When a Brahman-realized devotee who has come to the stage of steady trance comes into contact with the eternal form of Kṛṣṇa, his transcendental pleasure increases millions of times. One great sage once inquired from another, "My dear friend, do you think that after I perfect the eightfold yoga performance I shall be able to see the eternal form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead?" This inquiry from the sage is an instance of inquisitiveness in a devotee situated in the neutral stage of devotional service.
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Eightfold yoga system
- 1 Bhagavad-gita As It Is
- 2 Srimad-Bhagavatam
- 3 Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
- 4 Lectures
Bhagavad-gita As It Is
BG Chapters 1 - 6
Having accepted strict vows, some become enlightened by sacrificing their possessions, and others by performing severe austerities, by practicing the yoga of eightfold mysticism, or by studying the Vedas to advance in transcendental knowledge.
The more one is advanced, the more he is freed from the clutches of matter. The Lord is not partial toward anyone. Everything depends on one's practical performance of duties in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which helps one control the senses in every respect and conquer the influence of desire and anger. And one who stands fast in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, controlling the abovementioned passions, remains factually in the transcendental stage, or brahma-nirvāṇa. The eightfold yoga mysticism is automatically practiced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness because the ultimate purpose is served. There is a gradual process of elevation in the practice of yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, dhyāna and samādhi. But these only preface perfection by devotional service, which alone can award peace to the human being. It is the highest perfection of life.
In this chapter the Lord explains that the process of the eightfold yoga system is a means to control the mind and the senses. However, this is very difficult for people in general to perform, especially in the Age of Kali. Although the eightfold yoga system is recommended in this chapter, the Lord emphasizes that the process of karma-yoga, or acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is better. Everyone acts in this world to maintain his family and their paraphernalia, but no one is working without some self-interest, some personal gratification, be it concentrated or extended. The criterion of perfection is to act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and not with a view to enjoying the fruits of work. To act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the duty of every living entity because all are constitutionally parts and parcels of the Supreme. The parts of the body work for the satisfaction of the whole body. The limbs of the body do not act for self-satisfaction but for the satisfaction of the complete whole. Similarly, the living entity who acts for satisfaction of the supreme whole and not for personal satisfaction is the perfect sannyāsī, the perfect yogi.
Concerning the eightfold yoga system, attempts in the beginning to enter into meditation through regulative principles of life and practice of different sitting postures (which are more or less bodily exercises) are considered fruitive material activities. All such activities lead to achieving perfect mental equilibrium to control the senses. When one is accomplished in the practice of meditation, he ceases all disturbing mental activities.
A Kṛṣṇa conscious person, however, is situated from the beginning on the platform of meditation because he always thinks of Kṛṣṇa. And, being constantly engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, he is considered to have ceased all material activities.
For one who is a neophyte in the eightfold yoga system, work is said to be the means; and for one who is already elevated in yoga, cessation of all material activities is said to be the means.
The process of linking oneself with the Supreme is called yoga. It may be compared to a ladder for attaining the topmost spiritual realization. This ladder begins from the lowest material condition of the living entity and rises up to perfect self-realization in pure spiritual life. According to various elevations, different parts of the ladder are known by different names. But all in all, the complete ladder is called yoga and may be divided into three parts, namely jñāna-yoga, dhyāna-yoga and bhakti-yoga. The beginning of the ladder is called the yogārurukṣu stage, and the highest rung is called yogārūḍha.
The purpose of practicing eightfold yoga is to control the mind in order to make it a friend in discharging the human mission. Unless the mind is controlled, the practice of yoga (for show) is simply a waste of time. One who cannot control his mind lives always with the greatest enemy, and thus his life and its mission are spoiled. The constitutional position of the living entity is to carry out the order of the superior. As long as one's mind remains an unconquered enemy, one has to serve the dictations of lust, anger, avarice, illusion, etc. But when the mind is conquered, one voluntarily agrees to abide by the dictation of the Personality of Godhead, who is situated within the heart of everyone as Paramātmā. Real yoga practice entails meeting the Paramātmā within the heart and then following His dictation. For one who takes to Kṛṣṇa consciousness directly, perfect surrender to the dictation of the Lord follows automatically.
