Yoga Practices (author: Prof. Puran Singh)

author: Prof. Puran Singh

Yoga practices have been emphasised by the Brahminical system of religious thought and particularly those curious physiological mental processes known as Hath Yoga in one form or another, for attaining to that ineffable peace of Upanishadic wisdom. The much too exaggerated emphasis laid on them has led to an age-long system of penance and asceticism, special diets and fasts. To the people it has so far meant nothing but empty efforts. The whole country is full of obscurantist practices in the name of religion. All the world’s religions have elaborated systems of “spiritual” exercises for self-control, for self-restraint, to avoid over-indulgence and unbridled sensual pursuits for correcting the morals of the people, for making man good and noble; and one can understand that in moral human life they all have their uses when taken like doses of arsenic and opium for specific cures. One can understand the attention the utilitarian laws paid to the behaviour of men towards each other, and the rectification of human motives for living like good neighbours and for carrying on the mutual affairs of state and society in a desirable state of amity; for the enduring together the common afflictions. If the Hindu had not an exclusive type of mind he would see that the full historical and right development of all Hindu spiritual culture blossomed first in Buddhism and then in the lives of the ten Gurus. Sikhism is the best blossom of the East, and the creative reactivity of Eastern culture is most intense in Sikhism.

Prof. Puran Singh

It is much better that we Indians know the right sources of future inspiration, rather than go about putting new wine in old bottles. The Sikh Gurus alone on behalf of the Hindu race, properly made the Gita message understood. The Hindu’s sense of intellectual superiority stands in the way of his progress.

Imagine Vivakanand’s saying, “I belong to a religion whose rebel child is Buddhism”. They will not bow down to Truth. They will not take to Buddhism or to the new faith, Sikhism, the religion of the Ten Gurus, the culture of Love, Nam and Simrin, the Ethics of spontaneous Humanity. One can understand that speaking relatively, from the human point of view, it is desirable that there should be no violence and crime endangering the individual and the group Freedom of life. If brute violence does exist, interfering with the amicable growth of life, it is even desirable that the freedom of the few should be crushed by meeting violence with greater violence to give a great number of men opportunities that they may rise to a higher and nobler realization of life. A wolf or a tiger coming into the herd of sheep must be destroyed.

But poor, indeed, is the function of all religious Sadhanas when the struggle of its processes is to make men mere automations and human life a twenty-four hour theological routine: It is only the spiritual genius born with definite divine qualities that manifests the inner power of which Schelling writes philosophically. As we have not yet known now to control gravitation, so we do not know the methods of controlling those inner powers which, like physical beauty, come naturally to certain persons. The Hindus system of Yoga, in mere empirical description, speaks of the capabilities of such geniuses, men of great and extra-ordinary powers and reduces those creations’ gifts to mechanical gifts of accomplishment, to algebraic forms with a view to developing a school which would produce similar geniuses. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras have not succeeded in producing Yogis.

In the Guru’s House, it is said that Simrin is both the process and the Siddhi (spiritual attainment). Once initiated into His favour, the Guru’s Word has alchemical effects. Lyrical repetition transports the human, mind to regions of the spirit. Man achieves elevation to a state where all becomes known to him and about which the Guru says “If this mind lives in that mind, the mind knows then the secrets of the three worlds“. The Guru suggests a fourth state where illumined in tuition grown intense in altogether a new sense of the Gurumukh, the superman.

In all of its there dwells a secret marvellous power of freeing ourselves from the changes of time, of withdrawing to our secret selves away from external, things and of so discovering to ourselves the eternal; in us in the form of unchangeability. This presentation of ourselves to ourselves is the most truly personal experience, upon which depends anything that we know of the supersensual world. This representation shows us for the first time what real experience is, wrist all else only appears to be. It differs from every presentation of the senses in its perfect freedom, whilst all other presentations are bound, being overweighed by the burden of the object. This intellectual presentation occurs when we cease to be our own objects, when withdrawing into ourselves, the perceiving image merges into the self-perceived.

At that moment, we annihilate time and the duration of time; we are no longer in time, but time or rather eternity itself (the timeless) is in us. The eternal world is no longer an object for us, but is lost in us. The Guru’s mode of Simrin (love, grace), the coming in of inspiration of the spiritual worlds, has proved its wonderful efficiency for the seeker of this kind of spiritual development.

The Sikh martyrs show the invincible spirit of gladness in the worst afflictions. And both the Sikh and the Christian martyrs belong to the inspiration of Simrin; they see angels supporting them and letting them pass through the worst tortures of brutalized man, with inner Fateh (victory) resounding in their minds. Bhai Mani Singh whose lips vibrated with the soul-sound— “Glory !” “Glory !” as if he was being kissed by a thousand angels, insisted that his executioner should cut him with his axe joint by joint. Bhai Mati Das was sawn in two and he continued to utter the glorious sound, “Glory to the Guru !” till he was dead. Bhai Taru Singh was flayed alive and it is authentic history that his countenance shone with the light of angels. And thousands of the Guru’s disciple were burnt alive, of tortured to death; none uttered a groan. All died peacefully as if borne in the lap of angels. Simrin of Guru Nanak, thus, is creative of the Fourth State but in an organic way, and it leads “to the Fourth” as it is in Guru Granth, a state of superconsciousness where bodily pain and pleasure cease to oppress. Those who have seen the beauty of the spirit can see no grossness of matter, and those who have seen matter cannot get rid of it with a million systems of Sadhanas, try as they may.

