There is good yoga and worse yoga, and yoga serves different ends. There are benefits in store, at least for the judicious.
There are eight parts or "limbs" of yoga in ancient texts. The many sides or limbs to yoga may work well together to the end that each of them probably helps you.
The first four of the eight limbs teach of fit moral (dos and don'ts), yoga posture(s) and breath-control pranayama.
The four limbs that follow, are facets of yoga-meditation, which signifies gliding within. There are different teachings of how these facets or stages of the inward-turned glide are to be understood. Yoga Yajnavalkya explains them on broader terms than Patanjali Yoga Sutras, for example.
In any case, meditation is a glide-within-process, which is what higher yoga talks of by "stages" of the inward glide. Something like "plateaus, levels" of the one glide might serve. First you go within by focusing, and then awareness gets more inwards or evolved by turns that could take time. It makes sense to start regular, deep meditation long before the last moment of life, so as to reap major long-range or accumulated effects of the endeavours, "but you never know". Good meditation does not have to take more than a few five-minutes a few times a day. It is in part high-quality rest, and fit in breaks.
To sum it up, skills in meditation makes the yogi, along with placing oneself in a good posture for meditation and breathing out and in with some care, and living well in between sittings - or as well as can be. Hopefully, that is good enough. If all around you are degenerate and evil-minded, life may get hard undeservedly. There is a story that illustrates that, and it also tells of the value of tenacity. Here it is.
The legend of Prahláda is told in detail in the Bhagavata Purána and many of the other Puranas, in the Moksha Dharma of the Mahabharata, and further. Here is a brief retelling:
After many years of penance, a demon king gained special gifts from the Creator: The king could not die within any residence or outside any residence, during the daytime or at night, nor on the ground or in the sky. His death could not be brought about by any weapon, nor by any human being or animal. He should not meet death from any entity, living or nonliving made by the Creator, and not be killed by any demigod or demon or by any great snake from the lower planes either.
All that granted, the demon king began to persecute devotees of the Supreme Being. But the demon king had a son who was a devotee of the Supreme Being. This angered the demon father so much that he tried to kill the boy to get rid of him. Many times he tried, but failed. Prahlada persisted in being devoted to the Supreme Being.
Prahláda said, "The Supreme Being is all-pervading and omnipresent."
His demon father, "Is the Supreme Being in this pillar, then?"
"He is in pillars, and he is in the smallest twig," said Prahláda.
In a fit of anger the demon father smashed the pillar with his mace. It was twilight. The Supreme Being himself came out of the pillar in the shape of half lion, half man. It was a form that could kill the demon, as it was neither day nor night but twilight, and they were on the threshold of a courtyard, neither indoors nor out. The lion-man put the demon on his thighs - they were neither earth nor space - and used his sharp fingernails - animate-inanimate - to kill the demon. Then he installed Prahláda as king instead. You might think his troubles ended, but no, he got other problems to deal with after time. Anyway, those are other stories.
The steadfast Prahlada kept at his devotions and survived harsh persecutions.
❋ If the family and others in the surroundings are not helpful or congenial, good walls between and hedges too might grow helpful, and maybe sound distance between - you never know. One is to persist in yoga-meditation until one's goings get better. It could also help to take fit measures against being harrassed, if that is within reach, and go on to reap one's deserved fruits and not be robbed of them. Conformity issues are often hard to tackle in the art of living well.
More on protection and wellbeing . . .
Maharishi Vastu Architecture (MVA) - also called Maharishi Sthapatya Veda" (MVA) and "Maharishi Vedic architecture" - is a set of architectural and planning principles. They are based on Sanskrit texts and are formed to be fortune-fostering buildings and homes. Through rules about how to orient buildings and about their proportions, the entrance and the roof element, shape of the lot, and much else, happiness and good fares may "come in through the door unannounced", we may say. Several communities around the world have been developed using MVA principles. (Wikipedia "Maharishi Vastu Architecture")
Maharishi remarked after he had moved into his own Vastu Home in Vlodrup, the Netherlands:
I don't feel that I am living inside the walls . . . you don't feel that you are cramped by the walls . . . ever since they gave me this house to live in, I'm not feeling restricted . . . I am very afraid to go to any other house. I never feel to go, because I will be caged in . . . [L]iving in Cosmic magnitude . . . is living in Vastu building." [Source with many photos of Vastu houses]
You have a great home indeed if you feel caged in outside it and don't like to leave it at all. Maharishi lived in the largest wooden structure in the Netherlands.
Yes, Vastu architecture is a fascinating subject of alignments for thriving and protections in life, in room after room, so to speak. For more, there are books by MVA-Press (2013), Chakrabarti (1998) and Svoboda (2013) in the book list at the bottom of the page, and other books and Internet pages about vastu, vaastu, vasthu and still other names about it. It is linked to Feng Shui too, although with a difference in how to regard the "north-east" direction and what is derived from that.
Yoga of Posture, Breathing and Meditation
In living yogi traditions, the how-to parts are taught by gurus to loved disciples. Many books on yoga may contain difficult terms and seemingly simple terms that cover deeper meanings to insiders, as the case may be. It is the same in Zen Buddhism and other forms of Mahayana Buddhism. Yoga may still be learnt from books and yoga classes, and some give thorough instructions as to yoga postures and programmes, even good breathing exercises.
James Hewitt has written The Complete Yoga Book: The Yoga of Breathing, Meditation and Posture (1991) for example. It is a comprehensive and lucid book, fit for beginners and experienced practitioners alike. It gives a good grasp on yoga practices, practical yoga, and the philosophy and background of yoga. The book takes us into traditional outlooks, is well written, the many illustrations are clear and the explanations of how to perform the postures are helpful - and still, the skills of yoga may be easier had through a course on yoga with a qualified instructor to benefit most from the book.
Some of the higher forms of yoga training are taught in classes, and some are taught on an individual basis, or a quite individual basis, as the case may be. There are benefits in store for many, and millions take advantage of it daily.
To cut it short, there are basic yoga postures and some breathing practices that can relieve stress and tensions and thereby do good, and what is called higher yoga too, if relevant skills are into it. Higher yoga, yoga-meditation, is focused-based, and followed by a glide within if things go well. This inward-turning stage is called pratyahara, and marks the beginning phase of yoga-meditation.
Best researched meditation way: Transcendental Meditation, TM
The all-round best meditation method that has been much studied and researched today, is Transcendental Meditation, TM. It was brought to the West by HH Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Over seven millions have been taught it word-wide so far (2013). If you learn TM, you may go within, and by stages. A little dip twice a day is a minimum. That is how it is regulated for all beginners. It is very, very safe, shows official research in Sweden, headed by Dr. Jaan Suurkula.
As early as in the 1970s, the Swedish government's National Health Board conducted a nationwide epidemiological study that found that hospital admissions for psychiatric care were 150-200 times less common among the 35,000 people practicing Transcendental Meditation in Sweden, than for the population as a whole. The calculation was made by Professor Jan-Otto Ottoson, Scientific counsellor of the National Health Board in Sweden (Suurkula, University of Gothenburg, Vasa Hospital, Gothenburg, Sweden, 1977.)
Dr Suurkuula concludes the paper thus:
The remarkably small incidence of psychiatric illness among the population of individuals who had learnt the Transcendental Meditation technique compared to the general population indicates that the TM technique is not only safe but also has considerable value in the prevention of psychiatric illness."
Later TM research has confirmed it. Besides there are findings that TM is good for health in many other ways as well, so there are benefits that come along with some daily dips into fast and deep meditation, or TM. It is partially explained as an effect of stress reduction, but not solely that. Stress is a major killer in industrialised countries, and goes along with a high-strung lifestyle that seeks outward profit while disregarding one's health. Medical doctors estimate that stress in somehow - wholly or partly - behind 50-80 percent of all major diseases. Ergo: Lowered stress levels bring better health. That is a wide explanation of how such as TM and/or daily yoga helps to preserve health and improve it too, as research shows it does. [Dr David Orme Johnson - Findings]
There are many benefits that may accrue on many levels and in many fields and tracks. Yet, there are several forms or avenues of yoga. Which might work best for you is for you to decide. There are some guidelines for it.
In the Divine, all is Divine, including Yoga. That is the idea. Methods that take you safe and sound to such a state, have to be Divine too.
Once in meditation, Ramakrishna saw a prostitute, but also the Divine in her. He had been a temple priest for many years at that time. (Gupta 1969:577).
The Bhagavad Gita advocates yoga as a means and an end to such sights, and more. The goal of the Bhagavad Gita and of higher yoga are linked. Bhagavad Gita says, "Be a yogi" and tells of yogas.
Yoga is the subject of William F. Sands' excellent book, Maharishi's Yoga: The Royal Path to Enlightenment (2013). Sands takes into account Karma Yoga, Gyan (Jnana) Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga (Yajnavalkya and Patanjali Yoga are both Ashtanga Yoga), and the fulfillment of four main goals of human life: righteous deals, dharma; wealth, artha; pleasures kama and liberation, moksha.
"Yoga keeps the body flexible and toned, can be helpful for reducing stress and tension, and may be useful for strengthening the heart and improving memory. . . . Yoga is, however, much more . . ." (p 1-2)
Dr Sands tells how Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of world-wide Transcendental Meditation movement, understands yoga and meditation. Maharishi offers other explanations than a horde of the more conventional ones. Moreover, his yoga lore is downright liberating and refreshing.
In retrospect some may find that it was Maharishi's expositions they should have gone into to spare themselves wasted time over less effective means and methods. Such an insight is hard to tackle. However, what are the options to adjust one's course and go for the best with the time one has left? They may not be too good.
Below are capsules that go into the text of Dr Sands' text. The capsules are a blend of renditions, direct quotations and added material. Page references in this rather long chapter are to Dr Sands' text, unless otherwise marked.
The Bhagavad Gita covers themes and principles of Yoga, with simple, practical insights (p 5, 6).
Although the Bhagavad Gita has grown through added material through centuries, many are told that Vyasa has written all of it. Dr Phulgenda Sinha (1987) has come to the conclusion that that there was an original Bhagavad Gita of 84 verses written by Vyasa, and that the current Bhagavagita of 700 verses has got additions to it by Brahmins from ca. 800 CE. [The ancient 84 verses]
The current Gita contains concepts and ways of thinking that were not likely in vogue at the time a first version was written down. Dr Sinha explains why: [More abouth the ancient Gita]
There may not have been time for extensive, penetrating conversations on the brink of war, but that is the setting of the Gita dialogues. It need not bother us. We may still be curious to go into which Gita verses bear inner (intrinsic) marks of being old and from post-Vedic times. Some reserve would not be out of place in a search over this time span, yet Dr Sinha has extracted 84 verses, assisted by a version found on Bali. Is there room for give-and-take? Possibly, but Sinha has at any rate chosen 84 verses from the first three chapters only (see link above). (Sinha 1987:133, 155-238)
Some reserve could be fit, for assessments from eras long gone may be tinged with uncertainty here and there. At any rate, we are free to handle the Gita as an allegorical treatise on yoga if we apply such a perspective on the poem. Many do.