The path of self-realization or mysticism is described in the Bhagavad-gītā. The basic principle of self-realization is knowledge that the living entity is not this material body but that he is different from it and that his happiness is in eternal life, bliss and knowledge. These are transcendental, beyond both body and mind. Self-realization is sought by the path of knowledge, by the practice of the eightfold system or by bhakti-yoga. In each of these processes one has to realize the constitutional position of the living entity, his relationship with God, and the activities whereby he can reestablish the lost link and achieve the highest perfectional stage of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Following any of the above-mentioned three methods, one is sure to reach the supreme goal sooner or later. This was asserted by the Lord in the Second Chapter: even a little endeavor on the transcendental path offers a great hope for deliverance. Out of these three methods, the path of bhakti-yoga is especially suitable for this age because it is the most direct method of God realization. To be doubly assured, Arjuna is asking Lord Kṛṣṇa to confirm His former statement. One may sincerely accept the path of self-realization, but the process of cultivation of knowledge and the practice of the eightfold yoga system are generally very difficult for this age. Therefore, despite constant endeavor one may fail, for many reasons. First of all, one may not be sufficiently serious about following the process. To pursue the transcendental path is more or less to declare war on the illusory energy. Consequently, whenever a person tries to escape the clutches of the illusory energy, she tries to defeat the practitioner by various allurements. A conditioned soul is already allured by the modes of material energy, and there is every chance of being allured again, even while performing transcendental disciplines. This is called yogāc calita-mānasaḥ: deviation from the transcendental path. Arjuna is inquisitive to know the results of deviation from the path of self-realization.
Those who are following the path of auspiciousness can be divided into three sections, namely (1) the followers of scriptural rules and regulations who are enjoying material prosperity, (2) those who are trying to find ultimate liberation from material existence, and (3) those who are devotees in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Those who are following the rules and regulations of the scriptures for material happiness may be further divided into two classes: those who are fruitive workers and those who desire no fruit for sense gratification. Those who are after fruitive results for sense gratification may be elevated to a higher standard of life—even to the higher planets—but still, because they are not free from material existence, they are not following the truly auspicious path. The only auspicious activities are those which lead one to liberation. Any activity which is not aimed at ultimate self-realization or liberation from the material bodily concept of life is not at all auspicious. Activity in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the only auspicious activity, and anyone who voluntarily accepts all bodily discomforts for the sake of making progress on the path of Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be called a perfect transcendentalist under severe austerity. And because the eightfold yoga system is directed toward the ultimate realization of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, such practice is also auspicious, and no one who is trying his best in this matter need fear degradation.
SB Canto 3
It is said here that the sages reached the transcendental spiritual sky by dint of their mystic power. That is the perfection of the yoga system. The breathing exercises and disciplines to keep health in proper order are not the ultimate goals of yoga perfection. The yoga system as generally understood is aṣṭāṅga-yoga, or siddhi, eightfold perfection in yoga. By dint of perfection in yoga one can become lighter than the lightest and heavier than the heaviest; one can go wherever he likes and can achieve opulences as he likes. There are eight such perfections. The ṛṣis, the four Kumāras, reached Vaikuṇṭha by becoming lighter than the lightest and thus passing over the space of the material world. Modern mechanical space vehicles are unsuccessful because they cannot go to the highest region of this material creation, and they certainly cannot enter the spiritual sky. But by perfection of the yoga system one not only can travel through material space, but can surpass material space and enter the spiritual sky. We learn this fact also from an incident concerning Durvāsā Muni and Mahārāja Ambarīṣa. It is understood that in one year Durvāsā Muni traveled everywhere and went into the spiritual sky to meet the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Nārāyaṇa. By present standards, scientists calculate that if one could travel at the speed of light, it would take forty thousand years to reach the highest planet of this material world. But the yoga system can carry one without limitation or difficulty.
How many offspring did that great yogī beget through the princess, who was endowed with eightfold perfection in the yoga principles? Oh, pray tell me this, for I am eager to hear it.
