Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Integral Yoga – Every Moment is Prayer

The word Yoga simply means union. The moment of oneness with the absolute. In common parlance currently in vogue, the term has come to represent physical practices, asanas or poses and nothing more. The poses assumed by Yogis to gain control of the body are simply one small aspect of the vast number of spiritual practices called Yoga. The poses are from the branch of Yoga called Hatha Yoga.

Throughout history, humanity has experienced leaps in consciousness through revelation. Whether it is the prophet Moses, Jesus, Buddha or the founders of various other religions, awakening of the kundalini and subsequent ascension of the individual to a state of illumination is accompanied by revelations that then gather a following, become part of religious practices.

Depending on the era of birth, the geography of the individual, his level of education and creative abilities, there are wide variations in the resulting revelations. They all point to the same reality but they are all expressed differently. As mentioned in my previous post, these methods are ours to use as we see fit and the path taken towards self-realization which works for one most likely will not work the same way for anyone else. This needs to be understood before accepting a rigid set of techniques and before proselytizing others.
Row boats at parade rest
Tied at Mooring – Tranquil Summer Days
A better approach is to figure out what path best allows you to find inner peace and drop the external mask, the persona that obscures your inner reality for the sake of fitting in with the outside world. Sri Aurobindo, the Indian mystic and Ken Wilber, the modern day mystic whose ideas are the inspiration for the ''Matrix" movies are two proponents of an integral yoga. A collection of practices that address every aspect of the human state and approach the quest for self-realization as an incessant stream to be lived each moment rather than a set of rituals performed at a certain hour.

Classical yoga divides spiritual practices into four kinds of yoga. This classification is exhaustive. Nearly all practices and states of being, and methods of worship fall into one of the four categories, regardless of the religion of the practitioner.

The four paths of Yoga: There are four traditional schools of Yoga, and these are: Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. While a Yogi or Yogini may focus exclusively on one of these approaches to Yoga, that is quite uncommon. For the vast majority of Yoga practitioners, a blending of the four traditional types of Yoga is most appropriate. One follows his or her own predisposition in balancing these different forms of Yoga:
Jnana Yoga: Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge, wisdom, introspection and contemplation. It involves deep exploration of the nature of our being by systematically exploring and setting aside false identities.
Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, emotion, love, compassion, and service to God and others. All actions are done in the context of remembering the Divine.
Karma Yoga: Karma Yoga is the path of action, service to others, mindfulness, and remembering the levels of our being while fulfilling our actions or karma in the world.
Raja Yoga: Raja Yoga is a comprehensive method that emphasizes meditation, while encompassing the whole of Yoga. It directly deals with the encountering and transcending thoughts of the mind.

The most common is the path of devotion, known as bhakti yoga. Praying twice a day, attending mass on Sunday, reciting the Lord's Prayer are all forms of bhakti yoga. This path, of faith, of absolute surrender to the divine is the most common form of worship. This may suffice for the average individual that worships out of a sense of social obligation, but not for the seeker on the path. Praying or meditating for an hour still leaves about 15 waking hours in the day that are not devoted to the quest. It is not just impractical to meditate or pray for hours on end while ignoring worldly duties, it is also unnecessary.

Leaves on pavement
The Rising and the Falling
We need to remember the underlying goal of all this effort. The final stage, commonly called enlightenment, is beyond understanding. One can't aim for it and set course like a ship sails to a port. However, we know that the way to this destination goes through a constant process of awakening the true self and staying awake. Constant mindful awareness to each action, constantly breaking thought patterns that take us away from the here and now. By becoming aware of the mental agitation, by becoming cognizant of the constant unrest within us, we learn to witness it. To separate, for the first time ever, the mental apparatus that thinks, from the true self that is the witness. It is not I that does the thinking. I witness the mind as it creates the thoughts. Each time I step back and witness the mental machinery, it is also a process of detaching oneself from that mental chatter.

