To realize everything is illusion amidst adversities, is yoga and pranayama the way or is bhakti-yoga sufficient?
How do we establish ourselves in ‘the’ true nature? In the face of adversities, how do we maintain our inner peace and remember that everything is but an illusion? Is Yoga and Pranayama the way to do it, or is Bhakthi Yoga sufficient?
Transcription by– VandanaGoel and Keshav Gopal Das
Question– in the face of adversity how do we remember that we are not the body or the mind that we are pure consciousness, we are the soul, and that everything is an illusion. Is yoga and pranayam the way to do it or is bhakti yoga sufficient?
Answer– It will depend on individual nature, individual mentality, on which path one initially finds more stimulating but in terms of ultimately most elevating path, the fastest elevating path that is concerned,Bhagwat Gita is very clear that Bhakti yoga is the best way. I will talk fromscriptural point of view, the only place where Bhagwat Gita says that progressing on the spiritual path will be easy when ittalks about bhakti yoga. In the eighth chapter Krishna contrasts Bhakti yoga and Gyana yoga and Dhyan yoga specifically involves yoga and pranayama in its initial stages and later on going towards higher transcendence. There Krishna in 8.14 says
ananya-cetāḥsatataṁ yomāṁsmaratinityaśaḥ tasyāhaṁsu-labhaḥpārtha nitya-yuktasyayoginaḥ
He says that sulabh…SU-LABH. I will be easily attained by whom Anaya chetahsatatam …those who fix their consciousness on me yomahsmartinitya …they remember me tasyahamsulbah …for them I am easily attained. Such yogis will attain me. Krishna has told Arjuna earlier yoga is very difficult because the mind is so restless.
Tasya yoga nigrahyam
In 6.34 Krishna says Arjuna says mind is so difficult to control more difficult than controlling the raging wind and then Krishna says keep practicing and what to practice? Best recommendation is Krishna says practice bhakti yoga. From the philosophical point of view Krishna also says that the culmination of gyan yoga and dhayan yoga is bhakti yoga. In 6.47 after the dhayanyoga ..ultimatelydhyan yogi comes to meditating on Krishna.
Yoginamapiservesham (BG 6.47)
That yogi who meditates upon me is the topmost yogi; Krishna says. That way Krishna is clear it is easy as this leads to the highest destination. At the same time it is also proved that in the initial stages depending upon our conditionings we may or may not find it easy to connect witha particular path. Sometimes we find sitting in a place, meditating and regulating our breath that may be a little more pacifying, but actually if we open mindedly explore bhakti then bhakti itself through the process of chanting through the process of active engagement enables us to connect with transcendental reality much faster. In gyana and dhyana yoga its basically our intellectual determination. This is illusion, this is reality. And I have to go away from illusion and I have to go towards reality. It is our intellectual determination alone that has to be the motivator but in the path of bhakti, in addition to the intellectual determination also there is the redirection of emotions and the descent of mercy. Both of these also help. Redirection of emotions means in the path of ashtangayoga as Patanjali says, ‘Yogaschittavrittinirodha’. Ultimately the purpose and perfection of yoga is chittavritti; the moment of consciousness has to stopped. All emotions have to suppressed and silenced and ultimately eradicated’ whereas in the path of bhakti the emotions will be redirected. Emotions are so central to our being they are such an irreducible part of our being that to suppress them is extremely difficult and unnatural.
But as to redirect the emotions from the things of the world towards Krishna and to use these things of the world in Krishna’s service is much easier. Because our emotionality doesn’t have to be abandoned, it can be redirected. That way the force of the emotions can be used to take us towards Krishna. That means if a person is in great adversity we don’t just have to think ‘this is illusion….this is illusion…this is illusion’. We can just call out to Krishna. We can fall in front of the deity and offer ourselves to Krishna and raise our hands and do kirtans and sings songs and pray to Him and beg to Him His shelter. So we can direct the power of emotions and our emotions are what are primarily shaken adversities and the same emotion are going to take us to illusions. By calling out to Krishna we can use the same emotions to go towards Krishna.
So the path of bhakti channelizes our emotions which the path of ashtanga yoga cannot do. And secondly in the path of bhakti there is also descending mercy of God. In the path of yoga and pranayam ultimately the idea is that we have to merge into transcendence, there is no personal conception of God that is normally there. Because of that yogi cannot pray to anybody for help. Because the yogi doesn’t pray so the yogi doesn’t get any help. Yogi may meditate on the Vishnu in the heart but often that is merely the object of meditation, it is not an object of benediction. That is something that I will concentrate on so that I will go towards that. It is not that I will concentrate on something andthat object will bless me. That positive conception of the absolute truth is not there in yogic philosophy but in bhakti it is there.We understand that our position is not just that we find some rope, we find some way to climb that rope. In the path of bhakti,the rope is there;just hold on to the rope, and beg to Krishna and Krishna pulls us out.
Because Krishna’s mercy also help us to advance so it’s much easier for us to overcome illusions when we are practicing the path of bhakti. So initially if we have been habituated to yoga and pranayam; we can do that also as a supplement to the additional practice of bhakti yoga. We chant Hare Krishna, do bhakti yoga and do some ashtanga yoga if required. But the primary sadhana and primary progress will happen through bhakti yoga.
We do not have to realize that everything is illusion but we have to realize that everything disconnected from Krishna, I am disconnected from Krishna, is an illusion. When we connect ourselves with Krishna and understand that whatever is happening, Krishna will arrange it ultimately for my good so we keep serving Him in any situation. Getting that understanding and getting that strength to keep serving Krishna, no matter how hostile and inimical things may appear externally that is the vision of reality. That is what we want to acquire. Not that everything is illusion but the idea that anything disconnected from Krishna is an illusion.
That vision can be obtainedby bhaktiyoga most effectively. Bhakti yoga can give us vision of our connection with Krishna, connection of things with Krishna and the wisdom to connect us with Krishna. The philosophical intellectual discrimination of right and wrong is the primary motive in ashtanga yoga. Bhakti in addition offers two things, emotions and the uplifting grace of Krishna. In addition to that Krishna also strengthens our intelligence. In 10.10 He says,
Dadamibudhiyogamtam yen mamupyantite
I give this intelligence by which you come back to me. He enhances our intelligence and that intellectual discrimination also become better for a devotee and that way bhakti enables us to most easily, effectively and expeditiously come out of illusion towards reality.