Yoga

Bg. 6.11-14 The goal of yoga is seen as Viṣṇu in the yogīs heart.

The yoga system is a mechanical way to control the senses and the mind and divert them from matter to spirit. The preliminary processes are the sitting posture, meditation, spiritual thoughts, manipulation of air passing within the body, and gradual situation in trance, facing the Absolute Person, Paramātmā. Such mechanical ways of rising to the spiritual platform prescribe some regulative principles of taking bath daily three times, fasting as far as possible, sitting and concentrating the mind on spiritual matters and thus gradually becoming free from viṣaya, or material objectives. Material existence means to be absorbed in the material objective, which is simply illusory. House, country, family, society, children, property, and business are some of the material coverings of the spirit, ātmā, and the yoga system helps one to become free from all these illusory thoughts and gradually turn towards the Absolute Person, Paramātmā. By material association and education, we learn simply to concentrate on flimsy things, but yoga is the process of forgetting them altogether. Modern so-called yogīs and yoga systems manifest some magical feats, and ignorant persons are attracted by such false things, or they accept the yoga system as a cheap healing process for diseases of the gross body. But factually the yoga system is the process of learning to forget what we have acquired throughout the struggle for existence. Dhṛtarāṣṭra was all along engaged in improving family affairs by raising the standard of living of his sons or by usurping the property of the Pāṇḍavas for the sake of his own sons. These are common affairs for a man grossly materialistic and without knowledge of the spiritual force. He does not see how this can drag one from heaven to hell. By the grace of his younger brother Vidura, Dhṛtarāṣṭra was enlightened and could see his grossly illusory engagements, and by such enlightenment he was able to leave home for spiritual realization. Śrī Nāradadeva was just foretelling the way of his spiritual progress in a place which was sanctified by the flow of the celestial Ganges. Drinking water only, without solid food, is also considered fasting. This is necessary for advancement of spiritual knowledge. A foolish man wants to be a cheap yogī without observing the regulative principles. A man who has no control over the tongue at first can hardly become a yogī. Yogī and bhogī are two opposite terms. The bhogī, or the merry man who eats and drinks, cannot be a yogī, for a yogī is never allowed to eat and drink unrestrictedly. We may note with profit how Dhṛtarāṣṭra began his yoga system by drinking water only and sitting calmly in a place with a spiritual atmosphere, deeply absorbed in the thoughts of the Lord Hari, the Personality of Godhead.

Yoga aims at controlling the senses. By practice of the mystic process of bodily exercise in sitting, thinking, feeling, willing, concentrating, meditating and at last being merged into transcendence, one can control the senses. The senses are considered like venomous serpents, and the yoga system is just to control them. On the other hand, Nārada Muni recommends another method for controlling the senses in the transcendental loving service of Mukunda, the Personality of Godhead. By his experience he says that devotional service to the Lord is more effective and practical than the system of artificially controlling the senses. In the service of the Lord Mukunda, the senses are transcendentally engaged. Thus there is no chance of their being engaged in sense satisfaction. The senses want some engagement. To check them artificially is no check at all because as soon as there is some opportunity for enjoyment, the serpentlike senses will certainly take advantage of it. There are many such instances in history, just like Viśvāmitra Muni’s falling a victim to the beauty of Menakā. But Ṭhākura Haridāsa was allured at midnight by the well-dressed Māyā, and still she could not induce that great devotee into her trap.

The whole idea is that without devotional service of the Lord, neither the yoga system nor dry philosophical speculation can ever become successful. Pure devotional service of the Lord, without being tinged with fruitive work, mystic yoga or speculative philosophy, is the foremost procedure to attain self-realization. Such pure devotional service is transcendental in nature, and the systems of yoga and jñāna are subordinate to such a process. When the transcendental devotional service is mixed with a subordinate process, it is no longer transcendental but is called mixed devotional service. Śrīla Vyāsadeva, the author of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, will gradually develop all these different systems of transcendental realization in the text.

Yoga means concentration of the mind detached from all other subject matter. And actually such concentration is samādhi, or cent percent engagement in the service of the Lord. And one who concentrates his attention in that manner is called a yogī. Such a yogī devotee of the Lord engages himself twenty-four hours daily in the service of the Lord so that his whole attention is engrossed with the thoughts of the Lord in ninefold devotional service, namely hearing, chanting, remembering, worshiping, praying, becoming a voluntary servant, carrying out orders, establishing a friendly relationship, or offering all that one may possess, in the service of the Lord. By such practice of yoga, or linking up in the service of the Lord, one is recognized by the Lord Himself, as it is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā concerning the highest perfectional stage of samādhi. The Lord calls such a rare devotee the best amongst all the yogīs Such a perfect yogī is enabled by the divine grace of the Lord to concentrate his mind upon the Lord with a perfect sense of consciousness, and thus by chanting His holy name before quitting the body the yogī is at once transferred by the internal energy of the Lord to one of the eternal planets where there is no question of material life and its concomitant factors. In material existence a living being has to endure the material conditions of threefold miseries, life after life, according to his fruitive work. Such material life is produced by material desires only. Devotional service to the Lord does not kill the natural desires of the living being, but they are applied in the right cause of devotional service. This qualifies the desire to be transferred to the spiritual sky. General Bhīṣmadeva is referring to a particular type of yoga called bhakti-yoga, and he was fortunate enough to have the Lord directly in his presence before he quitted his material body. He therefore desired that the Lord stay before his view in the following verses.