It boils down to: Trust or distrust in scriptures and different estimates about who made them and how over many centuries may or may not be in place. However, good yoga-meditation depends on meditation skills. Many skills can be taught, practices, mastered and passed on.
Sri Krishna's advice
The Bhagavad Gita is a dialogue between the warrior and bowman Arjuna - and Sri Krishna, his charioteer. Krishna makes good use of an occasion and teaches Arjuna many tenets and principles of Yoga philosophy to help him fight the good fight and benefit some way or other.
Krishna's counsels were not what Arjuna had expected. He is told to go beyond the material universe - "beyond material structures and forms, beyond the three gunas" - and smells, tastes, and objects of touch and into "past, present, and future". It is a yoga state that is spoken of that way. Krishna invites Arjuna to take his awareness deep within: to glide within and experience Being. That is about winning the battle of yoga.
Sands relates the Gita approach to Transcendental Meditation. (p 8, 11), telling that the technique is to take the awareness into to quieter and quieter levels of the mind, and then go beyond the thinking process to experience its origin. "This source of thought is our own Self, our own inner nature . . . the ultimate reality of ourselves and of the material universe. . . . As Maharishi explains, it is not possible to experience it through the five senses (p 11)."
Freed from duality, ever firm in purity, and independent of possessions
Commentators have long held that Sri Krishna was asking Arjuna to adjust his thinking, but he was told to rise beyond thinking, into the transcendental state of mind, tells Dr Sands (p 15).
The inner Self in the Upanishads
"Krishna and Arjuna conversed extensively throughout the Gita, culminating in Arjuna's final enlightenment." (p 17)
Is there a problem with such a stand? To some, perhaps. Interestingly, Arjuna sees Krishna as the whole universe, but not himself as the whole universe, which tells Arjuna was not fully enlightened in the sense ancient Upanishads describe it. There are many quotations to hoist up about that. Maybe one of them will do:
All this is Brahman. This Self is Brahman. (Mandukya Upanisad, v 2)
Did Arjuna see his Self as all the universe in a later-added chapter of the Bhagavad Gita? Hardly. He asks to see Krishna's supreme form (11.3) and Krishna grants him a vision through the rest of the chapter. However, Arjuna's vision is marked by duality, and hence hardly the Self - "not good enough". One is to rise beyond duality, is the teaching. There is a story about Ramakrishna doing it further down the page. Study Arjuna's vision for yourself. [Arjuna's vision]
The further verses speak of the states of consciousness from the waking state and inwards through the dream and sleep states into what is called pragya, a mass of intelligence, the lord of all, knower of all, the inner ruler, undivided and yet indescribable. Undivided, indescribable, "known as the fourth. That is the Self. That is to be realized." (Mandukya Upanishad, v 3-7, passim, in Katz and Egenes 2015:104-5)
Arjuna did not find his own Self in such a way. And by the way, the proposed original Gita speaks nothing at all of Arjuna being enlightened in a flash in front of armies either . . .
Ancient Upanishads contain clear and descriptive accounts of the nature of pure consciousness and its experience within as the inner Self, and some portray the same reality that Maharishi describes, says Dr Sands further, and that our own Self, our own inner nature is to be known. (p 16)
'Yoga' is a word with several meanings, and is added to many other words.
There is a distinction between the state of Yoga [Atmabodhi, Self-realisation] and the paths of Yoga. (p. 17)
There are meditation methods - of higher yoga - to succeed by, and many catches. One is to think the undescribable goal is well described always . . .
An upward path has its telling yardsticks, though. Dr Sands:
"Over the last fifty years scientists have subjected the Transcendental Meditation technique to extensive research, . . . which has found this practice to be a most effective antidote to stress, fatigue, and even sickness and disease (p 20)."
What is Transcendental Meditation practice?
Dr Sands: "TM is practised for about 15-20 minutes twice a day . . . with the eyes closed (p 21)".
Maharishi describes TM and the inward Yoga state:
The Transcendental Meditation technique is an effortless procedure for allowing the excitations of the mind gradually to settle down until the least excited state of mind is reached. This is a state of inner wakefulness . . . pure consciousness aware of . . . itself, . . . transcendental consciousness. (In Sands, p 21)
Transcendental Meditation is a method where a syllable or a set of syllables are repeated mentally, calmly, without stress and annoyance. It is not so difficult. Results are said to depend on which sounds a person uses. For example, AUM (OM) is to be discouraged for householders, says Shankaracharya Sri Brahmananda Saraswati of Northern India, also known as Guru Dev in the TM movement.
Maharishi saw to it that he was not promoted as a guru, but as a conduit pipe conveying Guru Dev's blessings, Professor P. S. A. Pillai observed. (Mason 2009b:215)
Guru Dev encourages getting a fit mantra to meditate on: "To the best of your ability, obtain a japa mantra ⚶ Plant the seed-mantra in the inner self. (Mason 2009a:28, 36)." How? By meditating on it, and regularly.
Is "OM" a wise mantra to use? It depends. For householders, it "does not give good effects, it will be responsible for decline and misfortune (Mason 2009b:323-24)." That is Guru Dev's teaching. In TM - fit for householders and downtrodden - , other sounds than OM are used. Let the measured effects of TM speak for themselves.
How the Transcendental Meditation programme works
Dr Sands: "During Transcendental Meditation practice . . . the mind turns within and begins to move toward progressively quieter levels. Ultimately it settles into the state of Yoga. (p 22)."
And: "Yoga is the most blissful, completely fulfilling state of life . . . But if you concentrate or try to control the mind . . . [t]he result is that your awareness will automatically move back toward the surface." (p 23-24)
Research comparing different meditations
Various effects of meditation are measured in labs these days. Dr. Fred Travis, a widely published researcher on meditation and brain physiology, tells there are distinct patterns of brain functioning associated with different meditation practices. [Meditation and brain waves]
Transcendental Meditation is a meditation form that produces "global coherent alpha waves" [well synchonised alpha brain waves over large parts of the brain] that are associated with the state of Yoga, holds Professor Sands (p 25-26).
The "bliss of Yoga is quite easy to experience, for there are techniques in the Yogic tradition that provide access to the inner Self. These have been passed down through the ages through a tradition of teachers." (p 19)
Experiences of pure consciousness in the Upanishads
"The inner Self, settled in the heart of men - know that Self as the Bright, as the Immortal. (Katha Upanishad 2.3.17, abr.)
The Self, also called Atma or Atman, is to be known, teaches Upanishadic literature (p 28-29). Yoga-meditation has served that end for a long time.
Research on Transcendental Meditation practice
TM practice can give impetus to personal development, including development of potential. There are more benefits in TM than getting helped to relax and lessen stress, or get rid of it and get better health along the way, in time, Dr Sands shows very well. (p 31 ff)
A state of deep rest
TM brings on a state of restful alertness while the body is resting deeply and well, summarises Dr Sands (p 32).
Thus, yogis should be calm people. Some are not, and some have wives that are not. We may do better than to expect all meditators to be mature, calm individuals. It could take time and maybe getting rid of a marring mate. However, you hardly know how all sorts of yogis might have been without their periods of calm and peace in deep meditation. Compare Dr Suurkuula's findings near the top of the page.
Increased wakefulness and a more orderly brain
Dr Sands: "Transcendental Meditation practice results in greater orderliness of brain function, as measured by increased EEG coherence between and within the brain hemispheres (p 34)."
Also: "Correlation among brainwaves is called EEG coherence. Increased EEG coherence is initially found during meditation, but soon becomes evident afterwards, in activity . . . [and] growing in life. (p 35)."
High levels of EEG coherence during meditation are associated with clearer experiences of Yoga as well (p 35).
Periods of natural respiratory suspension
Dr Sands summarised that in one TM study, "researchers found that during longer experiences of pure consciousness individuals not only displayed a suspension of respiration, but also higher mean EEG coherence over all frequencies and brain areas, in contrast to control periods in which subjects voluntarily held their breath." (p 36)
He adds: "Vedic literature is filled with stories of great Yogis sitting deep in meditation without breathing (p 36)."
Abstracts from one such story follows. They are from the yoga text Yoga Vasistha, about a long-lived crow who was said to be the oldest of all on earth, enlightened and peaceful. That crow told the sage Vasistha who visited him, that being embodied as a crow held in contempt by the people was not a happy state. However, the wise, old crow also said,
"Sage, one should remain firmly established in the imperishable and eternal self . . . and fix the heart on the one truth." He let Vasistha know he was not what he appeared to be, nor was the world itself. But he had never lost contact with reality, and had lived for many, many million years and had witnessed the sun being formed. Part of his success was due to being free from all thoughts when the cosmos was gone, he let Vasistha in on.
The crow had excelled in meditating on his life as consciousness and thereby get into "effortless suspension of breath" somehow. Thus he could remain - healthy, happy and without illness, he informed (cf. Venkatesananda 1993:346-66).
Frequency of pure consciousness experiences
Dr Sands: "A study of 140 students practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique found a significant increase in frequency of experience of pure consciousness throughout their undergraduate years (p 36-37)."
"The same study also found a significant increase in ego (self) development as a result of Transcendental Meditation practice. Improvement in ego development measures the emergence and development of our sense of self. As our own ego grows and matures, we develop the ability to better interpret the world around us and interact more appropriately. Improvements in ego development thus contribute directly to our quality of life (p 37)."
"The researcher matched students' descriptions of their experiences with principles of Yoga found in the traditional Yoga texts, demonstrating that higher states of consciousness . . . as presented in these ancient texts is available to contemporary undergraduate students (p 37)."
Which ancient texts?
It depends also on how far you go.
It matters to know which ancient texts that are referred to, for there are many of them. The higher student states that are told of in the previous section, seem to get well accepted in the large community today and fit student life very well. Let there be no doubt about. Better grades, higher, measured intelligence, less anxiety and so on is fit for students. But what if the most developed ones get so hard to fathom that they are misunderstood? And what if they are known as "drinking and urinating like cows" or "competing with dogs for crumbs of bread in the rubbish heap"? Will they be duly appreciated?