Here Vidura inquired about Kardama Muni and his wife, Devahūti, and about their children. It is described here that Devahūti was very much advanced in the performance of eightfold yoga. The eight divisions of yoga performance are described as (1) control of the senses, (2) strict following of the rules and regulations, (3) practice of the different sitting postures, (4) control of the breath, (5) withdrawing the senses from sense objects, (6) concentration of the mind, (7) meditation and (8) self-realization. After self-realization there are eight further perfectional stages, which are called yoga-siddhis. The husband and wife, Kardama and Devahūti, were advanced in yoga practice; the husband was a mahā-yogī, great mystic, and the wife was a yoga-lakṣaṇa, or one advanced in yoga. They united and produced children. Formerly, after making their lives perfect, great sages and saintly persons used to beget children, otherwise they strictly observed the rules and regulations of celibacy. Brahmacarya (following the rules and regulations of celibacy) is required for perfection of self-realization and mystic power. There is no recommendation in the Vedic scriptures that one can go on enjoying material sense gratification at one's whims, as one likes, and at the same time become a great meditator by paying a rascal some money.
The word dṛśy-ādibhiḥ is significant. According to Jīva Gosvāmī, dṛśi means jñāna, philosophical research. By different processes of philosophical research under different concepts, such as the process of jñāna-yoga, the same Bhagavān, or Supreme Personality of Godhead, is understood as impersonal Brahman. Similarly, by the eightfold yoga system He appears as the Paramātmā. But in pure Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or knowledge in purity, when one tries to understand the Absolute Truth, one realizes Him as the Supreme Person. The Transcendence is realized simply on the basis of knowledge. The words used here, paramātmeśvaraḥ pumān, are all transcendental, and they refer to Supersoul. Supersoul is also described as puruṣa, but the word Bhagavān directly refers to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is full of six opulences: wealth, fame, strength, beauty, knowledge and renunciation. He is the Personality of Godhead in different spiritual skies. The various descriptions of paramātmā, īśvara and pumān indicate that the expansions of the Supreme Godhead are unlimited.
SB Canto 4
It appears from this statement that Dhruva Mahārāja had already been instructed how to practice the eightfold yoga system, which is known as aṣṭāṅga-yoga. This system is explained in our Bhagavad-gītā As It Is, in the chapter entitled, "Dhyāna-yoga." It is understood that in aṣṭāṅga-yoga one practices settling the mind and then concentrating it on the form of Lord Viṣṇu, as will be described in the following verses. It is clearly stated here that aṣṭāṅga-yoga is not a bodily gymnastic exercise, but a practice to concentrate the mind on the form of Viṣṇu. Before sitting on his āsana, which is also described in Bhagavad-gītā, one has to cleanse himself very nicely in clear or sacred water thrice daily. The water of the Yamunā is naturally very clear and pure, and thus if anyone bathes there three times, undoubtedly he will be very greatly purified externally. Nārada Muni, therefore, instructed Dhruva Mahārāja to go to the bank of the Yamunā and thus become externally purified. This is part of the gradual process of practicing mystic yoga.
The inhabitants of both Siddhaloka and Vidyādhara-loka are naturally endowed with mystic yogic powers by which they not only can fly in outer space without a vehicle but can also fly from one planet to another simply by exerting their will. Just as fish can swim within water, the residents of Vidyādhara-loka can swim in the ocean of air. As far as the inhabitants of Siddhaloka are concerned, they are endowed with all mystic powers. The yogīs in this planet practice the eightfold yogic mysticism—namely yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, dhyāna and samādhi. By regularly practicing the yogic processes one after another, the yogīs attain various perfections; they can become smaller than the smallest, heavier than the heaviest, etc. They can even manufacture a planet, get whatever they like and control whatever man they want. All the residents of Siddhaloka are naturally endowed with these mystic yogic powers. It is certainly a very wonderful thing if we see a person on this planet flying in the sky without a vehicle, but in Vidyādhara-loka such flying is as commonplace as a bird's flying in the sky. Similarly, in Siddhaloka all the inhabitants are great yogīs, perfect in mystic powers.
SB Cantos 10.14 to 12 (Translations Only)
Amazed upon hearing Bhṛgu's account, the sages were freed from all doubts and became convinced that Viṣṇu is the greatest Lord. From Him come peace; fearlessness; the essential principles of religion; detachment with knowledge; the eightfold powers of mystic yoga; and His glorification, which cleanses the mind of all impurities. He is known as the supreme destination for those who are peaceful and equipoised—the selfless, wise saints who have given up all violence. His most dear form is that of pure goodness, and the brāhmaṇas are His worshipable deities. Persons of keen intellect who have attained spiritual peace worship Him without selfish motives.
