9. The Foundations of Laya Marga
The Path of Absorption (LAYA MARGA) is characterised by three basic aspects, which are realised in a practical way. They (the aspects) include the whole purification process: (healing, opening) the HEART, according to the sequence of the Purification Circle, i.e. the Trial Path:
1) VIVEKA (the ability to choose that which is right); the aspect of teaching and the esoteric studies, listening to and receptivity to Guru (One who leads you out of the darkness); understanding and comprehension;
2) MUMUKSHU (longing, ardour); the aspect of spiritual practice; eager fulfilment of the recommended spiritual practices; pure and enthusiastic meditation practice; expanding the receptivity; binding knowledge with feelings, intuition;
3) VIRAGA (the power of tranquillity, the energy of silence); the aspect of spiritual strength stimulated by stability, equilibrium and discipline, the will to work and to serve (s. SEVA).
In simple words, all boils down to Learning, Practising and Serving. As a result, we quickly reach the state of Void (s. ŒUNYA), Bliss (s. ANANDA) and great WILL POWER (s. VIRJA), which is also acknowledged as Enthusiasm.
A disciple on the LAYA Path receives assistance from his GURU in the form of tips and spiritual exercises, so that he can effectively cover the distance that separates him from his spiritual destination: from God (s. ISHVARA). Practices and instructions (tips) are given in accordance with principles of physiology in yoga, including the laws of the psyche (the mind).
The spiritual practices of LAYA MARGA at each rung of the ladder originate from the succession line representing the LAYA tradition founded by Lord SHIVA together with his spouse, Shri Parvati. They are both considered Great RISHIS, i.e. Sages, as well as Solar Teachers (s. SURYA GURUS). The entire collection of teachings and practices is transmitted in the succession line by subsequent MAHA GURUS (Great Teachers), who are generally honoured with the title: GURU ANANDA SHIVA.
The Entire Eternal Wisdom, together with the Path of Absorption, may be transmitted by LAYA GURUS (The Teachers of Absorption), or other ACHARYAS (Messengers) representing the LAYA School, who may initiate, introduce the eager ones into the meditation practice, as well as familiarise them with diverse systems of particular practices associated with the LAYA tradition. The fundamental range of practices comprises two forms of transmission, or initiation (s. DIKSHAN), known respectively as SADHANA and ABHYASA.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE LAYA YOGA PRACTICE.
Generally speaking, Sadhana is a set of any practices that lead to attaining the spiritual goal, to God (s. Ishvara). This may be understood as sanctification and purification. Abhyasa in the LAYA tradition is a practice which deprives the consciousness of the conditioning of ego through developing a deep inner bond with the transmission line. It is a permanent, inner practice of residing within the Self, within I am, outside the body and the mind. It is a continuous practice of restraining the consciousness-related phenomena (the stream of thoughts and emotions), restraining the illusions and mirages created by the psyche. The whole set of the fundamental Laya Yoga practices include issues such as:
1) learning to achieve concentration, suppressing the chaotic phenomena arising from the psyche, which builds up the ability to perceive in a direct and intuitive way (s. Pratyaya);
2) cultivating the initiated yoga practice (s. Abhyasa), as well as training one's mind in non-attachment to things visible, getting rid of desires, or rather "being" above desires (s. Vairagya);
3) attaining and nurturing the state of self-fulfilment, self-realisation (self-knowledge or the wisdom of self-realisation) which is characterised by four attributes (s. Sampradjnyata);
4) submitting oneself to the Sovereign of all Living Beings, service done for one's Lord and God, idam (s. Ishvarapranidhana);
5) growing in the consciousness of God and reaching one's inner Self (s. Æetana), which is attained by means of PRAÑAVA vibration - the eternal, primordial AUM sound, as well as dispersion of the obstacles which stand in the way of focusing one's consciousness;
6) learning and performing the basic breathing exercise, which consists in inhaling and exhaling (s. Svasaprasvasa), and eliminates dispersion factors emerging from the world of psyche, such as suffering (pain), bad disposition (anxiety), as well as shivering of the body (neuroses);
7) developing æatur-brahmavihara, i.e. Quadruple Infinite Purity, which is the Enlightened Consciousness and the contemplation of the silencing sound and the four virtues: Loving Kindness and Friendship, Compassion or Sympathy, Benevolent Joy, as well as Unprejudiced Tolerance;
8) attaining the sense of balance and bright, radiant outlook, as well as peace of mind thanks to the practice of focusing one's attention on the Light (s. Jyoti);
9) creating the consciousness (psyche) of the Pure Crystal (Diamond), which reflects everything the way it is, and the practitioner may easily acquire the attributes of what he focuses on. The state is called the state of Getting Stabilised (Stuck, Fixed), or the Ecstasy of Reunion (s. Samapati);
10) reaching comprehension imbued with truth (S. Rytambhara Prajnya), in which all the karmic seeds become extinct, and human destiny changes its course, so that we turn back onto a straight path leading to our only and true God.