To illustrate this, there is a story about a perfect knower of Brahman in The Gospel of Ramakrishna. That man of perfect knowledge was considered mad, and searched for food in the rubbish heap where the dogs were eating crumbs from discarded leaf-plates and now and then pushed the dogs aside to get his crumbs. The dogs did not mind. (Gupta 1969:491) ["A perfect knower of Brahman"]
The Srimad Bhagavatam scripture tells of a Self-established king, Rishabha, who made the oldest of his one hundred sons his successor, and then left home stark naked, dishevelled hair, behaving like an imbecile, madman or goblin. He wandered about alone like a castaway, for he was established in the glory of his essential Self, even though his body was covered with excreta. He ate and urinated like the cow, the deer, the crow and other creatures and in such ways illustrated how some yogis live. (Extracted from Raghunathan 1976:1:419-22).
Yes Abraham Maslow (1987) ignored many significant signs of Self-realisers when he postulated the characteristics of Self-realisers and Self-actualisers. Some of the larger views of Self-realisers than those Abraham Maslow thought of, further suit Tao sages in Chinese classics, such as as the Tao Te Ching, Chuang-tzu, and the Lieh-tzu. Tao-te Ching's chapter 15 says simply that the best are described only arbitrarilty, for:
The best rulers of old had subtle wisdom and depth of understanding, so profound that they could not be understood.
It is the Way to go in Taoism, but perhaps not in student dormitories and on exams where it is not really or fully appreciated. All the same, the way to Self-realisation is not understood or measured full well by beginner yardsticks, and that needs to be told. But don't worry, the king who came to look like an imbecile, chose that sort of living himself, and you should be free to choose too.
"The benefits of Transcendental Meditation practice are both immediate and cumulative." (p 40)
The human brain
The brain is a sophisticated organ with many complex tasks to perform. Our mental and physical wellbeing depend on a high level of neurophysiological efficiency. (p 40-42)
Research on the Transcendental Meditation programme and mental potential
"Improved brain functioning through the Transcendental Meditation technique results in a wide range of benefits such as growth of intelligence and higher achievement at work and in school (p 42)."
Growth of intelligence
"Even though studies have shown that the IQ of practitioners of the Transcendental Meditation technique increases even after adolescence . . . this does not by itself indicate holistic growth of intelligence (p 43)." The reason: IQ tests are designed to measure certain types of intelligence but there are other measures IQ does not go into, such as creativity, emotional intelligence, or our ability to act appropriately and practically. (Ibid)
"Growth of intelligence should translate into greater success (p 46)."
Gifted? You still need to take care. At one extreme, take into account a close relative to "It is a fool who cannot hide his wisdom." It may or may not be smart enough to reveal how intelligent you really are. It might work both ways. If you are specially gifted one way or another, make a point of helping yourself too, and not just others. Some seek to make use of gifted others, and headhunters may be good at catching fish with baits of various sorts.
One is to see to it that special skills are not used or abused to the preference of harmonious and id-related development [Erikson's psychosocial stages].
Ordinary enough? Is there safety in good conformity? At times there is, and at one time you may have to manifest more individuality - it is thought to develop if you nourish your inner sides well. Being and becoming more individual means being and getting more unique in some ways at least - more or less so. Others may or may not allow for that if the conformity is not a decent one. It can be good to protect oneself and maintain one's home and relationships well and not be stepped on, if it can be. Maslow's unique individuals were markedly nonconformists (1987:ch 11)
The alternative to develop well and risk stunted growth in conformism, is mentioned by Dr Rudolf Steiner thus:
When we today . . . take a walk in the streets, we no longer see human people; rather, we see moles that move about in the smallest of circles, moles whose thinking is limited to these narrow circles, cannot reach beyond them, moles who take no interest in what is happening outside these circles. If we do not succeed in growing beyond this molelike existence . . . to which we have been conditioned . . . then we cannot positively participate in what ought to be done, in order to overcome this unhappy situation. (1996:92)
"Every day millions of people throughout the world practice Yogic postures and positions. . . . For the most part to improve their health. . . . [W]hat about the health benefits from experiencing the state of Yoga? (p 48)"
There are hundreds of studies on Transcendental Meditation practice to go through or benefit from.
"Almost half of adults suffer from stress-related disease, and 75% – 90% of all doctors' office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints. . . . The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the US has recently reported that stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually (p 49)."
"It's only money" - No, it is in part a sign of human sacrifice on the altar of bigwig profiteers.
Stress in students' lives
"Prolonged stress can also result in learning difficulties and permanent damage to brain development (p 50)."
"Prolonged stress kills brain cells, and harms memory and other basic mental functions . . . Children under continued stress become predisposed to long-term mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol abuse. (p 51)"
Transcendental Meditation practice and stress
"Anxiety and stress often go hand-in-hand (p 52)."
However, TM "releases accumulated stress and fatigue, and rejuvenates." It brings health benefits. Some are researched. In fact, "TM has been proven effective for stress and anxiety, clarity of mind, and more." [TM helps against stress
Transcendental Meditation practice and anxiety
TM practitioners become significantly less anxious without even thinking about it . . . and better able to deal with stressful situations (p 51)." — There is much and telling research that backs up this statement. TM research (David Lynch Foundation)]
Improved cardiovascular health
"In the US, heart disease is the number one killer, accounting for 25% of deaths annually (p 53)."
Transcendental Meditation practice helps against cardiovascular disease. It is well documented. (p 53-55). [◦Research at a glance]
Improved overall health
Studies show that Transcendental Meditation practice improves overall health (p 56). [◦Research findings]
Decreased medical expenses
Transcendental Meditation practice diminishes health-related problems, as evidenced by reduced visits to the doctor and fewer hospital outpatient visits. Moreover, a study that used five years of medical insurance data from about two thousand TM practitioners, found significantly less hospitalization and significantly fewer outpatient doctor visits for both medical and surgical procedures, in comparison to the average of all other insured persons. (p 55-56)
Younger biological age and longer life
Researchers have found that practitioners of TM get biologically younger than their age - ten to fifteen years, for example (p 58). Compare David Orme Johnson's site. [◦Increased life span with a higher quality of life]
"An expected outcome of a younger biological age is a longer, healthier life (p 58)."
If you can stand looking and being young and radiant while others as old as you shrivel up and die, good for you!
Dharma as natural law
Sanskrit 'dharma' is a word with several meanings, yet it covers ancient codes of conduct. It is translated as righteousness, harmony, religion, law, relating to justice or virtue, truth, duty, and more. There is no single word translation for dharma in Western languages. The ancient term has a wide range of meanings and interpretations.
Dharma signifies behaviour in accord with rita, which is a Sanskrit word with many meanings too. Righteousness; truth; universal, natural, underlying moral order (with pious, apt honesty) are into it. Rita is to be maintained, and dharma to be observed. That is the teaching. Ancient scriptures delineate dharma (moral and righteous or appropriate conduct for people). In Buddhism, dharma (Pali: dhamma) includes the teachings and doctrines of Buddha besides cosmic law and order.
Dr Sands tells that Maharishi defines dharma as
that invincible power of nature which upholds existence. It maintains evolutions and forms the very basis of cosmic life. It supports all that is helpful for evolution and discourages all that is opposed to it.
Sands further explains that Maharishi often equates dharma with natural law that is in several ways conducive to growth and evolution (p 64). Dharma assists better presence.
What does dharma mean in my life?
Societies uphold standards of behaviour by way of formalised legislation, or through codes and conventions. Individuals are often dealing with choices - "How can we make decisions that promote growth and evolution and avoid those that don't if we're not always able to foresee the consequences?" (p 65)
Sands answers that the yogis' inner "computer becomes the guiding force, inspiring us to act in a way that is always positive (p 67)." By "taking recourse to dharma [that inner computer or Self], we are creating our own destiny, but from a much more powerful and profound level." (p 67). Simple as that? hardly.
TM research documents many positive outcomes of learning it, also among prisoners. Excellent as the findings are as compared to other forms of treatment and rehab, if only about 40 percent go to jail again after learning TM, it is not 100 percent. For all those - the majority - who have not grown enough positive inspiration from within to get established in fit decisions and withstand crime, bad associates and bad neighbourhoods on the outside, there may be room for directives.
Common Hindus get such guidance, which shows a need for a both-and thing: Both growing to see for oneself, and being told in a fit way or ways by trusted ones. There is a danger of being misled for anyone without good guidance, for sometimes it is hard to see what our actions might cause others.
If grandma had grasped that her love-child would end up as a hooker in another town, she might have withstood the desires to have sex before marriage, although it might have been real hard before she was pregnant and her love would not marry her and things got awfully hard for her, but also for her family. Traditional cover-up in grandma's family could work for a long time, but what about the stress to grandma's later children who knew things and had to be part of the cover-up? A traumatised family might well follow.
Considering such issues, or just being hard, some teach, "No sex at all for the unmarried, and monks and nuns." One guru teaches that. [No-unmarried-sex Yogananda] Other authority figures teach "At least use protection." Others teach nothing in particular. If they sillily just hope that all children and youngsters escape the worst sides to sex, drugs and rock and roll, the hopes of many fail them in the end.
A repeat: While we wait for meditation to take care of many in the way Maharishi teaches, there could be a need for sober guidance to escape unforeseen dangers to happy living, and need for good goings in a living tradition that hands over such norms without being all too bossy or autocratic. There is lavish guidance of this kind by Maharishi's own gurudeva when he was the Shankaracharya of northern India. Paul Mason has published some of it, and much still remains to be translated and published too. Examples from Rocks Are Melting. (Tiwari 2000, No. 41):
By gaining liberation you gain worldly success as well.
The statements in translation may differ from translator to translator, and also from edition to editon by one and the same translator. Exactly the same passages by the same translators appear in The Sweet Teachings of . . . (Shriver and 2013, No 41):
If you want peace and happiness in both this world and the next, then take refuge in the omnipotent Paramátmá [Supreme Self, Supreme Being]. You will indeed get release, but you will also get wealth, fortune, and respect, too.
How Maharishi solved much, at least for the time being
Terms and wordings may at times be difficult to translate. The words often carry several meanings, and interpretations often depend on the context. Guru Dev was the Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math when he gave these sermons. It means that a dictionary that presents the meanings of words as they appear in Advaita Vedanta, may be adequate. There is such a dictionary, by John Grimes (2009). It often presents many meanings to a word, but all the same, it is big help.
How did Guru Dev's disciple Maharishi deal with many tricky adaptation and translation problems? He rendered Guru Dev through a whole book, Guru Dev as presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53) (Mason 2009b), and otherwise too, to present core teachings. In an UK interview he told about that. [The Maharishi interview]
As for "the best thing to do" or one's proper course at any time, "Individual dharma . . . may change at different times depending upon need, but there is always some unique course (p 68)." Hopefully. Some meditate to sense the best or most responsible thing to do, and not just as a way out, but just because it is right.
Many feel natural inclinations - for example toward certain work or career. Natural inclinations reveal a dharma too. What is your dharma [fit career course] if all you ever wanted was to cook gourmet meals or study weather patterns, you think? (p 68)
For those who don't feel strong inclinations, a sound piece of advice is "Practice Yoga, dive deep within, unfold your own pure creative intelligence, and . . . This simple formula is available (p 68)."
