Sunday, January 19, 2014

Samkhya Yoga, Karma Yoga and Advaita Yoga

The highest yoga according to Sri Krishna in the Bhagvadgita is Jnana yoga (the path of knowledge). Jnana yoga can be transmitted directly to the purified mind of the sattvic student. Through this transmission the student will be able understand and apply the principles of yoga and obtain the desired results easily. The Samadhi Pada of the Yoga Sutra is a teaching in Jnana Yoga.

For those with agitated or dulled minds due to stress, discomfort or dis-ease, there is karma yoga (the path of action). Karma yoga heals the body of disease and purifies the mind, calms the nervous system and vitalizes the whole human organism. Karma yoga constitutes the external limbs of ashtanga yoga. The Sadhana Pada of the Yoga Sutra is the chapter on Karma or Kriya Yoga - the external limbs.

The highest yoga is non-dual. It transcends the concern for mind-body-world. This internal yoga - Advaita Yoga culminates in realization and liberation. This internal yoga is described in Patanjali's third chapter of the Yoga Sutra - the Vibhutti Pada and liberation is the theme of the fourth chapter - the Kaivalya Pada.


In the beginning we are aware of the duality - self and world - or mind and that which is communicated to the mind from "outside". Initially, this is our awareness of duality - "myself" and "the world out there".

As we start to take our awareness inside and try to exclude the external world, we discover that we cannot do this. Our mind is full of impressions from "outside". Outside could mean one's own bodily sensations - since these are reactions to external stimulants - not just vision and sound, but the results of digestion, secretion of hormones etc - these are "external" to consciousness.

Thus we discover that when we close our eyes, the mind is as much full of "stuff" as the world we perceive outside when we open our eyes. 

The rishis recognized this fact and designated this first level of introversion as "dream" state - the internalized rumination on external factors - as having the same quality, from the perspective of yoga, as the first, stimulated "waking" state.

Both of these states represent a projection of the same type of movie on the internal screen of the mind.

The third state - the state of Knowledge (prajna) is a more deeply introverted experience. The yogi appears to be asleep, but is internally awake. The lower functions of mind have ceased, have become withdrawn along with the senses, and has become inert. The yogi is now absorbed through purified (sattvic) intelligence (buddhi) in meditation.

Even though we initially felt that duality was a distinction between mind and body - we become aware that everything we experience through the body - through action or stimulation of the senses is like an external skin to the mind. It is not separate from the mind, they are a unity.

The duality is not between mind and body but mind/body (as a unit) and the one that the mind/body serves, the one who experiences what the mind/body channels - eg the Purusa or Atman. 

This understanding leads us to seek and ultimately find this true Self as distinct from mind - resulting in the fourth state - Turiya (samadhi). In the fourth state, there is no awareness of the mind or the body - these two have been transcended resulting in an experience of pure being beyond mind.


Jnana Yoga is also known as Samkhya Yoga. Samkhya means to enumerate, it means science or scientific way of knowing. Samkhya is the method of discrimination and understanding whose purpose and function is to indicate the distinction between Prakriti and Purusa - between mind/body and Self, and to obtain liberation from suffering associated with the mind/body through this realization.

There are three aspects to Jnana Yoga - the first is to become educated about the truth, the second is to reflect on these teachings and the third is to meditate on insights gained through reflection.

Meditation requires total health and control of body and mind. Any discomfort, pain or preoccupation will not allow for concentration. Sensuality, suffering and ego pervert the minds tendencies and make it very hard to control - thus tainting the reception of knowledge and reflection on it with those tendencies. Therefore before Jnana Yoga becomes possible, the body has to be healed and the mind purified of its extraverted tendencies.

The Yoga of purification is called Karma or Kriya Yoga.

As human beings we are aware that there is an external as well as an internal world (mind). We are thus living in a duality and the first stages of yoga recognize this.

The path of karma yoga thus follows both an external path through physical actions - yama, asana and kriya, and also a more internal path concerning the mastery of mind - niyama, pranayama and pratyahara. 