The ten points presented above are a summary of practices representing the first class of classical yoga, presented by master Patanjali in his work "Yogasutra". In the first chapter, entitled "SAMADHI-PADAH" we can find a thorough explanation of these ten points. When we cultivate these ten aspects, we attain the supreme realisation of the Trial Path presented in the beginning as the Path of Absorption.
SAMADHI-PADAH, as it was presented here in a summarised version, includes tips (instructions) on how to develop the elements and basic practices of any kind of yoga. Many methods of work result from these fundamental issues. For example, all the piousness, the practice of devotion and reverence arise from the aspect of Ishvarapranidhana, and the whole philosophy of purification, healing, mind control and concentration results from the goal, which is the development of Pure Intuitive Perception of Truth (s. Rytambhara Prajnya). Mantra Yoga, which deals primarily with the sound, results from the work with the elemental vibration AUM (OM). Basic pillars of ethics and morality include four virtues of Brahmavihara, which are named BODHIÆITTA by Buddhists. The art of breathing and all exercises that are associated with it have a common core in practising svasaprasvasa (inhaling- exhaling), which is also called connected breathing. The visualisation of deities (angels) originates from practising meditation on light, in other words, this technique is connected with Light, Jyoti.
MANTRA YOGA AND ISHTA MANTRA
In the LAYA tradition there is a very essential practice which consists in repeating an individually chosen word possessing the value of a sound. The Individual Mantra (word, sound) is referred to as ISHTA MANTRA. This is a meditative mantra used in three forms (aspects), which are:
1) JAPA - a word or a phrase (a few words) spoken aloud or in a whisper, sung or chanted to the tune of a melody which flows from the depths of one's heart. The repetition usually starts with AUM (OM), which is the parent of all mantras, the primordial sound. This is the sound mantra (s. ŒABDHA).
2) ARTHA - the meaning, the essential message of the word, usually also a non-verbal repetition of a mantra. The mind, or rather the entire psyche intones (sings) the mantra sort of internally, inside the heart, the self. This means absorption in the meaning of the word, as well as grasping its contents with one's entire psyche, until one immerses oneself in it or becomes absorbed with its message. Moreover, Artha includes the aspect of visualisation of the contents of a mantra.
3) PRATYAYA - receiving the echo, intuitive perception, feeling, focusing on the reflection from the inner depths, which appears as a result of the two previous aspects becoming connected. The feeling consists in the contemplation of the impression conveyed, as well as the reception of the energetic vibration flowing from within. This is a practice of feeling in SILENCE. It is here that the depth of the meaning reveals itself, we become aware of its essential message. It means that one becomes aware of the meaning and the message using one's intuition, without resorting to thoughts and emotions. To describe ISHTA MANTRA more briefly, let us name its three aspects: JAPA, ARTHA and PRATYAYA, i.e. Intonation, Non-verbal Repetition and Silent Reception. Consequently, Mantra yoga includes Sound Vibration, Visualisation of Meaning and Silence. Ishta Mantra is the resonant aspect of Ishvara, i.e. Lord and God dwelling inside each heart. Prañava AUM (OM, ¥) refers to God in His own, eternal nature. The remaining part of the mantra is a creative potential that man must develop in order to cover the distance between Oneself and God, in order to become closer to God.
Consequently, Ishta Mantra is a Word of Direction, which guides You and brings you closer to Your spiritual Ideal, to the Holy Destination. Thanks to Your individually recommended mantra you explore the depths of your own, true Nature. Pratyaya gradually becomes a way to dissolve your own psyche (mind) in the Cosmic Consciousness, in God's Mind and the Creation.
The fundamental practice, Ishta Mantra in particular, allows us to attain the pure, primordial state, that of the Perfect Man (s. PURUSHA). We achieve the condition of being the Image of God, fully manifesting our spiritual potential. Purusha, i.e. the Higher Self, the Perfect Man, entirely reflects the attributes of Lord (s. Ishvara). Ishta Mantra makes it possible for us to create a basic unity with our proper form, which is the Pure Jewel of Dawn (s. Purusha - pura stands for the pure jewel, and ushas stands for the morning star, dawn).