Violation of natural law
A bad conscience gives a clue of having done something awkward at least. An inwardly sensed nagging may go from bad to worse, and the worst may be that it keeps silent.
In Maharishi's view we unwittingly violate many laws, for example "by unkind behavior or hinging on junk food, but we also violate subtle laws that we aren't even aware of." All of it amounts to impede progress. "Even having a profession that is not in accord with dharma hinders our growth. If it's my nature to be a gardener but I'm in sales, then I'm out of dharma (p 69-70)." And that means falling short somehow, in one or more ways. As a result, progress may be slower and happiness less, among other things. (p 70)
A clean conscience may be applied to greater advantage and to better doings or things. Awareness is the key; we may take advantage of dharma [inner moral law] by attuning ourselves to the Self, "the intelligence that controls the universe, we can spontaneously live a more fulfilling and more progressive life, with fewer mistakes and unforeseen consequences (p 70)."
Is there scientific evidence?
In some studies, participants who were never counseled on the nature of good or bad behaviour and never told of the risks of substance abuse or the dangers of a criminal life, or were lectured on morality, ethics, or life in relation to natural law [dharma and karma]. They just learned Transcendental Meditation, and benefits appeared, as evidenced by interesting statistics.
Dr Sands, "Maharishi's theory that you can learn to act spontaneously in accord with dharma does not lend itself to direct investigation, but you can design studies that will either support or not support the theory (p 70)." By indirect means, that is.
Improved moral decisions: "Students who took the Transcendental Meditation course showed significantly higher levels of moral maturity than control students (p 73)"
Reduced behavioral problems: In one study, "those practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique demonstrated decreased absenteeism, decreased school rule infractions, and decreased suspension days (p 74)." In one study [on juvenile offenders], parents reported that their children's social behavior improved significantly as a result of their meditation (Ibid.)"
Prison rehabilitation: Several studies reveal that prisoners who have taken the Transcendental Meditation stay out of prison to a larger extent than others, statistically speaking. Percentages range from about 30 percent to slightly above 40 percent. "They learned to meditate and their behavior improved spontaneously (p 76)." -- That is promising!
Decreased cigarette, alcohol, and drug consumption: "Cigarette and liquor consumption decrease spontaneously after a surprisingly short period of Transcendental Meditation practice (p 77)." Back-up is found as well. "A meta-analysis compared all research studies on the Transcendental Meditation programme related to cigarette smoking with meta-analyses of standard treatment and prevention programmes for smoking, and found a significantly greater reduction of cigarette use among those practicing the Transcendental Meditation programme. The same study compared a meta-analysis of all research studies on the Transcendental Meditation technique related to alcohol use with meta-analyses of standard alcohol treatment and prevention programmes, finding a significantly greater reduction of alcohol use among those who practice the Transcendental Meditation technique . . . a powerful programme for solving many of life's fundamental challenges. (p 77).
Researchers carried out a statistical meta-analysis of 198 independent treatment outcomes. They found that Transcendental Meditation produced a significantly larger reduction in tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drug use than either standard substance abuse treatments (including counseling, pharmacological treatments, relaxation training, and Twelve-step programmes) or prevention programmes (such as programmes to counteract peer-pressure and promote personal development). [◦TM works best, according to several studies]That is impressive!
Studies on collective consciousness
The collective consciousness is understood as a set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes at work within a society. The French originator of the term conscience collective was Emile Durkheim. "Consciousness" is one of the translations of conscience. "Conscience", "awareness", or "perception" are others. By "collective" he meant "common to many individuals".
Society is made up of various collective groups. Members may share traits and circumstances, resources and knowledge and have similar values.
To make groups in a society or the societies themselves adjust to a fit dharma is a challenge. In the Bhagavad Gita one group disregarded dharma a lot, and a horrible war ensued. It wiped out nearly every warrior far and wide, we are told. it could work better to set in adjustments for righteous fares in order to improve one's dharmic ways and resources earlier than as a last resort.
"Go easy and get an education to thrive" has hidden depths
A teaching from the Tao Te Ching's chapter 63 in Dr Lin Yutang's translation (1963:63),
Deal with the difficult while yet it is easy;
To do nothing great to look at but be strong to go easy and do little things well, is not that the enabling work of housewifes, mothers and grandmothers in the millions in so many countries? Daily routines may not seem very impressive but work well, also in the eye of God.
And hence, not underestimating the carefully made "easy and little" may be fit; and foresight may be a good thing, being prepared is another; and being set right is a fourth among those.
In our times, there is a war on resources on a global scale. Honey greed among bears, and money greed among humans is at the back of some of it. Going for all too shortsighted gains may be spotted too. The aim of Maharishi's University of Management, MUM is to enable students to manage their lives, well and some of them can afford to marry then - and some who marry may manage as very good housewives, mothers and grandmothers if they adapt in a nice way to Mae West's idea, "In the mind. That's where it starts." It is a good slogan for MUM too, for the Mae West idea holds the key to the fundaments that Maharishi's university rests on; it is "Consciousness-based." In Mahayana Buddhism, "Mind-based" means the same.
Maharishi wanted a university that shows students to be "functioning through Nature's Principle of Least Action", and automatise the administration to nourish everyone and everything. In the presence of such students and guiding lights that float in happiness, success and fulfilment, nothing should go wrong, he tells in the book Maharishi University of Management: Wholeness on the Move. (Yogi 1995:3)
Good study techniques and strategies benefit many students, and "traditional approaches to study skills, writing, and ESL [English as a Second Language]. These include lessons on goal setting and time management, active listening and note taking, efficient study, reading, preparing for and taking exams, paragraph development, and grammar exercises," writes Paula Armstrong at MUM's Student Success Center. [Tips]
Maharishi's University of Management is located in Fairfield, Iowa. It has been largely successful as measured by American university standards, incorporating its unique consciousness-based tradition. A healthy, restful life style and sustainable principles predominate. All the students and faculty practice TM twice a day: "an effortless technique for recharging your mind and body and creating a brighter, more positive state of mind". That too.
The University offers undergraduate and graduate degree programmes in the arts, sciences, business, and humanities, and is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Dr David Orme Johnson tells more about MUM:
Higher states of mind can be experienced, and also described by allegories and concepts with some metaphoric twists in them. Dr Sands: "Understanding ancient texts can be tricky because we view them through the eyes of their translators and commentators, who often reflect a distorted or incorrect understanding (p 80)." — How true!
Established in Yoga perform action: To be established in Yoga (Bhagavad Gita 2:48) does not refer to just an idea or attitude, but to a state that in time spills over into the waking awareness too (p 80).
Seven states of consciousness
Dr Sands: "Let's examine Maharishi's analysis of higher states of consciousness (p 81)."
In his lectures and writings, Maharishi often spoke of seven states of consciousness. They are: waking, dreaming, deep sleep - and Transcendental Consciousness, Cosmic Consciousness, God Consciousness, and Unity Consciousness.
One may wonder how he got to ascertain them, since the ancient texts refer only to turiya above the three first states, "the fourth" (state), and rarely goes much further in classifying states. One reason could be that in turiya one goes beyond words, categories - one transcends them. And yet one does not transcend discerment, viveka, a spiritual quality. So, through awakened keen awareness, discernment and using terms that make sense among themselves, there are seven states of mind described by Maharishi (p 82-93).
The seven states of mind represent degrees of awake intelligence, suggesting that waking consciouness is ordinarily below dreaming consciousness, which is ranked below deep sleep, and so on. Accordingly, the ordinary, waking state is not much to boast of - it is the lowest barnasha level in the thinking of ancient Hebrews as well, and in need of getting lifted into better worlds, or better states (John 3:13-15; cf. John 8:28; Douglas-Klotz 2001:162-63).
Compare if you will: Dr Carl Jung has posited that the subconscious is ten or twelve times wiser than the perhaps narrow conscious, and the unconscious is a hundred times wiser than it. Such figures may be taken merely as poetic approxmations without a shred of good evidence, though. At any rate, one the subconscious level we condense thoughs into nightly videos [read: dreams] with sound tracks, feelings and moods and pregnant scenes, and occasionally symbols too. Dreams are had each night, through dreams - dream interpretations could unlock at least some of them. Solutions to several problems that scientists have mulled over have come to them in a dream [Jungian dream interpretation]
Turya, the fourth, evolves these:
Transcendental Consciousness (which means turya, "the fourth" state in ancient texts. And transcend means 'go beyond') Transcendental Consciousness is also equated with the yoga state or states called samádhi (p 82-83; 148). Various kinds of samádhi are spoken of in the yoga literature.
Cosmic Consciousness, or Self-consciousness, is when we experience Transcendental Consciousness along with waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. Self is experienced as a witness to everything (p 84-87).
God Consciousness is misleadingly understood as "the experience of complete fulfillment" and "capable of appreciating the entire range of material creation, from its surface to its most subtle level". Joy, harmony and a growing sense of unity is here (p 89-90).
Unity Consciousness. Ultimate reality of life; experience of Brahm[an], and the most fully mature state of Yoga - fulfillment (p 91-93)
Barbara Briggs explains the states further in The Contribution of Maharishi's Vedic Science to Complete Fulfilment in Life (2009:28-40). [More]
With no experiences to match the terms and their key definitions, we do not have to worry a bit. Adi Shankara explains why:
Study of the scriptures is fruitless as long as Brahman [God] has not been experienced. And when Brahman has been experienced, it is useless to read the scriptures. [Adi Shankara]
That is help to keep our perspectives in order and strike a good balance between study and meditation - as followers of Shankara read and learn scriptures too. It is about the same with the Zen roshi Eihei Dogen (1200-51): meditating and studying can be a both-and. What is more, the one should ideally help or fortify the other. In TM such balancing work is indeed advocated. We could miss many great experiences if book-learning gets the best of us and we drop the long trek toward the mountain top and instead rest much of our lives at the foot of the mountain.
Growing higher state are marked by refined perception and a sense of Being and more. (p 93-95). If you dip into swift and deep meditation, as TM also has been known as, you may experience turiya - "sail away" somehow - for the time being - until keen awareness and discernment are enough awakened in you too.
From this: there are various states of Yoga and one Totality state (p 82-93).
There is perhaps a concept you might have missed in this survey of states: Bhagavan. The Bhagavad Gita is "The Lord's Song (Words)." The Sanskrit slokas (verses) are in blank verse: it is teaching-poetry. Bhagavan is an old Sanskrit term. Buddha is termed Bhagavan, 'the blessed one', and Sri Krishna is often called Bhagavan Krishna, Lord Krishna. Bhagavan is not a state, but Person-God, simply put.