Essentially, it is a process of removing conditioned responses and ingrained patterns that have long kept us enslaved. For the first time, we taste true freedom. A freedom from the human robot bound by those repetitive patterns and conditioned responses. A freedom to be spontaneous and "in the moment," seeing, for the first time, the world as it is, without the baggage of preconceived ideas, labels and notions of how the world should be. 

Integral Yoga understands the need to incorporate the different forms of yoga and devote each waking hour to the contemplation, service and realization of oneness with the absolute. Expressed differently, to know that one is a creation of that almighty intelligence, and can never be separate from it, one needs to provide methods that constantly awaken the consciousness from the slumber induced by our mundane "reality."

Balloon Festival
Motor Highway Fest
A kundalini awakening is simply an automated mechanism that takes over the psyche and goes about cleansing the soul of past conditionings and shows the individual how to proceed on the journey of realizing one's true self and union with the absolute. Some aspects of this process, such as revelation, are governed by the energy and require no assitance from the individual. Others require the ego to co-operate and surrender itself to the greater work being performed, knowing it will be completely dissolved at the end of the process. 

Knowing this, the various forms of yoga and techniques associated with them can be seen as methods of helping the individual see beyond the ego, to align the ego with the path of spiritual progress until it realizes its role as an interface with the outside world and not as the true self. At their most basic, methods of worship inculcate positive patterns into the psyche. A lifetime spent reciting a mantra and activating a state of surrender to the divine molds the brain, creating neuronal pathways that eventually allow the self to see itself clearly.

The best way to remove an ingrained pattern that leads us towards robotic behavior and prolongs the state of ignorance is to replace it with one that causes an upward spiral towards freedom. A pattern of repetitive behavior that eventually removes all patterns and conditioning. This is the true purpose of any method of worship. If a chosen method does not serve that purpose, it should be replaced by another, more effective one or augmented with other methods that achieve this goal.

It may seem like a contradiction in terms to advocate the use of ritual, repetition and conditioning if our final goal is to remove all such shackles, but it is not. It depends on the patterns we choose, how we practice, and why we practice a ritual.

It is important to have control over who programs your mind and what it is being programmed with. If I am doing it myself, aware of the effect of that course of action, I have a better chance of reaching my true self. If I allow friends, social groups, or worse, television commercials and the approval-disapproval control mechanism, high-school popularity contest that is the Facebook "Like" button, I remain stuck in the realm of ego, bound by the senses and the ego's craving for comfort and its tendency to create a false reality favoring a selective image of itself.

In future posts, I intend to write in detail about each path and how almost every action or thought can be a method towards the realization of the absolute.


  1. "To separate, for the first time ever, the mental apparatus that thinks, from the true self that is the witness."

    What a great line! What a great post! This may seem self-referential, coming from a colleague who thinks and writes along the same lines, but this may be your best-ever post...

  2. Thank you very much JJ. Greatly appreciate your praise. I have been thinking of writing this post forever. I am glad it came out well. Still haven't managed to convey everything. More to come. Stay tuned :)

  3. Fantastic post Vivek. I just love the way your posts flow right from the beginnning to the end and they are packed full of interesting and thought provoking ideas I really enjoy reading them and get a huge amount from them.

  4. Thanks a lot Margaret. I love all your posts too.:)

  5. Yoga is a complete lifestyle that incorporates various branches,every like a pathway leading to the same mountaintop.These distinctive ways or approaches to Yoga practice heal and develop the different parts of an individual: social,physical,enthusiastic,emotional and intellectual.
    Universal Meditation

  6. I found this post from a comment in a you Tube - a Talk by Raja Choudry on Kundalini. Thank you!! This essay/blog is very fine work connecting the dots for me. I’m quite grateful. I love the paradox you revealed talking about the use of ritual, repetition- etc. to remove conditioning. I’m so glad I got as led her through Divine Grace.