Over the last sixty or seventy years, Hatha yoga had gradually become enormously popular in our western society. Mainly among woman, who seems more body-minded then man. Even if Hatha yoga is only the first step in yoga, it is a very good thing. Pranayama is also catching up nowadays as a natural stimulant of the vital energy in the body and mind. Meditation, which is a higher step in yoga, is also being accepted more and more in people’s lives and that is a great thing, too.
Normally one separates Pranayama in three parts. Number one, the lower Pranayama, as a purifier of body, Nadis (subtle nerve channels) and mind. Number two, Pranayama as a healer of disease. And number three, higher Pranayama as a means to raise Kundalini Shakti (primal energy) to Sahasara (the center on the top of the head) and attain spiritual liberation.
Most people are not breathing in a correct way, which opens room for a lot of illnesses, which again, shorten men’s and woman’s lives. In Pranayama, one learns the perfect breath. That means to breath with one’s full lung capacity. The lungs must be filled from the very bottom (abdomen breath) to the middle breath, and then up to the top of the lungs (collarbones breath). Puraka (inhaling), Kumbhaka (retention), and Rechaka (exhaling) plays a very important part in Pranayama. The higher Pranayamas are dangerous for beginners and should only be practiced by people who have renounced the world and are embracing Brahmacharya (celibacy, sublimation of the sexual energy).
As a general rule, Pranayama should only be taught by advanced teachers and it should be done in such a careful and harmonious way, without any sound, that even if you placed a silk thread in front of the nostrils, it should not move. Other rules concerning Pranayama are to choose a lovely, neat, airy, and well ventilated place. Also, wear pleasant, comfortable clothes. It goes without saying that one should avoid unclean and heavily digestible food. One should take food that is simple, nutritious, easily digested, and locally obtainable. It is best to practice Pranayamas on an empty stomach. Women, during their period time, should avoid doing Pranayama for five days. People that lead a well regulated sexual life can practice even the lower Pranayamas with great benefit.
When you’ve learned to practice Pranayama correctly, you can carry out your Pranayamas with positive, uplifting suggestions. When you breathe in, say to yourself mentally: I am filling myself up with energy, strength, youth, harmony, etc. Or, for example: I am young and strong, can do everything, nothing can bring me down (you can compose your own positive suggestions) also, like: my inner most true nature is the beautiful, all pervading self, I am the light of light, etc., etc. And when you exhale, breathe out all negative and weak energies, like stress, worries, etc. Such Pranayamas are worth gold, and if carried out regularly, they can really change your life for the better and lift you up.
If one is practicing Pranayama regularly, correctly, and with full attention, one can cure all illnesses. Because fresh energizing oxygen, when assimilated, has a wonderful effect on one’s body and mind. When you, for example, take fresh oxygen in, then concentrate on the weak part of the body and try to heal it by mentally sending positive vibrations and thoughts to the troublesome place. Even chronic diseases can be cured if such Pranayamas are carried out sincerely, correctly, and with full faith.
Higher Pranayamas, in order to lift the Kundalini Shakti to Sahasara and gain the ultimate liberation (Nirvana, Moksha, Transcendental State, etc.), should only be practiced by advanced practitioners who observe strict Brahmacharya(celibacy) in thoughts, words, and deeds. Many yoga schools out of ignorance are practicing Kundalini Yoga, Kriya Yoga, or other kinds of higher Yogas without Brahmacharya. It is naive to think that one can lift the Shakti up when it is absorbed by sexual pleasures in the three lower centers, Manipura, Svadhishtana, and Mulhadara Chakra.
If you are experienced, want to renounced the worldly life, and are embracing Brahmacharya (sex sublimation), then kindly contact us for guidance, support, and further information.
Meditation has come to our western world and it’s not just a momentary trend. It will gradually develop to the whole world. It is very good thing, because meditation makes men and women wise and peaceful. Meditation should be taught in all schools and universities and should be included in the education system of the world. Only that will bring peace and prosperity to the whole world and eventually spare the world from future catastrophes like nuclear war, etc. In general, meditation is of two kinds: Saguna (with form) and Nirguna (without form). Saguna meditation means concentration on one’s heart-centre on the Form of one’s Ishta-Devata (the God or Deity that one likes and loves the most), and Its Divine qualities. Nirguna meditation is concentration on the Formless Aspect of Brahman. It is easier and safer for a man/woman to meditate upon the Saguna Aspect of God, because it is difficult to meditate without the help of a name and a form. The Formless Aspect of God is very difficult to grasp and much more difficult to meditate upon. It can be understood and realized fully in Nirvikalpa Samadhi only. However, if one is a beginner and does not have any mantra, etc., one can start to meditate in a very simple and easy way. When you wake up in the morning, sit with a straight back on your bed, make your breathing slow and pleasant and concentrate on deep peace and harmony. Make your mind completely free from any disturbing thoughts and meditate on the beautiful energy inside, which is The Higher Self or God within. If any disturbing thoughts arise in the mind, ignore them and push them gently away. Sit like that for approximately half an hour and enjoy the peace and beautiful light inside. Such meditations one can also be done in the evening before going to bed. Later on, you can develop your meditation by concentrating on different Gods and Goddesses, or other universal symbols which you love most. If you start on beginner meditations, you are in a way already on a spiritual path. Combine such meditations with Hatha Yoga and Pranayama while at the same time reading or studying different inspiring spiritual books (press here for more information). It is also important to pay attention to what you are eating. Eat more healthy, organically grown fruits and vegetables, etc. (press here for more information). Select friends of good character, which are on a spiritual path also. Participate in weekly Satsangs with group meditation, devotional music, spiritual discussions, prasadam (light refreshments, fruits, sweets), etc.
