of works or duties with the spirit of worship, and so the material sense phenomena cannot entangle him in the world of Maya.
|True religion - Spirituality is based upon realization of unchangeable Truth- Ramakrishna, the God intoxicated man - Latent spiritual eye - The practice of Yoga opens it - The aim of Yogi is to enter into the realm of the Absolute - Our true self is all knowing - The age is limited by time and causation - The manifestation of divine nature comes by rising above these limitations -The span of one human life is too short to acquire knowledge -The Yogis and the seers of Truth realized it. - The higher knowledge - -Delphic Oracle-Know Thyself says the Upanishad - Man is an epitome of the universe - Knowledge of one's Self is the highest of all knowledge - Self knowledge can be acquired by studying our true nature and by practicing the different branches of Yoga.|
|ChapterII||What is Yoga||27|
|Description of miracles in sacred writings and in the lives of inspired teachers - Growth of secret societies among ancient ancient nations- The Egyptians, the Essences, Gnostics, Manicheans, Neo-Platonists and the Christian mystics of the middle ages - The Masonic Lodge - Hindus develop the Yogic power as a part of the religion - Science of Yoga is based on experience - The method was the same as that employed by modern science-The method of observation and experiment is not a modern innovation as it is regarded in the West - Growth of various systems of religion both speculative and practical -The Aryan religion - Religion includes all the methods of scientific truths known as 'Yoga' - It signifies the practical side of religion - It enforces proper obedience to moral and physical laws - In the West the word Yoga is misunderstood - They think of it as jugglery and black magic - The Theosophists have been more or less responsible for this abuse of the term - Yoga, the method of realizing the ultimate Truth - The highest ideal according to the Bhagavad Gita - The word Yoga according to various Hindu writers -The root meaning and literal significance of Yoga- Yoga is used to indicate the mental training, self-control, the union of the soul with God - Divine communion or spiritual perfection - Various ideals that can be attained through the practice of Yoga - Patience and perseverance are absolutely necessary -Three classes of religious aspirants - Born Yogis - The half awakened souls-The unawakened souls -Practice of Hatha Yoga - Hatha Yoga is useful for the aspirants of the third class - It brings control over the bodies - It prepares the aspirants for the study of Raja Yoga.|
|Hatha Yoga is the science of conquering obstacles -Hatha Yogi, the master of his body-Hatha yoga is impossible to them who are the slaves to sleep and food-Different classes of Hatha Yogis- Whatever exists in the macrocosm, exists also in the microcosm, A strict and secluded life for the aspirants - Observance of moral laws and control of senses are imperative -The beginners in the branch of Yoga - Eighty four Asanas of Hatha Yoga - Their objects -Nine processes of Asanas - The Science of breathing- Instructions for the beginners - The higher practice for the Hatha Yogis - A Hatha Yogi is the master of all physical laws- Physical laws are simply the means of attaining realization of the highest Truth - Liberated soul is a living God - Hatha Yoga leads to Raja Yoga, the path to God consciousness.|
|Raja Yoga deals entirely with the mind and its power - This royal method was extolled by Pythagoras, Plato, Plotinus, Proclus; by Gnostics and the Christian mystics - It was practiced by the Roman Catholic monks - Spinoza, Kant, Schopenhauer, Emerson practiced it - Raja Yoga can govern all the phenomena of nature - The concentrated mind of the Yogi is like an electric search light- path to acquire perfect knowledge - It reveals the ture nature of the individual ego - The Outer world exists only in relation to the inner nature - The science of Raja Yoga leads to the attainment of the highest ideal - It explains the laws of mysteries - It stands upon the solid ground of logic and reason - The powers attained by Raja Yoga will remain even after death - It helps us to develop our character - The practice is divided into eight steps - yama and niyama - All the fundamental principles of Ethics expounded by Buddha and all the truth in the truths of the Sermon on the Mount are contained in the first two steps of Raja Yoga - Strict observance of moral and pure life for novices - Non-killing, non-stealing, truthfulness, simplicity, cleanliness etc., are of the first step - The second step includes austerities, charity and self-surrender to the divine will -Postures of sitting - Pranayama and its object - Pratyahara - Concentration - Meditation - Samadhi, the superconscious realization.|