The Bhagavad Gita contains elements found in the Upanishads. Ancient rishis, seers, made several statements, mahavakyas, "great sayings", about higher states. Dr Sands (p 96) makes use of a part of this text:
This [self] was indeed Brahman in the beginning. It knew itself only as "I am Brahman." Therefore it became all. And whoever among the gods had this enlightenment, also became That [Brahman]. It is the same with the seers (rishis), the same with men. . . . [T]o this day . . . knows the self as "I am Brahman," becomes all this [universe]. Even the gods cannot prevent his becoming this, for he has become their Self. (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.10), in Swami Nikhilananda's translation of 1956, p 122-23)
Another great saying, mahavakya, is "Tat Twam Asi". It means "You are That (Chhandogya Upanishad, 6.11)." Dr Sands: "Maharishi interprets the text as a description of the fully awake totality of individual consciousness, Brahm[an], which comprehends the infinite dynamism of the universe within the infinite silence of Self (p 97)."
The saying in its ancient context:
[K]now this: This body dies, bereft of the living self; but the living self dies not.
A subtle, encompassing and living self you are, is the teaching (also see Sands, p 97-98).
The TM-Sidhi programme is a form of meditation introduced by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in 1975. It is described as an easy extension of the Transcendental Meditation technique, which is its basis. In deep meditation, the mind is tuned to certain mantras and ideas. The ideas to focus on in deep meditation are sanyama ideas of Patanjali Yoga Sutras (Sands, p 100-02).
Bouncing on your buttocks on a mattress while cross-legged is into the TM-Sidhi programme. [More]
Maharishi: "Specific mental formulae are introduced as gentle impulses [while meditating deeply]. The mind then lets go of this gentle impulse and returns to [deep, inner awareness]. The result is experienced as the specific effect of the particular TM-Sidhi technique (p 100)."
Few humans excel in flying without wings or motors. There may be many that you have not heard of, though. [A newspaper's TM self-lifter and a table]
TM practitioners that have learnt the TM Sidhi ways, get aware of bliss along with the exercises though, and get more intelligent and creative in time (p 100-05).
Dr Sands: "Peace has been the desire of the wise throughout the ages . . . political strategies and diplomatic efforts are inadequate, and are incapable of solving this most pressing problem of human society by themselves (p 117-18)."
In the horrible war that the Bhagavad Gita introduces, peace came only7 when almost all the noble and brave and highly admired warriors lay dead. Five remaining brothers on the winning side did not know anything better to do afterwards than travel and climb a mountain in the Himalayas. On their way, their shared wife, Draupadi, died first. Four of the brothers died midway. Only one reached the mountain. The seventeenth book of the Mahabharata tells of this ending. And there have been wars since as well.
Maharishi has more hopeful ideas than "Let great men wipe one another out" and "May they climb and die". It may also be up to you to make your part of the world better: tidy up and meditate, for example. By helping yourself you help the world of which you are a part. (Cf. Sands 107-110)
Dr Craig Pearson's large book Yogic Flying contains more details about "the fun and bliss of Yogic Flying" as Nancy Lonsdorf, MD, puts it. Dr Pearson's book includes a little one-liner: "Peace will come if we just hop." (In Pearson 2008:331)
It is about sides to yoga lore. I think it is good if many meditate and get calm.
If you learn to meditate well, you do not need to bother about or even parry a lot of misunderstandings about yoga and meditation. If meditation enriches and enlivens you well, that might be a lot.
Some find it difficult to meditate. It depends on the method that is used. They are not equally fit. Maharishi holds that the path to enlightenment – the [fit] path of Yoga – is never difficult (p 121). This can and should be used as a yardstick for methods of meditation, for ease and relaxation go into the fit route, TM shows. The little training that is called for, is not of forceful focus, concentration, but pleasant and lax (p 121-24).
As for Transcendental Meditation, Maharishi explained in press conference in 2006 that "Transcendental Meditation is not my creation (p 120)." It would be a misunderstanding to think otherwise. [More]
Yoga texts speak of getting rid of desires. Let it come by itself as a fruit of meditating deeply, is the advice. The same goes for unattachment, vairagya, to this and that, and getting even-minded. They follow deep meditation. (p 124-33)
Then what about renunciation, which is also advocated? There are different forms of renunciation. The Avadhut Gita says: "Renounce, renounce the world, and also renounce renunciation, and even give up the absence of renunciation (4:21)." So the one who renouces renunciation itself may be a real renouncer, but who may be able to see it and tell?
Maharishi teaches that if we enter the most mature state of Yoga, its enjoyments make other enjoyments fade in comparison. That is one key among others. A reclusive lifestyle - helpful as it is to many - may or may not work well. It depends on whether you stand your own company, or those around you are degrading, and a lot above that (cf p 133-35).
Maharishi has offered many mature meditation yardsticks fit for a lot of people.
Some try to remain engaged in the outer environment while also staying aware of the Self within. Dr Sands informs that from "Maharishi's perspective trying to remember the inner Self while engaged in the outer world will not bring one to Yoga, and . . . higher states of consciousness (p 136)."
Self-remembering in the sense Maharishi uses the term, refers to a very deep inward experience that is had by a glide inwards, and hardly by much effort, if at all. That explains it.
Whose interpretation should I believe?
If you do not trust your own, be skilled in doubting to your benefit. As we get skilled, we could also find great help and luck on our side. Also, it is generally good to take into account such as the formal degrees of translators or commentators, the rank of the publishers and such things, and stick to the best quality you should happen to get across if some middle part does not work well enough for you.
Maharishi's disagreement with many of the most common modern interpretations of the core texts of Yoga philosophy leads us to . . . : Whom should we believe? It's a fair question . . .
Scientific research supporting Maharishi's interpretation
From among seven million persons who have learnt TM, researchers have had an abundance of subjects for both short-and long-term studies. See above. Several of the studies are impressive, also if we go into the details. [◦More]
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells: "The yogi is thought to be superior to the ascetics and even superior to men of knowledge (obtained through the study of scriptures); he is also superior to men of action; therefore, be a yogi, Arjuna." (6:46).
The Gita tells a lot of other things too, for example in the same chapter: "No one verily becomes a yogi who has not renounced thoughts (6:2)!" Or. "He who, through the likeness of the Self, Arjuna, sees equality everywhere, be it pleasure or pain, he is regarded as the highest yogi (6:32)!"
As for renouncing thought (Gita 6:2), "there is a good way, and bad way and the ways in the Army too." The warfare that followed the dialogue, shows Arjuna did not succeed all the way in thoughtlessness, even though he killed many kinsmen and foes . . .
Take heed, some old yoga counsels may not fit us much today.
Maharishi says it is meditation that makes the yogi, and that what he or she does besides, may be predominanty activities (karma yoga); knowledge and the activity of intellectual discernment - or thinking (Gyana Yoga). Maharishi holds that Karma Yoga is the path for the person of action, but for the recluse – who lives away from society – the Yoga of Contemplation, Gyana Yoga (Jnana Yoga), is more appropriate (p 173).
Maharishi: "Karma Yoga and Gyan Yoga each presents a direct way to fulfillment, but the path chosen should suit the way of life and the natural tendencies of the aspirant (p 173)."
As for bhakti yoga, "In Maharishi's teaching . . . devotion is a spontaneous product of the growth of higher states of consciousness, and not a practice, mood, or attitude (p 174)." It means that if you want to get devout, meditate. This is aligned with Adi Shankara's deep teaching that piousness (devotion) suggests intentness of the soul on its own nature and may also be called intentness on the reality of the Self. [More]
Dr Sands, further: "Raja Yoga means the Yoga of Kings, or the Royal Yoga. Maharishi has said little of Raja Yoga other than an occasional comment that Transcendental Meditation practice is Raja Yoga in its most pure form, because there is nothing more royal than an effortless, natural path to the experience of Yoga. It is royal in that sense, but it is a technique for everyone, regardless of what they do in life (p 176)."
About Sri Ramakrishna
Ramakrishna succeeded in yoga with the help of a wandering monk who discouraged his followers from writing about him. Still, Swami Nikhilananda informs that after forty years of training he had made it - got Self-knowledge, that is.
One day as the monk Totapuri roamed naked along the bank of the Ganges, he discovered Ramakrishna and perceived he would be a fit student. "Dive deep in search of the Self and find . . . Being-Consciousness-Bliss," said Totapuri and asked Ramakrishna to withdraw his mind from all things. But Ramakrishna did not manage that all at once.
"I could not altogether cross the realm of name and form and bring my mind to the unconditioned state." In despair he said he could not raise his mind well enough.
Totapuri, sharply and excited: "What? you have to."
He stuck something between Ramakrishna's eyebrows. "Concentrate the mind on this point!" he thundered.
Then Ramakrishna sat to meditate, and sat still for three days.
"Is it really true?" Totapuri cried out. "Is it possible that he has attained in a single day what it took me forty years of strenuous practice to achieve?" (in Gupta 1974:46-50, retold)
Then you may wonder, "What kind of yoga takes me to the Highest in a thrice or a little longer?" But you need to consider, rather, how much mirth you can take or handle and live well with as you get along . . . Or you see: "So concentration is a gate, too?" It depends on what you mean by the term, and how you proceed. Fixing the awareness, focusing, should not be cramped. Cramped does not bring inward-gliding so easily. There are good ways and other ways, or different methods, and some of them require delicate adjustments too.
Be that as it may, Yoga is a word with many meanings. There are many aspects to consider, and also yoga paths, margas. The art of a yoga is to benefit in the nicest way possible.
Also take into account that the "eight-limbed" yoga system, Ashtanga Yoga. It "is, in Maharishi's account, a detailed and comprehensive description of the eight fundamental characteristics of the state of Yoga (p 146)."
One may consider Ashtanga Yoga - it includes Patanjali's yoga system - as a well integrated whole. Yoga-meditation may be the part to heed the most, much like a hub on a wheel - it is the deep and swift meditation form that Maharishi taught from the start, in the late 1950s. Later he added a programme of good yoga asanas (poses) to TM, to help folks benefit even better.
Eight yoga limbs [with approximate pronunciation]
Maharishi tells that in the Yoga Sutras of eight limbs, the limbs are not serial steps, but parts of the unity-body of yoga. A limb grows along with the whole body, and a yoga-limb unfolds as the yoga unfolds. Dr Sands: "The limbs of a body grow all together . . . All eight limbs grow: They keep on growing . . . until . . . the body is fully developed. (p 147)"
So morality, with truth or truthfulness included, develops of itself as yoga grows in our life, and similarly with the other limbs.
