Tag Archives: Astanga-yoga

Different Types of Yoga

Question: What is the difference between the yoga which Krishna describes in the Gita or which Lord Kapila describes in the Bhagavatam and the process given by Patanjali and this sampradaya from Lord Siva?

Answer: It is the same thing, but Lord Kapila is speaking from the devotional point of view. Patanjali has nothing to do with devotion. There are many techniques which have been devised and in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna has explained one such technique. There are different techniques for different times, ages and people. The problem here is that one has to sit down quietly and meditate, and if somebody is very restless, he will not be able to do even this. Then you have to give him some other technique.

Question: Can there be any success on the path of yoga, without bhakti?

Answer: It depends how you look at it. When we talk about success in karma yoga, there are two considerations. Either you are sakama [full of desires] or niskama [without material desires], and the result differs accordingly. It is not dependent on your bodily actions. If you perform a sacrifice, the success is not just coming from that activity itself.

In astanga-yoga, however, the result comes directly from the activity performed. Just like when you run or do exercise, you develop your muscles which does not depend on your belief in God. Asana and pranayama will give their benefit like curing some disease, because it is a physical process. But you cannot achieve the ultimate result of yoga – which means to become liberated – by this process. It is a scientific process in the sense that it explains up to the extent that you achieve some mystic power. That sort of result will happen because it is a mechanical process, but you cannot get the ultimate result. One cannot become free from the three modes of material nature without bhakti. Therefore Patanjali has also included that part in his process.

Question: Why is Krishna explaining so much about astanga yoga if it is not related to bhakti?

Answer: He is saying that this is also a process which can be used to come to that level of realization. People in general are not attracted to bhakti. But if I talk about meditation or pranayama there will be interest immediately. Even devotees are attracted. So because it is attractive, people will be inspired to do something and claim to be following Krishna. Krishna Himself says this. Then one day one may become a devotee also. So it is just a preaching technique. And for devotees this is also to give them knowledge. Devotees should also have some knowledge of astanga-yoga so they are not completely ignorant of this field.

Question: What will a karma-yogi achieve?

Answer: He will either follow the process of knowing Brahman or Paramatma. He has to have some concept of the Absolute and there are only three concepts: Brahma, Paramatma and Bhagavan. The followers of Brahman are called jnanis or jnana-yogis, those whose goal is Paramatma are called yogis, and those who follow Bhagavan are called bhaktas or devotees. Niskama-karma is not a process which leads to the ultimate by itself. You have to be either a jnana-yogi or bhakti-yogi. Ultimately these are the only two processes, jnana and bhakti.

Karma-yoga is just a process for purification. A karma-yogi who carries on working can be either like a devotee or a jnani. If he is like a jnani he becomes renounced and takes sannyasa. If he is like a bhakta he continues to work although he may still be known as a karma-yogi because of the process he has followed. If he becomes devoted to Krishna, he will consider bhakti as his prime process, understanding that karma-yoga is just secondary. That means he is only doing it for setting the standard for others.  Then for him karma-yoga is not a process he follows as a means anymore.

Question: At which point does he have to decide what his goal is?

Answer: Generally this is there to begin with, because when you start, you start with a concept. Among the karma-yogis you will basically find two types: those with the concept of the Absolute as a person and those who have the concept that the Absolute is impersonal. So they have their concept in the beginning. The only thing is that later on, it becomes more solidified as they realize it.

Question: If there are only two paths, where does this yoga fit in?

Answer: It is also a part of jnana because it is similar, they also don’t participate. There are two paths, pavritti marga and nirvritti marga, the path of action and the path of renunciation. In the path of renunciation, one is called a jnana-yogi and the other is called astanga-yogi. It means one gives more stress on deliberation and the other gives more stress on meditation. Krishna specifies that astanga-yoga is superior to jnana-yoga. He prefers astanga-yoga to jnana-yoga. The reason is that astanga-yoga is more inclined towards the personal form of the Lord because the astanga-yogi meditates on Paramatma, while the jnana-yogi meditates on the impersonal feature of the Lord. So, from that point of view a yogi is better than a jnani. Krishna says that a yogi is better than a tapasvi, better than a karmi, better than a jnani – he is better than all of them (tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogi jnanibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikah, BG 6.46).

Therefore, it depends on one’s concept of the Absolute to consider one person more superior to the other. It is based on realization.

 

Astanga and Bhakti Yoga

Question: I am wondering how this astanga-yoga is connected with bhakti-yoga, or if it is connected at all?

Answer: No, it is not connected.

Question: Then why is Krsna bothering to explain it?

Answer: He is saying that this is also a process that can be used to come to that level of realization. In general, people are not attracted to bhakti, but if they hear about meditation or pranayama, they are immediately interested. Even devotees are attracted. Because it is attractive, people are inspired to take up the practice, and claim to be following Krsna. Indeed, Krsna himself states this and incorporates it within his teachings. Furthermore, one day such souls also may become devotees.  Devotees benefit from having some knowledge of astanga-yoga and should not be completely ignorant of this field.

Question: What will a karma-yogi achieve?

Answer: Krishna has described that he will either follow the process of knowing Brahman or of Paramatma. He has to have some notion of the Absolute, of which there are only three concepts: Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan. The followers of Brahman are called jnana-yogis, those whose goal is Paramatma are called yogis, and those who follow Bhagavan are called bhaktas or devotees. Niskama-karma is not a process that leads to the Ultimate in and of itself. One has to be a jnana-yogi or a bhakti-yogi, since ultimately these are the only two processes. Karma-yoga is a process for purification, and Krishna says that a karma-yogi is either like a devotee or like a jnani. If he is like a jnani he becomes renounced and takes sannyasa. If he is like a bhakta he continues to work, although he still may be known as a karma-yogi because of the process he has followed. If he becomes devoted he will consider bhakti as his prime process, understanding that karma-yoga is secondary. This means that he is doing it only in order to set the standard for others, and no longer as a means.

Question: So at some point he has to decide what is his goal?

Answer: Generally this is there to begin with, because one starts out with a concept. Among the karma-yogis you will find two basic types: those whose concept of the Absolute is a person and those who have the concept that the Absolute is impersonal. So the concept exists in the beginning, but later on becomes more solidified as they start to realize it.

Question: If there are only two paths, where does this yoga fit in?

Answer: It is also a part of jnana because it is similar in that jnana-yogis also don’t participate in action. There are Yogi in Meditationtwo paths, pavritti marga and nirvritti marga, the path of action and the path of renunciation. One who follows the path of renunciation is called a jnana-yogi, and the one who follows the path of action, an astanga-yogi. The former places more emphasis on deliberation and the latter on meditation. Krsna prefers astanga-yoga to jnana-yoga, and specifies that astanga-yoga is superior, the reason being that astanga-yoga moves towards the personal form of the Lord.  In astanga-yoga, one meditates on Paramatma, whereas the jnana-yogis meditate on the impersonal feature of the Lord. So from that point of view, a yogi is better than a jnani. Krishna says that a yogi is better than a tapasvi, better than a karmi, and better than a jnani–he is better than all of them (tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogi jnanibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikah, BG 6.46).

Therefore it depends on one’s concept of the Absolute and one’s realization to consider one person more superior to the other.