Okay, the spiritual awakening has come to our Western civilization, but as we are all beginners, we have to proceed carefully. The difficulty is that we in our western society have only developed the material side of life, that means science and technology, and thereby have neglected the spiritual side of life. That means we in our culture do not have the same experience about the spirituality, like, for example, in India. To make it more difficult, here in the twenty first century, a new type of guru has developed in India and the world. They are called pseudo gurus. That means they are teaching yoga without having attained the highest truth and seem to be more interested in money, name, and fame than helping with true guidance. India and the rest of the world is full of them now. It would have been far better if these “new type of gurus” had been meditating a little longer and realized the highest truth Nirvikalpa Samadhi, Nirvana, or full transcendental state instead of stopping their sadhana and falling for name and fame, collecting many disciples, a lot of money, and establishing world organizations, etc. If those “gurus” would have had patience and finished their spiritual practice, they could really have helped the people of the world, instead of confusing them by giving them only parts of the truth. Just think about Gautama Buddha, at how much he, a single man, after having finished his sadhana, was able to help the whole world.
All those pseudo gurus have, with all respect, not attained the highest. So even if they make world organizations, become immensely rich with expensive cars and even their own airplanes, their teachings are not satisfactory. To make the whole thing even more difficult, there is hardly one God realized public Guru in India today, which can help. They are all pseudo gurus. But however difficult our situation is, if we are strong and move on, we will gradually learn to discriminate between fake and the truth and what can help us along the path. So even if the spiritual path is fascinating, it is not so easy. There are so many new things to learn, and one of the first important things to learn is the Yama and Niyama, which are the foundation and moral code for all spiritual development. Yama and Niyama has been given to us by the old God realized Rishis and saints from India, and if we follow them we have a solid ground under our feet.
Yama and Niyama
One of the first “rules” is Ahimsa, which means not to kill or being violent to any living beings, in deeds, words, and thoughts. Even by sending negative thoughts, one is injuring not just others, but also oneself, for the ether is full of thought vibrations, and when one sends out thoughts, one opens a certain “outlet” so to speak, and thereby gives room for other similar thoughts, which will enter one’s mind. If one is really established in Ahimsa, even the most sinful beings, yes even animals, become peaceful and tamed in one’s presence.
The next “rule” is Satya: to be truthful. A dishonest man always suffers from a guilty consciousness, because falsehood makes the mind impure and robs it of its peace and power. Such a man never enjoys peace or realizes the aim of life. One must be truthful in thoughts, words, and deeds. When a man is established in truthfulness, whatever he/she says, becomes truth.
Then come other “rule,” like Asteya: non-stealing or cheating others for their rightful properties. A thief, a swindler, or dishonest man can never make headway spiritually. For stealing another’s property or belongings means causing pain to others and this pain comes back to the thief also.
The next “rule” is Brahmacharya, which means control and sublimation of one’s sexual energy (please readmore on Brahmacharya at the end of this text).
Next is Aparigraha: non greediness, which means no belongings, except what is necessary. Being on the spiritual path, one must also be careful when it comes to receiving of gifts. Because in taking gifts, one automatically takes the sins of the giver to some extent. Especially gifts given with certain expectations will drag one spiritually down. Gifts given by wicked and sinful people will also injure the receiver. So, for every gift taken, one has to repay in one form or another. One should not ask for, receive, or desire anything from another. This will enable one to make steady spiritual progress.
Then there is Sauca, which means inner and outer purity. For example, to keep the body neat, clean, and healthy; wearing clean clothes, having a clean living place, eating simple and nutritious food, drinking clean water, etc. To move in good company of people with character, who are also meditating, will also facilitate purity. All these things are external purity. Inner purity means right thinking, mind control, and keeping the mind free from egoistical sinful desires. So for an all-round true spiritual growth, both internal and external purity is necessary. However, inner purity is much more important than external purity.
Santosh is another Yama and Niyama rule and means practicing satisfaction. And here we touch on an important point, for dissatisfaction, here in our wealthy Western society, has almost become a disease in itself. Discontentment deprives us of our peace of mind, makes us restless and full of all kinds of plans and ideas that we believe will make us happier. Real satisfaction is achieved only by surrendering to God. A person who knows how to surrender and understands how to practice Santosh (Satisfaction) will meet all the difficulties of life with a patience and well balanced mind. Life becomes so much easier if you practice satisfaction. We have here in our well developed Western world so many reasons to be satisfied. Developing satisfaction will increase one’s life quality. And if we combine it with meditation, etc., it can lead to joy and great happiness of life.
