In The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, Venkataraman Aiyer (1879-1950) says "Breath control is . . . an aid for diving inwards . . . Breath control is a help in controlling the mind (Osborne 1971, 145, 146)." He also says "Illusion itself is illusory (Osborne 1971, 17)." That is a point against all who tell "the world is illusory," and such things, like the famous guru Yogananda. [He overlooked himself]
Someone who has read Yogananda's hype on kriya yoga, a system of breathing methods (pranayama etc.) can note how the teachings of Ramana and Yogananda agree in some respects and disagree in other respects. By regulating the breath skilfully, one's attention may be directed inward and sort of lifted, by degrees. It can resemble what happens when we fall asleep, only that we can be conscious at the time. This crucial phase of interiorisation of the mind is called pratyahara ("inward-turning") in yoga. [See e.g. Yajanavalkya Yoga]
Interiorisation (pratyahara) is a decisive phase for mastering and excelling in a good fare and good mind use - that sort of higher yoga, or dhyana. The Sanskrit dhyana is translated into Zen i Japan, and meditation in the West very often. In short: Pranayama (methods) help pratyahara (interiorised attention), which may sustains dharana (one-pointed attention), which evolves into dhyana (still steadier awareness or attention). That is a basic side to Patanjali Yoga and in Yajnavalkya Yoga.
Yogananda and his fellowship also teach that the art of breath can go further than easing interiorisation. There is research by Das and Gastaut - it documents that a form of kriya yoga can further it in at least one case. [Research findings].
From a Visit
In 1935 Yogananda visited the advaitist Venkataraman Aiyer, known as Ramana Maharsi (Dasgupta 2006: 82). Yogananda brought his secretary, Richard Wright and two others with him. This is recorded:
29th November, 1935. Talk 106Swami Yogananda with four others arrived at 8.45 a.m . . . The group had lunch in the Asramam.
Mr. C. R. Wright, his secretary, asked: How shall I realise God?
M.: God is an unknown entity. Moreover He is external. Whereas, the Self is always with you and it is you. Why do you leave out what is intimate and go in for what is external?
D.: What is this Self again?
M.: The Self is known to everyone but not clearly. You always exist. The Be-ing is the Self. 'I am' is the name of God. Of all the definitions of God, none is indeed so well put as the Biblical statement "I AM THAT I AM" in EXODUS (Chap. 3). There are other statements, such as Brahmaivaham, Aham Brahmasmi and Soham. But none is so direct as the name JEHOVAH = I AM. The Absolute Being is what is - It is the Self. It is God. Knowing the Self, God is known. In fact God is none other than the Self.
D.: Why are there good and evil?
M.: They are relative terms. There must be a subject to know the good and evil. That subject is the ego. Trace the source of the ego. It ends in the Self. The source of the ego is God. This definition of God is probably more concrete and better understood by you.
D.: So it is. How to get Bliss?
M.: Bliss is not something to be got. On the other hand you are always Bliss. This desire is born of the sense of incompleteness. To whom is this sense of incompleteness? Enquire. In deep sleep you were blissful: Now you are not so. What has interposed between that Bliss and this non-bliss? It is the ego. Seek its source and find you are Bliss. There is nothing new to get. You have, on the other hand, to get rid of your ignorance which makes you think that you are other than Bliss. For whom is this ignorance? It is to the ego. Trace the source of the ego. Then the ego is lost and Bliss remains over. It is eternal. You are That, here and now . . . That is the master key for solving all doubts. The doubts arise in the mind. The mind is born of the ego. The ego rises from the Self. Search the source of the ego and the Self is revealed. That alone remains. The universe is only expanded Self. It is not different from the Self.
D.: What is the best way of living?
M.: It differs according as one is a Jnani [knower] or ajnani. A Jnani does not find anything different or separate from the Self. All are in the Self. It is wrong to imagine that there is the world, that there is a body in it and that you dwell in the body. If the Truth is known, the universe and what is beyond it will be found to be only in the Self. The outlook differs according to the sight of the person. The sight is from the eye. The eye must be located somewhere. If you are seeing with the gross eyes you find others gross. If with subtle eyes (i.e., the mind) others appear subtle. If the eye becomes the Self, the Self being infinite, the eye is infinite. There is nothing else to see different from the Self.
He thanked Maharshi. He was told that the best way of thanking is to remain always as the Self.
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi.
29th November, 1935. Talk 107
Later the Yogi (Swami Yogananda) asked: How is the spiritual uplift of the people to be effected? What are the instructions to be given them?
M.: They differ according to the temperaments of the individuals and according to the spiritual ripeness of their minds. There cannot be any instruction en masse.
D.: Why does God permit suffering in the world? Should He not with His omnipotence do away with it at one stroke and ordain the universal realisation of God?
M.: Suffering is the way for Realisation of God.
D.: Should He not ordain differently?
M.: It is the way.
D.: Are Yoga, religion, etc., antidotes to suffering?
M.: They help you to overcome suffering.
D.: Why should there be suffering?
M.: Who suffers? What is suffering?
No answer! Finally the Yogi rose up, prayed for Sri Bhagavan' s blessings for his own work and expressed great regret for his hasty return. He looked very sincere and devoted and even emotional.
Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi.
COMMENT: They were not quite on terms, as Yogananda's work consisted of mass-propagation of kriya yoga and thoughts. If remaining always wared of the Self is not yet had, there are general yoga instructions, also for beginners. The Yoga Sutras and Yajnavalkya Yoga are examples. In both and in other ancient sources there is an emphasis on sticking to good moral. Buddha advocates it. That sound moral helps development, is taught by Rudolf Steiner too.
Throughout your training, you must continually increase your moral strength, your inner purity and your power of observation . . . Strive for purity of your moral character. Banish all thought of ever using knowledge gained in this way for dumb personal benefit, as you may gain a trifle power over your fellow-creatures. A rule: For every one step that you take in the pursuit of higher knowledge, take three steps in the perfection of your own character." (Wisdom of Rudolf Steiner).
One's own, inner morality is to be finely tuned into. Buddha holds adequate morality to be so vitally important that it goes into the fabric of his great Gentle Middle Path, the general way of Buddhism "for all".
The do's and don'ts of morality are general guidelines. Hatha-yoga programs may come with general guidelines as well, perhaps as some of those Swami Sivananda furnishes too.
Ramana too used to teach a generalised method, and did not deplore others either, when not whisking away a visitor like Yogananda. Ancient yoga traditions and many other sources confirm there is room for general teachings and ways,. There is a lesson here: Don't be taken in too much by what others say; also see what they do. We are dealing with a both-and. [Link]
Artists and the both-and
Most factors in a human life are common to many. The body shape in gross outline, the inner organs, how the mind tends to work, and so on. The behaviour is very conform, as Yogananda too observed, where people live in "little boxes, little boxes made of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same" (from a song).
Even ground-breaking artists conform to basic techniques, skills and measures for most part. What may finally get unique and yet likable could be a final touch, like the rose flower of the rose-bush.
One implication of this rosebush view is that general instructions are good for many, and flowers may benefit from individual tending on top of it. It is seldom an either-or; and often is a both-and where delicate nuances or differences take time to blossom forth.
So: There are general sets of instructions for many, and individually adapted further teachings for others.
Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Lincoln NE: iUniverse 2006.
Osborne, Arthur ed. The Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharsi in His Own Words. New ed. London: Rider, 1971.
Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Theosophical, 1946. Online.
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