Maharishi teaches that in order to understand Yoga we must consider the limbs, that certain things must be considered. Dr Sands: "The body of Yoga, the state of life in integration, or unity, is composed of these eight limbs (148)." Yajnavalkya Yoga is one of the texts on yoga that contains wider information on the limbs than Patanjali Yoga Sutras - it should lead into many topics to consider. For example, other texts than the Yoga Sutras include ten yamas and ten niyamas, where the Yoga Sutras talk of just five each. (Wikipedia, "Yamas"; "Niyamas")
It is good to keep in mind that Maharishi comments only on the Patanjali Yoga Sutra in Dr Sands' good book.
Karma Yoga (Action-ways); Gyana Yoga (Wisdom-ways); Bhakti Yoga (Piousness, such devotion); and Raja Yoga (Royal, princely or kingly yoga) are four among many more yoga-paths, margas.
We may do better than limiting ourselves unnecessarily: it is not so much choosing one marga (yoga path) and drop the others as of using fit sides to many of them in a blend that suits yourself, much as Maharishi teaches above, telling that they should be considered to mean "meditation + (fill in)".
George Feuerstein lists forty yoga approaches or features of the path in Chapter 12 of Deeper Dimensions of Yoga (2011). Below are some. Some go by different names, and some overlap in the sense that they contain similar parts.
2. Adhyátma-Yoga: The unitive discipline of the inner self; sometimes said to be the Yoga characteristic of the Upanishads.
4. Ashtánga-Yoga: The unitive discipline of the eight limbs (anga), also called Rája-Yoga, Pátanjala-Yoga, or Classical Yoga.
11. Hatha-Yoga: The unitive discipline of the force (meaning the serpent power or kundaliní-shakti); or forceful unitive discipline.
13. Japa-Yoga: The unitive discipline of mantra recitation.
18. Kundaliní-Yoga: The unitive discipline of the serpent power (kundaliní-shakti), which is fundamental to the Tantric tradition, including Hatha-Yoga.
22. Mantra-Yoga: The unitive discipline of numinous sounds that help protect the mind, which has been a part of the Yoga tradition ever since Vedic times. [Japa Yoga]
32. Samputa-Yoga: The unitive discipline of sexual congress (maithuná) in Tantra-Yoga.
33. Samrambha-Yoga: The unitive discipline of hatred, as mentioned in the Vishnu-Purána, which illustrates the profound yogic principle that one becomes what one constantly contemplates (even if charged with negative emotions).
36. Siddha-Yoga: The unitive discipline of the adepts, a concept found in some of the Tantras.
Feuerstein sums up, "There are numerous books available on Yoga, very few reflect that astounding richness." (1990:xiii).
Dr Sands refers to four life goals that also can be used to gauge our progress or success by (p 187-91). Here they are, with a little filled in (in brackets), for the terms cover many meanings and translations. It depends on their context:
dharma — living in accord with natural law [or righteous law, justice, right morality, virtue, etc.]
artha — material comfort [including advantageous objects, utilities, etc.]
kama — fulfillment of desires [linked to such as beauty, pleasures, enjoyment, sexual love]
moksha — enlightenment [liberation, freedom, deliverance, release, redemption, emancipation, depending on context. As a life goal, in Advaita Vedanta it equals Atmabodhi, Self-Knowledge, Self-Realisation of deep awakening in good meditation.]
One may put down efforts to go forward toward each of the goals, yet the tallest approach is to go for the fourth, and "take it from there". In Maharishi's view the fit thing is akin to "First seek God and his righteousness or dealings or ways in deep meditation, and get the others into the bargain." That could be good, if 'search' is taken to mean 'Don't search, but rise above it, transcend it in good meditation".
If you should get "all else" into the bargain for that, it may be understood differently by different people. If you get a palace, you would need the incomes needed for upkeep, salaries, and festive occasions. In short, maybe you get an awful lot to take care of if "all else" is added to you (Matthew 6:33) - even though all his followers must embrace poverty (Matthew 15:2; 10:4-9). Now, if we get a lot, we may thereby get a lot to handle, keep, guard, improve and keep in order. Perhaps downsizing a little may be for good, or why not masterly organising skills and more money for a rainy day or three? Obbviously, it is optimal weath we may benefit from, and what optimal is, is different from person to person. Abraham Maslow has designed a pyramid of needs that suggest some of the things that constitute wealth, and also things to desire. Although he leaves out mellow music and
Dr Sands explains that in Maharishi's view, the four goals "are the automatic and spontaneous byproducts of the regular experience of our inner Self, the state of Yoga," adding that Yoga fulfills life in the most natural and easy way. It is a very positive approach. The integrative view of Advaita and Maharishi is that Atmabodhi, Self-Realisation, is the greatest goal and achievement for a human being, and is the highest wealth, the top enjoyment and the essence of moral too.
The Hindu ashrams (life stages) delineate life goals with a focus on four major phases of life. [More]
Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha again
Dr Sands tells that learning to live in accord with dharma is not an intellectual process (p 187). It calls for an awakened or mature conscience, having a heart, and discerning right from wrong. Regular, deep meditation and entering "pure consciousness, the home of all the laws of nature" is a good way in time or eventually - regular Transcendental Meditation practice helps those adjustments, it is fair to say. Also, sound instructions could be very good along with it as well, as hinted at further above, if there are times we do not have a clue as to what is best to do or fit to do, or are in doubt. If so, good guidelines might assist us. Then, which guidelines are general good, and also fit for us? Quality meditation tends to help better discernment, perhaps slowly the first few days, but gaining momentum.
Artha, wealth, money, material comfort - grow in happiness - complete fulfillment is not of this world, although it can and should be experienced here. Maharishi explains in his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita that
to store more and more means of happiness is the only purpose of artha in all its aspects (p 189).
As for kama, desire, it is a "mistaken notion that we must forcibly relinquish it," tells Dr Sands, and that "Desire is . . . one of our greatest allies [but] can keep us bound to the world (p 189)." The solution is to fulfil them well. The greatest fulfilment is the greatest happiness to get to, in the Self - had through the art of meditation (cf p 190).
Moksha. "Having heard [of Self], none understands it at all." (Bhagavad Gita 2:29). Moksha equals Self-Realisation in Advaita Vedanta.
Do not think you know what Self is without having experienced it. Let us instead turn to Abraham Maslow's Pyramid a little:
"Fulfillment steps" that Maslow postulate, to be read from bottom and up:
The first four of these stages he called deficit needs, or D-needs. B-needs (Being-needs) above relates to Self-actualization desires and yearnings. (Maslow 1987) [More]
The level above is called 'Freedom'. If we reach Transcendental Mind and apply sanyama in those states, we might grow in spirit. If so, it may be hard to measure, but indirect means may perhaps do. The various sidhis (yogic powers that are described in scriptures, may be said to belong to that high level.
In the pyramid, one may place gathered verbal wisdom and other outer expressions of wisdom on level 4, as forms of achievements. It is like summing up life experiences from a somewhat higher level, is it not? But above is room for fairer wisdom still, gyana, aligned to Self-attainments.
Summary and Conclusion
Maharishi's meditation is so natural and effortless that regular practice works. "We practice the Transcendental Meditation technique to get more out of life," and immediate effects are compelling, "but these are just the beginning. (p 192, 193)."
Maharishi also provides a view of higher states and a layered goal - improvements in life, going Selfwards in the Self to awakening.
When the Great Reality is not known, the study of the scriptures is fruitless. When the Great Reality is known, the study of the scriptures is also fruitless. (Shankara)
The Bhagavad Gita teaches about the same:
One sees This (the Self) as a wonder; another speaks of it as a wonder; another hears of it as a wonder; yet, having heard, none understands it at all. (2:29)
How to benefit the most from the Bhagavad Gita may be to learn the art of meditation and pursue it easily, effortlessly, toward Self-knowledge: the old path is strewn with roses (benefits). That is to say, the highest yoga is for knowing one's Self. It is an awakening, an exquisite experience that goes beyond lots of words. However, essential methods lead toward it or to it.
Learning activity goes very well along with TM as well, but book learning, good as it may be, is not above deep meditation, existentially speaking.
Many try to figure out what various passages in the Bhagavad Gita mean without wondering about its history and the growth of the poem over centuries long ago. The Gita's first version could have been of only about 80-90 verses, as judged from intrinsic evidence or indications in the work. In a study, merely 84 of the current 700 Gita verses are taken to belong to a post-Vedic original version, and these verses are all in the first three chapters of the Gita. [Bhagavad-Gita's basis investigated]
This is not to discredit the wisdom of the remaining fifteen chapters of the Bhagavad Gita that has come down to us; it is to point out that it has grown over time, and that its history had better be taken into account too, and weighed for the sake of clarifications. For example, is it so sure that the original, postulated verses are good to live by, or that the later-added ones are of the same worth? Basically, it is well to honour and keep up words of wisdom where they happen to be, as it is the gems that above all make the crown costly.
It is also a teaching in the Gita that yoga is the thing, and one has to rise beyond thought through meditation. With these points well in mind, we may benefit from good yoga-meditation. It is an art. There is no better way to benefit from the Bhagavad Gita's teachings than that.
To conclude, an Old Gita of 84 verses tells of Self, the arts of yoga and many other sides to life. Many of these points are explored in ancient philosophies, and they do not always see eye to eye on things.
The old poem is traditionally credited Vyasa, dictating them without a pause to a god with an elephant head (Ganesh). Vyasa lets Lord Krishna make the statements, unless otherwise indicated.
I see adverse omens! (1:31)
Yield not to impotence! (2:3)
The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead. (2:11 )
Nor at any time indeed was I not, nor these rulers of men, nor verily shall we ever cease to be hereafter. (2:12. )
Just as in this body the embodied (soul) passes into childhood, youth and old age, so also does he pass into another body; the firm man does not grieve thereat. (2:13)
The contacts of the senses with the objects . . . endure them bravely! (2:14)
There is no non-being of the Real. (2:16)
The embodied Self . . . is eternal, indestructible. (2:18)
The embodied Self casts off worn-out bodies and enters others that are new. (2:22)
Weapons cut it not. (2:23)
This Self . . . is eternal. (2:24)
Certain is death for the born and . . . the inevitable you should not grieve over. (2:27)
One . . . hears of it [the Self] as a wonder; yet, having heard [of the indwelling Self], none understands it at all. (2:29)
Listen to wisdom concerning Yoga! (2:39)
Even a little of this knowledge (even a little practice of this Yoga) protects one from great fear. (2:40)
Being steadfast in Yoga. . . [That] Evenness of mind is called Yoga. (2:48)
Endowed with wisdom (evenness of mind) . . . devote yourself to Yoga; Yoga is skill in action. (2:50)
Steady in the Self . . . you shall attain Self-realisation. (2:53)
He whose mind is not shaken . . . is called a sage of steady wisdom. (2:56)
When . . . he withdraws his senses from the sense-objects, then his wisdom becomes steady. (2:58)
The intellect of the tranquil-minded soon becomes steady. (2:65)
If . . . knowledge is superior to action, Krishna, why . . . ask me to engage in this terrible action? (3:1)
With these apparently perplexing words you confuse, as it were, my understanding; therefore, tell me that one way for certain by which I may attain bliss. (3:2)
In this world there is a twofold path . . . the path of knowledge . . . and the path of action of the yogis! (3:3)
Not by . . . mere renunciation does he attain to perfection. (3:4)
He who . . . is of sinful life . . . lives in vain! (3:16)
Who is content in the Self alone, [has] nothing to do. For him there is no interest whatever . (3:17,18)
As the ignorant men act from attachment to action, . . . so should the wise act without attachment! (3:25)
He whose mind is deluded by egoism thinks: "I am the doer". (3:27)
Those who carp at my teaching and do not practise it, deluded in all knowledge and devoid of discrimination, know them to be doomed to destruction. (3:32)
What can restraint do? (3:33)
Better is one's own duty, though devoid of merit, than the duty of another well discharged [although] fraught with fear. (3:35)
One who is superior even to the intellect is he – the Self. (3:42)
Thus, knowing him who is superior to the intellect and restraining the self by the Self, slay! (3:43)
Biblical households of enemies under the same roof
Bible teachings: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man's enemies will be the members of his own household' (Matthew 10:34)."