Then there is Tapas, which means to practice self-discipline. The purpose of self-discipline is to make the body strong so it does not cause any problems. It is difficult to develop spiritually with a weak body. Self-discipline or a little ascetic life-style brings willpower, control over the senses, and the restless mind. Things that are not possible for the ordinary person are easy to overcome for those who practice self-discipline. If we look on our lives, there are so many areas where we can practice self-discipline. For example, not to sleep too long, but get up in the morning and sit for meditation. Not to overload the stomach, or to eat in between the meals. Once in awhile to fast for one day or two. It may also help you to keep Mouna (silence) a few hours a day or, if possible, one day a week. If we study our life habits, there are so many areas where we can discipline and improve ourselves. Without practicing self-discipline, one cannot develop in the right direction.
To study the scriptures (Svadhvava) in between is also necessary. The mind has no shape or color in itself, but takes shape and color according to what we think of. So reading inspiring and uplifting literature about the great saints, prophets, and the life of God’s incarnations means living together with these great saints, and it will inspire and lift us up spiritually. There exists so much wonderful spiritual literature, some of which are recommended here on the website. So, in between, studying the scriptures is necessary and a great help when we are on the spiritual path.
Finally, there is Isvarapranidhana, which means to keep the mind always on God or your inner True Self. The ego consciousness is the real cause of bondage and untold misery. If we can eliminate this ego idea, nothing can bring us down. Therefore, we must always keep the mind on God. Whatever we are doing, we must constantly feel the divine presence in everything. Actually, we must consider and dedicate every act as a kind of worship. Such an attitude will purify the mind and lead to God realization.
When one has learned to follow The Yama and Niyama rules, one must continue with Asana (Hatha Yoga) and Pranayama (breathing exercises). After this comes different states of concentration. First, Pratyahara, which is a process of withdrawing one’s thoughts completely from external objects. It is turning one’s attention to one’s true Self deep inside. Pratyahara empowers one to stop being controlled by the external world. Second, comes Dharana, meaning the ability to keep the mind concentrated on a mantra, or other symbols of The Self for twelve continuous seconds. Thirdly, comes Dhyana, which is a even higher state of concentration than Dharana, where the meditator is able to keep his/hers concentration for two minutes and twenty four seconds at one point, forgetting everything, even one’s body and the world. Lastly, comes Samadhi. In Samadhi, one must be able to concentrate the mind on one point and retain it fixed on that one point for twenty eight minutes and forty eight seconds. This Samadhi is the final, highest, supreme state, and the culmination of all sadhana.
Okay, now we have briefly touched one of the most important things in the spiritual development, and that was Yama and Niyama. But if you want to make real progress , Brahmacharya is the most important one of the Yama and Niyama rules. Brahmacharya means sublimation of our sexual energy. We have avoided the word celibacy, because it gives bad impressions to the mind. The Sanskrit word Brahmacharya is much better, because it explains the necessity of sexual sublimation in an easy and understandable way. We don’t say that everybody should live in Brahmacharya, that would be sectarian madness. We need families also. The only thing we say is: if you are on a spiritual path, you must know that the sexual energy is the strongest power in the body and mind. If we are careless and we are misusing it we will go down, gradually degradate and destroy our lives. Most of the pseudogurus know very well about Brahmacharya, but are silent like the grave, knowing that if they speak about Brahmacharya, then they would probably not get even a single disciple. But as we don’t care about getting many followers, we speak openly about the necessity of Brahmacharya and sex sublimation not just in the spiritual life, but also for health, strength, and success in the worldly life. In the eastern culture (India) Brahmacharya has never been a big problem. Here, one has, since time immemorial, understood and respected Brahmacharya as a necessity in the spiritual life. All great saints or yogis have achieved God Realization or the highest freedom through Brahmacharya. If we study the Vedas, they praise again and again Brahmacharya as the foundation for success in the spiritual life. It is mostly here, in our western society where our education system has gone astray and we have been brain washed by our sexologists with all kinds of sexual freedom that Brahmacharya is difficult for most people to understand. However, Brahmacharya is in general mostly for sanyasins or monks, who have renounced the world and are ripe enough to try to realize the goal of life. But whether one chooses the sanyas life or the family life, the secret behind success and progress is always Brahmacharya.
The sexual energy (Kundalini Shakti) can move in two directions: up and down. When it goes up to higher centers (chakras) one will gain great inspiration and energy, but when it goes down in the lower centers and works like sexual enjoyment, one looses great amounts of physical and mental energy. The energy wasted in one single sexual act is equal to that spent in twenty-four hours of hard mental work, or seventy-two hours of hard physical work. If a man or woman are slaves of lust (sexual desire) and cannot control their sex energy, they can never enjoy deep meditation, peace, bliss of mind, or make headway spiritually. So, whether we like it or not, Brahmacharya is a necessity when it comes to spiritual life.