The yoga of action leading to union with the soul

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali – Book 2 – Sutra 1

The yoga of action, leading to union with the soul is fiery aspiration, spiritual reading and devotion to Ishvara.

We must here bear in mind that we are beginning the book which outlines the practical part of the work, which gives the rules which must be followed if the aspirant hopes to achieve, and which indicates those methods which will bring about the realization of spiritual consciousness. The objective has been dealt with in Book I. The aspirant naturally says on concluding Book I, “how desirable and how right, but how shall this be? What must I do? Where shall I begin?”

Patanjali starts at the very beginning and in this second book he indicates:

  1. The basic personality requirements,
  2. The hindrances which can then be noted by the earnest disciple,
  3. The eight “means of yoga” or the eight kinds of activity which will bring about the needed results.

The very simplicity of this outline makes its value exceedingly great; there is no confusion, no complex dissertations, but just a clear simple statement of the requirements.

It might be of value here if we dealt with the various “yogas” so as to give to the student a clear concept as to their distinctions and thus cultivate his discrimination. The principal yogas are three in number, the various other so-called “yogas” finding their place in one of these three groups:

  1. Raja Yoga – the yoga of the mind or will,
  2. Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of the heart or the devotee,
  3. Karma Yoga – the yoga of action.

Raja Yoga stands by itself and is the king science of them all; it is the summation of all the others, it is the climax and that which completes the work of development in the human kingdom. It is the science of the mind and of the purposeful will, and brings the higher of man’s sheaths in the three worlds under the subjection of the Inner Ruler. This science coordinates the entire lower threefold man, forcing him into a position where he is nothing but the vehicle for the soul, or God within. It includes the other yogas and profits by their achievements. It synthesizes the work of evolution and crowns man as king.

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of the heart; it is the bringing into submission of all the feelings, desires and emotions, to the one beloved, seen and known in the heart. It is the sublimation of all the lower loves and the bringing captive of all longings and desire, to the one longing to know the God of love and the love of God.

It was the “kingly” or crowning science of the last root-race, the Atlantean, just as the science of Raja Yoga is the great science of our Aryan civilization. Bhakti Yoga made its exponent an arhat or led him to the fourth initiation. Raja Yoga makes him an adept and leads him to the portal of the fifth initiation. Both lead to liberation, for the arhat is released from the cycle of rebirth but Raja Yoga liberates him to complete service and freedom to work as a White Magician. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of the heart, of the astral body.

Karma Yoga has a specific relation to physical plane activity, and to the working out into objective manifestation of all the inner impulses. In its ancient and simplest form it was the yoga of the third or Lemurian root race and its two best known expressions are:

  1. Hatha Yoga,
  2. Laya Yoga.

The former has specifically to do with the physical body, its conscious (not subconscious and automatic) functioning and all the various practices which give man control over the different organs and the entire mechanical apparatus of the physical body. The latter has to do with the etheric body, with the force centers or chakras found in that body and with the distribution of force currents and the awakening of the serpent fire.

It might be pointed out that if we divide the human torso into three departments it might be stated that:

  1. Karma Yoga resulted in the awakening of the four centers below the diaphragm,
  2. Bhakti Yoga resulted in their transmutation and transference into the two centers above the diaphragm, yet in the torso, the heart and the throat.
  3. Raja Yoga synthesizes all the forces of the body in the head and from there distributes and controls them.

Raja Yoga, which Patanjali primarily deals with, includes the effects of all the others. It is only possible when the others have been worked with, but not in the sense of working with them in this life. Evolution has brought all the sons of men (who are ready to be chelas or disciples), through the various races, and whilst in the Lemurian race (or else on the preceding chain or greater cycle) they were all hatha and laya yogins. This resulted in the development and control of the dual physical body, dense and etheric.

Whilst in the Atlantean race the desire or astral body was developed, and the flower of that race were true sons of bhakti yoga and true devotees. Now the highest of the three bodies must be brought to its fullest development and this Raja Yoga is intended to do and this is the object of Patanjali’s work. The Aryan race will contribute this fuller development to the general economy, and the entire human family (with the exception of a percentage which entered the race too late to permit of the full flowering of the soul) will manifest as Sons of God with all the powers of the God unfolded and consciously used on the physical plane and in the physical body. Patanjali says that three things will bring this about, coupled with the following of certain methods and rules, and these three are:

  1. Fiery aspiration, the domination of the physical man so that every atom of his body is afire with zeal and endeavor,
  2. Spiritual reading, which has reference to the capacity of the mental body to see back of a symbol or to touch the subject lying back of the object,
  3. Devotion to Ishvara, which relates to the astral or emotional body, the whole heart poured out in love to God – God in his own heart, God in the heart of his brother, and God as seen in every form.

Fiery aspiration is the sublimation of karma yoga. Devotion to Ishvara is the sublimation of bhakti yoga, whilst spiritual reading is the first step to Raja Yoga.

“Devotion to Ishvara” is a large and general term covering the relation of the personal self to the higher self, the Ishvara or Christ principle in the heart. It covers also the relation of the individual Ishvara to the universal or cosmic Ishvara; it deals with the realization of the soul in man that it is an integral part of the Oversoul. This results in group consciousness which is the objective of the kingly science.

Devotion involves certain factors which it is valuable for the devotee to realize.

  1. A capacity to decentralize oneself, to change one’s attitude from self-centeredness and selfishness to one of outgoing to the loved one. All things are counted as loss provided the object of one’s devotion is attained.
  2. Obedience to the beloved object once that beloved is known. This has been called in some translations “complete obedience to the Master” and this is the true and accurate translation but in view of the fact that the word Master connotes (to the occult student) one of the adepts, we have chosen to translate the word as “Ishvara,” the one God in the heart of man, the divine Jiva or “point of divine life” at the center of man’s being. This is the same in all men, whether savage or adept; the difference only lies in degree of manifestation and of control. Complete obedience to any guru or mahatma in the sense of complete subjugation of the will is never taught in the true science of yoga. Subjugation of the lower man to the will of the inner God is taught and all the methods and rules of yoga are to this specific end. This should be carefully borne in mind. “Spiritual reading” is the most significant and occult preliminary thereto.

Every form is the result of thought and of sound. Every form veils or conceals an idea or concept. Every form, therefore, is but the symbol or attempted representation of an idea and this is true without exception on all the planes of our solar system, wherein forms are found whether created by God, man or deva.

One object of a disciple’s training is to enable him to ascertain that which lies back of any form in any kingdom of nature and thus ascertain the nature of the spiritual energy which brought it into being. The vastness of this cosmic symbolism will be apparent to even the most superficial thinker and the beginner upon the path of chelaship has to learn to separate the many forms into certain specific groups standing for certain basic ideas. He has to interpret the ideas lying back of specific symbols, and he has to look for the specific impulse latent in every form. He can begin practically to do this in the environment and in the place where he is. He can look for the idea which his brother’s form veils; he can search for God behind the body of any and every man.

Thus the sutra under consideration takes the aspirant into the most practical part of life; it brings him face to face with three basic enquiries and as he seeks to answer them aright, he will inevitably equip himself to tread the path. These three enquiries are:

  1. Towards what objective do all the longings and aspirations of my soul trend, towards God, or to things material?
  2. Am I bringing my entire lower nature under the control of Ishvara or the true spiritual man?
  3. Do I see God back of every form and circumstance in my daily contacts?

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