These preliminary techniques of yoga are directed both towards controlling the sense perceptible and towards the internal world through progressive stages of purification, analysis and absorption. 

When the mind has been purified and the body rid of pain and disease, the student may be ready for the flowering of Samkhya or Jnana Yoga which culminates in Self realization and liberation - Advaita Yoga.


The true nature of reality is evidently not something easy to understand. Or is it?

The word to "realize" is in one sense the same as the word to "understand" although realization is usually used in the sense that "realization unfolds" - a process in time which culminates in full understanding. There is something in the nature of the use of the word "realization" - that gives us the impression, if we could simply understand, we would become Realized, and in fact this is the case.

But this is not intellectual or logical understanding, nor is realization the result of any action but an experience of the fullness of our essential nature. Actions - karmas - can not bring us to realization. Actions can only remove obstacles, impurities etc. and uncover the nature of the Self which otherwise remains obscured. Intellectual or book knowledge and logic can also not take us there, though they can indicate where we should look to gain the insight we seek.

According to yoga and sankhya, there are 24 facets to the screen of the mind. These facets are feelings of temperature, perception of colour, form, language, digestion, physical exertion, ego etc - there are many facets to our experience through mind and body which have been enumerated elsewhere. But there is one facet, an internal screen - the primal screen out of which the others have evolved, known as pradhana or prakriti.

Pradhana (primal mind) is Purusa's initial meeting point with the embodied organism. It is through the effect Purusa has on this primal mind, that all other aspects of mind including, ego and sensation evolve. Pradhana is un-evolved, in other words, without form or motion and extremely subtle, but the effect of Purusa's impression or penetration into Prakriti is to make this primal mind start to undergo metamorphosis into the various aspects of mind we experience. At night, when we fall sleep, these various aspects of mind dissolve one into the other and merge back into pradhana and the various contours of the mind lose their form again.

Once the 23 screens which record or reflect external sensory awareness, mentation and ego-sense have all been "purified" - ie once one has controlled one's desires and aversions and has developed the power to eliminate their activities in meditation, one final screen remains. This most internal screen of the mind, instead of reflecting external experience, reflects the internal experience of Purusa.

The method for eliminating the impact of the 23 screens in meditation are the limbs of yoga, which culminate in the reduction of activity to a single point of concentration in buddhi. Buddhi is the first "evolute" of primal mind (pradhana) caused by the impact of the Purusa and as such comes closest in character to its primal cause. When, through concentration, after all other aspects of experience have been eliminated and the holding of a single idea in Buddhi acts as a stabilizing cause, then Buddhi is said to merge back into pradhana, leaving just one impression in the primal mind: that of Purusa.

At this level of Samadhi, Purusa is not seen directly - its impression in the mind is experienced. Purusa is never seen, it is the Seer. Once this level of samadhi becomes established, it readily leads towards the ultimate samadhi.

In everyday experience, mind is extraverted and scattered, without a central point of attention. Like light which shines from a source, it illuminates what happens to fall under its gaze, however, the yogic use of mind is comparable to that of a laser - the mind becomes totally focused - all light particles are directed in a single direction at the intended target.

This one pointed concentration is the "eye of the needle" through which one has to pass, in order to experience the internal screen of the mind, in which is reflected the face of Purusa.

In this recognition of Purusa's face deeply embedded on the internal screen of the mind, the mind is allowed to relax completely, having found it's source, in this way overcoming the final duality and dissolving into its causal (inert) state.

The Purusa is the source of the mind's consciousness. It is Purusa's impact on Prakriti or Pradhana (primal mind) that causes its condensation into intelligence, self awareness, lower mind and sensation. In the process of yoga these evolutes of mind dissolve back one into the other - like ice melting into water, water evaporating into vapor and vapor dissipating into space.

Mind is said to be like a bird which is tied to a branch of a tree. All day, the bird flutters this way and that trying to escape, but at night, tired, the bird comes back to roost on its branch. The mind is constantly looking for distraction, but eventually finds rest in the Self.