One who has fixed his consciousness on Me desires neither the position or abode of Lord Brahmā or Lord Indra, nor an empire on the earth, nor sovereignty in the lower planetary systems, nor the eightfold perfection of yoga, nor liberation from birth and death. Such a person desires Me alone.
Other Books by Srila Prabhupada
Nectar of Devotion
Renunciation Through Wisdom
Not to speak of karma-yoga, even in the lesser discipline of eightfold yoga, whatever progress the yogī makes on the path toward the goal of samādhi does not go in vain, although he may not reach the ultimate goal in one lifetime. In his next life he will continue his progress. By contrast, when the fruitive worker dies, whatever wealth and education he has acquired, along with the endeavor that went into acquiring them, all become null and void. As for the pure karma-yogī, or devotee, his devotional activities are all beyond the level of mind and body. They are related to the soul and the Supreme Soul, and hence his activities become the wealth of his pure, eternal soul. Just as the soul is never destroyed with the disintegration of the body, so this wealth of devotional service is never devalued. Thus the Bhagavad-gītā says that the karma-yogī always works for the benefit and elevation of his soul, and that this endeavor and its results remain permanent spiritual assets in this life and the next. These spiritual assets are never liquidated.
According to the above verse, the devotees attain the highest perfection—that is, they join the elevated corps of the Lord's eternal associates. The mystic yogī's eightfold mystic perfection is not the same as the devotee's para-siddhi, or "highest perfection." While mystic yoga brings perfections that are material and temporary, devotional service to the Supreme Lord brings absolute perfection, which is transcendental and eternal. The Supreme Lord incessantly manifests His ever-fresh transcendental pastimes within this unlimited material universe, which He has created. These pastimes, known as bhauma-līlā, have been going on since time immemorial.
Thus the yogic process a surrendered servant of the Supreme Lord practices is altogether different form Patañjali's eightfold yoga system, beginning with sense control, yogic postures, and breath control. These practices are, in a sense, meant to increase physical prowess for better sense enjoyment. The devotee, on the other hand, follows the best yoga system of God-realization, which is enunciated in the Bhagavad-gītā. His activities are not selfishly motivated, aimed at realizing his own cherished dreams, but are directed toward fulfilling the will of God on earth. This yoga is known as buddhi-yoga, wherein lies the entire world's good fortune.
The sages say that when we surrender to the Lord, we will clearly see how the He personally makes arrangements for us, even in small matters. Then we will easily see how with His omnipotent supreme intelligence He is assisting us out of love. So it is unnecessary to waste time in further speculation. We have to vanquish illusion, develop equanimity and spontaneity, and practice bhakt-yoga. Then a supremely powerful force will gradually transform our material existence into spiritual existence. All our misconceptions, accumulated over millions of lifetimes, will be rectified in a short time. Hence we need not become anxious because of a lack of time. The eightfold yoga practice—yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, and so on—gives quick results, and one feels that he is doing something substantial. However, although such efforts may certainly make one materially proficient, they are nevertheless simply human endeavors. They are totally distinct from the activities carried out by the Lord's potency. The Supreme Lord's energy often works in subtle ways, but where it ultimately takes us is inconceivable to the human mind.
Bhagavad-gita As It Is Lectures
Devotee: "The eightfold yoga mysticism is automatically practiced in Kṛṣṇa consciousness because the ultimate purpose is served. There is a gradual elevation in the practice of yama, niyama, āsana, pratyāhāra, dhyāna, dhāraṇā, prāṇāyāma, and samādhi. These preface..."
Prabhupāda: These are eight items of yoga practice. Yama means controlling the senses; niyama—following the rules and regulation; āsana—practicing the sitting posture; pratyāhāra—controlling the senses from sense enjoyment; dhyāna—then thinking of Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu; dhāraṇā—fixed up; prāṇāyāma—breathing exercise; and samādhi—being absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. So this is yoga practice. So if one is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness from the very beginning, all these eight items are automatically done. One does not require to practice them separately.
Devotee: Verse number three. "For one who is a neophyte in the eightfold yoga system, work is said to be the means. And for one who has already attained to yoga, cessation of all material activities is said to be the means (BG 6.3)."