Many Christians like to ignore that Jesus did not come to bring peace, and that a man's household members are far from enemies. Tsk, tsk. They call him "Lord, Lord," and do not accept what he says. That is too bad.
The "sword" that Jesus speaks of, is interpreted metaphorically without much thought of family stabbings.
Be that as it may, a repeated message of the Gita is "Slay!" - even slay a lot. Kinsmen that are on the enemy side must also be slayed. How far is the message valid today for turn-the-other-cheek Christians in the Army, police force and other nasty places?
What or who to slay, why and how and where and when are serious questions. Many interpret the slayer-message to mean something else than it means literally.
A person's enemies will be the members of his own household, Micah 7:6 tells, and Matthew 10:36.. If so, it is good to be on one's guard with some caveats: (1) Hopefully, Micah describes the household situation of Hebrews of old, where households included captured and traded slaves. There was massive slaverly in the ancient Middle East and further, including ancient Greece. (2) Jesus was a Jew who taught fellow Jews only to stick to the slave-regulating Law (Matthew 5:17-19), and strictly forbid his disciples to teach or heal non-Jews (Matthew 14:25; 10:4-9). And why point out this, now that slave-keeping is not taken to be all right? There is a story. . .
We must be guarded and not generalise too widely: What Micah said, concerned Jews. What Jesus said, was for Jews only, writes Matthew 14:25; 10:4-8. So the Biblical idea that households are enemical, may not apply full well to any household member or household in many other cultures - kinder, better, according to modern stands and ancient Egyptian teachings for that matter, and maybe not even in the Jewish community or among Jewish followers of Jesus. More ancient Egyptican teachings]
And even though we hear and read about killings of family members in the news, most people escape being stabbed and shot at, even during their divorces, at least so far. However, many could have taken fit precautions before things got out of control. Study the statistics. Women are many times more likely than men to be killed by partners or ex-partners in England and Wales. Knives or other sharp instruments are the most used weapons there. Three-fifths of the victims under 16 years were killed by a parent or step-parent. Yes, vigilance in the family can be needed. In some homes there is a secret warfare that goes on above sulking. [Statistics from the UK]
Top ten causes of death in the US
There is something far worse about families, diseases and deaths: The top leading causes of death in the United States are heart disease; cancer; chronic lower respiratory disease; accidents; stroke; Alzheimer's disease; diabetes; influenza and pneumonia; kidney disease; and suicide [◦More].
Research suggests that stress can bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases. Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress, and 75% to 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
The job, the high-strung lifestyle and the relatives may amount to give more stress in an average American's life than can be handled. It stands out in Holmes and Rahe's stress scale that ten or eleven of the fourteen top stressful life events in their list of 43 such stressors are related to getting a mate or more or growing up in family. Anchorite living is not on the list. [◦Holmes and Rahe's stress scale]
Bring the facts and figures together
Bring it together as well as you can:
Meditation knowhow is a significant TM contribution of TM research. How to manage stress is good to know too. There are books written about the subjects of stress, coping and managing too. See for example Ciccarelli and White's Psychology. (2012:408-45); Kottler and Chen's Stress Management and Prevention: Applications to Everyday Life. (2011); Polly Bird's Improve Your Time Management (2010) and Tony Watson's Organising and Managing Work: Organisational, Managerial and Strategic Behaviour in Theory and Practice (2006).
So family living may be a lurking sort of enemy to many in many ways, but hardly all cases. What to do apart from being on one's guard and find out what different members of the household might be up to? Getting more or less paranoic, holding there are plotting enemies lurking close by - mates, children, servants, maids, working men and so on - even in one's bed - that could have untoward effects. Many should have taken numerous, fit precautions earlier, before things got out of control. Meditation may serve that.
Rebuke and denounce in due course
The great war that the Bhagavad Gita poem is put into, tells how admonitions, rebukes and other outlets failed, and war followed. A ruler's offensive conduct to a woman, Draupadi, made Krishna decide to get rid of most of the erring warriors, the Mahabharata also tells, an that the five brothers who survived the battle were Krishna's friends.
In Vedic times in India, women were held in high esteem. For example, there are more than thirty women sages (Gargi Vachaknavi, Lopamudra, etc.) in the Rigveda, with specific hymns associated with them. Hymn 10.85 of the Rigveda states that the daughter-in-law should be treated as a queen by all the family members, especially the mother-in-law, husband, and father-in-law. Rigveda 9.90-91 says a woman can choose her own husband after attaining maturity. If her parents are unable to choose a deserving groom, she can herself choose her husband herself. As for polygamy, as the Pandava brothers practised throughout, the Rigveda 10.105.8 compares having many wives with having many worldly miseries. The Pandava brothers did have miseries through long years.
In Vedic India, divorce and remarriage of women were allowed under very special circumstances.
Contrary to humane treatments and welcomes, suppressions of women go against many Human Rights, and is a cause of distress and much worse in marriage.
Some last resorts before killings
A Jesuan (Jewish Christian) may rebuke and denouce, escalating the sound measures and strides betimes (Matthew 18:15-17). But spend time on a positive note too: find out who your good friends are while there is time and before it is too late. Buddha and Hinduism teach tenable criteria. [Hallmarks of good friends]
Socrates in a similar vein:
By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you'll become happy; if you get a bad one, you'll become a philosopher.
To this: If you get a bad one for you, ending up as enemies full of bitterness and hate, intent on stabbings and killings, something above philosophy (thinking, speculating) should be had, since problems are to be dealt with. In our times, divorces and alimonies cost a fortune to many, and cause bitterness too. "Alimony is like buying oats for a dead horse," is an Arthur Baer quotation.
And yet, much depends on handling expertise. In Sanatan Dharma and Hinduism a helpful mate is useful.
Many treat the Bhagavad Gita poem as an allegorical text on yoga. If the enemies to battle and slay are the nearest, undue attachments, or low-level bonds or persons, the battle is indulging in yoga-meditation and then the figurative killing starts. It is not an unreasonable interpretation, considering that non-attachment is thought to be good, enjoyments are fine too, but unrighteousness is far from it.
We may study the current Bhagavad Gita from many angles. There are old, established schools of Hindu philosophy with differing commentaries where the Gita is interpreted, also the later additions to the Gita.
Gita skills, handling skills
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, assisted by Dr Vernon Katz, have made a commentary on the verses in the six first of the poem's eighteen chapters.
Also, there are many translations of the whole Gita into English, many commentaries, and little research into the likely, original version. There are different interpretations of several of the passages. For example, the setting of the poem-gem is an imminent war. The war is typically understood by later interpreters as an allegory - on the field of truth (Kurukshetra), which side triumps in the end, and at what horrible costs? Skills in warfare and not being outnumbered are found to be very good, after aplomb and diplomacy has failed.
If these goings do not go further than intellectual levels, maybe sounder perspectives might be called for. It depends in part on what you are after. Is it stress-reduction, better grades, word-based wisdom or higher wisdom, jnana (gnosis). Suit yourself.
If you should want to read into the Bhagavad Gita to ferret out its "inner secrets if there are any", do not ignore Adi Shankara's warning: It is basically fruitless - what is fruitful or more fruitful is to meditate to get to the Self. Afterwards, the scriptures may perhaps be good entertainment . . . So there is a place for scriptures that encourage us and make us happier.
To learn what is in the Bhagavad Gita, it helps to learn some Sanskrit. There are many books about it. A good Sanskrit dictionary helps too, in book form or online. It could also help to learn about the history of the book, and how it grew through centuries.
If some verses appeal to us, we might try to implement them - and that is where much caution may be called for. [Tips on handling ideas]
Lojong (a Tibetan term) is an old way of bringing meditative attention on selected verses. It is for learning verses or instructions better. Living up to them is quite another matter, and may or may not be easily done. Maharishi, who brought TM to the West, says it is good to go deep in meditation and then focus in the yogic way called sanyama. The method is told of in an old yoga primer of a sort, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (bk 3, v 4 ff). There are various scenarios to go for, as you can see.
It could perhaps help to arrange salient points into a neat survey, and go further by stepwise progress if conditions allow for it. That is a fit approach for students: [Allround thesis work]
Bhagavad Gita ("Song of the Blessed One", etc.) is a religious-philosophical teaching poem that is a part of the great Mahabharata - the most voluminous work of its kind, and a storehouse of brahmanic knowledge and thought. (Tuxen 1962:8)
In the third phase of a long tradition's making of the poem, Krishna was identified with the all-godhead Brahman (from Skt. "brih", to expand), and Vedanta tenets got interspersed. In the beginning of that phase - during the first centuries CE - the poem got its present form as one of the most influential Indian religious texts ever. (Tuxen 1962:11)
The Bhagavad Gita is of a later date than the major parts of the Mahabharata. It consists of 700 Sanskrit verses divided into 18 chapters. The poem is in the form of a dialogue and is didactic poetry. In the Gita that has come down to us there are tenets from three of the six orthodox philosophical systems in Hinduism. Samkhya and Yoga philosophies solidly define the Gita teachings. (Tuxen 1962:13)
The Bhagavad Gita is a slender part of the Mahabharata, which was composed between the 4th century BCE and the 4th century CE, a period of gestation of about 800 years. There were additions after 400 CE too. The epic is a blend of popular epic and theological didactic poetry, writes Dr. A. D. Pusalker. (in Radhakrishnan 1958:51-4]
The Mahabharata of today is of nearly 100 000 stanzas. Its origin has been traced back to the Vedas (Radhakrishnan 1958:14). There are differing recensions to reckon with: The northern is of some 82 000 stanzas, whereas the southern is of 95 000 stanzas (in Radhakrishnan 1958:52).