True spiritual life, says the Guru, when it begins, so to say a strange phenomenon or transmutation of the human metal takes place. Paras (The philosopher’s stone) which is reputed to transmute base metals into gold is at the same time said to make no difference in the iron of a butcher’s knife, the knife of the murderer, or the sword of a liberator of men. By its touch, all iron immediately changes into gold. This is the right simile to show what takes place when the true spiritual life begins. Man is transmuted, the directions of his passions and powers are altered. He is, so to say, switched on to a universal plane of life and he grows with it, he into it and that into him; and the powers of such life become manifest in due course when the season of the ripening of the fruit arrives.

In this attitude of a doe’s life-state brought about under certain undetermined conditions can move Heaven to interfere to such an extent as to make a slave a king for one high act of mercy to her. Feeling for her off-spring is superior to Yoga-Sadhana. It seems impossible by any artificial means at this stage of our development to get all those undermined cosmic conditions together in the same configurative grouping in which they bestowed such perfection on a doe. To attempt to do so is nothing but the impertinent haughtiness of a proud “I” in believing itself to be infallible and final. It is miserable, ugly egoism, and even if one or two succeed, what use is invoking with so much effort, and waste of Life’s energy, a state of life which under certain undetermined conditions is natural to bird, beast and man ? Emerson hits the mark when he says that you may be thinking for centuries that you are making spiritual progress, yet after centuries you will find you are exactly on the spot from where you imagined you started. And true spiritual progress comes to you through someone’s lyrical glances. This is exactly what Guru Nanak means by “Nanak Nadari nadar nihal”. From one glance comes perfection. It is union with God. No one can bring about that moment: it comes of itself. The whole of Guru Granth is full of positive statements on every page, that all may be in the power of man, to fly in the air, to dive, to become invisible at will, to live for centuries in one immortalized physical body, to have all kinds of Yogic Siddhis and Riddhis, the extraordinary mental powers developed by physiological processes of Yoga, so popular in all system of Brahminical religions. What one man has accomplished, all can, but it is not given to him to transmute himself. When transmutation is not in his power, by overstraining himself, by his self-effort of any description whatsoever, the simple life lived and suffering undergone with creation, is the best way to wait for the coming of God, Trying to be extraordinary is not of spiritual naturalness, but a mental abnormality. However high he may fly, he is still subject to the reaction of his own inherent animal passions and pursuits and motives and desires and the flights of imagination are not of the spiritual life, but of physical, material inertia. Man’s intellect is after all, the enlarged instinct that works in birds and animals. Instinct has set finalities; so has the human mind.

Bhai Guru Das, the interpreter and missionary of the Gurus, rightly says that even Shiva is full of the dark inertia (tamas). He, after all his associations with evil spirits and snakes and intoxicants, must fall a prey to the charm of a woman, which by his mental processes he tries hard all his life to deny. The Indian seers and savants, the great mental giants all followed the life of expanded intellection. When they were fed up with Yoga practices, they hankered after the fairies of Heaven, and actually produced, in what they called Gandharb marriage, illegitimate children whom they are ashamed to own. These great forest-dwellers had not transcended the gravitational field of the body which they denied so vehemently and they could not but fallout of their dreams, right on their own legs and on the hard earth. Guru Nanak says, “All leap up but what He does comes to pass”. About attainment of God, He says “Let them use all the force they can, make all efforts’ they can, still alas ! all of us are equally helpless”.

No mental process can create that attitude of mind, that indescribably describable state of life, in which something happening transmutes man Who thenceforward is in the naturally supernatural, humanly superhuman state of transmuted man, a true and genuine divine man, a veritable God. It is the transmuted man in whom the true spiritual life begins. And Guru Nanak and all his successors and his apostles and the most authoritative record of their songs, Guru Granth declares at every page, that without this transmutation all that man does to become a “religious” or “spiritual” genius is a system of unmitigated folly. Man has to be regenerated by the touch of the Gurumukh.

In the true spiritual quest and progress there need be the same patience in man as in the rocks, rivers and the animals. All creation has it, and in its patient march it is shedding all that is material, (including mental activity). It is all processioning on to the perfection of the pure spirit. The evolution is in travail to take life to the point where spiritual beauty may become organic, with hands and feet, with speech, with song, with power to move on its destiny unknown but glorious. We, all created beings, are on one plane of existence, as it is now known in space of three dimensions, and our future lies in some higher sphere of life and not in our penance and vows and efforts to be what we cannot be here. The lion of Androcles, the sheep of the shepherd, the mother doe and the mother tigress, man and his wife, with all the goodness of their virtue and the illness of their sin, with the highly evolved moral men and with the lowest cannibals, spiritually speaking, all are in one state here. Their ignorance is the same, their knowledge of the same type, with differences of degree only. No one is higher than another. This is the standpoint so far I can understand it that Guru Granth takes and out of these only those in whom “The Husband of his own pleasure plants the necleus of spiritual life are truly spiritual”. They are those who are favoured by the Perfect Ones of some higher worlds.