Prabhupāda: Yes. There are two stages. One who is practicing yoga to reach to the perfectional platform and one who has attained the perfectional platform. So, so long one is not on the perfectional platform, just trying to do, at that time there are so many works. That āsana system, yama, niyama. So generally in your country there are so many yoga societies. They display this āsana system. How to sit down, different postures. That helps. But that is the process simply to get onto the real platform. They are simply means. Real yoga system perfection is different from those bodily gymnastic process. There are two stages. One stage is trying to reach the perfectional platform, and another stage is one who has reached the perfectional platform.
In the aṣṭāṅga-yoga system, this eightfold yoga system, dhyāna, dhāraṇā—they are meant for controlling the mind. (Don't make sound.) Mind, unless you control the mind, in the beginning it is said a man must elevate himself by his own mind. Mind is the driver. The body is the chariot or car. So just like if you call your, ask your driver, "Please get me into Kṛṣṇa consciousness temple." The driver will bring you here. And if you ask your driver, "Please get me in that liquor house." The driver will drive you there. The driver's business is to drive you wherever you like. Similarly your mind is the driver. If you can control—but if the driver takes your license, that wherever he likes he will take you. Then you're gone. Then your driver is your enemy. But if your driver acts on your order, then he's your friend. So actually the yoga system means to control the mind in such a way that he will act as your friend, not as your enemy.
Devotee: "One who is deviated from the transcendental path. Arjuna is inquisitive to know the results of deviation from the path of self-realization."
Prabhupāda: Yes, this is very important question. That one may begin practicing any sort of yoga, either the eightfold yoga system of the jñāna-yoga system, means speculating philosophically, and the bhakti-yoga system, devotional service. But if one fails to complete the yoga system, what is the result. That is very important question and it is put by Arjuna and Kṛṣṇa will answer it.
Devotee: "Yoga actually means bhakti-yoga. All other yogas are progressions toward this destination. From the beginning of karma-yoga to the end of bhakti-yoga is a long way to self-realization. Karma-yoga without fruitive results is the beginning of this path. When karma-yoga increases in knowledge and renunciation the stage is called jñāna-yoga. When jñāna-yoga increases in meditation on the Supersoul by different physical processes and the mind is on Him it is called aṣṭāṅga-yoga. And when one surpasses the aṣṭāṅga-yoga and comes to the point of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, it is called bhakti-yoga."
Prabhupāda:Yes, the gradual progress of yoga system. Karma-yoga to jñāna-yoga. Karma-yoga means ordinary activities, fruitive activities. Ordinary activities means sinful activities also, but karma-yoga does not mean sinful activities. Only good, pious activities or prescribed activities. That is called karma-yoga. Then, by performing karma-yoga one comes to the platform of jñāna-yoga, knowledge. And from knowledge to this aṣṭāṅga-yoga, eightfold yoga system—dhyāna, dhāraṇā, prāṇāyāma, āsana—like that, those who are practicing the aṣṭāṅga-yoga. Then from aṣṭāṅga-yoga concentrating the mind on Viṣṇu come to the point of bhakti-yoga. And when one comes to the bhakti-yoga platform, that is the perfectional stage of yoga. And this Kṛṣṇa consciousness means from the very beginning, directly, that bhakti-yoga.
Devotee: Prabhupāda? Is the samādhi which is the perfection of this eightfold yoga system the same as the samādhi of bhakti-yoga?
Prabhupāda: Yes. Samādhi means to absorb the mind with Viṣṇu. That is samādhi. So if you absorb your mind with Kṛṣṇa then it is samādhi.
So these powers, by sense power, by your strength of money or by education... Everything is described. Or aristocratic birth, and tejaḥ. Tejaḥ means luster of the body, kānti. Tejaḥ and prabhāva, pratāpa, influence. Balam means bodily strength. Suppose you are Sandoz. You have got very good... Just like in your country there are some box fighters, very strong and stout. That is called balam. Pauruṣam, udyama. Udyama means industrious. Just like a very poor man, he becomes by his energy very, very rich man. There are many instances in the world. That is called pauruṣam. Buddhi. Buddhi means intelligence, prajñā. And yoga. Yoga means aṣṭāṅga-yoga, the eightfold practice of yoga system.