Why was ashtanga yoga recommended in Satya-yuga?

by Chaitanya Charan dasFebruary 1, 2012

From: sumit

It is said in SB 4.30.11 that without bhakti yoga, no any spiritual activity can be beneficial.also that bhakti yoga is only the process for any kind of God realization.if it is so then why in satya yuga, astanga yoga was the recommended process over bhakti yoga?

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Transcription (edited) by- Keshavgopal Das

Question- It is said in Srimad Bhagvatam that without bhakti yoga, no spiritual activity can be beneficial. Also that bhakti yoga is the only process for any kind of God realization. If it is so then why in satya-yuga, ashtanga yoga was the recommended process over bhakti yoga?

Answer (short)-

  • For all ages, it is bhakti yoga only which is mentioned as the process for God-realization. Refer Srimad Bhagvatam verse 3.52.
  • “Meditation on Vishnu” is recommended for satya-yuga; “yajna” (sacrifice) for treta-yuga; and “Deity worship” for dvapar-yuga. All of these are different forms of bhakti only.
  • Different methods of bhakti are recommended for different yugas because in different yugas people have different intellectual and physical capacity to perform bhakti.

Answer (long)-  If you look at the verse of the Srimad Bhagvatam (SB) that describe the processes in the different ages they do not recommend any process other than bhakti yoga. The verse is as follows:

kṛte yad dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ
tretāyāṁ yajato makhaiḥ
dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ
kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt

(SB 12.3.52)

Whatever result was obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Viṣṇu, in Tretā-yuga by performing sacrifices, and in Dvāpara-yuga by serving the Lord’s lotus feet can be obtained in Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.

In the satyayuga (mentioned as kṛte in this verse), the recommended process is “dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ” i.e. it is meditation on Lord Vishnu. Here the focus is not on the yoga exercises that often go on in the name of yoga today; it is on meditation on Lord Vishnu. Similarly for dvapara-yuga the recommended method is “dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ” i.e. worship of the Deities (of Lord Vishnu). For treta-yuga, the method is  “yajato makhaiḥ” i.e. performance of yajna. The Rig-veda mentions “yajño vai viṣṇuḥ” i.e. yajna is non-different from Vishnu.

Therefore, in general, for all ages the recommended process is bhakti-yoga. In kali-yuga, it is not that bhakti yoga is the recommended process, but it is one specific limb of bhakti yoga, i.e. chanting of holy names, that is recommended (kalau tad dhari-kirtanat). Bhakti yoga is the common recommended spiritual pathway for all ages but the specific method differs from age to age.

A question then may arise, why a particular method is mentioned for a particular age, for example meditation is recommended for satya-yuga?

The essence of spiritual realization is that we express our desire for spiritual advancement through our actions. Whatever process is recommended in scriptures is essentially a means for us to cultivate and express the desire for spiritual advancement. When people have the capacity for bodily austerity, that bodily austerity accompanied by turning one’s attention inwards towards the Lord dwelling in the heart becomes the recommended means for self-realization and God realization. According to intellectual and physical capacity of people in different ages, they are given a particular limb of bhakti yoga to practice as a means by which they can express their desire to love Krishna through their actions. In the earlier ages when people had more capacities, they also were told to do ashtanga yoga. For example, we see that when Dhruva Maharaja was doing ashtanga yoga, he is also chanting the mantra – om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. Similarly in Deity worship and performance of yajnas, the chanting of specific mantras is also done. The chanting of holy names and principle of bhakti yoga are common in one sense for all ages, but as the capacity of people decreases, the Lord’s compassion increases in one sense, and he relaxes the requirement. If you see, in the fifth canto of SB it is described that – the wise people worship the age of kali because just by the process of sankirtan one can gain all the benefits that were available from the different methods in earlier ages.

To summarize, bhakti is the only way to spiritual realization in its fullest, and bhakti can be done in different ways according to the capacities of the people of a particular age or yuga.

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Chaitanya Charan das

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