|Law of causation - Karma Yoga - What it teaches - The secret of work - Ego or doer - Karma Yogi-There is one Being or Spirit - Practice of Karma Yoga - Who is a ture Karma Yogi - Its aim - All the great spiritual leaders of mankind, like Christ and Buddha, were karma Yogis.|
|Chapter VI||Bhakti yoga||94|
|The teachings of Bhakti Yoga - The word Bhakti - The methods of Bhakti Yoga in comparison with Raja Yoga- Its characteristics - True type of Bhakta - Bhakti Yoga has two grades - A beginner in Bhakti Yoga - The Guru or the spiritual eye-opener - The duty of disciple - How should he live - The duty of a traveler on the path of Bhakti - Devotee or Bhakta - His state of qualified non-dualism - the second grade of Bhakti Yoga - Its highest ideal is God consciousness.|
|Jnana Yoga-The word 'Jnana' - What it teaches - It is based entirely upon the monistic principles of the Advaita - Its purpose and aim - What is Jnana Yoga - The diverse phenomena are waves in the ocean of Brahman- Brahman as described in Vedanta - The chief object of Jnana Yoga - The ture nature of the individual ego - Jnana Yoga, the means of attaining to complete liberation from bondage - What is Avidya - Jnana Yoga rouss us from the sleep of ignorance - It reminds us of vidya or knowledge - How can it be obtained -The path of wisdom - A traveler along this path - A Jnana Yogi and his ideal -Maya, the inscrutable power of Brahman - Jnana Yogi rejects all phenomena - A sincere seeker after Truth - Tat Tvam asi - Jnana Yogi does no prayer to personal God- He seeks no supernatural help or mercy - Jnana Yogi identifies himself only with the Self - A true Jnana Yogi - His discrimination - He realizes the eternal Truth - He lives as an embodiment of the absolute Divinity on the earth.|
|ChatperVIII||Science of Breathing||123|
|The Science of Yoga - What the majority of modern thinkers hold - A reaction of in it Europe - Dr. Lionel S. Lionel S. Beale - Human body according to the scientific thinkers - The vital energy Prana - Science of prana or breath - Prana according to Vedanta philosophy - Different phases of prana - The relation between mind and prana - Mental effort underlies all physiological conditions and organic functions- He who can regulate his mentalities preserves his vitality - What the irregular activity of the mind produces - What is the breath- Relation that exists between vital activity and mentality - A Yogi heals disease by the powers of the prana-Prana according to the science of Yoga- Prana, the propelling power and circulation-What the modern physiology tells - The physiologists of the eighteenth century- Lavoisier - Physiological chemistry - Faithhealers, mental healers and Christian scientists- What a Yogi says about prana- What the ordinary people think of it - India is the only country where the science of breathing is carefully studied - The aim of a Yogi is to establish studied - The aim of a Yogi is to establish absolute harmony and to transcend all laws -Perfect self-mastery-Prana according to a Yogi - How the currents of prana travel - The respiratory centre or anahata chakra- What the science of breathing teaches -The result of mastery over the dormant powers - The result of irregular breathing- Controlling the activity of prana -Aim of a Yogi is to observe his own nature- The science of breathing taught by the sages of India - Right or correct breathing - Practice under an experienced teacher brings highly beneficial results both in mind and body- Breathing exercises do not mean deep breathing only as is taught by teachers of music - Delsarte or physical culture - What is deep breathing - A Yogi conquers death by the control of prana.|
|Chapter IX||Was Christ a Yogi ?||159|
|A true Yogi - The powers of a true Yogi -He does not seek worldly comforts- Jesus the Christ- Perfect method of Yoga practiced in India - Yogis of India - Christ, Krishna and Buddha who practiced Yoga- How the science of Yoga helps us - There is no such thing as the absolutely supernatural- Nature is infinite- Jesus the Christ was Buddha's illustrious disciple- Krishna, the Hindu Christ- The miracle performed by Jesus were not extraordinary and new-Isolated events appeared as supernatural and miraculous- They were governed by the natural laws - A true Yogi goes to the source of all power and of all forces - Prana, the intelligent energy -Jesus, a great Karma Yogi Jesus, a human being with divine qualities- Principal virtues of a Bhakti Yogi - Like the Raja Yogis, Jesus knew the secret of separating the soul from his body - Jesus really was a Jnana Yogi- He attained to the highest realization- He healed the sick and distressed- Without the help of the science and philosophy of Yoga, Jesus the Christ cannot be fully understood- Anyone who follows the teachings of Yoga will become perfect like Christ - Vedanta reveals the glorious character of Jesus and of other teachers of mankind- It is through. Vedanta that a Christian will be able to realize the Divinity in everything.|