Thanks to continuous, unrelenting repetition, imagining and feeling of Ishta Mantra, we reach full identification with the Cosmic Consciousness (s. Purusha), and attain the state of Oneness (Non-dualism of the Self). Ishta Mantra allows us to maintain the right direction, leading towards Unity, in which the false concept of the little ego (lower self) is recognised as "a cosmic optical illusion" and ceases to exist, together with egoism, suffering and all Illusory mirages (s. MAYA) that it breeds.
One attains Samadhi. Self-realisation crowned with the Intuitive Insight into Truth becomes a fact, and the four attributes (signs) of self-realisation (s. SAMPRAJNYATA) constitute its palpable proof. The first class of yoga is completed.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF THE ASHTANGA YOGA PRACTICE
According to the tradition, the fundamentals of practices where mantra yoga is an essential foundation, are generally referred to as ASHTANGA YOGA (eight-stage yoga, meditative yoga), or SAMADHI YOGA - from the name of the first chapter of Yogasutras by Patanjali.
We are already familiar with the Quintessential Goal of Ashtanga Yoga, the fundamentals of the practice and the value of Ishta Mantra. Let is try to concentrate further on some more, essential instructions necessary achieve success on the Laya Path.
1. the proper position of the body, which helps us succeed in our practice, is the sitting position. The practice of Ashtanga Yoga is colloquially called SITTING, or stabilisation within one's own Primordial Nature. Generally, sitting with one's legs crossed or in a kneeling position are fundamental sitting position, whereas upright sitting is a sign of maintaining proper body position called practising (s. Sadhana or Abhyasa).
Already in the first verse, Master Patanjali suggests that introduction into yoga is connected with teaching positions, postures. The word that is used here - ASANA - means literally "sitting". Workshops in the Laya tradition require longer periods of sitting in meditation, already in the initial stages. Sitting with one's legs crossed (s. SUKHASANA or BHODJANASANA), semi-lotus position (s. ARTHAPADMASANA), full lotus position (s. PADMASANA), the fulfilment position, also called the perfect one (s. SIDDHASANA) - this is the entire list of asanas (positions, postures, modes of sitting) recommended in the Ashtanga Yoga course. The kneeling position is recommended mainly for persons who, for the reason of their wellbeing, cannot remain in the kneeling position for a long time. The family of kneeling positions (s. VAJRASANA), is also named the family of Diamond positions. The kneeling position is also known as the cow position (s. GOMUKHASANA), and is considered to be the most advanced way of sitting in the practice of Ashtanga Yoga.
2. The sitting position ought to be unforced, it should encourage relaxation, bring relief and serenity. At the same time, it should be technically correct and comfortable. One must thoroughly practise basic ways of sitting, as adequate meditation postures guarantee one hormonal balance, and, consequently, psychosomatic equilibrium. Balance, symmetry, keeping one's back upright and vertically poised spine promote the development of one's powers of concentration, relaxation and receptiveness. Stable and relaxed sitting posture improves the rhythm and depth of breathing. Sitting in postures representing the lotus family prevents diseases of the heart and the circulatory system. Unrelenting practising of these few ways of sitting expands our Consciousness of our Bodies!
3. Sadhana or Abhyasa may also be practised in the "sitting" positions described as "standing on one leg" or "the tree". This manner of "sitting" used to be the favourite one in yoga lessons taught by Master Shiva - the Founder of all Yoga. Yet, it requires special instructions from one's Teacher. This is a method for people who are very determined in their practice, as well as for faithful followers of the Master and the Founder of Yoga. One more posture among his favourite ones was the above mentioned "cow position".
4. In the course of performing the prescribed exercises, eyes usually remain closed. Deprivation of visual sensations which originate chiefly from the subconscious tendency to observe, makes one's psyche void, purified, and consequently, more receptive and perceptive. Mind and sight are extremely interrelated; therefore closing one's eyes makes it possible to gain deeper insight into one's inner self.
To sum up today's lecture, it is worth reminding you of numerous similarities that can be observed between yoga and various spiritual and religious traditions. There are no differences between the sitting positions in Zen and Yoga. The chief principle of Brahmavihara - MAITRI, i.e. Loving Kindness and Friendship, are by no means different from the fundamental principle of Christian ethics preached by Jesus: "Love one another". In its essence, Brahmavihara is a foundation of ethics and morality inherent in each religion. I shall discuss it in detail on some other occasion.
Let the Blessing of the Almighty God stay with You!