It is held that the jaya, bharata and Mahabharata speak of three main stages of formation down the centuries (Radhakrishnan 1958:30,51).
Together with the second major Hindu epic, the Ramayana ("Romance of Rama", "Rama's Way") of 24 000 stanzas, the Mahabharata is a great source of information about Hinduism during the period about 400 BCE - 200 CE. It reflects longings, customs, the servility, the beliefs and much else. These two long hero poems have served as culture-cementing identity-shapers throughout history in no small degree.
Apart from the finding of Krishna's capital, Dwarka, underwater, there are two or three short sentences about the purportedly historical Krishna in the sacred old literature of the Upanishads, which are religious-philosophical writings. [Krishna sources - Dwarka] -- [Krishna - ancient scripture references]
Krishna from parts of the Mahabharata could well have existed: One cannot rule out that there existed a historical Krishna, in Danish Professor Poul Tuxen's opinion too. Also, Drs. J. van Buitenen and Cornelia Dimmitt give Krishna the benefit of doubt on top of the folk tale congruent Harivamsa. ("Genealogy of the God Hari", i.e., Krishna-Vishnu). The Harivamsa is quite a late-coming summing-up work in the field, though, and singly it does not appear to be very good proof of his existence, but along with the recent excavations and significant descriptions in it the Harivamsa can be useful. Still, the Mahabharata evidence is older, and parts of it conform with recent excavations. (Tuxen 1962:12; Dimmitt and van Buitenen 1978; Wikipedia, "Dwarka")
Vishnu-centred thinking appears to be put in the mouth of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. There is another song of Krishna too, Uddhava Gita. Gist from Prabhavananda's abridged version: Uddhava Gita extracts. The Srimad Bhagavatam (Raghunathan 1976, vol 2) contains the full text of the Uddhava Gita .
In the current Bhagavad Gita, many different elements from ancient Samkhya, Yoga and Vedanta philosophy are intertwined. (cf.
There is much to renounce, or is there anything to renounce if a higher view is reached?Avadhut Gita does:
Renounce, renounce the world, and also renounce renunciation, and even give up the absence of renunciation. By nature all-pervasive as space . . . are you. [4:21]
There are still some who walk about stark naked, and "roam free like a child upon the face of the Earth", free from sectarian role-playing. [Wikipedia, s.v. "Avadhuta"]
The term 'piousness' is better than 'devotion' to point at "intentness of the soul on its own nature" and "intentness on the reality of the Self." (Shankara 1946:10-12].
Accordingly, here is a suggestive, daily schedule, in a nutshell:
Wake up, meditate to transcend, get to work and do your main duties, with thanks for the good things in life. And if not, quite as Buddha says:
"Let us all be thankful for today, for if we did not learn a lot, at least we learnt a little. And if we did not learn a little, at least we did not become ill. And if we became ill, at least we did not die. So let us all be thankful. - Buddha, attr.
The Plain of Truth, the Battle of Life
A war on the plain of Kurukshetra is the central event of the Mahabharata. The traditional date for the war is 1302 BCE, even though historians prefer a later date.
The text of the Gita is typical of Hinduism in that it seeks to reconcile different viewpoints, however remote or incompatible (Encyclopedia Britannica)
A battle is about to start, and an archer, Arjuna, asks Krishna to drive him in their chariot to some place between the two armies that are arrayed and ready to fight on a plain called Kurukesha (it is near modern Delhi). The war seems to be part historical, part expanded through added verses, and may be understood in an allegorical vein too. The plain is interpreted by some as a battle-field where qualities like truthfulness, gallantry, and skills in fighting are tried along with the mettle one possesses. For all but five warriors "tried" means "killed" one day anyway. Juan Mascaró (2003) thinks the battle pain is "the plain of truth". "Everyday living" could be just as good. Besides, it does not have to be an either-or; it can be a both-and , that is. "The plain of being truthful in daily living" may fit too (cf Berger and Luckmann 1991)
This is how the war came about: Five sons of a certain king Pandu grew up in a court along with their cousins, the Kauravas (descendants of Kuru, sons of Dhrtarastra). The five brothers jointly married the same woman, Draupadi, and the arrangement lasted throughout long years of exile. They were exiled because of enmity and jealousy between two lines of a royal house. They returned in between two exiles of twelve years each to experience some years of prosperity in a divided kingdom.
The feud between the Kauravas and Pandavas culminated in a series of battles on a field (Kuruksetra) which is north of modern Delhi, in Haryana state. All the Kauravas were killed. On the side that won only the five brothers and Bhagavan Krishna survived. The feud covers a fraction (ca 1/5) of the total work and may once have formed a separate poem, called the bharata.
The five brothers set out for Indra's heaven along with their joint wife Draupadi and a dog who joined them. One by one the men fell on the way: Yudhisthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva - they all dropped dead. [Yudhistira's dog]
The stepwise expanded Mahabharata is an exposition on dharma (codes of conduct), including the proper conduct of a king, of a warrior, and ways to be freed from rebirth. The long poem has myths and legends interwoven in it. Different sections of the poem express varying and sometimes contradictory beliefs.
The earliest Gita commentary that has come down is that of the philosopher Shankara, who also reorganised the swami system of monks [See Acm]. Parts of his ancient, voluminous output is included in Nikhilananda is translation of the Gita, favourably welcomed by Columbia University for its scholarly calibre. Numerous other works contain Shankara gist too. [Wy; Wara]
Further, to be sceptical is fit. Buddha:
Do not believe anything just because it has been passed along and retold for many generations – because it has become a traditional practice – simply because it is well-known everywhere – just because it is cited in a text – solely on the grounds of logical reasoning – merely because it accords with your philosophy – because it appeals to "common sense" – because of preconceived notions – because the speaker seems trustworthy and acceptable – thinking, "This is what our teacher says." . . .
In "Nostra Aetate", proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965, the Second Vatican Council exhorts all faithful Christians to recognise, preserve and promote the good things in Hinduism and fair Buddhism, what is true, moral, spiritual and holy, and also the socio-cultural values of Hinduism. [From the Second Vatican Council]
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Hewitt, James. The Complete Yoga Book: The Yoga of Breathing, Meditation and Posture. London: Rider, 1991. ⍽▢⍽ One of the best self-help books on yoga.
Johnson, W. J., tr. The Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation. Reissue ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Katz, Vernon, and Thomas Egenes. The Upanishads: A New Translation. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2015. ⍽▢⍽ An excellent and well-received translation. It does not contain all the Upanishads, only nine.
Knapp, Stephen. The Power of the Dharma: An Introduction to Hinduism and Vedic Culture. New York: iUniverse, 2006.
Kottler, Jeffrey A., and David D. Chen. Stress Management and Prevention: Applications to Everyday Life. 2nd ed. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2011.
Mascaró Juan, tr. The Bhagavad Gita. Reprint ed. with new chronology. London: Penguin, 2003.
Maslow, Abraham. Motivation and Personality. 3rd ed. New York, HarperCollins, 1987. ⍽▢⍽ Chapter 11 is fine.
Mason, Paul. 108 Discourses of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 1. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009a. ⍽▢⍽ Paul Mason has done a wonderful job in gathering and publishing material about Guru Dev, and also of Guru Dev. I recommend his very rewarding books.
⸻. Guru Dev as presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 3. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009b.
Mohan, A. G., tr. Yoga Yajnavalkya. 2nd ed. Svastha Yoga, 2013.
MVA-Press. Vastu City Planning. 4th ed. Roerdalen, The Netherlands: Maharishi University of Management/Institute of City Planning, 2013.
Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Upanishads: Aitareya and Brihadaranyaka. Vol 3. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1956.
Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Upanishads: Taittiriya and Chhandogya. Vol. 4. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1959.
Prabhavananda, Swami, tr. The Wisdom of God. Capricorn/Putnam. New York, 1968.
Raghunathan, N., tr. Srimad Bhagavatam. Vol 1. Madras: Vighneswara, 1976.
Shankara. The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom and other writings of Shankaracharya. Tr. Charles Johnston. Covina: Theosophical University Press, 1946.
Shastri, Hari P. The Ramayana of Valmiki. Vols 1-3. London: Shanti Sadan - Vol 1: 2nd rev. ed. 1962; Vol 2: 1957; Vol 3, 1st ed. 1959.
Sinha, Phulgenda. The Gita as It Was: Rediscovering the Original Bhagavadgita. Paperback ed. La Salle, Ill: Open Court Publishing Company, 1987. ⍽▢⍽ A thoroughly studied, well done work and useful corrective.
Suurkula, Jaan. The Transcendental Meditation Technique and the Prevention of Psychiatric Illness. Vasa Hospital, University of Gothenburg, Sweden - Paper 127, prepared in May 1977.
Svoboda, Robert E. Vastu: Breathing Life into Space. New York: Namarupa, 2013.
Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli ed. The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol 2. Rev. 2nd ed. Ramakrishna Institute. Calcutta, 1962.
Rishi Singh Gherwal. Yoga Vashisht or Heaven Found. Santa Barbara: Self-published, 1930.
Sands, William: Maharishi's Yoga: The Royal Path to Enlightenment.. Fairfield, IA: Maharishi University of Management Press, 2013.
Shriver, LB. The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Sankaracarya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Fairfield, IA: LBS Imprints, 2013. ⍽▢⍽ The same sermons as in Tiwali 2000.
Steiner, Rudolf. Education for Adolescents. Eight Lectures Given to the Teachers of the Stuttgart Waldorf School June 12–19, 1921. GA 302. Tr. Carl Hoffmann. Hudson, NY: Anthroposophic Press, 1996.
Tiwari, Rameswar, compiler, LB Trusty Shriver, ed, and Cynthia Ann Humes, ed. Rocks Are Melting: The Everyday Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Fairfield, IA: Clear River Press, 2000. ⍽▢⍽ Scanned hard-copy manuscript, with annotations. May be tried as a companion to Paul Mason's 108 Discourses of Guru Dev.
Tuxen, Poul, tr. Bhagavadgita. Herrens Ord. Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1962. Venkatesananda, Swami, tr. Vasistha's Yoga. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1994. ⍽▢⍽ A very well received translation.
Watson, Tony. Organising and Managing Work: Organisational, Managerial and Strategic Behaviour in Theory and Practice. 2nd ed. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education, 2006.
Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh. Maharishi University of Management: Wholeness on the Move. 2nd ed. Softcover. New Delhi: Maharishi Prakashan, 1995.
Yutang, Lin. The Wisdom of China. London: New English Library, 1963.
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