Patanjaii’s Yoga Sutras are algebraic formulae that were not and cannot generate genius by the efforts detailed therein. All India for centuries has been steeped in its culture and there is no effect at enriching social life, or any extraordinary development of the individual, nor his natural simple humaneness. Thesophical societies took out this text as a great Bible, but the mortals of Kali-Yuga finally fell back upon spinning Gandhi’s “Charkha” to free India politically.

The way in which Guru Granth has been referring to the realities of life, shows that the Guru not satisfied with anything, however fascinating, mentally, till it is borne out by an overwhelming practice in life. The Truth is subjective, its expression all objective. The Guru discards all speculation which does not tally with experience as the knowledge of objects should respond to the logic of experiments, so the subjective realisation of Truth should respond to the logic of the actual state of life, the inner experience of the soul. The Guru insists on the “spontaneous me,” on spontaneous observing of truth, sincerity, simplicity of life; on the spontaneous renunciation of false pride, false honour, false religions, false hypocritical actions of life on being men. We are just men—good men when we are doing good, thinking good, when we are kind and sympathetic. But being men is not enough to him, it ought to be our natural state of life. Born of humanity, we must needs be human. He declares, on the other side, “Without Simrin the life process is as the process of combustion.” Be men, but then your memory should be purified by the Presence of God in it. Man-shape is a great formation, but man-soul is the higher perfection of life. Recast yourself into a more and more divine form.

Here is a message which has avoided the errors of the Buddhistic system of monks and monasteries. It recognizes the inherent spontaneous spirituality of human life. Sikhism is spiritual enlightenment with its sweet homes, humming with industry. Buddhism being a flame of spiritual indignation against the dead material mentality of the Brahmin could not but organise an army of preachers to set examples of perfect human beings. But all such preachers cannot be immaculate for long. All good and self-controlled men who are so under some speculation and resolution or even dedication, die of their self-generated poisons. Only spontaneous goodness of man lasts and has no reaction. The Guru ordains the Buddhistic emphasis on good Karma in the storm and struggle of human life of woe and misery. Man raises a family; he must labour and earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. He must distribute his love and labour. He must be simply human from whom emanations of true human feelings should go out. Goodness, gentleness, mercy and compassion should issue out of him, like a nimbus of soft, soothing light. Seeing such a man, all must feel in their hearts, what a good man !

This is decorating human life with the blessedness of the spirit of simplicity of effective goodness. Pleasures of life, of good food, a good family life, good friends—are not to be eschewed for winning any spiritual merit. The beginnings of all true spirituality are in the domestic and social feeling of a man.

The Guru seems to agree with Herbert Spencer, man needs to be a good animal first, to be anything better. The Guru emphatically declares, there is not spiritual merit in eschewing the pleasures of physical life nor in self- infliction of physical pain. They are all, so to say, mere accidents of material existence. The one spiritual need is that the attitude of man must be rightly directed towards the spirit of God dwelling alike in man and nature. And till the “Husband’s Favour” transmutes you by his lyrical Love, no one of you is truly spiritual. But be good human beings first, and His favour, by its own laws of love, will come to you in due course.

Patience to be where you are, slowly going on, gradually marching, is born of sympathy with the spirit of “God”. Yet as guided, as bidden, all life must march to its perfection, everyday growing more perfect. Guru Nanak disapproves of straining to be anything over and above men, good, effective men of action. For the strain shall have a reaction and all such attempts are not essentially spiritual. The “Sahaj” of Guru Nanak is the spontaneous, eternal union with spiritual verity in all positions under all conditions—physical, mental, moral. The laws and conditions of that spontaneous bestowal of the spark of life of the spirit are beyond one’s comprehension. The sinner may get it in a glance, while all the pious talkers may miss it altogether.

The true life of spirit is dynamic and kinetic; its own march eats up all carnality, materiality, without any effort on the part of the blessed recepient. Guru Nanak gives an apt illustration to explain true spiritual life. The favour of the husband to take a consort is a real factor and not an illusory metaphor. There is, so to say, a choice and this choice is an essential factor in the cosmic processes of human sublimation to angelhood and godhood. And once He has taken a woman to be his consort, the latter is put in a position where she is the queen in her own right. And when her state reaches its spiritual significance it lives from perfection, from understanding to greater and deeper understanding. The rapture of the spirit has no dramatic colours of the lime-light of a theatrical stage; it is of simple colour. The very simplicity of a “wedded life” is its highest, deepest and most vital lyrical quality.

How foolish is the new dramatic show ola man seeking woman, as compared with the dust,-laden hair and love-filled eyes, engaged in hard work. The former is trying to be something, the latter has already been blessed.

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